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Trump Retweets Call To Fire Dr. Fauci After He Conceded On CNN That Quicker Response Could Have Saved More Lives; Sailor From USS Theodore Roosevelt Dies Of Coronavirus; CDC Director: U.S. Is Nearing The Peak Right Now. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 11:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Thank you so much for being with me today. I'll be back here with Jim. We'll see you tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow. NEWSROOM continues with John King. Next.

JOHN KING, CNN Host: I'm John King in Washington. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. We also want to welcome our international viewers watching around the world. There is hope. That word and message today from the U.S. Surgeon General as we do see a leveling off of coronavirus cases in the American cities, hardest hit.

There is also turmoil as the President Trump yet again vents at the candor of the nation's top infectious disease expert. Dr. Anthony Fauci says yes, lives would have been saved had the federal government acted earlier. Fire Fauci is the hash tag of a retweet by the President hours later.

As Fauci's comments drove media coverage and internet buzz. The case count is approaching 600,000 here in the United States. There are sadly more than 22,000 deaths. That is well over double the number we had this hour last Monday. And today that count includes a sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt. That sailor, one of nearly 600 aboard the aircraft who tested positive.

The week ahead is critical, a test of whether the hottest spot New York, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans begin to lower their case counts and a test of whether social distancing and other mitigation steps keep other trouble spots from dramatic spikes. The CDC director sees the peak at hand.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CDC: We are nearing the peak right now. I think we'll sometime hopefully this week, we will be able to say that you know - you'll know when you're at the peak when the next day is actually less than the day before but clearly, the rate, we are stabilizing across the country right now in terms of the state of this outbreak.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: In Brazil, a study looking at the efficacy of chloroquine being

used to treat coronavirus has ended. Forced to end early after 11 patients died. President Trump as repeatedly pushed a version of chloroquine as a virus treatment.

There are now nearly two million cases worldwide. Russia again, reports a record spike in day to day cases. In the Netherlands, more than one quarter of the cases are healthcare workers who have contracted the virus while helping others.

And South Korea now set to send a new shipment of 600,000 testing kits here to the United States as early as tomorrow. As of today 2.8 million Americans have been tested. We're also following sadly the path of severe storms here today. At least 18 people killed, dozens of tornadoes touch down across the southeast, parts of the east coast, even up into New York in danger today from high winds.

More on that later this hour. If the coronavirus peak is at hand then what next. Joining me now Dr. Leana Wen. She's the former Baltimore city Health Commissioner and an emergency room physician in Baltimore. Dr. Wen, thank you for your time. So when the Surgeon General says there's a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

The CDC director says the peak is at hand, as a public health expert and professional, what is your challenge today?

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Well, I'm glad that we're talking about hope and optimism because it is true that the measures that we've been putting into place, the social distancing measures have been working but we have to remember too that there is just because we've hit a peak, doesn't mean that deaths have stopped.

After the peak that we may be hitting is one where there are thousands of ongoing deaths and we also, now there's all this talk about reopening our economy and removing restrictions but it seems that we're doing this backwards because we shouldn't be talking about a timeline as much as we should be talking about metrics and capabilities.

The metrics and capabilities including number of tests that can be made widely available. The public health infrastructure needed to be able to identify individuals who test positive and trace their contacts and the healthcare infrastructure overall to treat people and not be rationing resources all the time.

We are nowhere near having these capabilities in place and so while there is hope and optimism, we should also be looking out what more needs to be done and what are the steps that we urgently have to take as a country in order to get there.

KING: And help our viewers here in the States but also around the world understand, that here in the United States, we're 50 different states, right? And so we should all be hopeful that the news is better out of New York after some very depressing weeks in New Orleans and Chicago and other places. But we look at a handful of states that are still yet to have their

peak. Maryland, the peak expected this week. Pennsylvania, late this week on Friday. Tennessee, next week. Connecticut, April 25. Massachusetts, April 27. When you look at that and so yes, there are - celebrates the wrong word.

There is less discouraging news from some states but as you deal with them, you still have these - these states in behind and let's all hope the social distancing and the national awareness means they don't spike like a New York or like a New Orleans but there's a big but there, right?

WEN: That's exactly right and we also don't know what are the other places that we have yet to identify as epicenter. We are seeing you named them John, some of these places that were seen as the next places for outbreaks and I also hope that in - for many of these places that we've been able to flatten the curve enough so that we don't overwhelm the healthcare system in these other places.


But there are many other communities that are out there that may only have one or two cases that have yet or yet to have any cases but because of lack of testing, we actually don't know that they really have no cases and very likely there is already a community transmission happening all over the country and in places that are more rural with less healthcare infrastructure and systems in place, they could be hit really hard.

And we haven't even identified these places yet and so your point is exactly one that we should be repeating. That this is not a one national outbreak. We have to look at many communities and the many peaks and many outbreaks that are yet to come in the following weeks and months.

KING: And so help us better understand that in the sense that again, one state looks better but its neighboring state maybe not so much. We have interstate commerce. We have people who have been in their homes, trapped and want to get out. They might want to go see the relative to the next state over or do some business in the next state over.

I just want to show some of the states as we go through this. These are 5-day averages. You look at the averages so you can sense them out. New York does appear if you look up here to be left leveling off and that is more encouraging news. You see down here at the bottom, you see Massachusetts still trending up a little bit.

Let's hope that changes and you do see Louisiana starting to go down. To your point about reopening, this is the President's top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci saying, we need to be careful.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: If you just say OK, it's whatever. You know May 1, click, turn - turn the switch on. Obviously if you do it, in an all in one way, there's an extraordinary risk of it being a rebound.


KING: I don't think anyone could disagree with that that. He's in hot water. He is Mr. Fauci again with the President for his candor but not only is there, can you do it all in one way but do you believe you can do it even in a county by county way as the President and some of the experts are good for them for looking at it.

But can you give it, given the diversity and the complexity of the American economy while you still have people trying to catch up with this health crisis?

WEN: In theory you can, but the key is that we have to have all these other capabilities in place starting with widespread testing. If we don't have testing and we don't have nearly the testing capacity that we have - that we need. At this point we're only testing people who have severe symptoms.

A lot of people who have mild symptoms, don't even have the ability to get tested to see if they have COVID-19 right now. We need to have widespread testing in order for us to even begin talking about reopening parts of the country and to your earlier point too because of how porous our states are, just because we have things under control in one place doesn't mean that we can be letting up our restrictions in others because the last thing that we would want is a second wave, a resurgence of deaths because that means that all the sacrifices that we've all been making in the last several months will be in vain.

And we're going to go back to a place where they'll be many more deaths and that'll be on our hands. I mean, we'll be the ones shouldering that blame because we know what we need to do. We just have to do it.

KING: I know they disagree from the White House podium but it is striking every day to talk to the public health experts like yourself to the governors and to the mayors and to people in these communities who still say we're in many ways still flying blind because of the lack of testing and not understanding the depth and the scope.

Dr. Wen, really appreciate your insights today as we head into this critical week ahead. I want to bring in our senior White House, Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta on the telephone. As I was just noting, the President is not happy with his top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci for his candor.

Dr. Fauci on television yesterday saying, what is just simply common sense but the President doesn't like it, that had the federal government intervened earlier, announced at least limited, maybe regional social distancing steps earlier, when we did see cases out in Washington state for example, that lives may have been saved.

The President though not happy. Jim, what are you learning behind the scenes at the White House about we know, he's not happy. What is he agitating to do about it? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes John, I think

that is the key question and - and we know that Dr. Fauci has been disagreeing with the President publicly for some time now and according to a source close to the White House, I spoke with earlier today, President's been fretting about Dr. Fauci for some time now, wondering you know in calls with allies and associates why is Dr. Fauci not saying nice things about me.

And you know this just goes to the heart of how this President operates. He is - he is sometimes - oftentimes insecure about how people perceive how he's doing his job and he has been reaching out to friends, associates and so on over the last several days.

One of the things he's been expressing John is some frustration with some of these recent scathing news articles like the one on the New York Times over the weekend that was highly critical of his response and how he's been handling this pandemic.

He - the President's been saying to allies you know, that he thinks that people inside the administration are just saying things to make themselves look good and it goes once again to this insecurity the President seems to have about how the public is perceiving how he's handling things.

Now as for Dr. Fauci, I mean White House officials have insisted to me for some time now, the President hasn't lost faith in Dr. Fauci, that he has confidence in Dr. Fauci.


But he is feeling a little frustrated with what the doctor has been saying publicly and I think that is coming through in some of the conversations he's having with allies. One thing that we - we should point out, I talked to a Trump adviser earlier today about this tweet that made the rounds over the weekend.

President retweeting this tweet that had the hash tag firefauci. You know this one Trump advisor said to me, one of the things that they tell people from time to time is don't read too much in how the President retweets things. Sometimes he doesn't read the entire tweet before he retweets it according to this Trump adviser, I spoke with earlier today.

But no question about it. President feeling - he is feeling somewhat insecure about how the public is perceiving the way he's handling this pandemic and - and that is coming out in his conversations with allies and associates, John.

KING: The country is tense, in the middle of a pandemic. Why would we expect the President to read all the way through something that he retweets that might cause a national controversy, right? Jim Acosta, appreciate that reporting. It is stunning sometimes the words the President's aides say about whether to trust or believe or follow what the President says.

It's him, it's his aides, not us. Jim Acosta, thanks very much. I want to bring in now two great White House reporters to share their reporting and insights as well. Michael Shear from the New York Times. Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post.

As we do so, I can put up on the screen, the headlines in your newspapers this weekend that the President was not happy with. Two very detailed, well-sourced accounts are going through some of the administration's missteps or the President rejecting advice is probably a better way to put it.

From aides early on that he should act more aggressively and before we begin the conversation, let's just listen to Dr. Fauci because the President doesn't like it when people say things that are facts.


FAUCI: You could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could save lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that but what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated but you're right.

I mean, obviously if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different but there was a lot of push back about shutting things down back then.


KING: Michael Shear, he says a lot of push back about shutting things down back then. We know one of the important details in the New York Times account was that the coronavirus task force as originally constituted in late February, saw what was happening in Washington state and said we need to do something about this.

They went to the President, they thought there should be at least some targeted shutdowns and the President instead shook up the leadership, put the Vice President in charge. Said he wanted all the messaging run through the Vice President and it was almost a month before he finally did put in place, social distancing.

MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right that's in fact the meeting that the public health officials, some of the top leading public officials including Dr. Fauci wanted with the President to basically make the case: look, we have to begin changing the way we are addressing this containment.

The idea that you could sort of contain it the virus outside of the United States or maybe in little pockets inside the United States that was failing. They could see that. This is towards the end of January and they wanted to meet with the President to say we were going to have to start doing mitigation.

It wouldn't necessarily have been shutting the entire country down that moment but it would be being much more aggressive in preparing the American public for what was going to come next, which was going to be some serious pain. Basically you know, what we are living through though it might not have had been nationwide, it might have been able to be somewhat more targeted, had they done - had the President done that at the end of February.

Instead that meeting never happened, the President got very angry when one of the CDC officials started talking this way, she kind of jumped the gun a little bit before they had had a chance to brief the President and that's when the overhaul of the task force has been and of course then everything stalled for the next several weeks.

KING: And so Seung Min, there are couple of issues at play here, let's start with this one. The President bristles at any suggestion that he downplayed this or missed it or underestimated it early on but his own words speak for themselves. Yes, he did ban travel from China and yes, Chuck Schumer the democratic leader in the Senate, the democratic Governor of Washington state and others criticized the President for doing that.

And most of the public health experts would say that was a very smart move early on by the President but at the same time he was saying he didn't think it would be a pandemic. He was saying we have this under control. He was saying there were 15 cases, we should be down to zero.

You can see the depressing numbers on the right hand of your screen there. And say, anybody who wants to test can get a test so the President's own words, he says he's just trying to be a cheerleader but the President's own words do highlight pretty intensely that he either didn't want to deal with this or he didn't get it.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. We certainly saw in the last couple last several weeks how his rhetoric had really sharply turned from kind of that happy talk that he was trying to give you know, earlier on in the pandemic crisis, where he was saying the numbers would go down to zero very quickly.

Obviously with the numbers that you're seeing on the screen, that is certainly not happening right now. That everyone will be able to get a test if they want one but this is the President, I mean he also knows that this is certainly hurting the economy and I think that's part of why he was resistant to a lot of these measures for some time.


And I think major question you're going to see today at the press briefing later today, if he does appear as if - you know as we expect him, feel up here is you know, as we get closer and closer to April 30, how willing is he to kind of you know, look beyond the public health guidance and willing to be willing to open up the government.

And I think he had you know, pretty interesting tweet just moments ago when he said, it's actually not up to the - when he insisted, that it was actually not up to the governors to open up the states that he would be working in conjunction with states to do that.

The legal authority for that is not yet clear and it is interesting considering when we you know reporters at the White House that consistently asked him why not issue a national stay-at-home order, he said he was actually up to the states themselves to do that. So you see this urgency and this - from the President to open up the

country as soon as possible because he knows a poor economy will certainly hurt his re-election chances in November.

KING: Right but it is the governor's authority. The President can put the federal government back to work. He can tell the CDC if he can convince them to drop the social distancing guidelines and then he can have a fight with the governors but is up to the individual governors to decide what to do in their 50 states.

We are a constitutional Republic but this Michael, is part of the back and forth with the President. To Seung Min's point, he says I'm the backup. Get your own supplies and then he wants to say no, I have this authority. He alone has this authority. Another thing the President though does when the Vice President was put in charge of the task force, Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was pushed aside a little bit there.

One of the goals understandably so was to coordinate the messaging because you should speak with one voice in a pandemic. The American people and people around the world should hear a consistent message from the American President and his team.

However it should not be at the expense of truth and he appears to be mad at Tony Fauci because he tells the truth and speaks candidly.

SHEAR: Right and - and look, one of the things that had been happening, leading up to the Vice President being put in charge was that you had the public health officials like Dr. Fauci being more grim about the prospect of what the country was about to face and White House aides who were either economic aides or advisors to the President who didn't have health backgrounds were saying something different.

And - and of course the President himself saying something different and so we were all writing stories at the time that said the messaging is very confusing. It's very mixed messaging because the President was saying all of those things that you highlighted earlier John and - and the public health people were saying something different.

And I think you know, the concerning part about the conflict between the President of United States and Anthony Fauci at the moment is that - is that it's Dr. Fauci who is had a 30-year - 35-year career dealing with - with this kind of - with just these kinds of outbreaks and so you know to the extent that the President of United States pushes Dr. Fauci aside.

I mean, he you can't really fire him because he's a civil servant. It's not - it's not you know - he can't actually lose his job probably but he could be pushed aside and if the President were to decide to do that, I think there'd be deep concern public health officials among members of Congress and people generally about what is it that the - who is it that the President is listening to, is it the public health experts or is it you know, business officials who are whispering in his ear, hey, we want to get back to work. KING: Everyone has things to answer for here including Dr. Fauci who said around the same time, back in late February, people should not change their behavior yet. He said they wanted to look to see if there were signs of community spread. This is why we have democracy in public briefings as Seung Min notes, that'll be interesting.

I'm guessing the President by his tweets and retweets is edgy, agitating to talk today. We'll see if Dr. Fauci is there as well for some questions. Seung Min, Michael, it's great to see both of you. Someday soon I hope to see you back in studio. We'll get there eventually and as we go to break, it was one month ago today, one month ago today, the President declared a national emergency.

That freed up billions and resources to fight the coronavirus. He was also asked on that day one month ago, about another comment Dr. Fauci made.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was in fact, a failing. Do you take responsibility for that?

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time and what we've done is redesigned it very quickly with the help of the people behind me and we're now in very, very strong shape.




KING: Vice President Pence is having a teleconference with the nation's governors in just a few moments. This as the President is pushing those governors to get ready to restart the economy. "Be ready. Big things are happening. No excuses." is a Trump tweet directed directly at those governors.

There's likely some tension brewing there. Many governors worry they need a lot more testing before they would be comfortable sending people back to work. Supplies also are a source of continued frustration as states complain a lack of federal coordination leaves them competing against each other for scarce masks and ventilators.

New Hampshire has 985 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 23 deaths. The state just secured more than 7 million pieces of personal protective equipment in a deal from China. Governor Chris Sununu says he will share with his neighboring states. Governor Sununu joins us live now.

Governor that's very generous of you. Thank you for your time. I assume you're doing that one, because you want to be generous to your neighbors but two, what happens in Maine and Vermont could certainly impact what happens in New Hampshire as people eventually get out and start going back and forth.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Oh, without a doubt. New England is a whole whether it's Rhode Island, Connecticut, Mass, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. We're all kind of in this together. Obviously the impacts of New York City and also Boston have a huge effect on New Hampshire.

In many ways southern New Hampshire is like the tax free suburb of Boston if you will, so we have a lot of commuters that go in and out.


There's a lot of COVID-19 a transmissivity across that border and so we're all in it together and so we - we - we talk a lot, we strategize a lot and not that we do everything each other state is doing. We have to obviously operationalize that for ourselves but there's opportunity there to I think, if one of us brings in a lot of PPE or testing or whatever it might be, we're always willing to share and understand, we're in it together.

KING: It's a great - it's a great perspective to have and let's hope it is shared by your neighbors as well. I'm sure it will be. The motto of your state is live free or die. You obviously care first and foremost, about the citizens of the state of New Hampshire.

The President just tweeted moments ago for the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the fake news media are saying it is the governor's decision to open up states, not that of the President of the United States.

He says, let it be fully understood that this is incorrect. It is the decision of the President and for many good reasons. You're a constitutional conservative, Governor Sununu. I know your state. I know your family. I'm not looking for you to pick a fight with the President but you - that's your call in the state of New Hampshire, is it not?

SUNUNU: Well, it was - it was our call to executive order when - if you're talking about businesses to again go to only essential businesses only versus having to - the tough decision of having shut down non-essential businesses, to go into you know groups of ten or less in terms of you know social meetings and things of that nature.

What we do with restaurants, with takeout orders, all these executive orders are state executive orders and so therefore it would be up to the state and the governor to undo a lot of that. And when it comes to - you know, our job as governor to something like this, it's a - it's a pandemic. It has no playbook.

So our job is to operationalize the opportunity coming out of Washington and understand that what we do as governors allows us to connect very individually, right? With an individual business or an individual constituent, someone that's getting unemployment insurance for the first time.

Providing that customer service if you will to a time where people are going through a huge crisis and really again, we have to find that empathy with those folks and use that to make the best decision for our state. So a lot of us will definitely come down upon state decisions.

KING: And so last week, I watched. We played on our program. You were frustrated that the federal government sent you some of those have Abbott testing kids but they didn't send you all the supplies you needed to use them effectively. I want you to listen to a couple of your other colleagues here.

Governor Hogan and Governor Grisham, a Republican and a Democrat saying that even now weeks and months into this, supply issues are still out there.


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R) MARYLAND: I mean everybody still has tremendous needs on personal protective equipment and ventilators and all of these things that you keep hearing about. Everybody's fighting to find these things all over the - all over the nation and all over the world.

GOV. MICHELLE GRISHAM (D) NEW MEXICO: Frankly I spend most of my time chasing personal protective equipment and or testing supplies and I could tell you that after this job, I would be very effective at identifying any kind of laboratory equipment or testing kits you might need anywhere in the world.


KING: Your words, last week governor, where you were banging your head off the wall and you are frustrated. Is it getting any better or states still in this free for all?

SUNUNU: So when - there's two separate issues there. One is PPE. When it comes to PPE, right now most of the commercial markets have been opened up to states but we're all competing against each other. We're competing as other countries, other municipalities across the world. The entire planet is going after PPE in a very aggressive way with only a limited number of suppliers so opening up that supply chain is going to be helpful.

We were very successful here in New Hampshire, yesterday. Bringing millions upon millions of pieces of PPE into New Hampshire and again we're happy to share that with folks and it allows us to put it not in just into the healthcare sector but the private sector as well.

You know, let's say you're a grocery store or you're distributing food to grocery stores and you need to make sure those workers feel safe still to come to work and keep those supply chains moving.

On the testing side, a little different. We have a lot of commercial labs and as people get a test, they can send it to a commercial lab there, doing as best as they can outside of the state. They have about a 10 to 14 days lag time right now in terms of getting results back but they're working hard. On this new Abbot test that came up, the new rapid Abbot test, a great

device. How did you know, very nationally, we got 15 devices. They set the expectation very high but then they didn't send the cartridges to actually do the test and we're going to get more over the next coming week, we hear so that's some positive news, not nearly as many as we need.

I mean in theory, I look to test everybody in my state tomorrow, right? And then really segregate the positives from the negatives. Nobody can practically do that but it is frustrating. In that case, all those tests have to come through FEMA. It's a proprietary thing so we have no choice.

Managing - when you come into a crisis, setting expectations and being very truthful and very clear about that and transparent to the public builds the public trust and that is so critical when you're making these very serious, very impactful decisions.

You have to have public trust and again, setting expectations and then falling short really puts a lot of confusion into the system.

KING: Well, let me just follow up quickly on that. Again, I know you're not here to pick fights but your - if I can translate that, the President keeps saying the testing situation is way better than it actually is when you talk to the governors and the public health professionals, fair?