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THE SITUATION ROOM

The New Normal?; White House Holds Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; U.S Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 27,000. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:23]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're monitoring the coronavirus briefing over at the White House.

But, right now, we have breaking news on strict coronavirus restrictions that may last for months. The mayor of Los Angeles telling me just moments ago that the city may ban concerts, sporting events, other large gatherings until next year, when a vaccine may be available.

Also tonight, new orders for wearing face coverings in public are in the works in New York, Maryland, and Connecticut, as well as in Los Angeles.

As state and local officials set their own social distancing guidelines and timelines, we're learning that President Trump is facing pressure from industry leaders are right now, want COVID-19 testing ramped up dramatically before people return to work.

But sources tell CNN it may be nearly impossible to steer the president away from his goal of reopening at least some of the economy on May 1.

Let's get some more from our national correspondent, Erica Hill. She's in New York for us.

Erica, we may not necessarily see any big events, sporting events, concerts in cities like L.A. and New York, the two largest cities in the United States, for months to come, as this U.S. battle to contain the coronavirus continues.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.

The mayors in those cities, as well as New Orleans, really doing their best to adjust expectations for their residents. We're also hearing from the governor of Colorado, who says, we are not going to go back to the way things were in January or even February right now.

Across the country Wolf, the message is clear. These changes are here to stay for some time. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): The iconic Hollywood Bowl will remain empty.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELEs: It's difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands any time soon. We have got many, many miles to walk before we're going to be back in those environments.

HILL: The mayors of Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York suggesting major events like Jazz Fest, concerts and sports likely won't return until next year.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We have got one chance. If we move too quick, we put 50,000 people in Yankee Stadium, and that's part of why you see a resurgence of the disease, that would be the worst of all worlds.

HILL: As the president continues to push for a symbolic May 1 reopening, officials around the country are focused on the safety of their individual communities.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I say, personal opinion, it's over when we have a vaccine. It's over when people know, I'm 100 percent safe, and I don't have to worry about this.

HILL: That vaccine likely at least a year away, as experts predict the virus will return.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We're going to have another battle with it, up front aggressively next winter.

This is why it's so important that we take the time now to really improve our testing capacity, expand our public health, capacity to do early case recognition, contact tracing and isolation. I call it block and tackle, block and tackle.

HILL: San Francisco is launching a partnership to tackle contact tracing. Los Angeles now offering same- or next-day testing to its 10 million residents. Anyone with COVID symptoms is eligible.

In New Jersey, the nation's first saliva testing site is now open, Major League Baseball pitching in for antibody testing, players, their families, concession workers, some 10,000 volunteers in total part of a nationwide study to better understand the infection and its spread.

Antibody testing will be key to any reopening, and it is needed on a massive scale.

CUOMO: It is very hard to bring this to scale quickly. And we need the federal government to be part of this.

HILL: New York today announcing mandatory face coverings in public, when social distancing can't be maintained, as the state cautiously embraces a plateau, others, like Georgia, preparing for a possible surge.

Michigan's strict stay-at-home orders prompting protests in the state today. Governor Charlie Baker says Massachusetts is now in the surge and became emotional talking about the 957 lives lost in his state.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): I pay attention to the numbers, but what I really think about mostly are the stories and the people who are behind the stories.

HILL: The story of Gregory Hodge, an EMT in New York, just one example of the many lives stopped short.

The 24-year veteran of the FDNY assisted at the World Trade Center after 9/11. He died as a result of COVID-19. Gregory Hodge was 59 years old.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:05:03]

HILL: Wolf, so many of these stories are personal.

We have just learned from the state of Connecticut that they have received two years' worth of unemployment claims in just one month, which also puts in perspective just how drastic these changes have been for so many Americans across the country.

BLITZER: Erica Hill reporting for us from New York -- Erica, thank you very much.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president held his first teleconference with his new economic task force earlier today. What are you learning about that?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And we should point out, in just the last few moments, President Trump said he is going to announce new social distancing guidelines for when the country reopens at the end of the month. The president said just a few moments ago that is based on what he is seeing, other advisers are seeing about the country reaching a peak in cases of the coronavirus.

But, in the meantime, President Trump is beginning to reach out to business leaders about reopening the country. And some of those industry officials are warning him, more coronavirus testing is needed, and quickly.

Facing growing criticism over his administration's response, President Trump is in search of scapegoats. White House officials are scrambling to point the finger at the World Health Organization and China.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): One day after President Trump called on business leaders to advise him on reopening the U.S. economy... DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have had requests to participate from the best in the world, as we share their enthusiasm to get our country going. So I thank them for wanting to contribute.

ACOSTA: ... some of those industry officials on a conference call with White House aides insisted that the administration ramp up coronavirus testing before companies start bringing employees back to work.

Administration health experts are conceding more testing is needed.

REDFIELD: It's going to be really important to get a few things in place, more, obviously, testing for early diagnostics.

ACOSTA: With the number of dead from the coronavirus soaring, the president is pointing fingers at the World Health Organization, halting its funding, and accusing the group but being lapdogs for China.

TRUMP: The WHO's reliance on China's disclosures likely caused a twentyfold increase in cases worldwide. And it may be much more than that.

ACOSTA: Still working to control the pandemic, the WHO responded to the president's decision with restraint.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We regret the decision of the president of the United States to order a hold in funding to the World Health Organization.

ACOSTA: For weeks, critics have questioned how the WHO and China were responding to the pandemic. Yet, back in February, the president was praising both China and the WHO.

TRUMP: China, I can tell you, is working very hard. We're working with them. We just sent some of our best people over there, World Health Organization, and a lot of them are composed of our people. They're fantastic. And they're now in China. And we're helping them out.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump has failed to own up to the fact that he has touted China's transparency on the virus.

TRUMP: I don't talk about China's transparency.

ACOSTA: But that's not true. He has. On January 24, the president tweeted: "China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi."

It's not clear whether administration officials are taking the president's bluster seriously.

REDFIELD: I'm just going to say that WHO has been and a longstanding partner for CDC. We have worked together to fight health crises all around the world. We continue to do that.

ACOSTA: Top White House official Kellyanne Conway blasted the WHO, saying it should have known how to deal with a virus by now.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: This is COVID-19, not COVID-1, folks, and so you would think the people charged with the World Health Organization facts and figures would be on top of that.

ACOSTA: But it's Conway who should know, according to the CDC, the name COVID-19 stands for coronavirus 2019, as in the year it was first detected.

With the president eager to end social distancing by May 1, officials at the CDC and FEMA have drafted a plan for reopening the U.S. But the plan obtained by "The Washington Post" contains a warning: Models indicate 30-day shelter in place, followed by 180-day lifting of all mitigation results in large rebound curve.

With businesses closed across the U.S., the administration is churning out stimulus checks to millions of Americans. But those checks will now come with Mr. Trump's name on that, though not his signature, something he danced around earlier this month.

TRUMP: Me sign? No. There's millions of checks. I'm going to sign them? No. It's a Trump administration initiative. But do I want to sign them? No.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, one indication of how administration officials are scrambling to meet the president's goal to reopen the country on May 1, some of the industry and labor leaders who were named by the White House as advisers on reopening the country were not even notified first.

Sources tell CNN several of the next names were added first before they were contacted.

[18:10:02]

And, Wolf, it's not clear how much they're being talked to about this goal that the president has to reopen the country on May the 1st, if the president is planning on unveiling these new guidelines that he's been talking about tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting, indeed.

All right. Jim Acosta reporting now for us from the White House -- Jim, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our analyst to discuss what's going on.

Gloria Borger, we're starting to learn more about what our new post- coronavirus world might be looking like, the so-called new normal, the mayor of Los Angeles telling me in the last hour that events with thousands of attendees, concerts, sporting events, likely will remain on hold until 2021.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. BLITZER: I heard a similar statement from the mayor of New York, Bill

de Blasio, here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the last hour.

What else are you learning about how state and local officials are planning to slowly reopen their economies?

BORGER: Well, state and local officials all over the country are going to do it in different ways.

I mean, you just talked to the two biggest city mayors. And they are clearly taking it slowly and carefully. Mayors in the center of the country are going to have a very different sense about when they can reopen.

And, of course, Wolf, they're all going to see what sort of guidelines the president is really talking about. He said today that he's going to announce them, I believe, on Thursday.

But even on his phone call with business leaders, business leaders were saying to the president, look, we cannot reopen until we have the kind of testing we need to make sure that our citizens are safe.

So, I think what you're going to hear is caution from people who have to try and save the lives...

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, hold on for one moment.

Dr. Birx is speaking over in the Rose Garden. I want to hear what she has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: ... across the country. And this has been very in -- reassuring for us. At the same time, we know that mortality and the fatalities that we're facing across the United States continue.

We know the number of people who are still in the hospitals, in the ICUs. And we want to continue to recognize the health care workers who are on the front lines, and really recognize how low the United States case fatality rates are compared to other countries.

And this is really due not only to our technology, but how that technology is utilized to save lives.

At the same time, I'm inspired by the American people, who continue social distancing. These cases continue to decline because of the strong work of the American people.

I also wanted to let you know that we do have nine states that have less than 1,000 cases and less than 30 new cases per day. So, we're looking at states and metro areas as individual -- individual areas.

We talked before how each of these curves are different. Each of the cases, experiences are different. We have some states like California and Washington state, Oregon, that never really had a peak because of so much work that their populations did to decrease and keep the new cases down.

So, each of these individual states and individual metros are being studied very specifically.

I do want to highlight, and we are remaining concerned, and we have been having discussions with Rhode Island. Rhode Island and Providence are in a unique situation. First, they had increasing cases from the New York City area, and now they have new -- new increasing cases from the Boston area. They're caught between two incredible hot spots in the country.

They're doing an extraordinary job. They're caring for the individuals on the front lines, but Providence continues to have new cases.

And we do continue to work with specific states that have specific outbreaks related to individual occurrences.

I will just remind the American people again, this is a highly contagious virus. Social gatherings, coming together, there is always a chance that an asymptomatic person can spread the virus unknowingly. No one is intending to spread the virus.

We know, if you're sick, you will stay home. But to all of you that are out there that would like to join together and just have that dinner party for 20, don't do it yet. Continue to follow the presidential guidelines.

We really appreciate the work of the American people. We see, as a country, we're improving. We see, as metro areas we're improving. We see, as communities, as counties, and as states, we're improving. But that also still requires everyone to continue to social distance.

And, in the end, we do have states that have very few cases and very few new cases. And so these are the ones the president is referring to that have been silent, relatively silent, throughout this epidemic and pandemic that many of us have faced.

[18:15:05]

And so these are the groups we are working with very specifically. And each of these governors and each of these mayors will have to make decisions after generalized guidelines are put out, so that they can do what's best for their communities. They are at the front line.

And I wanted to conclude by really thanking my PEPFAR teams around the world, who have been working tirelessly throughout the world to ensure that Africa and Asia doesn't experience this level of infections that we have seen here.

They have turned over their capacities from their embassies. Our U.S. hires throughout the world, our ambassadors are still on the front line with our local staff, working with ministries, of how to confront this virus around the globe.

And I assure you that they are continuing to invest in the health structures, the laboratory and the front-line care to ensure that all of the work that we have done against T.B., HIV and malaria continues, but that we use our capacity, our laboratories, our clinics, our hospitals that have been built by the American people and the generosity of the American people to really combat this COVID-19 around the globe.

Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you, Doctor.

Sonny, please.

SONNY PERDUE, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to be here with you today and to -- I want you to know it's an honor to represent you in leading the Department of Agriculture and represent the constituency who are crucial in maintaining our nation's food security, enabling us to keep food on the table of our American families, not only just food, but wholesome and safe food as well.

I would like to start my remarks today by echoing what my colleagues at the CDC have been saying regarding the health and safety of our essentially employees across the United States.

CDC has provided strategies there that aim at helping our most critical workers, both in health care and in food processing, to quickly and safely return to work after potential exposure to COVID- 19, provided those workers are symptom-free.

And this guidance will help these critical industries in the food sector provide -- to protect the health and safety of essential workers, while keeping critical functions working throughout the COVID-19 response.

As we know, any employee who develops symptoms while on the job should go home immediately. And the interim guidance is in line with CDC's recommendations for health care workers caring for those sick with COVID-19.

So, we appreciate the dedication and commitment of all the brave men and working -- women working to keep their communities fed. And we will continue to work with the CDC to keep those individuals as safe as possible during these challenging times.

In that vein, there's been a lot happening this week. It's -- COVID-19 is impacting food processing facilities, as you know. For Americans who may be worried about access to good food because of this, I want to assure you, the American food supply is strong, resilient, and safe.

And, in fact, our food supply chain has shown tremendous agility in shifting production and logistics so suddenly, from restaurant and institutional settings to retail settings.

To all the employers out there in the sector, it's critical that you follow CDC guidelines and guidance and best practices to keep all of your employees and people safe and healthy. To employees and local public health officials advising them, the CDC has issued guidelines on how to mitigate a situation if you have a positive case in one of your facilities.

We need our local health authorities and our state health authorities to do everything they can to balance the demand of keeping our facilities operational and our critical industries going, while at the same time keeping the health and safety of employees as a top priority, as well as our communities.

So, I want to also take this time to thank all of our critical essential food supply chain workers. The entire country is counting on these patriotic individuals by doing the work in our food supply chain.

These dedicated workers include, obviously, farmers and producers, but also processors, truckers, and grocery store workers, as you know.

America is depending on, will you have the food we need to feed our families? And you're the ones who are making that happen. Thank you.

As an entire nation, we're truly thankful for the work you're doing. And we recognize that you are the true patriotic heroes during this national emergency, along with our health care workers.

So, before I sign off here, Mr. President, I want to remind you and all of us of one more thing. In the United States, we have plenty of food for all of our citizens. I want to be clear.

The bare store shelves that you may see in some cities in the country are a demand issue, not a supply issue. The way food is prepared and packaged to be sold in a restaurant or a school is significantly different than the way it's packaged for you to buy in the grocery store.

[18:20:15]

Our supply chain is sophisticated, efficient, integrated, and synchronized. And it's taken us a few days to relocate the misalignment between institutional settings and grocery settings.

But that does not mean that we don't have enough food in this country to feed the American people. You might think of it as an interstate. When it's little flowing along well and you have a crash in one place, it backs up. And that's what's happened in the food supply chain. But we're working through that.

Yet all this -- through all this, our food supply chain has proven to be very resilient, just like American people. To the extent we have challenges, we have and continue to need to work through it all together.

And we can and we will get through this with a whole-of-American approach, Mr. President, and the critical partnership between state and local health officials, management of companies and the employees. And we will meet any challenges we face by working together. Thank you, sir, for the opportunity.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

And before the vice president comes up, I just wanted to say, speaking of Sonny, China has paid us billions of dollars, many, many billions of dollars in tariffs, which we have distributed, some to the farmers, because they were targeted.

We have many billions of dollars being held by Sonny. And I have told him to distribute much of that money to the farmers. Our farmers were targeted, and now they're benefiting by the amount that they were targeted. And we are very honored to do that.

And, Sonny, you're going to start that process very soon. You will let the farmers know. Nobody can take advantage of our farmers. So, we have a lot of money that we have taken in from China. We're going to be distributing that money from Sonny to the farmers.

And there is tremendous money over and above that. That money was paid directly into the Treasury of the United States. This has never happened to China before. They never gave us 10 cents. Now they're paying us billions of dollars. And we appreciate it.

So, thank you very much, Sonny. Great job.

Please. Mike, please.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force met today. It was reported to us that we have conducted and completed 3,324,000 tests across the nation. More than 619,000 Americans have tested positive.

But, as you reflected yesterday, when we welcomed coronavirus survivors here to the White House from across the country, some more than 45,000 Americans have fully recovered.

Sadly, we mourn the loss of more than 27,000 of our -- our countrymen. Our hearts are with their families and with the families of all of those that continue to struggle with the serious consequences of this illness.

But, as Dr. Birx just reflected, despite the heartbreaking losses, we're getting there, America. Because of the efforts of people all across this country to put into practice the president's coronavirus guidelines, because of their adherence to the direction of state and local authorities, as Dr. Birx just reflected, we see great signs of progress from the West Coast to the East Coast.

President Trump has directed our team to develop new guidelines that will be presented tomorrow to our nation's governors and released to the American people thereafter.

The American people will be encouraged to know that, as we stand here today, 24 percent of the counties of this country have no reported coronavirus cases. In fact, half of the states in America have less than 2,500 cases per state.

This is a great tribute to the efforts by the people of those communities. But, as the president suggested, when we unveil the guidelines that the team has been working to present tomorrow to our nation's governors, we're going to reflect on the fact that, as the president said, there will be areas of the country that will require continued mitigation and strong efforts, and there will be other areas of the country that will be -- be given guidance for greater flexibility.

And the president has so directed our team.

When we think of more than 619,000 Americans having tested positive, more than 45,000 having recovered, we wanted to announce today that the FDA recently announced efforts to facilitate the development and access to convalescent plasma.

[18:25:07]

Mr. President, you have spoken about this.

People who have recovered from the coronavirus have antibodies in your bloodstream that can attack the virus. The Mayo Clinic today is working with the Red Cross to make sure that coronavirus patients have access to the convalescent plasma treatments. And over 1,000 institutions across America have already joined this program.

And we want to urge every American who has recovered from the coronavirus for at least two and preferably four weeks to contact your local blood or plasma donation center and arrange to donate.

It's one more way that the American people can do their part and step forward. And thousands have already done so. And we know that tens of thousands will join them.

On the subject of supplies, Mr. President, I will be very brief, because you detailed a great amount.

As the president mentioned, the air bridge has completed 44 flights; 56 more are scheduled.

But on the subject of facial masks, which are so important for the protection of critical infrastructure, I'm pleased to report that the average daily delivery through the commercial network, through our air bridge, is 22 million facial masks coming into the marketplace.

The average inventory in the network over a seven-day period is 80 million masks. And FEMA is actually working as we speak to move facial masks to priority infrastructure, food supply, first responders. There will be 6.5 million masks that go out before the end of this week, an additional 20 million before April the 20th. And then we will be adding 6.5 million each and every week.

At the president's direction, we're going to ensure that all of those that work in food supply, all of those first responders have access to masks. And we're increasing those every day.

Finally, I know I speak for the president when I say how proud we are of all of our health care workers across the country, and how proud we are of the men and women in uniform, our medical professionals, who have been deployed across the nation, literally by the thousands.

In fact, as we stand here today, 576 doctors, nurses and other military medical professionals have been deployed to 13 hospitals across the nation, 10 in New York and one in Connecticut, Texas and Louisiana each.

And as the president reflected a few days ago, because we did not have the -- happily did not have the demand on the Javits Center and on the Comfort in New York City, at the president's direction, we have deployed doctors and nurses from those two facilities to hospitals.

In fact, the president and I were just speaking to Mayor de Blasio just before we came out. And he expressed his great admiration and appreciation for the relief that these medical military personnel have provided to incredibly dedicated people in our hospitals; 258 medical personnel just yesterday were deployed off the ship and out of the Javits Center into New York.

With that, Mr. President, I will step aside.

But it's remarkable to think of all that we have accomplished over the last month, since you first issued the presidential guidelines for America.

The truth is, because of what the American people have done over the last 30 days, we are slowing the spread. We are ensuring that every American family would have access to the health care that we'd want any member of our family to have with the greatest health care professionals in the world.

We're saving lives. And we're healing our land. And so we want to thank the American people for all you have done.

And, tomorrow, we will be presenting new guidance to the governors of this country about how we build on our progress and reopen America in a safe and responsible way.

Thank you, Mr. President.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you, Mike.

QUESTION: On the recess appointments, Mr. President, if I could. Mr. President...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Steve, please.

QUESTION: You have mentioned the possibility of adjourning both chambers of Congress. Could you explain what you meant by that, sir?

TRUMP: Very simple.

If they don't act on getting these people approved that we need, because of the -- we need them anyway. But we especially need now because of the pandemic.

We are going to do something that will be something I'd prefer not doing, but which I should do and I will do, if I have to.

Kaitlan, go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) questions for you.

One, on a call with business leaders today, they said testing has got to be ramped up significantly before the country -- before they feel comfortable reopening their stores, their restaurants, and whatnot.

TRUMP: Sure.

QUESTION: Isn't that what health officials and state governors have been...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: It's's what I want too.

And we have great tests. And we want the states to administer these tests, for the most part. But we're standing behind them. We have great tests. We have done more testing now than any country, as you know, in the world, by far.

We have the best tests of any country in the world. Nobody has the quality of tests, the -- if you look at Abbott, what they have come up with in a short period of time, they have been incredible.

[18:30:01]

Roche has been incredible. We have the best tests in the world and we will be working very much with the governors of the states. We want them to do it. We're not going to be running a parking lot in Arkansas. We're not going to be running a parking lot where you have a Walmart, which has been great, by the way, Walmart has done a fantastic job, but where you have a testing center and running that from Washington, D.C. The states are much better equipped to do it.

But we'll be working with the states. We're standing behind the states. We're going to work very closely with the governors in terms of that getting additional equipment. It used to be three, four weeks ago, two weeks ago, could we get more ventilators, more ventilators, right? And, well, we got the ventilators and you don't hear that anymore. It's been pretty amazing what we've been able to do.

Yes, go ahead John.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of testing center were still the first responders, healthcare workers who have (INAUDIBLE) only? When is it going to be widespread and up to where these companies are still comfortable of being open? Will that be --

TRUMP: Well, I think the companies will determine that and the governors will determine that and the federal government will. And if we're not happy, we'll take very strong action against a state or a governor. If we're not happy with the job a governor is doing, we'll let them know about it. And as you know, we have very strong action we can take, including a close down. But we don't want to do that.

We're working with the governors and we're working closely with the governors. Relationship has been very good. The vice president has had a lot of conversations over the last two weeks with either 50 or almost 50 governors on every conversation. And they've been really positive conversations. We have the right to do whatever we want, but we wouldn't do that. But, no, we would have the right to close down what they're doing if we want to do that. But we don't want to do that. And I don't think there will be any reason to do that, but we have the right to do that.

Steve, go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. President, why did you have your name added to these coronavirus relief checks?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know too much about it but I understand my name is there. I don't know where they're going, how they're going. I do understand it's not delaying anything, and I'm satisfied with that. I don't imagine it's a big deal. I'm sure people will be very happy to get a big fat beautiful check and my name is on it.

Yes, go ahead, please. Go ahead please, please, please, go ahead.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Dr. Birx just said Rhode Island is seeing an increase in cases from people coming from Boston and New York. You just said you'd like to reopen some states before May 1. How would you stop a second spike in cases if people are traveling between states? How do you control the flow of people --

TRUMP: Well, the governors can control that flow. As an example, in fact, I just saw a little while ago was reported that certain borders are being controlled already by states. They're starting to take control of their borders, which is good. So they'll be controlling.

They may do testing for people wanting to come in. I've read that about Rhode Island. So they have to watch it. They have to be very careful.

Yes, please in the back.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. About reopening of the country then you said along with other nations, what form would it take -- are you considering also a relaxing the border between Canada and the U.S.?

TRUMP: So our relationship with Canada is very good. We'll talk about that. It will be one of the early borders to be released. Canada is doing well. We're doing well. We'll see. But at some point we'll be doing that.

In the meantime, nations that are heavily infected, we have a lot of nations that are heavily infected. Some are getting better, some are still on the way up, unfortunately. We're keeping very strong borders with those nations. But with Canada, we are talking about different things.

Yes, please.

REPORTER: Mr. President, you said the evidence suggests that nationwide, we have passed the peak for new cases. What's your evidence for that? Where are the numbers there?

TRUMP: Well, all we're doing is looking at the numbers. We're looking at our graphs. we're looking at our models. We're getting a great response from Deborah and Tony and from many of the professionals that are working -- we have great professionals working with us. And I think based on that, we're doing very well.

Based on that it looks like we're headed absolutely in the right direction. But some states are looking at other states and they're saying, I can't imagine what they're going through because they're not in that position. They're in very good shape. I would say that we have 20 states at least, but you really have 29 that are in extremely good shape. You have others that are getting much better. And I think with almost few exceptions you have every state that is either doing better or on the way to doing better.

Yes, please. Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. On your threat to adjourn Congress, clearly, you have the power of Article 2, Section 3, but that would be quite radical to do? Earlier last month, you were in the Oval Office talked about now is not the time for partisanship. How will that act lower the partisanship in this town, and could it potentially hinder your ability to get something done on coronavirus?

TRUMP: No, it is -- look, it's been a very partisan government for a long period of time, not just this administration.

[18:35:02]

You can go back into last two administrations. You've seen a lot of partisanship. And even now, you would think that we wouldn't have, as an example, with the paycheck plan, that's going so well. It's so smooth, so beautiful, almost without a hitch. All of that money is being distributed to small businesses.

They're giving it to their employees and it's keeping them ready and viable so when we open -- and now it's been so good that it's almost depleted and we want to replenish it, and we can't get the Democrats to approve it. And that's a program that they and everybody else admit that are great. So you do have partisanship. We have been trying for years to get people approved for positions. People have left -- one man left a law firm. One man left a big chain. He was a very successful executive. He left. It was two years ago. We have people that have been waiting for three years, and we can't get them approved by the Democrats in the Senate because they're taking so long to approve our judges.

Now, I have to tell you that I'm totally in favor of what Mitch is doing with judges because that's always seems to be a priority, and it's a very important priority. And I think it's one of the great trademarks of this administration. We've approved record numbers of federal judges and appellate judges and two Supreme Court judges.

But rather than approving somebody who's highly qualified, somebody that everybody knows is going to be approved, rather than going quickly they take the maximum amount of time, whatever that time may be. And what they're doing by doing that is taking days to approve somebody that could be approved in a quick vote. People that get phenomenal reviews in committee are going maximum number of hours. And what they do is there's only so many hours in a day.

Now, we could have said let's stay. I would have been in favor of that. They didn't choose to do it. But I have a very strong power. I'd rather not use that power, but we have way over 100 people that we very badly need in this administration that should have been approved a long time ago.

And one of them is the head of voice of America. If you look at what they're doing and what they're saying about our country, it's a disgrace the people that are running that. We have somebody that's really good, really talented and that loves our country. And I want to get these people approved.

That's one of many. We have professionals. Sonny, you've been waiting -- for how long have you been you waiting for the man that we're talking about coming in? Two and a half years. So Sonny Purdue just happens to be here talking about something else.

So you've been waiting for one of the most important positions as secretary of agriculture is the position, it's distribution. We need it now. We're talking about shelves. We're talking about cupboards. He needs it. He's been waiting. He didn't know he was going to get this question.

You've been waiting two and a half years. The person is exceptional. That person left a very good job, and it's embarrassing to me. He'll say do you think you'll get that man approved? He's been saying that to me for a long time. It's because of the Democrats.

And what we're doing is -- and I think anybody here will do it, judges are a priority. A federal judge is going to sit for 50 years, potentially young judge, are going to be sitting for-- that's always going to have to be a priority. But because they're taking so much time and approving every -- they are trying to put us through the mill. When you talk about partisanship, and that's never, ever happened before. You can look at every administration in the history of this country, nobody has ever had hundreds of people not approved after 3 1/2 years.

Go ahead, please.

REPORTER: What's the time line for that though? If Congress doesn't act that way, do you have a date?

TRUMP: Well, they know. They've been warned and they're be warned right now. If they don't approve it then we're going to go this route. And we'll probably be challenged in and court and we'll see who wins. But when the court hears that we aren't getting people approved, as Sonny would say, for 2 1/2 years for an important position that we need because of this crisis, we needed these people before but now we really need these people.

REPORTER: Back to the numbers for a second. When you talk about the numbers, the jobless plan is going to come out tomorrow. It's likely 5 million more Americans putting their names in front for unemployment benefits, but yet there are still a couple thousand people as well dying a day because of coronavirus. When you talk about opening up the American economy or at least in parts now, how do you balance that decision out given both of those figures?

TRUMP: Well, we are -- there has to be a balance. You know, there's also death involved in keeping it close. And I've gone over this with you. And I believe this so strongly. When you look at mental health, when you look at suicides, suicide hot lines, which are exploding, people losing their jobs, when you look at drugs and people that didn't take drugs and now they're becoming drug addicted because they're going through a problem.

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They have no job. They have no money coming in other than the money we're getting them. We've opened up the coffers to a large extent. We're helping people. This is why I wish the Democrats would help us a little bit with it because they should. It's purely partisan what they're doing, and it's bad for our country. But, you know, there's death by doing -- by having this strongly closed country. We have to get back to work.

With all of that being said we're going to start with states and with governors that have done a great job, and they're going to open it up as they see fit, and we're going to be right behind them. And we're going to be working. We're going to be supplying them with things if they don't have them. We want them to have them.

We're going to be helping them with ventilators after this is over so that they can't say, oh, the federal government. We want them to have -- they've had lot of options. Many of the governors have had a lot of options over the years to buy ventilators. They didn't choose to do it. So we're going to be helping them to fill up their stockpiles. We're going to have plenty. And as I said I'm very proud to do. We're going to be helping other nations. We're going to be helping Italy, Spain, France, other nations. And we're going to be helping them strongly. I think Russia is going to need ventilators. They're having a hard time in Moscow.

We're going to help them. We're going to help other countries that need ventilators. We're going to have a lot. You see it with General Motors. You see it with other companies that are producing -- we're going to have hundreds of thousands of ventilators, and it's a great thing to have.

Yes, in the back, please. Is anybody freezing? You know, it's very cold out here. We can leave early, right? A couple more. Go ahead, please?

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Why do we have 20 percent of the world's deaths on coronavirus and only 4 percent of the world's population?

TRUMP: Well, you don't know what you have. Do you think you're getting honest numbers from these countries? Do you really believe the numbers in the vast country called China and that they have a certain number of cases and a certain number of deaths? Does anybody really believe that? Here is the story, we report everything. We're reporting the cases, and our reporting is good. We're reporting every death.

In fact, I see this morning where New York added 3,000 deaths because they died and they're now saying rather than it was a heart attack, they're saying it was a heart attack caused by this. So they're adding it. If you look at it, that's it. And everything we have is documented, reported. And what they are doing is just in case, you're calling at this, and that's okay. That's okay. But we are -- we have more cases because we do more reporting. We have more cases because everything is down.

But does anybody really believe the numbers of some of these countries that you've been watching and you've been reporting on, and then it's like they didn't have the big thing? There have been some really, really bad, heavily and, really, some countries that are in big, big trouble and they're not reporting the facts. And that's up to them. All I know is we report the facts and we're a country that's getting better.

John, go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. President, multiple sources are telling Fox News today that the United States government now has high confidence that while the coronavirus is a naturally occurring virus, it emanated from a virology lab in Wuhan. That because it lacked safety protocols, an intern was infected who later infected her boyfriend and then went to the wet market in Wuhan where it began to spread. Does that correspond with what you have heard from officials?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say that, John, but I will tell you more and more we're hearing the story, and we'll see. When you say multiple sources, there's now a case we can use word sources. But we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.

Go ahead please.

REPORTER: In your many conversations with President Xi, Mr. President, did you ever discuss with him state department concerns about lax safety protocols that had been reported to the State Department from the embassy in Beijing about that laboratory?

TRUMP: I don't want to discuss what I talk to him about, the laboratory. I just don't want to discuss it. It's inappropriate right now.

Please go ahead in the back.

REPORTER: Tim Abbey (ph) from Channel 1 Australia. There have been calls in our country for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make funding for WHO conditional on reforms to the organization. I wanted to get your thoughts on that and if you had any advice for Mr. Morrison.

TRUMP: Look, I feel very badly about the World Health Organization, but it's been a tool of China. It's been, as I say, totally China- centric. You take a look at everything that's happened, they've been wronged. I was all for so forged at the beginning. What do I know. I walked in, I said World Health Organization isn't that wonderful, and then you start to see all the mistakes.

They didn't want us to close our borders to China, to Wuhan specifically. And then they want a borders closed. You take a look, Mike was there, we're all there and they're criticizing me for closing the border. I did that very early.

[18:45:00]

By the way, I did that very early while Nancy Pelosi was trying to have in San Francisco parties in Chinatown because she thought it would be great. She wanted to show that this thing doesn't exist.

These are people -- I'll tell you we have some politicians on the other side that don't know what they're doing.

If you look at -- if you look at timelines, you're going to look at some timelines, but the World -- the World Health Organization, just like the World Trade Organization, I'm telling you I called them -- they have been treating the United States for decades so badly, and they've been so in favor of China.

China took off when it joined the World Trade Organization because of what's happened. Think of it. They're considered a developing nation and because -- and we're not. But we're a developing nation in my book, OK? We're developing too.

But the fact is we have been treated so badly by these organizations, and believe me, I'm looking at that one, too. We're winning a lot of lawsuits right now that we never won before in the past. We're winning a lot of money that we never won in the past. That's with the World Trade. But with the World Health Organization, what's happened there is a

disgrace.

Here's the other thing. We pay $400 million to $500 million a year. China's paying $38 million, $39 million and $40 million a year. And it's like they control this group.

I could do that, too, if I wanted to vote full time to it. I have some very capable people dealing with Dr. Tedros, OK? I could do it too. I could do very well with that.

But there's something going on. There's something going on that's very bad.

Now, the $500 million that we save, we'll determine. We're going to make a determination over a little period of time.

But they're going to either make massive changes -- I don't know even know if they're going to be able to do that -- or we're going to give money to people -- we want to help people. You know what we do in Africa with AIDS, people have no idea what we do and the money we spent, we were talking about it the other day, Doctor.

We are spending billions of dollars to help people. In the case of one that Dr. Birx is very much involved in, AIDS, billions of dollars, and you know what, it's a great thing. Nobody talks about it, nobody gives us credit. We do that and we do that very directly. But we're spending billions of dollars to help people live, and all over the world.

But we're spending $500 million to the World Health Organization, and there's something very bad going on. And you know what? I've gotten very much involved. It's been going on for a long period of time, and we don't want to be the suckers anymore. So, it's called out.

We will talk to you tomorrow. Big day tomorrow, very big day.

Thank you.

REPORTER: Mr. President, if Dr. Tedros is removed, would you change your mind?

BLITZER: All right. There's the president of the United States wrapping up the Rose Garden coronavirus task force briefing suggesting once again that things are definitely moving in the right direction. He says at least 20 states -- potentially 20 states could be reopening their opportunities before May 1st and then he said really maybe 29.

Gloria, I interrupted you earlier as we went to the briefing, the Q&A part of the briefing. And, you know, he's making some serious threats to Congress at the same time --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BLITZER: -- suggesting that unless they start approving some of these nominations, he might take some drastic action against Congress.

BORGER: Wolf, it's another day, another distraction, another grenade thrown from a very defensive president of the United States.

I mean, just step back for a minute. We were told a couple of days ago by this president that he has complete authority over the states. And today, we were told in the middle of a national crisis that, oh, by the way, I might just decide to adjourn the Congress so I can get some nominations through.

So you have a president who is trying to call or was at one moment trying to call for national unity, and what did he do today to people who were tuning in to get some sense of security about a president who had a plan in the middle of a crisis? He spent the entire time in a Q&A talking about the enemies he wants to talk about. And he said that he can't get any of his appointments through.

Now, according to the Partnership for Public Service, there are 82 nominations pending for the president, but there are another 150 positions, Wolf, that he has not nominated anybody for. So this is a president right now looking to pick a fight with Democrats and see what he can get done. And, by the way, it is at the same time that the Democrats and the Republicans have peacefully adjourned while they try and work out their differences on money that has to go to the states.

[18:50:07]

If he would adjourn the Congress, what would happen to that funding that PPP funding? What would happen to it? I have no answer for that.

Now, maybe he's talked to Mitch McConnell about this, who really wants to get judges through, but maybe not. I think what we have seen every day is the president searching for new people to blame for his own failures. And quite frankly, when you have 150 positions that you have not even nominated anybody for, and many of those are in the public health sector, maybe this is his one way of saying, wait a minute, it's not my fault. Of course, it is somebody else's fault.

So, you know, this is a president who also said today about the states, you know, on the one hand, you know, we know there are different parts of the country who are going to do it different ways, but he also said we have the right to do whatever we want. Let that sink in. We have the right to do whatever we want to close down whatever they're doing.

So, what does that mean? The American public wants some consistency, some clear messaging from the president of the United States, and they're not getting it. So they're looking to their governors who, by and large, have gotten good ratings on how they're performing.

What they're getting from the president is a lashing out not only against the Congress, but also, by the way, against his own Voice of America, which he believes is disgraceful, which is an arm of the United States government. It's hard to understand it sometimes, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

Jim Acosta is with us as well. The president making it clear that the states -- if certain states don't do exactly what he wants, he says if we're not happy with what the states are doing, we'll take strong action against those states. And then he added, as Gloria just mentioned, we have the right to do whatever we want.

What was your analysis?

ACOSTA: Yes. You know, Wolf, I think what we are seeing this week with the president's response to the pandemic is that it is really highlighting some of his authoritarian impulses. He went back to this idea that he has total authority, that he essential retreated from yesterday. He was saying, as you were mentioning with Gloria Borger a few moments ago, that we have the right, meaning the White House, to do whatever we want. That is false.

The White House does not have the right -- he doesn't have the right to do whatever he wants. He can't order states, these governors to do what he wants. And, obviously, if he puts out guidelines that they don't agree with, they're not going to follow the guidelines. The president is going to find out how far his power can go.

Now, getting back to the discussion about tossing out this threat he might adjourn Congress, which is there in the Constitution, he can do this in emergency sit wailing. My understanding, Wolf, is no president has done this before. He would obviously start a huge partisan battle here in Washington.

The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not take this lying down. She would obviously have to respond and this would turn into a major fight between the branches of government.

The other thing that we should point out, Wolf, and Gloria just mentioned this a few moments ago, when the president was trying to give examples as to why he needs to push these nominees through in such a dramatic fashion and takes a drastic step, he talks about somebody from the board of governors for broadcasting in the United States, talking about the Voice of America. Well, that is hardly something that would require or necessitate the president using those kind of emergency powers.

And so, we're seeing once again in these press conferences that they have less to do with the coronavirus and more to do with the president trying to appeal to his base. This is just the latest bright shiny object. He's chumming the waters for his base, because he knows he's in hot water over his response. I think, Wolf, we're seeing another example of that today.

BLITZER: Yes, it's amazing when you think about the fact that the president might take this extraordinary measure adjourning Congress if some official at the Voice of America or the Department of Agriculture or federal judge nominee isn't confirmed very, very quickly. I seem to require that Mitch McConnell didn't want a U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee to even be considered in the final year of the Obama administration. It's pretty amazing when you think about all of that that's going on.

I want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

What jumped out at you from a public health or medical standpoint, what we just heard from the president?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's this disconnect a little bit I think still with regard to testing, something we've been talking about for weeks, obviously, Wolf.

What you get the sense is, is that the testing availability has ramped up significantly. You know, companies like Lab Quest have come online. What you're hearing from those companies, though, is that there's no backlog.

The amount of testing has gone down recently, which doesn't make sense. Part of that could be we came out of the Easter holiday, but why would testing be going down when there's still such a need for testing? What you're hearing is that we need, you know, some 750,000 to a million tests a day in this country, and so far, we've done just over 3 million total?

It's obviously a significant improvement, no question about it, but in order for us to actually thinking about getting back to starting to reopen things, what you are hearing from everybody, whether they be, you know, political leaders or business leaders, is that we need more testing.

And I think, Wolf, what that means, I was thinking about this, what that means is that anybody anywhere who says I need to get tested -- not just because I have symptoms, but I want to get a test, do they know where they would go? How they would get that test? Could they get the results back in a day or the same day?

Can everybody in the country say that? The answer is no right now. I think we need to get to the point. That's what the wide availability of testing means. It doesn't mean everybody needs to be tested, but that it's available in communities, available where people actually are so people can get tested when they want to, when they need to.

BLITZER: The briefing was a little bit shorter, Daniel Dale, than usual. The president was complaining it was getting chilly outside in the Rose Garden.

But you were listening to every word. You're our fact checker. What do you think?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: As others, Wolf, have said, it's simply not true that the president can do whatever he wants with regard to overriding state restrictions. I have spoken to a number of legal scholars about this. They have told me that it's clear constitutionally that states' governors have the power to address matters like this in their states. So, the president cannot simply go in and override whatever it is a governor maybe doing.

In addition, the president again accused the WHO of perpetrating a cover-up on the coronavirus. I think we should pause for a moment and ask for hard evidence when the president makes such claims. I think there are clearly legitimate criticisms of the WHO, whether they were too credulous in accepting Chinese claims and echoing those claims, promoting them, but we haven't seen hard evidence of deliberate WHO malfeasance, deliberate efforts to deceive people here.

Again, Wolf, the president also repeated a number of false claims he makes at his rallies that aren't directly about the coronavirus, about trade with China, for example, falsely saying he is the first president under which -- under whom China has paid the U.S. any money. Even if he's talking about tariffs, the Americans paid between 2007 and 2016, the average traffic revenue was about $12 billion a year from China. So, this money is not new, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's very significant indeed, you know, Daniel Dale.

You know, Gloria, the other headline we had today, the mayors of to the largest cities in the United States, Los Angeles and New York City, both suggesting during interviews with me today that, you know, there might not be any major concerts or big sporting events, whether baseball, football, basketball, in either New York or in Los Angeles also 2021. I think we have a clip of Eric Garcetti and Bill de Blasio. Let me play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES, CA: It's difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands anytime soon. We've got many, many miles to walk before we're going to be back in those environments.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We're taking it one step at a time, but I think everyone should recognize that those big events she's one of the last things that we bring back online. The last thing we should do is gather, you know, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 in one place. It's like the exact opposite of social distancing. We shouldn't do that until we're real sure that we're out of this crisis. So, I think it could take quite a while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Quite a while, maybe until 2021 until we see sporting events or concerts, Gloria.

BORGER: Well, that wasn't how the president was sounding today. He didn't talk specifically about that, of course, but you know, the president seemed to be implying that there were places that could open up before May 1.

And you're going to have a real disconnect between what the president would like to see happen and what all of us would like to see happen, quite frankly. But what a lot of governors and big city mayors believe is safe to happen.

And one thing I want to point out to you, Wolf, when our colleague Kaitlan Collins asked the question about -- to the president about his call with business leaders, and the business leaders were saying you've got to have tests, you've got to have tests, he didn't really respond to her on that. What he said was, I'm just not going to be running a parking lot in Arkansas, for testing.

BLITZER: Another day, another White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, second day in a row in the Rose Garden, as opposed to the briefing room. We'll continue to follow all of this for our viewers.

To our viewers, thank you very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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