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Trump Fires I.G. Who Was Investigating Pompeo; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 18, 2020 - 11:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: When you have four and other examples in other positions in government, there does seem to be a pattern here if the president is not appreciating accountability and oversight.

MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think it's much larger than just the four I.G., right? We know from all the reporting we've done over the years, but especially since the president's acquittal after the impeachment case, that he is insistent on purging the government of people that he and the people in his orbit think are not loyal to him.

That has been one of his gripes from the beginning, that the deep state, as he sees it, is a raid against him and trying to get him out of office, trying to oppose the policy agenda that he wants to put forward.

And I think the firing of the inspectors general fits in with that pattern. He wants loyalty. And he sees the kind of accountability that most presidents -- you know, look, inspectors general often irritate a president, right? Their criticism makes headlines. Their criticism sparks investigations on Capitol Hill.

It's not something presidents like to deal with. But most presidents take it as kind of the Democratic process they have to deal with. And this president has just decided he's not going to deal with it. He's going to view them through a loyalty prism and just not deal with it.

KING: And, Kylie, much like his boss, Secretary Pompeo, he's not the most transparent guy when it comes to media relations. Has he said anything about the substance of these questions?

I asked him the context of we've heard some rumors. We see a very strongly worded statement from Senator Mitt Romney, from Utah. Some concerns by Senator Susan Collins, of Maine. More muted but concerns made by Senator Grassley, of Iowa, who, for decades, has been a defender of these inspectors general and other government watchdogs.

Secretary Pompeo could easily issue a statement saying, of course, I didn't have a political aide run my personal errands. Has he done so or addressed these questions about Saudi Arabia? KYLE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, we haven't heard

any statement from the State Department itself on these ongoing investigations that have been revealed by the Democrats or from the secretary himself. You're right, he could come out and say something.

But the bottom line here is that they are saying that there's a new person who is in charge. It's Stephen Akard. He's an ambassador. And he's someone who is close to the Trump administration. He's particularly close with Vice President Pence.

It is clear here they're putting a loyalist into that job and they are getting rid of someone who was carrying out investigations, some of them which irked this State Department, which irked Secretary Pompeo.

But it --


KING: Kylie, I'm sorry to interrupt. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, his daily briefing. Today, he's in Buffalo.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): To the right, Lieutenant Governor Jackie Hochul, who has done a great job for us statewide. But she's taken a special role in coordinating western New York. So we thank her very much for what she's done.

To my left, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To her left, Gareth Rhodes, who has been working with us through this crisis.

It's a pleasure to be at Roswell. Dr. Candace Johnson, thank you very much for the hospitality. I was thinking about our trip to Cuba and your great accomplishment.


CUOMO: It was fun. And it was productive.

It's always a pleasure to be with my friend, my partners, the great mayor of the city of Buffalo, Byron Brown, and the great county executive for Erie County, Mark Polencarz.

Thank you for everything you've been doing to get through this.

I'm pleased to report that I took a COVID test yesterday and I am negative from that test. So that is good news.

You take one of those tests, it's very easy. I showed people how easy it was yesterday. And when you find out you're negative, it's actually a nice sense of relief.

I didn't have any symptoms or anything, but you don't need to have symptoms and you can have the COVID virus. You take the test, they tell you you're negative 24 to 48 hours, and it is peace of mind.

There's no reason why people shouldn't be getting tested. We actually have now more testing capacity than we are using at many of our sites. And we've expanded the number of people who are eligible for testing.

Anyone who has any symptom for a COVID virus -- any symptom includes basically the symptoms you would have if you had the flu. Same symptoMs. If you have any symptoms, get a test. Get a test. It protects you. It protects your family. It protects your colleagues. So get a test.

If you were exposed to a person who you find out is positive for COVID, get a test. Get a test. It takes 30 seconds.


We have 700 locations across the state, so there's no reason why you shouldn't do it. Go right to the Web. It shows you where the location is. You can sign up and go.

Let's give you some facts on today. Number of hospitalizations are down, so that's good news. Not down a lot but down. I'll take it. Net change is down. Net change in intubations is down.

The number of new cases per day is down by one. Not great, but I'll take it. It's going in the right direction, so that is good news.

The number that breaks my heart every day, the number of deaths, is still painfully high at 106 but it is down. And in this world where we are looking for good news on a daily basis, that is good news.

Although, in our thoughts and prayers, are those 106 families today.

And if you look at where we are, we have done a phenomenal job in reducing the spike, reducing what could have been cataclysmic when you that incline of that curve.

Nobody could tell you when we were in the midst of that incline where it would stop or if it would stop. There was no global expert who said, if you do this, if you close this, if you close this and close this, then we can tell you with certainty it will stop the spread of the virus. Nobody said that.

All they could say was do your best. Try to close everything down and then hope for the best. And New Yorkers responded. We had the highest number of cases in the country. New Yorkers responded with great unity and great discipline. And that's why that curve turned. We hit the apex and we're on way down.

You also see how slow the way down is. That's why all the experts always say be careful of the spike because it's a long time coming down from the spike. You want to avoid the spike because you can't reverse it in a matter of days. It takes a long time to get those numbers back down.

And this is with everything we did and with all the loss and pain we suffered, this is how long it took to get those numbers down.

We now have a top priority, which we had from day one, which is our nursing homes. We've seen -- we were introduced to this virus in Seattle, Washington, where it attacked a nursing home, the most vulnerable population in the most vulnerable place, senior citizens in a congregate facility. That's how we were introduced to this virus. And I'm afraid that's how we're going to leave this virus.

So protecting our nursing homes and seniors has been top priority. Last week, we put in place a requirement to test all staff at a nursing home twice per week.

Why? Well, number one, it keeps the staff safe.

Number two, if you see an increase in the positive among staff people, it's an alert that you probably have a real problem in that nursing home. Because chances are the staff are getting it from the nursing home or giving it to people in the nursing home. So if you watch what happens with the staff, it's a canary in the coal mine for what's happening in the nursing home.

And third, it clearly keeps the residents of the nursing home safe.

Now, to help nursing homes do this, we've worked with all the private labs, identified a number of tests that we can send just for the purpose of testing people in nursing homes. That's about 35,000 per day. They're send we're sending 320,000 test kits to the nursing homes today to help them do this.

With everything we're doing, I know the nursing home operators are not happy about this. I get it. It's very hard to administer. The staff all have to be tested twice a week. OK, we're giving test kits, we set up lab capacity, but it is still an operational issue. I understand that.

And I understand that no other state is doing this. I hear that quite often from the nursing homes. No other state is requiring that the staff be tested twice a week. I understand that. I understand we have the most aggressive standard in the nation.


But I also know that it is necessary. And, look, from day one, we said this was going to be hard. And we said we drew bad cards in this hand. New York did have the highest number of cases, not because we did anything wrong but because the virus fooled everyone.

And we were closing down China, and the virus had already left China, had gone to Europe, and by the time we closed Europe, three million Europeans had come from Europe and landed in New York airports. That was happening and we didn't know. Closed China. It was already gone by the time we closed China. And it had left Europe by the time we closed Europe.

That's why New York had that cluster. Those flights from Europe come here. They land in JFK. They land in Newark. People take connecting flights. They're coming here. So that brought the virus here. That's why we have the numbers we have.

OK. But we said we're going to do what we have to do. And we're going to do what we have to do to protect the lives of New Yorkers.

Who is in a nursing home? This is your mother, this is your father, your sister, your brother. This is our family who are in nursing homes. That's who they are. And they're our senior family members who we owe nothing but gratitude and respect.

The one thing we need to be able to say at the end of this is, we did everything we could. We did everything we could. And 106 people died. How do you live with that, how do you sleep with that? Because we did everything we could.

We still can't save every life, but we can do everything in our power that we can do to try to save every life. And that's why I'm comfortable with what we're doing on nursing homes.

I know it's hard, and I thank them.

On reopening overall, we're opening regions that have hit the data points, hit the metrics. Western New York has one metric that they have to hit, which is the number of tracers. They need 521 tracers. They've identified 525. Great piece of work that they did over the weekend.

I want to thank the mayor, I want to thank the county executive, all the regional officials who found people to serve as tracers. They're going to be trained tomorrow. That means all the metrics will be hit and western New York will be open tomorrow, so that's exciting. It's been a long, painful period, but we start to reopen tomorrow.

New York State Department of Health is also granting a waiver to restart elective procedures for ECMC. We want to make sure hospitals are in a position to provide care for people who need it. So this is a good step.

I also have been encouraging major sports teams to plan reopenings without fans, but the games could be televised. New York State will help those major sports franchises to do just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football, whoever can reopen. We're a ready, willing and able partner.

Personal disclosure, I want to watch the Buffalo Bills, but I'm still objective. I'm acting as governor. There's no personal agenda here.

Yes, I do want to watch the Bills. But this not subverting my role as governor. I think this is in the best interest of all of the people and in the best interest of the state of New York. Even though I have a coincident personal agenda because I want to watch the Bills, but they are separate agendas. Some would say I have a conflict of interest. I want to disclose it.

Judges and staff will be returning to courthouses in the 30 upstate counties that are open this week. What will reopening mean? That's a big topic of discussion now.

What does reopening mean? This is not a subject that is a political subject or where political opinions really matter. I don't care if you're a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent. I don't care. I don't care. This is not a political exercise we are going through.

People say, well, I have a personal opinion. I don't even care about your personal opinion. I don't think you should care about my personal opinion. Because it's not about a personal opinion. It's not about an ideological opinion. It's not about a geographic opinion. It's not even an opinion that's relevant, right?


This is about facts and science and data. These decisions are being made as a matter of math. It's numbers. It's math. That's all it is at the end of the day.

You start to increase economic activity, you have more people coming out of their homes, more people contacting other people, and then you measure the impact of that increase with numbers. Not with opinions, not with politics, not with partisanship, with numbers. And then you just measure the impact.

You make sure that you don't go above 70 percent of your hospital beds so, that if a large number of people get infected, you have the hospital beds to take care of them.

You make sure you don't go over 70 percent of your ICU bed capacity, because when these people are infected with COVID, they do need ICU beds. We learned that the hard way.

You have testing up and running, 30 tests per 1,000 residents. Where did that come from? That's the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Birx. You have 30 tracers ready for every 100,000 residents. That comes from the experts.

And then you watch the infection rate and you make sure that you don't get near 1.1 on the infection rate.

It's math. And there's a liberation in that. At a time of such division and politics and elections and all this garbage, this is an exercise in science and math. And it's data that we can all share and we can all participate in.

I encourage people to go look at the data and look at what's happening in your region, because that's how we're going to get through this. On the numbers, on the math, on the facts.

We're going to bring in advisers to the state advisers, who are international experts, global experts who have dealt with these kinds of diseases, right? This is not just a state of New York issue. It's not even an American issue. It's a global issue.

And I want to make sure we have people reviewing and then reviewing the reviewers, and then as many opinions of experts that we can get are the best path forward.

Dr. Osterholm is a nationwide expert in this field. And he has agreed to review our data, what we're doing, what's happening, and to advise us as to how our progress looks on the numbers. I want to thank him very much.

We also have Dr. Semir Bhatt, Imperial College, who has agreed to serve as adviser to the state of New York. Dr. Bhatt is the senior lecturer in geostatistics at the Imperial College in London. Geostatistics is not my field of endeavor.

I never heard of geostatistics before, Doctor. And that's why -- (AUDIO PROBLEM).

KING: Trouble with the feed there. Governor Cuomo for his daily briefing. A little trouble. We'll wait one second and see if we get it back.

I guess we're not going to get it back.

Oh, back to Buffalo. Let's see.

CUOMO: We have had a number of projection models that were done early on by a number of very prestigious universities. And we've been watching all these projection models since this started.

As you know, many of the models were not 100 percent accurate because they couldn't calculate the effect of the social participation and what people actually did to change the curve.

And in a state like New York, what the people did dramatically changed that curve so it affected the projections.

But the Imperial College model, as we have been following this for weeks, was the best, most accurate model. And, therefore, I think Dr. Bhatt deserves all our thanks because they really helped us through this to date.


And I want to thank him very much for taking the time to advise us, not just on how we constructed our model to date but what happens going forward as we increase the economic activity and we start to see number change.

So, Doctor, thank you so much for being with us and it is a pleasure welcome you today.

DR. SEMIR BHATT, SENIOR LECTURER IN GEOSTATISTICS, IMPERIAL COLLEGE OF LONDON: Thank you, Governor. I'm professionally honored to work with New Yorkers.

I think your state has already shown what can be achieves when policies are driven by numbers. I think the sacrifices that people have made and will continue to make deserve our praise. The leadership shown during this crisis should be commended. I think you offered an approach that we all can follow.

At the Imperial College of London, we have a huge COVID-19 response team, a collaborative of scientists and government agencies. You, in New York, have successfully contained the virus for now. New

York is not out of the woods now. No state, no country is. As you reopen, New Yorkers must continue to watch the data and follow the signs. We are here for New York.

As you're approaching this crisis from a scientific perspective, New York is leading the way with data collection. And this will help tie together as many sources of evidence together to reach scientific consensus, which could be used for decision making.

Our team is focusing on models to track the virus, reproduction of the virus going forward. We need to track the spread of this virus and the disease using the best tools possible and as much as possible. We are committed to open science to policy makers and decision makers understand our conclusions and limitations and, of course, uncertainties.

Today, my team will be working with Europe, Brazil, Italy, as well as open sources -- (INAUDIBLE). Thanks to these tools and our research efforts, tools are available for everyone to see, test and to improve.

As country around the world and states around the U.S. try to reopen, we will see cases rise once again. For New York, we must continue to be vigilant and to follow the data.

So I think, when I say, Governor, thank you for this opportunity and, truly, thank you for the work you have been doing.

CUOMO: Thank you very much, Dr. Bhatt. Thank you for being with us. Thank you. I look forward to speaking with you in the days ahead.

I want to thank the doctor very much and Imperial College.

Look, I am a parochial New Yorkers. I wasn't all that eager to seek the advice of the College of London, but I can tell you this, this is a global pandemic and what we are now doing other countries have done before.

We tend to think we are always the first. We are not the first to deal with this virus. Other countries have dealt with it. Other countries have gone through reopening. They've learned all sorts of lessons on reopening. I want to make sure what he we are doing is the best- informed approach.

I want to thank the doctor very much. And they'll be looking at exactly what happens with our data and metrics going forward.

And the last point is, what's the impact of the reopening? We don't know yet what the road ahead looks like. It is a function of what we do.

So you tell me, how responsible are the employers in following the guidelines that have been put forward. Right? We talk about reopening and contracting and agriculturing and fishing and manufacturing and there are safety guidelines that employers must follow. How scrupulous they are in following the guidelines will matter. You tell me if the store owners follow the guidelines and I'll tell

you what happens. You tell me if the employees are following the guidelines and wearing the PPE and using hand sanitizers and I'll tell you what happens.

You tell me how individuals react, now the weather is getting warmer. Are they wearing masks? Are they acting socially responsible? Are they staying within social distancing requirements? And I will tell you what's going to happen.

You tell me how effectively a local government enforces the guidelines, and I will tell you what's going to happen.

None of this is predetermined. This is all a function of what we do today going forward. The smarter and more discipline we are, the lower the infection rate will climb. The lower the infection rate climbs, the more you will increase economic activities. It is a formula. It is math.


And both, at the same time, it is liberating because it takes the politics out of it. It takes personal opinion out of it. But it is also something you can measure and track, and you will know exactly what's going to happen because it is a function of what we are doing.

It is up to us. It is up to you. It is the collective. We are going to decide the future that starts today.

We should also set our goal high, right? We are coming back. We are coming back from the closing. All right, so what is our goal? I say it should not be about we are going to reopen. Reopen suggests you are going to go back to where you were before the closure. We'll go back before the date of the closure.

No. Life is not about going backward. Life is never about I want to get back to where I was. It has to be about building back better than before. We want to go forward. We want to advance.

That's what we have to think about going through this. Yes, we took a hard blow. We got knocked down. No fault of our own. Whoever created that virus, Mother Nature, God, whoever, no fault of our own. Welcome to life. Things happen outside of your control that you could not do anything about but it just happens.

The question becomes, are you strong enough to get backup once knock life knocks you down and are you smart enough to learn through in life. When you get back up, you will be the better for it. I believe that.

That's my story. That's our story. That's the story of Buffalo, getting knocked down and changing the economy. All right. But we'll get back up because we are strong enough and we'll learn from it because we are smart enough. That's the story of Buffalo. That's the story of New York. That's the American story. Right? It is what made this country the best country on the globe. Not that we didn't get knocked down. We got knocked down plenty. But

we were smart enough to learn and strong enough to get back up. And that's where we have to set our sights.

Not about reopening. We'll make this place better than before. Because what we went through is a transformative experience in life, on an individual level and on a social level.

We're not going to be the people we were the day before. We'll be better. We'll be smarter. We'll be stronger for what we went through. We'll be a stronger society for what we went through. I believe that. And we are going to have a stronger Buffalo, a stronger New York and a stronger America.

That's what it means to be New York tough, smart, united and disciplined and loving. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- the state presets some of the metrics to make New York eligible to reopen? That's the way it looks at least. Can you explain that or --

KING: You have been listening to Andrew Cuomo. He is in New York today giving his daily coronavirus briefing, saying all the case numbers are down, defending his administration's response to the nursing home crisis there, and laying out the complexity of the opening path ahead.

He says he hopes this will go forward. But he says the state and local communities will have a hand on the bow, if you will, if the infection rates go up.

A quick break for us. We'll be back in just a moment.