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Cuomo Prime Time

Trump Declares National Emergency To Combat Coronavirus; Trump Announces Support For House Coronavirus Bill; Trump: "I Don't Take Responsibility At All" For The Failure To Ramp Up Coronavirus Testing. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 13, 2020 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: More breaking news this evening on the tense negotiations between House Democrats and the White House over that Coronavirus Relief Bill that we mentioned at the top of the hour.

Moments ago, President Trump tweeted, his full support for what he called a compromise. And separately, we learned that a deal has in fact been reached between the White House and lawmakers, and vote on it is expected tonight.

That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: It's just one step but it's an important step. Anderson, thank you very much. I'll see you Sunday. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

My brothers and sisters, let's be honest with each other. We are at war. The President has finally declared a national emergency as the virus is attacking the country, OK? It got the jump on us. The election will decide how people feel about how we got here.

Right now, we have to focus on how we fight back. Testing is about keeping cases down. But can we treat the ones that we will almost certainly have. We have never been in this situation. We've also been overcoming odds since the day we were born.

We get the facts. We get a plan. And now, as ever as one, let's get after it.




CUOMO: All right, let's start facts first.

The enemy, the virus, does have a jump on us, and let's be straight about it. We know why. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero.

We're in great shape. We closed it down. We stopped it.


CUOMO: Now remember, no one around him told him that or believed it. And here we are now, almost to the day that the President told you would be over, he realizes the war has just begun.


TRUMP: Now we're in a different phase.

To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort, today I am officially declaring a national emergency.


CUOMO: Now, he is in a new phase. We have not been in any phase but this one. He did not act quickly early on. Why am I harping? I have to because the President still doesn't own the truth.


TRUMP: No, I don't take responsibility at all.


CUOMO: Now, remember this about the President. It will never be on him. It will always be about him. That's why reliance on those around him, and in the states, and in ourselves is so important right now.

Let's start. Take a look at the map. Does this illustrate quick action by the President to you?

The number of Coronavirus cases here in America just crossed the 2000- threshold today, 48 dead. The most cases you can see are on the coasts, Washington State, California, and New York right now.

But what's most important is not to focus on the increase in the number. We know it's under-reported. We know it's going to spike and spike and spike because the testing roll-out has been so slow.

So, what is our best defense? We have to follow the protocols of forbearance. That means reining in activities on contact even when we don't want to. Why? That "Flattening the curve" concept, that's what it's all about, less contact equals less cases, OK?

That's what this national emergency declaration could be helping, going to remove constraints on state and local governments, so they can do everything they possibly can, to ramp up our woeful capabilities, because they're going to have to treat lots of cases, the worst cases.

Can they? What we do, our key? Cooperation. Their key? Building up capacity. What are the numbers?

The U. S. reportedly has a total of 5,198 community hospitals. That translates into about 792,000 beds. But it's not like they're empty. Many of our hospitals are already at high capacity with beds per American, you know, not where we need to see.

Look, Trump won't tell you this, but you need to hear it. There will not be enough of what we need, beds, ventilators, ICU capabilities, if we see a significant surge of new cases.

Now, how do we deal with that "If?" If we don't all suck it up, and change habits, for just a few weeks, this is the future.

Without taking protective measures, they call it, this is the curve. We're going to be overwhelmed. You see the red part? We don't want to be there. It will make so many more suffer.

So, what do we do? What millions of you are already doing, thank God for you, you're helping flatten the curve. You're staying at home. You're doing the social distancing thing. You're self-quarantining. You're minimizing the odds of spreading the virus to someone else.

Here's what many state and local governments are doing, and that makes sense in this context. You got to close things down. 17 states have so far closed schools, in an effort to stem the spread.

Now, what are they doing for the kids in need who need to eat? We're going to deal with that tonight. Some cities are turning to a new model for testing. Drive-throughs, worked well in Australia, worked well in other places.


New York just opened its first drive-through site today in New Rochelle. It has the biggest cluster of Coronavirus cases in the country right now. So, that's a good tool. The National Guard rolled in there to help clean and sanitize public spaces, and hand out food to those who need it.

Remember, this is a war. We have to approach it as such. Now, war, what does that mean? What does it look like on the government's side? Are we doing what we need to do so far? If not, what needs to change?

What a perfect guest we got tonight for this! Lieutenant General Russel Honore. You remember him from - from Hurricane Katrina, the Joint Task Force Commander. He fought this kind of war and knows what creates wins and losses.

General, always a pleasure! I always see you as more of a brother because we've been through so much of this together. There's nobody I trust more. Give me a quick take on what the stakes here - are here, and how you feel about the state of the war right now. LT GENERAL RUSSEL L. HONORE, FORMER KATRINA JOINT TASK FORCE COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY (RET.), AUTHOR, "LEADERSHIP IN THE NEW NORMAL": Well we are playing catch-up. There was a saying from World War II, "America always do the right thing late."

We are late to the game but we can catch up. We got the capacity to catch up. We got to leash the power of American industry. We've got to take care of our small businesses, and we got to take care of the poor - working poor.

There was a lady today at a restaurant. When she heard the news flash on the television that the Governor was closing school, this waitress, who depended on tips and - and minimum wage started crying because she got no option to take care of a school.

We have to take care of families that need help. And we have to work together, as a team, and we don't see unity in Washington. They've got to start operating as a team.

We got that eventually after Katrina. But this is much larger, Chris. This could cause a cultural shift in America, and will change our laws forever, now that we see how vulnerable we really are, based on this pandemic.

CUOMO: What do you worry about in terms of change forever?

HONORE: I think what will change forever is we will see that we don't have to have people driving all the way across town to go sit behind a computer. We will optimize virtual work, where people don't have to drive, taking people off the street, taking care of the kids at home, and working.

That's a work force. We are knowledge-based workforce. But we got people drive into cubicles, say hello to each other, work eight hours, and go back home, they could be doing that from home.

CUOMO: Yes, we're seeing that right now.

HONORE: Keeping people off the street, limiting the distances, but we need to optimize that, and that need to be a way of the future, Chris.

CUOMO: I hear you. I'll let--

HONORE: And we need to make sure we don't panic.

CUOMO: Absolutely.

Attitude is everything in these situations. You taught us that during Katrina. It made the difference. And those were very tough and angry circumstances, certainly more than where we are right now. We'll see how this goes.

In terms of taking care of the working poor, Congress says they have a deal that the President is expected to sign tonight.

It's just one step. We're going to look inside what is that step, and what needs to be done. Especially where poor kids are involved, you close the schools, where are they going to eat?

Now, I want to talk to you about capacity to treat what we know is coming. No matter what kind of testing we can get done, we know we're going to have a lot of cases that have to be treated.

Hospital beds, why is our ratio so much lower than like Italy, and China, and South Korea? Why do we have such small capacity relatively?

HONORE: Chris, when I was Commander of Joint Force Headquarters - Homeland Security, in 2004, we did a top-off exercise focused on a pandemic.

And, at that time, we knew we didn't have enough hospital beds. We didn't have enough respirators. And we didn't have enough ventilators. That was proven in multiple exercises. And it ran out after two to three days when we went to maximum capacity.

We've got to fix this. And when I tell you "It's going to change America, it's going to change our laws," we cannot come out of this, hoping this will not happen again. We'll have to change just like we did after Katrina, and re-organize our medical response because the CDC was using a last-century model.

CUOMO: Right. And now, we're still seeing some proof of that. Let me just take people what you're saying in the numbers.

Just so you get this, maximum available right now, ventilators, OK, that's what you're going to need because this attacks the lungs, it's like a severe form of pneumonia, they're going to have to help you breathe for a little while, 160,000, nowhere near what we need.

Look, 1957-58, 65,000. But the severe, the Spanish flu, 1918, 742,000.

So look, we're going to be under-equipped. You're hearing it. You hear from the governors. You hear from the President. They're going to try and buy up. But the equipment is not available.


Now, predictions, look, 4.8 million admissions, 1.9 million ICU stays, right, what does that mean? That means - I can't work the wall. That means that these people don't just walk in and walk out. 1.9 million, you don't have nearly enough beds.

That's why we have to do as much as we can to flatten the curve. And that's what we're doing. National Guard, look, you're going to see them stop popping around, and start to help with this.

My last question for you, General, is this.

I see expanding capacity as necessarily involving the military. Why haven't we heard anything about that, National Guard being called up to create emergency facilities, and address the states, where we know there are cases?

HONORE: The military have been busy preparing. Number one, their number one mission is to maintain readiness. Inside that readiness is to keep the force ready, and to plan.

You know, the military has been a silent partner, taking in all of the people that were brought back off the ships, and flown back from overseas, has done that without any sweat. No problem.

And also, part of the logistic training, applied training, as well as planning. We've got capacity in the Defense Logistics Agency to do much of the purchasing that the government need. But, right now, they're solid hand of success, but they are standing by on orders of the President.

Right now, the governors are doing a great job with The Guard like Governor Cuomo and Governor Edwards in Louisiana. They're making it happen. And The Guard could do many of these tasks to relieve first line medical people who can get to the hospitals.

CUOMO: Right.

HONORE: Our Reserve Forces, if we call them up, we're going to pull doctors out of hospitals, and that's a diminishing return asset. And when we use it, we've got to make sure it's a resort - last resort action, Chris.

CUOMO: Strong! Strong point about that! I'm talking about just their ability to put up structures quickly and create capacity on that level. But you're right.

HONORE: Absolutely.

CUOMO: You're right about personnel. Personnel's a precious resource.

Lieutenant General Russel Honore, as we learn more, please come back and help us understand where we are in this war, and where we need to be. God bless. Great to see you.

HONORE: Test! Test! Test! Take care of the poor.

CUOMO: Done. All right, and we will stay on that. You have to.

You want to close schools? Great! How do you feed the kids? That's one of the questions we're going to take up with a lawmaker who's become known as a Dragon Slayer in Congress.

She tests power like nobody else, this time, the CDC, pushing to make sure that they were following the law, as it already stands, when it comes to covering the costs of testing.

Katie Porter, what does she think about the state of play, and where we're headed? Next.









CUOMO: All right, here's what we know. President Trump declared a national emergency. What does that do? Frees up about $50 billion to help states combat Coronavirus. It's a lot of money. It's not nearly enough.

We also just learned that Trump will sign a deal that Pelosi negotiated with Republicans. What does it do? More importantly, what does it not do?

Now, we bring in one of the champions of Congress, Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter of California. It is always good to watch you use your legal acumen to evince truth from politicians.

The recent addition is talking to the CDC about what they're supposed to do already to relieve testing costs. Here's a taste.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Will you commit to invoking your existing authority under 42 CFR 71.30 to provide for Coronavirus testing for every American regardless of insurance coverage?

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: What I was trying to say is that CDC is working with HHS now to see how we operationalize that.

PORTER: Dr. Redfield, you don't need to do any work to operationalize. You need to make a commitment to the American people so they come in to get tested. You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow.

REDFIELD: I think you're an excellent questioner, so my answer is yes.


CUOMO: Well what was that even about like why didn't he just say "Yes" right out of the box?

PORTER: He should have. To be clear, the CDC has had this authority for weeks. And my Office wrote to the CDC a week ago, putting this exact question to them. Would they commit to using the existing law, the existing authority they have--

CUOMO: Did they answer?

PORTER: --to make Coronavirus - they did not answer. They allowed the deadline to expire. And we wrote to them the night before the hearing, and told them we were going to press the CDC Director on exactly this point. What did we see? We saw an Administration that was unprepared. And

that's exactly what we've seen from the Trump Administration.

Today, we heard President Trump say this is an emergency. Well six weeks ago, on January 28th, my Office wrote to him, using the exact wording, "Public health emergency," and calling on him to take action.

This is an administration that has been flat-footed, that has been unprepared, and has put lives at stake.

CUOMO: So now, let's look at the state of play. State of emergency, national emergency, that'll help on a couple of different funding levels. But really, it's about this bill, the first step that you guys put together.

Nobody is saying that this is all that's going to need to be done. But here's what we understand. You tell me what I'm missing.

The testing is in there, free Coronavirus testing, two weeks paid sick leave, really important if you got to self-quarantine, and you don't have paid leave at work, three months of paid family and medical leave, more food aid and Medicaid funding.

I want your open take on it. But I do want you to pay attention to more food aid and Medicaid funding, because that's very unspecific, and it's probably the greatest area of need. But what's your take?

PORTER: With regard to the food aid and Medicaid funding, I think particularly the food aid is relatively straight-forward and I don't think there was a lot of disagreement on that point.

We're talking about using programs like the School Lunch Program to deliver lunches even though schools' out of session. We already do that in the summertime. So, I think the big battle here was around paid sick leave, which is incredibly important in fighting this virus.

We're asking the American public to adopt public health measures.

And it's really important that Congress not only pass this bill, but that Congress adopt public health measures itself. Congress itself has been flat-footed during this crisis, in terms of how we deal with things.


I'm calling on Congress tonight, on leaders of both parties, to adopt a remote voting procedure to ensure that if we're not able to travel, if this public health crisis worsens, that every vote - that we're still able to have a quorum and, we're still able to take votes.

CUOMO: You're the law professor. What's going to be the push back about why they don't usually allow remote votes? And, you know, we've seen that in the past, where people are sick, will he or she be able to make it back in time?

What's going to be the legal pushback and how do you overcome it? PORTER: There is no legal barrier that I'm aware of to remote voting. It could be adopted tonight, this evening, as part of an updated rules package in the House, and then could be invoked, if necessary.

I represent the State of California. People there are worried. We have had outbreaks there. I answered the phone in my Office this morning, and talked first-hand to constituents, about what's going on.

But those constituents are also counting on me to cast those votes. And we have a President who's threatening to potentially restrict travel from California, and from Washington, and that might become necessary.

You've seen the House floor, Chris. It's a scrum of people. 435 Members--


PORTER: --and a 150 staff in close quarters, using the same voting machines. Look, we're asking American businesses, schools, non- profits, local governments, to be flexible, and to obey public health guidelines.

Congress should be no exception. We should be willing here to be flexible and adopt a remote voting procedure that can be invoked, if necessary.

CUOMO: Right.

PORTER: I don't think there's any excuse for us to disobey the public health guidelines, and to refuse to use technology, to adapt to this public health emergency, when at the same time we're legislating that businesses and communities do exactly that.

CUOMO: I think because of the exigent circumstance, it makes sense, and removes the policy about point - the policy point is "No, we want them there. We want them to be held accountable." That's not what's going on right now with Congress, not at least on that level.

Here's my concern. 2008, OK, I covered that very intimately. I was at ABC News there. We had this great team doing it. And we saw a dynamic that smacks familiar to me.

They took care of the banks right away. They dumped money into the markets. They came up with TARP and TALF and all these other things. Elizabeth Warren was fundamental in a lot of that, in the policing of it.

This feels like that to me that you toss - tossed a ton of money into the markets. You got all the banks together, and told them, "We're going to make you OK. Don't worry about your credit lines. Keep lending."

But for the little guys, especially the kids who need the food, and the elderly, and those same impoverished communities that check the most risk boxes, I feel that we are not keying on them enough. Am I wrong?

PORTER: So look, I think the House package that we're going to vote on tonight does, as its name suggest, put families first.

It's focused on free testing, on paid medical leave, on SNAP programs, on WIC Programs, on Meals on Wheels, it really does put the needs of families first.

But I'm so glad you mentioned the foreclosure crisis. I lived through that. I watched the TARP Bailouts.

And today, when I watched the President's press conference, there was a sense of deja vu there, where we're having all these CEOs parade up, were talking about how they're going to get help, how terrific they are, and meanwhile--

CUOMO: And they're giving us a parking lot.

PORTER: --we're not talking to patients, we're not listening to families who are being quarantined, we're not hearing the voices of parents, including myself, who are worried about what they're going to do with their kids, come Monday, when school is closed.

So, I think there's a really important point here, which is to do the planning, to ensure that the base of our economy, the American family, the hard-working people, who go to work every day and - and take care of our economy, that they're put first in this.

If you do that, the larger macroeconomic issues will follow.

CUOMO: Right. We're not just an L bump - elbow bump away of - of figuring this out.

And as always, Congresswoman, this works both ways. As I hear about emerging needs, and people that are coming over, with collective problems, I'll reach out to the Office. You do the same, so I can get information to the American people.

PORTER: Absolutely, thank you.

CUOMO: Congresswoman Katie Porter, best to you for your health.

All right, in that way, it's a two-front war, right? You have what do you do about the spread, testing, and all the forbearance things, and then the boogeyman here, the real front on this war is going to be treatment.

So, you got to figure out where the enemy is going, and how you deal with it, and how you deal with those who were attacked by it.

That's why we're going to bring in the one and only man worthy of the title, Chief Doctor Sanjay Gupta, with answers with the questions that you have, next.









CUOMO: Boy oh boy, you see the reality at the grocery store, parents trying to figure out what to do with kids, how long are they going to be out, how do I get them to learn?

Do I have the equipment? What if my kid's in college? Am I going to get my money back for board? Employers figuring out who has to come in, who has to stay out, what can they afford?

This is hitting us all in our dearly - daily lives in a way, let's be honest, we've never been through this before. That's why we need Sanjay Gupta and the other leaders in our communities to help us understand things.

Sanjay, you have just been, you know, you're always an Iron Man. But this is really something.


CUOMO: And we got to take care of your own health as well because this is going to go on for a while.

GUPTA: Good advice, thank you.

CUOMO: All right, let's start with the grocery store.


CUOMO: I think it's about the biggest disconnect we see, like everybody, "Oh, we're going to be OK, OK." You go to the grocery stores, people are not believing us. Should I be stocking up? What are the necessities to buy?

GUPTA: Two things I want to say about this. One is that yes, you should be stocking up. And, you know, we talked about this several weeks ago, as we started to get wind of this.

And, at that point, I said, you know, take a look around your house, think about how would I live for two weeks if I just had to basically be in the house? Do I have what I need? And start getting those things.

Two weeks is a good amount of time. I mean some people are hoarding. I think two weeks is the right amount. CUOMO: No hoarding though?

GUPTA: Don't hoard. I mean, look, we're all in this together. And there's certain supplies that we're all going to need.


Two is that, you know, this national emergency, you know, we're used to thinking about that for storms. There's other things they're going to have to address, including supply chain issues. We always think about this with pandemics. Supply chain becomes a real big problem.

So hopefully, as part of this, I think, $43 billion, or whatever it is, that's now freed up, they really bring in FEMA to - to deal with supply chains. DOD, HHS, they'll deal with the medical side of things. FEMA's got to deal with this.

CUOMO: OK. This is like the first real weekend that everybody has been told it's real.


CUOMO: "Not a hoax. Here's what you need to do and not do." Big question do I go out this weekend? Do I go to a local restaurant?

GUPTA: You know, I - I would say if you - if you need to, you know. I mean, you know, I wouldn't--

CUOMO: Nobody needs to.

GUPTA: Nobody needs to. I mean--


GUPTA: --these are one of - it's one of these things. I mean, life is a risk reward proposition. I don't want to take the joy out of people's lives. And, as we talked about last night, social distancing should not mean social isolation.

But I mean, you know, the - the goal is clear here. We want to break the transmission of this thing. The more times people are coming in contact, the harder it is to break that transmission.

CUOMO: What about having people over instead of--

GUPTA: Yes. If you have people over, you know--

CUOMO: --who aren't sick.

GUPTA: --think about, yes, think about the respiratory precautions. You know, keep the distance. It's a respiratory droplet, three or six feet. If it gets in the air, someone's coughing, that's how you get it. You got to disinfect your - your place ahead of time, the basic supply.

CUOMO: Especially for people with kids, do you stay in the house-- GUPTA: Yes.

CUOMO: --now, let's assume you're not sick, OK?


CUOMO: Do you stay inside? Can you go to a park?

GUPTA: I think--

CUOMO: Should you go to a bar? I mean--

GUPTA: I think - well I think you can - like with your kids, I think you can go to a park, be outside. It's easier to keep a social distance over there. You know, festivals and concerts are different, obviously because you're - you're right next to each other.

CUOMO: Right.

GUPTA: Depends on the bar and the restaurant too. If you're going to a place where you can actually keep distance, look, there are restaurants, as you know now, where the waiters are serving with gloves.


GUPTA: I mean we're at that point already. So, there are people who are being mindful of it in the restaurants. You, as a patron, got to do the same thing.

CUOMO: Now, for you, this is a specific question, you know, I mean especially for guys who are going to take a lot of extra supplements and stuff to put on muscle mass quickly, as you've been done in the past--

GUPTA: Obviously. Yes.

CUOMO: --and you've - you've done well with controlling of the cycles, which is good for you.

GUPTA: No doubt.

CUOMO: People want to go to the gym.

GUPTA: Yes. Look, you know, gyms - first of all, this doesn't transmit in sweat.

We've gotten this question a bunch of times. It is a respiratory disease. But there's so many surfaces, high-touch surfaces in gyms. Some gyms are going to be better about cleaning those surfaces than others. I think it's on you, the individual, to make sure that if you're going

to go to the gym, you keep your space clean, you make sure you're disinfecting things that you're touching, before you touch it, and then after you touch it as well. I mean, again, this will be something I feel like we're going to stay

for weeks on end now. But we are in this together. How I behave affects your health from now on, Chris, and how you behave affects mine. So, we got to think about these things.

CUOMO: The idea of we got to take care of the elderly, which kind of means you got to leave them alone. But we got to check on them.


CUOMO: Can you go visit the elderly, you know, assuming you're not having symptoms? Is it all right? Should you keep them with you so you know how they are? What should we do?

GUPTA: I think, you know, for the time being, I think we probably want to minimize the visits to the elderly.

And that pains me to say a little bit. I was going to go visit my own parents elder - in their upper-70s this weekend. I'm not going to do it. I'm going to spend a lot of time on FaceTime.

CUOMO: Did they know before you just said it now on television?

GUPTA: They do. I just - they know. They love you, by the way. They're - they're watching. I guarantee you.

CUOMO: It's fair. They're in a very exclusive group.

GUPTA: But they - but I - but I - I call them. I'm going to stay in touch. Social distancing does not need to mean social isolation.

I was in New Rochelle yesterday. I don't think I got the virus.

But they're - they're elderly. I don't want to be the person who transmits the virus. We healthy people have to think of ourselves as possibly holding the virus. If I did go, and if people do decide to go, I'm going to be really extra diligent about things.

And when I sit, I'm thinking about surfaces that I'm touching, and how I'm interacting with my environment. That's - that's what we - we should always be doing now.

CUOMO: You know, look, two quick things.

One, you can just tell from Sanjay's tone, this is serious. It is a state of mind. You have to think about it this way because it could really make a difference. I don't want to hit you with the flattened curve every two seconds. But if we don't do it the right way, we are going to suffer the wrong way.

And the second thing is you don't need to see your parents. They're seeing you on television. And I'm sure they're proud as hell as always.

GUPTA: I appreciate that.

CUOMO: You are the best. Give me some elbow.

GUPTA: All right, bud, thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CUOMO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Now, this podcast is blowing up, and with good reason. "Coronavirus: Fact Versus Fiction," it is a must because when you want to know what you need to know, he's updating it all the time with the latest, and nobody has better access. It's a great tool for us right now.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CUOMO: Thanks to Sanjay.

This President now, he avoided today taking any ownership for what we know wasn't done right, and says he has not gotten tested. Why harp on it? Because if you won't admit the past, why do we think he'll be responsible going forward? And what does it all mean politically?

Who better than the Axe? Next.









CUOMO: When you are leading in a war, accountability matters, but not with Trump. The question is what will this mean for governance going forward, the election, and particularly for Democrats?

CNN Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod, joins us.




CUOMO: Thanks, Axe, for doing this.


CUOMO: You know, the big promise from Trump was "I alone can fix it." But now that we're in a fix, here's the latest iteration.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The system does not - is not really geared to what we need right now.

It is a failing. I mean, let's admit it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you take responsibility for that?

TRUMP: Yes. No, I don't take responsibility at all because we were given a - a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.


CUOMO: Is he telling the truth?

AXELROD: Well, look, this is a pandemic of massive scope.


But what we do know is that there were early warnings in late December. We knew what was going on in China. Katie Porter just told you she wrote the Administration in January. And he seemed more intent on minimizing the threat.

I mean, it's one - one thing you - we know for sure, you don't want a war by denying there is a war, and that's what happened for weeks and weeks and weeks. His Chief of Staff called it a hoax.

We also know, Chris, that he disbanded - his team disbanded the - the Directorate within the National Security Council on pandemics that was specifically designed to provide early warning signals, and - and monitor them, and - and mobilize the government quickly.

That was disbanded in 2018. It was started by the Obama Administration after - after the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

So, you know, he - there's no doubt that there were failures, some of them more systemic and may - and may not have been anticipated, maybe they should have been anticipated. But a lot of it just had to do with very poor reaction time.

CUOMO: Let me play a little bit sound about the disbanding because that's in dispute as well.


YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR: And the officials that worked in that office said that you - that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that? TRUMP: Well, I just think it's a nasty question because what we've done is - and Tony had said numerous times that we've saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say "Me," I didn't do it. We have a group of people.


CUOMO: First of all, Tony Fauci never said that it was a good move to disband that team. And the idea of a President saying it's not me, it's like the people around me, what does that mean for governance going forward?

AXELROD: Yes. I think what he was trying to say there to - just to defend the President for a second, what he - even though it didn't make sense, and the context of the question was the closing of the border to--

CUOMO: Oh, I know what he was doing.

AXELROD: --people coming in from China.

CUOMO: It's called a pivot.

AXELROD: But - but--

CUOMO: You guys do it all the time in politics. But he was skirting a question because it was bad for him.

AXELROD: Right, right. But - but, and by the way, it wasn't a nasty question which is what he always says--

CUOMO: No, of course not.

AXELROD: --in response to women who ask him tough questions. But look, his National Security Advisor, then it was John Bolton, disbanded that office. That was on his watch. There's no ambiguity about that.

CUOMO: Right.

AXELROD: They didn't think it was a priority. And we are paying a price for it now.

CUOMO: So, now the question becomes how does this play in the election? And specifically, you don't have just politics. You have practicality. Louisiana pushing its primary.


CUOMO: We're told there's not going to be exit polling, you know, at the next group of primaries, what it could mean for Conventions, and beyond. What are your thoughts?

AXELROD: Look, I think it's a really good question. I think, for now, it kind of freezes the election. You know, you watch - you watch this show, and other shows, and there's very little discussion about the election right now. That's probably, in the short-term, to the benefit of Vice President Biden, who's doing well. But in terms of the - the execution of the election though, these are big questions.

You know, I talked to Tom Perez the other day, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. His view was, you know, they're still planning to go ahead with the Convention. But we don't know.

And if we - and if there is no Convention, which is usually a launching pad for the fall campaign, what do you do then? And - and technically, what do you need to do, how do you vote?

I thought Katie Porter was very persuasive on this. Should there be alternative ways of voting? And then, how do you protect that vote, given what we know about election security, right now?

So, there are a raft of questions that this is going to create. But they're in some ways, I mean it's enormously important, is secondary to the - the crisis, the challenge, we're facing right now.

CUOMO: David Axelrod, you are the man. It is good to have you in times as serious as these.

AXELROD: Great to be with you.

CUOMO: God bless.

AXELROD: Thank you.

CUOMO: Best of health for you and the family.

AXELROD: Thank you. Same to you.

CUOMO: All right, look, understatement of the day, "These are serious times. They are challenging times."

But they are not the End Days, OK? I have an argument for what we have to acknowledge, and what the key is that I think is a little different than what you may perceive, next.








(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: So, the President recognized today what has been true for weeks. We are at war. This is a national emergency. But Trump & Co., their call to arms seemed very limited.


TRUMP: Wash your hands.

JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: We want them to wash their hands frequently.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Really good recommendation is to wash your hands often.

FAUCI: Wash your hands as often as you possibly can.



CUOMO: "20 seconds, soap and water, Happy Birthday twice," got it.

What they are leaving out, of course, are all the things we must do, and not do, the same things that Trump believes may compromise his popularity. But here's the argument. This is not about him. It is about us, and we must face reality together.

Now, as a little side note, I get this is freaky. I'm with you. My kids are confused. My family is worried about what to do. My mother, you know, isn't 50 anymore.

"My in-laws, where should they be? Should they be with us? No, that's too close. But how do we see them when they need us? How long do we do this? How do we get the things? Why are the foods disappearing?"

I'm living with it, just like you. And starting this weekend, we're going to all face a new test. Here are the musts, for me, you, all of us. If you're sick in any way that triggers flu suspicion, you got to stay home.

Hey, if you want, DM me on Twitter, and I'll call as many of you as I can. I'm going to be home anyway, right?

Practice social distancing. That means, you know, don't get up on somebody, when you're talking to them, give them some space. Don't go to big events. Now, some people are ignoring these cues because they're tedious. And look, let's be honest, we're selfish.


But you know what? Think about how many of us love to wave the flag, and use the icon, and say they love their country, and they're patriots. You know what I say? Prove it. If you don't refrain in those ways, ask yourself what it says about what you truly value.

Now, if you blow this off, out of some misplaced sense that it's all manufactured to be bad for Trump, so you're going to ignore it, you fall into a category like that, you've got bigger problems than Coronavirus, OK? This is real.

Then we have the other extreme, full End Times mode. It's leading to scenes like this across the country.

I'm sure if you've gone out of the supermarket, if you're anywhere affected, you've been seeing this, people buying bread, hand sanitizer. They're telling us to make sure our hands are clean. There's no hand sanitizer. They're buying things like it's going out of style.

And then there's this. That's where the TP is supposed to be. What's up with the TP frenzy?


AZAR: Toilet paper is not an effective protection against getting the Coronavirus.


CUOMO: All right, Azar is joking, but also missing the point.

People are scared. A pandemic is scary. And the reality is not helped by a President who abused the truth.


TRUMP: But that's a little bit like the flu. It's a little like the regular flu.


CUOMO: Yes. And it's a lot not like it. He downplayed the threat, and did so for selfish reasons, by calling this virus another move on him.


TRUMP: Now the Democrats are politicizing the Coronavirus.

You say, "How's President doing - Trump doing?" They go, "Oh, not good, not good."

This is their new hoax.


CUOMO: New hoax! How do you like that now? The truth is spreading as fast as the virus, so even the President has to own it. And the other night, you saw the reality. He is as overwhelmed as anyone.


TRUMP: I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Whoa! I hope I don't catch a case of that, whatever that is.

So, on one level, it makes sense. When you know things are serious, and Trump is feeding you a lot of BS, what do you do? You go for the TP.

Reason number two, it gives us a sense of control. Why? I want to know that I did everything I could. I feel helpless, right down to the last roll.

Number three, well you got to think about this one. You heard others are going to the store. So, you decided to go. I did the same thing.

Now, Steven Taylor, Author of "The Psychology of Pandemics," that's where I'm getting these reasons from, he puts it this way.

"We're social creatures. We look to each other for cues, what's safe, what's dangerous. And when you see someone in the store, panic buying, that can cause its own kind of contagion."

So, it turns out that anticipation of Corona may be worse than Corona itself.

Why? 80 percent of us, who get this virus, God forbid, many of us won't even know that we have it. But a 100 percent of those who panic and hoard are absolutely keeping others from having enough.

This is not a drill. It is not fake news. The only fake part was Trump lying to you about the realities early on, when he knew better.

Now, look, the real deal is the media, this show, we will hold power to account. The government has a lot to do. We will do our best to make sure they do it for you.

But it's not about Trump. It's not even just about the government. This is as much of a test for you, and me. We have to be at our best.

The good news, America has always been defined by how she handles a crisis. We are a country that is forged by hard times. Hard times make strong people. Strong people make good times. We are strong.

And you know what? It's not just us. The President said today, we're not worrying about the rest of the world. Wrong! The world is dealing with it. We're part of a community. And you know what else? The world is watching.

You know, part of the job that I do is that I've been all over this country in all kinds of disasters, everything you can think of, from the natural to the all too human. And I have seen time and again how you guys come together. You come together when people need you. You come together when you don't even know each other.

So, let's remind the world why they look to us, why they look to us as a symbol of what freedom is all about. We know what to do. We know what not to do. We have to believe that we matter to each other. So, let's get after it.

That's my argument, taking you into the weekend, surrender the "Me" to the "We." It's about compassion right now.


And you're going to see moments that celebrate the human spirit. I'm going to show you one that, out of personal bias, I will say, could only have come from my people. A BOLO, that you won't want to miss, next.








CUOMO: I love this BOLO, Be On the Look-Out.

Look, we know these are difficult times. And, by the way, we are nowhere done, OK? We have to do our part to contain this outbreak, all right?

Now, there are ways to cope even with the worst of it. Italy is in a jam. But watch what happened on this street in Siena.




CUOMO: I want to let it keep going. But I got to end this show. Listen to them. "Canto della Verbena," it's Siena's town song, "While Siena sleeps." Interestingly, Siena is the walled city.