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U.S. Coronavirus Cases Eclipse Half A Million, With 20,000-Plus Deaths; Trump Predicts A Quick Economic Rebound; African-Americans Dying Of COVID-19 At Higher Rate; Interview With D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; Trump Resisted Push For Aggressive Early Action On Virus; Biden Now Presumptive Nominee After Sanders Bows Out. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 12, 2020 - 08:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The coronavirus numbers are staggering. The global challenge overwhelming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what we're trained to do. Just not in this volume. I think it's emotionally hard to prepare for this level of sickness and suffering.

KING: Plus, African-Americans take a disproportionate hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marginalized communities don't have the resources that are required to keep them alive.

KING: And as the curve flattens, the president pushes to restart the economy.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: What we are doing is working. We need to continue to do it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be nice to be able to open with a big bang.


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. Happy Easter.

Fresh reminders this day, the coronavirus is changing everything. It is Easter, the pope inside for a socially distanced mass.

Roadblocks in Spain and Italy as officials worry the warmer weather will undermine lockdowns. Japan's case counts spiked by a record number again. Russia posted its largely daily increase and South Korea says it will now test all travelers arriving from the United States, a historic footnote as the case count and death toll climb here. For the first time, all 50 states, now under disaster declarations at the same time.

Still, the numbers are stabilizing and the president is agitating to reopen the economy.


TRUMP: I'm going to have to make a decision and I only hope to God that it's the right decision. But I would say without question, it's the biggest decision I've ever had to make.


KING: There's a detailed and a damning "New York Times" account today about Trump decisions already made to ignore early warnings about the virus and recommendations to act sooner to control its spread.

Instead, the president sidelined voices he considered to be alarmists.

To the latest numbers now as we take a look here in the United States, you look across the country, the deeper the color, the darker the red, the higher the case load.

But you see the cases are everywhere. New York the hardest hit. Pennsylvania, Florida. Illinois, Louisiana, out in California. Those states each have about 15,000 cases. More than a half million in the United States, the death count approaching 21,000. Sadly.

If you look day by day at the case count, you do see early March, it starts to go up. Here's where we are now.

This is the point that the experts are looking at. Is it beginning to flatten? If you look at the five-day average, it does appear the national caseload is beginning to flatten. That is what the experts are hoping for as they look at this.

If you look at the state hardest hit, in New York, you see the same thing. You see the spike in cases, if you look at the five day average back here is when the stay at home order went into place, you do see, again, sometimes day to day jumps, but you do see the beginning of a flattening here.

If you look at other states in the snapshot, New Jersey had the giant spike, New York neighbors. The question is, is it beginning to flatten out?

You see down here, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, case count not as high, some spikes and again, the question is, is social distancing, other mitigation, are those steps beginning to at least flatten the curve? The week ahead will be critical to see if there are spikes backed up.

New York and New Jersey, among the hardest hit. Both governors there claim, yes, we're making some progress. But, but, do not let down your guard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I know everybody wants to get out of the house and they want to get out of the house tomorrow and they want me to say we're going to be reopening the economy in two weeks. The worst that can happen is we make a misstep, and we let our emotions get ahead of our logic and fact.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW YORK: The curve is flattening. We're not in the end zone, fobs. We cannot spike any footballs. We're not even first and goal.


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

Doctors, thank you for coming back with us this Sunday. I cannot thank you enough. I'm grateful for your time, and I know you're busy.

I don't like to get the doctors involved in politics, and so I won't go too deep here. But when you read this damning account in "The New York Times", all the emails about the meetings, and the recommendations to the president in late Friday to start some lockdowns, in the most affected parts of the country back then, instead, the president said those people are alarmists and it was almost a month before he did anything -- Dr. Jha, how different will the numbers be today if the president listened to that advice?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Good morning, John. Thank you for having me on.

There's no doubt the numbers would have been very, very different. And, you know, we don't have to speculate, we can look at the states that did close early, didn't wait for the president's national declaration, the bay area of San Francisco, Ohio, other places, and their numbers have done very well.


They have not seen a big spike.

So we know that if the president had acted early and the federal leadership acted earlier, we would have far fewer people infected and far fewer people dead, unfortunately.

KING: And, Dr. Ranney, as we have this conversation, and, again, anyone watching, I urge you to read the New York Times account, detailed account in "The Washington Post", go to, we matched a lot of this reporting as well, the president always says these people don't have sources, these are emails, these are meeting notes, these are posts, these are conversations among his own advisers about the alarm here.

One of the questions now is, do you reopen at the end of the month?

When you look at the data I just showed, the national curve does appear to be flattening a little bit. New York appears to be flattening a little bit. But I want you to listen here, this is the University of Washington expert who has been building these models who says, yes, things are getting better. But all these models about trying to keep the death count as low as possible are predicated on keeping the social distancing restrictions in through the month of May. Let's listen.


DR. CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: Our model, we assume that the social distancing is going to stay in place to the end of May. And we now have started to run some scenarios about what happens if we take them off on May 1st and that's -- the early returns on that analysis don't look good.

If we were to stop at the national level, May 1st, we're seeing a return to almost where we are now, sometime in July.


KING: Is that a projection or from your experience a fact? If you lift at the end of the month, everyone will start going that way again?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN/BROWN UNIVERSITY: So at this point, the models are all projections, but the models from Washington have been generally accurate. You know, we keep refining them as we get more data, the models are looking better because of the social distancing that we have put in place.

Could it be possible to lift the restrictions and to let us be out and go back to sending our kids to school and going to parks and here in Rhode Island going back to the beach? We'd love that. But we need a few things to be in place. We would really need to have more extensive testing out there.

And in the state of Rhode Island, our governor has ruled out much greater availability of testing, but in most cases across the country, you simply cannot get a test unless you're getting hospitalized. So, those numbers that we're seeing, the flattening of the curve, are tough to judge because we just don't know how many people are actually infected.

And if we're going to let people go back to face to face interactions, we need to know who is a carrier, who is going to infect other people, we need to be able to test people with mild cold symptoms. Without that public health infrastructure in place, I think it's going to be really difficult to fully open the country back up without putting the rest of us back at risk again.

KING: Right, and to that point, about testing, I want to come back to it in more detail a bit later on when we'll talk about the economy.

Dr. Jha, I want to add another factor, though. We're still waiting, 17 states, by the projections, are still two weeks or so away from hitting their peaks. We can all hope because of the alarm cast up because of the social distancing in place in most of them, that their peaks are not as devastating as we have seen in New York or as we have seen in New Jersey and elsewhere.

But two of those states, Florida and Texas, happen to be among the most populous. You have governors already talking about reopening the economy in those states.

So, we're in a -- is this a fair statement we're in a better position this Sunday than last Sunday but we better be careful?

JHA: Absolutely, John. The way I think about it is, comparing us to where we were last Sunday, I think of it, two steps forward, two steps back. Two steps forward, because Americans have been doing a very job of social distancing, we have to keep that up. One step back as Dr. Ranney said, I think we have been following behind on testing, further behind now than we were a week ago.

In terms of Texas and Florida, my goodness, I think if they open up anytime soon, they are going to see a resurgence of cases that will completely overwhelm their healthcare system.

You know, we don't get to make the timeline. This is a Dr. Fauci quote. We don't get to make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline. We've got to do what the virus is telling us in terms of when it is safe to reopen, so we can stay open and we're not anywhere close to that, unfortunately.

KING: And, Dr. Ranney, to close this discussion, we'll come back to testing in a minute, just from your experience, I look at some posts, some numbers posted today, if you're 85 years or older, 40 percent of those patients are hospitalized by the coronavirus are dying. If you're in the middle group, you see it is 9 percent, just shy of 10 percent, if you're 55 to 54.

I guess some of this is obvious, but you just see the 4 in 10 Americans over the age of 85 who are hospitalized with coronavirus, 3 in 10 Americans between 75 and 84, what are you seeing -- this is a question about your firsthand experience, I guess. Is there -- is there anything that can be done or just this population is so vulnerable?

RANNEY: This population, older population is so vulnerable for a number of reasons. One is that they're older and their bodies are not as resilient, they're not able to fight off this virus the same way that those of us that are younger are able to. I'll say there with a caveat, we are still seeing young people getting very sick and put in intensive care and die.


So, you're not just immune because you're young.

But the older folks have less resilience. Older folks also have more chronic illnesses that put them at higher risk, and they're often living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, where the spread of the virus is happening quickly. So they're getting exposed, it's tougher for them to truly social distance.

Our ICUs here in Rhode Island, like across the state, are tremendously full. And we do see that it is more of the older generation. We're also seeing a lot of people that are dying in their nursing homes that are being put on hospice, that their families and they are making the really difficult decision that they don't want to have them brought into a hospital to die. So, we're seeing a larger number of COVID-19 deaths in the older population out in the community right now.

KING: Incredibly sad.

Dr. Jha and Dr. Ranney are going to stay with us.

Up next, the debate of how and when to reopen the economy. Millions of Americans suddenly out of work, getting unemployment isn't easy because states are overwhelmed with applications.


JACOBY WRIGHT, FURLOUGHED ELEVATOR DISPATCHER: As far as my car note, I'm not sure of that. Food, I'm not sure of that. Medicine, I'm not sure of that. I'm not sure of anything.

I already can't swim and I literally feel like I'm drowning.




KING: The numbers are beyond staggering. Nearly 17 million Americans filing new claims for unemployment in just three weeks.

The images also shocking. Look at all the cars. That is a line for a food pantry in San Antonio.

The economy that not long ago was a great election year asset is now a catastrophe. The president clamoring to reopen as early as next month and he predicts it will bounce back quickly.


TRUMP: I think the economy is going to do very well. This is just my feeling. It is a strong feeling. I had good proper feelings about a lot of things over the years and I think we're going to do well. You can never do anything about the people that lost their loved ones and loved -- lost their friends and I mean the great friendships and -- I'm not sure a lot of people will ever be the same. But I think our country from an economic standpoint will end up being stronger than ever.


KING: Many experts though not so sure because the coronavirus disruption is so global and so comprehensive. Alexis Glick is the CEO of GENYOUth and a former Wall Street executive.

Alexis, thank you for your time this Sunday.

The president talks about a rocket ship. You're more in the Bill Gates camp, that the damage here is so deep, so global, so profound, that it is going to be building blocks.

ALEXIS GLICK, CEO, GENYOUTH: That is precisely right. What we witnessed just over the past four weeks is essentially economic carnage. We have never experienced anything like this. You know, there is no playbook.

And so, what we're seeing the economy do right now is essentially seize up. When you mentioned those jobless claims, over 15 million jobless claims in the last three weeks, there is some predictions -- the St. Louis Fed is predicting as many as 40 million people may lose their jobs.

So, we're in completely unchartered territory, and for us to think that we can open up as usual come May 1, even in a staggered approach, is far too early in the spectrum. This is a case where politicians or business leaders, all of us are going to look to the direction of the health professionals. We need to choose life over the economy, and right now, moving too quickly could leave us in a much more dire situation.

Many folks, John, talked when this started about a V-shaped recovery. Right now, if we're not careful how we reopen this economy, we could find ourselves in an L-shaped recovery. One that takes us a decade to get out of this.

KING: And, that's tough to hear. The question is in the meantime, the government is trying to come in with a lifeline. There is a stimulus program that gives money to people. The IRS says a lot of people yesterday will wake up this morning to a direct deposit in their account.

But so many other people do not have direct deposit information on file with IRS. It could be weeks or longer for others. Plus, you see the spike in people trying to get unemployment benefits from their states saying they can't get through on the online platform or it crashes on them, they can't get through when they call, they can't get through when they show up.

Even Lindsey Graham, someone who doesn't criticize the Trump administration that often yesterday said maybe the Labor Department should bring in former governors, people with expertise and state unemployment claims to help them out. The system, the government system is not equipped to handle this, right?

GLICK: You are spot on. This is completely, completely unprecedented. And you're spot on about the realities that we're facing every single day.

Yes, the $2 trillion CARES Act is a smart move, a judicious move. But the dollars are not getting to folks in their homes as quickly as we need them to. Over the weekend, we're already talking about adding another $250 billion to support small businesses across the country, because the money is running out.

Add to that, of course, the unemployment claims. Right now, you are getting on a weekly basis about $400. Now, the average American up to a thousand dollars, which should protect them to the end of the year. But as you know, with the rate those claims are coming in, we're not going to have enough funds.

So, right now, John, there is three things I am focused on. Number one, what is the next bill? The treasury secretary is working 24/7. We need to put funds back into the states, our states are on a fiscal shelf. They're on a cliff right now.

What are we doing to support the states, the hospitals, and those who are filing unemployment claims in those states? So, that's number one. We have got to get back to work on a bill immediately.

Number two, we're going to see some type of Darwinian, you know, intervention in this world.


It's hard to predict, but right now, small businesses, 30 plus million of them, most of them only have enough cash flow on hand for a month, let alone what we're experiencing now up to three months. We need to get small businesses more help and, oh, by the way, corporate America.

Let's just talk for a second about corporate America. Yes, they have lines of credit. Yes, they have revolvers, cash that they have been bringing down to support their businesses as they have to furlough folks.

But the longer we wait, the greater impact it will have on the corporate strain on the financial markets. So, right now, we need to shore them up and start to put a plan in place to look at all key levers of the economy, so that we do this in a smart, judicious way.

KING: Alexis Glick, appreciate your insights, you lay that out. This is a months and months and months long challenge from there and a lot of money. Appreciate your insights. We'll continue to discuss as we play out.

I want to bring back Dr. Ashish Jha and Megan Ranney for the medical part of this complication.

The governors all keep saying, and you both mentioned it earlier, we need better testing. Both diagnostic testing to find out who has coronavirus, and antibody testing to find out who had coronavirus. Admiral Giroir, who's the president's point man on testing, and we don't question his effort for a second, he told Bloomberg, ballpark, ballpark, they'll be capable by May 1st.

Dr. Jha, to you first, do you see any evidence the government is ready both on diagnostic and antibody testing to be scaled up in 10 to 20 days? JHA: You know, John, we have been watching this and hearing a lot

coming out of Washington. Millions of test kits being sent out, et cetera, et cetera. I'm talking to doctors on the front lines, colleagues and friends, health officials and I'm actually looking at the data.

And we are doing about as many tests today as we were doing about a week ago. Maybe a little tiny bit more. And that's why I said we're falling behind.

So I would love it if this time around the federal government was right, we all want them to be right. But here is the problem -- until we see dramatically higher numbers of testing, if we open up, it will be a disaster and we'll have to shut down again. So, I am optimistic that their proclamations are right. I'm looking at the data and I'm not feeling optimistic.

KING: And to that point, Dr. Ranney, please jump in, you hear the president, he says, we don't need mass testing. Right now their strategy seems to be surging. Here about a meatpacking plant or food processing plant, they surge in testing there.

But a surge approach is very different than reopening giant pieces of the American economy.

RANNEY: Not only that, but a surge approach is acting after the problem has already started. So if you wait until you start to see cases in an area, before you start to do testing, you already have infected folks. Remember, there is somewhere between a 5 and 14 day waiting period between when you get infected and start having symptoms. So if you wait until the clusters of cases are emerging, you are too late.

Listen, we can look at other countries that have done this successfully. Iceland, New Zealand, South Korea to a large extent, they're managing to keep parts of their economy open, they're managing to keep healthcare -- the healthcare system able to function, and to keep death down. And they're doing it through widespread testing. Not just testing, but also contact tracing.

So that if I see that a patient of mine in the emergency department is positive for COVID-19, I should know everyone who has touched them in the last five to 14 days and to watch those people to make sure they don't get sick. It is a very standard public a health approach. It's not super complicated. But it needs leadership and it needs organization to happen.

KING: Leadership and two organization are two things we keep talking about in every one of these Sunday conversations. I hope that passes and I hope that some day is soon.

Dr. Ranney, Dr. Jha, appreciate it again, you're coming in to help us out on a Sunday morning. Please take care.

Up next for us, African-Americans are dying at an alarming rate. An NBA legend who helped us understand HIV says one reason is urban myth. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGIC JOHNSON, NBA LEGEND: Blacks thought they couldn't get HIV and AIDS. It is the same thing as the coronavirus. That's why we see these numbers so high, because, you know, people went out there spreading that word that blacks couldn't get it, and now we see not only can we get the coronavirus, but we can die from the coronavirus.




KING: The novel coronavirus is especially deadly when it collides with healthcare and economic disparities that have been with us sadly for generations. African-Americans are dying at a disproportionate rate.

We see just some of the numbers here. One third of Louisiana's population is black. But 70 percent of its coronavirus deaths are African-Americans.

You see the big disparities as well there in Mississippi, Illinois, Michigan, and the District of Columbia. Hypertension, obesity, diabetes, it makes it harder to fight the virus and are more prevalent among blacks.

Density in urban areas is also a factor, as are systemic education and economic disparities.



DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The chronic burden of medical ills is likely to make people of color especially, less resilient to the ravages of COVID-19 and it's possibly, in fact likely that the burden of social ills is also contributing.


KING: The mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser is with us to discuss this and other challenges this morning. Madam Mayor -- thank you so much for your time.

I know you are among the leaders who are determined to study this, to get to the root causes. The deal with some of the systemic generational things have nothing to do with the coronavirus but are now adding to the pain in the African-American community.

My question is, what can you do today and tomorrow because you know the numbers. When you look at the workforce, the people on the front lines -- 31 percent of people who work in bus services, urban transit are African-American; 31 percent of home health care services, African-Americans; taxi and limousine, African-American, three in ten; nursing care facility, postal service. These are the people on the front line and they're especially vulnerable.

What can be done today and tomorrow?

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, I think you put your finger on it that we have been dealing with these disparities for generations, fueled by segregation, racism, substandard conditions, stresses of poverty and the underlying medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes that this virus is violently attacking.

And so we have been very, very focused in D.C. on collecting the information. We're calling on a national focus on collecting data about coronavirus deaths. And a lot of that is hampered by the information that private labs are collecting. So we need that information so we can further study it.

But we also have to be committed to a more equal society where people are paid fairly, where housing conditions -- we know the big, big role that housing conditions play in asthma and why so many black children have asthma. And we know that asthma is also an underlying condition.

So this is the issue, why the spotlight of COVID-19 is on it. we need national and local strategies to have more equal medical outcomes for African-Americans in our country.

KING: To try to slow those numbers, though, are you getting the resources you need for a surge of testing for those people on the front lines every day?

BOWSER: We continue to need testing resources not just in Washington, D.C. but across the country. It's also very important that we have those testing resources to enable us to open our economy back up and get people back to work in a safe way.

We made the decision in Washington to open our citywide testing facility in a part of our city that has historically had poorer medical outcomes. And we did that even when the testing data showed very few people in that ward testing positive.

And since we opened that center, more people have had access to testing. And we're going to continue to make more testing available as we get the very needed resources likely from the feds but we're sourcing it privately as well.

KING: And so let's talk about the weeks ahead. You have a school still closed through thinking about April 24th at the moment. The President is clamoring -- we don't know what he'll do. He says he's got two choices -- tough choice to make here.

They're clamoring to reopen the economy. There are 196,000 federal workers who come to the District of Columbia. Some of them live in the district. Some of them come from Maryland, Virginia and elsewhere. Do you believe you are prepared to have the economy reopen on May 1st and have many if not most of those people back in the District of Columbia or do you need more time? Does the President need to wait?

BOWSER: We know that our surge in the district is going to come much later than May 1st. D.C. residents have stayed home and are helping to push down our curve and to push it out.

So we don't expect our peak medical surge to happen until June. And so we continue to look for ways, certainly, that we would be able to turn on our economy slowly. But I don't think that's going to be on May the 1st.

KING: Madam Mayor -- appreciate your time this morning. Let's keep in touch as we go through the difficult weeks ahead here in the District of Columbia.

BOWSER: Thank you.

KING: Very much appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Up next, the coronavirus task force wanted to take action in February. The President instead shook up its leadership and sidelined those issuing the loudest warnings.

And a look here at coronavirus disruption by the numbers. Jobless claims up by 17 million. Air pollution along Interstate-95 down 30 percent because factories are closed. Murders in Chicago down 44 percent. 230 NBA games canceled.



KING: On the coronavirus accountability question, President Trump is very consistent. If there is or was a problem, it cannot be traced to him or his administration.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we're doing.

The previous administration, the shelves were empty. The shelves were empty.

We were very prepared. The only thing we weren't prepared for was the media. the media has not treated it fairly.

We're really a second-line of attack. The first line of attack is supposed to be the hospital and the local government and the states.

We've been supplying it. But the states should be building. We're a backup. We're not an ordering clerk.


KING: The truth is, the Obama administration could not develop a test for a virus that developed deep into the Trump administration. Truth is also, the President for weeks underestimated or played down this threat and the impact of early testing missteps still being felt to this day. There's a detailed "Sunday New York Times" account and it raises additional questions including this. The White House task force decided at a February 21st meeting that portions of the country would need to be shut down to control the spread. Five days later, the President shook up the task force and put the Vice President in charge, quote, "The push to convince Mr. Trump of the need for more assertive action stalled," the article reads.

"With Mr. Pence in charge, the focus was clear -- no more alarmist messages. It would be more than three weeks before Mr. Trump would announce serious social distancing measurements, a lost period during which the spread of the virus accelerated rapidly.

With us to share their reporting and their insights: Tamara Keith of NPR and Josh Dawsey of the "Washington Post".

Tamara -- when you read this story and there have been other accounts as well on NPR, on CNN, in "The Washington Post". You read this "New York Times" story, the President often says well, they have no sources. These are emails, documents, meeting notes from his people. They tried to get the President's attention and he shove them aside.

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Yes. These are absolutely stunning documents and just outlining a very long period with a lot of missed opportunities.


KEITH: I was in the pool on the day that President Trump went to the CDC in early March and it was clear then that he was still very much downplaying it, you know.

We asked him about what are you going to do about the economy. And he said, I don't have any worries about the economy. The economy is going to be fine. He said if you need a test, you can get a test. And, you know, that's still not true today.

KING: It is still not true today.

And, Josh -- this "New York Times" story, it's a very well-sourced detailed look back. You're part of a great reporting team. And "The Post" today also has a story that looks at some of the missteps and also tried to look forward some.

And this is from your article this morning. "An administration that has lagged behind nearly every step of the pandemic still has no consensus plan for when or how to reopen parts of the economy. Even as Trump and many advisers push to do so as soon as May 1.

There's still no concerted plan for getting vital medical supplies to states which are left to fight among themselves or seek favors from Trump. There's also no developed plan for what happens if cases of deaths spike as people begin to return to work or how to respond if the coronavirus surges again in the fall."

How can this be in the sense that -- you know, I know the President bristles at it -- but he has to know by now his actions, his team actions are under tough scrutiny. You say they're not prepared, never mind looking back, looking ahead either.

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, there's a ferocious effort to get prepared. You have doctors now in the administration huddling separately every day for, you know, hours without the President. You have a flock of task forces, you know, different groups -- opening our economy task force, the Vice President's team, Jared Kushner's team, the doctor's team.

And what you have is kind of a morass of confusion for some (INAUDIBLE) of all of these various people in the administration, who many of them working hard trying to do the best they can. But you have a disorganized top.

So you have all of these different groups that are trying to discuss ideas and trying to figure out this problem and that problem. But there's no cohesive strategy with the President involved. And what we've seen time and time again is when some of these folks go to the President and they present them what they believe is a consensus idea, even when they get all of these people to sign off on it, he goes his own way.

So it's a challenging environment to try and make policy. What a lot of these doctors and experts and administration officials telling us is, you know, in the fall, we could have a resurge of cases and we have to be ready.

If we reopen the government, we reopen the economy, I mean some of the states reopen, at least, you know, there could be a resurgence of cases. We have to be ready.

And there's not really a plan right now on what to do past kind of the short term moments.

KING: And so we have seen this consistently through the administration. But this time, it's a life and death matter and a pandemic that the President trusts his instincts and reflexes often more than the experts.

He was smarter than the generals back early in the administration. Now he sometimes thinks he's smarter than the doctors.

And Tamara -- to that point, you know, the President is kind of debating himself the other day in the briefing room, saying of course he listens to Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, but there are two sides of the debate about reopening the economy. America was not meant to be shut down. And then the President added this to how he will make his final decision.


TRUMP: I want to get it open as soon as we can. We have to get our country open -- Jeff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you say, sir -- what metrics you will use to make that decision?

TRUMP: The metrics right here. That's my metrics. That's all I can do.


KING: It's not all he can do. He has -- he has access to the world's finest intelligence. He has access to the world's finest science and medical community. But he trusts his instincts and his reflexes -- this more than them, often.

KEITH: You know, we have now been watching this for a couple of months and President Trump is a man divided. He often attacks his very own decisions. He -- within days of the 15 days to slow the spread -- was saying that the cure can't be worse than the disease. He, within days of the 30 days to slow the spread, he was again saying that.

And even with the masks, they announced the CDC regulation -- or recommendation that people wear masks when they go out in public, cloth masks. President Trump announces and says, I don't know, maybe it will work. I'm not going to wear one.

But the interesting thing is despite all of his sort of trashing of the recommendations, he still followed the recommendations of the scientists in the end after a lot of gnashing of teeth and loud complaining.

Now, what public health experts will say is that you need a clear, consistent message for that -- an actionable message so that people know what to do and that's where President Trump just seems to be having a very significant problem.

One other thing I would just add quickly, though, is he can say the country is open. People aren't going to leave their houses and start hugging if the governors say don't go.

KING: Well, that is part of the problem. And Josh -- the President is trying to have this conversation with himself, debate with himself in the context of an election year. And I get it. I get it. You do not want to be the incumbent president during a recession.

It's interesting though, look at the polling numbers. If you go back in time, Jimmy Carter originally got a big bump out of the Iran hostage crisis. That, of course, dissipated. He lost his reelection. (INAUDIBLE)


George H.W. Bush after the Gulf War got a big bounce. He lost the next election. That started to disappear. George W. Bush after 9/11 got a giant bounce. That one stayed. The American people stayed with President Bush for some time after 9/11.

More recently though in our age of polarization, as I call it, Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City, not much of a bounce, George W. Bush after Katrina, a little bounce. That one went way down, it led to the Democratic win in 2008. Nothing for President Obama immediately after ebola capitalized the world's attention but then he went up a little bit in dealing with that.

But this president's approval rating has essentially stayed stagnant throughout this whole thing. How much is he worried about politics as opposed to the pandemic?

DAWSEY: He's worried about a lot of factors including politics. I mean he has public health experts who come to him and say if you do this, if you do that, deaths are going to exponentially increase.

He has Kevin Hassett and Jared Kushner on his economic team showing him chart. Look at this double digit unemployment that you could have.

I mean neither one of these are good things on an election year for the President to have lots of lots of deaths or lots and lots of economic travel. So the President is trying to balance the complicated, conclusive factors and I think he's looking at a lot of polling and we get a lot of politics, but he also has, you know, many difficult considerations at play here and none of these are particularly, you know, great answers for him.

KING: He says this economy reopening decision will be the toughest of his presidency. On that, I think we can all agree.

Josh Dawsey, Tamara Keith -- appreciate it very much on a Sunday morning.

There's positive news for us this hour from the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now out of the hospital, according to a Downing Street spokesman. He will not return immediately to work. He will continue his recovery at the Prime Minister's retreat -- Chequers.

Next, the third time is the charm for Joe Biden.



KING: Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee for president this past week and that we end the hour on this speaks volumes about the unprecedented moment we are living in.

The politicians, like everyone else, are largely confined to home. Bernie Sanders bowed out Wednesday from Vermont.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Today I congratulate Joe Biden, a very decent man, who I will work with to move our progressive ideas forward.


KING: A CNN poll released the next day Thursday, showed Biden begins the general elections with a national lead -- 53 percent of registered voters back Biden; 42 percent support President Trump's reelection. On the big issues, Biden is viewed as better equipped to manage the coronavirus crisis and he enjoys a big advantage on health care, a non-middle class issue. President Trump holds a narrow edge on the economy.

Joining me now, a man who knows the former vice president quite well. David Axelrod was the top strategist in the Obama campaign back when Barack Obama asked Joe Biden to be his running mate in 2008. Also served with him in the Obama administration. David is now, of course, a CNN senior political commentator and host of "THE AXE FILES".

David -- thanks for your time. You look at the early polling, Joe Biden is ahead on most of the major issues, tied on the economy, has the lead in the national horse race.

But you look at that polling and you see a warning sign when it comes to the question of enthusiasm. 70 percent of those who support President Trump's reelection say they are very enthusiastic to vote for him. Only half of Joe Biden's voters say they're enthusiastic. Why the problem?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's a lot of good news in this poll for Biden. He's got a massive lead among white college-educated voters which was competitive in 2016.

He's got a huge, you know, a 12-point lead among independent voters. Donald Trump carried that group by four points. I think this all points to the suburbs -- John. But this enthusiasm issue is important. And you can see in the poll that the two groups that lag far behind are young voters and African-American or minority voters, I should say. And those are areas in which he's going to have to work.

And so the end of the Sanders campaign and the beginning of the general election is an important line of demarcation for Biden so he can begin to consolidate those forces.

KING: Well, let's listen to a little bit of the outreach to Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders drops out. Joe Biden knows he has a task ahead. Here is the beginning of it.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He didn't just run a political campaign. He created a movement. And that's a good thing for the nation and for our future. While Bernie's campaign has ended, I know his leadership is going to continue.


KING: So there are always some risks in this, already you see the Trump campaign saying Joe Biden is going to move all the way to the left. he's going to be a socialist just like Bernie Sanders. What are the risks? What are the opportunities?

AXELROD: You know, I think after this epic crisis that we're going through right now, it will be interesting to see how people's attitudes change relative to issues like universal health care. I don't think Biden is going to move all the way. He made some small

steps in that direction by suggesting lowering the Medicare eligibility age. But I think people are going to rethink a lot of these issues and the role of the social safety net that has been debated so heatedly over the last many years because of what have we've seen. So I don't know that that's going to be an effective argument.

As you can see, and as I mentioned, when you see where independent voters are, where suburban voters, where college-educated white voters are -- right now Trump is losing that argument. And I don't know that he's going to have a lot of success painting Joe Biden to the left.

KING: One of the big challenges now for the former Vice President is to pick his running mate. You were part of the team in 2008 when Barack Obama settled on Joe Biden. Barack Obama was new. He was untested on the national stage. He was very, very different.

He picked Joe Biden in part because he was safe. A veteran of the United States Senate. He picked Joe Biden because of so many years on the Foreign Relations Committee, global experience, had the blue collar roots in Pennsylvania.

You address weaknesses with your Vice Presidential pick. What does Joe Biden need to do? And of course, he has promised it will be a woman.

AXELROD: One other reason -- John, that Obama picked Biden was because he had been through a national campaign. He understood the crazy maelstrom that a national campaign is and one of his concerns was he didn't want a candidate who was learning on the job.

So that could point Biden in the direction of some of the women that he ran against -- Senator Harris, Senator Klobuchar, Senator Warren -- each of whom have different strengths.


AXELROD: If he wants to appeal to the upper Midwest where those battleground states are, Klobuchar would be a strong candidate. So too would Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan who has now emerged as a potential running mate.

If he wants to nod toward the progressive base, Senator Warren would be a strong candidate.

And if he wants to -- if he feels like he needs to galvanize voters of color, obviously Kamala Harris brings some unique qualities to that.

So I think he's going to have to weigh those. Plus compatibility. How does he feel about these candidates? How would he feel about working closely with them not just in a campaign but in an administration? So that's the thought process that he's going through right now.

KING: The President of the United States, we always talk about the rose garden strategy. You might call it the briefing room strategy right now. When Donald Trump comes in for the coronavirus briefings, they run an hour and a half on average.

Some people say it's hurting him more than helping him. But the President has an enormous platform. Joe Biden is stuck at home.

AXELROD: This is a huge conundrum. And I think they could do more and I'm sure there are local TV stations around the country who would take exclusive interviews with Joe Biden and run them at the top of their news.

There are other things that he can do. But look, the convention is a real issue because it seems unlikely that you're going to be able to have large gatherings by August. And so how do you get the same amount of attention that is usually the kickoff for a general election campaign?

I'm sure his digital folks and his creative folks are thinking through very, very hard right now. How do we get that kind of audience and create viral moments so we can break through in an environment in which we don't have a whole lot of platform here?

KING: We don't. And we don't know where we're headed.

David Axelrod -- I very much appreciate your time.

AXELROD: Great to see you -- John. Stay healthy.

KING: Thank you. You, too.

And that's it for us this Sunday. Hope to see you during the week ahead as well. We're here at 11:00 and noon Eastern.

Up next, don't go anywhere. A very busy "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper His guests include Dr. Anthony Fauci, plus three governors, Arkansas' Asa Hutchinson, New Jersey's Phil Murphy, and New Mexico's Michelle Luhan-Grisham.

Thanks again for sharing this special Sunday. Happy Easter. Please stay safe.