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Trump Heads To Michigan After Threatening To Withhold Funding; How Effective Are Face Masks At Reducing Transmission?; Trump Takes Questions Ahead Of Trip To Michigan. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 21, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:30:39]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The President is about to make his way to Michigan, a state that factored hugely in this, our map of the 2016 presidential election. I haven't had this one out much during the coronavirus pandemic because health and safety is paramount.

But as the President travels today, yes, to talk about the pandemic. He's also traveling because he's trying to recreate this map in 2020. Think about where the President has been in recent days, recent weeks on his rare trips outside of Washington. He went a little more than a week ago to the State of Arizona, critical to his map in 2020, a big swing state.

This time he went last week to the State of Pennsylvania, one of those blue states he flipped red absolutely essential in 2016, a key target again in 2020. Today, he goes to battleground Michigan. He's going to a Ford factory that is now making ventilators. He's going there to talk about the coronavirus. But he's also going there to talk about his quest to reopen the economy.

Let's take a closer look at Michigan. And just a reminder, of all the close states in 2016, you don't get much closer than that. This is absolutely critical for the President come November. He's trying to make the case now that America is ready to reopen. Michigan's governor says, yes, but more slowly.

Listen here, he has criticized her repeatedly. The President criticizing the Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, she says, why don't we calm down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We do not have plans to meet. But I did speak with him yesterday on the phone. I made the case that, you know, we all have to be on the same page here. We have to stop demonizing one another. Threatening to take money away from a state that is hurting as bad as we are right now is just scary. And I think something that is unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: With us now is our CNN national security commentator, Mike Rogers. He's also a former Michigan congressman. He was chairman, of course, of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Chairman, it is good to see you.

This is an interesting day in the sense that in the middle of the pandemic, we talk less and less rightly so about politics. And yet, you cannot ignore it when the President of the United States in the middle of a fight with the Democratic governor of Michigan, goes back to your home state, which of course was essential to him in 2016.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Yes. Clearly, this is a state that Trump has to win or in really, his odds get worse if he loses Michigan. Then the map gets worse for him pretty quickly. So he has to win it. I think that's part of the reason he's going back.

You know, the good news is the American car companies, both General Motors and Ford really did step it up and go from manufacturing cars to respirators to try to fill a need in the country much like they did during World War II. And that term arsenal of democracy started in Michigan, when we stopped building trucks and started building airplanes within weeks in these plants.

So, you know, there's tit for tat, I think is not helpful. I do think that the governor's more soft stance publicly is probably going to sell better in a state like Michigan, then, you know, the finger wagging. We're going to take money away kind of approach the President is doing. And I would recommend that he changed that tone a little bit, go into the state where hurting.

We got some flooding issues in Michigan that are adding some problems to an already tight economy. And certainly people are distressed about that as well. So lots to worry about in a state like Michigan. And I would prefer to see them both on the same page or at least pretending they're both on the same page. I'd even take that.

KING: But Mr. Chairman, you are not the first and you will not be the last Republican to suggest the President conduct his politics in a somewhat different way with a somewhat different tone. But he trusts his instincts and his reflexes, which is what makes this so interesting. We have watched governors of both parties have their political standing rise as they handle the pandemic.

The President is currently underwater when it comes to do you approve or disapprove of the President's performance. But listen here, even though he knows this, that the governors are pulling quite well, he's picking fights all the time, especially with the blue state governors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I made a lot of governors look very good. We've actually made all of the governors look very good. Some have done a good job, but we've made them all look very good.

Some people think they're doing it for politics. Here we go again, but they think they're doing it because it'll hurt me. The longer it takes to hurt me in the election, the longer it takes to open up.

Michigan, all she does is, she has no idea what's going on. And all she does is say, oh, it's the federal government's fault. And we've taken such great care of Michigan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You don't think that tone is helpful. But he did prove to us in 2016 that sometimes he goes against what you would call traditional advice and it works for him.

[12:35:11]

ROGERS: Well, and really, this is really important to remember, John, is that there is a movement in Michigan that is very frustrated. And the government -- you know, the governors had some of those kind of head scratching rules and regulations. I'll give you one example. And for Michigan, this is big, if you can have a house up north or a cabin up north, that's a big deal in Michigan.

And so if you own one, you couldn't go there if you were lived in Michigan, but if you were in Ohio and owned a northern Michigan property, you could go there. And so those kinds of things start, were starting to boil over and you saw some of that were people protesting at the Capitol and those kinds of things.

And I think that's where Trump is going. I think the President Trump is looking at those and saying, that's the folks that I'm going to resonate with when I traveled to Michigan. Again, we're in the middle of a pandemic, but also happens to be in the middle of a political campaign. I can't think of a worse stew to taste than that because you have folks on both sides of this aisle trying to maneuver their way through this.

And I just don't think it's helpful. We ought to help people. We ought to find a way to get people back to work safely, and get the economy back on. But we need to do it safely. And I think working together in this case would be a much better, I think, approach to this in the state like Michigan that's got all these other issues kind of plaguing at these days.

KING: Right. Another issue on front and center these days is how to conduct the election come November, Michigan mailing out application so that everybody in the state has the right and gets it right in front of them if they want to apply for an absentee ballot.

The President saying that they were sending mail-in ballots, that's not correct the way he put it. But he has repeatedly raised this issue that mail-in elections, whether they're in Michigan or anywhere else, the President says that's an invitation to giant fraud in your home state Democratic quite involved, they say this is not true. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If we're talking about the mal-in ballots, if people mail-in ballots is a lot of illegality, there's forgeries, there's frankly duplication. They send in thousands and thousands of fake ballots.

DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Nothing that the Secretary of State did was illegal. And I think obviously the President's biggest fear is that more people in our state will vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, this may be unfair to you, Mr. Chairman. But why can nobody shake the President on this issue? Washington State has mail-in balloting for some time. Most of it is statewide elected officials are Democrats, but not all of them. Utah has mail-in balloting. Republicans tend to win almost up and down the ballot in the state of Utah.

Why can't anyone shake the President off this idea that voting by mail invites fraud when the history in the record, the proof is that's simply not true?

ROGERS: Yes. I'm not sure. What we have seen in the past is that Democratic institution and organizations including the unions in a strong union state like Michigan, were much better organized to target mail-in ballot holders.

I think they understate over the years. And when I was certainly elected official there, the Republicans work to try to at least keep up with that, you know, good, healthy competitive marketing campaign is not a bad thing in politics. And it seemed to work. And as a matter of fact, more older voters were voting by absentee ballot.

And I would encourage older voters to vote by absentee ballot in this go round just to be safe, especially those over 65. And so I think that there was this confusion about what was good organizational political party tactics versus fraud. And there are always cases of fraud. You'll find little cases of fraud in many places around the country. But it doesn't seem to fit this wholesale narrative, I think that the President is talking about.

And that's why you have both-- you know, challengers at polls and other things to try to make sure that the system is kept as honest as you can keep it. And, again, I just think that trying to withhold money right now is just not the right tactic for a place like Michigan that understands, hey, we've got some issues here that we're going to have to get through.

We'd like everybody rowing the boat in the same direction. And again, I'm not saying that everybody is happy. Governor Whitner in Michigan, I don't think they are. But what you want to do is try to solve a problem, not highlight the difference. And that seems to me what going into this fall that the President's tactic is, and candidly, the Democrats around the country are doing the same thing.

And I think it's crazy. I mean, this is most important time to set aside your political differences and work on those substantive things that we can agree on. And I think there's a lot we can agree on. And nitpicking fighting about when you open up by a week or a day and how you do it is probably not great. I have not even seen any clear guidelines on the way to do it. And I think every state is going to have to be a little bit different to accommodate the needs of those particular states. You talk about Boston and New York, huge problems and they're very worried about a reopening too fast. Out west some of the states less populated have different kind of different timelines.

[12:40:09]

I think each state needs to be empowered to do that. But they should be empowered by good consistent facts. And I'll tell you some days it's just hard to figure out who's right and who's wrong on the facts of how you get back to work. And to me, that would be my focus for sure.

KING: We are in confusing times, Chairman Rogers, as always appreciate your expertise and insights. Thanks.

ROGERS: Yes. Thanks, John.

Up next for us, masks now a new normal in American life. But just how many people are actually wearing them and how effective are they?

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[12:45:06]

KING: Masks are now part of the new normal with the CDC now recommending that most people two years of age or older should wear a mask when out in public. But how effective are they at protecting us from the coronavirus?

According to IHME, the group behind the forecast model, often cited by the White House, the majority of Americans take a look at the map here are wearing masks when they leave their homes. Eighty percent or more people in the dark green states say they do wear a mask when they go out. The percentages go down from there that gold color represents places where less than fewer than 60 percent say they wear a mask.

Just keep in mind, these are people self reporting that they are wearing masks. With us now, Dr. Thomas Tsai he's an assistant professor at the Harvard Global Health Institute, a surgeon also at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Doctor, thank you for joining us. I just want you to listen, just a short time ago, Governor Cuomo of New York saying, hey, here's the proof masks work. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The first responders, the frontline workers, wind having a lower infection rate than the general population in that area. How can that possibly be? Because the PPE works, those masks work.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Is that scientific proof, anecdotal proof, do you believe he's right?

DR. THOMAS TSAI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: I think that Governor is right. And thank you, John, for having me on the show. There's now a growing body of evidence that surgical masks as well as homemade cotton masks at home can help to spread the coronavirus -- decrease the spread of coronavirus, if use as part of a whole strategy around physical distancing, hand hygiene, testing, and wearing masks.

So it's an important key part of the strategy that we have going forward both in hospitals as well as in our communities.

KING: And it's, look, it's new for most people, right? But it's something you do every day. I want to show you this Quinnipiac poll. Should America -- should facemask be required in public? Sixty-four percent of Americans, so two-thirds say, yes. But a third of Americans say, no, maybe it's the word required. Take us through your day. Some people think, you know, they're not effective. Some people think they, you know, they cause more harm than good, do they?

TSAI: There's no evidence that mask cause more harm than good. Now, I'm a surgeon in my day to day life, both in the operating room and now because of our universal masking policy in our hospital. We wear masks, you know, even when we're in hallways. And there's been clear data that shows that our transmission rates and the spread of COVID-19 has been lower as a result of that.

It's also just common sense. The way to think about mask is that, well, if I wear a mask, I don't necessarily protect myself, but I make sure that I don't necessarily spread coronavirus to my friends, family, or loved ones. It's a reason why we wear seatbelts. It's reason why we follow the rules of the road, why we stop at stop signs at a four-way intersection.

If everybody follows the rules and we can make sure that we not just protect ourselves, but we can protect everybody around us.

KING: Dr. Tsai, thanks for your help and your insights today. And thank you more for the work you do every day.

TSAI: Great. Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you, sir. We'll be right back.

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[12:51:58]

KING: The White House now, the President of the United States about to leave for Michigan.

TRUMP: So we have a lot of good things going. We just had a meeting with Mitch McConnell in the group. And we're working on a package of very positive things. We're getting some very good numbers. It looks like the numbers are going to be very good into the future.

We're going to be very strong, starting with our transition period, which will be probably June, June, July. I think you're going to see some very good numbers coming out. And next year is going to be an incredible economic year for this country. One of our best, always paying respects to the people that have lost their lives. We always have to remember that, the people that have lost their lives.

Do you have any questions, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, where are you on funding to Michigan, a lot of people are concerned they're flooded out. They said that's the last thing they needed for us to come from the trenches.

TRUMP: So we're looking at the floods. We have our people from the Army Corps of Engineers there. We have FEMA there. I spoke with the governor, Governor Whitmer yesterday and we have a very good understanding. But we've moved our best people into Michigan and our most talented engineers, designers, the people from the Army Corps of Engineers, and they do these things better than probably anyone in the world.

(INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Well, we'll take a look. No, we'll take a look. That was unrelated to that.

(INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Russia and us have developed very good relationship. As you know, we worked on the oil problem together. I think we have a very good relationship with Russia. But Russia didn't adhere to the treaty. So until they adhere, we will pull out. But there's a very good chance we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together.

But whenever there's an agreement that another party doesn't agree to, you know, we have many of those agreements around the world where it's a two party agreement, but they don't adhere to it. And we do. When we have things like that, we pull out also. That's why with the arms treaties, if you look at the arms treaties, we're probably going to make a deal with Russia on arms treaty. And China will be maybe included in that. We'll see what happens.

But we have a lot of things. But when we have an agreement, when we have a treaty, and the other side doesn't adhere to it, in many cases, their old treaties, old agreements, then we pull out also. So I think what's going to happen is we're going to pull out and they're going to come back and want to make a deal. We've had a very good relationship lately with Russia. And you can see that with respect to oil in what's happening with oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about Michael Flynn getting out of jail today?

TRUMP: I didn't know that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about it?

TRUMP: I didn't know. No, I didn't know it.

(INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Say it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't this withdrawal is going to make things worse in Russia, increase tensions?

TRUMP: No. I think that we're going to have a very good relationship with Russia. I think that if you look at what happened with oil where Russia, Saudi Arabia, and us, got together. And we saved in our country, millions of energy jobs and you see oil now is solidifying. So it's the best of all worlds. We're saving the energy jobs. But our drivers have a very low gasoline price.

[12:55:18]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to wear a mask today in the --

TRUMP: Well, I don't know. We're going to look at it. A lot of people have asked me that question. I want to get our country back to normal. I want to normalize. One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open. The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors. I want to get our churches open. And we're going to take a very strong position on that very soon.

(INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: Mosque, yes, including mosque, including mosque.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any messages for the Muslim --

TRUMP: Yes. I wish them well, very well. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- an award $1 billion for 400 million doses of a potential new vaccine. How confident are you that, well, we'll be ready by the fall?

TRUMP: Well, I think we have a lot of you have AstraZeneca, which is a great company. And you have others, Johnson and Johnson. We have a lot of things happening on the vaccine front, or the therapeutic front. If you look at therapeutically, we're doing great.

And on the cure front, which is the next step. I think we have tremendous things that announcement I heard came out this morning. That's a very positive announcement. In addition to all of the other announcements, we are so far ahead of where people thought we'd be. But therapeutically is very interesting what's going on in cure.

So you're going to have a lot of big announcements over the next week or two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you said the funding to Michigan was another issue not related to the flood. Can you just --

TRUMP: Well, we're helping Michigan with their flood. And we have the people to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what about the funding where you said federal funding through the mail-in voting?

TRUMP: We don't want them to do mail-in ballots because it's going to lead to total election fraud. So we don't want them to do mail in ballots. We don't want anyone to do mail-in invalid.

Now, if somebody has to mail it in because they're sick or by the way, because they live in the White House, and they have to vote in Florida, they won't be in Florida. If there's a reason for it, that's OK, if there's a reason. But if there's another -- we don't want to take any chances with fraud in our elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the Chinese parliament is poised to pass a national security law of cracking down on Hong Kong. Are you aware of this?

TRUMP: I don't know what it is because nobody knows yet. If it happens, we'll address that issue very strongly.

(INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: So it looks like G7 may be on because we've done well. We're ahead of schedule in terms of our country and some of the other countries are doing very well. It looks like G7 will be on, a full G7 and we'll be announcing something probably early next week.

(INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I can't hear you. You have your mask on. I can't hear a word --

(INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: We'll be talking to you about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, how long do you start to see hydroxychloroquine?

TRUMP: I think it's another day. I had a two week regimen of hydroxychloroquine. And I've taken it, I think just about two weeks. I think it's another day. So and I'm still here. I'm still here. And I tested very positively in another sense. So this morning, yes, I tested positively toward negative, right? So now I tested perfectly this morning. Meaning I tested negative.

(INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: But that's a way of saying it, positively toward the negative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you taken the antibody test yet, Sir.

TRUMP: No, I have not. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Columbia University put out a report in the "New York Times" today that 36,000 people would have been saved if you guys did social distancing measures just one week earlier. Do you believe that? What's your reaction to that?

TRUMP: I was so early. I was earlier than anybody thought. I put a ban on people coming in from China. Everybody fought me on that. They didn't want it. Nancy Pelosi, a month later was dancing in the streets of San Francisco, in Chinatown so that people wouldn't believe what's happening. And I don't even blame that.

But I was way early. Columbia is an institution that's very liberal. It's a -- I think it's just a political hit job, you want to know the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to have the G7 here at the White House or at Camp David?

TRUMP: We're going to have it probably at the White House and may be a little combination at Camp David but primarily at the White House. So if we do the G7, when that all comes together, probably it will be in D.C. at the White House, OK? But there could be a piece of it at Camp David, which is nearby.

(INAUDIBLE)

[13:00:04]

TRUMP: Yes. So again, our relationship with Russia has improved greatly, especially --