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NJ Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, Discusses People Violating Stay-At-Home Orders; March Retail Numbers Paint Grim Picture Of Economy; Small Business Emergency Loan Program Almost Out Of Money; Mixed Signals On World Stage As Coronavirus Cases Hit Two Million. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:32:53]

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It is relatively rare, but violating a stay-at- home order can get you in trouble with the law.

New York City empowers its police to hand out fines up to $500 for those who fail to follow directions. In Florida, a pastor was arrested for continuing to hold large services. In Kentucky, multiple people have been placed under house arrest after they refused to stay home despite coming in contact with coronavirus patients.

And in New Jersey alone, the state says there have been more than 1500 incidents, including arrests and fines, since the governor implemented the state of emergency.

With us is the New Jersey state attorney general, Gurbir Grewal.

Sir, thanks so much for joining us.

I get -- I want to put the numbers up on the screen. New Jersey, New York's neighbor, more than 68,000 confirmed cases. More than 2,800 confirmed deaths. There's a lot of pain in your state. So we certainly get the reason for trying to enforce this emergency order.

One would hope and one would think just looking at the numbers would convince residents of your state we need to listen to the governor. We need to listen to our local authorities. But you're seeing some are not.

GURBIR GREWAL, NEW JERSEY STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: That's exactly right, John. Thanks for having me.

Unfortunately, we have what the governor calls knuckleheads. Some residents who don't think they have an obligation to their neighbors to stay-at-home, to be responsible in this moment.

And there are folks who are doing things from loitering in public places to stupid things like holding front lawn Pink Floyd cover band concerts to extremely dangerous things by engaging in violent crime and then coughing on our law enforcement officers when they're arrested.

We take all these allegations seriously because we want compliance with the governor's order, because compliance will save lives here.

KING: So you just listed a number of things that made my head snap back a little bit. Lawn concerts. It's beyond a knucklehead to spit on a law enforcement officer. There's a knucklehead and then there's an idiot and then there's more. You don't have to jump in there. You can leave my words on the table.

Are you seeing one particular thing more common? Is there a certain thing that's happening most often that you think, OK, we need to stop this?

[11:35:01]

GREWAL: You know, it runs the gamut. I think early on, John, it started with gatherings where people were still getting comfortable with what the orders required and what they precluded and didn't preclude. And so early on, we were in the posture of warning folks.

Then we started enforcing these orders more strictly and using the criminal levers we have. So they truly do run the gamut.

What's encouraging is that there's more compliance now than at the beginning of the emergency. And that is, I think, helping flatten the curve here in our state. And saving lives.

KING: I assume you don't want to do this. A lot of these people are out of work. A lot of these people may be short money. And you're reporting the risk of a big fine and a stain on their record in front of them.

You just mentioned you think it's getting a little better. Do you think that threat is actually working?

GREWAL: The deterrence effect is working. What we're doing every day is naming and shaming folks. So at the end of every day, we have a press release listing every one of these violations.

Sometimes we can't list all of them because some are disorderly persons offenses, so we're listing the more serious ones. The indictable offenses, what are felonies in my state, so we hope through that deterrence we'll get more compliance, and we're seeing that we are getting that additional compliance.

Again, that deterrence, that compliance, at the end of the day, is going to save lives.

KING: Another dynamic in this bizarre new normal we live in.

Gurbir Grewal, the attorney general of the state of New Jersey, good luck in the days ahead.

GREWAL: Thank you for having me.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Up next, March retail numbers are out, and they paint a very grim picture of the economy.

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[11:41:27]

KING: It is a historically bad month for the American economy. Retail sales are down 8.7 percent for March. That's the worst drop since the government started keeping track of that statistic.

Let's bring in our Julia Chatterley.

Julia, we talked about this before. America has a consumer-driven economy. Those numbers tell you trouble.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT & ANCHOR: It's big trouble. What this basically says is when the U.S. economy goes into lockdown, so do consumers' wallets.

It reflects our reality. Many of us are sitting at home waiting this virus out.

But we're spending on different things, John. We bought more liquor. We hoarded groceries. We spent far more money online. We spent money on the essentials.

What we weren't buying, clothes. We also weren't going to bars, of course, too, and we weren't buying new cars. These numbers show that.

Two key observations for me. One, it doesn't accurately reflect just how much money we're spending online because we ramped that up.

But two, we only spent half of march under these stay-at-home orders. We have also seen millions of people asking for help, claiming benefits since then, too.

So the fear is that as bad as this number is, the April number is going to be way worse. And it underscores the need to get cash to people as fast as possible -- John?

KING: As you say, the numbers we're looking at, really bad numbers, which suggest to us we'll be looking at even worse numbers.

CHATTERLEY: Yes.

KING: Julia Chatterley, appreciate the important insights there.

The Trump administration, to Julia's point, a program to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus crisis, the administration says that program will run short of money as early as today.

There's bipartisan agreement to pump more into the program. But there's a disagreement between Republicans and Democrats about whether to do that solo or to also address some other issues, like the need to pour money into state budgets.

CNN Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is here.

Phil, a warning from the administration. Will that warning, the money runs dry, break the impasse?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, as you know as well as anybody, nothing actually forces Congress to do something like an actual deadline or an actual urgent need. That's exactly what's going on.

There's been a lot of fits and starts with this small business emergency lending program, but the fact of the matter, small businesses desperately need the money.

Now that the guidelines have become clear, that money has flown out the door.

The big question now is: How do you bridge where Republicans are on Capitol Hill, which is clean funding increase only, nothing else added to it, and Democrats, who have requested, almost demanded, extra money for hospitals, for states and localities and other issues as well.

Here's the state of play. Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, has spoken with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this morning. The staff on the Democratic side, both House and Senate, is expected to meet with the Treasury Department by phone, I'm told, over the course of the day to try to figure out a path forward.

The deadline is not just the money running out but the Senate is in pro forma session. They'll meet tomorrow afternoon. That will be the last meeting this week. They need to have a deal before that meeting.

The big question right now is: Can Secretary Mnuchin and the Democratic leader and the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, reach a deal, one? And, two, will that deal be acceptable to Republican leaders who have taken a very hard line of not adding anything to that additional funding?

That said, I think everybody understands this is an urgent need and it needs to be fixed. It needs to be addressed soon. What Mnuchin and the Democrats can figure out will likely win the day if they can reach an agreement -- John?

KING: If they have worked it out. Every other time in the last several of these pandemic responses, nothing like a deadline, as you note. We shall see and I guess we shall talk tomorrow.

Phil Mattingly, thank you.

[11:45:04]

Let's take a quick look at the markets. You look at the board right there. The Dow down 660 points at the moment.

For the latest stock market news and strategy for your portfolio in these troubled times, check out "MARKETS NOW," streaming live at 12:45 p.m. Eastern. That's only at CNN Business.

Up next, Germany says it will work on easing restrictions despite the country's highest single-day death toll.

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[11:50:10]

KING: Some mixed signals on the world stage today as the global coronavirus case count hits two million. The death toll -- you see the numbers on your screen -- more than 128,000.

Germany rolling out details on easing restrictions. Spain, though, is reporting a new rise in infections.

Public health emergency orders being expanded for U.S. military forces in Japan. South Korea holds an election in the middle of this pandemic.

Our international correspondents now give us a closer look.

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FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Berlin, the German government is looking to ease some of the lockdown measures that were put in place to try and combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Now, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already said that any easing of these restrictions would only happen very gradually and would also be dependent on there not being another new spike in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, the European Union is saying that European countries should have a coordinated effort to get out of these lockdown measures. They say that the prerequisites for countries moving along and opening up their economies is an easing off of cases and also adequate hospital capacities and adequate testing to make sure that any new spike could be detected very quickly.

Meanwhile, here in Germany, the country has seen an easing off of new coronavirus cases, but Germany also saw its largest single-day death toll over the past 24 hours.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

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SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Spain, hundreds of thousands of nonessential workers are back on the job for a third straight day, though new E.U. guidelines suggest that Spain is loosening restrictions too quickly.

The president of the European Commission says that before countries ease restrictions, there should be a sustained decrease in cases, sufficient health care capacity, and widespread testing.

We went through that checklist with public health expert, Peter Drobac, who says that Spain is still not doing enough testing. He says that the fact that Spain is still using a convention center and hotels as hospital wards means that their health care system is far too fragile. And with just 20,000 coronavirus tests a day, testing is not widespread enough.

The Spanish government says that it's carefully considered the risk. It also says that it's increasing its testing, which is the reason why the number of new cases spiked today after a week of decline.

Scott McLean, CNN, Madrid.

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WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Tokyo, a panel of government experts is warning that 400,000 people could die of coronavirus in the coming months without social distancing measures, largely due to this country's lack of ventilators and ICU beds.

U.S. forces Japan is now expanding its declaration of a public health emergency to all of Japan.

This declaration gives commanders the authority to enforce social distancing, travel restrictions, and other measures, in effect, to protect the more than 50,000 U.S. military personnel and their families who are serving in Japan, trying to keep them safe from infection even as many Japanese citizens are still on public transportation, going to work, because most Japanese companies are simply not equipped to allow people to work from home.

Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo.

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PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what an election during a pandemic looks like. This is South Korea, the parliamentary elections.

And as you are coming into the polling station, you have your temperature taken. You are told that you cannot stand less than one meter apart to try and give some distance.

As you come up here, you are given hand sanitizer. Everybody has to sanitize their hands.

Then just before you enter into the polling station itself, you are given disposal gloves to put on, and only then are allowed inside to vote.

When it comes to masks, this is South Korea. Everybody has been automatically wearing a mask and has been for weeks.

There was concern that turnout might be low, maybe people would be too worried about coming to a polling station where other people were. That is clearly not been the case.

Friday and Saturday of last week was when early voting took place, and there was a record turnout, over 26 percent of the electorate voted early. And the final turnout vote we have seen is the highest in well over 20 years.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

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KING: Today marks one week since China lifted its complete lockdown of Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus originated. One week now since 11 million people were free to leave their homes. That, after two and a half months under lockdown.

Airplanes, trains and buses have resumed travel in and out of the city. Factories and other businesses have since reopened. Even social life is returning.

[11:54:51]

Coming up, with millions of students out of school, dozens of universities are now dropping a key admission requirement.

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[11:59:39]

KING: The coronavirus pandemic is completely upending education here in the United States. And here's one more example. More universities now dropping the SAT and the ACT requirement for fall '20-'21 admissions. This, after the companies behind the two tests canceled administration of the exams until June at the earliest.

This trend did not start over night. According to one non-profit group, at least 50 universities and colleges have dropped their testing requirement in recent months.