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States Reopen Despite Warnings, U.S Death Toll Tops 50,000; Trump Speaks After Suggesting Disinfectant As Treatment; Trump Falsely Claims He Didn't Suggest Looking Into Internal Disinfectant As Coronavirus Treatment. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 24, 2020 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:05]

IVAN WATSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.

JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Thanks for sharing your time today. If you're up early Sunday, we'll be here at 8:00 A.M.

Anderson Cooper picks up our coverage right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining me for CNN's special coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Today marks another gruesome milestone for our nation. More than 50,000 people have died in the United States from something no one even heard of just six months ago. And as we mark this moment, the largest death toll of any national tragedy of modern times, nearly a dozen states are beginning to reopen either today or next week with social distancing in place.

In Oklahoma, personal care businesses can make appointments. In Alaska, restaurants can also open. And then there is Georgia with more than 21,000 cases, gyms, nail salons, hair salons, tattoo parlors are allowed to open, as ordered by the governor. Many Georgia business owners are choosing to follow his guidance at this point.

The president though is pedaling dangerous directions on how to treat coronavirus, including injecting a person with disinfectant. Right now, he's signing the second round of stimulus funding passed by Congress and we understand that he was just asked about the comments he made at last night's briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I see this disinfectant, it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You can see the reaction of Dr. Birx. Dr. Birx later moved away from that suggestion. We'll bring you the president's response from just moments ago as soon as we get it. We understand he was asked about it.

There is another issue. (INAUDIBLE) top health officials to oppose the words of the president. The FDA warned against the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine outside clinical and hospital settings. The president has touted the anti-malarial medications as possible game changers. Since mid-March, he named the two drugs nearly 50 times.

The reopening plans of Georgia's governor had the president's support until it didn't. In a major reversal, the president cautioned against Brian Kemp's move today just days after he hailed Kemp for his actions. Now, we're learning that Kemp will not be on the governor's call with the president, saying he's going to tour some areas damaged by storms and tornadoes. That's according to Kemp's office.

I want to turn to CNN Correspondent Martin Savidge. Martin, what are you seeing there? Are businesses opening and customers coming in?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some are. Some businesses have decided to open, for instance, at the shopping center you can behind me here. There are about a handful of businesses that could open under the guidelines set forward by the governor's office, but only one of them actually is. It's a hair salon. Around the corner, there is barber shop.

For all of these businesses, there are some guidelines they must follow in order to adhere to what the governor wants as far as protections and cautions. For instance, at the hair salon hair, everybody has to wear a mask, not just those who are the hair stylist but also the customers.

And what they are doing is they installed a doorbell. So, essentially, you got to have an appointment. When you get here, you ring the doorbell, they wait until someone comes to either escort you in or they tell you, no, I am sorry, you'll have to wait. And you either wait in your car or you stand social distancing outside the front door.

The barber shop, that was a little bit different. It opened around 7:00 this morning. And there was a line of men waiting to get in and once inside, they do social distance. They're sitting at least six feet apart from each other.

The barber was wearing a mask but that was about the only, I would say, safety precaution. He wasn't wearing any gloves, didn't seem to be asking any of his customers the health questions that he's supposed to and we didn't see him check either his temperature or the temperature of any of his clients.

So the problem is there are businesses that are open, there are many that have decided to wait and see, many of the customers are fearful and we also see that the policies they're supposed to follow are not equally being followed by all business. So that would be troubling, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, just getting a thermometer to be able to check people's temperatures. In a lot of places, you can't find thermometers.

SAVIDGE: Right. You can't find a lot of personal protection equipment, and that is one of the complaints of business owners. They say they also know they're competing with the healthcare industry and that doesn't make them feel well. And then they their own customers that are worried. And some show up with it, some don't.

COOPER: And then, Martin, according to the governor, so this is just a start. This is the first day. Monday, it expands to restaurants and theaters, correct?

SAVIDGE: Right. Monday, it really could become interesting, not that it isn't interesting today.

[13:05:03]

COOPER: I'm sorry. Martin, let me just jump in. We're just getting the tape. This is the president talking about the disinfectant.

TRUMP: Well, I think we have done a great job. As you know, minimal numbers were -- minimal numbers were going to be 100,000 people. Minimal numbers were going to be 100,000 people, and we're going to be hopefully far below that. If we didn't take quick action, we're going to lose many millions people. So we're really being given a lot of credit for a lot of people.

I'm not looking for credit for myself, but I am looking credit for people in the federal government that have done such a great job and for the doctors and nurses and everybody else. Please?

REPORTER: Mr. President, can you comment on Rick Bright, who was insisting to file a report --

TRUMP: I don't know the gentleman. I'm sorry. I don't know. I don't know how he started a whistleblower complaint. Is that a whistleblower complaint that you're talking about? How do you sign a whistleblower complaint when everybody knows who he is? I know nothing about him.

REPORTER: He was retaliated against because he refused to --

TRUMP: That I don't know. Again, I don't know anything about it. I don't know -- easy, easy, just take it nice and easy. I don't know anything about him. Until yesterday, I never heard of the gentleman, okay?

REPORTER: Have you asked anyone to look into what happened to him?

TRUMP: What?

REPORTER: Have you asked anyone to look into the circumstances about him?

TRUMP: I have not yet. At some point, I will. I guess they moved him into a different group.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)? TRUMP: Well, we're looking into it. We're studying it. We're investigating it. And we'll see what happens. But it's something that should have been stopped early on. It could have been stopped easily in China. And we don't understand why they did not do it. So we're looking into it. We are not happy about it.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: What do you know about --

TRUMP: Who are you with? Who are you with?

RASCOE: I'm with NPR, Ayesha Rascoe.

TRUMP: Okay, go ahead. You're not up. Go ahead, please.

RASCOE: Do you support any money for the postal service.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I can comment on that.

TRUMP: Go ahead, postal service.

MNUCHIN: So we authorized the last CARE Act over $10 billion of a loan. My team is already actively working on that with the Postal Service if they need the money. And we're dealing with that.

TRUMP: Postal Service is a joke because they're handing out packages for Amazon and other internet companies. And every time they bring a package, there is money on it. So Amazon and other internet companies and delivery companies are dropping all of their -- not all of them but a big portion of packages and whatever else they're doing into a post office and the post office is supposed to deliver the packages and they lose a lot of money.

The post office should raise the price of a package by approximately four times because they don't raise them. For some reason, these people have been there a long time. But for reason, they are very cozy with some of these companies and they don't raise the price of a package. And if they raise the price of a package, like they should, four or five times, that's what it should be, or let amazon build their own post office, which would be an impossible thing to do because the post office is massive and serves every little pieces of the country.

The post office, if they raise the price of a package by approximately four times, it would be a whole new ball game, but they don't want to raise because they don't want to insult Amazon and they don't want to insult other companies perhaps that they like. The post office should raise the price of the packages to the companies, not to the people, to the companies. And if they did that, it would be a whole different story. Do you agree with that, Steve?

MNUCHIN: I do. And, actually, we are going to put certain criteria for our postal reform program as part of the loan. And we're looking forward to the board, is recruiting a new post master general and doing postal reform.

TRUMP: Well, I'd go a step further. If they don't raise the price of the service they give, which is a tremendous service and they do a great job, and the postal workers are fantastic, but this thing is losing billions of dollars, it has been for years, because they don't want to insult, for whatever reason, you could imagine, they don't want to insult Amazon and these other groups.

If they don't raise the price, I'm not signing anything. So they'll raise the price so that they become even profitable but so they lose much less money, okay? And if they don't do it, I am not signing anything and I'm not authorizing you to do anything, Steve.

REPORTER: Can you clarify your comments about injections of disinfectant --

TRUMP: No, I was asking the question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen. Now, disinfectant or doing this, maybe on the hands, would it work? And I was asking the question of the gentleman that was there yesterday, Bill, because when they say that something will last three or four or six hours, but if the sun is out or if they use disinfectant, it goes away less than a minute.

[13:10:03]

Did you hear about this yesterday?

But I was asking a sarcastic, and a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it and it would kill it on the hands, and that would make things much better. That was done in a form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.

REPORTER: But you were asking your medical experts to look into it.

TRUMP: No, no, no, no, to look into whether or not sun and disinfectant on the hands, but whether or not sun can help us. Because, I mean, he came in yesterday and he said they have done a big study. This is a study. This is where he has then done it. This is when they've come in with a final report, that sun a massive impact negatively on this virus.

In other words, it does not live well with humidity and it doesn't live well with sun, sunlight, heat. It doesn't live well with heat and sun and disinfectant. And that's what I brought out. And I thought it was clear, okay?

Anything else?

REPORTER: Mr. President, could you comment a little bit on what you are considering right now for helping the oil and gas industry?

TRUMP: Yes. I want to help that industry. That industry got unnecessarily hurt by massive amounts of oil being produced by very big --

COOPER: What you just heard is the president of the United States just lying right there. It's fascinating because he's lying about something we all witnessed just yesterday of him talking to his own coronavirus task force about doing research into injecting bleach disinfectants into people somehow cleaning them from the inside because disinfectant work on table tops and things like that.

Now, the president is claiming he was speaking sarcastically to reporters, sarcastically suggesting that. There was no sarcasm. We have the tape. We're going to play it to you.

I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Gloria Borger and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Kaitlan, just to be clear, the president yesterday made a dangerous and idiotic comment, raising a ludicrous idea of somehow injecting disinfectant, which to anybody who is out there, is obviously not something any human being should do. And now, he's in like Soviet- fashion, trying to rewrite what we all know and saw as though we are all morons. Am I wrong here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a tactic we have seen the president take before when he has made a remark and it's been widely criticized by the experts in the area. He often have said or his aides have used this excuse that he was just being sarcastic.

I do want to note, the press secretary put a statement out earlier, and she did not say the president was being sarcastic when he made those remarks. Instead she accused the media of taking the president out of context.

COOPER: Of course, yes.

COLLINS: If you listen to how the president made these remarks, I was in the room yesterday during this briefing when he was turning to the DHS official, who have just given the presentation of sunlight and disinfectants could kill it on surfaces and in the air. And the president said, maybe they should check out whether or not either of those uses could work in the human body.

COOPER: Yes. And we have -- we're going to show it to you in a second just because this is -- again, this is just an incredible example of -- I mean, yesterday, it was bad enough, this dangerous idea, Sanjay, that the president was promoting and talking about and using about, I guess, we should say, for some reason, felt the need to muse about a dangerous and ludicrous and just idiotic idea that any child knows not to go into the cabinet under the sink and take disinfectant and use it anywhere internally.

And now to be lying about it that it was some sort of a sarcastic comment, because, clearly, he has watched it on the television, which is what he does, and realizes it was idiotic and ludicrous and dangerous, and now he is just embarrassed, so he's lying.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And don't forget, I mean, again, I have great respect for Dr. Hahn, the FDA commissioner. He was on our town hall last. And he felt compelled to sort of couch this in. Well, look, these are real questions that are happening between patients and their doctors right now. That's why we wanted to address it is essentially what he said, Anders.

These are not real conversations happening between patients and their doctors. I think everybody knows that, as you just said, most kids know this. And so it certainly wasn't sort of deemed sarcasm by Dr. Hahn. He was somewhat defending it, saying, it was something that needed to be addressed.

[13:15:02]

It didn't. I mean, I feel like a lot of the job that I have here is to, at times, bust up myths, and that can be a very important role but not myths that are just created out of nowhere. I mean, it's a complete waste of time, really, to be discussing this.

And as you said, maybe the president realized this now and says that he was being sarcastic. But, man, that sideline this whole conversation for some time and I am sure there's a lot of scientists who have said, well, wait a second, are we supposed to study this now? Are we supposed to actually inject disinfectants into people and not inject disinfectants on the people compare them and see how they do? That is the last study that should be done, needs to be done (INAUDIBLE). I think, again, everyone knows that.

COOPER: Right. As the mayor of Las Vegas points out, in anything, you would want a controlled group so some people would get the disinfectant injected and some people, I guess, would get a placebo. I mean, it's ridiculous. The whole thing is just ludicrous. And now, the president just adding to it by pretending that we are all morons and we didn't hear what we actually heard.

In fact, let's play what the president said yesterday because it is important. We're also going to show you Dr. Deborah Birx who was sitting there and you can just see she is trying to not, in any way, acknowledge what the president is saying because it is so ludicrous and dangerous and she is not responding to it all and letting the other people, scientists actually interact with the president on this ludicrous idea. Let's just play what happened yesterday in case you didn't see it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you're totally into that world, which I find it to be very interesting. So, supposedly, we hit the body with a tremendous -- whether it's ultraviolet or just a very powerful light. And I think you said that hasn't been checked but you're going to test it. And then, I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you're going to test that too. It sounds interesting.

Right. And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning because you see it gets on the lungs and it does a tremendous number on lungs. So it will be interesting to check that, so that you're going to have to use medical doctors. But it sounds -- it sounds interesting to me. And so we'll see.

But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that's pretty powerful.

REPORTER: Mr. President, after the presentation, we just saw about the heat and the humidity. Is it dangerous for you to make people think it would be safe by going outside in the heat considering that so many people are dying in Florida, considering that this virus has had an outbreak in Singapore, places that are hot and --

TRUMP: The new headline is Trump asks people to go outside. That's dangerous. Here we go, same old group. Are you ready? I hope people enjoy the sun. And if it has an impact, that's great. I'm just hearing this not really for the first time. I mean, there has been a rumor that in a very room or if you go outside and the sun, and you have heat and it does have an effect on other viruses. But now, we get it from one of the great laboratories of the world, I have to say, it covers a lot more territory than just this. This is probably an easy thing, relatively speaking, for you.

I would like for you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there is any way you can apply light and heat to cure, if you could. And maybe you can or maybe you can't. Again, I say, maybe you can, maybe you can't. I am not a doctor. I am like a person that has a good -- you know what?

Deborah, have you heard of the heat and the light relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Not as a treatment. Certainly fever is a good thing when you have a fever, it helps your body respond but not as I'm not seeing heat or --

TRUMP: I think it's a great thing to look at, okay?

REPORTER: So you're the president and people are tuning into these briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do. They're not looking for rumors.

TRUMP: Okay. I'm the president and you are fake news. And you know what I will say to you? I will say very nicely, I know you well, because I know the guy, I see what he writes, he's a total faker. So are you ready? Are you ready?

Are you ready? It's just a suggestion from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart perhaps brilliant man. He's talking about sun, he's talking about heat and you see the numbers. So that's it. That's all I have. I am just here to parental talent. I am here to present ideas because we want ideas to get rid of this thing.

[13:20:00]

And if heat is good and if sunlight is good, that's a great thing, as far as I am concerned.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: So now, Gloria, the president is saying he wasn't talking to Bill O'Brien and Dr. Birx, who he was clearly talking to, because we just saw it with our own eyes and we heard it with our ears. And he now says he wasn't doing that. He was actually talking to reporters and he was sarcastically talking about injecting disinfectants in a sarcastic way to reporters, none of which is true.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: None of which is true. I mean, everybody can watch it with their own eyes and see the president use words like, very powerful, when describing the possibility of how these injections could somehow get infused into your system and clean out whatever virus there is.

I mean, people can see this. This is doublespeak. This is ridiculous. This is a president who is telling us now that he didn't tell us what he just told us.

And we've seen this happen over the last years, time and time again. Very often, we have played back the video. I think the difference this time now is you've got the medical community aghast at this, not politicians, not just journalists, whom he despises us, most of us, but doctors who are coming out and saying, please, please do not try this. And he had to find a way to wiggle out of it. Only there isn't any way to use the word, sarcastic, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. But you know what's sad about this, and, Sanjay, you brought this up, the -- Gloria is right, the medical community, obviously, any -- it doesn't even take a medical degree to know, but, yes, doctors, scientists are all saying, of course, this is ludicrous, please don't try this at home. Lysol put out a statement saying, don't use our products internally.

But what's sad it's actually not president's immediate medical team or scientific team because they are all scared of being removed or being sidelined or being sent into exile, like Secretary Azar. I mean, how often have we seen him at the podium, or sent into Siberia somewhere. The idea that the nation's top scientists have to be careful about the facts that they present to the American people because they're afraid and concerned of what the president is going to kneecap them, essentially. And, I mean, that's dangerous in and of itself.

GUPTA: No question, Anderson. I mean, Ambassador Birx is one of the foremost HIV/AIDS researchers in the world. Dr. Hahn, the FDA commissioner, was the head M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, one of the foremost cancer centers in the world. I mean, these are top notch people who clearly knew exactly what was going on and that this had absolutely no merit, it was potentially -- not potentially -- it is dangerous to suggest that people could ingest or inject disinfectants into their body. I mean, it was painful, Anderson, to watch that video of Ambassador Birx.

And I know her. I have great respect for her. It felt like you could see the internal dialogue going on in her head, and it's painful to watch. I mean, you almost got the sense that she was evaluating, how do I handle this right here and now sort of getting up and walking out of the room. I mean, it's a real collision. We see the minor collision sometimes between science and politics. As Gloria mentioned, usually, the data, the evidence, the facts went out. I mean, evidence is evidence. Sometimes you see a major collision like this and it's tough.

COOPER: To her credit in that video, she's not nodding her head, which, I mean, frankly a lot of the other officials around the president, that's what they do. Remember when he went to the CDC and he said that anybody who wants a test can get a test. There are a lot of people just standing there nodding their head, when, in fact, that wasn't the case at all.

And so, again, it's -- Gloria, to me, it's just sad to see the president of the United States, any of the president of the United States, but that being president of the United States live on television while it was taking turns, it was just moments ago, at a signing just blatantly making up something. I think on the fly, because, earlier, the White House said nothing about it being a sarcastic comment to reporters, so they hadn't lined up their lies, they came up with a different lie.

[13:25:03]

But this lie, the president, to watch him in real-time, just lie like a five-year-old child who's been caught doing something and just makes up, when cornered, a ridiculous lie that everybody knows it's just a lie. I mean, it's just sad.

BORGER: Well, it is sad. And I was actually talking to somebody this morning who worked for Donald Trump in Atlantic City. And he's watching all of this play out and it's familiar to him.

And I said to him, how do you feel, and this is before we got this tape. I said, but how do you feel for the president who is spewing this ridiculous notion about disinfectants and --

COOPER: We just lost Gloria's feed. If we have the video, let's just play what the president just said, I think, if we've -- we don't have it yet. Okay. We're going to isolate just because it was a long -- he talked about a number of different things. But we're going to just try to isolate the section where he is now claiming what he said was actually, as you know, to reporters that it was sarcastic.

Kaitlan Collins, I mean, you witness this stuff on a daily basis, obviously, but it is rare to have such a -- both a comment that he made yesterday, which is both illogical, but to have one be so dangerous, and then just to have the ability to see him lie about it in real-time the very next day.

COLLINS: Anderson, what we are seeing play out here where the president was musing yesterday like that, pondering out loud after this DHS official gave this report, where they had studied this very closely, he said talking about the half-life of the coronavirus. And the president then starts to wonder if that could be used in the body, not only talking about sunlight. Obviously, they're talking about disinfectants. That's what happens in these coronavirus task force meetings and the meetings that the president has with the doctors a lot of the time, where then he tries to kind of suggest some kind of possible treatments, some kind of a new way forward that the doctors often disagree with have to find a way where they gently but bluntly tried to correct the president. And we've seen this play out.

And it's kind of surprising that this is just happening like this now where it was such an awkward moment there in the briefing room yesterday. Because you've seen the president and the doctors contradict each other before. Usually, Dr. Fauci is the most willing to be blunt and contradict the president in real-time there on the podium as he's done when it comes to vaccines, a second wave of coronavirus.

And this, yesterday, where the president turned to Dr. Birx, and she didn't really offer much. She only said she did not know if that is a treatment for the coronavirus or any other viruses in the past, but she didn't really emphatically say, actually, we don't really think that is something feasible.

You saw what Dr. Sanjay said just pretty clearly, this is not something that can be studied. And when the president suggested that to the senior DHS official, he said, that's not really something we're going to do. We're not going to look into whether or not this is could be a treatment. We're just talking about what happens on surfaces and in air, and the president takes this.

And he was sensitive to criticism this morning of his remarks. That's why you saw the White House put out that statement earlier today talking about the media, they said, taking out of context, and then, now, of course, this is where we've ended up.

COOPER: Right. We just played a three-minute clip just to show everybody the complete context. I just want to play -- we have the clip now of what the president just said lying -- just lying and badly. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Can you clarify your comments about injections of disinfectant --

TRUMP: No, I was asking the question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen. Now, disinfectant or doing this, maybe on the hands, would it work? And I was asking the question of the gentleman that was there yesterday, Bill, because when they say that something will last three or four or six hours, but if the sun is out or if they use disinfectant, it goes away less than a minute. Did you hear about this yesterday?

But I was asking a sarcastic, and a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it and it would kill it on the hands, and that would make things much better. That was done in a form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And, Kaitlan, I mean, I almost wish I could have seen the face of Mnuchin and whoever else was behind the president, although I guess they're so used to this kind of thing that they now just probably stare blankly. But the fact that all of these people standing around as if this is normal, that this is somehow that there's some degree of sense to this, which there's just not.

[13:30:01]

COLLINS: Well, that is normal in the Trump White House, where the president has made remarks like this, and then later said he was being sarcastic.