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State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI); Interview With National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow; Interview With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI); Interview With Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 03, 2020 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): One step forward? As coronavirus deaths tick past 66,000, more states dip their toes into reopening, and those that have not face protests.

Can the economy reopen now without many more getting sick? I will speak exclusively to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan next.

And return to normal? More than 30 million people are newly out of work and wondering what the future will look like.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I'm a growth guy. I'm an optimist. To me, that's the key.

Will there be more aid for struggling Americans? President Trump's chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, joins me to discuss next.

Plus: Three's company. First, he left the Republican Party. Now he's running for president.

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (I-MI): I believe I have to defend the Constitution in whichever way works best.

TAPPER: How will his candidacy affect the race? Libertarian presidential candidate Congressman Justin Amash joins me in moments.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is worried.

More than 60,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus at this hour. Just think about this. One coronavirus death in this country was reported every 44 seconds during the month of April.

And many experts predict another major wave of coronavirus could happen in the fall or the winter. And yet President Trump spent his -- quote -- "working weekend" at Camp David seemingly on Twitter, tweeting not primarily about those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods, but attacking journalists, criticizing George W. Bush and the Mueller investigation, touting his own approval ratings, and expressing happiness that Kim Jong-un is apparently alive and well, among other matters.

Today, despite concerns from health officials that it's premature, Americans across the country are no longer under stay-at-home orders. More than half of states are relaxing their guidelines and opening more nonessential businesses, as states look to ease the severe economic pain this pandemic has caused.

Top experts are now predicting the worst economy of our lifetimes. In the last six weeks, more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment for the first time.

To give you some perspective, that's equivalent to the entire population of Texas.

Joining me now to discuss the economic challenges, from the White House, President Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow.

Mr. Kudlow, it's good to see you. Thank you so, so much for joining us.

I want to start with what the government is doing to help Americans through the crisis.

Do you think there's going to be a phase four stimulus bill? And, if so, should it include money for state and local governments?

KUDLOW: Well, I don't want to get too far ahead of the story, Jake.

There may well be additional legislation. There's kind of a pause period right now. You know, we have put up $3 trillion of direct federal budget assistance in one way or another. The Federal Reserve has actually put in as much as $4-$6, trillion. So it's a huge, huge package.

Let's see how it's doing as we gradually reopen the economy. We probably will have some ideas. And I want to say this, that regarding the states, as you know, the president has from time to time spoken about linking that to -- to sanctuary cities. I don't think anything's been decided yet.

Regarding health care and all manner of medical equipment, we have poured hundreds of billions into the states. Perhaps there will be more of that. We will wait and see.

From our perspective too, Jake, look, we know the economy is still in a terrible contractionary phase, tremendous hardships everywhere. That's why we have put up several rescue packages, led by President Trump, and with the bipartisan support of the Congress.

So, we're working through that. It's going to be very difficult in the months ahead, no question. Having said that, I will note that the Congressional Budget Office and

a bunch of private forecasters, "Wall Street Journal" surveys and so forth, are looking for a very strong second-half economic rebound and suggesting that 2021 next year could be one of the fastest growth rebounds in American history or recent history.

So, we're trying to get from -- you know, from one side to the other. We're trying to get through this. We're trying to work through this. I don't want to rule in or out anything right now. We are in discussions internally and with leading members of Congress.

TAPPER: Right, but you talk about a pause, a moment of pause that we're in right now.


The Fed chair, Jerome Powell, indicated this week that he believes Congress needs to pass additional measures providing direct fiscal support to Americans.

I don't understand the reason for a pause. Why not take action aggressively now, considering how dire a situation so many Americans are in?

KUDLOW: Well, look, first of all, we have to execute the last package. And the numbers are very strong.

These are the small business loans. As of, I guess, Friday, we have put up over $100 billion already just in a few days. That's, of course, on top of the prior $350 billion.

Look, Jake, 175 million Americans, 175 million Americans have received federal assistance in one form or another. That includes the direct checks, of course, and the unemployment compensation, and the small business assistance.

So, I guess what I would say to you, at this particular juncture, let's execute the continuation of what we have already done. Let's see what the results are. The outlook in the weeks and months ahead directly is not positive. As you have noted, the unemployment is very, very high, almost 30 million people. We are covering them with generous relief packages, just trying to stabilize things and get folks through this.

TAPPER: Right.

KUDLOW: And then we will see -- we will see, in a couple of weeks, Jake, what needs to be done and perhaps how to do it.

TAPPER: So, the second tranche of money for the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, the SBA just a few minutes ago released new numbers suggesting that, of that $310 billion, $175 billion has already been approved, in just one week, $175 billion approved.

Doesn't that suggest that there is a real need, and waiting further doesn't really make any sense? I mean, plaudits to the administration and the Congress for getting this money to the SBA, getting it out the door.

The average loan is smaller, suggesting that it's going to smaller businesses, and that's all great. But doesn't that also suggest there's a real need; you need more money in that program?

KUDLOW: It may be, Jake. It may be. We haven't made a decision yet.

I agree with your points. This has been an extremely popular and effective program, no question about it. You know, keeping folks on the payroll is so important. And even if they're furloughed for a while, they will be picked up by the unemployment compensation.

So, yes, that suggests, I might add, potential strong spring back once the states gradually phase in their reopenings in the transition months of May and June.

So, I don't want to rule it out. I think your point is well-taken. We waited a little bit too long, I thought, when the last tranche ran out. Let's not make the same mistake again. We will be looking at that.

But we also want to look at some medium-term items. The president is very keen on a payroll tax holiday for the workers. We have got one for business. He would like one on the workers. We'd like to see some significant deductions for -- you know, tax deductions for business, entertainment, going to sports athletic events.

We're trying so hard to help everybody open up. We're -- we're looking at people being able to write off if you have new expenses in any area, whether you're inventing vaccines, or whether you're redoing your factories or office buildings to help on the COVID-19 medical side best practices.

We'd like to see that completely expensed. We'd also like to see some shield on liabilities, because we don't want small business to stay closed because they think they're going to be sued right away.

So, these are all mixes. I call them economic growth incentives, so we have lots of cash and liquidity. Now it's time to look forward to economic growth incentives. We did it once, Jake. We had a very strong economy during the Trump years...

TAPPER: Right.

KUDLOW: ... and even during the first few months of this year.

We'd like to apply the same free enterprise principles. Besides the second-half rebound, I think 2021 could be a spectacular year in the economy with the right set of policies.

TAPPER: Right. Well, from your mouth to God's ears.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that the White House, led by economic adviser Kevin Hassett, built a different coronavirus model, which aides interpreted to show that deaths would have already peaked and that there would be far fewer fatalities than initially foreseen.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that this presentation affirmed skepticism within the West Wing about what people like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield and Dr. Birx were saying, health experts are saying, about the severity of the crisis.


Is that true? Was there a separate economic model led by Kevin Hassett that predicted that -- that was a counterbalance that fed skepticism in the West Wing?

KUDLOW: You know, as Kevin himself -- Kevin has himself said in that story, that is not true, Jake, absolutely not true.

I have known Kevin many years. He is a brilliant guy, and he's a person of great integrity.

Look, what he was doing was taking that Bill Gates -- the Gates model -- it's not Bill Gates, but the Gates model from the University of Washington, and basically smoothing it out to show what is actually happening.

There's a difference between a forecast trend and what has actually happened. He was clarifying the situation. He was not changing the situation.

We have, from day one, abided by the advice and guidance of our top medical people, Dr. Fauci, Ambassador Birx, and many others in HHS and FDA. We have -- this idea that, somehow, we were creating a new model is simply not the case.

Sometimes, you can clarify it, may be a little complex for our purposes this morning, but it was basically a smoothing technique for real-world actual. It was less of a forecast.

So, we didn't change anything based on that. And Mr. Hassett is a person of great integrity, and I will defend that. I will absolutely defend that. His quotes in that story couldn't have been clearer.

TAPPER: I guess -- I guess the reason for the disconnect is that, sometimes, the people who understandably want to get the economy up and running have been saying things that contradict what some of the people who are health experts in the administration are saying.

For instance, at the end of February, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who apparently got in the doghouse for saying in a conference call -- doghouse with President Trump -- for saying in a conference call that it was not a matter of if, but when there would be a severe disruption to the American people and our way to live life, and that's the same day, as you know, that you said this.

Let's roll that tape.


KUDLOW: We have contained this, I won't say airtight, but pretty close to airtight. We have done a good job in the United States.


TAPPER: So, I guess the question is, is there a disconnect between what people such as you, who want things to be better than they are, so as to help the economy, are saying and what people in the health field are saying?

KUDLOW: Well, look, Jake, for the umpteenth time, I will say, my quote then was based on the actual facts, which, at the time, there were only 40 or 50 cases.

And it was contained, particularly after President Trump boldly put up travel restrictions with China. That's what the data -- I didn't make a forecast.

So far -- and that was just -- there was hardly any cases, OK? Now, yes, some doctors were more fearful. Other doctors had many different things to say. I don't want to get in and play this game who said what and when.

Political leaders, one well-known political leader in the House, went to Chinatown in San Francisco and said, everything is OK, OK?

One important anchor on your network as late as mid-March said, basically, the COVID-19 virus was no worse than an ordinary flu year. I mean, there are people saying -- my quote was, at that time, there were very few cases.

Then, as the virus spread exponentially in ways that virtually no one could have predicted, of course, we changed our mind.

Going forward, the president and the vice president have taken strong measures, step by step by step, OK, strong measures to deal with this unexpected outbreak. And I think the sort of ankle-biting that is going on Washington is just incorrect.

You have to deal with the information at hand. And when the information changes, you change. We changed our strategy. So did everybody else around the world change their strategy.

So, I'm just not going to -- I'm not going to accept that, Jake. I'm sorry to push back. You and I have known each other a while, but that is the fact. We did what we had to do as soon as the situation became much clearer.

And right up to the recent times, all right, Dr. Fauci, Deborah, others, through the vice president's task force and, ultimately, the president's direction, we issued guidelines...


KUDLOW: ... best practices, testing, diagnostics.

We produced the goods on the face masks, the ventilators, and other forms of equipment. TAPPER: OK.

KUDLOW: We have unleashed a tsunami of help to the states, to the hospitals. We have worked well with the governors.

I mean, this is very important, because I think this line reasoning that, somehow, the president was wrong or late or this or that...


TAPPER: Well...

KUDLOW: ... there were a lot of different voices, but his leadership has brought us to this point, Jake -- here's my bottom line -- this point.

We are entering a transitional period. The economy will be gradually reopened state by state, based on our guidelines and what -- the governors' guideline.

TAPPER: Right.

KUDLOW: And we have been meeting with the governors throughout this period.

So, I think we have done -- things that happen once every 100 years, Jake, they're pretty hard to predict precisely at the moment. I think you will concede that.

But we are optimists now.

TAPPER: Well...

KUDLOW: We have got to get through the next month or two.


KUDLOW: And we are optimists about an economy based on economic growth incentives and a rescue mission for the unemployment problem.

TAPPER: So, I could respond with 15 minutes' worth of stuff right there, but, unfortunately, I don't have the time.


KUDLOW: All right.

TAPPER: We have three other interviews to get to.

KUDLOW: I'm sorry.

TAPPER: And -- no, it's fine. It's fine. You obviously felt passionate about that.

I mean, I think that there are certainly issues people could raise, but I'm not going to bring them up right now, because I don't have time to let you respond, which would be the fair thing to do.

So, let me just thank you.

KUDLOW: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: And I hope that the economy goes the way you want it to.

Larry Kudlow, appreciate it.

KUDLOW: Thank you, Jake. Be well.

TAPPER: Coming up: protesters, some of them armed, demanding an end to one state's coronavirus restrictions. We're going to talk to Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer next. Stay with us.

Plus: We're six months away from the November election, but the field might now be expanding. I'm going to talk to a lawmaker about his new presidential bid ahead.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

This week, protesters, some of them armed, took to Michigan's state capitol. We should note that it is legal in the state of Michigan to carry a firearm into the state capitol.

The protesters were demanding an end to the state's emergency stay-at- home order, which had been put into place by the Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, in March.

The state has the third highest coronavirus death toll in the nation, with more than 4,000 lives lost.

And Governor Whitmer is joining me now.

Governor Whitmer, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to start with these protesters who entered the Michigan capitol building on Thursday. We all understand people out there are feeling the economic pain right now, but what did you make of the protesters with firearms inside the state capitol?

I know some Democratic lawmakers expressed concern and fear even.


Well, we know that people are not all happy about having to take the stay-home pass. And you know what? I'm not either.

But the fact of the matter is, we have to listen to the epidemiologists and our public health experts. And displays like the one that we saw at our capital is not representative of who we are in Michigan.

There were swastikas and Confederate Flags and nooses and people with assault rifles. And that's the very -- that's a small group of people, when you think about the fact that this is a state of almost 10 million people, the vast majority of whom are doing the right thing. And that's why we have seen our curve get pushed down.

We have saved lives in the process. And we have to keep listening to the epidemiologists and experts, and not listen to the partisan rhetoric or these political rallies, or tweets, for that matter. We have to keep doing the right thing, the next right thing.

TAPPER: These protests came after President Trump tweeted "Liberate Michigan." He tweeted -- quote -- "The governor of Michigan should give a little, put out the fire."

He said that these are very good people about the protesters that were featured in the video, to which the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Halie Soifer, who's from Lansing, Michigan, she compared those comments to President Trump referring to those marching alongside neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as very fine people.

Is that how you see these protesters, in that vein, in that extreme?

WHITMER: Well, some of the outrageousness of what happened at our capitol this week depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country.

The Confederate Flags, and nooses, the swastikas, the behavior that you have seen in all of the clips is not representative of who we are in Michigan.

And the fact of the matter is, I mean, we're in a global pandemic. This isn't something we just negotiate ourselves out of and it's a political matter. This is a public health crisis that has taken the lives of over -- of almost 70,000 Americans, has put 30 million people into unemployment.

We have lost in the last 24 hours almost the same number of Americans that were killed on 9/11. And that's just in the last 24 hours. We need to listen to the expertise and our institutions of higher learning and our health system, and make decisions that are going to protect the lives of everyone.

Whether you agree with me or not, I'm working to protect your life if you live in the state of Michigan. I'm going to continue to do my job, regardless of what tweets come out or what polls come out or what people think that is -- makes sense.

We're going to listen to facts and science, because we have got to get this right.

TAPPER: White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told "The Washington Post" yesterday -- quote -- "We figured out how to get all of the states enough complete testing kits to do the testing that they have requested. We can get to a really big number in May. The biggest thing holding us back is not supplies or capacity. It's the states' ability to collect more samples" -- unquote.


Is that true? In Michigan, the biggest problem is the state's ability to collect samples?

WHITMER: That's not true in Michigan.

I'm -- I can't speak for all the other states, but I have heard a lot of my fellow governors on the same calls that we have been on with the federal government. And I know that many of us are still looking to get swabs and reagents and additional test kits.

And so we have never been able to get to full capacity because we are missing things in the supply chain. And that's part of why I think so many of us on both sides of the aisle have really called on more of a national strategy on these fronts.

I think that, in Michigan, we -- across the country, we should be doing 1 to 2 percent of our population a week. We are far short of that. And part -- the supply chain is one of those factors.

TAPPER: I want to turn now to former Vice President Joe Biden, who denied on Friday an allegation made by a former Senate staffer of his, Tara Reade, who says that he sexually assaulted her in the early '90s.

You have said that you believe Vice President Biden.

I want to compare that to 2018, when you said you believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after she accused now Justice Brett Kavanaugh of assault. Kavanaugh also, like Biden, categorically denied that accusation.

And Blasey Ford, to be honest, she did not have the contemporaneous accounts of her view of what happened that Tara Reade does.

You have spoken movingly about how you're a survivor -- survivor of assault yourself. Why do you believe Biden, and not Kavanaugh? Are they not both entitled to the same presumption of innocence, regardless of their political views?

WHITMER: You know, Jake, as a survivor and as a feminist, I will say this. We need to give people an opportunity to tell their story.

But then we have a duty to vet it. And just because you're a survivor doesn't mean that every claim is equal. It means we give them the ability to make their case, and the other side as well, and then to make a judgment that is informed.

I have read a lot about this current allegation. I know Joe Biden, and I have watched his defense. And there's not a pattern that goes into this. And I think that, for these reasons, I'm very comfortable that Joe Biden is who he says he is.

He's -- and you know what? And that's all I'm going to say about it.

I really resent the fact that, every time a case comes up, all of us survivors have to weigh in. It is reopening wounds. And it is -- take us at our word, ask us for our opinion, and let's move on.

TAPPER: Well, just for the record, the reason I'm asking you is because you're the only Democrat on the show today, not because you're a survivor, and not because you're a woman.

But thank you so much for your time. I want to...


No, and it's not a criticism of you, Jake. It's not a criticism of you. You're doing your job, and I appreciate that.

I'm just sharing, I think, some of the simmering anger that we survivors have every time that we have got to confront this from someone else's behavior that we weren't a party to, that we weren't even a part of the reality in the moment.

What I think is this. We owe it to every woman who has a story to listen to that story, and then to vet that story, ask the questions and be critical thinkers, and then make a judgment, based on all of those pieces.

I have done that in this instance.

And I will tell you this. I don't believe that it's consistent with the Joe Biden that I know. And I do believe Joe, and I support Joe Biden.

TAPPER: All right, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, thank you so much for your time.

I want to apologize to our viewers for the technical difficulties we were having with the visual of the shot.

Governor Whitmer, we could hear your words great, but the screen was a little blurry during that interview. And we apologize for that. That's the price of doing business during a pandemic, when everybody is remote.

TAPPER: Coming up: the lack of coronavirus test so dire, one governor purchase some tests from South Korea, and is having them guarded in an undisclosed location, so the federal government doesn't confiscate them.

We're going to talk to him about that next.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper. More than half of all states have started reopening non-essential businesses, but Maryland's stay-at-home order is still in effect and the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases there is still on the rise.

Joining me now is Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. He's also the chair of the National Governors Association. Governor Hogan, good to see you as always.

I want to start by asking you to respond to something that we just heard from White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow who said that they're taking a pause right now. They're not really sure what they're going to do, if anything, in terms of further economic help to citizens or to states or cities. What do you make of that?

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): I'm not really quite sure what to make of that, Jake. I just did listen in and hear that this morning. But the message seems to sort of change almost on a daily, sometimes several times a day. I think we're making progress.

And look, I believe that -- I think the first three, 3 1/2 stimulus packages have been helpful, and everybody is trying their best to get all of that money out to the people that really need the help, the individuals who have lost their jobs and to the small businesses that are hurting under this terrible economy and the shutdown that everybody has had to do for the virus. And I think we are going to need more help.


And I think we are going to be able to get something done in a four (ph) stimulus package, both money out to the states, where I think we're in the best position to able to provide those services and help those people that really need it. And I'm hopeful that we'll be -- I mean, the president, vice president and Secretary Mnuchin, have already committed to it multiple times, and now the message seems to be changing.

I'm just hoping -- I'm hoping we can put aside all of this kind of divisiveness and partisanship because we just have to get this done for the American people. It seems like, you know, we have people jumping in and saying, well, we'll do it if we get this, the other side says, we'll do it if we get that. I think we just ought to focus on this crisis, on this economy, on trying to get people back to work and not cloud it with multiple other outside issues either from the Democrats in the House or from the White House or from the Republicans in the Senate. Let's just focus on helping the people and coming together in a bipartisan way.

TAPPER: You heard Larry Kudlow say this morning, he reflected what President Trump has been saying about states that have sanctuary cities, I believe Baltimore is a sanctuary city, that they might have to change those laws in order to get funding. What do you make of that?

HOGAN: First of all, Baltimore is not a sanctuary city and Maryland is not a sanctuary state.

TAPPER: I apologize.

HOGAN: That's exactly what I'm talking about.


HOGAN: Yes. So, exactly what I'm talking about though, Jake. There are people, the Democrats are saying, we'll do it if we get this additional funding for these other things. The Republicans in the Senate are saying, we'll do it if we get these other liability issues for businesses. Now the White House is talking about sanctuary cities.

And I think everybody ought to stop talking about all of those things and just focus on getting people the help that they need without bringing all these other, you know, outside political issues into the debate. It's no time for divisive politics. It's time to get something done.

TAPPER: So let's start with testing. You said that 500,000 coronavirus tests, you've recently acquired from South Korea, are being guarded in an undisclosed location by the National Guard and by Maryland State Police in order to prevent the federal government or anyone else from seizing them. Is that really necessary?

HOGAN: I'm not sure it's necessary at this point. The question really came up about a week or so ago when I was asked about the -- flying the test kits in from South Korea, and we were very careful about that, because there have been several reports of shipments being intercepted or diverted by the federal government from a couple of my colleague governors from around the country. We wanted to make sure that that didn't happen, which is why we had the National Guard and the state police, why we flew a Korean passenger plane into Baltimore/Washington International instead of Dulles where they normally land.

And we're guarding them -- look, we're working together with the federal government right now, an outbreak in Salisbury on our eastern shore of poultry workers that are infected. FEMA is doing a great job there, helping us. And we have those Korean tests with our National Guard, with our federal partners and our neighbors in Delaware and Virginia. We're all working together.

It's not a concern any longer but honestly it was an issue that we were looking at as we flew them in.

TAPPER: Yesterday a group called Reopen Maryland trekked more than 150 miles from Frederick to Salisbury to stage protest rallies on both sides of your state. Maryland Republican Congressman Andy Harris spoke at one of the rallies. He had some interesting words. Take a listen.


REP. ANDY HARRIS (R-MD): I didn't wake up in communist China and I didn't wake up in North Korea this morning. And tomorrow morning I should be able to go to the church of my choice and worship the way I choose.


TAPPER: That's your fellow Maryland Republican comparing the way you're running your state to communist China and North Korea. What's your response, sir?

HOGAN: Well, first of all, look, I think everybody has a right to protest and express their feelings. A couple of dozen people did so yesterday. And they have every right to do that. Sadly, we had far more people die yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters.

Congressman Harris, I'm not sure where he woke up yesterday morning but maybe he confused North Korea and South Korea. South Korea is doing a great job on testing and we just saved the lives of thousands of Marylanders by getting those half million tests from Korea. But I really don't have any further comment. I mean, he's obviously got the right to say whatever crazy things he wants to say. But, you know, I don't really need to respond to them.

TAPPER: Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day on the east coast. We saw people in New York City, Washington, D.C. crowding into parks. In Washington they went to the National Mall, filling it. In this photo that I'm putting up now, there does not appear to be much social or physical distancing going on.


And the National Mall, of course, not that far from the state line. What's your reaction when you see images like these?

HOGAN: It's one of the things that we've been concerned about. Look, we're very anxious to get our state reopened in a safe way as soon as we possibly can, because people are getting frustrated, and they've been inside their homes. Especially we want to get them outside and enjoying some fresh air after being cooped up, people are ready to do that. And we want them to be able to do it, but in a safe way with social distancing.

The District of Columbia has a stay in home order in place, has a limit -- limits of no crowds larger than 10 or more. It appears as if thousands of people are jammed into the National Mall in direct violation of that law in Washington, D.C. It's one of the things we're concerned about.

You see this happening around the country, as states try to open in a safe way. Unfortunately the pressure is to do it in a not safe way and that's something we're very concerned about, and one of the reasons why we're being cautious in trying to do things in a slow, safe, and effective manner.

TAPPER: Governor Larry Hogan, of the great state of Maryland, thank you so much for your time, sir. We really appreciate it as always.

HOGAN: Thank you, Jake. TAPPER: Coming up next, a former Republican who has called President Trump's handling of the pandemic -- quote -- "disastrous." And now he's running against the president, for president. Stay with us.



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

Just when you thought the race for the president was down to the final two, another contender is joining the field, independent congressman Justin Amash of Michigan. He's a former Republican who voted for President Trump's impeachment and now says he is running for the libertarian party's presidential nomination. Congressman Amash joins me now live.

Congressman Amash, thanks so much. I want to get to your presidential bit in a second. But, first, I want to ask you about these protests that we've seen in Michigan. Hundreds of people descending on the Capitol on Thursday, some of them armed, which we should note is legal in Michigan. They're protesting the governor's stay-at-home order.

President Trump tweeted a message to your governor saying she should make a deal with the protesters. He has also said "liberate Michigan." What do you make of this all?

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (I-MI): Well, thanks for having me on, Jake.

Everyone has the right to protest. And I think the governor overreached in a lot of ways and that upset people in the state of Michigan. But when we protest, we have to do it in a way that is appropriate.

I totally denounce and condemn Nazi symbols that were used in some of the protests. I think it's a terrible idea to come into the Capitol with weapons, bearing weapons, knowing that it might be perceived as some form of intimidation towards legislators. So, I denounce those things.

But everyone has the right to protest. And we're a state that cares about our rights, cares about our freedoms, and we should work together with the governor.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the race. Former congressman, Republican presidential candidate Joe Walsh wrote in a "Washington Post" op-ed -- quote -- "Amash can't win. But he can siphon enough votes from the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, to hand the election to Trump. If Amash gets the Libertarian nomination and stays until the end, he could wind up going in the books as the guy who voted to impeach Trump one year, then tipped the election to him 11 months later" -- unquote.

What's your response to Congressman Walsh and to those in general who think that you will probably play a spoiler role especially in your home state of Michigan? AMASH: First, Joe voted for President Trump and I didn't in the last election. So there's that distinction. But the important thing is, we don't know how the additional candidate changes a race. It's too impossible to figure out. There are too many calculations involved.

So the most important thing is that we have a ballot, if you want to vote for someone, you vote for that person, if you don't want to vote (INAUDIBLE) votes from Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

TAPPER: You say that --

AMASH: Because I'm going to win this election. And we need to win this election for the American people.

TAPPER: You say that the people are dissatisfied with both parties. But I took a dive into some numbers. Just over 10 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in a poll that CNN did in March. It doesn't sound like there are a vast array of voters dissatisfied with both presidential choices.

AMASH: When you look at a lot of different polling out there, you'll see that a good portion of the country, probably a plurality, is pretty independent. And they are looking for another choice. They might prefer one candidate or the other, if you have a two-candidate field. But if you make it a three-candidate field and you have a compelling candidate, they would be delighted to go to that candidate.

And for too long we've had the same system where these two parties go at each other and Washington is totally dysfunction. That's why I left the Republican Party because there is a partisan death spiral. We need someone who is going to come in a president, respect our constitution, defend our rights and fix our representative system of government so that people will actually feel represented at home. And I know that millions of Americans want that.

TAPPER: No third party candidate in the modern two-party system has ever won the presidency.


That includes an incredibly popular former president, Teddy Roosevelt. What makes you different?

AMASH: I'm going to go out there and get the message out there about what's wrong in Washington.

I think we're at a cross roads. There is a difference over the last decade or so where people are more polarized, more upset. But actually most Americans are delightful people, are polite people, want to work with each other, respect each other, and these two factions that really control our political system are destroying our system and making it impossible for the rest of us to frankly enjoy our lives. So, I want to go there and represent these millions of people and I think we are at that cross roads wither this kind of change can happen. Things are not settled the way they were maybe 30, 40 years ago. We have a lot of uncertainty right now. And there's an opening for a libertarian party to become a major party in this country.

TAPPER: You suggested that universal payments should be made to individual Americans as part of the coronavirus response. That made me wonder, as president is your mind open to a universal basic income as Andrew Yang proposed when he was running for president on the Democratic side of the field?

AMASH: As president I'm open to all the ideas that the legislature might present. The job of a president is to execute the laws. So I want the legislative process to work. I want people in Congress to actually represent their constituents and then I'll make a decision about whether I want to sign a bill or not.

Right now what happens is you have a few leaders who go to the White House, they negotiate directly with the executive branch and then most members of Congress are left out of it and people at home are not represented. So I want to allow the system to work, let the people be represented, and if they can present a system that actually works and can address a lot of other shortcomings of having a UBI-- for example, if you put a UBI on top of a massive social welfare system, you might have other problems.

So, if they address those concerns I'm happy to look at it as president. But I want Congress to work for the people. And I think that's the most important part of this campaign.

Congress needs to work for the people. The executive branch needs to execute the laws. And right now if you have Donald Trump or Joe Biden as president, those things are not going to happen. You're going to have the same system you've had for the past decade.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Justin Amash, thank you so much for joining us. We'll have you back to talk more about your presidential campaign and your platform as the campaign developments. Thank you so much, sir.

AMASH: Thanks so much, Jake.

TAPPER: As the weekend began, President Trump took steps to replace the acting official of the Department of Health and Human Services, Christi Grimm, who had issued a March report highlighting how unprepared hospitals were, according to a survey, for the coronavirus crisis.

Though President Trump unfairly portrayed her as partisan, Grimm is a career civil servant who has never served in a political role and who has served under Clinton, Bush and Obama before serving under Trump. Her report used the very same methodology that was used for two prior reports on preparedness for Ebola.

Inspectors general should take on hard topics and ask difficult questions and release relevant work, performing their function without bias and without fear or favor. What must those in the offices of inspectors general across the government be thinking right now as they look at what happened to Christi Grimm and the facts she presented?

But as we have seen many times during this crisis, during this pandemic, President Trump has too often opted to ignore or attack those presenting the facts about the virus instead of taking every necessary step to protect the United States from the virus itself. And this is part of what we're going to be covering in my new documentary that airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. on CNN "The President and the Pandemic."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So eventually Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, goes to the president to talk about this coronavirus issue that is emerging from China. The president is completely preoccupied with other issues. He wants to talk about vaping and the sale of flavored vaping products. And it just shows you kind of how the president's focus was not on this coronavirus issue.

TRUMP: Which is worse, the impeachment hoax or the witch hunts from Russia?

TAPPER (voice-over): His focus, much of it, was on the U.S. Senate.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): And ready to present the articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In his view, it was the so-called deep state. People in government who were hell bent to bring him down.


So by the time the coronavirus pandemic really started to worsen in the United States and scientists and experts were telling him about the problem, he saw some of these people as just an extension of the deep state. And so that led to, I think, some of the skepticism that he had towards the advice he was being given.

TAPPER: And China's government, in late January still downplaying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health officials in Wuhan held a press conference yesterday. They say this is preventable. They say this is controllable.

TAPPER: The next day the U.S. had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus.


TAPPER: Much more coronavirus coverage, next.