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Jared Kushner Blasted for Calling the National Emergency Stockpile "Our" Stockpile, Not States'; Interview with Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT); NJ Firefighter Dies of Coronavirus at 33 Years Old. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 3, 2020 - 14:30   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Until a few days ago, most of us never heard of the strategic national stockpile, this critical reserve of medical supplies, like masks and ventilators that's close to depletion. It's a federal stockpile but it's designed to be distributed to states in a public health emergency.

That's why this comment from Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in- law and senior advisor, is getting a lot of backlash.


JARED KUSHNER, SENOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: If, in instances in cities, they're running out but the state has the stockpile. And the notion of the federal stockpile was supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be state stockpiles that they can use.

So we're encouraging the states to make sure they're assessing the needs and getting the data from the local -- local situations. And then trying to fill it with the supplies we've given them.


COOPER: Senator Bernie Sanders joins me now.

A lot to discuss, Senator Sanders. But when you hear Jared Kushner talk about "our" stockpile, isn't the point of the federal resources to be used by the American people in a federal emergency?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I thought this was the United States of America. I thought we were all in it together. And I thought that the function of the reserve is to be distributed to the cities that need it in an emergency.

But right now, above and beyond that, we are looking in a massive crisis in terms of medical providers not having the masks they need, the gloves they need, the gowns that they need and in fact, what's happening right now, I think in all places, they don't have the medicine they need to treat people with the coronavirus. So to my mind, what this president has got to do is utilize the

Defense Production Act in a way that it's never been used before, and tell manufacturers right now that we need billions, not millions, billions of masks. We need gloves, we need the gowns, we need all of the equipment our medical providers desperately need, if they're going to be able to treat us and tell the pharmaceutical industry.

Right now, this is not a time to worry about -- but make sure they're producing what hospitals and doctors need to take care of patients with the coronavirus.

COOPER: Is it time for the nation to be put on a federal stay-at-home order? There are still a number of states out there who have not yet, governors have not issued statewide stay-at-home orders.

Every scientist I have talked to, Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci -- interviewed him just the other day -- they all say this is what the United States needs to do to help flatten the curve and the White House acknowledges, we're not seeing the curve being flattened yet.

SANDERS: The answer is, I agree. It is incomprehensible that we have governors who continue to do business as usual rather than issue the stay-at-home orders. And if they're not able to do that, the federal government should do it.

But I think most importantly, Anderson, what we, as a nation, have got to come to grips with right now is that not only in our lifetime, but in the modern history of this country, there has never ever been a moment like this.

We're dealing with two simultaneous crises, the coronavirus pandemic and the economic meltdown.


As you are well aware, CNN has done a good job reporting this. In the last two weeks, 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment claim. And that's by no means all of the people who have lost their jobs.

I'm working on what we've got to do as a country, which is to develop new legislation, unprecedented in its scope to address the health crisis and to address the economic crisis that we are now facing and in my view, what that legislation --


SANDERS: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

COOPER: No, no, you were talking about a new stimulus bill. And you said that you want to guarantee patients for every American worker who's lost their jobs.

I know Mitch McConnell and other Republicans are saying, you know what, let's wait a couple of weeks, wait 30 days to see how the other stimulus thing, how that plays out, which is slow to actually be felt by people and then let's talk about more stimulus. You say the time is now.

SANDERS: That's exactly -- it's funny that you say that, because it's exactly what some of these Republican governors in the south would say about the pandemic. Let's wait and see whether we get it under control. We don't need to keep people in their homes and have the social distancing that we need.

We cannot wait and see. What we are looking at is a lot of jobs that are unprecedented in the United States of America. Never happened before. This is worse than the Great Depression, and we have got to act now.

As we speak, Anderson, there are people watching this program right now who have no food in the pantry, who are worried about how they're going to feed their kids, who don't have any money to pay their rent, pay their mortgages, pay their student debt.

We are facing, and we've got to deal with this. We cannot say, well, let's wait and see.

I have this package and I hope the Trump administration will be able to get that money out as quickly as possible. And if they do, it will do a lot of good.

But it is not enough. Given the nature of this crisis, we need to do what other countries around the world are doing.

And what we did in the last bill for the airline industry is to say that every worker in America, you know what, you're not getting paid now, but you are going to remain on the payroll of your company with the federal government at least for the next six months covering the cost.

Think about what that will mean in terms of easing --

COOPER: We'll take a quick break. We'll try to get the Senator back. We just lost the connection.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: We are back with Senator Bernie Sanders. We had a technical problem before.

Senator Sanders, thanks for sticking around with us.

We were talking about the next stimulus bill which you want to have it get going as quickly as possible. Talk just kind of an overview of what you want to see in that bill.

SANDERS: The main point that I want to make -- and I don't think it's being made enough -- is that we have an unprecedented crisis. That's what we have right now. Nobody's fault, but that's what it is. That's the pandemic, and that is the economic meltdown. And we have to respond to that.

And the main point I would make is that it's easier to preserve the economy than it is to rebuild the economy after it collapsing. So again, I believe every American worker should be able to continue receiving the paycheck he or she was receiving. And when this day is over, and it will be over, business can resume with the workforce ready to go.

The other thing, when we look at what's happening today, millions of people are losing their jobs. They're also losing their health care, their private insurance. And this is an top of the 87 million underinsured before the crisis.

I'm not going to fight for Medicare For All. That's what we need but in the midst of the crisis. The least that we should do is expand Medicare to make sure that everybody in America has the health care that they need right now without out of pocket expenses, can afford the prescription drugs they need.

Just totally absurd that the last thing the bill said, you can't -- the government will pay for the test to see whether you have the coronavirus but if you end up in the hospital with the virus, run up a bill of thousands of dollars, you're on your own. You need to expand Medicare to cover all the people in this country so there's no out-of- pocket expenses.

Ironically, this is exactly what's wrong with talking about -- I don't know whether he means it or not remains to be seen, but that is exactly what we should be able to do. The other point I would make, Anderson, I'm sorry, go ahead.

COOPER: I was wondering, when do you actually see this stimulus, the next stimulus, the stage four they're talking about, when do you actually see it getting debated and passing?

SANDERS: I think literally as quickly as we can. I think there's going to be a conference call with Democratic Senators at 4:15. And I think, you know, McConnell will be resistant to this, but I think will on any person in America --



SANDERS: -- given the nature of the crises.

It's going to be expensive to guarantee a continuation of the paycheck for unemployed workers that are unemployed and nobody knows the case in a month. You're probably talking about $5 billion, $6 billion, $7 billion dollars.

But that's less expensive than allowing the economy to disintegrate or create a situation where people have no money and can't pay their rent or pay their mortgages and can't pay their auto loans, so forth.

It's going to have an effect, which took a lot of pressure on the banking system. And we certainly don't want to see another collapse of the banking system.

In the long run, I think it's the best we can do.

COOPER: This is probably not the top of your mind right now but I want to ask about the Democratic convention. They say it's moved to August. There are certainly medical professionals who question the idea of holding a convention at all in the summer. I'm wondering what you make of that.

SANDERS: God only knows. I mean, we are in a moment where there's very little understanding of where we're going to be from a coronavirus perspective a month from now, four months from now.

I suspect that there's thinking on the part of the DNC, and I would suspect in the Republican Party as well. that maybe you're not going to bring thousands of people together in an arena. You're going to have to do it in a digital way, via Internet. But we will see.

And that raises even the question about the election in November. If this thing goes on, and we have to appropriate money to the states to pay for ballots so people will be able to participate if the emergency continues until then, and people can't go into a voting place.

COOPER: Can you imagine a scenario in which an election does not take place? Is that even a possibility? I mean, even in the midst of wars, elections have taken place.

SANDERS: In the Civil War in 1864. I mean, no, we're a democracy. Cannot give up our democracy. And we have got to have an election.

But what is important to look at all the scenarios. And god forbid, this thing, this pandemic extends month after month after month, and people are unable to vote in a normal way, that means we have to do it by paper ballot.

That means allocating the resources to the states to make sure every state in this country has the paper ballot available to make sure all of us can vote.

COOPER: And the obvious question, I know maybe seems even, I don't know, compared to all else people are dealing with, not as important but important to a lot of people who support you. Does this change your calculus in terms of you staying in the race, how you see the race?

SANDERS: It changes everything. I mean, right now, normally, I wouldn't be talking from my home. Probably have rallies in communities all over Wisconsin, and preparing for the other states, those primaries are coming up. Here I am kind of in my own home.

So, yes, the calculus has absolutely changed. We're talking to a lot of people and trying to figure out the best way through it.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, I appreciate your time.

SANDERS: Thank you very much, Anderson. COOPER: Take care.

The Navy captain who was abruptly dismissed after he sounded the coronavirus on his ship was given a rounding sendoff from his sailors today in Guam.



UNIDENTIFIED SAILOR: That's one of the greatest captains we've ever had.




COOPER: Just ahead, we'll share more moments from this crisis.


COOPER: In a New Jersey community, firefighters are reeling after losing one of their own to coronavirus. And 33-year-old firefighter, Israel Tolentino, died this week.

It wasn't possible to give him a traditional funeral procession. Instead, his fellow firefighters had to wear masks and line up a safe distance away to honor their fallen friend.

Tolentino's father was not able to attend because he also tested positive for coronavirus and is now hospitalized fighting for his life. Tolentino leaves behind a wife and two children.

Joining me now is his fire department chief from Passaic County, New Jersey, Chief Patrick Trentacost.

Chief, thank you for being with us, especially under these circumstances.

Talk to me about what the firefighter, Tolentino, was like.


PATRICK TRENTACOST, CHIEF, PASSAIC, NEW JERSEY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, he was a firefighter for a very short time. But he was a public servant for most of his adult life. He got sworn in in December 10th, 2018, about a year and a half.

And well liked. Couldn't do enough for people. Big, huge smile. Loved to do stuff for the community. Very involved with his parish. Never said no when he was called upon for anything.

As far as feeding the homeless or doing something for the Honor Guard, for memorial services or for parades. Just a wonderful, wonderful part of our department.

COOPER: You say he died in the line of duty?

TRENTACOST: Yes. Which is -- you know, I'm very, very clear on that. That I feel that certainly a line-of-duty death. This horrific virus that is causing so much grief and so much fear in all of us, firefighter, EMT, doctors, nurses, all of the front line, we don't know where we're going to get this disease from.

We take precautions. But we respond to multiple calls from, you know, the entire month of March that we knew some of the calls were virus- related. We certainly know a lot now. A lot more information available.

So although we take precautions, we deal with people that are sick. And he had multiple calls which he was involved with just as much as recent as his last workday with us on the 14th.

And it's truly -- truly a hero and a line-of-duty death as far as I'm concerned. And certainly, I have to continue to justify that and substantiate that and I will do that.

COOPER: What is striking about firefighters and EMTs called upon to do, you're the front line of the front line. The folks who get to the hospital are calling 911 sometimes, it is the firefighter, the EMT, the paramedic who has to show up and make the call, hopefully, from a safe distance, about whether this is a person who needs to get to a hospital or whether they should just stay home.

It's an impossible situation you're facing right now.

TRENTACOST: It is extremely tough decisions. And certainly, we need to provide aid when people request it. And that's where it becomes where who goes to the hospital, who does not go to the hospital. We do our best to decide when someone needs to be transported.

Certainly, we support the EMS. It's our function here as a first responders and being part of that -- this organization and EMS organization. It's very difficult.

And we follow our guidelines. The CDC, our state, our local health, we're on the phone every day, seven days a week finding as much information as we can. So we're doing our best. We're doing our best.

COOPER: Well, I know it's -- it's so difficult now for people who aren't able to even have funerals for people to attend, so I know it is really important that you were able to have a funeral for -- for your fellow firefighter.

And I'm glad, even though it was different than it would normally be, I'm glad you were able to do that.

And, chief, I appreciate your time and I appreciate what all of you and the other firefighters and other EMTs and paramedics are doing.

Thank you so much. TRENTACOST: Thank you for having me. And I appreciate all the good

work you are doing there for us.

COOPER: Stay strong. We're in this together. Thank you.

In nearby New York, a salute on the front lines of the pandemic. Take a look.





COOPER: Last night, five FDNY trucks pulled up in front of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens to show appreciation for doctors and nurses and the medical professionals. It is one example of how people across the country are trying to lift spirits in the face of this deadly pandemic.

In Long Island, medical workers at the Jewish Medical Center lined up to applause as three more coronavirus patients were released, bringing the total discharge there to 296. Some good news.

And in Oregon, a local veteran who just beat coronavirus drew a crowd to celebrate his 104th birthday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you everybody from Heaven.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love you, grandpa.







COOPER: William was one of 15 patients at a nursing home who tested positive earlier this month. A fighter in war and a fighter now.

Special coverage continues right now with Jake Tapper.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper.

At this hour, there are more than a quarter of a million confirmed cases of the coronavirus just in the United States.