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Ongoing Tug Of War Between Governors & President On Testing; WAPO: Administration Didn't Take Early Intelligence Of China Pandemic Coming To U.S. Seriously; Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs (R), Discusses His Three-Phase Reopening Plan As Tennessee Ends Stay-At- Home Order May 1st; Texas Governor Takes Phased Approach To Reopening; Mnuchin Angered By L.A. Lakers Taking Millions Meant For Small Businesses. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 28, 2020 - 11:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And so they were told that the administration will get back to them over the next couple of days with what they can deliver.

So we're not going to know the answer to your question, John, about whether or not they mean it this time until we see and hear from the governors as to whether they're going to get what they specifically asked for.

But at least we're in a place where there's that communication, where the federal government is understanding that they have to at least in some way, shape or form control the supply chain.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And, Michael, one of the other questions, I'm going to borrow from a previous crisis involving a presidency is, what did the president know, when did he know it, and what did he do about it.

There's a "Washington Post" story saying -- the administration is pushing back -- that in the president's daily brief there were early warnings, early information there is a pandemic in China and it's most likely going to come to the United States.

The White House is pushing back, saying it was not that specific. But there were some pieces of intelligence because we saw members of Congress, including Tom Cotton, Senator from Arkansas, at the end of January beginning to write letters. He has access to the intelligence. Remember, the Intel Committee saying, don't believe what you hear in China.

And in February, listen here, this is a Trump administration official testifying.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We expect we will see community spread in this country. It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.


KING: On the very day of that, from a Trump administration official, the president of the United States said, it's going to be under control. I can speak for our country. It is under control.

There's a big debate, Michael -- you've written about the administration's response, how the president bristles at any suggestion he didn't take it serious enough the end of January throughout February.

The record, whether you believe the "Washington Post" story or not -- and the reporters are fine reporters -- saying it was in the president's daily brief, saying there was a great number of markers the president should have had, if he paid attention to it, access to the information.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I think that's right. We were reporting, a month ago, the National Security Council was holding meetings on coronavirus inside the White House in mid-January. There were Situation Room meetings by the end of January.

The "Wall Street Journal" and other media outlets had extensive reporting on what was happening in China through January, through February. That's a matter of the public record.

It's also a matter of the public record that the president's description of the virus and predictions of what would happen were off, were way off.

And the question remains, who inside the administration was sounding the alarm bells most loudly about this and urging him to have a more -- a direct response and a more urgent response.

I'm not sure the Intel Community is one of those yet. These reports were in the presidential daily briefing. They were also in newspapers at the time. I think that's a line of reporting that is still -- that there's a lot of ways to go on that.

But you're right, the president is bristling and he's tired of being blamed for the virus and the response of the virus.

We reported last week in the "Wall Street Journal" that he's essentially asked his team to come to him with plans that will let him take credit for the good parts of the response and push blame for when things go wrong.

This testing strategy that he put out yesterday, the administration talking about -- how they're talking about testing strategy now, I think, fits right in with that.

They're telling reporters and governors they have what they need. And yet, they're also saying that they're not going to produce more than -- they're going to cap certain states for the number of tests and provide a certain minimum for testing as well.

Which is sort of hard to square those two responses coming from the administration yesterday.

KING: He thinks if he says that at a White House briefing or in a tweet, therefore, it is true.

Michael Bender, Dana Bash, thank you for your insight.


These stories coming up for us. The Tennessee mayor and a business owner talks about a three-phase reopening plan he's about to roll out.

KING: This coming Friday, May 1st, brings a host of changes for states and cities as many of the original stay-at-home orders expire. Some states are extending those orders while others, like Tennessee, are already reopening their economies with limitations.

Then within those states, there are cities and counties, like Knox County, Tennessee, setting their own schedules, balancing the health of their citizens with the need to get business owners back on their feet.

Glenn Jacobs is the mayor of Knox County and joins us now.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for your time.

It's a tough call, right? You have a three-point reopening plan, a phase plan. People must keep social distancing. Wear their masks. Higher risk people should stay at home. But you also think it's time to reopen businesses, daycare centers, spas, retail stores, gyms, places of worship.

I follow you on Twitter. I know you think it's important, you can keep the economy dormant for so long. What is your test for is this safe enough? What are you going to watch?

MAYOR GLENN JACOBS (R), KNOX COUNTY, TENNESSEE: Our health department actually implements these plans, and this plan was put together with the joint task force for the city of Knoxville, officials from Knox County as well as the Knox County Health Department. And they have metrics that they will look at going forward.


As you say, we can't keep the economy dormant. A lot of people are suffering. And 27 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past five weeks. Here in Tennessee, 450,000 people filed for unemployment.

I'm concerned that we're going to reach a point when we talk about reopening the economy, there's not going to be much less to reopen. So we have to do so, of course, in a safe manner.

KING: You have a unique perspective. Forgive me, Mr. Mayor, but my son knows you as Cain. You're a professional wrestler, a professional wrestler, professional athlete and performer who has to get up close and personal in a very tight space, sometimes with one, sometimes with a lot more than one.

You're also a small business owner who wants to get your own business back up and running but you have employees to worry about. And you're a mayor who has to worry about the decisions of all the people. You make a decision and it impacts the health, safety and economic well- being of somebody else.

Take us to this decision-making process for you because you have these experiences.

JACOBS: Exactly right. Primarily, the mayorship comes first and ensuring the health of Knox County as well as ensuring that our economy can remain intact and be viable and hopefully get moving again.

As for our own businesses, we've been impacted like everybody else. I don't think there's anyone that hasn't been harmed by this crisis in one way or another, whether it's COVID-19 directly or the economic impact that all this happened.

We try to keep all those things in mind and realize that it is a multi-facet multi-faceted problem and realize you have to make a decision, and once you make it, you have to get feedback and see how things are going. But you have to make a decision and go with it.

KING: And what do you say to somebody who walks up to you and says, Mr. Mayor, I think you're going too fast here?

JACOBS: Well, again, if we don't do something with the economy soon, we're not going to have much to open up, unfortunately. There's a lot of people's jobs that depend on sectors of the economy that have been completely shut down.

It's not a choice between lives and the economy. Lives depend on the economy. So we have to balance both. We have to ensure that we're taking care of both to the extent that we can.

KING: Mr. Mayor, appreciate your insights and your time today. Best of luck in the difficult days ahead.

JACOBS: Thank you, John. I appreciate it.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Up next, 50 states, 50 different challenges when it comes to the big question of the moment, whether to reopen.



KING: Today, at least two more governors planning to announce their states' reopening plan. The governor of California, Governor Newsom, and the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem. Fifty states, 50 decisions. It can be confusing. Let's take a look at what we know.

These are the states. These are the states that have announced reopening plans or at least steps toward reopening. Look in yellow on the map here.

Let's look at some of the details. Every state is doing this a little differently.

In Iowa, some business restrictions relaxed. In Washington, outdoor- related activities now allowed. Wisconsin, relaxing some business restrictions. West Virginia saying they will have a plan, no specific date just yet.

Texas more aggressive. More businesses open. Limited capacity but much more open, including movie theaters and the like.

Sever of the states, a half dozen here, announcing, no, we're not ready. We're going to extend our stay-at-home orders. We do not believe we have corralled the virus enough yet to open up. You see those six states here. Hawaii down there.

Here's where it gets interesting. Some states, in yellow, going ahead. States in pick saying go slow. Look at Illinois. Surrounded by states going forward with reopening plans. People obviously can move back and forth. You see these other states as well. Some of their neighbors going forward when they think it's time to wait.

We'll hear soon from other governors yet to make their decisions.

You see these other states. California and South Dakota could come today. These others deciding to keep stay-at-home orders in place, reopen, and if you reopen, how do you do it?

As each governor makes their decision, you can hear here, they understand the political risks?


MIKE DEWINE, (R), OHIO GOVERNOR: Yes, I take full responsibility with the decision. With any decision, there's risk. Whatever we did today was a risk. Doing nothing is a risk.

GREG ABBOTT, (R), TEXAS GOVERNOR; Just as we want to slow COVID-19, we must also come together to begin rebuilding the lives and the livelihoods of our fellow Texans.


KING: That last governor there, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. If there's middle ground between aggressive reopening and one of caution, Abbott certainly trying to find that balance. His state set to reopen in phases beginning on Friday.

Ed Lavandera in Texas.

Ed, let me start with you on the ground. Governor Abbott saying it's time to go. What is the reaction in the state?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think they are heavily divided in terms of what people want to see and many questions as to how all of this is going to play out. There are definitely some circles where you see people say this is needed, it needs to be done.

As you heard the governor there talking about restoring livelihoods, that does resonate with some people. But there's a great sense of trepidation, especially when you look at political leaders in the big cities in Texas that have been hardest hit.

Listen here to the mayor of Houston and how he reacted to the governor's plan yesterday.


SYLVESTER TURNER, (D), MAYOR OF HOUSTON, TEXAS: So the virus has not disappeared. We've done an excellent job at containing it and minimizing its impact. We don't want to undo what we have successfully done over the last 40, 45 days. Testing, continuing to be cautious.


I, too, want to open up but I think you have to do it, you have to ease into it very slowly. And it has to be based on the science and the data and medical advice.


LAVANDERA: What's really interesting, John, if you listen to the way political leaders here talk here in Texas, the mayor of Houston, the Dallas County judge, both Democrats talking about following the science. It is a similar argument about what Governor Abbott is saying, follow the medical data and react to that and plan to open things up accordingly.

Essentially, both sides are following the science but it is being read in different ways and so that leaves people out here on the streets a little bit confused.

Take the movie theater behind me, Alamo Draft House, a popular movie chain in Texas, they're supposed to be allowed to open on Friday. They're saying they won't open. They're going to remain close for the safety of employees and customers.

You see a lot of businesses on the ground making those decisions. I have talked to other restaurant owners that will not open up. It is not worth the risk. Perhaps there will be some that will.

That's what everyone in Texas is juggling with in the coming days.

KING: Ed Lavandera on the ground for us in Dallas. Appreciate it.

Dan, let's continue the conversation. The governors saying they're following science but they take the science and, listening to governors here, they take the science and they filter it through their own governing philosophy or ideology. Listen.


JIM JUSTICE, (R), WEST VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: We'll monitor and watch and take small steps. If we got to stop or slow or backup, that's what we'll do.

PHIL MURPHY, (D), NEW JERSEY (voice-over): If we let up one bit of our aggressive social distancing measures, we can see ourselves skidding off this road. A plan that's needlessly rushed is a plan that'll needlessly fail.

GAVIN NEWSOM, (D), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: We are a few weeks away and not months away from making measurable and meaningful changings to our stay-at-home order.


KING: Dan, it is fascinating and it is risky. But the magic of the Republicans is these 50 state experiments. The confusion is these 50 state experiments.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": In reality, John, we've been seeing 50 state experiments all the way through. We see some states moving aggressively to close down their states and issue stay-at-home orders, closing schools earlier than other states did. Now we are coming out the other end of it.

I think one of the points have been raised is this question of how much risk there's available or how much risk people are willing to tolerate.

What's most interesting is that governors will make the decisions that they think are the best both for medical reasons and for economic reasons. Those tradeoffs are becoming a little bit more acute than a month ago as we all know.

The other aspect of this is that individuals and businesses will also make their own decisions almost regardless of what the governors decide. If governors seem opening to fast, as Ed's report showed, there will be business that say we are not opening up yet and we don't think it is safe for your employees or customers.

And individuals are not going to run out to a lot of these places. We got a new poll that we did with the University of Maryland. It shows two or three people think the restrictions in their states are appropriate and another 15 percent or 20 percent think they are not restrictive enough.

KING: I saw that data this morning. The people are out ahead of their politicians. We'll see how they try to go through this.

Dan Balz, appreciate your insight.

[11:54:00] Next for us, anger from Treasury secretary after a business worth nearly $4 billion secured millions in emergency money meant for small businesses.


KING: Important economic news, the big three automakers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler could restart production here in the United States starting on May 18th. The source tells CNN nothing is set in stone, just an rough timeline for automakers to meet satisfactory safety protocols for their workers.

We're told a return to work is also contingent on pressure from union members coming from both sides, those who are wanting to get back to work as soon as possible and those waiting to make sure safety measures are up to code.

Condemnation and a warning for big businesses this morning from the Treasury secretary. Steve Mnuchin responding to news that the Los Angeles Lakers received $4.6 million loan from the federal program meant to help small businesses.


STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY (voice-over): I never expected in a million years that the Los Angeles Lakers, which I am a big fan of the team, but I am not a big fan of the fact they took a $4.6 million loan. I think it is outrageous. And I am glad they returned it where they would have had liability.

For any loan over $2 million, the SBA will do a full review of that loan before there is loan forgiveness. So we'll make sure what was the intent of the taxpayers is fulfilled here?



KING: The Lakers' organization say it repaid the loan after learning the initial funding for the program had run out. Mnuchin says he's encouraged by other larger companies returning their loan money.