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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; Interview With Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI); Interview With Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA); Interview With Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired May 17, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Warp speed? President Trump sets an ambitious timeline for a vaccine.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think we're going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future.
TAPPER: But is that realistic? And how can Americans feel safe going out in the meantime?
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar joins me next.
And in the hole. States take more gradual steps to reopen, but warn, without more federal aid, the financial consequences for Americans will be dire.
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): The federal government must do more to help support these states.
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Congress has spent a lot of money. There's a need for that.
TAPPER: I will speak to California Governor Gavin Newsom and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in moments.
Plus: Friday night firing. President Trump cuts loose yet another inspector general, a fourth, this time one who was investigating his secretary of state. But will any of his Republican allies act?
Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson joins me to discuss next.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is opening.
This morning, there are nearly 89,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus. The speed at which this virus has killed is just horrifying. Just two months ago, the number of dead was 87.
But as the death count continues to rise, life during this pandemic is beginning to change. The majority of states across the U.S. are now beginning to take steps to reopen, as the number of new cases across the country, new cases, is falling.
While the nation grapples with how to balance reopening and staying safe, former President Obama made rare public comments criticizing American leadership in two different televised commencement addresses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they're doing.
A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The criticism from Obama comes at a time when President Trump and his team are launching an unprecedented smear campaign against any rival, leveling wild and false allegations against critics in the media and political rivals that range from bizarre false conspiracy theories, to spreading false allegations of pedophilia, to even suggesting one TV anchor committed murder.
These smear campaigns are unmoored from reality. They're deranged and indecent. They seem designed, at least in part, to distract us from this horrific health and economic crisis.
And it is that pandemic that we're going to focus on today.
Joining me now to talk about the pandemic, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar.
Secretary Azar, a pleasure to have you. Thanks for joining us.
Let me ask you. Forty-eight states will have eased restrictions in some form or another by tomorrow. It's unclear how many of these states have actually met the White House task force guidelines to begin phase one.
But I want you to take a look at some of the images we're seeing around the country, a crowded bar in Wisconsin, a boardwalk in New Jersey, another crowded bar in Ohio.
Does it concern you, as health secretary, to see these images? Is the U.S. reopening in a way that won't bring back a spike in new cases and deaths in a few weeks?
ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Well, Jake, thanks to the president's historic response efforts here and the collaborative work of governors and our heroic health care workers on the front lines, we are in a position to be able to reopen now.
The president has left it up to states to know their local situation the best. And so it's very hard to judge in any community whether a bar being open, a restaurant, a school is the right thing. That's why the local leaders lead this, the states supervise it, and the federal government provides expertise and support from our level.
It depends so much on what the disease burden is. In almost half of our reporting counties, we have had not a single death. Sixty-two percent of our COVID cases come in just 2 percent of the reporting counties in the United States.
So, these are very localized determinations. There should not be one- size-fits-all approaches to reopening. But reopen we must, because it's not health vs. the economy. It's actually health vs. health.
There are serious health consequences to keeping us shut down, whether it's the suicidality rates, or if it is cardiac procedures not being received, cancer screenings, pediatric vaccinations declining.
All of these are critical health needs that are part of reopening the economy.
TAPPER: But in a crowded city like -- I will just pick one, for example, Columbus, Ohio, the U.S. surgeon general is saying, if you go out, wear a mask, practice social distancing.
You see these images from crowded bars in places like Columbus. They're not wearing masks. They're not practicing social distancing. That doesn't concern you?
AZAR: I think, in any individual instance, you're going to see people doing things that are irresponsible.
That's part of the freedom that we have here in America. We can give guidance, as the surgeon general did. Part of this is going to be, if you're in crowded areas, and if you're in an area that has ongoing spread of community -- community spread of disease, there are steps you should take.
That's where our guidance is there for. And we count on local leaders to implement and interpret that, according to the local situation. But we have got to get this economy and our people out and about working, going to school again, because there are serious health consequences to what we have been going through.
TAPPER: Yes, I don't think anyone disputes that we need to take steps to reopen. It's just a question of whether we're doing so responsibly.
Let me ask you. This is -- this is intriguing to me, because some states have been aggressive with reopening, despite predictions of potentially dire consequences from some health experts.
TAPPER: Pardon me.
I'm thinking specifically of states such as Georgia or Colorado. They began reopening weeks ago. And it seems, at least so far, that we have not seen a dramatic spike in new cases from those two states, Georgia and Colorado.
What have you seen from those states? Is there any cause for concern that they reopened early? Is it still too early to tell? Or are they taking measures, such as social distancing and masks, that make this reopening work.
AZAR: Yes, Jake, I think your question is very insightful.
We are seeing that, in areas that are opening, we're not seeing the spike in cases. We still see spikes in some areas that are, in fact, closed, very localized situations.
And so this is going to be really important for us to watch the circumstances on the ground. But, you know, with reopening, what's the key to reopening? First, we need to have good surveillance. So we need to look for influenza-like illness and other respiratory disease.
We have got a great surveillance system for that. We look for spikes in early indicators. We surge our test -- we have adequate testing capacity. We surge that in. We need to make sure anybody who's symptomatic is tested and that we have adequate asymptomatic surveillance in areas of greatest burden, senior living, congregate living situations like prisons, or meatpacking facilities, where people are close together.
So, we look for early indicators. And then we use the traditional public health tools to surge in there. We would test everybody there. We would do contact tracing and isolation. And that's where places like Georgia and Colorado, as they reopen, it's these tools that allow us to be reopened, but do so in a safe way that lets the economy function.
But it allows us to use the traditional tools of public health to move forward, as we would with any other disease.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about surveillance testing and contact tracing, because the White House has been able to keep its workers and you and President Trump and others who go to the White House safe, because you are conducting at the White House regular testing, surveillance testing, contact tracing.
That would be a great way to keep, as you know, a meatpacking plant or a retirement home safe, regular testing, surveillance testing, contact racing.
But when are the rest of us going to be able to get that same kind of protection that the White House gets? Because I don't think that there is that level of testing at the most vulnerable places like you're talking about, prisons, meatpacking plants, nursing homes.
AZAR: Well, so that's actually part of the ongoing plans for the country that you have targeted.
But you don't -- the notion that you would test 330 million Americans every single morning to see whether they have COVID is neither realistic, nor seriously treated by any public health experts. Listen, even at the White House, not everybody is tested every day.
It's only if you're going to be in direct proximate contact with the president or vice president are you tested every day.
And I think you, Jake, would agree that those are two roles in our constitutional system that are quite unique. The rest of us, that doesn't happen unless I'm in proximity with him that day.
For our meatpacking facilities, for our nursing homes, we are actually deploying testing out there. We're getting rapid tests out there. We're connecting them with LabCorp and Quest to make sure that they can get testing in those congregates settings, again, as part of syndromic surveillance systems that will be our early warning signs of disease spread and enable us to surge in through our state and CDC resources to contain outbreaks.
So, we're going to be moving. As we did -- we moved from containment in February to mitigation in March, we're going to be progressively moving from mitigation back to containment, outbreak, circle, contain and control situations like that.
TAPPER: I don't think anybody expects that we're all going to be given the same health benefits as the president of the United States, the commander in chief, of course.
But I do think, if we are trying to get our economies open, we're trying to reopen schools -- let's just take schools as an example.
If, for example -- I have two children. If my two children went back to school in September, and every student, every teacher, every person who worked at that school were tested before they could go in, and then the ones who tested positive would be isolated, and then a test like that happened, I don't know, every month, I would feel a lot more secure about sending my kids to school, if there was that kind of aggressive testing for that school.
Now, I'm not saying every American should be tested every morning. Of course not. But every health official I have talked to, including you, says, there needs to be more aggressive surveillance testing.
When are we going to get up to the level where people can have some peace of mind about, I know I can go back to work because we tested everybody before we went back to work, and we isolated people, and we do this every month now, or something like that?
When are we going to be able to -- doing widespread broad-based surveillance testing and contact tracing for every American?
So -- so, we are, in fact, doing that now. We have had over 10 million tests done. We're at -- the public health experts say, as a gauge of whether you have adequate testing for surveillance purposes, you want to be seeing a positivity rate of 10 percent or below. Nationwide, we're at 9 percent; 38 of our states are at -- are at that 10 percent or below goal.
The others are progressing towards that. So, we're going to have 12.9 million tests administered, is the projection, just the coming weeks, doing 300,000 tests a day. And we're going to be bringing online something, Jake, that I think is quite exciting, which is going to be these antigen tests, which are rapid tests, antigen tests, sort of -- the look would be more like a pregnancy test on a -- it's called a lateral flow device.
And we are working with manufacturers on approving those. Those are very high volume, point-of-care tests. And so that's going to be also part of the recipe for the future for those kinds of situations like you rightly say, as a parent, those concerns for our nursing homes, for our prisons, for our meatpacking facilities, to aid us with broad surveillance and testing.
So, President Trump has, over the last couple of months, delivered just a historic transformation of testing that's now become one of the models in the world, with the most -- most tests administered of any country in the world. And we're really on the right track here for the future.
TAPPER: OK, I don't want to belabor the point, but 10 million tests over the course of three-and-a-half months is not sufficient for 328 million people. And I know you know that it needs to increase.
I want to ask about the vaccine, because that was a big focus for the administration this week. President Trump, at that same press conference, press event, in which you were heralding, the administration was heralding the possibility of a vaccine by the end of the year, the president said -- quote -- "Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back" -- unquote.
For Americans who are listening to the president, can you explain in practical terms what he means when he says, we're back? I mean, will we still need to wear masks? Can we have weddings or large gatherings? Will grandparents be able to visit new grandchildren?
How are we back?
AZAR: Yes, so, what the president was making the point on is, everything does not depend on a vaccine.
We're committed to delivering a vaccine. We're going to put the full power of the U.S. government in our private sector towards getting to a vaccine. But that's one part of a multifactorial response program.
First is the testing that we talked about before, test symptomatic people, broad surveillance to find cases, surge in to contain, also therapeutics. We're -- we're driving forward on convalescent plasma to be able to treat people.
What we will do then is take hypo-immunoglobulin from that plasma and create concentrated protective immunity for individuals. We have got over 20 monoclonal antibodies that would effectively allow us to replicate in an individual the immune response from somebody who's already recovered from COVID.
That -- and then we deliver a vaccine. It's a multifactorial approach here that help us get our lives back to normal, get the disease burden down, and use traditional public health tools, so we have our weddings, so we visit our grandparents, so we resume normal life at school, at work, and at life.
TAPPER: Secretary Azar, you were saying that our testing is now the model of the world, but I have to ask.
The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population. But the United States has also almost 30 percent of the world's officially reported coronavirus depths.
You said back in January that -- quote -- "The risk is low. Our job is to work to keep it that way."
So, did the U.S. government fail? Why is this virus hitting our country so much harder than it's hitting other countries?
AZAR: So, first, just in terms of the actual case counts, we are testing more than other countries or than other major countries, and so we're seeing a tremendous number of cases.
Remember, we're actually flushing out significant asymptomatic individuals in the United States. Other countries are not testing asymptomatic individuals in any -- in any way like what we're doing.
Look, for instance, at Japan, which has a very low case count, but does very little testing on individuals. In fact, I think you have to be several days febrile in order even to get a test there. So that leads to a significant difference.
What did the president do here? We defined in January a core strategic objective. We said -- I said this very clearly -- we cannot hermetically seal off the United States from a virus. This virus will spread, this virus will come here.
We said, our goal is to delay the curve and to flatten the curve. And that is exactly what we did through the historic border control measures, and then through our work working with our health care systems and our governors, our heroic front-line health care workers, that, while -- while the burden has been tragic and terrible, it has remained within our health care system's capacity.
As the president said, we haven't had any individuals, to our knowledge, who had to die because they didn't have a ventilator or didn't have an ICU bed. And that's a really important measure of health care system resilience.
And that's what's enabling us now to do as we have talked about, move towards reopening and getting back towards a normal state.
TAPPER: I understand that, but we have more -- we have almost 90,000 Americans who are now dead because of this.
I don't think that this is anything to celebrate, how we handled this as a country.
AZAR: Oh, Jake, you can't celebrate a single death. Every death is a tragedy. But the results could have been vastly, vastly worse.
It's also important to remember, Jake, as we -- as we face...
TAPPER: But it's worse for us than it is for anyone else.
AZAR: No, that's actually not factually correct. When you look at mortality rates, that's simply not correct as a percent of diagnosed cases, Jake, that every death is tragic, but we have...
TAPPER: I'm just looking at the number of dead bodies.
AZAR: Every -- every -- every -- every death is tragic, but we have maintained our health care system -- our health care burden within the capacity of our system to actually deal with it.
Unfortunately, the American population is a very diverse and -- and it is a -- it is a population with significant unhealthy comorbidities that do make many individuals in our communities, in particular African-American, minority communities, particularly at risk here because of significant underlying disease health disparities and disease comorbidities.
And that is an unfortunate legacy of -- in our health care system that we certainly do need to address.
But -- but -- but, no, the -- the response here in the United States has been -- has been historic to keep this within our health care capacity. Even in New York and New York City, to keep this within capacity is genuinely a -- a historic result.
TAPPER: I want to give you an opportunity to clear it up, because it sounded like you were saying that the reason that there are so many dead Americans is because we're unhealthier than the rest of the world.
And I know that's not what you meant.
AZAR: Oh, no, I think that there's -- there -- we have significant -- we have a significantly disproportionate burden of comorbidities in the United States, obesity, hypertension, diabetes.
These are demonstrated facts that make -- that do make us at risk for any type of disease burden.
TAPPER: Sure, of course, but that doesn't mean it's the fault of the American people that...
AZAR: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Jake...
TAPPER: ... our government failed to take adequate steps in February. AZAR: Oh, no, Jake, please, please don't -- please don't distort -- no, this is not about fault.
It's about simple -- simple epidemiology and stating that, if we have hypertension, if we have diabetes, we present with greater risk of severe complications from corona -- from this coronavirus. That's -- that's all I was saying. And you know that.
This is not -- one doesn't blame an individual for their health conditions. That would be -- that -- that -- that would be absurd. It's simply a statement that -- that we do have greater risk profiles here in the United States.
And this is -- this is why we have all highlighted, the surgeon general, the president, we have highlighted the special disease burden and risk factors in a lot of our communities that we have got to address.
TAPPER: Yes. No, of course, no one would dispute that.
Let me ask you one last question. There's a lot of disinformation out there, as you know.
Last night on cable, someone said that the shutdowns that the states have taken, the governors, are just an effort to hurt President Trump by preventing him from holding rallies. The same person said the day after Election Day, the virus will disappear.
I know you know that's not true. What's your response to that?
AZAR: I just think we need to have balanced, accurate information out there. That's all I and our public health leaders are trying to do, is to present the fact that we're now in a position where we can be reopening.
We want to take safe and appropriate measures. The president has laid out very balanced criteria and approaches that he suggests states follow to do that. And that's the path -- and that's the path forward that we need to take.
And I think hyperbolic rhetoric on any side is not appropriate. This is -- these aren't partisan issues. This is just health and economic welfare for our -- for our citizens.
But you would agree that governors did not take these steps to shut down their states because they were trying to hurt President Trump? They were trying to protect the lives of their citizens.
AZAR: I find that -- I find that it's better not to try to impugn individuals' motives.
The president and the vice president and I have had superb working relationships with the governors across this country, from whether red state or blue state. We have been -- all been working in partnership to try to help the American people. And we're going to keep doing that.
TAPPER: All right, Secretary Azar, I really appreciate your time today. Thank you so much.
And on that nice nonpartisan note, I will bid you farewell. Thank you so much, sir.
AZAR: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Now let's talk about one state that took aggressive steps early on to confront the coronavirus efforts that now appear to be paying off health-wise, though the economic consequences are causing real pain that could last for years.
Joining me now, the Democratic governor of California, Gavin Newsom.
Governor Newsom, thanks so much for joining us.
So, you're facing a $54 billion budget deficit. I asked White House adviser Kevin Hassett about whether the White House would support money for states.
I want you to take a listen to what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: I think that it's just premature.
We think that we have a little moment, the luxury of a moment, to learn about what's going on.
President Trump has signaled that, while he doesn't want to bail out the states, he's willing to help cover some of the unexpected COVID expenses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, the position of the White House seems to be that any money for states would be premature.
What's your response, sir?
NEWSOM: Well, it's not charity.
I mean, a year ago, Jake, we were running a $21.5 billion surplus. And here we are at $54.3 billion budget deficit that is directly COVID- induced. We have been managing our budget effectively, efficiently, paying down our long-term pension obligations.
We had a bond rating that went up twice last year, the highest in decades. So, we're not looking for charity. We're not looking for handouts. It's social responsibility, at a time when states not just California, large and small, all across this country, cities and counties, large and small, all across this country are facing unprecedented budgetary stress.
It is incumbent upon the federal government to help support these states through this difficult time.
TAPPER: Well, the House passed a bill on Friday night with money for states, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested it's dead on arrival.
Can you explain what you think will happen to California if the federal government doesn't give you money to help you out?
NEWSOM: Well, these same folks that say it's dead on arrival, I hope they will consider this.
The next time they want to salute and celebrate our heroes, our first responders, our police officers and firefighters, consider the fact that they are the first ones that will be laid off by cities and counties.
The folks that are out there, the true heroes of this pandemic are health care workers and nurses. Those county health systems have been ravaged. Their budgets have been devastated and depleted, their budget counts depleted since this pandemic. They're the first ones to be laid off.
So, we have got to square our rhetoric with the reality. Twenty percent of Americans are unemployed. In a few weeks, over 100,000 Americans will have lost their lives. These are Depression era unemployment numbers, and we have to own up to that.
So, I'm not looking to score cheap political points, but I do want to make this point, Jake. We have an obligation, a moral, an ethical obligation to American citizens all across this country to help support cities, states and counties.
TAPPER: You talked about the budget surplus that California had.
There are some who say that California wasn't in great financial shape. Stanford Professor Joe Nation, a former Democratic state lawmaker, says that California has more than a trillion dollars in pension debt.
And just six months before the crisis began, he warned that -- quote -- "Even a mini-recession in which pension systems assets fall by one- half, Great Recession levels, would be a horrible development. Schools and municipal governments would be forced to cut even further. Taxpayers would be asked to chip in more. Public employees would face layoffs and salary cuts" -- unquote.
How much of the crisis you're in right now is due to preexisting financial obligations?
That $54.3 billion is direct result of COVID-19. Just a few months ago, I introduced my January budget with, again, a projected surplus. We paid off 100 percent of our wall of debt we had paid -- we had inherited over seven or eight years ago.
We were using $9.13 billion of the surplus last year to pay down long- term pension obligations. So, Joe is absolutely right as it relates to the unfunded liabilities that states all across this country are facing. But it relates to the operating accounts of the state.
They were never healthier, the reserves never higher. And so this is a direct result of a global pandemic manifesting in different ways all across this world, around the globe, and across this country.
And so I, with respect, will just caution people to look at this as a frame of charity, when it's fundamental purpose of government. It's to protect people's safety and to protect their well-being.
This is a moment where we need to meet the moment head on and acknowledge this is not a red issue or a blue issue. This has impacted every state in America.
TAPPER: President Trump announced a new initiative on Friday to produce hundreds of millions of doses of a yet-to-be discovered coronavirus vaccine, hopefully by the end of 2020, he says.
Do you anticipate that the U.S. will have a vaccine by the end of the year? Are you confident also that the U.S. has the infrastructure in place to not only manufacture it, but administer it?
NEWSOM: I'm confident there may be what we approximate is a vaccine, but I am very concerned about the second, latter part of your question, which is the manufacturing capacity at scale, global manufacturing capacity at scale, and the logistics in the administration of that vaccine.
And so I am -- I'm hopeful. And I think it's good to be optimistic, but we have to also be sobered by the reality of the application. Even if you have a vaccine, its ability to be distributed is challenging.
And always we must be considerate of an infrastructure that protects the most vulnerable, not just the well-heeled and connected.
TAPPER: I want to ask you.
There is a -- there seem to be a lot of individuals out there in your state and across the country, certainly in Washington, D.C., that think all of this was an overreaction, that the death toll, while bad, was never going to be in the millions, and that people like you who took aggressive action really were overreacting and harming your economies, in the name of precaution, but in a way that was unnecessary.
What's your response to them, because you see them all over the country, people like this, who are frustrated about the economic pain?
NEWSOM: Look, I deeply understand the stress and the anxiety that people have, that entire dreams have been torn asunder because of these shutdowns and their savings accounts depleted and their credit ratings destroyed.
And so I'm deeply empathetic to that and deeply understanding of where that anxiety and angst comes from. But with all the information we had at the time -- it wasn't just Democrats and Republicans -- it was universal that people felt we needed to meet the moment head on and do the one thing that, non-pharmaceutically, we could do.
And that was physically distance from one another, practice social distancing. Now, the president himself on down, Democrats, Republicans all throughout this state and this nation in those early stages felt that was appropriate.
The question is, how do you toggle back and make meaningful modifications to the stay-at-home order? And that's where we're now in this point of friction and a lot of frustration in cities, counties, not just states, all across the country.
TAPPER: Let's talk about California schools.
Your superintendent says reopening will be up to individual school districts. Some of those districts are considering partial remote learning, smaller class sizes, a staggered schedule.
President Trump has vowed that -- quote -- "Schools are going to be open."
Is he right? Will schools in California be open this fall?
NEWSOM: I think some schools will not be. Many schools will be.
And it's all conditioned on our ability to not only keep our children safe, but to keep staff and faculty safe, to keep the community safe. So, it's all predicated on data, on science, on not just observed evidence, the reality on the ground.
Each part of California is unique and distinctive. Each region, each region of the United States is unique and distinctive. And certain conditions will present themselves favorably, some unfavorably.
So, I think it's a question that is a difficult one to answer in absolute terms. There's nuance. But we are moving forward, in hope and expectation that we can start that school year very strategically and methodically, again, based upon the health as a prime frame of reference in terms of those decisions.
TAPPER: The CDC issued a warning this week about this new multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children that's associated with coronavirus.
Several children in California are suffering from this disease, as you know. What can you tell us about this new disease? How worried do you think parents should be?
NEWSOM: Well, we're monitoring it very closely.
We haven't seen the kind of outbreaks. And that's on the basis of the monitoring of that. We are not seeing the outbreaks we have seen in other parts of the country.
But, look, I'm a father of four kids, and deeply anxious about their health and safety, as every parent watching is as well. And so it's just another proof point. Those that claim we know what we know about this pandemic, it was 90 days ago no one even knew the word COVID, let alone what corona actually meant.
And so we are in a situation where, every day, we have to be humbled by what we don't know, and we have to be open to argument, interested in evidence. You cannot be ideological about this disease, and nor -- forgive me for belaboring -- can we be naive.
If history doesn't repeat itself, it certainly rhymes. And the realities of previous pandemics around the globe and those we experienced in the United States suggest not just second waves, but potential third waves.
And so one has to be very, very sober as we move forward to this next round of reopenings, and do so with the modifications that are required of the moment, and I think a humbleness of spirit on all sides of the political aisle that's also needed at this moment.
TAPPER: You have said mass gatherings would be negligible, at best, until there's a vaccine.
Can you paint a picture of what life is going to look like in the fall in California? Will there not be concerts, no sporting events, no weddings?
NEWSOM: Well, the reality is, about 75 percent of our economy is already open in the state of California, with modifications.
We have seen dozens of counties that have moved more quickly through what we refer to in this state as stage two, where restaurants are reopening, office, manufacturing, logistics, warehousing operations and the like. But it's with modifications.
So, when you look for the future, you have got to paint a picture of those modifications, where people are practicing physical distancing, or should be, where people are putting face coverings on when they otherwise are coming into contact with strangers.
But the idea of having stadiums filled with 80-plus-thousand people, strangers coming together across their differences, as much as we want to see that happen, and the spirit and the pride that comes from people coming together in that respect, the health consequences could be profound and devastating and set back all the progress we have made.
So, we are moving into that very cautiously, working with all the major leagues across the spectrum, to make sure that we are not promoting things or promising things we can't deliver.
TAPPER: Tesla CEO Elon Musk defied California's stay-at-home orders this week to open his Fremont plant, which has more than 10,000 workers. Ultimately, the county blinked and let him open that plant.
Democratic state lawmaker Lorena Gonzalez responded -- quote -- "We should be outraged by a billionaire that has gotten so much from its partnership in California, but continues to put workers in unsafe conditions, continues to union-bust, continues to wave his finger at California, as if we're supposed to allow that and let him throw his temper tantrum" -- unquote.
Cutting through some of the -- some of the rhetoric there, is that lawmaker right that Tesla got preferential treatment here?
They moved. They challenged the stay-at-home order that Alameda County had in place. And I will remind you, the state had lifted the manufacturing requirements, so other manufacturers around the state were able to operate. Alameda County had not. They intended to on Monday, on the 18th of May.
They tested that. They came together. And they were able to work out a framework of modifications to keep their workers safe that they believe will have this issue resolved by as early as Monday.
And that's the spirit of cooperation. And I say that to make this point. We're being challenged, hundreds of examples, just not as high- profile as Tesla. All across this country, every single day, governors are being challenged, local health officials being challenged.
And it's a spirit of collaboration. Those that continue to pursue things that put people in harm's risk, you have to have stepped-up efforts of enforcement and sanction. But that was not the case in respect to Tesla.
They did work with Alameda County partners. And Alameda County health officials are satisfied that they are likely to reach those thresholds as early as Monday.
TAPPER: All right, California Governor Gavin Newsom, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time. Stay safe.
NEWSOM: Great to be with you. Thanks.
TAPPER: As governors take the lead on trying to curb the spread of coronavirus, one Republican from the Midwest is earning rave reviews from a huge majority of his citizens. He has an approval rating of 86 percent.
Joining me now, Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine.
Governor DeWine, good to see you again.
DEWINE: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Let's talk about Ohio.
Barbershops and nail salons opened on Friday in your state. Campgrounds are opening this week. Swimming pools, gyms, sports leagues can resume next week.
But you have said you're still concerned about this virus. How likely is it, do you think, that, a few weeks from now, you're going to see a spike of new cases in Ohio, and you might need to put some of the measures back in place?
DEWINE: Well, we certainly hope we don't see that.
What I have said to Ohioans this week is that so much is in every individual's control, 11.7 million people in Ohio. We have got to continue to have -- keep the space. I have really urged people to wear a mask when they go out in public. Every employee in Ohio is wearing a mask today.
So, this is way -- I have described it, Jake, is, this is really probably the most crucial time, the most dangerous time, because we are opening back up, because we have to open back up.
But, at the same time, that creates more exposure, more opportunity for this virus to spread. So, people have to add that extra layer. We're asking them to put the mask on, do all the things that everyone now knows that you have to do to keep that separated and to slow this down.
If you look at our numbers, we're at a plateau, candidly. We have been a plateau for about a month in regard to hospitalization, the same way in regard to deaths, same way in regards to new cases. So, we wish we were going down.
Our replication rate is about one to one, which is a lot better than it was. But we would like to get that down as well. So, we're trying to do two things at once. And we're working at it.
TAPPER: so, Governor, keeping that in mind, everything you just said, I want you to take a look at these pictures from a bar in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday. This was the first day that outdoor dining businesses were allowed to reopen.
That's a pretty big crowd of people. They don't seem to be wearing masks. They don't seem to be separated from each other six feet or whatever, not a lot of distance between patrons. You have seen these images. Does it concern you?
I saw those images very early. We had people there last night. The good news is that the ownership, people running the bar, seem to get control of it last night. We didn't have to issue any citations.
We did issue a citation for another bar in Columbus. And, candidly, we have worked with the attorney general, Dave Yost. And we're going to do whatever we have to do if these things are -- in fact, occur across Ohio, wherever they occur. But, ultimately, it's going to come to Ohioans doing what Ohioans have done for the last two months, and that is, by and large, done exactly what they should do, try to keep the distance.
We're encouraging more people to wear a mask, as I said. But it's going to really be determined by what we do in the next month or so. What the fall looks like, when we hope to be able to open school, it's going to depend on what we're doing right now and in the next month or so.
TAPPER: This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned against parts of the U.S. reopening too quickly.
I want you to take a listen to what he said about schools reopening in the fall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't have an easy answer to that.
As we get into the period of time with the fall about reopening the schools, I would imagine that situations regarding school will be very different in one region vs. another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What would keep you from reopening schools in September?
DEWINE: Well, if we start really seeing a spike in the spread go very significantly up.
I mean, I think what sometimes people miss is that the schools were closed primarily because of spread issue. We have seen the inflammation that you have talked about on your show today. We don't know how widespread that is or how big a problem.
But, basically, what we have found with this COVID-19 is that kids are not at great risk, but they are spreaders. They can get it, they can not show the symptoms, and they can spread it.
So, you closed schools down. We closed schools down very early. And we did it because -- not because you specifically worried about the kids, but you have 30 kids go into -- in a classroom, one kid is in there, and he's got no symptoms, but he's carrying it, now you got maybe 25 kids now are going back to their families.
And it just spreads and multiplies. So, that's the concern.
What I have asked the schools to do is to assume they're going back, but to come up with all kinds of alternatives. Assume, if you're back, for example, how do you achieve some sort of distancing? How do you do things in regards to when kids go to the cafeteria, when younger kids may go to a playground? All of those things.
You know, what is the -- trying to follow the best health guidance and come up with very specific plans that are unique to your school, but are guided by the local health department and guided by the -- by health guidance.
But we hope to be open in August, when school starts back up in most places in Ohio, but we don't know yet, frankly.
TAPPER: Yes, but that's in the fall.
May 31, coming right up, child care centers in Ohio are slated to open. Now, I understand you're going to be taking precautions. The people running the child care centers are going to be taking precautions, smaller groups of children in each room, much more handwashing.
But, as you acknowledge, we have already seen reported cases of children in Ohio experiencing this new phenomenon, this horrific thing, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. It could be linked to coronavirus.
How much does that horrible illness weigh on your decision for May 31, the child care centers, especially given how little we know about COVID-19?
DEWINE: Well, all -- Jake, all of this weighs on me. Fran and I have eight kids. We have 24 grandkids. We have kids who are going back -- be going back to school in the fall.
What we try to do and what we did do in regard to the child care, we pushed it back. It's another couple of weeks. We think we will have the lowest ratio in the country, smallest number of classes, smallest number of kids in a room.
We think we have the best practices that can be put in place in regard to child care. But we're going to monitor all this. As has been pointed out on your show already today several times, this is a virus that we're still learning a lot about.
We don't know a great deal about it. We will know more today than we did two months ago or three months ago. So, we're looking at the numbers every single day. We're getting reports from our health departments around the state. We have 113 local health departments.
So, all of this is a work in progress. We made the decision to start opening up Ohio, and about 90 percent of our economy is back open, because we thought it was a huge risk not to open. But we also know it's a huge risk in opening.
And we go into this with our eyes wide open. We're prepared to do what we have to do to pull back. But what I have said to my fellow Ohioans on Friday, and Thursday particularly, when we did our press conference, I said, look, we don't want to be like some of the countries we have seen, where they shut down, opened up, and now are starting to shut down again. That is not where we want to be. And it's in everyone's collective hands, how we act in the next month or two, whether or not we're going to be in that position or not.
TAPPER: All right, best of luck to you, Governor Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio.
We always appreciate your time.
DEWINE: Thank you so much.
TAPPER: We will see you again soon.
DEWINE: Thank you, Jake. Thank you.
TAPPER: As the nation is focused on the pandemic, a judge is debating a request by the Justice Department to drop charges against retired General Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who President Trump fired in 2017 for lying about his foreign contacts.
Now two Republican senators have released a list of Obama administration officials who might have known about the intelligence on Flynn. It's unclear from what they released. And the president is making some outrageous accusations against President Obama with zero evidence whatsoever.
But joining me now to talk about this and much more, Republican Senator from Wisconsin Ron Johnson.
Senator, thanks for joining us. I hope you're well and healthy.
I want to have you take a look at these images that we're seeing out of Wisconsin, with residents flooding bars after the stay-at-home order was overturned.
I think everyone agrees we need to find a way for the country to reopen and stop the economic suffering. But health experts say that this must be done in a way that keeps people safe and ultimately prevents potentially more death and health issues and more economic suffering.
What do you think when you see these packed bars, in violation of CDC guidelines, in your home state?
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Well, I certainly see a small subset of Wisconsinites celebrating a little freedom. We have all been pent up. We have all been frustrated. And so I think they took that occasion.
But what I see in Wisconsin is primarily people being very responsible, wearing masks in grocery stores, maintaining the social distancing, taking this disease as seriously as it really needs to be taken.
So, yes, I realize those are -- those are images. They concern probably all of us. But, again, we do need to move to keep as much as our economy open as possible, but open it up safely and responsibly. TAPPER: I want to talk about inspectors general, before we get to the
When President Obama was in office, you and I would talk a lot about inspectors general. President Trump has now gotten rid of four inspectors general, in one capacity or another, including on Friday the State Department inspector general.
Senator Romney called this -- quote -- "a threat to accountable democracy" and said it -- quote -- "chills the independence essential to their purpose."
What's your response? I remember you being a real advocate for inspector general -- inspectors general and independent inspectors general when President Obama was in office.
JOHNSON: I am an advocate for inspector generals.
And as the chairman of the general Oversight Committee of the United States Senate, we rely on an awful lot of that work.
I think their independence needs to remain within their agencies. I'm very mindful of the fact that inspector generals don't work for Congress. They actually work for the administration. They're part of the executive branch, a different co-equal branch of government. And they work and serve the president of the United States.
So, I take a slightly different view in terms of what they should be independent from. They need to retain their independence within the agencies, so they can do inspections and investigations and provide that to their leadership, but primarily to the president.
And so they serve at the president's will. And that is true of every inspector general.
The other thing I found out, Jake, is that not all inspector generals are created equal. In our oversight work, we have already had two inspector generals resign because of some of the corruption we were uncovering. They left town ahead of the posse, so to speak.
And so there are inspector generals that take -- bring a political agenda, as well as those that do a phenomenal job. So, they're not all equal. But, in the end, they serve at the pleasure of the president, and he's got the authority to hire and terminate.
TAPPER: Well, no one questions whether or not he has the authority to do so.
But I really have to say, I find it hard to believe that, if President Obama had gotten rid of four inspector generals -- inspectors general in six weeks, that you would have the same attitude that you seem to have right now.
JOHNSON: Jake, again, two of those inspector generals under President Obama resigned under the scrutiny of my oversight.
So, again, I'm not going to speak specifically to this case, with -- quite honestly, with this inspector general, both Senator Grassley and I have had had a real problem with his responsiveness to in particularly one oversight request.
I spoke with senior officials both in the White House and the State Department. I understand their reasoning. I don't know whether they're going to provide a more robust rationale for why they do it. But I understand it. And I don't disagree with it.
I don't think anything that this administration could say is going to satisfy some people. There will still be people huffing and puffing and stomping their feet. But, again, it is the president's decision whether or not to hire or terminate an inspector general.
TAPPER: Well, what was their reasoning?
Because all the public knows is that this acting inspector general was investigating whether or not Secretary of State Pompeo was misusing a political appointee to do personal errands for him. That's according to Democratic aides on Capitol Hill.
And then a senior administration official has said Pompeo asked Trump to remove this inspector general investigating him, and President Trump did so.
What are they telling you that makes you feel like you understand their reasoning?
JOHNSON: Again, I'm -- I'm -- I'm not going discuss my private conversations with senior administration officials.
But my guess, this will all come out. Congress will be able to do what oversight it choose to do. I'm sure the Democrats in the House will call in Mr. Linick, and he will be able to testify, and he will be able to tell his story.
And my guess, the administration will hopefully have an opportunity to tell their side of the story as well.
I'm not crying big crocodile tears over this termination. Let's put it that way.
TAPPER: Let's talk about the list of Obama administration officials that you and Senator Grassley released this week.
Just so our viewers understand, in 2016, at the same time the U.S. was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections, several members of the Obama administration requested the name of a U.S. citizen who appeared in various intelligence reports.
This person in the cases that you have cited turned out to be General Flynn. It's called unmasking. It's not uncommon.
You praised the director of national intelligence for his transparency in declassifying these names. I'm wondering if you would be willing to also push for transparency when it comes to the transcripts of these calls, especially the calls between General Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak, who seemed -- that seems to be part of this.
Have you asked for those transcripts to be released as well?
JOHNSON: Not yet. But we have just really began our investigation in this particular aspect.
This -- Jake, this is one piece of the puzzle. I'm all for transparency. I think we way overclassify information. And, as a result, there's all kinds of wrongdoing can occur, and the American public never has a clue about what is happening.
But what I'm very heartened by is, we finally have a logjam broken in terms of Congress getting information to conduct our oversight. I have been on this case really in some way, shape or form since March 2015 with the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal, which kind of morphed into the whole Russian collusion, because the same -- the same cast of characters.
But what just got released, because I had a staff member that went down into the secure area the Senate, went through the FISA report in -- with a fine-tooth comb, found four footnotes that completely rebutted the main text of the FISA report, showing that the FBI knew full -- full well that the Russian disinformation was actually part of the Steele dossier, and the FBI knew it.
The FBI knew full well that there was no collusion by the end of January, and yet they engineered, through James Comey, the appointment of a special counsel.
JOHNSON: There's an awful lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered.
TAPPER: But -- but...
JOHNSON: And it's going to require transparency, yes.
So I am all for transparency. I think the American people need to -- deserve and hear the full truth. And that's what I'm going to try and get.
TAPPER: OK. So, in addition to the transcripts, which hopefully you will push for to be released as well, I'm wondering, did you also ask to declassify the reports that justify why these unmaskings were requested and approved?
Because just listing the names and the dates, we don't -- and the fact that it resulted in the unmasking of General Flynn, we don't know what this is about. Obviously, he was an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey at the time. He later registered retroactively.
[09:50:05] So, there are a whole bunch of questions that people might have had. Are you going to ask for that to be released as well, the justification?
JOHNSON: Yes, I want all this information to come out.
One thing we have found out is that the FBI was ready to close the file on General Flynn on January 4 because they'd found nothing. You -- you mentioned all those other possibilities, but they didn't find anything wrong.
So they were going to close the file, until the seventh floor -- that's James Comey's office -- kind of called down and talked to Peter Strzok, and said, hey, let's keep this open. Then they start talking about the Logan Act.
And, apparently, President Obama was aware of this as well. So there are an awful lot of unanswered questions, going back to the text that I continue to highlight December, 15, 2016. Strzok texts Page: "Think our sisters are leaking like mad, scorned, worried and political. They're kicking into overdrive."
Our committee conducting a study, showed 125 leaks in the first 126 days; 62 had to do with national security. That compares with eight under the Obama administration.
Something is amiss here. Something was going wrong. I don't know exactly what happened, but we're getting a clearer picture of it. I think the chickens are coming home to roost.
And, hopefully, myself, with the -- hopefully, other senators -- Chuck Grassley has been a real partner -- we will get to the truth.
TAPPER: What exactly do you mean? What exactly is -- look, obviously, there -- there are questions about FBI behavior. Peter Strzok was fired. Lisa Page resigned, et cetera. James Comey is no longer on the scene.
But what exactly are you alleging by the Obama administration, because I have yet to see any facts at all supporting this grand conspiracy that the Trump administration is pushing?
JOHNSON: Well, Jake, it's because a lot of members of the media haven't been asking the questions, haven't been looking.
Let's face it. There were -- there were selective leaks. They ramped up this entire Russian collusion hoax. And it was a hoax. And who is the recipients of these leaks?
TAPPER: I don't know what you mean when you call it a hoax, though, sir.
JOHNSON: It was members of the media.
JOHNSON: ... 18 different outlets.
TAPPER: Sir, you say...
JOHNSON: What I -- what I'd love to see is, I'd like to see members -- I would like to see members of the press actually start looking into all these leaks and how this story got spun up that resulted in a special counsel and put this country through about three years of a mini-constitutional crisis.
TAPPER: So, Senator -- Senator...
JOHNSON: That's what I'd like to see.
TAPPER: Senator, it's not a hoax that the Russians attempted to interfere in the 2016 election.
TAPPER: You know that. It's not a hoax.
JOHNSON: They -- they -- they put Russian disinformation into the Steele dossier that was bought and paid for through cutouts for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
TAPPER: They hacked into the D...
JOHNSON: That is what we had found out, Jake. You got to look at the evidence.
JOHNSON: Look at those footnotes that we have declassified. That's the truth.
TAPPER: I'm not disputing -- I'm not disputing it, the idea that we don't know what was in the Steele dossier, but -- and how it got there and whether it was disinformation.
But that's not what I'm talking about.
You're suggesting that the entire Russia interference campaign was a hoax. And it was not. The Senate Intelligence Committee, run by a Republican, has concluded it was not. Every single inspector general of the intelligence community and of all these agencies have said, it was not a hoax. The Russians were trying to interfere.
JOHNSON: The hoax is that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The disinformation that Russia put into the 2016 campaign flowed through the Steele dossier and Hillary Clinton.
No, I'm -- I'm not denying that Russia tried to intervene our election. They have been doing it probably since their founding. That's what they do. I'm chairman of the Foreign Senate...
TAPPER: Right, but can we get back to unmasking, though?
TAPPER: If we could get back to unmasking for a second.
So, unmasking, as you know, is not uncommon. It happens. I'm sure you also know that unmasking has actually increased under the Trump administration...
JOHNSON: I am.
TAPPER: ... compared to the Obama administration, against -- again, there's nothing nefarious with it.
People charged with national security want to see who individual Russians and others who are talking -- they're talking to unnamed Americans. They want to know who the Americans are.
That's -- there's nothing -- I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it.
If this is something that can be abused, something you're concerned about, are you using any of your oversight capacity to investigate what the Trump administration is doing as well, almost 17,000 unmasking requests in 2018?
JOHNSON: Right. I saw the report that, under Obama's last couple years, it was under 10,000, and now the last couple years, it's been 16,000, 17,000. And that troubles me.
So, absolutely, I'm going to be looking into that. I want to know exactly what happened.
Is it usual and customary for -- for the inner circle within the White House to be requesting unmasking, or is this primarily done within the intelligence agencies? I want to get all that information.
I want the American people to hear the full and complete truth. TAPPER: The last thing is, sir, you have not made the allegation that
the Trump administration is making, which is that President Obama committed crimes. You haven't said anything along those lines.
But your work, your requesting of this information of the national -- the director of national intelligence, Ric Grenell -- and, again, I'm pro-transparency, too. Release at all.
But your work is being cited as an example -- as evidence for this crackpot conspiracy theory. Does that bother you?
JOHNSON: Well, again, you keep calling it a crackpot conspiracy theory.
I'm just trying to find out what happened. What I do know, because we finally got these records out of the National Archives, what President Obama saw when he got those e-mails from Hillary Clinton was not HillaryClinton.Senate -- or StateDepartment.gov.classified. It was Clinton.e-mail.com.
President Obama knew she was using a private server. And section 793- F, the section that I think...
TAPPER: OK, I got to...
JOHNSON: ... that I think Hillary Clinton violated, also includes knowledge of misuse of intelligence.
JOHNSON: So, I have always thought...
JOHNSON: ... that was one of the main reasons they covered up for Hillary Clinton and exonerated her.
All right, Senator Johnson, stay healthy.
JOHNSON: It's just the truth -- just the truth, Jake.
TAPPER: I really appreciate your time today.
JOHNSON: Stay healthy. Take care.
TAPPER: I -- thank you, sir.
TAPPER: While most of the nation has been focused on the economic and health consequences of this horrific pandemic, President Trump has been at least partly focused on purging independent inspectors general from his administration. Most recently on Friday night when State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was shown the door.
This follows the president ousting the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson who had followed the law when it came to the whistleblower complaint about the president pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
The president's seeking replacement for the woman who ran the office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, Christi Grimm. Grimm issued a report in March reporting that a survey of hospitals in the U.S. suggested widespread and severe shortages of PPE, coronavirus testing supplies, and more.
The president pushing out Acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, a man with the reputation for independence who was leading oversight of $2.2 trillion for coronavirus relief but will no longer be able to serve in that role because of the president's dismissal of him.
To say nothing of course of President Trump pushing out whistleblowers such as Dr. Rick Bright or those who offer independent voices willing to speak truth to power Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, Ambassador Yovanovitch, and on and on and on.
In Linick's case the Inspector General of the State Department had been investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been misusing a political appointee to perform personal errands, according to a Democratic Congressional Aide.
Inspectors general are there during Democratic and Republican administrations. They're there to protect your money and to make sure your government is operating efficiently and free of corruption. The president does not want them there and he's getting away with it because all of the previously outspoken voices in favor of inspectors general and their independence, such as Senator Chuck Grassley who for decades had stood up for whistleblowers. All of those voices have been muted, if not outright silenced.
Late Saturday one Republican Senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, did offer a harsh rebuke, calling the move by the president a threat to accountable democracy and a fisher (ph) in the constitutional balance of power. But Romney sadly, at least as of now, stands alone.
In short, one check on the Executive Branch, the Senate, has not only too often forsaken its oversight responsibilities, it is now allowing the president to remove another layer of oversight by purging inspectors general who are independent and who think their job is to work for you and not for him.
He's sending a message to inspectors general, one former IG told me, do your job at your peril. More over, the former IG notes Linick is being replaced by an ambassador. Loyalty to Trump above all else.
I've been covering Washington D.C. for a long time now and one thing I've noticed is that when one party destroys a norm it seldom comes back. When the other party comes to control, which inevitably happens, that party takes advantage of the new power. They usually push it even further.
So while Republicans in Congress sit back cowardly and don't raise a peep, keep in mind this is not just about President Trump's unprecedented war on accountability, this is about the kind of nation we will have after President Trump leaves office, whether in January or 2025. It will be a world where watchdogs are replaced by lapdogs. It already is becoming that world, and that doesn't serve anyone except whoever is in power. And you will have only President Trump and the people in Congress and the media who sold you out so as to curry favor with him to blame.
Finally from us today, we want to take a moment to send our condolences this morning to the family of the legendary Phyllis George, a former Miss America who went on to break barriers as a pioneering female sports broadcaster. She was a beautiful soul, a wonderful woman, and a beloved mother to our Senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown and her brother Lincoln. May her memory be a blessing but a horrible loss.
Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. Fareed Zakaria starts right now.