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Trump Erupts at Campaign Chief; Americans File for Unemployment Last Week; Iowa Cattle Auction Struggling; Federal Guidelines on Social Distancing Expire Tonight. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 30, 2020 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00]

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it also really underscored the message from the president's own political advisers. One Republican close to the White House telling me that the president's bad mood last week and his outburst at Parscale was in part because he recognized -- the president recognized that he had messed up at the briefings, but he was looking for somebody else to blame.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And, John, I mean, Jim, that's a great question about the -- what's the internal polling showing, right?

In terms of polling that we all see, John Harwood, talk about the battleground state numbers and why they may be disappointing to say the least to the president.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, first of all, let me just say, I've covered presidential politics a long time. And a candidate threatening to sue his campaign manager because his poll numbers are bad is one I've never, ever heard before. And it's pretty plain that the difficulties that President Trump has are the result of his own behavior and performance, not the quality of his survey research.

But, look, President Trump won in 2016, while losing the popular vote, with narrow victories in key electoral battlegrounds. And if you look at some of those battlegrounds now, he is not on track to win those narrowly or otherwise.

Take a look at Michigan, for example, one of the three Midwestern battlegrounds. One where he's been fighting with Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor, down by 8 percentage points here.

Go to Pennsylvania. These are Fox News polls, by the way. Go to Pennsylvania, also down by 8 percentage points.

Then go to Florida, where he's been closely aligned with Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, but DeSantis has gotten some criticism for sticking close to Trump. There you have bidden ahead by 4 percentage points.

Now, if Joe Biden wins those three states, he's going to be president. But he doesn't have to win all three of them because in other battlegrounds, like Arizona and Wisconsin, he also has leads, though his lead in Wisconsin is narrow. Of the six major battleground states, Joe Biden is ahead in five of them currently and in a virtual tie in North Carolina. So the lesson of all of these taken together, internal polls, public polls, Democratic polls, is that right now Joe Biden is the clear favorite for November and Donald Trump is the underdog. Several months to try to change that, but that's the equation right now.

HARLOW: It is indeed. John Harwood, thank you, Jeremy Diamond, for breaking that story and bringing us what you know, We appreciate it.

The U.S. economy falling deeper into crisis as another 3.8 million Americans filed for first time unemployment benefits last week. That brings the total in six weeks to some 30 million people. A full report ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:32:00]

HARLOW: Just another devastating jobless number, 3.8 million Americans filed for first time unemployment benefits last week.

SCIUTTO: That brings the total number over the last six weeks to more than 30 million Americans. I'm sure many of you watching, you might be in that number or know someone or have a family member in that figure.

CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now.

I mean the pace of this is just incredible. Every week. I mean is there any sign of slowing this down?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you -- if you look at that chart, you can see that each week is slightly less devastating than the week before, but still devastating. And that 30 million number, I mean, every one of those people has bills due tomorrow, May 1st.

Another first of the month has come around here and some of these folks haven't even had their jobless -- first jobless checks yet. So the government has promised that it will make these people whole through unemployment benefits and this extra $600 a week from the federal government in unemployment benefits for the first four months of joblessness. But it's been slow to get to people and just the frustration and anxiety is palpable, honestly.

HARLOW: Christine Romans, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell chooses every word he says very carefully.

ROMANS: He does.

HARLOW: And yesterday he did not mince words. He said this is the worst economy ever. So, I mean, yes, it's sort of manmade in a sense, and we stopped the economy because of this virus. But to hear him say that, it's striking. ROMANS: He also used the word heartbreaking too. And I think that that

is really the right tone for the Fed chief. And he kind of talked about all of these millions of people who are out of work, almost as public servants really, that they're doing this for the betterment of society and that, quite frankly, you know, they're doing their role in fighting the coronavirus. He did not sound quite as optimistic about a big bounce back right away, like the president has been saying, a v- shaped recovery in the third quarter, but he said the Fed will do everything it can to support the economy, to support the recovery.

HARLOW: And they've done all of these things, like main street lending programs, that they haven't done before.

ROMANS: Yes.

HARLOW: Before you go, what -- what struck me, and just what was so sad out of his remarks also, is that he noted that unemployment shot higher, much higher, among minorities, much more quickly than among white Americans.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ROMANS: It shows a structural inequality in the American job market, in the American economy. And after ten years of expansion so quickly to see things unravel and that structural inequality to come back so quickly is really -- heartbreaking is the word he used, and that's what he was talking about. He was talking about the hard won gains for people who now are the first ones to be, you know, to be sacrificed really in this -- in this pandemic.

HARLOW: Christine Romans, thank you.

So with meat processing plants shut down around the country, farmers struggling to stay afloat.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and they were already facing headwinds prior to this from the trade war and elsewhere.

HARLOW: Yes.

[09:40:03]

SCIUTTO: All -- an Iowa cattle barn that's been running for 40 years is allowed to stay open, but, well, the demand is just not there. They used to run six auctions a month, now they have one. Now they don't know how long they can actually stay in business.

CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez is in Iowa to tell us what it's like on the ground there.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, guys.

Look, it's not just the agricultural sector here, it is across the entire board here. There is great worry. The state of Iowa, the governor never put in an actual stay at home order here, but did restrict businesses greatly. A lot of those restrictions for a lot of places in Iowa are coming off this week, but many, many businesses and sectors aren't sure the customers are going to come back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice over): Auction day in Maquoketa, Iowa, Bob Larkey used to call them out six times a month, now, down to one.

BOB LARKEY, OWNER, MAQUOKETA LIVESTOCK SALES: For the last month, why, we're down -- I know how many we sold, we sold about 1,425 head.

MARQUEZ (on camera): So less than half what you normally sell?

LARKEY: Oh, yes, less than half.

MARQUEZ (voice over): Larkey has been auctioning cattle for 60 years.

LARKEY: You can only lose money for so long. Sooner or later you've got to say whoa.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Have you ever seen anything like this in the market?

LARKEY: Never. I've seen some lower drops, but never nothing like this that affects everybody.

MARQUEZ (voice over): With processing plants losing workers to the coronavirus, there's a bottleneck between producers and retailers.

MARQUEZ (on camera): It must be frustrating because (INAUDIBLE) you're seeing those prices go up but you can't sell cows.

LARRY JOHNSON, OWNER, JOHNSON FAMILY FARMS: Right. Right.

MARQUEZ: What's happening?

JOHNSON: Well, yes, what -- I can -- that's what I want to know is what is happening.

MARQUEZ (voice over): Johnson typically sells 500 to 800 cattle every week.

MARQUEZ (on camera): How many have you sold in the last month and a half, two months?

JOHNSON: We have sold nothing in the last five weeks.

MARQUEZ (voice over): He'd lose hundreds on every cow as they can't be delivered to slaughterhouses with the coronavirus sharply reducing the workforce. The pandemic crippling the food chain and retail business alike.

BEN GRAHAM, OWNER, GRAHAM'S STYLE STORE: It's really bumpy right now.

MARQUEZ: Ben Graham is a fourth generation clothier in Dubuque. He's preparing to reopen, unsure what to expect. While Iowa never told its residents to stay at home, it did close all but essential businesses on March 17th. MARQUEZ (on camera): A full week before that, you were already feeling

the effect?

GRAHAM: Oh, my gosh, yes.

MARQUES: How? What -- how much was business down before the order went into effect?

GRAHAM: Seventy percent (INAUDIBLE). I mean it just like -- right now people got worried and afraid.

MARQUEZ (voice over): He's (INAUDIBLE) Safe Graph, which tracks anonymous cell phone data nationwide, indicates a sharp decrease in economic activity across Iowa more than a week before most businesses were ordered to close. Data from nearly 43,000 locations across the Hawkeye state show a steep drop in foot traffic in everything from retail stores to manufacturing plants.

The pandemic stifling consumer confidence, disrupting markets, from agriculture to retail to restaurants.

MARQUEZ (on camera): What is your expectation for how life comes back to places like Dubuque?

NAN SMITH, OWNER, STONE CLIFF WINERY: I believe it's going to come back slowly. People are going to be very -- I think people will start eventually coming back and they'll sit out -- maybe outside. That's what I would be more comfortable with.

MARQUEZ (voice over): As Dubuque head into tourist high season, the big questions like everywhere, when will the pandemic be tamed and how long will the (INAUDIBLE)?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, Governor Reynolds here in Iowa is one of few governors who have told people who are out of work and getting unemployment benefits that if they don't return to work, they risk losing those benefits. But it may not matter because a lot of businesses we spoke to say we're not going to rush in, we're not going to be pulling our employees back, we're just not sure that -- how quickly the economy is going to pick up.

And whether it's here or in Wisconsin, there is great uncertainty that for months this is probably going to go on and they're not going to see a very fast, that v-shaped recovery that the White House and others seem to be hoping for.

Back to you guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and every one of these businesses has a story, right? It's a family. It's their employees. So much.

Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

Contradiction, confusion, simply false claims. Americans struggling to dissect coronavirus fact from fiction as mixed messaging pours out of the White House. We're going to have more on the impact of that just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:49:02]

SCIUTTO: At a time that the nation needs clarity, clear information, you're having confusing, contradictory, sometimes even false messages from the White House. On Monday, the president told states to maximize all available testing platforms and venues. Yesterday, he downplayed the need for testing.

The administration said we should wear face coverings in public. Tuesday, the vice president visited sick patients in Minnesota, inside a hospital without one.

Now, President Trump says he will go to Arizona next week to visit a facility making medical equipment. This despite guidelines discouraging all non-essential travel.

Let's bring in Ambassador Richard Haass. He's president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He also served as the state department's director of policy planning under President George W. Bush.

Richard, always good to have you on the program. Thank you.

AMB. RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Thank you. Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So we're several months into this outbreak. Does the U.S. have credible, national leadership on the response?

[09:50:00]

HAAS: Well, as you suggest, there's an unevenness and an inconsistency about the messaging, the gap between -- and within states, the lack of adequate testing either on infection or antibodies. One could go on and on. So the bottom line is, we're not setting an example that anyone in the world would want to emulate. The statistics, unfortunately, speak to that.

And I think, actually, this will prolong the crisis in this country because we're not sufficiently organized or focused on what needs doing.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You probably heard CNN's reporting, multiple sources telling us that the president lashed out at his own campaign manager yesterday when faced with internal polling showing him behind Joe Biden in November.

But, that said, his approval rating, his approval/disapproval rating has not moved much from a range it's been in really -- really for months.

And I wonder, as you watch this, granted we're six months away from the election. But as you watch this, do you see the outbreak as fundamentally changing the outlook in November?

HAASS: So much depends on where we are then and what the arrows are -- which direction they're pointing. So when Americans get up in September and October, is there a sense that things are improving, is there -- or is there a sense that things are worsening?

Look, crises can help the leader at the time if, and it's a big if, people value and respect the leadership and say, this individual is dealing well with this terrible problem. That's why at times wartime leaders do well. But if just the opposite happens, if people lose confidence in the leadership, then that leader will pay a price at the polls.

So it's not a good answer for you, but, quite honestly, it all depends.

SCIUTTO: Sure. I mean, listen, you know this well, President Bush's approval rating shot up enormously after 9/11.

I want to ask you about China because the administration deliberately focusing attention on China, China's role in this. But this caught our attention. "The New York Times" reporting that senior administration officials are pushing spy agencies to find intelligence linking the outbreak of this to that Chinese bioweapons lab in Wuhan.

I mean what is the danger of tasking intelligence agencies to find intelligence that may fit your narrative?

HAASS: Well, it's a thin line, fine line. On one hand, it's legitimate to make something a priority. On the other hand, if you make it too focused, then if you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It's a little bit like a doctor who's looking for certain symptoms because he has a hypothesis on why the patient is ill.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HAASS: And then you're going to -- it's called confirmation bias. And you've got to be really careful that you don't politicize intelligence here.

SCIUTTO: And that's been an issue, has it not, in this administration, where, for instance, you know, widely corroborated intelligence, for instance, on Russian interference in the election, President Trump downplays that, or intelligence that North Korea is building, not shrinking, its nuclear program, downplays that, but my focus on other intelligence that supports his view.

HAASS: Look, from day one, this administration's had a very uneven relationship with the intelligence committee.

Let's just take a step back here. Just say it's true that this disease escaped from this Chinese government lab. It doesn't change where we or the world is in dealing with it. The public health, the economic challenges are there. I actually do think if that -- if it were to be shown there there's a Chinese cover-up here about the lab, it would cause major problems for China's image in the world and obviously it would cause major problems for China's leadership. That might be the most interesting part of this.

SCIUTTO: And also in the relationship, certainly, between the U.S. and China.

I want to ask about North Korea as well. The leader has not been seen for a number of weeks now. And it was notable comments from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday saying, and I'm quoting him here, the mission is the same regardless of what transpires inside of North Korea with respect to their leadership.

You've had public comments from senior administration officials acknowledging that they're watching the situation there very closely. North Korea is the blackest of black boxes for intelligence foreign services. But based on your experience, what does his absence indicate to you?

HAASS: Look, it's so out of the normal. There's no way that an authoritarian dictator like this just disappears because he needs to demonstrate that he's in charge of the country. It suggests some type of either political ailment or physical ailment or both. So, you know, whether he's dead, in a coma, has the virus, I have no idea. But this is not -- he's not on a vacation. He's not simply taking a break.

So, again, it's either -- my guess is it's a physical problem, and the question is whether it's temporary or permanent, in which case then there's all sorts of questions about how this then plays out or unfolds.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

Ambassador Richard Haass, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

[09:55:03]

HAASS: Thank you, Jim.

HARLOW: Yes, a great voice to have right now on all of this.

Major pivot point in the country. More than half the states will be partially reopened by the end of the week and federal guidelines will soon be fading out, but is it all too soon? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

The country facing really a big test here. It's a critical week as pressure builds to reopen the country and at least 31 states will be partially reopened by Friday. Federal social distancing guidelines expire today. But, as U.S. coronavirus deaths surged over 60,000, remember that's a prediction that was expected to be reached only next month, health experts warn some states may be moving too quickly.

[10:00:04] HARLOW: But this morning there could be some hope. Dr. Anthony Fauci says he expects the FDA to --