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INSIDE POLITICS

U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 312,000, Death Toll Passes 8,500; White House Offers Grim Outlook On Coming Days; Economists Say Unemployment Rate Likely Already Above 10 percent; Trump's Changing Tone On Coronavirus; The Role Of Faith In A Pandemic. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 5, 2020 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:42]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The surge is here. The numbers ominous.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will be probably the toughest week. There will be a lot of death, unfortunately.

KING: Plus, team Trump says supplies are coming. Those on the front line ask when.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a war zone. It's a medical war zone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter. We feel we may not survive this pandemic.

KING: And the mounting economic shock, millions of jobs gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fear is not being able to pay your rent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

The coronavirus case count and death toll continues it's depressing climb globally and here in the United States. The numbers: 1.2 million cases in the globe. More than 65,000 deaths. In the United States, it's more than 312,000 confirmed cases. More than 8,500 deaths so far.

Isolation is everywhere you look. The pope's Sunday mass, look at that, an aerial view also of a deserted Paris.

In the U.K., Queen Elizabeth delivers a rare televised address later today.

Spain and Italy have the most cases in Europe, but both some see evidence the rate of infection is beginning to slow.

Here in the States, a very grim short term outlook -- New York, Detroit and New Orleans should hit their peak in the next six or seven days and there are a half dozen or other worry spots more in a possible second wave just behind them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This will be probably the toughest week between this week and next week. And there will be a lot of death, unfortunately.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: This is the moment to do everything that you can on the presidential guidelines.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Those communities where they're still going up, we've got to make sure we don't have multiple waves of peaks. That's going to be the answer to the question of when we can start pulling back. Because if you keep having multiple peaks and different waves, that's going to make it very difficult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Most Americans are now subject to some form of state at home order. The gold states enacted restrictions back in March. The orange states waited until April. The eight red states you see there do not have such restrictions and the president said he had no issue with those republic governors.

On a call with major sports league commissioners before the White House briefing, the president was described as far more optimistic than his public health experts when asked about when baseball, basketball, hockey, and other sports might be able to resume play. That tension then played out in stunning public fashion. The experts kept saying, this is no time to let up when it comes to social distancing and workplace shutdowns, and the president kept saying, it will soon all be over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: Every place, everybody should be doing some degree of this physical separation. If we do that, again, I have confidence that what we will see is the turning around of the curve.

TRUMP: Mitigation does work. But, again, we're not going to destroy our country. We have to get back. We don't want to be doing this for months and months and months. We're going to open our country again. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their expertise, Dr. Ashish Jha. He's the director of Harvard's Global Health Institute. And Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician affiliated with Brown University.

Thank you both for being back with us again this Sunday.

Dr. Jha, I want to start with you.

You hear Dr. Birx, you hear Dr. Fauci, you see the trajectory which is sad and depressing about the next week and the week after that. And then you hear the president repeatedly saying but, but, but, what did you take away from that?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Good morning, John, and thanks for having me back on.

So, we are still in the exponential phase. We're still rising quickly and we've tripled our cases since I was here last week. So, we're nowhere near ready to start thinking about pulling back. And I think the next couple of weeks are going to be tough.

I think it's worth noting that some places are far from their peak. New York may be peaking in the next week or so. Bay Area, Washington state have started turning the curve. But there are a lot of places that have a long way to go before we can start thinking about opening up.

One more quick comment, I just don't see us having baseball games and football games, not this year.

[08:05:05]

I think that's no -- even under the most idealistic scenarios, that's going to be hard to pull off.

KING: And, Dr. Ranney, I know your governor has to do this repeatedly. I want you to listen to Dr. Birx here. This is on Thursday as we went through the week, and as the White House said, we could have a death count here in the United States of 100,000, perhaps 200,000, it all depends on people listening. Dr. Birx saying, why aren't you listening?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIRX: I can tell by the curve and as it is today that not every American is following it. And so this is really a call to action. We see Spain, we see Italy, we see France, we see Germany, when we see others beginning to bend their curves, we can bend ours. But it means everybody has to take that same responsibility as Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: She says everybody has to take that responsibility. The president says he will not push the eight Republican governors who have not imposed statewide restrictions. He says that's up to them.

I want to ask you questions. I just want to show you a couple of states side by side here. This is Tennessee and Kentucky. Kentucky locked down in March, Tennessee waited. You see the cases go way, way up. In the case of Tennessee, they're going way up. Then you compared to Kentucky its neighbor.

Then you move over to Georgia and Ohio, they're different a little bit here but you see Georgia going way up. It locked down later. Ohio still going up. But at a slower rate. Is there any doubt each state is different? There are unique

circumstances. We need to be careful. Is there any doubt that the states that acted quickly and first are having, quote/unquote, better luck? I know this is a tough one. Having a better situation than the others?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN/BROWN UNIVERSITY: So each state certainly is different and there are factors like the density of the urban areas, people's ability to social distance. But, no, there is no doubt when you put social distancing in place, it slows down the epidemic.

You know, here in Rhode Island, the governor put us on social isolation weeks ago. Although we are seeing the ICU beds fill up quickly, we are seeing it at a slower rate than in neighboring areas that were slower to put these restrictions in place. Putting social distancing rules in place saves lives, period.

KING: Period, you say.

And, Doctors, I want to show you the projection. It looks like we're going to hit the peak somewhere around April 16th. We know that we have a very tough week ahead in the big hot spots right now, New York and New Orleans chief among them. But you also hear from other governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia, she says she thinks the peak will come in the early summer.

Describe how this plays out and is it wave after wave and wave and possibly suppressing other waves.

JHA: Yes, it really depends on what we do. So, first of all, I don't think there's going to be a single peak for the country. Again, some states and cities are going to peak in the next week or two, but I think we are going to have places that are going to be peaking into late April throughout May.

I'm hoping that the summer really does quiet down for the country and we can open up some and get our lives back, at least to some degree over the summer. One important point is whatever happens over the summer, this virus is going to be back with us in the fall. We have to prepare for the fall as well as we think about the summer and getting through this wave.

KING: One of the big changes this week, Doctors, was after saying for a long time, you don't need to wear a mask, you should only wear a mask if you think you have an infection, the CDC now saying Americans if they want to should wear a mask if they're going to go out to the supermarket where you might be around other people. Here's the president's take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The CDC is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure. So, it's voluntary. You don't have to do it. It's going to be really a voluntary thing. You can do it. You don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it. But some people may want to do it and that's OK.

It's only a recommendation. It's voluntary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Dr. Ranney, is there any evidence it helps or is this more psychological than medical? And what do you make of the president saying it's a recommendation but I'm not going to do it?

RANNEY: So, one of the biggest things in public health emergencies is having consistent messaging to the public and so what I would urge President Trump is to be consistent. If the CDC is recommending something, he should back it up. Otherwise the American public is going to get confused.

In terms of wearing masks in public, my first thing is, if the American public wears masks, they should use home made masks or nonmedical quality masks, because as we've talked about before, there's still a dire shortage of masks for front line health care workers and other first responders. We are putting our lives literally at risk by taking care of patient without adequate PPE. And if the American public starts buying it, it's going to put more frontline health care workers at risk.

[08:10:02]

So, please, don't use that medical quality mask. If you are going to use something, use non-medical quality or homemade cloth masks.

In terms of evidence, we know that COVID-19 is spread through droplets and those droplets can spread not just the 6-foot social distancing distance that we're recommended to take, but much further. And so, in theory, by wearing a mask, you stop yourself from sneezing and spreading that to others. You may also remind yourself to not touch your face which is a big source of infection. If you've touched something and picked up droplets, touch your face, you can then get infected.

So, it may have some benefit. Where have is the risk versus benefit curve. If Americans can use masks when they go out without taking masks away from those of us in health care, that would be an ideal scenario. But we need President Trump to back up his scientific experts.

KING: Dr. Ranney, Dr. Jha, again, appreciate your insight this Sunday as we work our way through this. It will be a while. Can't thank you enough for both coming in to help us.

Up next for us here, a coronavirus crisis constant, team Trump says the supply lines are up and running and those on the front lines say they're in need. A painful good-bye to a husband and father of three on FaceTime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAURA LEWINGER, HER HUSBAND JOE DIED OF COVID-19: I thanked him for being the most amazing husband for making me feel cherished and loved every single day. My husband wrote me beautiful love letters in my lunchbox, not just have a great day, but just beautiful letters about what I meant to him.

I thanked him. I thanked him. And then I prayed. And then the doctor took the phone and he said, I'm sorry, but there's no more pulse. And then I played our wedding song for him and then that was it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:17]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ARABIA MOLLETTE, ER PHYSICIAN, BROOKDALE HOSPITAL: This is a war zone. It's a medical war zone. We need prayer, we need support. We need gowns. We need gloves. We need masks. We need more vents. We need more medical space.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not enough coronavirus tests. Not enough masks and protective gear. Not enough ventilators, not enough federal help. It's a constant refrain from the nation's governors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT: And don't believe anything you hear on TV where they say they have plenty of protective gear. I was just on the phone with the governors, they're all desperate.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: We do not have enough gear. No one in the country has enough gear. That's the number one problem in America right now.

GOV. ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: The federal government can and should do more to direct industries to help produce these supplies. This pandemic is a war and we need the armor to fight it.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D), ILLINOIS: There's no federal plan for this so every state is on their own. It's the Wild West out here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Trump says governors are exaggerating their needs and that his team is on top of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think a lot of people are going to have enough ventilators and masks and appreciate what we did and all of the things we've been doing with them, working with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But if the states do run short, President Trump says, blame President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Previous administrations gave us very little ammunition for the military and very little -- the previous administration -- the shelves were empty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Craig Fugate was the head of FEMA in the Obama administration. Before that, was the emergency management chief in Florida under Governor Jeb Bush.

Greg, appreciate you being here today.

You have the unique perspective. You were the guy in Washington people got mad at. You were in the state capital who was trying to deal with hurricanes and other disasters. It's not the most important point but let me start where the president ended right there.

You are Obama's FEMA director. He says you left the shelves empty, true or false?

CRAIG FUGATE, FORMER FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Ask Congress. They approved the budgets.

And, again, we were going through sequestration, shut down and cut a lot of programs in that time frame, we had not recovered. So, yes, it was having an impact at the time. We said so at the time.

Shutting down government and not funding agencies was going to have an impact on those type of crisis.

KING: But he has been president for 38 months. He had time to fill the shelves, did he not?

FUGATE: Well, we didn't get it passed when Sandy hit by saying the past administration wasn't ready. So, it's always about -- it's on your watch, you're accountable, just like the captain on a ship. When you're the president, you're accountable.

KING: Help me understand this. I brought you in from almost a CSI perspective, because everybody is mad at everybody. The president says they're exaggerating their needs. We're on top of this. We're surging things that were necessary.

The governors say they've been left to themselves. Governor Cuomo says it's like eBay. I just want to show two different states here.

This is Virginia's emergency response request. They requested 3.4 million gloves. They say they got 263,000. They need respirators, they asked for this, 2.2. million, they say they got 155. Nasal swabs, they say they requested a million, they got zero.

And then if you move it over to neighboring Maryland, you know, again, respirators, 422, they say they got 110. Nasal swabs a hundred -- nasal swabs seems to be the problem there.

How much of this is the governor's responsibility and how much of this because this is hitting all 50 states is the federal responsibility?

FUGATE: Well, the governors are primarily going to be charged with the distribution and coordination within the states. When we get to this level, it was always assumed that the federal government would be the chief procurement for this. That's why we had the Defense Production Act.

Again, this is -- the question is, are these excessive requests and I'm afraid they're not.

[08:20:01]

The thing that I've learned in disasters is what you would expect the consumption rate to be is usually well off, and that precision is not your friend here. So, it's really -- it was all hands on deck, turn every on, and create every possibility to produce products and get it out the door with the states focused on getting it to their cities and hospitals that need it.

KING: And one of the big questions has been this national stockpile. And the president brought his son-in-law into the briefing late last week and said he asked them to look into this because he's getting some complaints. I want you to listen on their take on the national stockpile and what it's for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: The notion of the federal stockpile, it's supposed to be our stockpile. Not supposed to be state stockpiles that they use.

TRUMP: We have a federal stockpile and they have state stockpiles. And, frankly, they were -- many of the states were totally unprepared for this. So we had to go into the federal stockpile.

But we're not an ordering clerk. They have to have for themselves. It's a federal stockpile. We can use that for states or we can use it for ourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is that the true meaning of the federal stockpile as described by the president and Jared Kushner?

FUGATE: Well, one of the intent of the stockpiles, the stockpiles came out of bio terrorism and chemical attacks, and it was designed to provide rapid push back of things that we'd not normally be stock up in the states. Now, after 9/11, states did get a lot of funding to build up capacity and some states were able to increase those capabilities.

But then the great recession hit, states cut budgets, Congress cut funding for homeland security and many of these programs lost capabilities.

KING: And you have argued for a 9/11-type commission to look at this after the fact. What are the two or three things that you see as the obvious needs too look at right away, saying we didn't get this right, we didn't get this right, we didn't get this right, let's figure out why?

FUGATE: Right now, we need record retention of who said what, who did what. This isn't about a witch hunt. We need to look at what decisions made, what worked, what didn't work, and most importantly, what the commission should focus on is not a scapegoat, but what we need to do differently next time to prepare.

And again, in disasters, we're not going to have all the answers, we're not going to have all the supplies, but it's about problem- solving and getting to the right answers and taking the right course of action. And a commission could come back with those recommendations because this going to be legislative fixes. This is going to be funding and policy issues.

It's not about who didn't do something or who is to blame. It's what do we need to do better before the next pandemic, even the next wave of this COVID-19.

KING: Well, we'll see if that plays out. As you mentioned, the word witch hunt, the president is clearly opposed right now, we'll see if that changes.

Craig Fugate, we really appreciate your insight and your experience on this this Sunday. We'll keep in touch as this plays out.

FUGATE: Thanks, John.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Up next, count the record, 127-month economic expansion at another coronavirus victim, 10 million jobs gone in a flash.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:27:24]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES BEAVER, FORMER JFK AIRPORT BAGGAGE HANDLER: Just not sure -- not sure of when this will end. Just not sure. If there's an end, then at least you have an end to a beginning. But there's no end. We don't know where are we right now?

REPORTER: That's stressful.

BEAVER: Yes, it is. It's a short notice. I mean, we are not expecting all of this in terms of the layoff, everything that's happening, is happening so fast, so quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's a newly laid off baggage handler, Charles Beaver, there, one voice in a flood of scary numbers. One of ten million Americans who lost their jobs in the past few weeks, and that number will only head higher along with the coronavirus case count.

This chart is stunning: 3.3 million jobless claims reported two weeks ago shattered the old record by five times. This past week, it was 6.6 million more. Nearly ten times the peak of the 2009 financial collapse.

And, Mr. Beaver is spot on, there's no end. We don't know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: It's going to get worse in the weeks ahead. There's no question about it. The effects of the pandemic and the mitigation that is required to end it are taking a huge toll.

We are in a contractionary point. We have not seen the worst of it, I don't want to sugarcoat it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Washington is already planning another round of stimulus spending because lawmakers know the unprecedented $2 trillion signed into law just nine days ago won't be enough to keep the American economy on life support.

Still, the president insists the switch can eventually be flipped back the way things were just a month ago. Many economists and CEOs not so sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And then you see 6 million people unemployed. Unemployment numbers get released and you see 6 million people. And it's an artificial closing. It's not like we have a massive recession or worse. It's artificial because we turned it off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN Chief Business Correspondent, Christine Romans and the Moody's Analytics Chief Economist, Mark Zandi join us now.

Christine, the president says it's artificial. But I know you and Mark were sharing numbers as the week came to a close. The government says the unemployment rate went up some, but they don't have the numbers from late March.

You think already, 10 percent of Americans are out of a job?

[08:29:39]

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think there's no question. When you look at those 10 million people who lost their jobs over the past couple of weeks, it would have been much higher if the states, John, could have processed all of the jobless claims. The states just aren't built to handle this kind of volume.

So, these numbers are staggering. There's no playbook for this. You know, March was kind of this great unraveling of the American economy and April is going to be far, far worse.

I think there's no question the unemployment rate is as high as it was in the great recession and will head much higher.

KING: And Mark -- you put in your analysis that the industries most at risk -- leisure and hospitality nearly 17 million jobs, manufacturing nine million jobs, retail trade more than seven million jobs, business services and professional seven million jobs, construction nearly six million jobs.

Your count (ph) is that the government needs to do even more -- it just pumped $2 trillion into the American economy, even a little bit more money before that. Speaker Pelosi in a note yesterday, a letter to colleagues saying CARES 2 -- that's what they call the act -- must go further in assisting small businesses including farmers, extending and strengthening unemployment benefits, giving families additional direct payments, also provide desperately needed resources to state and local governments, hospitals, community health centers, health system, health workers."

We are in unprecedented times. How much more does the government need to pump into the economy both from a business perspective and from an individual worker perspective?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Well, I think they're about halfway done. They've pumped in $2.5 trillion already. That's a little over 10 percent of the nation's GDP. And just by the way, for context, John -- back in the financial crisis, the stimulus then was 5 percent of GDP. So it's already double that.

But I think they're only half the way done. They need to provide more cash and more credit particularly to the unemployed, lower income, middle income households and especially to those smaller businesses.

Here's an interesting statistic. There are eight million business establishments in the country. Six million of them have fewer than 500 employees and four million or five million have less than 20 employees. So those are the businesses that really don't have any cash cushion and they need help right away.

Now, in this current stimulus package, the CARES Act I, there is some help, but it's certainly not enough. They're going to have to significantly increase and figure out a better way to get that cash and credit to those businesses because unless they do, then those unemployed workers just won't have businesses to go back to when they, you know -- we come back to life here. KING: And Christine -- the President talked a bit yesterday about the

small business aspect of this. They're trying to ramp up another new program. And you have to give them some grace. We're in unprecedented waters and the government is doing --

ROMANS: Yes.

KING: -- everything in disaster relief, now in economic relief. But listen to the President's take. He says things are great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're way ahead of schedules. The banks have been great. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America -- they're so far ahead.

This is typical with you, in particular. They're not behind. It's been a flawless -- it's been flawless so far. Far beyond our expectations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Has not been flawless, has it?

ROMANS: No. It hasn't been flawless. But look, they're trying to get so much money out the door here -- $350 billion to small businesses. They have a two-page application at sba.gov/coronavirus and they have to kind of like hook up that application with the banks and get this money out the door.

Some of the banks are saying they're going to be fully functional the middle of this week. I'm hopeful John -- I'm hopeful that this week the banks and sba.gov are going to be able to get this together and get money out the door as quickly as possible.

I mean the execution of this and the state's execution of the unemployment benefits, $250 billion in enhanced unemployment benefits -- that's going to be really crucial to I guess keep people from digging -- falling deeper into the hole.

This isn't stimulus, per se. This is just staying alive right here, this money that we're spending right now.

KING: And, Mark -- the President, you heard him at the top, he thinks and he hopes -- and let's hope he's right -- that when this is over, we don't know just when, it will be almost like flipping a switch. As long as you keep that money in the system, restaurant workers go back to work, construction workers go back to work.

Is it that simple or is there going to be decay in the economy that makes it much harder to get back to the robust growth we were enjoying just a month ago?

ZANDI: Yes, I'm afraid not. We are going to see -- despite all the help that's coming from Washington and all the help that will come from Washington, we will see tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of business failures and bankruptcies. There just won't be businesses there for those people to come back to.

Here's the other thing. You know, we are having a lot of trouble here. But look overseas. Look into Europe. Look into the emerging markets. They're in a much worse place than we are.

Usually in a recession, we have one part of the world that's the engine that drives the train that pulls us out. There's no engine here in this economy, in this global economy.

So I suspect that any kind of -- we'll get a recovery, you know. Businesses will restart and we will get a recovery. But it's going to be very, very weak for a long period of time and it will require additional support from lawmakers down the road. And we need to start thinking about other kinds of stimulus, like infrastructure spending, other things that will create jobs for all those unemployed folks that won't have businesses to go back to.

KING: Enormous challenge ahead. Mark Zandi, Christine Romans -- appreciate you coming in and help us get a little context on this Sunday morning. Appreciate it very much.

[08:35:00]

KING: Up next for us, the President says he knew it was a pandemic from the start. But his words and actions show a constant effort to minimize the threat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, we're testing everybody that we need to test. And we're finding very little problem. Very little problem.

Now, you treat this like a flu. A lot of people have thought about it. Ride it out. Don't do anything. Just ride it out and think of it as the flu. But it's not the flu. It's vicious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was President Trump a little more than a month apart, just like the flu. Not much of a problem in late February. Not at all like the flu. And vicious by late March.

That's just one of the evolutions in a timeline that shows yes, the President did take some early action in the coronavirus fight. But his words and deeds also show he constantly played down or underestimated the threat.

[08:39:52]

KING: Let's go back and take a little look at the calendar. It was at the end of December, China reported the existence of this novel coronavirus. The first death in Wuhan on the 11th of January. Washington State 10 days later, the first case -- the coronavirus comes to the United States. At the time, the President was in Davos for the World Economic Forum. Pandemic, no. And we're on top of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the words about a pandemic at this point?

TRUMP: No. Not at all. And we're -- we have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China and we have it under control. And it's going to be just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you trust that we're going to know everything we need to know from China?

TRUMP: I do. I do. I have a great relationship with President Xi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: No pandemic, totally under control. We trust China.

That very same day, Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas sent a very sober letter to the administration saying do not trust China given its dismal record on these matters. He also said the United States government must be proactive in planning for scenarios where this infection continues to spread. So an early warning there from a Republican senator.

If you look at the January calendar as this plays out, at the end of the month the President did form the coronavirus task force. And then he accepted Senator Cotton's recommendation, blocked travel in from China.

So you move from January into February, the President continuing to say, though, I trust the Chinese. I'm on top of this. Not a big deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I had a very good talk with President Xi. And we talked about mostly about the coronavirus. They're working really hard and I think they're doing a very professional jobs.

It looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculous goes away. I hope that's true.

When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We are in April. It did not disappear. We did not go from 15 to zero. If you watch this play out now, we know since then the first death in Washington state. The President's Oval Office address in March. The President declared a national emergency on March 13th. And three days later he announced what at the time were two weekends of those CDC guidelines for social distancing. They have now been extended. So this gets you through the end of March. Still, even at that point, the President is on the one hand saying I knew it was a pandemic all along, even though he said there would not be a pandemic. He's on top of it but some mixed messages.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I've always known this is a real -- this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.

We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We're not going to let the cure be worse than the problem.

I hope we can do this by Easter. I think that would be a great thing for our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Easter, of course, is now off the board. The guidelines extended at least through the end of the month. And this is why.

The President has been convinced by the experts and the numbers speak the story. This is the case count, up in March, spiking now in April -- 312,000 now. The big change in tone from the President was because of such grim numbers just like this. The rising case count and death toll and projections of what would likely happen if he went ahead with his plan to reopen the country around Easter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will be extending our guidelines to April 30th to slow the spread.

Unfortunately the enemy is death. It's death. A lot of people are dying. So it's very unpleasant.

When you look at minimal numbers of 120,000 people, when you look at it could have been 2.2 million people died and more if we did nothing, if we just did nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now Maggie Haberman from "The New York Times" and CNN Analyst David Gergen.

Maggie -- I want to start with you. The President says he's just trying to be an optimist. That the country needs optimism. But from the beginning and even yesterday, heading into what the public health experts will say will be the worst week in the United States he kept trying to say yes, but it's going to be over soon.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Look, John -- I think that it's fine to want to be hopeful and to want to give people hope and I think that that's an understandable impulse. There's a difference between that and not telling the people who you lead the truth. And that's where the President has struggled. And he's also struggled with the fact that he still can't, even

yesterday, quite commit himself to the amount of time this is going to take to let social distancing work without questioning, well, we're going to need to make a choice at some point. We're going to have to open up soon.

This is going to require a certain level of patience and the President has never really shown that that is his strong suit in this office. So I think what you're going to continue to see is a performance like what you saw yesterday.

KING: And, David -- you have been there at times of crises for several American presidents. Just what have we seen here play out?

Number one, again, I get the President wants to be a cheerleader for the country but he has repeatedly downplayed and minimized. And we've also seen first it was the health secretary in charge of the task force, then he brought in Mike Pence. This past week, his son-in-law Jared Kushner comes in. Some of the governors complained they're not quite sure who is calling the shots.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: John -- I think it was summed up well by "The Washington Post" today. They had a major investigative story, put it on the front page, banner headline overnight, "70 days of denial, delays and dysfunction". It can't get much more scathing than that.

[08:44:58]

GERGEN: I do think that on -- in terms of the rhetoric, Maggie is right, there's certainly something to be said about cheerleading up to a point.

The President has been successful have brought a kind of blunt, stark realism to the table along with a sense of hope. And it's those two things together that balance out, that tell people, look, this is very, very serious but I think we'll get through it if we just stick together.

And he's not following that script. He's been -- everyday he has zigzagged. So one day he's taking it seriously, the next day he's got a message that undercuts how serious he was. And we have people across the country, including in his base that he has not talked to, people across the country who are not taking it seriously enough.

KING: It seems at times, Maggie -- it's just striking to me, yesterday another example. You know, Tony Fauci, the infectious disease doctor says keep your foot on the gas, everybody. Everybody needs to distance. Everybody needs to keep the workplaces shut down.

And the President walks right out as he finishes and says yes, but this is going to be over soon. He told sports commissioners, I'm told on a call, you guys need to be ready quickly. I hope right after the end of April we can snap back into action when the public health experts say that's probably not going to be true. HABERMAN: I'm a little unclear on exactly what he told the sports

commissioners. I think that that conversation was as much about the fall as anything else and the hope that there can be seasons going forward.

But I agree that I think that he is trying to suggest to people this will pass quick, this will pass quick. This is going to pass when it passes. And at a certain point if you put all of these actions into effect, if you put social distancing in for another month at least it could go longer.

You do need to prepare the public for that and to your point this zigzagging, it confuses people and it makes them not take this threat as seriously as they probably should.

KING: In the middle of this, David -- he announced late Friday night he was firing the inspector general from the intelligence community who, of course, helped get the whistle-blower complaint up to Congress which is all part of the big impeachment debate. The President calls it a witch-hunt.

Listen to the President. He got very defensive when he was challenged. A number of Republican senators -- they thought Mr. Atkinson was doing a good job, the President says no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible. He took a whistle-blower report which turned out to be a fake report. It was fake, it was totally wrong. It was about my conversation with the President of Ukraine. He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress with an emergency, ok. Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The facts are that all of this substantive big allegations by the whistle-blower were proven to be pretty accurate. But to the point -- this all happened last fall. The President deciding to do this firing on a Friday night in the middle of a pandemic, what did that tell you?

GERGEN: It tells me, first of all, they wanted to bury the story. They didn't want a whole lot of discussion like this out there and so they did it on a Friday night. We call that the devil's triangle. You put it out Friday night and nobody else sees it again.

But beyond that, I do think we've got this strange and unhelpful dynamic in which he is now -- he keeps sending the civil servant. He keeps sending the bureaucracy and yet the people in the civil service and the bureaucracy are the ones he needs desperately to make this effort against the coronavirus succeed and he depends on those. And yet he goes around and kicks the rest. It's crazy.

KING: Crazy is a tough word for Sunday morning. But David Gergen, Maggie Haberman -- appreciate your coming in. We'll continue to watch this as it plays out.

GERGEN: Thank you.

KING: When we come back from Iowa to Tanzania, an American mother of four, a Christian missionary and a Palm Sunday like no other.

[08:48:39]

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KING: Today is Palm Sunday, a holy day of celebration for Christians. And those images right there of Pope Francis today speak volumes. Easter is next Sunday. Passover and Ramadan also on the April calendar.

Religious gatherings are known now to be the source of coronavirus clusters in France, in South Korea, and in a rural Arkansas town right here in the United States. Now many mosques, synagogues, and churches are shuttered. Services and faith meetings, like just about everything else these days, moved online.

This right here is a lady fellowship meeting of the Marian Baptist Church in tiny Washington, Iowa. The special guest on the right of your screen there is Rachel Wyatt. She's the pastor's sister and for a decade now, part of a husband-wife Christian missionary team in Tanzania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL WYATT, CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY IN TANZANIA: Just to give a little bit of perspective, you're going to be ok. We are going to be ok.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Rachel -- so great to see you. I'm familiar with that closet because I watched your Facebook live fellowship.

It seems a bit upside down, you're the one in Tanzania. You're in a less-developed country --

WYATT: Yes, sir.

KING: -- and yet you're going into the closet because your kids are asleep so you can talk to folks back home in Iowa, your friends --

WYATT: Yes, sir.

KING: -- your churchgoers. You're giving them a pep talk. Shouldn't they be giving you a pep talk?

WYATT: I don't know. It seems like everything is upside down these days.

KING: Why was it so important for you to reach out and quoting your mother, quoting the scripture, and saying, hey hang in there everybody.

WYATT: America is always a safe place and people normally have it easy going in America. And all of a sudden America is not the safe place anymore. And I think people can be scrambling.

And I just wanted to get on and give a perspective, as somebody who on a daily basis, long before COVID-19 came, we had to live by faith every single day. And I just thought it would be a perspective that it can help.

KING: And your mission there is to build a church and you have services. And among the amazing photos you sent us was a hand washing station outside of the church.

WYATT: Yes, sir.

KING: Are you still having services now? Are you starting to think we need to separate more?

WYATT: Well, as of now, the government has said it is safe to still have services. They've asked that we have hand washing stations. Our church has taken some extra precautions and we have an infrared thermometer that we test everybody coming in. If somebody has a fever, we ask them to go home. We're spreading people out so that there's only two to three on a pew or on a bench.

[08:54:59]

WYATT: But if it reaches the point where the government says, hey, it's not safe to meet anymore, we will stop meeting.

KING: If you reach the point where you think you needed to leave, that it was better for you and your family, whether it's a safety issue, whether it's a medical issue, only one commercial carrier is flying. Would you be at risk of being stuck?

WYATT: Yes, sir.

If that commercial air carrier stopped, the embassy has been tremendous. They have indicated that there would be a possibility of an evacuation, either a chartered flight or military evacuation flight to get the U.S. citizens back to America.

And it really is a comfort to know that there would possibly be that option, that the embassy has our backs, that they're backing us up. It really makes you proud to be an American.

KING: I asked you what you tell your kids. What do your kids say to you?

WYATT: They're still young, so they're not saying too much. I mean they just think it's, you know, all crazy and what is happening. You know, we have to assure them, hey God knows what's going on. It's nothing new to him.

We tell them what is going on in little kid language as best we can. And they're ok with it, because they're resilient. Kids will pretty much adopt the attitude of their parents. And if the parents are calm and assured that everything will be ok, the kids will too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: That optimism is contagious. And that was some great parenting advice right there from Rachel Wyatt.

That's it for us this Sunday.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. Don't go anywhere. His guests include the Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and the Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday. Please stay safe. Be well.

[08:56:35]

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