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Acting Navy Secretary Resigns; Poll Numbers on Virus Response; Loans Rollout Marred by Glitches; Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 8, 2020 - 06:30   ET

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


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[06:31:25]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, President Trump is looking for a new Navy secretary after Thomas Modly resigned. Modly was strongly criticized after firing the commander of an aircraft carrier who warned about a coronavirus outbreak on his ship and then he called that commander stupid.

CNN's Ryan Browne is live at the Pentagon with more.

So where are we this morning, Ryan?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, it's been a whirlwind few days for the Navy. As you mentioned, after Captain Crozier sent that warning, the Navy decided to fire him, as acting secretary, Thomas Modly decided to fire him for too widely distributing that warning, saying that he had created a firestorm and that he'd shown poor judgment.

But then after, that captain got a rousing farewell from the sailors on his ship. The secretary, Modly, decided to fly out to Guam and address those very same sailors, slamming the captain, calling him either too naive or too stupid for be in command or for intentionally leaking that warning to the press.

Now, his remarks got out. He initially stood by them, said he stood by every word he said. But, later, he was ordered by the secretary of the defense to issue an apology. But after mounting criticism from defense officials and from members of Congress, started to call for his resignation. He stepped down, resigning, we're told, over this issue.

He did not address his comments to that crew in his resignation letter, but did address them in a memo to the Navy, saying -- saying in his -- in his memo, I lost situational awareness and decided to speak with them as if I was their commander or their shipmate rather than their secretary. They deserve better. The crew deserved a lot more empathy and a lot less lecturing. I lost sight of that at the time.

Now, the Pentagon has appointed the number two civilian in the Army to step in as acting Navy secretary in the interim, but a lot of criticism about how this whole thing was handled and an investigation into its circumstances is still underway.

Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Ryan, thank you very much for that reporting from the Pentagon.

So, coming up, we have some brand new poll numbers on how Americans are feeling about the U.S. response to this pandemic. So we give you the numbers, next.

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[06:37:42]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just in, some brand new CNN poll numbers on the coronavirus pandemic. It shows a majority of Americans believe the federal government has done a poor job of preventing the spread of the virus.

CNN political director David Chalian joins us now with the numbers.

Good morning, David.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Good morning, John.

You just noted, there is a majority of the American public who thinks the federal government is doing a poor job.

I want you to look at this by partisan breakdown because we do see partisanship playing into some of the assessment of how things are going. Among Republicans, you see 80 percent say the federal government is doing a good job, only 17 percent poor job. But look among independents and Democrats. Majorities believe that the federal government is doing a poor job in responding to the outbreak.

The other thing that I think is interesting and important to look at is just the concern the American people have about the current state of affairs. Take a look at the notion of the pessimism that is out there. Eighty percent of respondent in this poll, John, say the worst is yet to come, 80 percent. Only 17 percent say the worst is behind us.

How about that PPE we've been talking so much about, the personal protective gear for the front line responders? Sixty-nine percent of Americans say the federal government should be doing more. Only 28 percent says the federal government's doing enough when it comes to getting that PPE stuff out and dealing with the shortage.

And then, finally, look at this, though, the partisanship is not as stark here on the issue of PPE. It's across the board. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents and 42 percent of Republicans think that the federal government needs to be doing more to address this shortage.

And, of course, would you be comfortable returning to your regular routine after April 30th if indeed the social distancing guidelines are lifted? Sixty percent of Americans, John, say, no, they would not be comfortable at April 30th if the guidelines are lifted returning to their regular routine.

BERMAN: That is such an important number, because that could have a big, economic impact when the country is ready medically, and from a public health standpoint, to turn back and go back to normal. It will be interesting to see if people's behavior is ready.

All right, David Chalian, what are people saying about the president's performance?

[06:40:04]

CHALIAN: Yes, this is critical. As you know, this president is now going to be entirely judged on the response here, the economic fallout. So take a look about just his fighting the outbreak. Only 43 percent say that he is doing everything he can. A majority, 55 percent, say President Trump could be doing more.

How about his overall just handling of the outbreak, his approval on that? Take a look here. He's at 45 percent approval right now overall on handling the outbreak. That's a slight bit up, John, from where he was in March when we asked that. But so, too, is his disapproval a slight bit up. He's at 52 percent. A slim majority now disapprove of the way President Trump is handling the coronavirus outbreak.

I mentioned partisan drives a lot. But when you enter President Trump into the equation, you see that play out. Look at the partisanship here in terms of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Eighty- eight percent of Republicans approve how he's doing, 45 percent of the Democrats, only -- 45 percent of independents, sorry, only 14 percent of Democrats approve of his handling of the outbreak. And his overall job approval in this poll, John, 44 percent. It doesn't budge. It's about where it has been for the last three months since the beginning of the year.

BERMAN: David Chalian, thanks for being with us. Impressed by your home library game, I do have to say.

Great to have you on the show this morning. Appreciate it.

CHALIAN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: So a new government loan program for small businesses has stumbled from the start. Now more money could be on the way for coronavirus relief. We have details, next.

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[06:45:33]

CAMEROTA: The rollout of the small business loan program, which is a critical piece of the $2 trillion stimulus package, has been marred by glitches, by system breakdowns and just general confusion. Before they've figured that out, though, Senate leaders and the White House are working to approve more funding. CNN's Phil Mattingly is live in Washington with more.

What has gone wrong here, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, what's interesting, when lawmakers were putting together this massive economic rescue package, there's a lot of focus on the direct payments to individuals, the unemployment insurance. But when I talked to the lawmakers working on this and economists, it was the small business piece of this entire package that they thought could be the most crucial, the most essential to keeping the economy afloat midst cascading job losses. The only problem now, they need to get it to work first.

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STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We need to get money to small businesses and American workers and that's what we're doing.

MATTINGLY (voice over): It's the backbone program of the largest economic rescue package in U.S. history.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration will continue to take the boldest action in history to bring immediate relief to the small businesses.

MATTINGLY: $350 billion for small businesses to save their employees amid the avalanche of layoffs nationwide. But despite the need and the president's effusive praise --

TRUMP: Great loans for the banks and they're great loans for small business. People are loving it. They're really loving it.

MATTINGLY: It's rollout has been plagued by glitches, technical failures and confusion.

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: We got off to a bad start last Friday.

MATTINGLY: Accelerating the anxiety for millions of small businesses on the precipice of collapse. Administration officials and lawmakers say the issues are to be expected.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Any time you design a program that applies to 90 percent of the companies in America and spend $345 billion and you have six days to do it, you're going to have glitches.

MATTINGLY: The scale of the program is more than ten times what the Small Business Administration guaranteed just one year ago. And government officials had just seven days to turn legislation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is passed.

MATTINGLY: Into an economy-saving program.

MNUCHIN: The whole point of this program is to keep 50 percent of America back at work so that small businesses can reopen quickly.

MATTINGLY: One that would provide loans of up to $10 million to businesses with under 500 employees. But more than that, those loans would be forgiven, essentially turned into grants if that money was used to pay salaries, payroll expenses or business costs, like mortgages and rent. But the exceedingly tight timeline left many of the details too open ended for some lenders to even get online in its initial days multiple bank executives told CNN. The largest community bank trade group firing off a Saturday night letter, noting, quote, community bankers remain frustrated with a myriad of unanswered questions and the lack of clear instruction on how to complete loans through the SBA. And when guidance was provided, it came just hours before the program was set to launch.

The largest banks initially put limits on which customers they would serve, infuriating some business owners. While others repeatedly ran into notices like this, websites going down or under maintenance due to the sheer volume of applications, all as lenders face the government's own technological issues as the SBA's system for processing loans was down for hours at a time, several sources told CNN. The rocky start, something Trump himself tried to look past.

TRUMP: I mean it's only been going for a couple of days. It's really been performing well. Couple of little glitches, minor glitches, that have already been taken care of.

MATTINGLY: Yet there has been some progress in the days since the initial launch.

TRUMP: As of today, SBA has processed over $70 billion in guaranteed loans.

MATTINGLY: And each day, administration officials, lenders and small businesses say the process is starting to smooth out and lawmakers already considering adding another $250 billion to the program, underscoring both the urgency and volume the crisis for small businesses, but also their faith that the problems will be worked out, even the participants say some of the current optimism --

TRUMP: It has become so popular.

And it's really a tribute to government, really well-run government.

MATTINGLY: Isn't merited --

TRUMP: Congratulations on this success.

MATTINGLY: Just yet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: Phil, stick with us, if you would. We have many more questions that your piece has just raised.

Also joining us is CNN international anchor Julia Chatterley.

[06:50:02]

So, Julia, you've been telling us about all of these glitches, if that's the word for it, for days now. Are they getting closer? What does this mean for people who are desperate for money?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: The desperation continues, Alisyn. I think if we came back in two, three weeks and had this conversation, it would be a completely different story. But this whole program is reeling. It's overwhelmed. What I hear from some of the largest lenders is they've approved hundreds of thousands of loans to the tunes of billions of dollars. They're ready to hand the cash out, but they need to get approval from the SBA, the Small Business Administration, and this has been the choke point. It was never set up to deal with this avalanche of requests that we've seen. That's the first problem.

Then to go back to the community banks, they're critical, because they give money to some of the smallest business this is the country. Over a third of those community banks still don't have access to the Small Business Administration to even ask for these loans.

So it is imperative that we raise the size of this, one, because obviously there's so much demand and businesses are desperate. But, two, because a lot of the flow and requests that we've had, because people are afraid of missing out. They fear simply that they're not going to get their hands on any money. And if they at least believe the money will comes eventually, they may make different decisions today, and that may save jobs, Alisyn, because that's ultimately what we're trying to do here, save jobs.

BERMAN: It's interesting, you say it may be a different story in two to three weeks. Some of these small businesses don't have two to three weeks.

CHATTERLEY: Yes.

BERMAN: Some of these businesses have ten days or less of cash reserves on hand right now, which is something I know they're trying to deal with in Congress. Phil, it's interesting to hear members say, 250 more billion dollars into this program, which they all support. And this may happen before any other larger stimulus. It seems to be a priority right now. Why?

MATTINGLY: Yes, there's no question it is. Look, I think there's a couple pieces of it. One, it's bipartisan. This program itself, from the entire $2.2 trillion package, was, I think, the most bipartisan aspect of this. Both Republicans and Democrats agreeing that this was needed, agreeing on how it was structured, agreeing on what the goals were for the program.

I think Julia hits on a key point, too. The way this program is structured, it's first come first serve. And I think there's a lot of concern, when you talk to members who are hearing from their states or from their districts, that those people that maybe have really good tax lawyers, that have good access to be able to find work arounds to specific banks or to get into this program are getting in front of perhaps some of the smaller business owners that haven't taken loans out before or don't maybe have the best connections or the money to use the best kind of counsel as they move through this process. And so they want to ensure that those individuals, those small businesses still have opportunities to take advantage of this program.

I will say, it's completely wild that with the snap of a finger, both chambers of Congress, perhaps this week, with no opposition, are just going to approve $250 billion additional dollars. But I also think that that underscores what they're hearing from back home. These small businesses, as Julia points out, are very clearly right on the edge of falling offer a cliff right now and they need that help and lawmakers are trying to give it to them.

CAMEROTA: You're so right, Phil. How often do we see -- I mean it's head slapping when we see it now, something unanimous and something quick.

Phil, thank you.

Julia, thank you very much.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care at this hour. So we have the latest on his condition for you, next.

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[06:57:15]

BERMAN: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson still in intensive care this morning, battling worsening coronavirus symptoms.

CNN's Clarissa Ward live at the hospital in London, where he's being treated.

I said he's battling worsening symptoms. I'm not sure that's true, Clarissa. What's the current status of his symptoms compared to yesterday?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, John, it's still the same. So it's been 36 hours now, just over, that he's been in the intensive care unit. We're being told that he is still stable, which is good news in the sense that his condition is not deteriorating at all. But it's also concerning news in that his condition is not yet improving. We know that he is conscious. He is reportedly comfortable. He is still receiving oxygen treatment, but he is breathing on his own. And according to the British cabinet, he is still the one making some of the most important decisions. Though, of course, we know he has deputized some of the day-to-day affairs to the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab. Raab was actually interviewed recently on British television and said that he has no doubt that Boris Johnson will pull through all of this because he is a fighter.

But it is fair to say, John, that the British public is concerned. They're anxious. They desperately want their prime minister, whatever end of the political spectrum they may fall on, they desperately want to see Boris get well. We've seen trucks driving around the city with the big sort of signs

saying get well soon, Boris. People are going to be clapping as well for the prime minister later on today. So there's definitely a sense of the public rallying behind Boris Johnson.

And underlying that, I would say, there's a sense of growing anxiety about who is really in charge, how capable the government is of executing much-needed decisions at this critical period. You know, obviously, the U.K. is a much smaller country than the U.S., but you're still looking at more than 6,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Officials here saying there are some signs potentially of a plateau in the number of hospital admissions, but this is still a critical situation and everybody would like to see the country's leader back in the job.

John.

BERMAN: No question about that.

Clarissa Ward, please, keep us posted throughout the morning. Thanks so much for being with us.

The mayor of New York City will join us coming up next.

NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hospitalizations are beginning to flatten out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now is the time to double down on your social distancing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to be operating as if Covid-19 is circulating in every community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we need to keep working to flatten the curve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If hospitalizations are going down now, that could suggest that we should see a decrease in deaths later on.

[07:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our concern is that people are staying home because they may be afraid they're going to get sick at the hospital. So, if you're sick, still come see us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The director of the CDC saying the U.S. death --