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Governors Craft Plans to Reopen Economy as Trump Claims 'Total Authority'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 06:00   ET



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: We're starting to see in some areas now that kind of flattening, particularly in a place that was a hot spot like New York.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You keep the course, you'll get transmission essentially down to zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have had deep collaborative spirit of a shared vision for reopening, not just within our states, but more broadly as a region.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The authority of the president of the United States having do with the subject we're talking about is total.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY) (via phone): The president doesn't have total authority. We have a Constitution. We don't have a king.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'll have to make the decision. That's my responsibility. But we're certainly going to consult with the White House.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, April 14, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And this morning, Americans are in need of a plan. A plan to safely reopen the country while preventing a resurgence of coronavirus cases. Governors on both coasts are now joining forces to come up with one, because they say they've seen no presidential leadership.

But President Trump claims he has total authority over what the states do, though the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and even some of the president's conservative allies do not agree. New York's governor tells CNN, quote, "We have a Constitution. We don't have a king," end quote. We will speak live with Governor Andrew Cuomo this morning about what the governors plan to do.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: More than 23,000 Americans are dead from coronavirus. Over 1,000 more are dying every day. Millions of Americans are trying to hold on without a paycheck. Every ounce of energy from every public official should be focused on them, on saving lives, on saving jobs. Every minute, every resource spent on something else is squandered.

And it's a choice. The president is choosing to use a news conference to focus substantially on himself. The president is choosing to use government resources on a taxpayer-funded propaganda-style video. That it ignores or tries to reframe his own history and statements is one thing, but the decision to spend so much time, so much energy, so much emotional investment on it is something else entirely. And it is a choice. And more than a thousand Americans a day are dying from coronavirus.

So that is where we begin this morning.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. He is an epidemiologist and the former director of the Detroit Health Department. Also with us, CNN medical analyst Dr. Celine Gounder. She's an infection disease professor at New York University's School of Medicine.

And Dr. Gounder, from a public health perspective, the announcement from governors, these regional associations of governors. You have them on West Coast. You have them here in the Northeast, who say they're bounding together to figure out ways to reopen or relax some of these restrictions. From a public health standpoint, why does that make sense?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, it makes sense, John, because the virus doesn't think in terms of state borders. It thinks in terms of people. It transmits through people. So you really have to look at how people live and work.

So for example, here in the New York City area, you know, it's not just New York City, right? People live and work on Long Island, out in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut. And so you really need to think about it as a region of people who live and work together and among whom the virus can be transmitting.

CAMEROTA: I don't get how the governors are going to do this, to be honest. I understand their need to come up with something, but what they've said is that the key to reopening the country is going to be widespread testing. We don't have widespread testing. I think in the country, we've tested less than 1 percent of Americans.

And I don't know that the states have the capacity for widespread testing. I don't know that the federal government has the appetite for widespread testing. So how are they going to reopen their states?

GOUNDER: Well, you know, I think there are a few things here. So, first of all, you -- you also need to be able to do contact tracing. You need to be assessing people for symptoms. You know, one of the measures that we can look at is rates of

influenza-like illness. So symptoms that would suggest somebody may have coronavirus and seeing a sustained decrease in suppression in those kinds of cases for at least 14 days.

You know, we still haven't really seen that, for example, in New York City, even though we have seen the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths on the -- on the decrease. You know, we're still not at the point where we could say symptomatically that we have really suppressed this yet.

So you know, there are surrogates like that. But we really do need to be testing at least the people who have symptoms. And in parts of the country, we're not able to do that either.

BERMAN: So Dr. El-Sayed, tell us where you think we are this morning. We've heard Dr. Fauci say that, in many places, including New York City, the hottest of hot spots, the curve has been flattened. What does that mean, effectively, from a public health perspective?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I want to say first of all, that's good news. Right? That means that the highest burden per day of deaths, hopefully, is behind us.

But the risk here is that, if we don't have a plan to reopen our economy and go back to, quote unquote, "normal life" safely, then we may be back into a place where we have another curve.

And so part of this is like thinking about when you're driving a stick shift car. You have to let off the clutch just when you know that the gas is there. Otherwise, the engine stalls out.


And so the question becomes, well, what is there to protect us from that stalling? And as Dr. Gounder said, we need a massive contact- tracing system.

So the way I think about it is, we're going from mass social distancing right now. We need to be able to go to precision social distancing. And for precision social distancing, you need to have both the personnel and the number of tests at -- at your fingertips to be able to apply them and then to isolate individuals who may be exposed as you know that and then test them to see whether or not they can get out of it.

The problem is that we didn't have that infrastructure on the way up to get us to the point where we needed mass mitigation, mass social distancing. And it looks like the federal government has also failed us on the way down.

And so the problem here now is, well, where do you get those resources? How do you make sure that they're there so that, as you let off the clutch, you can -- you can know that the gas is there? We have a plan to keep Americans safe, even as we're going about and doing as we do on normal circumstances? CAMEROTA: I want to take a look at exactly where we are today,

according to the University of Washington model in terms of what states are past the peak and what states are these rolling peaks still headed towards. I think it's really interesting. There's a map here that is color-coded.

So as you might be able to see, the lightest, which is the yellow, means the peak has passed, according to the models in those states. Then the orange, where you see a few states, means the peak will be within a week.

And then the red, which is, it looks like, the majority of the country, is the peak is still to come. And so, you know, Dr. Gounder, we talk about this, how you know, we are sort of, just by definition, New-York-centric, because that's where we are, and this is where we talked to a lot of doctors. But the peak is still to come in much of the country.

GOUNDER: Right, Alisyn. I sort of think about it like falling dominoes. And New York City was the first big domino to fall. You know, it's the -- it's a dense, dense city. It's the biggest city in the country. It has numerous connections all over the world in terms of travel.

And some of the other early dominos to fall were the cities on the West Coast, which also had close ties with Asia, including China. So it's not surprising that those were the cities that had the first peaks.

But then what we're seeing is now spread into the suburbs, for example around New York City. We're seeing spread into the interior of the country, so other cities like Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, and Atlanta.

And then from there, we're going to see ongoing spread into the rest of the country, including rural areas. And we do know there is already transmission in some of the rural areas.

So, you know, it's just a question of the virus making its way through, from initial ports of entry through the rest of the population.

BERMAN: So Dr. El-Sayed, it's interesting, and it's great to have you on with us this morning. You wear a lot of different hats or have in life. Right? Your day job is as an epidemiologist, but you've also been a public service, and you've run for office. So this question is perfectly suited for you.

When you get mixed messages, when you have a president saying, We're opening up, that I'm in charge and we're opening up, and you have governors saying, Well, wait a second. We're going to decide how to do this. From a public health standpoint, from the goal of stopping the spread or containing the spread of a contagion, what's the effect of the mixed messages?

EL-SAYED: Well, it is frustrating, because we all know that what has helped us in controlling, mitigating the spread of this disease has been consistent messaging about the impact of social distancing. And people have been doing that. And it's effective.

Every day we talk about these models, we see them revising downward. We had a slight tick upward. And one has to can ask, well, is that because we're letting up too early?

And so when have messaging from the president on one hand and then messaging from governors and local officials on the other, it can be really confusing.

To step back, we have to understand that everything we do is dictated by how we spend our scarce resources. The scarce resources, they're the question of politics. Science and public health become political when public officials choose not to lead with science, choose not to lead with public health and, instead, put their short-term political self-interest first.

And it's been really frustrating, because you think about where the governors and where local elected officials stand, and they say, Look, I care about what we're going to do to keep people in our community safe. It's clear that we have to continue to social distance until we've gotten over the peak, and we know what we're going to do next.

And then you have messaging from the president that's saying otherwise. And all that does is create confusion, and that undercuts the ability to continue to socially distance as people hear mixed messages.

And so we need to be pushing forward on just saying the science says this. We need to continue to socially distance. We're not quite there yet. We need to plan for what we're going to do afterwards, or we may find ourselves going into the summer, or even coming out of the summer, with another increase in -- in the number of cases and potentially have to go back to this.

BERMAN: It has real-world, on-the-ground public health consequences. Dr. El-Sayed, Dr. Gounder, thanks so much for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.


So with more than a thousand Americans dying every day, still, from coronavirus, it is of note how the president chose to focus the White House task force news conference largely on himself.

CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with the very latest -- Joe.


Starting to see signs the president is getting pushback from the states. Governors on both coasts indicating they are joining forces to try to come up with a coordinated plan to end the lockdown. Apparently, a response to the president's repeated suggestions that he might move forward with or without the buy-in of the scientists advising him.

The president says he has the authority to do it. It sets up a possible showdown between the states and the White House.


JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump used Monday's White House coronavirus task force briefing as a stage to air his grievances.

TRUMP: Everything we did was right. January 17, no cases. No cases. No deaths. I'm supposed to close up the United States of America when I have no cases?

The president of the United States calls the shots.

JOHNS: Trump lashing out at examples of his downplaying of warnings from top health officials about the dangers of a possible pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you do with the time that you bought?

TRUMP: You know what we did?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The month of February.

TRUMP: You know what we did?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That video is a gap. The entire month of February.

TRUMP: What do you do -- what do you do when you have no case in the whole United States --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had cases in February.

TRUMP: Excuse me. You reported it. Zero cases, zero deaths on January 17. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On January. In February. The entire month of


TRUMP: I said in January.

JOHNS: The president also calling up Dr. Anthony Fauci, who publicly walked back his Sunday comments that there was pushback from the Trump administration about calls to begin early mitigation efforts.

FAUCI: It was a poor choice of words. There wasn't anybody saying, no, you shouldn't do that.

JOHNS: Meantime, Andrew Cuomo and six other East Coast state leaders teaming up, pledging to create coordinated plans before lifting stay- at-home orders and reopening establishments like businesses and schools, while limiting the threat of new outbreaks.

CUOMO: This is a time for smart, competent, effective government. Nothing else matters. JOHNS: And on the West Coast, California, Oregon, and Washington's

governors following suit. Trump says he actually holds the key to unlocking society.

TRUMP: When somebody's the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your authority's total?

TRUMP: It's total. And the governors know that. The governors know that.

JOHNS: But just last month he refused any accountability for the administration's failure to get more testing done.

TRUMP: No, I don't take responsibility at all, because we were given a -- a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time. Wasn't meant for this kind of an event.

JOHNS: In reality, the president never issued a nationwide shelter-in- place order, leaving it up to states to decide when to institute measures like social distancing and when to end them.

CUOMO (via phone): I don't agree with the president's legal analysis. The president doesn't have total authority. We have a Constitution. We don't have a king. We have an elected president. And the Constitution clearly says the powers that are not specifically listed for the federal government are reserved to the states.

JOHNS: Several governors who spoke out last night said they don't intend to allow businesses in their states to reopen, unless the experts say it's safe to do so. It's a potential constitutional question that could end up in the courts -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us at the White House. Joe, thanks so much for that overview.

What you saw there was a lot of drama, a lot of yelling, a lot of claims about power. But the key question this morning, the only question, how does this save lives? That's next.




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You said when someone is president of the United States, their authority is total. That is not true. Who told you that?

TRUMP: OK. You know what we're going to do? We're going to write up papers on this. It's not going to be necessary, because the governors need us one way or the other. Because, ultimately, it comes with the federal government.

COLLINS: Has any governor agreed that you have the authority to decide when their state comes back up?

TRUMP: I haven't asked anybody. Because I don't -- You know why? Because I don't have to. Go ahead, please.

COLLINS: But who told you the president has the total authority?

TRUMP: Enough.


BERMAN: President Trump claiming, falsely, that he has, quote, "the total authority" to reopen the economy regardless of whether or not state governors are on board.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe; and CNN White House correspondent John Harwood.

Governor, I want to start with you. And if we can, I just want to dispense with the legal argument. He's wrong. OK? The president does not have total authority. We're going to have Jeffrey Toobin on. We're going to have legal scholars on to explain why.

What matters is how does this help save lives? Why is it that having regional governors band together, why do you think, if you think that that is a better path to reopening parts of the country in the right way?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That is the right way. In fact, I wrote an op-ed with General McChrystal the other day, talking about how we need to coordinate together with the governors, because I'm sitting here in northern Virginia right now. I'm a couple miles from Maryland, and I'm a couple miles from the District of Columbia. Our workforces are all interrelated. You couldn't open up one state and say, We're going back to work, and then, let's say, in Maryland and here in Virginia we don't, because people are moving back and forth constantly.

And the president is, once again, is really, John, creating tremendous controversy here. He is wrong on the facts. But people trust governors today. And the reason is they're leading. They're listening to their health experts, and they're not going to open up before they know their health experts have told them it's safe do it, no matter what the president says. He doesn't have the authority.


And they ought to pay attention to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and try and get aid to the states. Governors are hurting their budgets. We've got to protect first responders, our teachers, our fire, our police. And we're worried about the health crisis and the economic crisis, and Trump's just been wrong on everything.

I remind you that we're mid-April, and he said in February that in mid-April, miraculously, this would go away. It's just not the case. He has no credibility. Governors are going to lead and do the right things for their states.

CAMEROTA: John, I'm struck by, having covered Donald Trump for many years, even before he was president, that this is sort of typical of his style, which is issue a grand proclamation. He's quite good at issuing a grand proclamation. Less good at implementing it. He is not a details person.

So, case in point, he issues the grand proclamation of travel restrictions from China. Then, half a million travelers from China come into the United States in the next month, because there was no plan to stop them. The airports didn't know how to stop them, how to screen them. It was chaos. There was no plan in place.

And so when the president says that he's in charge of this, have you, as a White House reporter, heard what their plan is?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. And what we have is a president who is -- who is ruled by the demands of his ego. We know that every politician cares about how others view him or her. That's in the nature of politics and seeking votes and trying to win an election. But Donald -- Donald Trump is ruled by those forces.

And so he is now trapped in this very awful reality of American life at the moment. The economy that he was going to brag about in his re- election is in shambles. You've got a cascade of illness and death across the country. He's getting criticism for his performance from "The New York Times," on television every single day. He sees that American voters rate their governors much more highly than they do the president. He saw Anthony Fauci go open a Sunday show with Jake Tapper and say, if we'd acted earlier, we might have saved lives. That's all very difficult for him to take.

And so we see him come into the briefing room and rage against this idea that I messed up, and then at the same time, rage against the idea that these governors are moving on past him without him and saying, I'm in total control.

There was an earlier point in the presidency, Alisyn, when people like Jim Mattis at the Defense Department, John Kelly, in essence, tried to work around the president and temper the erratic nature of the things that he would say or the things that he would want to do.

Now governors are doing that in this pandemic. They're trying to work around the president, and that seems to be the arrangement that we're going to go forward with.

BERMAN: Couple quick points. No. 1, the president's internally inconsistent in some of his arguments. On the one hand, he's been saying, I take no responsibility for things that have happened on the way up as the numbers increase in the pandemic.

But as they begin to come down, he says he has total authority and responsibility. It's just internally inconsistent. And the other thing is, I don't know if we have these poll numbers to

put up on the screen. If we don't, I'll just tell you. Monmouth and Quinnipiac have actually polled Americans about how they approve of your own governor's handling of this crisis. Look at that: 72 percent -- 72 percent -- approve; 21 percent disapprove of their governors.

Well, just -- you know, the president's underwater on this. So you can see, people want their governors to be making their decisions on this.

And Terry McAuliffe, again, I care about the public health here. If the president is saying one thing about reopening or relaxing restrictions, and the governor of Virginia, for instance, is saying another, what is a person in Roanoke to do?

MCAULIFFE: They're going to listen to the governor of Virginia. I mean, the problem is for Trump, is he's made so many inconsistent statements. I mean, he has not been telling the truth since, really, January 3 when intelligence agencies first gave him an inkling. It had been in his presidential daily brief.

So, you know, they watched yesterday, where he retweeted somebody to say fire Fauci. People love Anthony Fauci. They don't want to see him fired.

It's like the president is emotionally and mentally incapable of dealing with a crisis of this magnitude. And I think the American public see that. They see their governors every day doing press conferences. And they listen to what the governor's saying. They're not making false statements. They're just laying out the facts to keep their communities safe, because you know, your main responsibility as a governor is to keep your community safe. And that's what they're doing every single day.

So there's not trust with the president. There is trust with their governors. So if I'm the governor of Virginia and the president is saying, I'm going to listen to my health professionals and I'm not going to act until I know what my health professionals say. What is it that's going to keep my citizens safe?



HARWOOD: Hey, John.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Go ahead.

HARWOOD: I was just going to say there is a consistency in what the president's doing. It's not a philosophic consistency or a policy consistency.

The consistency is that he is saying things that flatter himself, that he's defending himself against the idea that he's done wrong. When things go bad, he blames other people. And then, when a decision is coming up and somebody else seems to be making it, he's saying, No, I'm the powerful guy, I'm in total control. That's the consistency. It's about Donald Trump's evaluation of Donald

Trump and how other people are viewing him.

CAMEROTA: And you know, what I was going to say, Governor, is that a lot of people trust and like what they've heard from Dr. Fauci, but President Trump's -- some of President Trump's right-wing media allies don't. And you hear them more often now, I think, trying to make him the fall guy for something. It seems as though somebody is going to have to be the fall guy for whatever missteps or, you know, belated actions there were. And it might be Dr. Fauci.

But on a bigger note, Governor, what did you think of the -- I can only call it a propaganda video that the president showed at this press conference yesterday. It was with -- you know, the White House made it, so that's taxpayer money. This wasn't a campaign video, though it smelled a lot like a campaign video. And it obviously was selectively edited to make the president seem in charge.

One of the reporters, as you may have heard in the press conference, said you omitted February. Where were any of the actions in February?

But, you know, as somebody who has been in politics a long time and been around presidents, what should Americans think of that being played yesterday at taxpayer expense at a press briefing?

MCAULIFFE: I mean, it's sad. You look at that, and you've got to say, well, the man's just not all there anymore.

I just think this crisis has totally overwhelmed him. He doesn't understand the implications.

But on the serious issues of, like, when he told us that everybody can get a test. I mean, I was getting calls yesterday from people having problems being able to get a test. He had them believe they could go on Google and you could fill out this form, and you immediately could go to thousands of pharmaceutical parking lots. None of that, Alisyn, is true.

And then he comes out with this video, paid for at taxpayer expense.

And that's the problem Trump has today. People don't believe him. He does not have credibility. They don't think he's up to the job of dealing with this global pandemic.

And that's why I go back to people trust their governors. I mean, I know. I used to serve as chairman of the National Governors Association. I know all these governors. They have not put out anything, if you think about it, that has been incorrect in their daily press conferences. They're just telling the truth. They're trying to keep their citizens safe.

They're trying to hold their state economies together. You can imagine being a governor. We're not the federal government. They get to print money. If you want, you know, $2 trillion federal government, get it. You don't get to do that as a governor. You've got to balance your budget. So you know, you're dealing with all these constraints, but under intense pressure, you always tell the truth. And I think (AUDIO GAP) the American public, these are the folks -- the governors are the ones that we can rely on, because they're telling us the truth, and they're working their heart out to keep us safe.

And Trump is doing videos and babbling on. And I seriously wonder what's going on upstairs, honestly.

CAMEROTA: Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, we appreciate your perspective. John Harwood, thank you very much for the reporting.

Coming up in our next hour, we will speak with two of the governors who will be leading the regional effort to -- on how to reopen. That's New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.

Farmers across the country are being forced to dump millions of dollars in produce even as Americans are struggling to find food and lining up at food banks. We explain this disconnect, next.