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White House Holds Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; U.S Death Toll Surpasses 55,000, Almost One Million Cases; "Washington Post:" Trump's Intel Briefing Book Repeatedly Cited Virus Threat. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 27, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So, the blueprint lays out the roles and responsibilities to enhance our partnership between the private sector and the public sector, bringing together state and local governments with the federal government to ensure that we can accomplish and achieve our core principles and objectives.

[18:00:03]

We can have the first slide.

The core elements of the testing plan include both -- three elements, robust diagnostic test plans developed in partnerships with state -- and I just really want to think the governors and the health officials, both at the state and local levels who've been working with us day and night to work through these issues, and also all the laboratory directors in many of the states, as well as the American Society for Microbiology, have been working with us to ensure that the plans were efficient and effective.

Within the robust diagnostic testing plans, it was really unlocking the full capacity of the state, increasing the number of testing platforms. We now have multiple tests for different platforms, increasing the ability to collect samples, increasing testing and laboratory supplies, and ensuring that we work together to make sure that every client receives the tests that they need.

This is added with timely monitoring systems. And what do I mean by that? Systems where we bring together the ability to not only diagnose the symptomatic, but proactively and interactively work with individuals that we know are at higher risk.

We have worked with states to look at where the outbreaks have occurred when they are not in the large metros. And we see that it occurs very often in places of closed settings, among our Native Americans and among our long-term care facilities.

So, an active monitoring program that is active, integrated, and innovative. And then combining this with the third element, which is the rapid response program, relying on CDC to be working with state and local governments to ensure that every symptomatic case and, critically, the asymptomatic cases are quickly tracked and traced to ensure that we can not only control this epidemic, but predict outbreaks before they expand.

And then, finally, the plan includes approach of using science and technology to develop even newer platforms, more efficient testing, really ensuring that the antibody tests that are utilized and recommended by both FDA and CDC have high quality in predicting both exposure to the virus and antibody development, and then, finally, working on innovative tests that could be high-throughput and point- of-care, an antigen-based test, or a point-of-care expanded nucleic acid test.

Thank you.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thank you, Mr. President. And, thank you, Ambassador Birx.

If I could have the next slide, please.

Want to spend just a couple minutes about telling -- going over where we have been, but, more importantly, where we're going.

I think we all can understand how we can group this into three distinct phases. First is our launch phase, when we were really engaging the emerging epidemic, and the types of things we need to do, for example, mobilize the private sector to develop tests and have EUAs.

And I think you know, over the past two months, the FDA has issued 67 emergency use authorizations, which is far outpacing anything that has been done or could have ever been imagined.

Galvanizing the research community and the commercial labs. The reason why we're here with ACLA labs, having done about three million tests, is because of that day when it was galvanized by the president and the vice president.

We also set models in the community, those first community-based testing sites that were federally supported, and really under the direction of the U.S. Public Health Service, people who had been in Japan testing people on the Diamond Princess, to assure that it would be done right and it would be done safely for everyone involved.

Then we moved to really scaling. That phase was very, very important, because we knew we needed to be at an immense scale to enter the third phase about supporting opening again.

This again -- for example, a lot of my life is about swabs. It was enhancing the production capability of a small company in Maine called Puritan that you will hear a whole lot more about that is provide -- that is sort of the swap provider for the country, but also because of the FDA actions and the actions of scientific community being able to broaden the types to spun polyester.

So, U.S. cotton can now come in and start delivering within the next couple of weeks three million swabs per week of a different type. It also did things like expanding the community-based testing sites. Whereas we started small with the commercial partners, you see today, right now, we have 73 of this 2.0 sites going to 110.

And, very importantly, this demonstrated the model. And 68 percent of those sites are in communities of moderate or high social vulnerability, and 22 percent are in the highest social vulnerability communities, so that we can make sure the testing gets where it needs to be.

You have just heard that that could be expanded to thousands of sites.

And, finally, stage three, which is very exciting, coordinating with governors to support testing plans and rapid-response programs.

[18:05:03]

Over the past week, a multidisciplinary team from the White House, HHS, FDA, FEMA has met virtually with multidisciplinary teams from every state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia to understand what their testing aspirations are, and to make sure that we can meet those demands.

We're going to have another round of those calls this week. But, as we talked about earlier today, we will be able to supply every state with the -- with the supplies and the tests that they need that will dramatically increase the number of tests we have done to this point.

And just to give you an idea, the supplies that we will be providing to states, the minimum that we're supplying to states is approximately double in that month than the Republic of Korea has performed in the four months to now accumulated, to give you an idea of the amount of testing that we're going to be -- going to be doing.

So, I'm -- very exciting right now, as we complete this ecosystem, with the large reference labs, the LabCorp and Quest providing the very high-throughput, large-scale testing, the galvanizing of the hospitals and academic labs that Dr. Birx has done by a machine-to- machine understanding and promoting that with the governors, and, of course, using point-of-care testing, when and where that's very important to stop outbreaks or in remote areas, like in the Indian Health Service or in Alaska.

Thank you, Mr. President.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you.

Great job. Thanks, Brett.

OK. So, with that, we're here to answer some questions. And Mike is up here also. So, we will answer.

Steve, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) governors grapple with when and how to open their states, what's the best advice from you on what they should do?

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: Well, we want them to do it. We recommend that they do it as quickly as possible, but safely.

We want everyone to be safe. And I think you're seeing that. You're seeing a lot of governors get out. And they want to open it up. Many are thinking about their school system, that -- not a long way to go in the school system right now for this season, for this year.

But I think you will see a lot of schools open up, even if it's for a very short period of time. I think it would be a good thing, because, as you see, in terms of what this vicious virus goes after, young people seem to do very well. Young people seem to do very well.

So, I know that there are some governors that aren't necessarily ready to open up their states, but they may be ready to open up their school systems. We will see. But that's their choice.

But the word is safety, OK? Rapid, but safety.

Yes, please. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

I have a question for you regarding one of the members of your Coronavirus Task Force. And that's Secretary of HHS Alex Azar.

TRUMP: Yes.

QUESTION: On January the 28th, he was in the Briefing Room. And in the Briefing Room, he told reporters, for the individual American, the virus should not be an impact on their day-to-day life.

Three months later, more than 55,000 of our fellow Americans have now lost their lives.

Mr. President, why is he still your top health adviser? Why is he still serving as the HHS secretary?

TRUMP: Well, I think it's a very unfair question, because you had many great professionals, some of them you have great respect for. And you have many people in the other party.

You have mentioned Alex Azar. But you have many people in the other party that have said the same thing and with even more confidence. So, a lot of people didn't get that right.

I was -- I was very fortunate, whether it was through luck or whatever, that we closed the border. We put a ban on China, other than our citizens coming in. We had our citizens. You can't keep out American citizens. Gee, you can't come back into your country. That's a little tough to do. But we put a ban on China. That was very fortunate.

But I could tell you that Nancy Pelosi was dancing in the streets in Chinatown. She wanted to go, let's go out and party. Now, that was late into February. So, you don't mention that. But you could mention that.

Go ahead. Any other -- please, go ahead. Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: -- since April the 3rd, Mr. President. He has not been in a briefing, Mr. President...

TRUMP: Yes, please, stand up.

QUESTION: -- since the April the 3rd. Does that show confidence in him?

TRUMP: You should -- you should have no complaints.

Please.

QUESTION: Mr. President.

Yesterday, you retweeted someone who alleged that Democrats have quoted -- quote -- "inflate" -- "inflated" the mortality rate of the coronavirus by underreporting the infection rate.

Do you believe that's true, that there's some sort of conspiracy theory regarding the number of infections states are reporting?

TRUMP: Well, I can only say what we're doing. We're reporting very accurately.

If you look at other countries, other countries are not. I mean, you can look at China. You can look at numerous countries where I don't think those are right numbers.

I can only say what we're doing. It's very important to us to do very accurate reporting. And that's what we're doing.

Jon, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) by retweeting that, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you.

Please, Jon.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I wanted to ask you about the payment protection plan, the PPP plan to help small businesses.

[18:10:00]

TRUMP: Yes.

QUESTION: There have been a lot of concerns today with the Web site just not working.

In fact, we heard from the American Bankers Association, saying that they are deeply frustrated, and that, until it's fixed, American banks will not be able to help struggling small businesses.

Do you know -- can you give us an update?

TRUMP: Well, I just came out. And I hadn't heard.

I heard there was a glitch. We will find out whether or not that is so. Certainly, it did work out very well for the original amount of money. This is the second amount. And I'll find out about that.

We will find -- we're relying on the banks to go out and do an accurate job.

Yes, please, in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... all the companies that get aid, Mr. President?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, I wouldn't mind doing that. I don't know what the legal status of something like that -- I would like to do that, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm not involved in that process. But I would certainly like to have it listed. I'd have to find out if there's a legal problem. But if there isn't, I would do it gladly.

Please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Charlie Spiering of Breitbart News.

And a majority of polls show that Americans blame China for the spread of the coronavirus, and yet they're taking advantage of the crisis to make the world more dependent on their supply chains.

How do you get -- how do you hold China accountable? And how do you keep our country...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, Charlie, there are a lot of ways you can hold them accountable. We're doing very serious investigations, as you probably know.

And we are not happy with China. We are not happy with that whole situation, because we believe it could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped quickly, and it wouldn't have spread all over the world. And we think that should have happened.

So, we will let you know at the appropriate time. But we are doing serious investigations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) American businesses from relying on China for their supply chains? How do you -- how do you fix that?

TRUMP: Well, we have already discussed that, and especially having to do with medical supplies and others -- and others.

If you look prior to this virus, the deficit was coming way down under my administration because I put massive tariffs on China. We took in tens of billions of dollars, gave some of it to the farmers who were unfairly targeted by China. Nobody's ever done that before. We never took in 10 cents from China.

Now, all of a sudden, I think you know very well, we have taken in tens of billions of dollars. I helped the farmers by giving them two years ago $12 billion, all coming from China. And we had plenty left over too.

And then, the following year, $16 billion, and, this year, we're also going to help our farmers. But nobody's ever done a thing like that, because they were targeted unfairly by China.

So, we're doing a very strong investigation. And we will let you know what the result of that is. We should be able to get the answers too.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

TRUMP: Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: As you talk about potentially reopening up America again, as we see in the slides behind you, what data are you going to look at in the future to see if restrictions need to be reimposed?

TRUMP: Yes, we're looking very much and reliant very much on the local areas, the governors. And that's been the way it has been for me, maybe not for everybody. But, for me, that's the way it's been at the beginning and from the beginning.

The governors, some of them are doing an extraordinary job, not all of them, but some of them. And I think all of them maybe has a -- have a chance to do that. Some will be a little bit different. The areas are much different. Manhattan is much different than Montana.

You have a lot of different circumstances, but -- and, obviously, if you look at the virus, it hits some areas, hasn't hit very much other areas, not even at all, almost not at all. But the entire country has been infected.

West Virginia, as an example, I spoke to Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, and they were long before anything hit, and they had numerous deaths, even in West Virginia, and they were really the last one to be hit.

So, we're dealing with the governors. We had a really great call today, as I told you, very, very solid. These are -- these were not complaining people. These were people that were -- they had everything they needed. They had their ventilators. They have their testing. They see their testing is growing. They're growing they're testing. We're helping them. We're getting them what they need.

And that was a group. I wish -- I mean, I'm sure some of you were on the line, even though you weren't supposed to be. And I think you know what the result of that call was.

Please, go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Following up on Charlie's question on making China -- holding them responsible, Germany sent a bill for $130 billion -- excuse me -- 130 billion euros for the damages caused by the coronavirus.

Would your administration look at doing the same?

TRUMP: Well, we can do something much easier than that. We have ways of doing things a lot easier than that.

But Germany is looking at things, and we're looking at things. And we're talking about a lot more money than Germany is talking about.

Yes, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: We haven't determined the final amount yet.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: It's very substantial, if you look at the world.

I mean, this is worldwide damage. This is damage to the U.S. But this is damage to the world.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Attorney General William Barr directed federal prosecutors to watch out for state and local officials that might be violating the Constitution by some of their stay-at-home orders.

What's the strategy there? Will the federal government sue local authorities or...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, you would have to ask Attorney General Barr.

[18:15:01] But I think he wants to see -- like everybody, he wants to see people get back, and he wants to see people get back to work. He doesn't want people to be held up when there's no reason for doing it.

In some cases, perhaps it's too strict. He wants to make sure that people have their rights and they maintain their rights, very importantly. So, a lot of people would agree with him. But you would actually have to ask that question specifically, from a legal standpoint, to Attorney General Barr.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) federal government suing state officials?

TRUMP: It would depend on the state. It would depend on the circumstances of the state.

I mean, some states are perhaps a little early, and some states are a little bit late. And the attorney general -- I read that, and I saw that. And, frankly, the attorney general doesn't want to have rights taken away, because, you know, there are some people, they are not allowed to open up a store or -- they're going to lose their livelihood.

And, by the way, that causes death also, between all of the things that happen. And this has been a big study. The fact that people aren't allowed to have their freedom causes a tremendous amount of problems, including death.

So, that's what he's talking about.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Maryland and other states, Governor Larry Hogan specifically said they have seen a spike in people using disinfectant after your comments last week.

I know you said they were sarcastic, but do you take any....

TRUMP: I can't imagine why. I can't imagine why.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you take any responsibility if someone were to die?

TRUMP: No, I don't. No, I can't imagine -- I can't imagine that.

Yes, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that we need to increase testing by double, at least, and so does the Rockefeller Foundation.

When are we going to be doubling testing?

TRUMP: Well, that -- it doesn't really matter what they say there. And we -- I just left him. We just had a meeting. But -- because we're going to have much more than double it very soon.

Now, there are big believers in testing, and then there are some governors that don't feel as strongly about it at all. You understand that. They feel much differently about it.

But we're going with maximum testing, because it's something we're very capable of doing. But we will be much more than doubled.

You know, Mike, I'd like you to answer that. We're going to be much higher than doubled on testing very shortly.

Mike? Please. Yes, please.

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

I hope the American people looking on today are as proud as the president and I are of the incredible public and private partnership that you heard from today.

It was two months ago that we had done less than 10,000 tests for the coronavirus in the United States. But because the president brought together these incredible commercial labs, brought together the best known retailers in America, now, Mr. President, we have 5.4 million tests.

And, as you said earlier today, we have -- we have done more than 200,000 tests in a single day.

As we met with governors today, I sensed the enthusiasm among governors for the way that testing is scaling all across the country. And we assured them on the call today that we're going to continue to directly partner with them to make sure that all of the resources you heard about today continue to be expanded.

But I want to ask Admiral Giroir, who is literally working day in and day out with the governors, to describe some of the numbers for exactly where we will be. We're -- we're north of five million tests done now.

It is -- it is remarkable to think of the pace of acceleration.

But, Admiral, maybe you could speak about exactly when we will reach the point that some of the experts say that they think we need to be at, whether that be -- be 300,000 tests a day or 500,000 tests a day.

But what's remarkable to me, as a layperson, Mr. President, is, because of this partnership you have forged, we're -- we're almost there. And we will be there very, very soon for the American people.

But everyone who is as anxious to see America reopen as this president and our entire administration are should know that the three-phased approach that the president outlined 10 days ago, we believe, and I believe increasingly governors understand around America, that we have a sufficient amount of testing today, for every state that qualifies to enter phase one, to begin to reopen their economies. But, Mr. President, with your permission, I'll just ask Admiral Giroir

give some specific numbers about -- about how quick -- for all that we have done, how much more quickly you will see an expansion of testing because of the partnership that you witnessed again here today.

GIROIR: Thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President.

The number of tests that need to be done depends on the state level. You understand that places where there's high virus circulating will need many, many more tests. Places that do not have high virus circulating may need less tests.

But let's just assume Dr. Fauci was talking about, about a four- million-per-month number, which was sort of a week ago where we -- where we are.

[18:20:00]

So, we will -- according to the governor's plans, for next month, we will that easily double that four million number. We will have over 20 million swabs that we're going to send out. We will have over 15 million tubes of media.

We have all the tests matched machine to machine in a focused area. We have gone state by state and understand that. And this is not even including what you just heard, the five-million-per-month test by LabCorp and Quest, or the point-of-care tests by Abbott, or all the other tests that are out there.

So, in May, we are going to be doing more testing in this country. And people talk about South Korea a lot. The state -- the states with the least amount of testing will double the overall cumulative number per capita that South Korea has done in four months, to give you that understanding.

TRUMP: Go ahead, Jon.

QUESTION: Yes, I'm sure. And this sounds incredibly promising, Walgreens, CVS with the drive-through tests, the diagnostic (OFF- MIKE).

But we sat here in the Rose Garden back on March 13, and these companies were here. Some other companies were here. By my count, only 69 drive-through test sites have been set up by the companies that were here.

I'm wondering if you -- and, of course, Mr. Vice President, back in early March, you said we'd be at four million tests by the following week. We're just now got there in the last few days.

So, what have you learned about what went wrong a month-and-a-half or -- over the last month-and-a-half or two months? And what's going to go right now? What lessons have you learned from the mistakes over the last month-and-a-half or so?

PENCE: Jon, I appreciate the question, but it represents a misunderstanding on your part, and -- and, frankly, the -- a lot of people in the public's part about the difference between having a test vs. the ability to actually process the test.

I mean, the truth was, when the president tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force two months ago, we saw the production of lots of test kits going into the marketplace.

But as the president has said many times, what he understood early on was, the old system would never be able to process the tests at the massive volume that we would need in the midst of an epidemic.

And that's why the president brought together these extraordinary commercial labs that you have heard from today, literally sat them down in the Roosevelt Room and said, we need you to turn all of your energies loose on doing the kind of high-speed testing that would be necessary for us to reach the numbers we're at today.

And so there was no disconnect at all. There were -- there were lots of test kits out there, Admiral. And, frankly, there still are today. There are literally millions of tests that could be run in the old- style slow laboratory that is -- are still conducting tests today, whether it be at the CDC or at state laboratories.

But what the president brought about with this public-private partnership has brought us to the point where we have done 5.4 million tests to date. And, literally, you just heard that, by next month, it could -- we could be doing as many as two million tests a week all across the country to give the American people confidence that we can reopen and get our economy moving again.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: When you said four million tests seven weeks ago, you were just talking about tests being sent out, not actually being -- being completed?

I'm a little confused.

PENCE: Jon, I -- I think precisely correct that, in my first week on this job, we were informed at HHS -- I believe IDT was the vendor, Admiral Giroir -- that had distributed a million, was distributing another four million.

And we believe they did. But, again, those were tests that, frankly, but for the president's leadership, we'd still be waiting on those tests to be done in many cases, because they were tests that were designed to be run in the old laboratory model.

But, early on, at the president's direction, we brought in these incredible commercial labs. We partnered with these extraordinary retailers. And now we stand here today, literally, one day last week, more than 200,000 tests in a single day.

About the time that we were making those comments, we had -- we had done less than 25,000 tests in the entire country. But we have met this moment with American ingenuity, with the incredible companies that are represented here, and we couldn't be more proud.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I think it's very important to know -- and this, you can get from any other country, I think, if they're being honest -- not only do we have the most testing in the world, by far, but we have, by far, the best testing.

OAN, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you.

As -- I'd like to switch gears and talk about General Flynn.

There are reports circulating now that he may well be fully exonerated this week. If that were -- if that were the case, is there any reason why you wouldn't bring him back into the administration?

[18:25:00]

TRUMP: I will only say this.

I think that General Flynn is a wonderful man. He had a wonderful career. And it was a disgrace, what happened to General Flynn. Let's see what happens now.

But what happened to General Flynn should never happen again in our country. What happened to other people should never happen again in our country.

What happened to your president of the United States should never again be allowed to happen.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you.

Today, one of your top economic advisers, Kevin Hassett, he said that the U.S. is likely to experience a 20 to 30 percent decline in the GDP in the second quarter, the worst since the Great Depression.

Do you agree with that assessment?

TRUMP: I don't know.

But I can tell, you the third and the fourth quarter in particular are going to be, I think, spectacular. We were talking about it with the executives. I think we're going to have a phenomenal third quarter.

Nobody, except one country, can be held accountable for what happened. Nobody's blaming anybody here. We're looking at a group of people that should have stopped it at the source. But -- so, what happens in second happens in second. What we are doing

is, I think we're going to have -- you're going to see a big rise in the third. But you're going to see an incredible fourth quarter. And you're going to have an incredible next year.

I think you're going to have a recovery. Look, I built -- they were just telling me inside -- and it's fact -- I built the greatest economy -- with the help of 325 million people, I built the greatest economy in the history of the world.

And one day, because of something that should have never been allowed to happen, we had to close our country. We had to close our economy. I built it. We had the best employment numbers and the best unemployment numbers for Hispanic American, for African-American, for Asian American, for everybody, best stock market numbers.

And, by the way, the stock market was up very substantially today. And people are seeing a lot of good things, a lot of very smart people investing in the stock market right now. It's at 24000, approximately 24000.

And if you would have said, with the tragedy that this country had to endure and go through, with all of the death and the people that died and were so badly hurt by what happened, and you can only say, God bless them.

But if you would have said that our country would be in the position we're now -- we're ready to move forward. We will never forget loved ones. We will never forget these great people that sacrifice for a reason of incompetence or something else other than incompetence, what happened at a point where they could have protected the whole world, not just us, the whole world.

But we had the greatest economy ever in the history of our world. And I had to turn it off in order to get to a point where we are today. And now we're making a comeback. And I think we're going to have, economically, from an economic standpoint, next year an unbelievable year.

And I think that you're going to see a fantastic fourth quarter, and the third quarter, we will start to build. But the second quarter, obviously, you're going to have GDP, lack of growth

I'm looking at the head of Walmart. What a job Walmart's done in going through something. I mean, they were -- they were doing yeoman's work, including getting us millions of -- of really very, very protective outfits and -- I mean, the job that Doug, and Walmart did was incredible, millions of outfits.

And those are high-quality. I have seen them. Those are high-quality. That's what we need.

So, people have stepped up to the plate. I think we're going to have a really good -- I think it's going to start building. I think it's going to build fast. I think it'll be a tremendous, tremendous comeback. And, you know, so I say, I built the greatest economy, with all of the

people that helped me and all of the people in this country. We built the greatest economy the world has ever seen. And we're going to do it again. And it's not going to be that long.

OK. Yes, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, opening up the country, how long will you keep up the travel restrictions for Europe?

TRUMP: Well, we're looking at that. And it depends on how long it's taken Europe to heal.

Italy is starting to make a comeback. I'm very happy to see that with my friend the prime minister. He is -- it's tragic, what went on in Italy and Spain and France and Germany, frankly, and every -- every country over there. It's tragic.

But we will be looking at what's happening in Europe. And, certainly, we want to do that, and they want to do it too. They want to do it very badly.

Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you have any update on Kim Jong-un's health?

TRUMP: Say it?

QUESTION: Have you gotten any update on Kim Jong-un's health? Has he responded to your letter from March?

TRUMP: On Kim Jong-un?

[18:30:00]

I can't tell you exactly. Yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can't talk about it now.

I just wish him well. I've had a very good relationship with Kim Jong- un. If I weren't president, you'd be in war, you would have been in war with Korea. You would have been in war with North Korea if I wasn't president, that I can tell you. He expected that, that I can tell you.

I hope he is fine. I do know how he's doing, relatively speaking. We will see. You'll probably be hearing in the not too distant future. I wanted two more. Go ahead please.

REPORTER: I have a question about the 2020 election, your likely Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, recently suggested that you are considering changing the date of the election, that you might try something like that. That's my first question. So my second question is -- TRUMP: I never even thought of changing the date of the election. Why would I do that? November 3rd, it's a good number. No, I look forward to that election. And that was just made up propaganda, not by him. But by some of the many people that are working writing little statement. I see it all the time. Statement made, you say some statement made per Joe Biden, Sleepy Joe. He didn't make those statements, but somebody did. But they said he made it. No, let him know I'm not thinking about it at all, not at all.

Go ahead in the back, please.

REPORTER: A bipartisan set (ph) intelligence committee came out with a fourth installment with this report. He concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections and there was not political bias. Do you accept those conclusions?

TRUMP: No, I haven't seen the report. I haven't seen the report. Yes, please, go ahead.

REPORTER: Nice to see you. I think you have a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But last Saturday, Senator Graham, he mentioned in the Fox News interview, he said that --

TRUMP: He didn't say anything last Saturday. Nobody knows where he is, so he obviously couldn't have said it. If you have -- this is breaking news that Kim Jong-un made a statement Saturday, I don't think so. Okay go ahead. Let's do one more, please in the back.

REPORTER: If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks and died in the entirety of the Vietnam war, does he deserve to be re-elected?

TRUMP: So, yes, we've lost a lot of people. But if you look at what original projections were, 2.2 million, we're probably heading to 60,000, 70,000. It's far too many, one person is too many for this. And I think we made a lot of really good decisions.

The big decision was closing the border or doing the ban, people coming in from China, obviously, other than American citizens, which has to come in. You can't say you can't come in -- you can't come back to your country.

I think we have made a lot of good decisions. I think Mike Pence and the task force has done a fantastic job. I think that everybody working on the ventilators, you see what we've done there, have done unbelievable. The press doesn't talk about ventilators anymore. They just don't want to talk about about them, and that's okay. But the reason they don't want to talk about it, that was a subject nobody would get off of. They don't want to talk about them.

We're in the same position on testing. We are lapping the world on testing. And the world is coming to us, as I said, they're coming to us, saying, what are you doing, how do you do it. We're helping them. So, no, I think we have done a great job.

And, one person -- I will say this, one person is too many. Thank you all very much. Thank you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: All right. The president wrapping up the news conference in the rose garden over at the White House, answering a bunch of questions on different issues. We're going to get to all of that.

I want to bring in Dana Bash, first, Dana, let's talk about the most important thing right now facing the country, testing. And the president and vice president and, you know, Dr. Birx, they released a specific new plan how to increase testing, which is going to be so critical in determining where this country is heading as far as social distancing and others, testing plan, identify clusters, emerging cases and then engage in serious contact tracing, working with the governors and states. So what did you think?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what the governors have been waiting for. And when I say this, I mean, at least a plan. They are waiting at this point with baited breath because it hasn't been executed yet. But at least the governors clearly believe, and I talked to one of them after this call today, that they are being heard and that they are being listened to.

And that on a federal level, from the president, vice president and most importantly the task force, they are collecting the information about how many pieces of equipment to make the full test that they need. And the reason that is so important, as we have learned, and was evidenced by John Karl's Q and A exchange with the vice president is just because somebody says, we have X many tests, it doesn't really mean anything.

[18:35:02]

And Sanjay can obviously more about this and has many, many times. You have to be able to process the tests. You have to be able to understand what that test means and so forth.

And so what the governors are asking for, and have been asking for, are basics, like swabs, like reagents, in order to make -- in order to, again, process the test but also, you know, make it so that it is reliable and understandable on a broader level. So that is really step one in allowing the governors to execute broad-based testing in order to get to the point where they can reopen, which is really what we are talking about here.

But the fact that we saw that exchange was, again, I thought was very, very telling with the vice president saying a month-and-a-half ago that they had millions of tests, that was not relevant because they couldn't do anything with the tests. And by they, I mean, the governors and more importantly the hospitals and so forth, because they couldn't read them, they couldn't process them. And that really is a key, key point here.

BLITZER: That's an important point indeed. A critical point, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us as well. Sanjay, we've been waiting for a long time for a specific plan on testing to emerge from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. What do you think of the plan that was announced today?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that this plan can be executed upon, I think it sounds like a reasonable plan that's addressing some of the concerns that I think that have been brought up and that Dana was talking about a lot, that a lot of the states have been talking about for sometimes. Everyone knows that testing is the key here.

The problem is that the capacity for testing, the ability to actually run test has been ramped up quite a bit as these commercial labs came on board and all that. But if you didn't have the supplies and everybody in the planet wants the same supplies and the states couldn't get the supplies, that was just the problem. That was really what was the stall here for a lot of these states.

What I heard Admiral Giroir say today was that every state would have going to be supplied with the supplies and testing kits that they needed it. And he talked about the fact that two states alone, I think he said, we're going to have more supplies, I mean supplies like the swabs, like the reagents, like the medium, all that sort of staff. And then North -- I'm sorry, the South Korea had in a few months. So if that's the case, that would definitely be true.

I also heard Ambassador Birx say -- remind, I think, that these tests, you get them out there, that's great. They've got to be high quality tests. They've got to be high quality test that people can count on. Because I do think that in the past, there has been a rush to get out testing, and, again, I can understand that rush. But I think that part of the problem with some of these tests, well, they weren't very accurate.

So I think that people lost some confidence in those tests as a result. Individuals lost confidence, but also big public health organizations lost confidence in being able to say you are for sure negative or you are for sure positive.

As you can imagine, Wolf, that's the key. I mean, part of this is knowing, part of this is the psychological aspect and as well having the confidence to say, I don't have the virus in my body right now, I'm not going to infect my family when I go home to them, I'm not going to infect my co-workers if I go to work today. So whatever it may be, that confidence is really important, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And as you know, and as our viewers know, it was almost exactly a month ago, less than 1,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. A month later, four weeks later, now it's more than 55,000 Americans have died. And if that number is going to slow down, testing, testing, testing, and they say, that's going to be critical in making sure that the country knows where it's heading.

I want to bring in Jim Acosta, our Chief White House Correspondent. Jim, you are there. You're still there in the rose garden, although you didn't get a chance to ask a question. He didn't call on you. But the president the other day, in a tweet storm, was tweeting repeatedly that these news conferences are simply a waste of time, why does he bother and went after the news media as he often does. Well, he clearly changed his mind. He got a news conference and he actually answered reporters' questions today.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He clearly changed his mind about this press conference today, went back and forth several times. But one thing that we should point out, Wolf, when it comes to testing, at one point, the president said during the news conference in response to some of these questions, testing is not going to be a problem at all. What we know testing has been a problem for sometimes now.

Back on March 6th, he said that anybody that wants a test can get a test. So there's obviously going to be this question moving forward, whether or not the president's reassurances can be taken to the bank. We should point out just today, a source close to the coronavirus task force pointed me to this article in Stat News that says more than half of the states must step up testing in order to relax stay-at-home orders for their areas of the country.

And so, clearly, Dr. Birx was just saying on Meet The Press yesterday that we need a breakthrough in testing in this country in order to get things moving again.

[18:40:01]

So, testing is obviously a critical issue. We should point out this testing strategy that they unveiled here is essentially burden shifting over to the states. It describes the federal government as being a last resort when it comes to supplying testing materials.

The other thing we should point out, Wolf, the president, while he he was taking questions today, he was dodging questions today. He was asked about one of those tweets over the weekend, where he retweeted somebody who was talking about the conspiracy theory that somehow the number dead in the coronavirus pandemic has been overblown to politically damage the president.

He did not want to answer that question. That is obviously something that he must believe in if he retweeted that tweet. That's obviously a belief that he has. He didn't want to talk about it here.

He was also asked about what he said last Thursday about Americans injecting disinfectants into their bodies in order to kill the coronavirus. Another reporter here asked about, well, what about the fact that Maryland has had these calls come in wondering -- people wondering whether or not they should be doing something like this. It so alarmed, the state of Maryland that their emergency management authority put out a tweet saying, please don't do this at home.

And so, Wolf, he was answering -- he was taking questions today from reporters. He was not necessarily answering a lot of those questions. He was going back to a lot of the excuses, blaming the previous administration and so on for where we are right now. And, obviously, the buck stops with the president, Wolf.

BLITZER: He did really go after China. And answer to a couple of questions that we're not happy with China, he said, they could stop this at the source. And then he suggested that maybe it was incompetence on their part or something else, raising that part. That jumped out at me as well, a strong condemnation of China.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And we know that, that is -- that's been a political strategy of this White House going back several weeks now. They have wanted to shift the blame over to China. Obviously, China has a lot to answer for and a lot of countries around the world are upset with China. And so, I suspect, Wolf, we're going to be hearing about that more in the days to come.

But you know, make no doubt about it, the president, time and again, numerous administration officials time and again, sought to reassure Americans about what was going to happen in this country. At one point, another reporter asked the president about the HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, who made reassurances to the American people that didn't pan out.

The president said, well, other people have done that as well. Well, he is one of those administration officials who tried to reassure Americans, giving a false hope to Americans that this coronavirus pandemic would not be as serious as it is right now.

And I think, you know, perhaps the most pertinent question was asked at the very end of this news conference, and that is whether or not a president who has overseen the number of deaths that we have seen so far rivaling the number of deaths that we saw in a Vietnam war, whether or not that president should be re-elected.

He dodged that question as well. But it just goes to show you, Wolf, in the weeks and months to come, he has going to have to answer for all of this. He may try to shift the blame to China, the Obama administration, whoever else, but he's the president, he's been the president during this and he'll have to answer for this as the election get closer, Wolf.

BLITZER: But you notice, Jim, that the president, he's railing against China, but he never says anything negative about President Xi of China. He's always praising him, good friend, they have a great relationship. And that sort of jumps out in the course of his remarks as well.

ACOSTA: And I will tell you, Wolf, talking to my sources over here at the White House, one of the relationships that they come back to time and again that the president has with foreign leaders, the one that they single out quite often as being an especially warm relationship is the one the president has with, Xi Jinping, the leader of China.

The question, and I think it's a very good question on your part, Wolf, why doesn't the president call out President Xi of China for what's happened in this coronavirus pandemic. If the Republicans, if the White House, if they're so hopping mad at China overall of this, why does that not translate to personal criticism coming from the president for Xi Jinping? We just never hear it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He said it could have been a glitch or it could have been something else. We'll find out. The president, he never mentions President Xi by name. He always goes after China specifically but not the leader of China. Daniel Dale listening very closely as well, our CNN Fact Checker. What did you this Daniel?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, this was shorter than some of the briefings. But as always, there were false and misleading claims from the president and his team.

The president has made at least six different false claims about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said or did when she visited China Town in San Francisco in late February. He said today that she was dancing in the streets. Pelosi did go to China Town. She did urge people to visit China Town. But she was just walked around. She visited a restaurant, a temple, other businesses. There was no dancing. She was not holding a street fair or parties like the president has previously said.

[18:45:00]

The president also suggested that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden did not actually make a statement that he made when he predicted that the president will find a way to delay the November election. He suggested Biden is too incompetent or unintelligent to have made that statement.

Biden said that out loud. That was something he said last week. It wasn't a written statement.

Wolf, I think possibly the most important misleading claim came from not the president but the vice president, it's an exchange that, something you talk about with Dana Bash, when the vice president was asked about his statement on March 9th that there will be 4 million tests deployed by the end of the week, Pence turned that around on the journalist and said this is a misunderstanding on your part. That's not what I said, and he said there's a difference between having tests available and being able to process them.

Wolf, that is not a distinction that Vice President Pence himself made on March 9th. The vice president simply said, before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed, with the deployment of commercial labs, we literally, we literally are going to see a dramatic increase and the availability of testing, and that's a result of the president leadership. So if we misunderstood that was because, Wolf, the vice president had us misunderstand.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point as well.

You know, Dana, the president -- he was pretty upbeat as far as testing is concerned, as far as reopening the country is concerned, as far as the economy is concerned. The 3rd and 4th quarters he said, the economy is going to be spectacular, the GDP is going to be amazing. We are ready to move forward.

Let's not forget in the last five weeks alone, 26 million Americans have lost their jobs, they filed for unemployment, millions more are going to be doing it this week, and the following week. The economy has taken a turn. Kevin Hassett, the top economic adviser to the president, said

yesterday he worries that it was is about to happen is as bad as the Great Depression, what happened then, maybe even worse.

BASH: The president is well aware of that. Talk to anybody who speaks to the president, and he -- it's one of the first, second, third, fourth thing that he has said since the economy started to take a downward turn because of everything that's going on. And he looks at it in large part about how -- what it means for him, his personal fortune, his prospects for reelection, first and foremost, and then what it means for the Americans that he is leading. That is just a fact based on these conversations.

And so, that's how he looks at this, and it is the reality of the economy, and it is horrible. And as, you know, as Americans and as people who see across the spectrum, that restaurants that we go to, that people who we know are suffering greatly, it is -- it is terrible. And so, the president is trying to talk up the economy because he believes that he can make anything happen with his power of persuasion. Unfortunately, that is not the reality right now.

One thing, a couple of things that I just want to mention, and that is the fact that the president took all of these questions in the first place, Wolf. I mean, the day started with the White House saying there wasn't going to be a press conference. The president speak the weekend saying that press conferences are not worth his time because, you know, he attacked the media, and there he was in the Rose Garden taking question after question after question after question.

As it was happening, I was texting an ally of his who said somebody's said it's a crack for him. He can't help himself. He wants to be in the spotlight. Gloria Borger talked about this, it is -- this is his rally that he can't have, this is his show. I mean, name your metaphor. This is what this kind of thing is for Donald Trump.

And even though he was clearly chasten a bit, based on what happened last Thursday with his Lysol prescription, he can't help himself but to come back. And talking to a lot of people on the Republican side who want to be reelected, who want him to do well, they were looking at this and rolling their eyes because they were hoping that, as bad as it was last Thursday, it was a lesson to the president to limit his exposure and that lesson clearly was not learned today.

BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta is still with us.

Sanjay, I'm -- something that jumps out at me, a man you admire, that I admire, I think the whole country admires, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease specialist, MIA, missing today, missing over the past several days from these various news conferences.

What if anything should we read into that?

GUPTA: It's tough to know. You know, there's obviously a concern that maybe he's being sidelined. For some reason, I happened to be on a call with him over the weekend for the National Academy of Medicine, where he was, you know, very engaged and did not talk about this at all.

So, Wolf, I just -- I think it's hard to know. What I can say is that we need to hear his voice.

[18:50:01]

I mean, there's a lot of critical issues going on, not just with testing which is something he has talked a lot about but also, you know, the therapeutics trials. I'd like to hear where they stand. I mean, you know, some of these therapeutic trials started in December, Wolf, in China, you know, four or five months, where are we with some of these medicines? The vaccine trials, which is some of the -- are coming out of the NIH. So, I don't know, Wolf, but I -- we need to be hearing from him for sure.

BLITZER: We really want to hear from Dr. Fauci as well.

I want everybody to stand by. We're continuing our breaking news coverage. Much more here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after a quick break.

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[18:55:05]

BLITZER: There's new reporting tonight that U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the coronavirus, and more than a dozen classified briefing prepared for the president in both January and February, as Mr. Trump continued to try to play down the overall threat.

We are joined now by "Washington Post" national security reporter Greg Miller. He and Ellen Nakashima have an important article that was just posted in "The Washington Post".

Greg, despite the president's claim that this virus, as he's often said, snuck up on us, you report he was warned repeatedly by the U.S. intelligence community as early as January. How did the president, based on all your reporting receive the information, and how specific were the warnings?

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. So, there's two important aspects of this, Wolf, as you just touched on. One is that we've learned, and we are reporting tonight that the president's daily brief, which is a very important, highly classified intelligence product delivered every morning for the president referenced coronavirus, raise warnings about this threat more than a dozen times in January and February.

But, as you know, this is a president who is often very disdainful toward the intelligence agencies and he does not tend to read his daily public briefing, his daily presidential briefing. He does get an oral briefing a few times a week, and so, it's not clear that he in ever read these documents. Although officials we talked to said that it certainly was brought to his attention with his intelligence briefer repeatedly during this period. BLITZER: How did the president's public rhetoric at the time lineup

with this specific intelligence he was receiving in those presidential daily briefings?

MILLER: Well, he was very dismissive of the virus and the threat that it posed through this period. Even as we get deeper into February where the outbreak was already on its way to becoming quite severe in places like Italy and other parts of Europe that were quite threatening and frightening to the United States, he was dismissing it, and saying this is going to away magically, that this would be down to zero in a matter of days.

He didn't really take this seriously until mid-March and then start talking about in terms of talking about it as a potential, as something that could kill hundreds, if not thousands of Americans.

BLITZER: Yes. We know the president, over the past three and a half years has often suggested that he harbors a deep distrust of the U.S. intelligence community.

Did that influence his read -- his read on the warnings that he was getting from the intelligence advisers?

MILLER: I think that it's -- it's inevitable. I mean, he -- although we have to say, Wolf, that even as we mention, after he became the Republican nominee, he has been skipping intelligence briefing since the very beginning of his presidency. He often talks about how he trusts his gut more than experts, whether they'd be intelligence officials, medical experts on his team, national security officials, including generals and senior officials and the Pentagon. I mean, I think this is part and parcel of his broader approach to the presidency.

BLITZER: What is the intelligence community say about your reporting? I know you got reaction.

MILLER: Well, I think that we've checked this reporting very carefully and we're quite confident in its accuracy. I think that, you know, we -- I think that this is an indicative that the intelligence agencies were doing their jobs. I mean, beginning in the first week of January, they are calling the president's attention to an outbreak in Wuhan that the rest of the world really hadn't paid any attention to it at that point.

And that -- those warnings become a drumbeat throughout January and February.

BLITZER: Yes, it was a significant development. The distrust that he has for the intelligence community, remember, when Dan Coats was head of the intelligence community. At one point, in Helsinki, and I was there and Helsinki, the president sided with Putin as opposed to Dan Coats and the U.S. intelligence community, at the same time, which was a pretty extraordinary moment. You remember that, Greg.

MILLER: I was there, too, in Helsinki, Wolf, and I -- and I have to say that even here, in the middle of this crisis, this pandemic, don't forget, he fired his acting director of national intelligence in February. He pushed out Joe Maguire, shuffled the decks there at the director -- the office of the director of national intelligence, which is responsible for the president's daily brief because he was upset that a senior analyst had gone to Capitol Hill and told lawmakers that Russia was meddling again in U.S. politics.

BLITZER: Yes. Greg Miller, excellent reporting, you and Ellen Nakashima, really strong reporting. I recommend to our viewers, go "The Washington Post" website, and read this important article. Thanks very much for your reporting. Thanks very much for joining us.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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