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Dr. Anthony Fauci to Testify before Congress; Former Obama Administration Official Criticizes Senator Mitch McConnell's Claim the Obama Administration Did Not Leave Plan to Deal with Pandemic to Trump Administration; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is Interviewed about the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Dems Push for Massive New Stimulus Despite GOP Resistance. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired May 12, 2020 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Address those lost or those suffering. In his diarrhea of the tweet this morning he touches on Bill Maher and Rose McGowan, but not one of the 80,000 people killed.
Let's bring in White House correspondent John Harwood. John, it is striking to me the tonal difference between what the president said yesterday and is saying this morning, and what Dr. Anthony Fauci will testify under oath before Congress today, because Fauci contradicts the president on tone and substance. He will say, quote, "If we step over the checkpoints and the guidelines to open America again, then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal." That is very different than what the president has been saying, isn't it, John?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And it's a bizarre situation because the guidelines that Anthony Fauci is going to affirm this morning are guidelines the president of the United States himself rolled out a few weeks ago. But what is happening is the pressure is getting to Donald Trump. You can see it in the antic, nonsense tweets this morning. So he, as his poll numbers decline, he feels the need to rapidly push for a reopening, even though many states are not meeting those guidelines, and you still have a significant death toll, significant case numbers.
Now, some good things are happening. Testing is increasing. The positivity rate is declining. But this hearing today is going to make an impression on the American people in two ways. One, they're going to hear the words that Anthony Fauci, the warnings that Fauci, Robert Redfield, Stephen Hahn of the FDA are going to offer. But it is also the form of the hearing, John, because it is going to be chaired by Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee, who is going to be asking questions from self-isolation because one of his staff members has the coronavirus, and the three top scientists, Hahn, Redfield, and Fauci, are also going to be testifying from isolation because of their exposure to aides within the West Wing who have been tested positive for the coronavirus. That is going to deepen the numbers that we saw in the new CNN poll, that 80 percent of the American people are concerned about reopening too fast.
BERMAN: It is striking that America will actually get to hear from the person they trust on coronavirus today. According to the new CNN poll, we asked Americans who they trust when they're telling us what is going on with this pandemic, and Dr. Anthony Fauci outranks the president, gets twice the level of trust of the president. He's at 67 percent, the president is at 36 percent. So I guess my question, John, is how much of the attacking the press yesterday at the news conference, how much of these tweets, how much of the look at China stuff we're seeing is to distract us from what Dr. Fauci will testify to this morning?
HARWOOD: Well, I think there is some distraction, but it is also a reflection of the angst that the president is feeling about his political prospects and the sense of censure he's feeling from the American people. You see those numbers. A majority of the American people think that he's done -- the federal government has done a poor job in handling this pandemic. Only 36 percent of the American people in the CNN poll say they trust the president. That's consistent with other issues. A majority of Americans have said throughout Donald Trump's presidency they believe he is dishonest. Now that the stakes are really high with this pandemic in both public health sense and an economic sense, that is all the more damaging to his re-election prospects.
BERMAN: John Harwood at the White House, keep us posted. Thank you very much. Alisyn?
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, joining us now, we have CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN's senior national security analyst Lisa Monaco. She was the former Homeland Security adviser to President Obama. We should note that Lisa serves on Joe Biden's Vice Presidential Vetting Committee and his Pandemic Advisory Group. Great to have both of you and your expertise here.
CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I know you have been over the past couple of months very closely parsing Dr. Fauci's words as he has sort of tried to thread the needle between being diplomatic and giving us the facts. And so the idea that this morning he is going to issue this warning, he's going to say that if we open too soon, there will be needless suffering and death, what does that tell you about how he is sort of breaking with the White House message?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you look back at -- going back to even the middle of last month when they released these gating criteria for reopening the country, and he was sort of saying the same thing back then. One thing about him is he's been consistent. You're right, Alisyn, he's careful, sometimes to not directly contradict the president. But the fact of the matter is that he is contradicting the president with what he says. And one hand you're hearing the country, we have prevailed with regard to testing. Dr. Fauci is saying, no, we're not there yet. If you start opening it up, because you haven't gotten to where you need to be with testing, things could happen that are going to be very negative. People could get infected that otherwise wouldn't, be hospitalized that otherwise wouldn't, and even die. [08:05:18]
I think Dr. Fauci is going to get some tough questions today about all sorts of things with this response over the last several months. But I think his message, if you go back and look, and I listened to every single one of his speeches that he's given about this, he has been consistent with regard to why the gating criteria exists. There will be new cases. We've got to prevent them from going into exponential growth, and here's how we do it.
CAMEROTA: I think that it is also alarming to hear that if we reopen too soon, and the majority of states are reopening this week, that it will take longer to get back to normal. Obviously, Lisa, states are hoping that by reopening they can get back to normal. Of course, they need to revive their economies. Of course, they need to have their people get paychecks. But the idea that Dr. Fauci says that it is actually going to have the reverse consequence and it is going to keep us from getting back to normal, that really got people's attention this morning.
LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: And it should, Alisyn. Look, I've spent hours in the Situation Room with Dr. Fauci when I was Homeland Security adviser and we were dealing with Ebola and zika. This is a man who is driven by science, he's driven by facts, and that's what he's going to look at.
And as he looks across the United States and sees states opening up, even as they're not meeting gating criteria, that was set out, frankly, by the White House, as Sanjay points out, over a month ago, of course that's going to concern him, because why? It means that if they're not meeting gating criteria, they may not have the testing and tracing capacity in place to identify the virus, to isolate those who are positive in their communities, and thereby ensure that we're not going to slow that spread, which we have been working so hard over the last six, eight weeks to do.
So I'm not at all surprised that Dr. Fauci is going to deliver a very clear, candid, and fact-based message. We have seen him do that before. It was weeks ago when he testified that the -- and acknowledged what is palpably true, that the approach to testing by this administration, particularly at the early stages, was a failing, and he said it quite plainly and quite clearly.
CAMEROTA: Sanjay, President Trump, as you heard in the previous report, has been on something of a Twitter roll this morning. He appears trying to -- he is either distracted or he's trying to distract us, because he's not talking about the pandemic. He's talking, as we heard, he's retweeting about Rose McGowan, he's trying to concoct some new accusation against President Obama, he's tweeting about his campaign. And when you compare that to the new CNN poll that is out showing how Americans are feeling about this pandemic right now, it doesn't -- you don't get the impression that they feel as though they are in good hands.
GUPTA: There is nothing more important in the country, in the world right now, then dealing with this pandemic. And you're about to have three of the top health officials in the country who are going to be testifying from quarantine, the top infectious disease doctor, the head of the FDA, and the head of the CDC. It is an extraordinary moment. And there is going to be some tough conversations that happen today, that need to happen. Where are we with testing. Yes, we've improved, but why did we get into this so late? Why do we continue to look at specific models that don't seem to really reflect the reality of what is happening in this country? Where are we with therapeutics? Why have there been back and forth with regard to CDC guidelines. Why would the CDC guidelines that could really help people understand whether or not their kids can go to school this fall, whether or not they can go to summer camps? What is going to happen with just life in general? Why aren't we seeing these guidelines from the epidemiologists that are widely regarded as the best in the world at doing this sort of stuff?
There have been a lot of -- you talk about the response overall, but when you start to look at the tentacles and the various facets of this response, there is a lot of open questions that have not still been answered. Even going to remdesivir, which showed some effect against this coronavirus. We still haven't seen the data on that study. How is that possible that still, after so many weeks, we haven't seen the data on things?
My point is, there is a lot of really important stuff happening. And today is a very, very important day. Everybody needs to be -- I don't think there is anything more important in the world right now than what is happening here.
CAMEROTA: Lisa, last night, Senator Mitch McConnell said something that I am sure made your head explode. He basically rewrote history, based on everything that you have told us about your time in the Obama administration and how the administration attempted to prepare the incoming Trump administration for what this would look like. Let me play for you Senator McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Lisa, what is Senator McConnell talking about?
MONACO: I don't know, Alisyn. And, look, because the statement was made by the Republican leader, inevitably this is going to be looked at through a political lens. But let's just look at facts, just plain facts, and the fact is we absolutely did leave a plan. It was called a playbook. Indeed, it was 69 pages long. It was developed by the career staff in the National Security Council. I asked, along with the national security adviser, we asked our staff to prepare that playbook for the next team. Why? We wanted them to have the benefit of the lessons that we learned during Ebola and zika.
A 69-page playbook, it was pretty much a paint by numbers approach to how in the National Security Council, in the White House, you should respond to a pandemic outbreak. We also -- that playbook, by the way, was, of course, ignored.
The Obama administration left a preparedness office, a pandemic preparedness office staffed by career professionals whose job it was to spend 24/7 thinking and planning and preparing for exactly this scenario. What happened to that office? That office was disbanded in 2018.
We also left a program called Predict. Yes, it was called Predict. Its job, out of the CDC, was to work overseas, including in China, to stop epidemics before they become pandemics and to stop them before they get here. What happened to that program? It was defunded.
And finally, Alisyn, the fact is I spent hours in an exercise during the transition along with my colleagues in the Obama administration, sitting side by side with the incoming Trump administration team, walking through a pandemic scenario, going step by step to say, here are the things you're going to see, here are the issues you're going to confront, here are the things you should be thinking about.
We didn't give them an answer key to deal with this really incredibly challenging set of events, but we did say here are the things you need to be dealing with and to be thinking about. So, yes, we left a plan, it was a playbook, we left a whole infrastructure that unfortunately has been ignored and dismantled in response to this pandemic.
CAMEROTA: Lisa, I'm so glad that you're spelling this out for us. I think everybody needs to hear how you tried to prepare the incoming Trump administration. And this wasn't just for fun. This wasn't just an interesting academic exercise. We've heard that President Obama was particularly anxious. He had a kind of personal anxiety about the idea that there would be a global pandemic, and so you all tried to button this up as best you could. And, again, Lisa, just one more time, at the time, were they receptive to what you told them or did you get --
MONACO: Look, there were some people, my successor who came in as Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, was very focused on this issue, he had worked on these issues in the Bush administration, and had been part of preparing a pandemic response plan. He was very focused. He, of course, was fired in 2018, and that office, the job I used to hold, was basically erased. There were others in that room during the transition who I think were focused on these issues, or taking in at least the discussion we were having. Unfortunately, many, many of those individuals are no longer in those jobs.
CAMEROTA: Understood. Lisa Monaco, thank you very much for reminding us all of the real history. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much, doctor, for giving us all of your expertise.
So here's what the Senate's top Democrat wants to see when the nation's top infectious disease doctor testifies this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Dr. Fauci, let it rip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is going to join us live next.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, very shortly, we will hear directly from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warning about the dangers of reopening the country too quickly. He will testify in the first Senate hearing on the pandemic since the president declared a national emergency in March.
Joining me now is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Senator Schumer, thank you very much for being with us.
You called on Dr. Fauci to, quote, "let it rip". OK.
We are told this is what he's going to say. He's going to say: If we skip over the checkpoints and the guidelines to open America again, then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.
How does that align with your notion of letting it rip?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I think that's pretty good. It's a sharp and direct contrast to what President Trump has been trying to tell -- to tell people, which is just go out there.
Fauci has a huge amount of respect. And it seems at times he's muzzled by the president. The president is always lurking over his shoulder.
This is the first time we get to hear him without the president looking over his shoulder or cutting him off or cutting the reporter off who asked the question as he does frequently as you and CNN saw yesterday. And so --
BERMAN: What do you need -- what do you need to hear from him?
SCHUMER: What we need to hear from him is how careful should we be? And he seems to indicate in his opening statement we have to be very careful.
You know, they have -- they don't have adequate testing. They say they have -- you know, yesterday the president got up and he said he's accomplished his mission -- not so at all. The White House has adequate testing. Everyone in the White House gets tested. We will not get back to normal until we have enough tests not just for
those who have a high fever and trouble breathing, but for everyone.
You know, in New Rochelle, John, the first town, city, that went into quarantine, I called the mayor, he said -- what do you need? He said, if I had enough tests to test everybody, then I could give each person in New Rochelle a test, those who had corona would stay inside for two weeks, not be exposed to people, the others could work, shop, on the streets.
That's what we need in America, that's what other countries have done. That's why they're much more quick. They're back on the path.
Fauci needs to tell us that very directly. He needs to tell us the fact that we have to be real careful or this will come back with a vengeance and won't go away as quickly as it would.
And I hope he will import to the president, in a gentle way, that's how he does it, to get more testing done, because we clearly don't have enough tests. And Fauci, by all indications, in his body language and everything else, agrees with that.
BERMAN: Look, I think prevailing on testing, that statement in and of itself is demonstrably false.
But are you suggesting we test everybody? Three hundred and fifty million tests. Dr. Fauci doesn't say we should do that and no nation has tested everybody.
SCHUMER: Well, the Koreans have tested close to anyone who needs a test, anyone who is going into an area where there's contact with a lot of people, in very many more occasions than we do.
It's estimated that, for instance, Canada has more tests per capita than we do, a country just like us. I am saying that there have to be many, many more tests available so that people feel safe. We can open our small businesses, but if people don't feel safe, they're not going there.
Preliminary indications are, you know, Georgia, a state where the governor just said, everyone can go everywhere -- no one is showing up, very few people are showing up.
BERMAN: To be clear --
SCHUMER: So, we need much more testing --
SCHUMER: -- to give people the confidence that they can go out, go back to their normal lives without. And that means not 300,000 tests a day, but it means millions.
BERMAN: It does. It certainly does. Just to be clear, though, we are testing more per capita at this point
than South Korea, that does not mean --
SCHUMER: Yes, at this point.
BERMAN: At this point, I understand, I understand.
SCHUMER: When South Korea had the virus at its peak, they were testing many more per capita than we did.
SCHUMER: Now, they had very few deaths, very few hospitalizations. Their testing has naturally gone down. And if we have enough tests and get to that stage, ours could go down eventually too.
BERMAN: In a way, it is impossible to fix --
SCHUMER: I'm not hearing you, John.
BERMAN: Senator Schumer, can you hear me OK?
SCHUMER: Yes. Now I can, yes.
BERMAN: What is the difference -- I want to move on after this -- what do you think the difference is between the message we're getting from Dr. Fauci and these statements that he emailed to "New York Times" and the message we're getting from the White House? And why is there that difference?
SCHUMER: President Trump has been like an ostrich in this whole crisis. He thinks by saying something, it becomes true because he wants it to happen, not that it will happen. So, he said it was a hoax. He said it will go away soon. He said warm weather.
Two months ago, he said everyone who wants a test can get a test. That clearly wasn't true.
Dr. Fauci is a truth teller. That's his reputation. It seems he has sort of muted the truth some in the presence of the president to maybe admonitions privately from the president. He has to tell the whole truth here.
The president does not like the truth. He likes a story that helps his own ego on the day he tells it. And that has had severe consequences for this country.
BERMAN: I want to ask you about the plan we're going to get from Democrats in the House of Representatives for a new round of relief. What do you want to see in this plan? What do you need to see in this plan?
SCHUMER: Well, look, I think this plan will see from the House will be big and bold, to match the crisis we have. We have more people unemployed than at any time since the Great Depression. We have businesses closing up, minute by minute, even second by second.
We have people not able to feed, those lines -- of long lines of people in cars going to food banks, of people who never had to show up at a food bank before. It's very touching and moving.
And so, we need a big, bold plan. And when President Trump says, oh, he's going to sit back and wait, when Leader McConnell says he doesn't see a real need at this moment, they're behaving like Herbert Hoover before the Great Depression.
The stock market crashed, Herbert Hoover, then president, blinded by his ideology, said, let the private sector take care of this. And his inability to move big and bold greatly deepened the depression.
We need a big, bold plan now, and if President Trump is not going to lead us, I think that Speaker Pelosi and Democrats in the Senate will do -- will do just that.
BERMAN: What do you say to senators like Rick Scott and others who say, well, we don't want to bail out Democratic states or cities that have problems outside of coronavirus? Maybe with their pension plan.
SCHUMER: That is such -- such political cheap talk. A fireman in New York who gets laid off because his government doesn't have enough money is no different than a fireman in Florida who gets laid off because his government or her government doesn't have enough money.
We -- when you talk about government, it's not an abstract concept. It's local government, state government, are the policemen who protect us, the firemen who keep our safety, the food inspectors, the bus drivers, day to day people.
When they're laid off, it's just as bad as if a business lays off someone. They're not making any money, they're hurting, themselves and their family, and they're hurting the economy. So, we -- of course, we have to help every state that needs help. And if some of the states are blue and some of the states are red, so be it.
It's an awful way to look at it in a partisan way. And that's what the American people want us to avoid. President Trump does it and, unfortunately, Senator Scott seems to be repeating it.
BERMAN: We're seeing something unusual in a few hours today, in addition to this -- this testimony from Dr. Fauci. The Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether or not Congress should be able to see the president's taxes and criminal investigators in New York should be able to see the president's tax returns.
What are you going to listen for from the Supreme Court justices today?
SCHUMER: Well, you know, the tax returns have something in common with the coronavirus. That is President Trump wanting to hide the truth. I think for 40 years, every president has released his tax returns.
What is President Trump hiding?
The American people have the right to see this. He's not an ordinary citizen anymore. He's the president of the United States and people have a right to see what he invests in and what he doesn't, so they can see if he's making impartial decisions.
I hope that the Supreme Court will step up to the plate. I hope they won't be political. I hope they will say that these tax returns belong to the American people because we need, on this issue, like on so many others, truth, not what the president wants us to believe, but the truth.
BERMAN: Senator Chuck Schumer, we appreciate you being with us from the Capitol today. Thanks so much for your time.
SCHUMER: Thank you. Good to be here.
BERMAN: So we just talked about a moment ago, President Trump says we have prevailed when it comes to coronavirus testing. We're going to talk to a top infectious disease doctor to find out what the facts on this are.