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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Teachers, Parents and Students Adapting to Online Schooling; Kremlin Is Spreading Disinformation on The Coronavirus; Stocks Plunge as Dow Erases All Gains Since Trump Took Office; Airlines and Tourism Industries Requesting Federal Bailout. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 18, 2020 - 15:30   ET

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


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EVAN MCMORRIS SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- school but now online learning has become the norm for students of every age.

SAM MONTAG, STUDENT: Though we have four classes a day with 15 minutes in between each class and a 30-minute lunch break.

SANTORO: Sam Montag is 13, this is his first day attending 7th grade from his bedroom.

MONTAG: I think going online is a smart idea because we don't know when we'll be able to get back to school.

SANTORO: Westminster School, a private K through 12 in Atlanta is trying to make online school as close to regular school as possible. So, the day starts with home room from home.

CAROLINA MARES, TEACHER: Just follow what I'm doing. Everyone is doing it.

SANTORO: Carolina Mars has been teaching French and Spanish classes for eight years. For the past few days, she's been translating her classroom lesson plans into e-learning.

MARES: We've been working on learning how to order food and being open minded about trying these foods. Field trips are completely out of the picture now, and so we're trying to change the focus of this unit to be instead of ordering food to cooking at home.

SANTORO: This is the first day she's wrangling her students from her dining room table.

MARES: And we have everyone in class. Applause. Everyone made it.

Control over the class is one thing that I just have to let go of. I'm not there so I'm not going to have the same amount of control.

SANTORO: The obvious question, is this going to work? Online education has been around for a for a long time, but it's never tested quite like this.

MARES: You know there is that rule or guideline that your attention span is only as long as your age in minutes. So for middle schoolers we're talking attention span is usually 11 to 14 minutes max.

SANTORO (on camera): Do you think that you can leave your students with the same kind of education that they would have if they were with you in the classroom?

MARES: Yes, I can probably cover everything that I need to cover. But education is so much more than what we cover in class. A little extra- curricular activities, robotics, all of that is part of a student's education.

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SANTORO: So, Jake, what is important about this is how fast this all came together. Online education has been around for a while but experts tell me what they think is a long time to plan the online classes to get them right. So now this is really be a kind of a big experiment in doing this quickly and doing it for a giant population.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Evan, great piece. But of course, the glaring question, there are millions of children in the United States who live in poverty. How does online schooling work for kids who might not have computers or wi-fi at home?

SANTORO: Well, that's right. I mean this is a big and have not situation. Schools and technology companies are addressing this in different ways. And we'll see how well it goes. Internet service providers are putting up the ability to get sort of free wi-fi, free internet if you have a student in the house. Some internet companies are deciding not to terminate your service if you can't pay your bill.

And then some school systems are providing technology to the students. In Atlanta the public schools are actually giving out free hot spots to families who don't have internet access. And then the final sort of take on this is just to go old school. The L.A. United School District partnered with a local PBS station to create three channels of online education. So, you have -- or TV education really. You have one channel for K through 3. One channel for grades 4 through 8 and one channel for high school. And the idea is that you can just tune in during the day and get your schooling that way.

But we are entering an era where it feels like having internet is similar to having like water or electricity in your house. And this coronavirus moment might be a real indication of just how far down you are lacking if you don't have it.

TAPPER: All right, Evan, thank you so much. Great report.

Coming up, Russia at it again. How the Kremlin is reportedly spreading misinformation in trying to incite more fear over the coronavirus in the West. That's next.

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TAPPER: Continuing in our health LEAD. Russian state media and pro- Kremlin outlets are spreading a slew of misinformation about the coronavirus in an effort to, quote, exacerbate confusion, panic and fear in Western countries according to a new report by the European Union.

CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward joins me now live from London. Clarissa, how and why is Russia doing this?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, you may have seen some of the stuff pop up in your news feed even or heard about it from people that you know. It's the sort of allegations you might expect. Outlandish crackpot conspiracy theories along the lines of the U.S. is somehow responsible and deliberately created coronavirus as a way to get back at China.

Other reports included recommendations that you use bleach to try to kill the virus. But what we're hearing from this EU report, it's an interesting distinction. It's not that Russia is actually creating this propaganda or misinformation, but what they're doing is amplifying it.

So they're finding it out there and then pushing it out on their mouth pieces, "Russia Today," "Sputnik." The report also mentioned specifically "Russia Today" Spanish language "Russia Today" which apparently is the 12th most popular sharing source on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit on the subject of coronavirus.

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According to those EU officials who wrote the report, they say, quote, the overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries specifically by undermining public trust in national health care systems.

And essentially, Jake, this is what we have seen again and again when it comes to Russian disinformation. The idea being that it wants to undermine any faith that exists in political systems, in health care systems and really emphasize the idea that there is sort of broad chaos across countries like the U.S., other countries in the West. The report does not give any specific recommendations for how, though, Jake, it could be countered.

TAPPER: All right, Clarissa Ward, thank you so much, appreciate it.

Dark times call for bright spots. That's what Broadway star Laura Benanti was hoping to accomplish when she posted this video.

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LAURA BENANTI, ACTOR, SINGER: This may seem silly but I know a lot of high schools are going to have their musicals. So if would you like to sing a song that you are not going to get to sing now, and tag me.

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TAPPER: That prompted thousands of responses from "The Little Mermaid," "Hamilton" and "Annie" to name just a few contributors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to see want to see them dancing, walking around on those -- what do you call them?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't know what (INAUDIBLE) when she read what you done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some women are dripping with pearls, lucky me, lucky me, look at what I'm dripping with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Laura Benanti's hashtag sunshine songs has turned into what she calls the world's biggest musical. Even Tony Award winner Lin- Manuel Miranda tweeted I'm watching too.

A potential $1 trillion bailout is in the works, but can anything calm the volatile market? We're going to go live to the New York Stock Exchange next. Stay with us.

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TAPPER: Money LEAD now. Right now, the Senate is voting on a bill to provide some economic relief to the American people and American businesses as the coronavirus sparks recession fears.

Stocks plunging again today. The S&P triggering an automatic pause when trading fell below 7 percent. The Dow today is hovering around a loss of 1,900 points compare that to -- oh, I'm sorry 19,300 is the total, it's about 1,900 down. But if you compare today's down 19,365 there to January 19, 2017, that's the day before President Trump took office, the Dow that day closed at 19,732. So, we're actually below where the Dow was when President Trump took office.

Let's go live to CNN's Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange. Alison, all of the gains of the Trump presidency are gone. For good?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think the gains are gone for good. But you're right, all of the gains that the Dow made during the time Donald Trump has been President have now been wiped out. That's years of gains gone.

And it is significant because the President often uses the stock market as a barometer of his success. You know, and stocks will eventually bounce back. But this is a real psychological point and important to mention. And it comes as it's been another dramatic day of trading that's had stocks plunging so much the Dow triggered a circuit breaker -- the drop triggered a circuit breaker actually halting trading for 15 minutes. And this is actually the fourth time in two weeks that trading had to

pause to try to calm the market. And today the market seems to be sending a message, saying that the trillion dollars stimulus package won't be enough, that it is just a drop in the bucket based on how long this coronavirus crisis looks like it's going to last.

The investors I'm talking with believe there will need to be even more stimulus money and that the government is being short sighted especially now that the outbreak could last until July or August. The concern is the longer this goes on the more damage to the economy, to households and businesses big and small, who have bills to pay and of course the inevitable job losses in industries across the board.

And you could see the fear playing out in the thousand point moves every day almost because Wall Street has no visibility, Jake, on how long this could last -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alison Kosik, at the exchange, thanks so much. Let's bring in CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar along with chief economist at Moody's Analytics, Mark Zandi. President Trump said today that the Trump administration is working to send checks to Americans as soon as possible, maybe within the next two weeks.

But the President today would not say how big the checks would be. Rana. let me start with you. How much might be necessary to spur the economy in terms of these size of the checks?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST (via Cisco Webex): Well, I think the idea of handing out a thousand dollars right away is a good one. But frankly I think this might be a time particularly if you could do some means testing. There's not really time for that right now. But for really vulnerable populations, gig workers, contingency workers, these are the broadest categories of employment that were growing before the virus hit. I'd love to see those folks getting some regular cash infusions. Because if they don't get paid everything stops and then you're going to start to see the health care system and social safety nets being even more burdened than they are now.

TAPPER: And Mark, behind closed doors, a source say Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned Senate Republicans that the unemployment rate could spike to 20 percent. It hasn't been that high since the Great Depression. Do you think that's actually a possibility?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Well, I mean I think that is an overstatement. But you know whether it's 10 percent or 20 percent, I'm not sure that makes a difference. If that is what it takes to light a fire over Congress and the administration to come together and pass a large fiscal stimulus package, then so be it. 20 percent probably not but even if it is half of that, that's pretty significant.

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TAPPER: Several industries, Rana, are now lining up for potential federal bailouts. Airlines requested $50 billion to stay in business, the U.S. Travel Association representing big hotel chains asked the White House for $150 billion. MTA which runs the New York City subways, requesting $4 billion. Should it be the federal government coming to the rescue of all these companies and interests and industries, wanting, needing money?

FOROOHAR: It's a great question. You know, I think that we probably are going to need some bailouts of some major industries. But I'm really, really worried and concerned that we not repeat the mistakes of 2008 and 2009 where you had federal bailouts and taxpayers didn't get a cut, in some cases workers didn't see the gains or were laid off or later companies went bankrupt and workers got the shaft. I think we cannot afford that economically or politically.

With the airline business, I would just point out that over the last several years they've been incredibly cash rich. But 96 percent of free cash flow went to share buybacks which were one of the reasons that the markers were sort of artificially inflated and why they're falling so hard now.

You're seeing banks saying, hey, we're not going to do any more share buybacks. I would like to see other industries saying that. And I'd like to see the government ensure some protection for workers on the frontend.

TAPPER: Rana, explain what a share buyback is.

FOROOHAR: So, a share buyback is when a company goes into the open market and buys up its own shares, that artificially pushes share prices up. And because most stock in this country about 12 percent of all stock -- excuse me, about 80 percent of all stock is owned by the top 12 percent of the population, that increases inequality, that benefits the "C" suite and very wealthy people.

So, I think it's been a really problematic trend over the last few years. I hope we're seeing an end to it. But frankly a lot of companies that have bolstered their share price artificially have a long way to fall.

TAPPER: Just so the stockholders and the people running the companies can buy more yachts or bigger homes or whatever. After the 2009 financial crisis, Mark, many banks that received bailouts repaid their loans with interest. Could that potentially be what the Trump administration proposes this time around?

ZANDI: Yes, I think it's more likely, or that's better policy. I don't think I'd get into the business of bailing out individual companies or individual industries. But I think it's important for the administration to establish a credit facility that would backstop the banking system and other parts of the financial system to continue to provide credit to all businesses, whether they're big, small, or in between, that are having trouble accessing credit and cash. So that I think is the appropriate way to approach it.

That will also allow them to scale up and provide more credit if necessary. So, I think that might be a better approach than actually cutting a check to Delta or American Airlines. And I think that would probably be the way they would go.

TAPPER: And Rana, let me ask you, typically, analysts say don't panic don't pull your money from 401(k)s. There are a lot of American workers close to retirement who are watching their retirement savings disappear. What should they be doing? I understand, I'm not retiring anytime soon, I should sit back and relax, you're not either, Mark's not either. But what about people closer to retirement?

FOROOHAR: Well, these are great questions. Now is definitely not the time to pull out of the market. I mean you know stocks still may have a way to correct or they may be rebounding at some point, we just don't know. I would caution individual investors, though. I think that once we're --

TAPPER: We lost Rana Foroohar, but let's thank them, Rana Foroohar and Mark Zandi, appreciate it. The closing bell will ring in moments after another dreadful day, we're going to show you where the market actually lands in just a minute.

Plus, the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will join me live. President Trump says we're at war with an invisible enemy. What is the Pentagon going to do to help us win that war? Stay with us.

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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are continuing with our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic continuing to rattle Wall Street. The Dow will be closing in a moment, it's down around 1,600 points today. Today was the fourth time in two weeks that trading had to be temporarily halted because stocks were dropping so fast.

Right now, the Senate is voting on a bill to help alleviate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump invoked what's called the Defense Production Act that will enable him to ramp up the manufacture and sharing of protective gear for health care workers.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will join me in just a moment to discuss that and more as the number of cases of coronavirus continues to climb in the U.S., now up to more than 7,500 confirmed infected. The death toll, now 125. It's gone up five since this hour began.

Coronavirus cases have now been reported in all 50 states, West Virginia now reporting its first case. Some doctors and health care workers and even 49 U.S. service members have tested positive for the coronavirus.

President Trump calling himself a wartime President today as he announced he would invoke that Defense Production Act, a law from the Korean War era that allows the U.S. government to mandate production of equipment.

And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us, this should or at least could drastically help make up for medical supply shortages.

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KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As the U.S. braces for an onslaught of coronavirus cases, CNN --

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