Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump Declares National Emergency; Trump: I Don't Take Responsibility For Lag in Testing. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 13, 2020 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:00]

TRUMP: As we discussed before - in light of the results, we're going to be looking at it and I know the - the task force is looking at it very strongly - Vice President, everybody. It was looking good but they've - the results have been building up pretty rapidly.

So we'll - we'll be taking another look at that, yes, absolutely. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you, and I want to first follow up on Jeff's question because the person you were standing next to, whether you know who he is or not, tested positive for coronavirus. Dr. Fauci said this morning if you stand next to somebody who tested positive, you should self isolate and get a test. You say your White House doctor is telling you something different. Who should Americans listen to? And my second question is...

TRUMP: I think they have to listen to their doctors, and I think they shouldn't be jumping to get the tests unless it's necessary, but I think they have to listen to their doctors. And I mean, I don't know. I haven't seen the picture. Somebody says there's a picture with somebody taking a picture of me, but I haven't seen it.

QUESTION: And doctors have said you might have it even if...

TRUMP: But I can tell you...

QUESTION: ... you don't have symptoms.

TRUMP: Well...

QUESTION: Are you being selfish by not getting tested and potentially exposing...

TRUMP: Well, I didn't say I wasn't going to be tested.

QUESTION: Are you going to be?

TRUMP: Mostly like, yes. Most likely. Not for that reason...

QUESTION: When do you think that'll happen?

TRUMP: ... but because I think I will do it anyway. QUESTION: Will you let us know the results?

TRUMP: Fairly soon. We're working on that. We're working out a schedule.

QUESTION: My second question, Mr. President, that was a follow up...

TRUMP: Go ahead. Yes.

QUESTION: I know there's been a lot of talk about testing. I just want to make sure we're clear, though, because we've been hearing from doctors who say as of today they still can't get patients tested who need a test. So as of today, can everyone who a doctor wants to have tested get tested? And if not, when? When will doctors...

TRUMP: Well, that's been true for awhile, but I'll let Mike - why don't you answer that lady (ph), please?

PENCE: Well, as the president said and Dr. Fauci has articulated, the nature of our current system where the CDC has samples sent and tests are performed or state labs perform tests or in some cases university and hospital labs perform tests is generally adequate for an infectious disease or for people getting diagnostic work done.

But given the sheer scale of this, the president tasked us with bringing together this extraordinary public and private partnership. Today by some estimates when you add all the labs together, and today the president made it possible for every state in the country and their state labs to authorize labs across their state to do coronavirus testing.

We're estimating somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 tests a day are able to be performed, but very soon with the program that was announced today, Americans will be able to visit one of the sites closest to them as described on the website. If they're symptomatic, if the questionnaire indicates it be able to have a test there, and these incredible companies will process the test and they'll receive that information. But for now, the best advice that we can give for people to speak to their doctor as the president has just said, and if the doctor indicates that physician if it's not a university hospital or an otherwise authorized lab can contact the state lab. And again, every state lab in the country can perform tests today.

But what the president charged us with when I was tasked to take over the White House Coronavirus Taskforce was open up tests all across the country. The president said a few days ago that we made it clear that any American that wanted to get a test would be able clinically to get a test because I literally heard from the Governor of Washington state who said the doctors in Washington state were saying that if you were only mildly symptomatic they would not order a test, and fortunately the president directed CDC to clarify that.

Now, anyone in consultation with their physician regardless of their symptoms can request a test and their doctors will contact those agencies, those labs in their state, but very soon Americans will be able to go into these drive-in sites and be able to obtain and participate in a test. Dr. Birx, is there more to amplify that?

BIRX: No, I think - I think that's perfectly said. I think just to review once more time about the testing, with LabCorp and Quest, I think many of you have been to doctor's office and seen the little boxes outside.

What they do is they deliver both the specimen collection piece because remember it's a nasal swab. It's not a tube of blood. So they've delivered that to doctor's offices and hospitals, and then they will arrange to pick that up. The important piece in this all is they've gone from a machine that may have a lower throughput to the potential to have automated extraction. I know you don't want all of these details, but it's really key for the laboratory people. It's an automated extraction of the RNA that then runs in an automated way on the machine with no one touching it, and the result comes out at the (inaudible). That cuts out a lot of the manual pieces that were happening that were delaying the test results.

[16:35:00]

QUESTION: And so with that, what's the timeline like from when you're tested, to when you get results? Like next week, what should people expect?

BIRX: Well, with the prior testing, it was taking several days because the test is slower. We believe, with this test, because of its throughput, that the testing can be from start, remember it has to transport, to the laboratory that will run it and then we're hoping that all can be finished within 24 hours, which is very similar to other tests that you receive today. These are not point of care tests. We are working on point of care tests but we have to realize point of care tests takes six months or more to develop, so we're not waiting for those. We're still diagnosing this on nucleic acid, so it's an antibody, this is actually the antigen that the actual virus in your nose that we're amplifying.

TRUMP: I think you have to remember though, we're working very closely with states, and those, you have a smaller form and more targeted form of government going in and doing it, like in New York, where the relationship is very good. Like Gavin Newsom, where he made some very complimentary -- cause at California, he made some really complimentary comments the other day about how we're working together, we worked on the ship together, but we worked on a lot of other things together having to do with this, and we're -- really, the relationship that we have, I can't think of a bad relationship.

We're helping them, we're funding them in some cases, depending on what it is you're talking about, and we're all working together very closely, so we've done really, I think, a tremendous job of teamwork with the different states, alright one or two more, and if you have questions for these folks? Does anybody have a question for the folks up here? Who has a question up here? You have, okay go ahead, if you have a question, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, i have one for you as well.

TRUMP: Ok, I thought, I know you want. I was waiting -- I was waiting for that, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, but I do have one for them because I haven't heard this yet.

TRUMP: Ask them first please.

QUESTION: Yes I will. Okay, with regards to the CEO's. Can you please tell us when you expect to see items like hand sanitizer that have been going out of stock very quickly back on the shelves? There have been a lot of reports about that? And for you, Mr. President, could you talk about a potential bailout for the cruise industry, you had suggested that could happen, is that something you're still looking at, and how much would that be?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't suggest that it could happen, but I can tell you it's an industry that was very badly impacted by what's going on with the virus, and it's a great industry, it's a very important industry, and we will be helping them and we will be helping the airline industry if we have to, assuming we have.

So far, people haven't been asking, but if they should be asking, we'll -- we want to make sure our airlines are very strong and then one day -- and one day all of a sudden wasn't looking so good. Interestingly, we were just talking -- I was talking to Doug, and the numbers they're doing from the retailing standpoint, I guess because of this, Europe is this is like the opposite. All of you have been -- you've been selling a lot -- a lot of stuff. Do you want to answer the question as to the hand sanitizers?

(UNKNOWN): Specifically the areas where we're seeing pressure in the supply chain are surface cleaners, cleaning supplies, paper goods in particular, and hand sanitizer is going to be very difficult to have 100 percent in stock on for some time. We're still replenishing it and shipping it, but as soon as it hits the store it's going. The same thing's true for the categories I've just mentioned, so all the retailers would be working hand in hand with the suppliers to bring that to the market as fast as we can.

QUESTION: What is your advice though for Americans who are seeking those items? What is your advice? They're selling out online, they're selling out in the stores?

(UNKNOWN): I think -- I think this team has given you other examples of what people can do to fight back against this virus and you should look at the entire list. Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci speak to them, it would be good.

TRUMP: Please.

FAUCI: I mean, obviously, it sounds very simplistic, but wash your hands as often as you possibly can, and I know you're not always in a position to be able to wash your hands, but, wash them as much as you can. If you don't have the alcohol wipes, try and get them. If you can't get them, just try as best as possible to do it. I mean, you've got to do the best you can. AZAR: Well, just general preparedness, you know. You want to wash your hands, you want to keep distance from people, and if you are around someone sick, just keep away from them. Just basic, basic public health, no, these guys have sold a lot of toilet paper. I don't know if there seems to -- Tony did you need to give some guidance that -- that toilet paper is not an effective prevention against getting the coronavirus, they are selling out, but the -- soap and water, hot water, soap, 20 seconds, that's how you do it.

[16:40:00]

TRUMP: OK, one more -- go ahead. Go ahead -- no, over here behind you -- behind you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. President. You have a great team, of course.

TRUMP: That's true, thank you.

QUESTION: My question is, Mr. President, are you happy from the Chinese response -- what correctly (ph) they told you what really happened those days (ph)? And second, Prime Minister Modi of India has closed (ph) borders until April 15, if you have spoken with the Prime Minister of India? And if they have needed any help? And finally, sir, any message for the small businesses because they are losing some businesses because of this -- thank you, sir.

TRUMP: Well on small businesses, the Small Business Administration is now stacked with money to help them, and we're going to make the money readily available if they need it -- small businesses.

We had a great time in India, it was an incredible two days and he's a great friend of mine, and he's a friend of his people because he was greeted incredibly warmly, as was I, in that stadium -- that was an incredible event, and I loved being with him. So just, say hello to him.

But we talked about everything -- we talked about far more than just borders. And as far as President Xi likewise, he's a friend of mine. I believe that we are dealing in good faith, that we just worked -- as you know, and as I just said we just worked an incredible deal -- a big deal -- one of the biggest deals ever made of any kind, big even by the standards of some of the people here that deal with China.

But I think that they want to get to the bottom of things also. We're working -- our drugs company, our pharmaceutical companies are working very closely with China, and with India as you know, and with -- all over the world, and they're all over the world.

These are magnificent companies that are very, very knowledgeable and it's -- we're very lucky to have them, because I think you're going to come up with -- whether it's therapeutic or whether it's just help -- help in getting better.

And then ultimately a vaccine which takes a little bit longer because of the test periods, and a couple of other reasons. You're going to have it very quickly because of the great knowledge -- and they'll have it very quickly, they've made a tremendous amount of progress.

Thank you all very much, we appreciate it -- thank you. Thank you very much.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You've been watching President Trump at an odd press conference where he gave very discordant messages. On one hand, the president declaring a national emergency, what he called "two very big words."

On the other hand suggesting that this crisis has been handled very well, it's the same kind of disconnect that we saw from President Trump saying in 2016, I alone can fix it, at the Republican National Convention.

To his answer today about the lag in testing, saying, I don't take responsibility at all. But, the headline from today's press conference, the president taking an action that he says would open up $50 billion of funds to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.

CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is back with us from the rose garden. And Jim, the president talking about testing for the coronavirus which has obviously been lagging behind in the U.S.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.

TAPPER: What are the concrete steps that the president announced today that can help speed up the process for testing, and the process -- if anything was laid out...

ACOSTA: Yes.

TAPPER: ...for improving the ability of hospitals to take in any sort of surge in patients?

ACOSTA: Yeah, Jake, I think you heard the president there, and these various officials from the coronavirus taskforce lay out these next steps. The question is, how long are these steps going to take in terms of getting the testing system moving?

They are saying -- and the president was saying this, along with other officials that they're going to be waiving regulations to make sure that the private lab industry, for example, can run these tests more quickly.

That they're going to be setting up a website where people can go on to a website -- sort of like Obamacare, it sounds like -- healthcare.gov and it's going to be run by Google, people can go on to that website, say whether or not they're having systems and then there's a flowchart from there.

Doctor Debbie Birx, one of the top experts on the coronavirus taskforce was talking about that, and then they are also talking about setting up these mobile testing areas at various retailers around the country where people can pull in to a parking lot, presumably, and get a test. I think Jake, overall though, the question of that a lot of viewers at

home are going to have is, how long is that going to take? When is that going to take place? When can I see that in my community? And this president was just not getting in to those kinds of details, as we saw during this press conference.

This was the take no responsibility president, he said at one point he doesn't take responsibility. He was blaming previous administrations, not really making the case -- obviously, or coming to grips with the reality that the buck stops with him.

I do think one other thing that needs to be pointed out, I think it's significant -- the president saying there during the press conference that he probably will, or likely will undergo a coronavirus test.

[16:45:04]

The White House has been really digging in its heels in really talking about this issue because of the president interacting with this Brazilian official down at Mar-a-Lago last weekend.

Now the president seems to be saying, after being questioned a couple of times about this, that, yes, he will probably undergo that test. That will be a fascinating moment for this entire country, Jake, I think probably the entire world, wondering whether or not the president will come up positive -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

Some of the other details from the president's press conference, as Jim said, the president declaring a national emergency, which will release about $50 billion in funds. He said that he would take action to release some of the rules and regulations that have kept testing from happening.

He talked about enacting every hospital's ability to activate their emergency preparedness plan, every hospital in the country, creating these five million tests from the private sector, he said, that would be available within a month.

Of course, four weeks is a lot of weeks when you're in the middle of a pandemic. And that -- there will be pressure on him and the private sector to speed through.

You heard Jim talk about the presence of drive-throughs in the Walmarts and the Walgreens and the Target parking lots throughout the country, but still no specific date on that.

The president talked about waiving the interest on federal student loans, which would be some help. He talked about releasing some oil from this Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He also talked about during the question-and-answer period about perhaps a bailout for industries that are affected, whether it's the travel and tourism industry or cruise ships, although he said no concrete plans there.

Let me bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, what's the most important thing you heard from the president,

and what's the most important thing you did not hear from the president?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, you definitely ticked off some of the major points.

Obviously, this was trying to be a show of force, a public-private partnership, talking about this record time approval for an FDA test for Roche laboratories. But, as you mentioned, and they said that would ultimately lead to some 500,000 tests next week.

But the timelines on when all these other tests would be available is still a bit unclear. He also -- I mean, one of the things that came up near the end is a point that we have been talking about quite a bit, Jake, and it has to do with the capacity for these hospitals to be able to take care of patients that may be getting sick over the next several days and weeks.

And sort of somewhere in there, he said, we ordered a large number of respirators, he said. That's the first time I had heard that. I had been talking to many officials within the government about, do we have enough breathing machines, is what I think he meant, or ventilators?

Sometimes, these terms get all commingled. But that was the first time I heard this idea of purchasing more of these breathing machines, because, in the past, it was all about opening up the national stockpiles, which we had determined, really, potentially would not be enough. So that was an important point.

He also did talk about a little bit more clarity on these passengers that would be returning from Europe. U.S. citizens returning from Europe, besides the U.K., will undergo a 14-day quarantine. Maybe that had been mentioned before. But I think the president sort of clarified that a little bit, and also gave a little bit of a timeline here.

He said he anticipates this to be about an eight-week sort of thing here, which wasn't a particular timeline that was rooted in anything, some objective data.

But it was interesting that Tony Fauci, Dr. Tony Fauci, sort of reiterated that when he went to the lectern as well. So those are some important points.

Just one other thing -- and this is a little bit of a nuance thing -- we have been saying -- they have been saying, the task force, for some time the risk of anyone contracting this virus is low. You have probably heard that a dozen times over the last several days.

Today, for the first time, the language changed a little bit. I caught this from Vice President Pence: "The risk of developing serious illness from the virus is low."

I think it's a little bit of a concession that, look, the virus is circulating. The chance of people becoming exposed, becoming infected is not low. It doesn't mean that necessarily going to get sick. But that was a little bit of a change in language, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, indeed, the health director for the state of Ohio, when they announced they were closing the schools in Ohio -- and Ohio is run by a Republican governor, Mike DeWine -- said that she anticipated there were 100,000 people in Ohio carrying the coronavirus, not necessarily seriously ill, maybe some symptoms, maybe none.

GUPTA: Right.

TAPPER: But 100,000 people just in that one state, Sanjay.

GUPTA: That's right.

I mean, look, and you have heard some of these projections. And I always preface by saying, there's a context that we will give around this, but what we're hearing from many public health officials is that, within this next several weeks, 40 to 60 percent of the nation could become infected.

You have heard other countries, Angela Merkel talking about 70 percent there in Germany, and those numbers could apply, frankly, to the entire -- at least the Northern Hemisphere of the world, Jake.

[16:50:08]

So that -- you start doing the math on that, then you're talking 150 million people, possibly. And then you start to figure out, well, how many of those people will need medical care? How many will need ICU care and ventilators?

And the whole graph that you have been showing about the curves, that's what's informing those numbers. And we don't know how many people are infected, because we haven't been testing. Hopefully, that improves shortly, as we're hearing. But we still don't know for sure, Jake.

TAPPER: That's right.

And just a reminder, of course, as I take this back to the studio here with Dr. Beth Cameron, when we talk about 170 million Americans potentially getting it, that's not 170 million Americans getting sick. The sickness is probably about one in six of those who contract the virus, and the hospitalization maybe one in 20.

But that's still a lot of people that are going to require hospitalization. And that was a point that you reacted to also, because the president didn't really speak about this until he was asked about it by a reporter. And Sanjay has been talking about this quite a bit.

Are the hospitals going to be ready? Are they going to have the bed space? Are they going to have the ventilators?

DR. BETH CAMERON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY EXPERT: So, one concern that many of us have had in looking at this crisis is the things that people aren't thinking about, the things that we're not getting ahead of, for example, the ventilators, for example, personal protective equipment.

And there's reportedly going to be shortages in personal protective equipment.

TAPPER: PPEs, just to point that -- that's what doctors and nurses and first responders wear.

CAMERON: Yes, masks, gloves, the things that you need to be able to take care of patients, especially when you're a health care worker.

There's also reports that some of the reagents in the test kits themselves may be in shortage, either starting now or eventually. There's a report from the American Society of Microbiology that's already nervous about this.

And so I'm nervous that what I didn't hear were the things that we should be anticipating and that we really need to get ahead of now.

TAPPER: And let me ask you a question, because the great Yamiche Alcindor from "PBS NewsHour" asked a very potent question that President Trump, of course, called a nasty question, but it was very solid and an excellent one, which was that the president had disbanded the pandemic center at the National Security Council.

Interestingly enough, we have you. You were senior director for global health at the National Security Council under President Obama through President Trump, until they eliminated the position.

Why is it significant? Do you think, if you had been there or if you had been replaced by somebody with the same position, maybe the Trump administration and others would have begin to have this press conference that they had today back in January, when the first patients started showing up in the United States?

CAMERON: I absolutely think it would have made a difference.

First, I want to say that it's great news that Tony Fauci and Debbie Birx are on TV, making a pitch to actually get this under control. So that's excellent. We have scientists and we have scientists with fact- based guidance driving part of the press conference today.

But would we have gotten more ahead if the office has still been intact? I think absolutely.

So, during the Obama administration, during the Ebola crisis in 2014, a day did not go by when the president or the national security adviser or Ron Klain, when he was the Ebola response coordinator, didn't ask, how are we doing on rapid tests? What are we not thinking about? Where are we with personal protective equipment? Are we talking to our partners and allies?

Which was something I really didn't hear in the press conference is, how are we working with our global partners? Because, at the end of the day, many of those commodities that we may not have, or we may run out of, are things that we're sharing with our partners and allies.

So I think we would have been able to get ahead.

TAPPER: And do you think a press conference like this, where businesses came together, Tony Fauci spoke, et cetera -- I mean, the first community-based transmission, meaning not from somebody who got it overseas, not from somebody who got it directly from somebody with diagnosed coronavirus, but just they got it from somewhere, we don't know where, that was January 30 at the CDC.

CAMERON: Yes.

TAPPER: Should this press conference have happened at least around then?

CAMERON: I absolutely think so.

I can't say for certain whether a national emergency should have been called at that point. But I absolutely think that the press conference that should have been held in January should have looked much more like this one.

TAPPER: All right.

Let me go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

And, Kaitlan, while this is all going on, Speaker Pelosi still trying to iron out a deal with the Trump administration. She, of course, has not been talking to President Trump about that. They don't speak anymore. She's been talking to the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we don't think the president and Nancy Pelosi have spoken about coronavirus at all, at least not one-on-one.

But what's really notable, walking away from that hour-long press conference that the president just held, is, we did not get a lot of detail on what exactly he wants to see in this bill.

Jake, tens of billions of dollars are at stake here in this bill, these discussions that are happening between Democrats and the White House right now. The only thing the president said there in the Rose Garden is that Democrats, he does not feel like, are giving enough in this bill, but he did not lay out exactly what that looks like, what he wants to be added or taken away from the Democratic request in this bill that's happening right now.

[16:55:00]

So there are still a lot of questions here, because we know that even though the treasury secretary and the House speaker spoke during that press conference while it was going on, it's not clear what the president himself would back.

And, of course, he has scuttled bills that his aides -- his own aides have worked on before and told lawmakers he was committed to, only because he didn't like them in the end. And, of course, there, the president not really giving a lot of information, so it's not clear where those talks will go.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Yes, we heard, Dana Bash, a vague denunciation by President Trump of the Democrats, but no real details about what he wants.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

And that's a big issue. We know from our reporting that what they want is something that is less broad than what the Democrats want, specifically on the notion of paid leave.

So, that is going on in a very intense way behind the scenes.

What we saw there, more broadly, was, look, as close to, akin to a war effort as we have seen in a long time.

When I say war, it is the -- something that you were involved in, on a much smaller scale, the government partnering with private sector companies that do this, and doing it in a way that I think will make people feel a lot better, at least the show of force, as Sanjay called it, than we saw at the -- in the Oval Office a couple days ago.

TAPPER: All right, well, let's hope they're successful.

More on our breaking news and the latest White House response to the coronavirus right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:00:00]