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State of the Union

Interview With U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper; Interview With Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC); Interview With Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA); Interview With Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired April 05, 2020 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): United states? As the U.S. braces for a painful two weeks...


TAPPER: ... President Trump casts blame on states desperate for medical supplies.

TRUMP: Many of the states were totally unprepared for this.

TAPPER: I will speak to governors of two of the hardest-hit states, Louisiana and Illinois, next.

And active duty. The U.S. military is stepping up its response to the pandemic.

MARK ESPER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Prepared to do what we have to.

TAPPER: And facing criticism over the decision to fire a Navy captain.

TRUMP: I agree with their decision 100 percent.

TAPPER: Defense Secretary Mark Esper joins me to discuss in moments.

Plus: economic pain. More than 10 million Americans file for unemployment, as small businesses vie for federal loans to stay afloat.

TRUMP: We have to open our country again.

TAPPER: When will federal money get to struggling Americans? I will speak to the chair of the new Coronavirus Crisis Committee, House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn, next.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is bracing ourselves. Today marks the beginning of what President Trump says may be the toughest two weeks of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, announcing in a press conference Saturday there will be -- quote -- "a lot of death."

It is hard to fathom, since the numbers are already so overwhelming and so bleak, over a million cases worldwide, and the virus has killed more than 8,500 in the United States alone. Last Sunday, the U.S. death toll was around 2,000, the week before just over 300.

As the crisis worsens, the president is also taking advantage of a distracted nation, choosing this moment to fire the inspector general of the Intelligence Committee, who notified Congress about the whistle-blower complaint that led to the president's impeachment.

Saturday, the president announced that the military is -- quote -- "going to war" to help the states, sending 1,000 U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy medical providers to New York over the next three days.

Joining us now, the defense secretary, Mark Esper.

Secretary Esper, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

You're sending more personnel to New York City over the next few days. Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a -- quote -- "national enlistment effort" for medical personnel across the country to bring more health care professionals there.

Take a listen.


BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We don't have the same kind of draft we used to have, but we're going to have to create something new, right now at this moment in history, to enlist all available medical personnel from around the country. And I mean civilians, anyone with medical training.


TAPPER: What do you think, Secretary Esper? Are you willing to do that?

ESPER: Well, first of all, Jake, thanks for -- thanks for having me on this morning.

I want to lay out at least three things up front to help frame our discussion.

First of all, the Department of Defense has been all in now since the beginning of this, going back two-plus months to January. We have been all in and ahead of the curve when it comes to responding to the coronavirus.

Secondly, I have laid out now three clear priorities for the Department of Defense, first, protect our people, second, ensure we retain our national mission capabilities, and, third, provide full support to President Trump's whole-of-government, whole-of-nation response.

The third point I would like to do is, I'd like to thank all the 50,000-plus American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines who are on the streets of America today helping out their fellow Americans. Many are deployed away from home, away from their families.

Many more are risking their own lives, their own welfare, to help the American people. But that's what we do. And we're going to continue to support this effort.

Now, with regard to the mayor's statement, I have had several conversations with the mayor. We have been working very closely. As you know, we have over 1,000 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals deployed now around the United States in several cities.

Many of them are in New York City. The mayor and I talked as recently as Thursday. I spoke to the governor on Friday.

What we plan on doing now is deploying over 1,100 additional doctors and nurses and other medical professionals to New York. The bulk of them will go to the Javits Center. And then, as of late yesterday, we agreed to deploy a few hundred of them to 11 New York City hospitals that are also seeing a deficiency when it comes to medical staff.

What's interesting, Jake, is, we are -- we will soon be taking over the Javits Center, a 2,500-bed capacity. To show you how all in we are, the United States military will soon be running the largest hospital in the United States. That shows you our commitment.


TAPPER: CNN reported earlier this week that the Pentagon has not shipped any of the 2,000 ventilators that you have to FEMA or to HHS because you were not told where to send them.

Following up on that story, have FEMA or HHS reached out to you yet to tell you where to send those ventilators, or do you still have them?

ESPER: Oh, that report is not accurate, Jake.

We have, first of all, many of those ventilators deployed with the USNS Comfort and Mercy in New York and L.A. respectively. They are with our field hospitals. We have several field hospitals deployed in New York, in Seattle, in New Orleans, and Dallas.

And then we provided have several hundred more that are prepositioned and ready to go, particularly with regard to New York City, when they're needed. As you may know, HHS has several thousand ventilators in stock right now. And they plan on delivering those first.

On top of that, we have...

TAPPER: So, of the...

ESPER: We have -- we have delivered millions of N95 masks to both New York and 12 other city, states around the country and other PPE.

TAPPER: So, of the 2,000 ventilators that the Pentagon had, how many do you still have?

ESPER: Oh, I -- I'd have to do a quick count, but probably we're probably sitting on a few hundred.

But we're sitting on them in the sense that they're prepared to ship once they're -- once they're needed, once HHS exhausts its stuck.

TAPPER: The captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Brett Crozier, was relieved at his command on Thursday after he wrote a memo that expressed his dire concerns about the more than 100 infected sailors in a coronavirus outbreak on his ship and whether or not those individuals would spread the virus to the thousands of sailors also on the ship.

I want you to take a look at this video of Captain Crozier leaving the ship to cheers from his fellow sailors.


UNIDENTIFIED NAVY SAILORS: Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!


TAPPER: So, Secretary Esper, can you explain to those sailors cheering, "Captain Crozier, Captain Crozier," why exactly he was relieved of his command?

ESPER: Well, Jake, first of all, first and foremost, we need to take care of the sailors on the ship. We need to ensure their well-being and get that ship back out to sea as soon as possible.

I'm pleased to report, right now, over half of the ship has been tested. Only 155 sailors have come up positive. Those are all mild and moderate. There have been no hospitalizations whatsoever.

So, the -- the crew is being taken care of out there.

With regard to the relief of Captain Crozier, I think acting Secretary Modly made a very tough decision, a decision that I support. It was based on his view that he had lost faith and confidence in the captain, based on his actions. It was supported by Navy leadership.

And I think it's -- it's just another example how we hold leaders accountable for their actions.

TAPPER: Shouldn't there have been at least an investigation before he was relieved of command? I mean, the captains of the USS John McCain and the USS Fitzgerald, who were captains when sailors died at sea, they at least had investigations before they were relieved of their commands.

Captain Crozier was trying to save lives, and he wasn't even afforded the benefit of an investigation.

ESPER: Well, there is an investigation ongoing.

But, at this point in time, the -- Secretary Modly did not have faith and confidence that he could continue in his role as captain of the ship. That is not unheard of. The -- all the services at time relieve commanders without the benefit of an investigation up front because they have lost confidence in them.

It's certainly not unique to the Navy. The Navy has a culture of swiftly and decisively removing captains if they lose confidence in them.

TAPPER: You know there are a number of noted high-ranking formal -- former officials, like Admiral Mullen, who was former chair of the Joint Chiefs, Admirals Stavridis, who is former NATO supreme allied commander, both of whom have said they did not think it was appropriate for Crozier to have been relieved of duty so quickly, without an investigation, and that it would undermine morale.

On the other hand, of course, you had President Trump, who said that he thought it was not appropriate for Crozier to even write the letter. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I thought it was terrible, what he did, to write a letter?

I mean, this isn't a class on literature. He shouldn't be talking that way in a letter. He could call and ask and suggest.


TAPPER: He wrote a letter to try to save the lives of his sailors. Do you think that's terrible that he did that?

ESPER: Well, Jake, I can't get too much into the facts of the matter, because there is an investigation ongoing. This could ultimately come to my desk.

I think Secretary Modly laid out the -- very reasonably, very deliberately the reasons why. And I think, when all those facts come to bear, we will have a chance to understand why Secretary Modly did what he did.

TAPPER: Acting Navy Secretary Modly reportedly told a colleague on Wednesday -- quote -- "Breaking news: Trump wants him fired."


Did -- ultimately, this decision, was it made by President Trump?

ESPER: This was Secretary Modly's decision. He briefed me about it. And I got -- I took the advice of the CNO and General Milley with regard to it. And I told him I would support his decision.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about the sailors, because you mentioned what was going on with them.

A Pentagon spokesperson Friday said the goal was to have a total of 2,700 sailors off the ship by Friday evening. As of yesterday afternoon, only 1,548 sailors had been moved to shore, more than 1,000 away from your goal.

What's the latest? And why has the Navy failed to reach the goal? When will everyone be off the ship?

ESPER: Well, the Navy is -- is working that very carefully, very closely.

The new commander will be out there, should be out there very soon. There is not a need necessarily to remove every sailor from the ship. You actually cannot do that, because there's nuclear reactors to be run. You have very sensitive equipment. You have weapons on board that ship, so you cannot completely evacuate the ship.

So it's how you manage the crew to make sure you're protecting them, segregating, treating those who need treated, while, at the same time, maintaining the readiness of the ship, in case it's called upon to get to sea quickly.

TAPPER: Doesn't the fact that the Navy hasn't even gotten all the sailors off the ship that they said they were going to get off by Friday night underline Captain Crozier's concern that the Navy is not taking this seriously enough, with the urgency it deserves?

ESPER: I think that's a completely false narrative, Jake.

The Navy's been on top of this now for several days, when it first came down that we had the first cases aboard the Teddy Roosevelt. The CNO, the chain -- the entire military chain of command, Secretary Modly himself have been involved, moving supplies, testing kits, providing support to the sailors from Guam, at Guam.

They -- they were all in terms of providing support to this crew, this ship, as it arrived in port. So, I -- I disagree with that assumption.

TAPPER: I want to...

ESPER: I have a lot of faith and confidence in the Navy leadership.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about something else the Navy is doing.

The Navy has moved the hospital ships the Comfort and the Mercy to New York and Los Angeles, respectively, to treat non-coronavirus patients, help alleviate the burden on hospitals in Los Angeles and New York.

Our latest numbers show that there are only a few dozen patients on those ships combined. What's the reason for that? And why not allow coronavirus patients on those ships as well, given the fact that these outbreaks are -- it's a really dire situation in Los Angeles and New York?

ESPER: Sure. Well, first of all, we have worked these plans out closely with New

York state and New York City. I would say a major reason why is, those two ships are ahead of need. As I said up front, DOD has been ahead of this curve from the beginning.

So, whether it's the ships, the field hospitals, or our preparation of eight sites around the country where we built hospitals, another 22 that will come online in the next two weeks, we have stayed ahead of need here. That's factor number one.

Number two is, as -- as the ships pulled in, we learned, as a result of coronavirus, we're seeing fewer trauma cases. So the plan was to take trauma cases aboard both ships, freeing up much needed room space in a hospital where you can segregate patients, you can treat them coronavirus.

And, that way, you keep the Comfort and Mercy free to deal strictly with trauma patients, and not infect the trauma patients with coronavirus. As we see now, the problem is far greater when it comes to coronavirus. That's why we have opened up the Javits Center and the other expanded hospitals around the country for coronavirus.

And we're prepared to leverage the Mercy and Comfort as well to do that. I have given authority to the Northcom commander to make that call when he needs to make the call.

But the important thing to know is that those ships have something that nobody else possesses. They possess the ability to move quickly around the country along the shoreline to deliver a 1,000-bed hospital with hundreds of doctors, nurses and technicians.

So, we want -- if we're going to lose that capability, we want to lose it as a last alternative.

TAPPER: Speaking of capability, obviously, the military still needs to be prepared to defend the country and execute its missions even during this coronavirus outbreak.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mark Milley, said this week -- quote -- "There will be an impact to readiness."

Do you agree, and how severe?

ESPER: Well, there could be an impact to readiness. We're watching it very closely.

You know, we have been at this since -- since January. In fact, on February 1, I issued -- activated our global pandemic op order. On February 3, I sent guidance out to troops in terms of how to take care of themselves, because, remember, priority number two for me is ensuring we retain our national readiness capabilities, military capabilities.

So, we watch it very closely. All the units report that they're very capable. They remain very ready. We have had to cancel exercises. We have had to constrain basic training, for example, but we think those are all manageable.

It's important that our adversaries know and that the American people know that we're on the watch, we are prepared to defend them and defend our interests abroad.

TAPPER: Secretary Esper, thank you so much for your time today.

And please thank the men and women of the United States military for all they're doing to try to help out during this pandemic. We appreciate it.

ESPER: Thank you, Jake. They're all doing a great job. And I'm very proud of them.


TAPPER: Thank you so much, sir.

So, realistically, how long should Americans expect they will need to stay at home?

Governors of two hard-hit states will join me.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

One of the state's hardest hit by the coronavirus is Louisiana, particularly in New Orleans, the city with the highest death rate per capita from the virus in the United States.

Joining me now, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

Governor Edwards, thanks so much for joining us.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): Good morning.

TAPPER: Your model's current projection shows that New Orleans could reach 2,500 new hospitalizations per day at its peak around the end of April.


You said on Friday that you could theoretically run out of ventilators on Tuesday. Is Louisiana really just 48 hours away from Louisianians dying from coronavirus because you don't have enough ventilators?

EDWARDS: Well -- and, obviously, we already have Louisianians dying.

And we're -- like every other state, we're modeling the growth of coronavirus cases and how many are going to need hospitalization, how many are going to need acute care beds, ICU beds, ventilators.

And, every day, we get new information that informs our modeling. We now think it's probably around the 9th of April before we exceed our ventilator capacity, based on the current number on hand, and that we're a couple of days behind that on ICU bed capacity being exceeded.

So, as we achieve success in slowing the rate of spread, we also push out that date. And critically important is the number of people who will present to the hospital and not be able to get a vent or a bed is a smaller number.

So, we're encouraging everyone in Louisiana to take social distancing, the stay-at-home order very seriously, because that's how we're going to save people's lives at the end of the day.

And whatever time we can buy ourselves, that gives us additional time to surge our medical capacity, which is what we're doing right now, as we source ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile and from around the world. And we're standing up beds at the Morial Convention Center, as you know.

This -- this is a tough emergency, and it's not different here than it is elsewhere. It's a little more acute, I think, than some places. But this is a tough emergency, Jake.

TAPPER: Well, Governor Edwards, so what day do you anticipate you will run out of ventilators and people will not be able to get them if they need them to live?

EDWARDS: Well -- well, the current date, based on modeling, is the 9th of April.

And then the bed capacity would be exceeded on about the 11th of April. And, as I said, we continue to update our modeling every day based on the new cases in that region, in the New Orleans-Jefferson Parish region.

And so we hope we can continue a downward trend on the rate of transmission of new cases. That buys us a little more time. And, as I mentioned, that means a fewer number of people will present on any given day and not be given the opportunity to access a bed or a ventilator, should they need them.

TAPPER: All right, but that's Thursday. That's still -- it's still stunning.


TAPPER: I want to ask you. President Trump said on Friday, last Friday...

EDWARDS: Oh, no, it's -- this is serious, yes.


President Trump said on Friday that his team spoke with the CEOs of the two largest health systems in New Orleans, and -- quote -- "They said they feel that they currently have enough ventilators." I don't know if the word currently is doing a lot of work there, but he seemed to be downplaying the idea that ventilators are a problem. You're saying they're definitely a problem?

EDWARDS: Oh, they're a problem.

And I do believe that those CEOs were talking about current capacity. They have the ventilators that they need for the patients that they have now.

TAPPER: Yes, right this second.

EDWARDS: And I will tell you, it was the same day a decision was -- yes.

But a decision was made the same day in Washington by the task force to send 200 more ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile. That arrived yesterday, by the way. So I don't have any problem with what the CEOs were saying.

But we -- as we look out into the future, we definitely see that we will exceed our ventilator capacity at some point. And we're trying to push that as far into the future as possible.

But all of our modeling, even under the best-case scenarios, show that we will do that. And, again, we're modeling for the entire population in Louisiana, and specifically the New Orleans region.

I think those hospital CEOs were looking at their particular hospital and what they could do inside the walls of their hospital, and not necessarily for the entire population. But they were talking about currently. And I think that's the difference.

TAPPER: The biggest Mardi Gras parades in Louisiana took place on February 25, just as the national outbreak was starting.

In retrospect, if you knew then what you know now, would you have canceled Mardi Gras?

EDWARDS: Well, you don't get a do-over like that, Jake.

We -- there was not a single suggestion by anyone, a doctor, a scientist, a political figure, that we needed to cancel Mardi Gras. And, you know, in February, we had a Super Bowl, and it wasn't canceled and so forth.

So, rather than look back, I am focused on today and going forward. We can't go back and change what did or didn't happen before. And this is going to be an interesting study. And I look forward to, at some point, being able to figure out exactly what role that played.

But, right now, that is not our focus, because it doesn't tell us what we need to know in order to go forward and save lives.

[09:25:01] TAPPER: "The Washington Post" reported that, on February 9 -- that's more than two weeks before Mardi Gras -- a group of governors came to Washington, D.C. They had a White House gala there.


TAPPER: And, there, they also met privately with Dr. Fauci and with the CDC director, Dr. Redfield.

Even though the president was publicly downplaying the outbreak, those experts, Fauci and Redfield, gave governors the same dire warning that they're giving now. I know you were in Washington for the gala. Did you meet with Fauci and Redfield?

EDWARDS: Well, they actually spoke to a governors-only meeting.

And so all the governors who chose to attend that particular meeting were there, and we had a briefing from them. And we spoke generally about the novel coronavirus.

I would say it is not accurate to say that they gave the same sort of information that they are providing right now. I mean, they have learned an awful lot about this virus, about the disease that it causes and the rate of spread and how to best stop it and so forth.

We didn't get into anywhere near this level of detail back in February when we were there for the National Governors Association meeting. That just didn't happen.

TAPPER: OK. Well, Governor Hogan of Maryland says that it was the same message then that they're giving now.

But I want to ask you about Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church, which is just outside Baton Rouge in your home state. Even though he was issued a misdemeanor summons for continuing to hold church services, Pastor Spell told CNN just today that he's still planning on holding church services this morning.

Obviously, this is a dire health threat. You have made that very clear to all of the people in Louisiana. Should police break up this large gathering that violates your executive order?

EDWARDS: Well, Jake, we're not going to enforce our way out of this.

Now, I'm still calling upon him to be a leader. He is a leader in the faith community. And I'm calling upon those parishioners to not go, because it is grossly irresponsible. There is not a setting more conducive to the spread of the virus, as far as I know, that -- like we have when we have church services, with people sitting in close proximity to one another for an hour or two at a time.

And so it is irresponsible. Obviously, he is violating the order. He has been served a summons on that. I would hope that he would -- he would stop.

And law enforcement has this very much in their sights. And I support the actions that they're taking.

But we have 4,500 churches. The overwhelming majority of them are following the order. We have tens of thousands of businesses. And they're following the order. We have 4.7 million people, and we're getting more and more compliance every single day.

So, we're going to work through this as well. I'm appealing to Pastor Spell to do the right thing. And, thus far, he has not. It's very disappointing.

But the vast majority of pastors out there are doing the right thing.

TAPPER: Governor Edwards, thank you so much. Please stay in touch with us, and let us know what you need...

EDWARDS: Jake, thank you.

TAPPER: ... and whether or not you need us to shine a light on things that you're not getting from the -- from the government or from the business community that you need.

And God bless the people of Louisiana.

EDWARDS: We will do that. Thank you so much, Jake.

TAPPER: My next guest is accusing President Trump of -- quote -- "leadership malpractice."

Is that keeping his state from getting the supplies that they need to save lives?

That's next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Governors across the nation are scrambling to secure tests and supplies for their residents and their health care professionals.

On Friday, the governor of Illinois slammed the Trump administration's response, saying -- quote -- "Every state is on their own." And Governor Pritzker compared the atmosphere to the Wild West.

The Democratic governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, joins me now.

Governor Pritzker, good to see you again.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): Good morning.

TAPPER: So, let's catch up our viewers with where Illinois is.

Yesterday, your state passed 10,000 cases, close to 250 deaths from coronavirus. Your state health service reported that 70 percent of your ICU beds are now occupied, 70 percent. The chief medical officer at Cook County Health in Chicago told CNN that -- quote -- "By the end of the week, if we have not made an impact, the models suggest we will be overwhelmed."

How long do you have until your health care system is just completely overrun?

PRITZKER: Well, it depends on what model you believe.

But let me just say this, that I think they zero in on the latter half of April. So, we're really just less than two weeks away from the beginning of peaking.

We, as you may know, opened McCormick Place. That's our version of the Javits Center, better, I would argue. But it's our convention center in Chicago, where we have got 500 beds for less acuity patients that we can move from hospitals who are COVID-positive into a new facility.

We're going to have 3,000 beds in that facility soon. And then we're adding perhaps another 1,500 around the state.

TAPPER: You said Tuesday that, after you told the Trump administration that your state needed 4,000 ventilators, Vice President Pence said that you actually needed 1,400, not 4,000, 1,400.


Is 1,400 going to be enough for Illinois to survive the worst?

PRITZKER: Look, I pray that the vice president was right, but let me tell you where I think he got his numbers.

He looked at a University of Washington model that's out there that people are accessing to look at every state. The problem is -- and it's a very good model, except that the problem is, they didn't put that model out there for resource allocation reasons.

They -- if you look at the model, there's a central point, which is where it shows that Illinois needs only 1,400 or fewer than 1,400 ventilators. But there's also a worst-case scenario, which shows that we would need 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 more.

And so, look, we're looking at all of the numbers. And everybody is taking an educated guess, because we really don't know. This virus is unpredictable.

So, our guess is, at this point, that we need a few thousand more than we have now, up to 4,000. That's what we have asked the federal government for. And over time, they have given us 450 total.

Now, we're looking everywhere and anywhere across the world to get ventilators. Here's the problem. The president didn't enact or use the Defense Production Act until just recently. And he used it with GM, right?

And with GM, when you talk to GM, they will tell you, great, we're going to produce ventilators mostly in May and June. That's great, and we may need them in May and June. I hope we don't.

But in the latter half of April, when we think we might be peaking, there are no ventilators available. And New York does not look like it will be coming off its peak by the time we're hitting peak.

So, the idea of moving ventilators from New York to other places, I pray to God that's true, but, right now, it doesn't look like that will be true.

TAPPER: President Trump said yesterday that everyone needed to -- quote -- "stop playing this game" with governors about allocating medical equipment from the federal government.

And then I want you to take a listen to what the president said on Friday about the Trump administration's new line of argument about the federal stockpile of medical supplies and devices.


TRUMP: We have a federal stockpile and they have state stockpiles. And, frankly, they were -- many of the states were totally unprepared for this. So we had to go into the federal stockpile. But we're not an ordering clerk. They have to have for themselves.


TAPPER: What's your reaction, Governor?

PRITZKER: Well, the president does not understand the word federal, Federal Emergency Management Agency.

We have a state Emergency Management Agency, but, if he were right, why would we ever need a Federal Emergency Management Agency?

It's because individual states can't possibly do what the federal government can do. We don't have a Defense Production Act. There's no way that we could stockpile in anticipation of a pandemic that no one anticipated.

And yet the federal government is responsible for doing precisely that. And we now know that intelligence sources and all the best advice that was given was given in January and early February to the president and the White House, and they seem not to have acted at all upon it.

If they had started in February building ventilators, getting ready for this pandemic, we would not have the problems that we have today, and, frankly, very many fewer people would die.

TAPPER: There are eight states that have not yet enacted a stay-at- home order.

You were, I think, the second governor in the country to do so behind California Governor Newsom. But the eight states include your neighbor Iowa. It shares a border, a very long border, with your state.

What's your message to the governor of Iowa? What's your message to the eight governors that have not enacted stay-at-home orders?

PRITZKER: Well, look, I -- it's not for me to tell the governor of Iowa what to do or the governor of Missouri. They only put their stay- at-home in very recently. And they're also a big border state for us.

But I will say that it was the job of the federal government.

Look, we are one nation here. This virus knows no borders. And so it was up to the federal government, to begin with, to advise and to ask all the governors to put in stay-at-home orders. Those governors, Republican governors, would have done it much earlier if the president had suggested it much earlier.

They knew that -- at the federal level that was the right thing to do. You can hear it in the words from Dr. Fauci, who I have had many direct conversations with, and Dr. Birx. They knew it.

But the president was apparently reluctant. And we see what the results are today.

TAPPER: The president has said that this is not going to last all that long.

The Associated Press is now reporting that President Trump believes that the NFL season will start on schedule, September 10, with fans in the seats.


Your fellow Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom of California said -- quote -- "I'm not anticipating that happening in this state."

What do you think about Illinois? Will the Bears be at Soldier Field? Will there be fans in the bleachers?

PRITZKER: Well, the Bears are a great team, whether they're playing or not.

But I will say this, that it's not up to us. We don't know, that none of us really knows.

But what I do know is this, that if the researchers are able to come up with a treatment, something that will save lives, something that will keep people off of ventilators, maybe even keep them out of hospitals, then that will be an enormous development for our country and for the future, and it may allow us to begin to open things up in the way that the president is describing.

But the truth is that no one predicts now that we're going to have that treatment any time in the next few weeks or even in the next month, and no one really knows if we will have it by September.

What we do know is that, if you have a vaccine, that ultimately will help us deal with the problem, because it's either going to be a treatment and herd immunity that ultimately allows us to open everything back up, or it's a vaccine. TAPPER: Governor Pritzker, thank you so much.

Good luck to you. Please keep in touch with us about anything you might need to bring attention to it.

PRITZKER: Thanks, Jake. Stay healthy.

TAPPER: Thank you, sir. You too.

Congress passed a bill to send many Americans a $1,200 check. Is there more coming?

The House majority whip, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, joins me next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

As millions of Americans wait for much needed financial help from the federal government, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Congress will be keeping a close eye on the Trump administration's allocation of those funds with a new oversight committee chaired by the House majority whip, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who joins me now.

Majority Whip Clyburn, thanks so much for joining us.

President Trump on Friday fired the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who, of course, was the one who informed Congress of the whistle-blower complaint that ultimately led to the president's impeachment.

The president said it was his decision, and he did not run it by Congress because he has -- quote -- "the absolute right" to do what he did.

What's your response?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): My response is simply this.

I think that that is one of the reasons Speaker Pelosi decided that this committee was necessary. We, in the United States Congress, have oversight, and we must perform that oversight. And we will do that to make sure that we save lives, that we save taxpayer money.

And she was very smart, I think, to pattern this committee after the Truman Committee that was stood up back in 1941.

It's kind of interesting. Harry Truman said at the time -- he was junior senator from Missouri at the time -- he looked back at what happened in the country after World War I, and saw that 116 different committees were stood up to investigate what was going on after World War I.

He said at the time he thought it was much better to have one committee before the fact. And that committee proved to be very, very wise. According to history, the committee spent less than one million, but save $15 billion for the taxpayers.

That's what Speaker Pelosi is trying to do here, get out in front of this to protect the American people, so that we cannot only save lives, but we can keep fraud and abuse, profiteering, price-gouging.

We see that already. The governor of New York recently said that masks that he was spending 70 cents for, he's now having to spend $7 for. Is that price-gouging? I think it is.

And that's what this committee is all about. This is not about the president of the United States or even the independent counsel or the inspector general. This is about focusing on how the money is spent, whether or not the people who are getting the money are actually working on behalf of the American people, or whether or not they're profiteering.

TAPPER: So, this committee, it will only be looking at how the money is being spent and whether or not private businesses out there are price-gouging?

You're not going to look at all at the federal response and why it took so long to get a federal response going that would have saved lives, as Governor Pritzker just put it?

CLYBURN: My understanding is that this committee will be forward- looking.

We're not going to be looking back on what the president may or may not have done back before this crisis hit. The crisis is with us. The American people are now out of work, millions of them out of work. The question is whether or not the money that's appropriated will go to support them and their families, or whether or not this money will end up in the pockets of a few profiteers.

And that's what I understand we are to do...



CLYBURN: ... if we are patterning this after the Truman Committee.

And I spent the weekend looking deeply into the Truman Committee and what happened since March 1, 1941, when it was stood up and stayed up for five years, and proved to be very, very successful.

And I'm trying to base my work on this committee on the history that's found with the work of that committee.

TAPPER: Meanwhile, the Congress, of course, needs to continue to do its job, perhaps pass even more stimulus funds, continuing to legislate.

It's obviously very difficult for Congress to do so in the middle of a pandemic, when there are so many concerns about people flying, people traveling, people congregating.

Isn't it not -- is it not time, on a temporary basis, for the leaders of Congress to allow remote voting, so you can continue to do your job without any of you putting your lives at risk?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, a lot of people think that it is time for that. And maybe it is.

But here's what I know. Speaker Pelosi has asked Jim McGovern, chairs of our Rules Committee, to look at the Constitution, look at our rules, look at the rules under which we operate on the House floor, and to see whether or not that is a way to go.

I would much rather us respond to that issue after good study -- and Jim McGovern is a very good study -- and make recommendations, and then let's respond to that.

So, I don't want to be willy-nilly about this. I want us to make sure that whatever we do will not be challenged later on as having been unconstitutional or in violation of our rules.

Let's make sure we get it right before the fact, so we won't have to be spending a lot of time with a lot of investigative committees looking back on what we did, and maybe rendering some of what our actions might have been as being unconstitutional.

TAPPER: And, quickly, sir, if you could, on a call last month with lawmakers, you said this was -- quote -- this pandemic was -- quote -- "a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision."

You have been criticized a lot by Republicans for saying that. What exactly did you mean by that?

CLYBURN: I meant exactly what we're experiencing now.

We are experiencing children out of school here in South Carolina. There's a big article in this morning's local papers about children not being able to get educated because they're not online. That article is saying, we need to restructure our educational systems to accommodate something like this.

We see they're closing the rural hospitals, four here in South Carolina. I saw a state the other day that said 11 rural hospitals have been closed.

We need to restructure our health care delivery system, so that these rural communities, these low-income communities can get the goodness of this country that should be accessible and affordable for all. That's what I meant.

And I would hope...


CLYBURN: ... that Mr. McCarthy would join me in doing that.

TAPPER: Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, thank you so much. Stay healthy. Stay safe, sir. We appreciate your time.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

TAPPER: If I can take a moment I would like to speak directly to one person known to watch this show or at least clips of this show President Trump. Mr. President I know you, like millions of Americans, are eager to have the nation go back to some semblance of normal.

One of the questions the American people need answered for that to happen responsibly, what's the plan? Is there a plan for wide spread testing of every American so as to isolate the virus, the way other countries have done? When will there be enough tests for that to happen? How will they be administered? Who will pay for the tests and the results? Who will notify us as to whether we've tested positive or not? And what to do then?

Is there a plan to make sure doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals finally are able to get the personal protective equipment, or PPE, that they need? Those healthcare workers are quite literally dying while they try to protect our society and save lives and they're begging for PPE. They don't need to be told that their governors or their hospital directors are doing anything wrong by trying to get those supplies to protect their lives while they to save our lives. They need to know that there's a plan to get them the supplies they need.

Governors and mayors right now are literally bidding against each other and against the Federal Government to try to get these supplies. This is escalating the prices and causing confusion and unnecessary bidding competition. Is there a plan to stop that? What is it?

What about ventilators? New York City Mayor de Blasio said today would be the day his city could run out. Governor Edwards said his city -- or state could run out on Thursday. Is there a plan to expedite the manufacturer of ventilators? It's still not clear whether you have fully utilized the Defense Production Act. Have you? Are any companies being compelled by the U.S. Government to make ventilators? And when will they be made? When can hospitals get them?

What about the cotton masks that the CDC is now suggesting that we all wear when we leave our homes? Is someone manufacturing them? How can we get them? Is there a plan?

Please Mr. President the American people they need answers to these questions. They are less interested in your popularity on Facebook. Thousands of Americans are in mourning. They're horrified when you make leering illusions to your history with models while discussing projection models of mass American deaths. Attacking governors and mayors and journalists for asking questions, that might please your fans, it doesn't save one life. This is not about winning a news cycle on Fox. Please. The American people right now need someone to explain what is

going to be done to get us out of this. It's a moment that requires leadership, it requires honest information, it requires empathy, and it requires a plan. Do you have one?

Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. CNN's coverage of the coronavirus pandemic continues next.