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Heated Feud Erupts At White House Over Unproven Virus Treatment; SBA Sets Up Hotline For Lenders After Rocky Start To Aid Loans; Detroit Prepares Massive Field Hospital As Cases Near 16,000 In Michigan; Mayor Tom Barrett (D), Milwaukee Discusses Democratic Governor Suspending In-Person Voting And Republicans Vowing To Sue In Court & Joe Biden Calling For Virtual Convention; New Audio Of Acting Navy Secretary Slamming Ousted Ship Commander. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 6, 2020 - 14:30   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: One says it was instigated by an unofficial member, the president's top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, who lashed out at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert, who urged caution about using the drugs since he believes it's not proven as a treatment against the virus.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

Talk more about this. This was a conversation in the Situation Room at the White House.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was on Saturday. That meeting they have before the briefings. There was the briefing where the president came out to suggest he may try to use this drug after talking with his doctors, though aides don't believe the president is going to use it.

But during that meeting, Peter Navarro came in, as you noted, and not officially on the Coronavirus Task Force but made a role for himself there, but brought in this stack of papers essentially arguing there's data to prove that this drug, hydroxychloroquine, can work in this situation.

And Dr. Fauci has been one of the leading voices to urge caution, saying, it's still being studied, this needs to be a scientific decision based on the data and they're just not there yet. He pushed back on Navarro. Asked him what he was talking about.

And then Navarro started lashing out at Dr. Fauci, not only talking about this drug potentially, but saying he didn't believe Dr. Fauci was a proponent of the president's initial travel restrictions on China, even though Dr. Fauci actually was, based on multiple sources.

But, Anderson, really, this disagreement, this heated disagreement, what it highlights is that the president is over here pushing this drug, despite people like Dr. Fauci and other medical advisers warning him he shouldn't yet, because they say, we're not there yet, and going out and promoting the use of it will cause unintended consequences. What you're seeing is a stark break between who the president is

listening to here. Clearly, President Trump came out to the briefing and touted this drug, and he did so again multiple times yesterday.

And, today, we had Peter Navarro on our air and asked him about this disagreement he had with Dr. Fauci, given the fact he does not have a medical degree and Dr. Fauci does. This is how he explained his side of things.


PETER NAVARRO, TRADE ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would have two words for you, "second opinion."

Doctors disagree about things all the time. My qualifications in terms of looking at the science is that I'm social scientist. I'm have a PhD and I understand how to read statistical studies, whether it's medicine, the law, economics or whatever.

When I look at a study, just this latest one, I read it, from Wuhan, and there's a control group where 80 percent do well and only 50 percent don't. I mean, you could be a plumber and read that and come to the same conclusion.



COLLINS: Anderson, you see the argument Navarro was making there. You get a glimpse of what exactly is happening behind the closed doors at the West Wing and the arguments that are being made to the president.

COOPER: The idea that you're a social scientist, I mean, I majored in political science, it doesn't make me a scientist. Doesn't make me much of anything. I mean, it's ridiculous.

COLLINS: Yes. Navarro has the president's ear.

COOPER: Of course.

COLLINS: Even though other aides for many years tried to sideline Peter Navarro, the president has brought him back.

A month ago, Navarro came out to a press briefing and surprise many of us because he's not on the task force and it was a clear effort not to put him on there. I asked, how did he get there, and they said it was the president's idea for him to come out after they had a meeting with the economic team. And now you see how Navarro is playing a role and the administration's response to this. The president is clearly listening to him.

COOPER: Yes, well, it's easy for him to listen when he's just backing up an unproven medical device or unproven medicine. It may work but there's, like, there's hundreds of medicines being tested and being looked at as possibly having efficacy with coronavirus. This is just one of them. And even if it's being used, you can't argue there's hard scientific data. There's just not. The studies aren't in yet.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you. Appreciate it.

Coronavirus package from Congress may be on the budget for money to help struggling Americans but it's still not in their hands. That may change this week. The first direct payments are scheduled to be deposited in the accounts of individuals and families who qualify.

Days after issues and glitches and long wait times, the small business lending program, well, they claim it's going to be fully up and running. We'll see.

This just in. The Small Business Administration setting up a hotline not for borrowers but for lenders.

Congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, joins me from Capitol Hill.

First, I'll turn to CNN Politics and Business Correspondent, Cristina Alesci.

Cristina, what do you know about the hotline and how badly has it been needed by the banks in the last days? The program seems to be overwhelmed and haphazardly put together.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICAL & BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. This hotline for the lenders, and this is essentially a tacit admission from the government, if it doesn't get involved to help the lenders get the money out to small businesses, those loans and grants will not happen.


And this program has been plagued from the beginning. And it all stems from the fact the administration rushed this program out. Which is understandable. These are businesses that need the money. But also set the expectation high and told the American public that these funds would be available immediately.

And there's two major problems here. One has to do with the guidelines as to who qualifies and what documentation these small businesses need.

And one has to do with technology. This is a very manual process, what we hear from some of the banks. They have to call the customer, get additional information. And then manually put it into a system that tops the small business administration, overseeing this process.

Look, bottom line for the banks, they are worried that if they approve someone who technically doesn't meet all the qualifications, they're going to be on the hook for the loan and that makes the system not work.

Clearly, the administration did not fully think through all of the potential pitfalls here. But hopefully, in the coming hours and days, it will get better for small businesses. COOPER: Phil, what are you hearing on Capitol Hill about all the

problems with the loan program?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's two things. One is extreme - (AUDIO PROBLEM) -- the $2 trillion aid package signed into law a week or week and a half ago.

They realized this program was put into place to allow small businesses to maintain their employees, to pay salaries, to pay mortgages, pay their rents. All of those things. It was not a stimulus package. It was basically a life raft for a lot of these small businesses.

And for lawmakers, this is very personal, from the states, districts. These are the people calling them over the course of the last several weeks saying, look, we're about to fall off a cliff if you don't do anything.

Lawmakers say, we've done something. This program needs to work.

But I would say, Anderson, there's a recognition of reality. They were essentially putting in, over the course of seven days, a $350 billion program. That's 10 times what the SBA usually operates under when it comes to this program. They knew there were going to be glitches and issues that needed to be worked out.

They're willing to be patient now. But the patience has limits, Anderson, because they're hearing from back home, that if this doesn't work and doesn't work soon and the money doesn't get approved but kicked out the door, the businesses are going to be failing by the thousands, basically.


Phil Mattingly, appreciate it.

And Cristina Alesci, thank you very much.

More to come on that.

The Michigan governor warns of the incredible strain on hospitals there. CNN goes inside that state's largest convention center now transformed into a thousand-bed hospital. The question is: When will they start taking patients? We go to Detroit, next.



COOPER: In Detroit, the push under way to turn a convention center into a massive field hospital. It's been a month since the state announced its first cases, and now there's nearly 16,000 cases and more than 600 people died there.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer today warning her state is running dangerously low on PPE, giving Detroit's hospitals just days before they run out of N-95 masks and surgical gowns.

Ryan Young is in Detroit for us.

You got an inside look at the convention center-turned field hospital, talk about what it's like and when is it actually going to start taking patients?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson. This is a massive operation. We were here when they first started and now we're getting a chance to see all the work they're doing here.

In fact, if you look at this large trailer here, they are going to turn this into a pharmacy, so all the patients can get access to other health care besides COVID-19. And here, a triage center. And the workers putting all this together. The is an active work zone, so you can understand the need and get this up pretty quickly.

We're told, all this is set up so you can turn it over on the night. But what's really striking is down this walkway. Despite all this work, when you see all these beds and spaces, that's what really gets you. They're going to add capacity of a thousand more beds.

Look at all this. No matter where you look, you can just see spaces and spaces and spaces. They're going to also need nurses and staff to be able to staff this as well. We're told they're making all-call to people across the country to help do this.

The ICU beds in the city are filling up. They need desperate help. The nurses are pushed to the limit here. So we know that these beds will be full.

We've seen National Guard members working in here. The Army Corps of Engineers. They're going to continue to do this to make sure all these beds are available.

There's also negative pressure, not even set up inside this area, as they keep all the sort of bacteria and everything else inside this area.

We're told there's another floor below us, so another 400 beds below us. And on top of that, they're already looking to see if they can staff another hospital.

When you think about it, Anderson, the massive effort they put in the last seven days, this is amazing. As you can see, some of the workers back there putting the finishing touches on one of the rooms back there, so as they work with this -- Anderson>


COOPER: -- who's going to staff this?


YOUNG: That's the big question. They're looking for volunteers. In fact, there was a massive video put out with athletes and entertainers to see if they could bring people here. Some of the volunteers will come from the local area but they hope other cities that haven't been impacted as largely as Detroit will help staff this.

Which is, you can see the need, especially with all the deaths in this area.

COOPER: Ryan Young, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

A late change in Wisconsin where, just one day before that state's presidential primary, the governor is reversing his position on critical issue, the move many were pushing him to make, suspending in- person voting.



COOPER: This just in, Wisconsin's Democratic governor has just suspended in-person voting for the tomorrow's scheduling primary and is delaying it until June 9th. Despite a Wisconsin stay-at-home order, Wisconsin voters were expected to head to the polls tomorrow where in- person balloting was expected to take place.

Republicans in the state vowing to fight the governor's executive order in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, calling it unconstitutional. They blocked a last-minute effort to extend absentee voting into mid- May. And they're asking the Supreme Court to intervene and freeze a lower-court opinion that extends the state's absentee ballot deadline.

Tom Barrett is the mayor of Milwaukee.

Mayor, you've been pushing for this move to stop in-person voting in tomorrow's primary. Are you confident the order is going to stand up in the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

MAYOR TOM BARRETT (D), MILWAUKEE: I can't say that I'm confident. I'm certainly hopeful. But whatever happens, I could say this, Governor Evers' decision places him on the right side of public health and history because his actions today, I think, save lives and protected our democracy.

COOPER: Why are Republicans in Wisconsin so adamant about having in- person voting for this primary and fighting efforts to extend absentee voting?

BARRETT: That defies logic in my mind. Because when you think about it, every single other state, every other state that had a primary in the month of April, moved it.

I believe that if we had this election tomorrow, it would be the largest public event in the country. And here we are in this pandemic that does not have a scientific exemption for elections to go forward with it. I think, would put many, many people at risk.

So I can't give you a logical explanation as to why they're so adamantly opposed to it. But again I'm proud of the governor for what he did today.

COOPER: You're on the ballot against a few challengers. If the Supreme Court orders the election to go on as scheduled tomorrow, what should voters do?

BARRETT: Well, again, we've had a lot of people that have voted absentee. And it is not a primary for me. Tomorrow is my general election. And I would love nothing more personally than to have the election done. But I can't ask people to go in-person vote if I think they're putting their lives on the line. I can't do that.

As much as I love my job, I put the public safety and the public health first.

And we're going to figure this out. We can do this. Every other state was able to protect public health and protect their democracy. There's no reason why we can't do that here.

COOPER: Your city, Milwaukee, set to host the Democratic convention. And Joe Biden in the summer, is talking about a virtual convention. I'm wondering what you think the chances of having the convention in Milwaukee are?

BARRETT: I'm still very optimistic. And I think we, all as Americans, as human beings, we all want this pandemic to end as quickly as possible.

August is a long way away. And we know the decision to move the convention to august, a week before the Republican convention, buys us another five weeks.

But I know two things. For certain, the Democrats are going to nominate a candidate for president and they're going to do it in Milwaukee. Now what form that takes, I think it is way too early to predict. But we're excited now and proud.

But right now, all of the resources, because the city put resources into this, and all of our recourses and energy are directed toward COVID-19 and preventing its spread. And that is where it should be.

We will have time, and I think the party will have time, everyone will have time for the convention. But right now, our focus is clearly on public health.

COOPER: Mayor Tom Barrett, I appreciate it. Thank you.

BARRETT: Thank you. Thank you.


COOPER: We'll be right back.


[14:58:26] COOPER: This just in. New audio of the acting Navy secretary slamming the former commander of the "USS Theodore Roosevelt" for raising concerned about a coronavirus outbreak onboard the ship. It happened during a speech that Thomas Modly gave to sailors onboard the aircraft carrier.

CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, joins us now live.

Ryan, this is the first time we're hearing any audio.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: That's right, Anderson. We have received the transcript of the remarks and now we listened to the audio and it matches.

You could clearly hear acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, slamming the now ousted commander of the "USS Theodore Roosevelt," calling the former captain of the aircraft carrier either too naive or too stupid to realize that sending his memo of concern to some 20 Navy officials would not result in that memo getting out in the public or potentially accusing him of leaking it to the press intentionally.

So very harsh words for the former commander from the acting Navy secretary.

Now we just got a statement from Acting Secretary Modly saying he stands by everything he said. He hasn't had a chance to listen to a recording of his remarks so he can't talk to the accuracy of the transcript. But he stands by the words he used, including the profanity used for emphasis.

COOPER: Let's listen to the audio.

We don't have the sound -- OK. I'm told we don't have the sound. Hopefully, we'll get that later today.

Ryan Browne, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Our special coverage continues now with Kate Bolduan.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.