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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Extending Social Distancing Guidelines Until April 30th. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 29, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But even they said that the ratings are like "Monday Night Football" ratings. And that these are like "Bachelor" finale. That's their end. When the big deal happened. I have no idea what happened because I'm too busy working on this. Someday will tell me what happened. So -- no, I think it is terrible. When they don't want the president of the United States to have a voice, you are not talking about democracy any longer. Please. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thanks, Mr. President. You've talked a lot about concerns about leaving the -- for so long. Was there any dissent for your top economic advisers in your decision to leave the guidelines in place until the end of April?
TRUMP: No. No. And this is before we heard the 2.2 million people. I mean, we had a lot of people were saying maybe we shouldn't do anything, just ride it. They said ride it like a cowboy. Just ride it. Ride that sucker right through. That's where the 2.2 million people come in, would have died. Maybe. But it would have been 1.6 to 2.2. And that's not acceptable. But there are a lot of people that said, I thought about it. I said, maybe we should ride it through.
You know, you always hear about the flu. I talk about it all the time. We had a bad flu season. We're in the midst of a bad flu -- you know, we had a bad season, last year as an example, a bad flu season. And you'll have 35,000, 36,000, 37,000 people die, sometimes more, sometimes less. But this is different. And part of this is the unknown. And part of it also is the viciousness of it.
I had a friend who went to a hospital the other day. He's a little older and he's heavy. But he's a tough person. And he went to the hospital and a day later he's in a coma. I call, how is he doing? Sir, he's in a coma, he's unconscious. He's not doing well. The speed and the viciousness especially if it gets the right person, it's horrible. It's really horrible. Please, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, this may be good for some of the advisers as well. We've heard some rumors that Louisiana is really going to get hit hard next because there's a possibility that Mardi Gras. Have you guys seen any data to back that up or what happened a few weeks ago, whether or not that's contributing to the spike in Louisiana? TRUMP: Yes. I don't think it's a rumor. I think it's a fact. Louisiana
has been hit hard. And Louisiana is an example -- it started off with like nobody for so long. I spoke when I spoke to the governor. But Deborah or Tony, any -- either of you if you like to talk.
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: You know, I think you heard us talk about a week ago that we were very worried about the numbers and how they were increasing in Louisiana, how they were increasing in Cook County, how they were increasing in Dearborn and Detroit. And I think those are areas that we're still watching very carefully. And like the president said when people get this virus, some people do very poorly. And when certain metro areas get exposed to the virus, we see this really very rapid expansion of the virus.
We think it may have been circulating there for, you know, a couple of weeks. We don't like to -- I don't like to look backwards. I only like to look forwards and really we are putting all of our effort into ensuring that the people of New Orleans, the people of the Detroit region, frankly the people of New York. I mean, the -- some of the fastest growing counties are not New York itself. New York City when you look at per 100,000. It's Rockland. It's Bergen.
So I mean, these are -- all of these places are people that have transited through cities. And that's why we really did want the travel advisory just to really warn people to watch out for their own health, to really take their temperatures. And so it can go from 50,100, 500 cases and the next thing you know it's 2,000, it's 4,000, it's 10,000 and because it then gets across all communities, people get very sick.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, you made the comment about New Orleans. This could happen anywhere. And that's really one of the issues that we're concerned about and why we were so reluctant to pull back at a time where we need to put our foot on the gas as oppose to on the brake. And as what Dr. Birx said, this is exactly what you see.
There are a number of communities, cities, states, whatever have you out there, in which they're trickling along like that. Don't get complacent about that because that's exactly the way the virus works. It goes like this. Then like this. And then it goes up like that. That's exactly what happened in New Orleans. That's what happened in a terrible way with New York. That's what we're trying to avoid in multiple locations throughout the country. So we shouldn't take any solace when we see low levels in different states, different cities, different areas because they're very vulnerable to an explosion.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And Mr. President, last question from me, sir. Just real quick. I asked the vice president a week ago and I think we talked about it last week as well. You took the test that first time, I remember that. And I think you took it last week, Mr. Vice President. Have you had a chance to take it again? Does it get easier the second time around? Does it -- I mean you -- how do you feel? TRUMP: I think I'm waiting for that little 45-minute test sort of like
that, or now it's down to five minutes, I understand. But, no, I haven't. But I think I'll -- I think I will take it again if it's appropriate. I don't feel there's any symptoms. I don't notice -- have you noticed any sniffles? Nothing, right? So, so far I haven't felt that way. But you know there was a big strong point made originally. I think it still holds. Take the test if you need it if you have the symptoms. If you don't take it. That's put out by the professionals. So, you know, I don't have it, but I would take it.
I just wanted to say one thing also about what Tony had mentioned. So I grew up in Queens, New York, and right next to a place called Elmhurst, Queens. And they have a hospital that's a very good hospital, Elmhurst Hospital, right? I've known it. I've known where it is. I can tell you the color on the outside, the size of the windows. I mean, I know it very well. Right? I was near my community where I lived and I been watching that for the last week on television, body bags all over in hallways.
I have been watching them bring in trailer trucks, freezer trucks. They're freezer trucks. Because they can't handle the bodies. There are so many of them. This is in my -- essentially in my community in Queens. Queens, New York. I have seen things that I have never seen before. I mean I've seen them but I have seen them on television and far away lands. I've never seen them in our country.
Elmhurst Hospital, unbelievable people. I mean, I -- when I see the trucks pull up to take out bodies -- and these are trucks that are as long as the Rose Garden. And they're pulling up to take out bodies and you look inside and you see the black body bags. You say, what's in there? It's Elmhurst Hospital. Must be supplies. It's not supplies. It's people. I have never seen anything like it.
So we're doing -- these people are doing a fantastic job and somebody else is doing a fantastic job who's sitting here who is the head of the task force. And I just maybe want to finish up because I'd like to ask Mike, what do you think about what we've done and where do you think we're going, and how do you feel also when you studied this so closely? How do you feel about the curve and the June 1st date? And that's a very -- that's aspirational but I think that's really modified aspirational because I think we're going to hit it and maybe we'll even beat it. OK? Mike, please.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President. And let me just join you in thanking the American people for the efforts the people of this nation have made over the past 15 days and that we know they will continue to make over the next 30. You heard the president speak today about the modeling and on Tuesday he will share with the nation a full range of council of the team that he assembled now months ago at the White House Coronavirus Task Force, will lay out to the country of what could have been and what we are continuing to work to make a reality.
But in the meantime, every American -- I think every American should have a grateful heart first and foremost to all the incredible health care workers that are on the front lines at places like Elmhurst and elsewhere every single day. As Dr. Birx said, getting just a few hours of sleep and going right back into work. I mean, they are hands and feet of American compassion. And I want to say on behalf of your president and on behalf of a grateful nation, that we're with you.
We're going to continue to work tirelessly with these outstanding leaders at FEMA to make sure that you have the protective equipment to be able to do your job safely and go home to your family. We're going to continue to work with these incredible distributions. Literally the aircraft that landed at JFK this morning is the first of 51 aircrafts that are going to be coming in from around the world and it's all headed to support our health care workers and people that are on the frontlines.
But, also, Mr. President, I want to say thank you to American businesses whose generosity are shining forth every day. The two companies that you mentioned have waived co-pays and are providing full coronavirus coverage to Americans for the full treatment that people that are enduring this virus are experiencing.
But American businesses like those so well represented here are stepping up every day, what the president likes to call a spirit the likes of which we have not seen for quite a while in this country. And it's truly inspiring.
I also want to join your words about this team that you've assembled, not only the health care team, the extraordinary team at FEMA and HHS, but all of our partners at the state and local level and the work that they are doing.
And Mr. President, when you tapped me to do this five weeks ago, you said I want a full partnership with our states. I want to make sure the federal government is there working with our governors and all the local health officials and to all of you who are managing your states, to all of you that are implementing those healthcare policies on the local level, you have our admiration and our commitment to continue to be with you.
I think what the president laid out today, while it is -- I'm sure for many Americans that were hoping we would be with this sooner, there may be a modest sense of frustration and disappointment but what I hear speaking to these health care experts is that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
And that as the American people continue to put into practice, the president's coronavirus guidelines for America, each one of us continues to do our part, social distancing, avoiding groups of more than 10, using a drive-thru at local restaurants, avoiding unnecessary travels. As every American continues to listen to your state and local leaders, to heed that domestic travels advisory that the CDC issued on Saturday night, we're going to hasten the day that we get to the other side of this, as the president said.
And that we truly do believe that while there are challenges in the weeks ahead, there is hope that as every American continues to put these guidelines into practice, as every single one of us continues to do our part that we'll get through this. I mean, when the American people know the -- how tall the hill is, Mr. President, we have never failed to get over it and then some.
And I think with your leadership, with this extraordinary team that you have assembled, the great leadership that we have at state and local levels, the partnership with American businesses and the can do spirit of the American people, we'll get through this. And we'll get through this together. Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you, Mike. Thank you very much, Mike.
So I just want to end by saying that we are all in this together. All of us. I have never seen anything like it. The unity, the esprit de corps, the spirit, I have never seen anything like it. It's a beautiful thing to watch. Unfortunately, the enemy is death. It's death. A lot of people are dying. So it's very unpleasant. It's a very unpleasant thing to go through.
But the level of competence, the level of caring, the level of love, I just think it's brilliant and it's possibly happening in other countries. Possibly. I don't know. I can't speak to other countries but I can speak to the United States of America. And I have said it before and I'll say it again. I am very proud to be your president.
Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So there you have a rather stunning news conference by the president of the United States in the Rose Garden over at the White House. 90 minutes or so. There is a lot to digest. Two major pieces of news emerging. The president has extended what's called the social distancing guidelines until the end of April, April 30th, even though he had previously wanted to open up the country by Easter Sunday, April 12th. He wanted the churches to be packed on Easter Sunday. That has now gone away according to the president. He acknowledges that earlier assessment was aspirational, not realistic.
Also, another stunning statement, Dr. Anthony Fauci saying he stands by the comment he made to CNN's Jake Tapper earlier this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION," that there could be -- there could be here in the United States at least 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Maybe as many as 200,000 according to some models.
We've got a lot to analyze. I want to go to CNN's John King first.
John, obviously it appears that the doctors, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, other members, the medical and scientific experts there at the task force there, they prevailed on the president and allowed these guidelines to continue at least until the end of April. The president even said, John, that it could be June 1st before we see the country resuming to start all over again.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's so clear, Wolf, that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx have followed the Trump playbook, have come to understand how this president works, because that is the biggest headlines out of this news conference. And if you're one of those people around the United States or anywhere around the world and you still think this is all hype and this is not serious, you need to stop and think again. And if you won't believe the doctors, and you won't believe the science, well, then believe the president of the United States.
Because there is the president who has been itching for the past week and pushing his team, give me some flexibility, let me back off, let me dial back, let me reopen the economy, at least let me open parts of the economy, and let's do that. He wanted to do it two weeks from today, Wolf. What did he just say? Another 30 days at least possibly into May. The president of the United States backing off. How did he get them to do it?
Remember, he likes to talk about biggest ever. Big things. Nobody has ever seen it. They came to him with a model that said, sir, if you take your foot off the gas right now, a million or two million Americans could die. You want to keep it to 50,000 or 100,000, keep these in place? And they swayed the president by pushing him on that big number. The president likes to have a win, they told him he can win in his view. There won't be a million or two million if he backs off.
And it's really a testament to the perseverance of Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci because the president wanted to do something very different, but he's now signed on for at least another month. And importantly, in response to our Jeremy Diamond, he also said he doesn't see any likelihood that he'll consider even some sort of regional or county- by-county or some modest relaxation some places in the country. The president even saying he thinks that's a bad idea, too, just days after saying he thought it was a great idea.
BLITZER: Yes. And the numbers that he was throwing out. He said he had been told that if the U.S. had not been taken some of these steps, all of these steps, 2.2 million people he said could have died here in the United States. 2.2 million. And he said if it's 100,000, he specifically said, John, that would be good. Those are amazing numbers. Right now 2400 people in the United States have died.
KING: And so you look at that 2400 on the screen right there, and that's -- we're on the air anchoring the program, Wolf, you keep seeing those numbers, they keep going up. If you listen -- again, just take a breath and look back and if you listen to the president, if you listen to Dr. Birx, if you listen to Dr. Fauci, and they're talking about the climb going up, they think the peak will be somewhere around Easter Sunday. That is two weeks from today. And they think it is totally within the realm of possibility that 100,000 Americans, maybe more. They hope less. But 100,000 Americans could die.
When you look at 2400 today, now that should give you a sense of the incredibly tough two weeks we are heading into. And then even if they bend the curve by the then, tough times after that. If you just look at the state-by-state jump in the numbers, and it just tells you that the president backed off after being so eager to do this. It just tells you a lot because his instincts and his reflex, and a lot of his outside friends were telling him ride it out. Be tough.
As the president said, be a cowboy and ride it out. That they were able to push him back and that you hear the president standing there talking about these big numbers, he has from the very beginning tried to downplay this, tried to say we have 15 cases, just 33 days ago. There are 15 cases, we'll soon be down to zero. That President Trump was gone today. He gets this is serious and he believes, he believes the best thing to do is shut down the American economy for at least another month.
BLITZER: Yes. And that's a dramatic statement as the president who doesn't like to acknowledge that he may have been wrong earlier and has very upbeat assessments because today the numbers that were thrown out, maybe 2.2 million people could have died here in the United States. If it's 100,000, 100,000 people dying, in his words, that would be good.
I want to bring in Kaitlan Collins, our White House correspondent.
Kaitlan, you were listening very carefully. You cover this president and you've been covering him from the start. What did you think?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's really notable because last week I asked the president when it comes to what you're going to do about these guidelines, whether or not you're going to renew them. Will you rely on the advice that the doctors give you? And the president would not commit to yes in that answer. He just said he would listen to Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, but, Wolf, he also said he would listening to others as well.
But what is clear from this press conference is the advice of Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, the health experts on his task force, has broken through with the president and that is why they are extending these guidelines because it was just last week when the president introduced that Easter date, a date that he had not based off of data or anything that had been shown to him by his team, but he said he just picked it because he thought it would be a beautiful day and that's why he settled with that Easter day as the date for re-opening the country.
But, Wolf, you saw aides start to back off of that day in recent days, starting with Dr. Fauci who said it was just aspirational. Then you saw the vice president used that language, and now the president himself using it today in the Rose Garden when asked about his change of mine in picking that date. But certainly this will place the medical experts on his team.
But, Wolf, I do want to note something else that happened in that briefing. And that was of course another big topic not just these deadlines, but also supplies. And hospitals and governors that say they just simply do not have enough and the president suggested that something nefarious is happening at hospitals in New York when it comes to masks.
He told reporters they should look into what's happening to all the masks, asking if they're disappearing out of a backdoor or something. And he cited one hospital in particular saying it was a hospital that typically orders about 10,000 to 20,000 per year and now they're ordering 300,000.
And Wolf, he seemed astonished that a hospital would want that many masks. He asked what they were being used for, what they were doing with them. And of course, Wolf, the president had no evidence that something nefarious has happened there with those masks. But of course we also know that nurses and doctors have been saying they don't have enough because coronavirus is obviously a respiratory illness.
They're having to use multiple mask a day, multiple mask an hour even, because they have to change them out. And that has been a big struggle for them as they are having a big shortage in this. Some of them say they are reusing masks. They're having to sanitize them. They're using ones that don't properly fit, ones that are expired.
We even saw that CDC guidance saying that they should use a bandanna in a worst-case scenario. So the president was hinting that there, Wolf. He has no evidence that he presented there at that briefing that something nefarious actually has happened with those masks in New York. And he seems surprised that during a pandemic, the increase in the demand for masks has gone up in hospitals.
BLITZER: And, you know, Kaitlan, you cover the president from day one. He always likes to say he's in charge, he makes the decisions, he'll listen to his advisers, but it's up to him. In this particular case, what was extraordinary, the president basically saying, you know what, they told me this was as bad as it's going to get and I had to listen to them, as a result we're extending the guidelines through the end of April. That's something he doesn't usually like to do.
COLLINS: No, it's not. So the question is, you know, does the president maintain the stance, how does this work out? Because aides have been saying, you know, for the last several days, they were going to try to convince the president that he needed to keep these guidelines in place. And we were told that one thing they were presenting to him is showing the data that this has worked.
The guidelines that they issued two weeks ago that they've actually been helping to flatten the curve. So you saw Dr. Fauci there. And the president seemed surprised by that number, about 100,000 potentially. And that's why he had Dr. Fauci come up and repeat that data. So it's really notable to see, you know, how this has played out over the last several weeks where the president at times floats something and then you see his team in the end went out, the medical experts here.
And that is what has happened here with this Easter deadline that has gone away. The president had stopped mentioning it in recent days. Now he's backed off of it. And Wolf, even just happening in the last 24 hours, yesterday, when the president came out after he had a conversation with the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who was expressing concerns about people leaving New York, coming to Florida, potentially spreading coronavirus.
That is an idea the president quickly backed off of after a few hours where there was a lot of unknown. No details out of the White House. And then last night the president said he was ending up going with a strong advisory about not traveling out of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.
And Dr. Fauci said this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION" that there were very intense discussions happening last night at the White House about that idea. The president today seemed to say he wasn't suggesting that quarantine, though he very much did float that idea yesterday without any commitments. And so it's notable to see how sometimes the president floats something then clearly consulting with his team and then we'd come out with a different alternative in the end, and that's happened here not only with that Easter headline but also as something like that quarantine he floated yesterday.
BLITZER: And clearly the president was stunned by what Dr. Fauci said earlier today publicly on "STATE OF THE UNION" that these models, these various models, potentially show there could be millions, millions of Americans with the coronavirus but what was so dramatic, he said maybe 100,000 or 200,000 dead Americans as a result of this. That clearly stuck with the president as well.
The president suggesting, as I've said before, well, there was another estimate of maybe 2.2 million Americans could die. And he said if it's 100,000 he said that would be good.
I want to bring in Daniel Dale, our CNN fact-checker. You were listening as carefully as anyone, 90 minutes that news conference went on, Daniel.
DANIEL DALE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It did, and the president said he uses these news conferences to get what he called the accurate word to the public. But again, Wolf, a lot of these was inaccurate. There were two remarkable moments where journalists simply recited Trump's own words back to him and then he denied that he had said what he had said.
The first was with PBS' Yamiche Alcindor who accurately said that he had said on talks and news that he didn't believe that governors, such as the governor of New York, actually needed the amount of equipment. They've said so. And he responded, I didn't say that, and then he attacked her for being allegedly threatening, not being nice. And so his denial was false. He said the words she said he did.
Then our own Jeremy Diamond recited the words he had said about not wanting his administration to call governors he thought were treating him or them right, and he again denied he said that. He then went on to say we've been taken him out of context. But we hadn't been. We've been accurately quoting him. He then said in that answer, well, I don't call myself but I don't tell Mike Pence not to call.
On Friday, when he made those comments, he specifically said, I say to Mike, don't call the woman in Michigan, don't call the governor of Washington. So this was a blatant contradiction of what he had said on camera and we heard. BLITZER: Yes. There were a bunch of other statements the president
made that clearly weren't true. Just one personal point I just want to point out when he said that CNN ratings are bad. I just want our viewers to know that CNN ratings right now are excellent, higher than they've been over the past 15 years this month alone. The highest ratings that CNN has had in some 15 years. So what the president said on that point was wrong.
Anything else you noticed, Daniel?
DALE: Yes. There were a number of claims. I mean, he seemed to blame CDC testing problems, problems with this coronavirus test, on something that had been done by the previous administration. I'm not aware of any basis for that, although I'll look into it further. This was a test developed under Trump that was faulty. Not something that was left to him by the Obama era CDC for example.
And as Kaitlan alluded to, he also suggested without providing any evidence or sources that hospitals were hoarding ventilators and there were some sort of what seemed to be theft or other nefarious or even criminal dealings with regard to masks in New York. Now there may well be theft going on somewhere, but if the president is going to float some sort of allegations, you'd hope he'd help us understand more about where he's getting the information, and he simply didn't do so.
BLITZER: It's an important point as well. Our chief political analyst Gloria Border was listening very carefully as well. What did you think, Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what we saw was the president backed down, listening to the doctors. And I think we should all be glad that he is listening to the doctors, but we saw a president who has floated these half-baked ideas. He says he operates on instinct and I guess that's true. Ranging from the New York potential quarantine after he talked to the governor of Florida, talking about opening the country up on Easter as he did last Tuesday.
Then talking about having different rules for different parts of the country and in each instance of course he cannot admit that he made a mistake. Today he said, when he was talking about Easter, and I think Kaitlan mentioned this, that he said it was aspirational. He did not say it was aspirational. He said he would love to do it. And when the president of the United States says that, the doctors clearly went crazy about it, Wolf.
And can you imagine what they had to go through sitting in a room trying to present the president of the United States with this evidence, by the way, that he should have had last week when he made that pronouncement or idea or threw it out there. You just don't throw out ideas in a pandemic when you're president of the United States. And it shouldn't have been a surprise to him because I think it hasn't been a lot of surprise to the physicians we have had on the air that pandemic could get exponentially worse.
And the president today behaved as if, gee, this is brand new information that I have just discovered when in fact I think particularly in medical circles and certainly on our air and other people's air, doctors have suggested how terrible this pandemic could be. So I guess my question is, why is this new to the president of the United States?
BLITZER: Yes. And clearly the doctors must have scared the president so radically when they said, you know --
BORGER: Well --
BLITZER: Mr. President, if the U.S. doesn't take these tests, 2.2 million Americans could die. If the U.S. takes these steps, maybe 100,000, Dr. Fauci sticking to that, maybe 200,000, maybe fewer, at one point Dr. Birx said maybe 80,000 Americans would die.
BLITZER: Those numbers are awful.
BORGER: Well, it's very clear to me that the doctors didn't back down on this. We have seen times during this pandemic where the doctors had twisted themselves into pretzels to try and say well, the president meant this or the president meant that. The vice president has done that as well.
I think at this point, when you're coming to a decision point about whether you've got to reopen the country, it was just this week of course the president was saying people want to go back to work, we have to get back to work. He spent one entire press conference doing that. They knew I believe what they were facing in terms of a president who really is worried about the economy as anyone would be, we're all worried about the economy.
And said to him, look, this is going to get much worse if we don't stick to our guns here. And I think that in this particular instance at least today and for this day they won and they managed to convince a reluctant president
I think, to go along and keep the country the way it is until April 30th, at least.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And as you point out correctly, that's the good news that he is finally listening to these doctors, listening to their assessments. And when he threw out that it may be by June 1st, the economy could start to recover. June 1st, that's a couple of months down the road.
Standby for a moment of, Gloria. Dr. Megan Ranney is joining us as well, an emergency physician at Lifespan/Brown University.
First of all, what did you think, Doctor?
DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN/BROWN UNIVERSITY: Look, as Gloria was just saying, we in Medicine, in Emergency Medicine, Public Health and Infectious Disease have been predicting that this epidemic would worsen for months. So we're not surprised that here we are.
One of my friends e-mailed me during the press conference. This friend practices in New York City and he said that it feels like we're in a mass casualty situation, like a mass shooting in slow motion.
We just see patients coming in and coming in and coming in and we're running out of supplies. We're running out of equipment to help.
I am hopeful that those masks and ventilators will show up. I am hopeful that we will follow these social distancing rules.
I hope that we're doing it soon enough to be able to save lives across the country because my colleagues are already exhausted and in many places, working with truly insufficient protective equipment and insufficient equipment.
BLITZER: What do you think, Dr. Ranney, when you heard the President say, we'll likely see a peak in deaths in about two weeks or so, and he also said that if the U.S. can keep the death toll here in the United States to 100,000 or less, in his words, that would be good?
RANNEY: So we know that it takes about two weeks for the symptoms from coronavirus to start to show up in peak. So, if we started social distancing now across the entire United States, it would be about two weeks until all the people that got infected yesterday were showing symptoms.
And until they were -- and then, sometimes another five to seven days until they're bad enough to get hospitalized, needing intensive care or need critical care.
So I think two weeks is a plausible number, but it may be three, or even longer, until we see the effects of social distancing, if it is fully applied across the United States today.
In terms of that hundred thousand as has been talked about, there's a lot of different models out there, I would be thrilled to see the number be only around 100,000 deaths. We should be so lucky.
BLITZER: And that is such a horrible thought to think, a hundred thousand people are going to die, and that would be good news, if only 100,000 Americans died. Right now, 2,400 deaths confirmed in the United States.
Dr. Ranney, I want you to stand by. John King, let's go back to the President. How painful must it have been for him to throw out these numbers? To suggest, yes, the guidelines are going to continue through the end of April, it might not be until June 1st that the economy might be able to get back on track and throw out the number, he was told 2.2 million Americans potentially could have died if he hadn't taken these steps and he will happy if only a hundred thousand died.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But we've just seen the President, polar opposites on this very question. Well, at the very early -- at the beginning of this, we're at 15, we will be down to zero. It is going to disappear like a miracle. This is going to pass pretty soon. We'll be through this soon. It's not a big deal.
The President for weeks and weeks and weeks, refused to acknowledge a crisis on his watch, just refused to admit there would be a crisis in an election year on his watch.
Then you have seen him take the advice of other advisers and say sir, tweets and tough talk cannot change biology, it cannot beat this virus. You have to accept the fact that you need to be a crisis manager.
That was what the President was trying to do today, trying to say I'm being responsible here. I'm doing something that I didn't want to do, but that I must do to save more lives. Listening to the public health experts -- unusual.
This is a President who operates on instinct and on reflex. So we should call him the responsible President. You just heard Dr. Ranney, I've been talking to her over the last several weeks. What a sobering thing. The experts have all been saying this.
The President is now listening to his experts and saying, sorry, we need to do this. As painful as it is, we need to shut down the country pretty much for another month, and maybe more. So that's the responsible President.
But Wolf, you also saw some of the reckless President, and a lot of this goes back to who he was as a businessman and who he was as a candidate, but he is now the President of the United States, to the point Kaitlan made and Megan made, businesses are hoarding ventilators.
He does not want to accept or even share the blame for the problems Dr. Ranney is experiencing every day in her life.
Businesses are hoarding ventilators. The states are stocked up; many just don't admit it.
KING: To the question of a hospital in New York that used to order 10,000 to 30,000 masks that now is ordering 200,000 to 300,000 masks, something is going on. Someone should look into it.
When pressed, what's going on, Mr. President? What are your facts? That's for other people to find out? No, it isn't. No, it isn't.
We're in the middle of a global pandemic and a national crisis. He is the President. He has the F.B.I. at his disposal. He has every regulatory agency of the United States government at his disposal.
If this is true, he can do something about it, then name names. Innuendo and conspiracy theories have no place at this moment, but they are in the President's playbook.
BLITZER: You know, and what's also shocking, maybe it's not shocking, John, after a while, you start to get used to it that at a time like this, an enormous crisis, maybe 100,000 Americans are going to be dead over the next couple of weeks or so. We hope that isn't the case.
But potentially that could be the case, maybe even 200,000, if you listen to some of the modeling projections that Dr. Fauci put out. He is spending so much of his time tweeting and making statements attacking the news media, you'd think he would have better things to do.
He is also tweeting about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, if they live in Los Angeles, they're not going to get any U.S. protection -- government protection. You'd think at a time like this, he'd have better things to focus his attention on.
KING: You would think that. You would think that, and again -- and again, let's give the President his due. He listened to the experts and he did what just about every public health professional I've talked to in the last month or so would say is the right thing to do as tough as it is.
So he should get credit where credit is due, but you are right. He takes time every day. He took time in that press conference, to gratuitously attack two reporters, including one from CNN, who were reading the President's own words back to him.
And he interrupts them and doesn't let them finish the sentence and then he says, they are misquoting him. No, they were asking him about his own words. Because, as Yamiche Alcindor -- I believe I'm pronouncing her name right -- was asking him, he said to Sean Hannity on a Thursday night, the governors are exaggerating the need for ventilators. That's not a federal responsibility anyway. The state should handle that if they need more.
The very next day, he said, I'm ordering General Motors to produce a hundred thousand ventilators in a hundred days. That's a perfectly legitimate question to ask, what changed your mind? Who convinced you to change your mind?
But when challenged about any accountability or accepting any responsibility, it's not all his fault. To the people out there who want to say this is all Trump's fault. Of course, it's not all Trump's fault.
It is hard to ramp up the United States government, to ramp up production, to find things, to put somebody in charge to get it done, but the administration has made missteps in the supply chain, in the testing issue.
A lot of governors who are saying, thank you, Mr. President, for the help today are asking, why wasn't it there six weeks ago, when we first started asking for it? But he just simply -- he is not Harry Truman, the buck does not stop there.
BLITZER: Absolutely right. And one of those excellent reporters who asked a very, very strong question, an important question, Jeremy Diamond is with us, our White House reporter.
Jeremy, you did an excellent job. You were extremely generous in deferring to Yamiche Alcindor to let her ask the question that the President wouldn't let her ask earlier. That was a real collegial thing to do. I applaud you as a fellow journalist.
That's what White House correspondents should do. I spent seven years as a White House correspondent.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.
BLITZER: You allowed her to ask the question that was generous and important, and the right thing to do. You asked a very fair question. You were reading the President's own words. And instead of answering your question, he decided he was going to attack you and CNN.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Wolf, I've been covering President Trump for about five years now going from the beginning of his campaign through now. And so often, it is the President's own words that sometimes when they are thrown back at him, seem to get under his skin.
And it's simply because sometimes the President perhaps regrets what he what he said or thinks it is being twisted in a way or used against him. But ultimately, those are his words.
And let me play you the words that I asked the President about. These are comments that he made on Friday, when he was talking about governors of states needing to be more appreciative towards him and towards his administration. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they should be appreciative. Because you know what, when they're not appreciative to me, they're not appreciative to the Army Corps. They're not appreciative to F.E.M.A. It's not right.
These people are -- they're working 24 hours a day. Mike Pence, I mean, Mike Pence, I don't think he sleeps anymore. These are people that should be appreciated.
He calls all the governors. I tell them, I mean, I'm a different type of person. I say, Mike, don't call the Governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him. Don't call the woman in Michigan, it doesn't make any difference what happens.
QUESTION: The Governor of Washington?
TRUMP: No, you know what I say, if they don't treat you right, I don't call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And those words, if they don't treat you right, I don't call. Those were the very words that I asked the President about just a little bit ago. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DIAMOND: I'd also like to ask you about some comments you made on
Friday. You were talking about governors of different states and you said I want them to be appreciative. You also said if they don't treat you right, I don't call.
TRUMP: But I didn't say that.
DIAMOND: These are direct quotes, sir.
TRUMP: Excuse me. Are you ready? Ready? Ready? Take a look at what I said. I want them to be appreciative of me. Okay. And then you cut it off because it's fake news.
DIAMOND: You and of your administration --
TRUMP: Just please, let me just finish it. You just said it again. And you know, the answer is a lie.
DIAMOND: You know, I could read you your full comments, sir, if that would be easy.
TRUMP: Let me just say. Look, your statement and your response. And your answer is a lie. Because here's the story. Are you ready? I said, I want you to be appreciative of me, and then you go on -- and then I go on and you cut it off. I don't call --
DIAMOND: You said, you referring to the Vice President.
TRUMP: No, I don't call -- no, I don't call the Governor of Washington now.
DIAMOND: But why in this time --
TRUMP: But Mike Pence calls and the head of F.E.M.A. calls, I don't stop them. Did I ever ask you to do anything negative Mike, to Washington, to the State of Washington? Michigan, I love that state. That's one of my favorite places in the whole world, Michigan. And I'm so proud of what's happened with the auto industry. It's coming back to Michigan.
No, I don't have to call because I'm probably better off not because we don't get -- he's a failed presidential candidate. He's a nasty person. I don't like the Governor of Washington. So you know who calls? I get Mike Pence to call. I get the head of F.E.M.A. to call. I get the Admiral to call.
When they disrespect me, they are disrespecting our government. And you know what? I don't mind if I'm disrespected, but they can't disrespect the Army Corps of Engineers and F.E.M.A.
QUESTION: Why is the lack of --
TRUMP: Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: ... it's something that is important in the midst of --
TRUMP: I want them to appreciate the incredible job we're doing. We are doing a job the likes of which has never been done before. And there are a couple of people that know that.
But for political reasons, let's say they are Democrats, they don't want to give this administration credit, and that's okay. But I don't have to deal with them. But our Vice President does deal with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And you can hear at the end there, Wolf, it appears at the White House actually cut off my microphone, so you weren't able to hear the sound. But I was just pressing the President once again, about in a time of a public health crisis where we have seen in the past two days, the number of deaths in the United States doubled to more than 2,000.
And we are now looking at modeling that is talking about perhaps death tolls as high as a hundred thousand, 200,000, why the President requires appreciation whether it's towards him or towards his administration in order for these states to get what they need.
And again, just on the point of what these states are actually talking about and the criticism that the President sees, these are states that are talking about not getting enough equipment from the Federal government or feeling like they are bidding against other states and they need the Federal government to come in and take control of the supply chain.
At the same time, Wolf, we have seen the administration fulfill some of the requests of these governors, even those whom the President has criticized, the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, you know, a day after the President said to Mike Pence, don't call her. He referred to her as the woman in Michigan.
Vice President Mike Pence actually spoke with Gretchen Whitmer the next day over the phone and talk to her about the delivery of 112,000 N-95 respirators that we're going to be headed to the state.
So there is at times a disconnect between what the President says and what his administration actually does, but again, there are still so many legitimate concerns that many of these governors have.
And clearly the President doesn't appreciate them because he doesn't appreciate anything that's even mildly critical of his performance, or that reflects poorly on him.
BLITZER: You know, and you've done an excellent job, Jeremy, but I just want to get your thoughts as someone who has covered this President now for five years when he was a candidate, now as President of the United States, on a day like this, when he is told that maybe 100,000 Americans maybe 200,000 Americans over the next few weeks, could die as a result of coronavirus, he spent a lot of time on Twitter today, boasting about the excellent television ratings his news conferences have received lately. I just want to get your thoughts on that. Why he would do something
like that at a sensitive, delicate, extraordinary moment like this.
DIAMOND: Yes, that's right. And ultimately, we have seen with this President that when it comes to whatever he is doing, or whatever his administration is doing, whether it's his campaign, his businesses, ultimately the President takes everything quite personally, and that comes both in the good and the bad, I think whether that's the criticism that he is facing or the extraordinary ratings that he would like to tout.
It does raise a question, of course of why the President feels in the time of such a public health crisis, it is important to tout his TV ratings and compare them to the finale of a reality television show.
And the President did so again today, when he was asked a question or rather presented with a statement by a propagandist from a pretty fringe outlet, the President once again talked about this -- you know, what he is facing and talked about the ratings that his briefings are getting.
So again, I think at the end of the day, the President does like to bring these things back to him but again, to give him his credit on this day, as John King was talking about, the President today did heed the advice of these public health experts who all of them really in unison have been saying, it is not yet time to release any of these -- to relax any of these guidelines, and ultimately the President heeded those warnings and he is extending those guidelines for another month -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, yes, that is the good news that he listened to Dr. Fauci, he listened to Dr. Birx, and he accepted their advice, keep these guidelines going. Forget about what you said earlier about packed churches on Easter Sunday. You've got to keep these guidelines. It is going to save American lives.
But once again, as you know, he is tweeting about his ratings being higher than "The Bachelor" or "Monday Night Football" for that matter, which is truly extraordinary.
Jeremy, excellent work today. Thank you very much. We'll get back to you. In fact, we have a lot more to assess. We're going to take a quick break. Much more of our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: Once again, the headline out of the President's 90-minute news conference over the Rose Garden of the White House. The guidelines, the social distancing guidelines will stay in effect through the end of April, until April 30th.
The President is saying maybe until June 1st that the economy could begin some sort of recovery. [19:50:09]
BLITZER: Also suggesting that if the U.S. had taken these drastic steps, 2.2 million people potentially, he said could have died in the United States. And he says, if a hundred thousand wind up dead, he says that would be good.
Gloria, people all over the country, people all over the world, we are watching this, especially America's governors who are on the front lines now in trying to help hospitals, help the doctors, the nurses, who are real heroes right now. They're risking their lives going into these hospitals and deal with these patients to try to save these patients from the coronavirus.
BORGER: Right and it's a time, Wolf, especially when governors because the Defense Production Act is not in use, they have to compete against each other for these life-saving supplies.
So when you hear the President disparage the Governor of Michigan, Governor Whitmer, who has a name and it's not just that woman, and you hear him disparage Governor Inslee of Washington State, calling him a snake at one point, how do governors feel when they know that they're trying to do the same things that those governors are doing, which is trying to save lives in their own states?
And why would the President of the United States try and do that? And disparage governors who are working on behalf of their own people? It's just shocking actually, and stunning. And then he tried to get out of it today by saying, oh, I have Mike Pence. I have Mike Pence talk to them.
But if you're a citizen of either of those states, and today, the President said, oh, I love Michigan. Yes, we all recall the role Michigan had in the last election. Very important to the President.
It's just stunning that a President of the entire country, not just red states, blue states, the President of the entire country would do this to governors who are trying to save lives in their own states, and they've got trying jobs, and they've got decisions to make.
And by the way, many of them were the ones including Republican governors, like in the State of Ohio, in the State of Maryland, when the President decided to float this idea of Easter, for reopening the country, they said, no, no, no, no, we can't do that.
And maybe the lesson here, and it's a sad lesson is the way to deal with the President of the United States is to have a little dear leader kind of conversation and say to the President, yes, Mr. President, you're so fabulous. And can you help with this? And can you help with that? Maybe that's what it takes to get things done for your state and I think a lot of them are kind of figuring that out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point, you know. And Kaitlan, you cover the President. You've covered him since he was President all these past three -- almost three and a half years. He did the right thing today, as we've pointed out. He listened to Dr. Fauci he listened to Dr. Birx. He listened to the
doctors and the scientists who told him you've got to keep these guidelines going and he does deserve credit for that even though a lot of us are concerned what is he going to do tomorrow? What is he going to say in the next few days?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what's notable, Wolf is we didn't know that this was going to be the place where we were today. And neither did people inside the White House who had been hearing the President float this Easter deadline that he had picked himself not based on any data or any consultations with the doctors on his team, something he made clear this week.
And actually that announcement that he wanted to reopen the country by Easter caught some people in the West Wing off guard and so they were kind of, you know, struggling with this, how do we please the President by doing things to reopen the economy, like he says? But also we need to follow these guidelines.
And I think their concern was obviously, once you start to loosen those restrictions, there's not really any going back and they were concerned, they would erase the gains that they had made with these 15 days of social distancing that they have enacted, almost 15 days starting on Monday.
And so that was really the question here, and so something significant has changed here because this is not where they were just a few days ago in the White House, but then you started to see people like Dr. Fauci, and the Vice President use that term aspirational, and that's something the President used today when he was talking about Easter.
Certainly, that was not the thinking that aides had earlier this week about where the President's mindset had been. So something has changed, something did happen.
We do know there was a meeting at the White House last night with the Coronavirus Taskforce and that was to talk about the other idea the President floated which was this quarantine idea, he said he was considering what he believed would be enforceable though the New York Governor said he didn't think it would be for New York, New Jersey parts of Connecticut as well.
And that was also an idea they got the President to back off of last night because aides had to explain to the President yesterday that they did not think it would be something that he could actually enforce.
COLLINS: And they were warning of the consequences of installing -- going and enforcing something like that, moving on with a quarantine of that measure and of that scale.
So twice in the last 24 hours, we are seeing the President listen to the doctors, but Wolf, I do want to just point out one more time, something the President said during that briefing, where he seemed to imply that some of these hospitals are either hoarding masks or something more nefarious happening.
He said he wasn't sure if it was stronger than hoarding, saying that some hospitals went from only ordering 10,000 to 20,000 and now they're ordering hundreds of thousands. Of course, that's given the nature of what's going on.
BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much. Kaitlan is doing an amazing job for us at the White House as well.
To our viewers, I want to thank all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world for joining me for this special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.
I want to leave you not only here in the United States, but around the world with these words. Be careful out there. The danger is enormous right now. Listen, listen, listen. Stay at home if you possibly can.
Ana Cabrera will continue our special coverage right after the break.