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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump Holds Cabinet Meeting. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 19, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:18]

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beijing doesn't have it. Other places don't have it.

So, why is it that it was blocked very effectively from leaving that area and going into China, but it went out to the rest of the world, including the United States? And why didn't they let us go in and help them fix it?

So, I'm very disappointed in China.

Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Just to follow up, you have been talking about possible retaliation for that.

Have -- are you any closer to a decision on that, sir?

TRUMP: I don't talk about retaliation.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, why haven't you announced a plan to get 36 million unemployed Americans back to work?

You're overseeing historic economic despair.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Oh, I think -- I think we have announced a plan. We're opening up our country.

Just a rude person, you are.

We're opening up our country. We're opening it up very fast. The plan is that each state is opening, and it's opening up very effectively.

And when you see the numbers, I think even you will be impressed, which is pretty hard to impress you. Yes, go ahead, please.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: A lot of these jobs are not coming back.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

That's enough of you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Canada has confirmed that the border is going to remain closed until June 21, 10 days before the...

TRUMP: Right.

QUESTION: ... USMCA.

Aren't you worried for the economy on the border states?

TRUMP: Yes, we do.

And we speak to Canada all the time. Obviously, the relationship is very good with the prime minister and myself and with the two countries. You know, Canada is our neighbor. We have a great relationship. We love Canada.

So, we're going to be talking. And, at the right time, we will open that up very quickly. That will go very easily.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) happen -- it could happen before June 21?

TRUMP: Yes, it could, sure. It could. They're doing well. We're doing well. We're both doing well.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

You have said repeatedly that the United States is now the king of ventilators and that we have so many that we're sending them overseas, selling them, and then, in some cases, actually gifting them to other countries.

My question is, are you looking to use these diplomatically to strengthen ties with other nations and counter Chinese influence in some parts of the world?

TRUMP: No, I'm not looking to do diplomatically. I'm looking to save lives.

If we can save lives of another country, that's a great thing. So I'm only looking to save lives. Probably, that's good diplomatically. But I'm not looking at that. You have countries that have no chance. They have no ventilators. They would -- they don't have a capacity to build them.

And we're sending hundreds and even thousands. And we have thousands now. And they're being produced at a very rapid pace. Jared and his whole team of geniuses from Silicon Valley and other places came in. And they have done an incredible job.

So, we have them by the thousands. We had none, essentially. We had very few. And they were obsolete. They were broken. We're building, not only a lot of them, but we have a very high-quality ventilator, one of the highest.

So, countries know that. And they're calling us. And they're asking for help. They need help. So, I -- I only think in terms of saving lives.

The country, we have gotten some very unusual calls from people that normally wouldn't be calling us too easily, calling, asking for help. You can get swabs, and you can get gowns, and you can get a lot of things, but getting ventilators is very tough, very, very tough, because it's a very complex machine, very expensive machine.

So, we have done a very good job. And, probably, it does help diplomatically, but we do it for helping people's lives, save lives.

Yes, please. Please.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

TRUMP: Yes.

QUESTION: ... do you -- so, Ford Motor Company has previously required visitors to wear masks when they visited their facilities. Do you plan to wear one when you go there on Thursday?

TRUMP: I don't know. I haven't even thought of it. It depends.

I mean, in certain areas, I would. In certain areas, I don't. But I will certainly look at it. It depends on what situation. Am I standing right next to everybody or am I spread out? And, also, you look, is something a hospital? Is it a ward? Is it -- what is it exactly?

I'm going to a plant? So, we will see. Where it's appropriate, I would do it, certainly.

Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. President -- Mr. President, you continue to talk about helping minority communities.

What specifically are you looking at to help those communities, what actions?

TRUMP: So, one of the things I was most proud of was the minority community and all of the work we have done for the minority communities.

Black unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, Asian unemployment was the best ever in the history of our country. We have never had anything like it. We have never had so many African-American jobs ever, ever in the history of our country, by far.

[16:05:04]

And we are bringing our country back. And a big focus is exactly that with the minorities. Specifically, if you look at the Asians, they have done incredibly well, Hispanics incredibly well, African- Americans record-setting every month. You know that. Every month, it was a record-setting jobs number.

And that's what we want to do. We want to get it back to that level. We had to artificially close our country. One day, we had to -- we did the right thing. We would have lost millions of lives if we didn't.

Think of it. If we lost 100,000 lives, the minimum we would have lost is 1.2 million, 1.3 million, 1.5 million maybe. But take it to a million. So, that would mean 10 times more that we lost already.

Now, I have seen hospitals like Elmhurst, Queens, where I grew up near that -- I know that hospital -- where they had one day 11 body bags in a hallway, and they had some outside. And that -- they had refrigerated trucks coming to take bodies away.

Now multiply that times 10. It would have been unacceptable. And that's the lowest number possible. It probably would have been times 20 or maybe 25.

So, we did the right thing. But now we have to get back to work. And we want to open up. And the people want to open up. But we have learned a lot about the disease. We have learned about distancing. Nobody ever heard of social distancing before. We have learned about the washing of hands.

I used to wash my hands a lot. But I tell you, right now, I wash them more. We learned a lot. And we also learned how to put out the embers or the fires, whatever may come. We learned, without having to close down the whole country.

And we have big sections of our country that don't have much of a problem. We have some sections that don't have any problem at all. So, we're opening up country. We're doing really well.

And, most excitingly, we're working on vaccines, therapeutics, and cures that are really moving along at a level that nobody would have thought possible.

And the military, I can say, Mark Esper, OK -- you know Mark Esper. He's become a very important person in the world of medicine, because his military is going to be distributing, whether it's therapeutically, or whether it's cures, or whether it's a vaccine.

And, by the way, I have to say, all three are doing unbelievably well, but Mark and the military are going to be getting them out. So, he has hundreds of thousands of people that he has immediately that work for us right now. They're fully ready to deploy.

They're ready to get the job done. They will be doing it in a record business. And everything we have done with the military has been terrific. We have had admirals. We have had generals. I remember when crying Chuck Schumer said, we should get the military involved.

I said, they are. He said, we should use one of our generals. I said, we do. Our generals have done a great job, Jared, right? And our admirals have done a great -- we had everybody involved. And they are tremendously talented people.

And this isn't what they do. They fight. They're great fighters, and they fight. But, yes, the minority communities are really going to be well-served. I think we are going to get it right back. And this includes everybody. This includes our whole country, but right back to where it was, which was record-setting numbers.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) right now that you are considering for those communities?

TRUMP: Right now, we're opening up areas. And a lot of people are getting jobs.

I heard some numbers yesterday that were really incredible, the amount, percentage wise, of the country that opened up so quickly over the last few days.

I think you're going to see some very big numbers. And I think next year is going to be an incredible year economically. You can never make up for all of the loss of life. You can never do that.

From an economic standpoint, however, next year is going to be -- I think it's going to be potentially a great year for us.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: The FDA has said hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of a hospital setting or...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, that's not what I was told. No.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: There was a false study done, where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people that were ready to die.

It was given by, obviously, not friends of the administration. And the study came out. The people were ready to die. Everybody was old, had bad problems with hearts, diabetes, and everything else you can imagine.

So, they gave it. So, immediately, when it came out, they gave a lot of false information. Just so you understand, great studies came out of Italy on hydroxy. You know what I'm talking about, right? Right?

Great studies came out, and the combination of the three. But we had some great studies come out, Italy, France, Spain, ourselves. Many, many doctors -- doctors. Many doctors came out, and they said, it's great.

[16:10:05]

Now, you have to go to a doctor. I have a doctor in the White House. I said, what do you think?

And it's just a line of defense. I'm just talking about as a line of defense. I'm dealing with a lot of people. Look at all the people in the room. I'm the president, and I'm dealing with a lot of people.

And it's a very inexpensive drug. It's almost pennies. It's very inexpensive. And it's been out for close to 70 years, for a couple of different things, right, lupus and malaria and even arthritis, they say.

But I think it's worth it as a line of defense. And I will stay on it for a little while longer. I'm just very curious myself, but it seems to be very safe.

But that study was a phony study put out by the VA. You may want to talk about that. I mean, we could talk about that, if anybody wants to. And maybe I'd ask Alex -- Alex to talk about then, if you would introduce our great talented head of the VA, and let him say a couple of words.

But that was a phony study. And it's very dangerous to do it. The fact is, people should want to help people, not to make political points. It's really sad when they do that.

Go ahead.

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Yes.

So, hydroxychloroquine has been approved by the FDA for decades here in the United States for the treatment of malaria -- for the prevention of malaria , treatment of lupus, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

And the system we have here in the United States that is, once a drug has been approved and on the market, a doctor, in consultation with a patient, may use it for what we call off-label purposes, which are indications that are not yet proven and not yet in the label.

And this is the right-to-try president. He for the first time got the historic right-to-try legislation for experimental therapies, but that applies to our existing regime, which is approved products may be used, in the judgment of a physician, in consultation with their patient.

As the president said -- and I will ask Secretary Wilkie to talk a bit about the VA study -- there -- there has been -- there's been some studies around the use of hydroxychloroquine later in disease progression.

But we are still working on some controlled studies earlier in the disease progression to see if we can measure the effectiveness of it in preventing the replication of the virus and spread in mild to moderate cases, rather than the more serious.

And that data is still pending. But...

TRUMP: And it's got -- well, it's got very good reviews, very good from many, many doctors, many, many doctors.

Secretary, please.

ROBERT WILKIE, U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Thank you, Mr. President.

I -- and I want to clear up something that the media has not reported accurately. That was not a VA study.

TRUMP: Can you hear him? Because I think it's important. You asked the question.

WILKIE: Yes. That was not...

TRUMP: Do you want to listen? Because I don't even think you're listening.

WILKIE: Yes.

TRUMP: Go ahead. Why don't you listen to him?

WILKIE: That was -- that -- that was not a VA study.

Researchers took VA numbers, and they did not clinically review them. They were not peer-reviewed. They did not even look at what the president just mentioned, the various comorbidities that the patients who were referenced in that study had.

I also want to echo what the secretary of HHS said. The instructions I received from the president were very clear. And that was to preserve and protect life.

Those of us who've had a military life, some of us around this table, we have been taking this drug for years. As the president mentioned, the Department of Defense and VA have been using it for 65 years.

On every -- any given day, VA uses 42,000 doses of this drug. And what we did when this virus first hit us was to use every means necessary to help preserve life. We believed that the Congress was right and the president signed a distillation to protect life, the rights to try.

And we did this in consultation, not only with the families of those veterans, but we did this in consultation with our doctors under FDA guidelines. So I want to knock down the phony story that this is somehow the V.A. going back on what the president told us to do, which was to use every means possible to protect and preserve the lives of our veterans.

And I think as their president mentioned, we have seen it many cases across this country. In fact, I was on the news the day that the governor of New York was asking for tens of thousands of doses. We are doing everything we can to protect the lives of our veterans. And this is one of them means that we use.

TRUMP: Thank you. Hydroxychloroquine is used by thousands and thousands of front-line workers so that hopefully, they don't catch this horrible disease or whatever you want to call it. It is a terrible virus. It is a terrible thing. And a lot of people are taking it, a lot of doctors are taking it. A lot of people swear by it. It's gotten a bad reputation only because I'm promoting it. So I'm obviously a very bad promoter.

[16:15:00]

If anybody else where promoting it, they would say this is the greatest thing ever, but because of me -- so a lot of doctors swear by it. I think we can say that, Mr. Secretary. A lot of doctors think it is great. But the one thing that is true one way or the other, whether you like it or not, it has been around for 70 years. Unbelievably effective for malaria and for lupus and probably effective for arthritis.

And what has been determined is, it doesn't harm you. It's a very powerful drug, I guess, but it doesn't harm you. I thought as our front line defense possibly it would be good. I've had no impact from it -- I feel the same. I haven't changed, I don't think, too much. At some point, you know, I won't take it. It might be soon, it doesn't seem to have any impact on me.

But it seems to be an extra line of defense. And it has gotten tremendous reviews from some people, including many, many doctors all over the world. And you should look at some of the studies. They've been amazing some of the studies. But that's up to people, and I strongly recommend to people with their doctors advice and acknowledgment. Okay.

QUESTION: Is anyone else in your cabinet taking that regimen, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Say again?

QUESTION: Is anyone else in your cabinet taking...

TRUMP: I don't know. That is a personal thing as to whether or not they want to answer that question. But I think many of them would take it if they felt it was necessary. I also had a case where we had somebody fairly close to me, a very nice young fellow men, he tested positive.

And he tested positive, plus, I deal with Mike a lot, and Mike had someone close to him who I also see who tested positive. So I think -- I thought from my standpoint, not a bad time to take it, because we had the combination, those two people. That's two people in our big building with a lot of people working. So I thought it would be appropriate. But it has no impact in terms of me. OK Any other question, please?

QUESTION: Mr. President.

TRUMP: Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just want to ask a question on Brazil.

TRUMP: Brazil.

QUESTION: Yes, in the third place now, catching up with Russia in second place with a number of cases. Are you finally considering a travel ban from Brazil and Latin America?

TRUMP: We are considering it. We hope we're not going to have a problem. The governor of Florida is doing very, very well, testing, in particular Florida, because a big majority to come into Florida. Brazil has gone more or less herd; you know what that is, herd and they're having problems. By the way, when you say that we leading cases, that's because we have more testing than anybody else.

So we test much more than anybody else. Again, we're close to 14 million, it was said, 12, 12.5. It's actually I think close to 14 million now. And so we have 14 million tests. In Germany, if they do 2 million, that's a lot. And others are doing 1 million. So if you are testing 14 million people, you're going to find many more cases. Many of these people aren't very sick, but they still go down as a case. So actually the number of cases -- and we're also a much bigger country than most.

So when we have a lot of cases, I don't look at that as a bad thing, I look at that as -- in certain respect as being a good thing, because it means our testing is much better. So if we were testing a million people instead of 14 million people, it would have far few cases, right? So I view it as a badge of honor. Really, it is a badge of honor -- really, it's a badge of honor. It's a great tribute to the testing and all of the work and a lot of professionals have done.

QUESTION: Aren't you afraid that they're going to bring their...

TRUMP: Yes, I see. I mean as to the first part of your question, yes, sure, I worry about everything. I don't want people coming in here and infecting our people. I don't want people over there is sick either.

We're helping Brazil with the ventilators. We're sending them ventilators, OK, they need ventilators. I'm sending them ventilators. We have so many thousands of them, we are sending them. We are sending a lot of people. No, Brazil is having some trouble, no question about it. Sweden, by the way -you know, I've heard a lot about Sweden (inaudible). Well, you have Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, that little group of beautiful countries. Well, Sweden took a little bit different attitude, but Sweden has far more deaths than the other three, you know that right? Do you know that? Yes, a lot more death. Many times the deaths. But they did it a different way, and you know, I understand that too. And as Mike said very well, there is doubt on both sides. There is death on both sides. There is death in saying under shutdown, also, and lots of other things, but there is also death. OK.

[16:20:00]

QUESTION: So what do you want to see in terms of travel between the United States and Europe, lifting travel restrictions?

TRUMP: I'd love it to open up as soon as we can, but we have to make sure that we're doing well and they're doing well, and in many cases we are. But, you know, we have a very big country. We have some areas that have done incredibly well. We have other areas where the results are it's tougher.

New York and New Jersey are tougher. People don't realize New Jersey is the most dense state, a lot of people don't realize that. The governor is a terrific person. He is very liberal, but that's okay. He's a very liberal guy, but we like him. He's a good man, and he's working very hard. But New Jersey is a very dense area, very, very dense. And I speak to Andrew a lot, Andrew Cuomo a lot.

We're working very well together. And, you know, those are the two spots that have really been very heavily hit. A big portion, a big percentage. I don't know what it is. It's a very big percentage, almost half of our debts would be to those too.

Now, at the same time, the numbers, even in those two places, are coming down. They're coming down very rapidly. And I put out yesterday's statement, numbers are coming down with the exception of very little.

Few exceptions. The numbers are coming down all over the United States very rapidly, very rapidly. It's a beautiful thing to watch. But it's left behind serious death. And it shouldn't have happened. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

STAFF: Let's go, We're done.

[16:20:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. You've been listening to President Trump there taking questions at the White House. He was in the East Room, meeting with the cabinet. He was defending his use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to use -- to treat and perhaps even prevent coronavirus, unaware, it seems, that his own Food and Drug Administration has warned Americans not to use it outside of a clinical trial or the hospital.

Members of his cabinet were there, including the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, backing up the president in his desire to have hydroxychloroquine be credibly recommended, even though medical experts, at least right now, say it is not proven to be effective in the treatment of coronavirus, and perhaps even can be dangerous in its use. The president also refusing to answer a question about people getting

back to work, about what the plan was. He called it a nasty question and said the plan is basically states get to make up their own minds. He said he would not commit, although he would try to keep an open mind, about wearing a mask for an upcoming trip to a Ford factory where everyone is expected to wear a mask.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. Also with us, Dr. William Schaffner, who's an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

And, Kaitlan, let me -- let me start with you. The president using this drug, does he really not know that the FDA has told the American people not to use it outside of a hospital or clinical trial? Is he really unaware of that?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's not something he brought up or any of the other cabinet officials who were coming to his defense over the use of this. And what was really striking, Jake, was to see the Veterans Affairs secretary defending the president because the president was going after this study, this is a study he's been talking about, yesterday, today, he went after it much more directly there, saying that he believed it was phony and that it was not done by friends of the Trump administration.

Jake, that study was done in part funded by the Trump administration. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia. The Veterans Affairs secretary, Robert Wilkie, was saying it's not a V.A. study, but, Jake, it was done on V.A. patients.

They looked at their medical charts, then they published these results, which they said found that hydroxychloroquine did not help coronavirus patients from being ventilated, it actually caused higher death rates, this study found. And while Wilkie is correct that this was not peer-reviewed and it was not published in a journal, it was funded in part by the NIH and the University of Virginia.

So the president is there discrediting a study that his own administration partly funded on hydroxychloroquine as he is defending his use of it. One thing he didn't answer is whether anyone else in the room on his cabinet is taking hydroxychloroquine as well. We know the vice president is not. He denied it earlier and said his doctor has not recommended taking it, though he did come in contact with, of course, his press secretary who tested positive for coronavirus.

And that was the reason the president cited there as to why he's taking this drug, because his personal valet tested positive, he said, and also because he came in contact with the VP's press secretary.

But, Jake, it's just really notable to see the president there as he is defending hydroxychloroquine and saying that the only reason people are criticizing it is because he's the one promoting it, when you can see the results of a study that was in part funded by the administration that say it was not helpful for coronavirus patients.

[16:25:14] TAPPER: And we should just underline for anybody listening right now, that the NIH panel recommended that people do not use hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus, and the food and drug administration also saying that people should not use it unless they are part of a clinical trial or in the hospital being prescribed this by doctors.

Something also interesting about this study, we call it, shorthanding the V.A. study, but Secretary Wilkie is right, it's not a V.A. study, it's a study of people in the V.A. hospital system, is that if you actually read the study, and it doesn't sound like President Trump actually has, if you read the study, they're not saying don't take hydroxychloroquine. They're saying, there's a lot of information all over the map about whether it's good or whether it's not. This is what we did, we gave it to these individuals or it was given to these individuals. The individuals in the tests were all about 70 years old, half of them were African-American. Some of the ones given hydroxychloroquine were in fact sicker than others.

Again, this wasn't, as you note, a study they conducted, they were looking at information from the V.A., and basically their conclusion was, we need a lot more studies. They didn't say President Trump is wrong, we shouldn't do this, how is he saying this. They just said, this was our -- this is -- we crunched the numbers of these individuals, and this is what it came out, which is higher mortality for those who took hydroxychloroquine, but we need to do more studies.

So it's bizarre that the president rails on the study as if it's done by his enemies, because the actual study doesn't say anything negative about him at all.

COLLINS: Yes, and you heard the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar then also talking about it, and he basically defended the president taking hydroxychloroquine as saying he's the right to try president, of course, referring to that legislation the president has signed about people using experimental drugs if they have a chronic illness or whatnot, but using it instead to talk about the president trying an unproven drug for a virus that the president and his physician say that he does not have.

They say he's continued to test negative for coronavirus and doesn't have any symptoms but that he wanted to take it. He basically said preventatively since he came into contact with that staffer.

So, there's just been so many questions, but you've seen the president really going to a pretty ardent defense of this because there's been an outpouring of warnings from medical officials after the president made this surprise announcement yesterday, Jake, not only concerned about his health, they say we don't know what the conversation was with Dr. Sean Conley here at the White House and the president, but the example that it sets and is it going to want to encourage other people to want to try to use it for coronavirus.

TAPPER: And let me bring in Dr. Schaffner.

And, Dr. Schaffner, I mean, I have no opinion about President Trump using hydroxychloroquine, but you're a health official, a medical expert. Does it bother you, do you think that there's something inherently wrong with it, does it send the wrong signal?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, Jake, the issue, let's clarify some of the issues. The V.A. study studied the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating rather sick people. And it was not exactly --

TAPPER: Right.

SCHAFFNER: -- as you said, a prospective, controlled trial. And it is possible that the sicker patients received the more medication than did the people who were less sick and therefore these retrospective studies are a guide but they are not definitive.

And as you said, more careful studies are needed. Now, that said, the hydroxychloroquine is now being used in order to prevent infection. And there, the scientific basis is virtually nonexistent.

So it's an idea for which there is absolutely no evidence. And what we wouldn't want is suddenly many people across this country, inspired by the chief executive, to go out and ask their doctors to put themselves on hydroxychloroquine. We already had the problem of hydroxychloroquine being in short supply and people for whom it's really needed, people with lupus, people with rheumatoid arthritis, who can take it to good benefit, not being able to renew their prescriptions.

So I think it's not a good example. And for sure, it's an unsubstantiated use of the drug.

TAPPER: Right, because there are -- and let me bring in Sanjay Gupta here, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And, Sanjay, there are right now clinical trials going on conducted by the National Institutes of Health and others to see if hydroxychloroquine in combination with another drug or on its own can be used as a treatment. They don't recommend that it be done now. But they are doing clinical --

[16:30:00]