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WH coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 3/24/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Ayanna Pressley, Ann Marie Kimball, Michelle Goldberg

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR:  You may  have been exposed before you left New York. 

And I think, like Governor DeSantis has put out today, everybody who was in  New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that  the virus doesn`t spread to others, no matter where they have gone, whether  it`s Florida, North Carolina, or out to far, far reaches of Long Island. 

We are starting to see new cases across Long Island that suggest people  have left the city. So this will be very critical that those individuals do  self-quarantine in their homes over these next 14 days to make sure they  don`t pass the virus to others, based on the time that they left New York. 

So if they already are 4 days out, then it`s just 10 more days. So I thank  you if you help get that message out to others. 

Dr. Fauci? 

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR:  Thank you very much, Mr. President and  Deb. I want to just talk very briefly about two or three things. 

First, the issue of testing and how that has really changed the complexion  of the approach that we`re going to be able to take. We right -- know  testing was an issue. We had many questions of testing in this room for a  number of times. Now that we literally have hundreds and hundreds of  thousands of testing out there, there are a few things that we can do with  that. 

One of the things is that when we make policy about what we`re going to be  doing with the rest of the country, particularly those areas that are not  hot spots, we need to know what the penetrance of infection is there. So we  need to put a light on those dark spots that we don`t know. We have to act,  policy wise, on data. And we`re going to be getting more data -- a lot more  data. 

The other thing is that the areas of the country that are not hot spots,  that are not going through the terrible ordeal that New York and California  and Washington State are going through, they still have a window of  significant degree of being able to contain. In other words, when you test,  you find somebody, you isolate them, you get them out of circulation, and  you do the contact tracing. 

When you have a big outbreak, it`s tough to do anything but mitigation. We  have an opportunity now that we have the availability of testing to do  that. So you`re going to be hearing more about how we can inform where  we`re going, particularly because we have the ability to test. 

The second thing is, I just want to reiterate what Dr. Birx said about New  York. It`s a very serious situation. They`ve suffered terribly through no  fault of their own. But what we`re seeing now is that, understandably,  people want to get out of New York. They`re going to Florida. They`re going  to Long Island. They`re going to different places. 

The idea, if you look at the statistics, it`s disturbing. About one per  thousand of these individuals are infected. That`s about 8 to 10 times more  than in other areas, which means when they go to another place, for their  own safety, they`ve got to be careful, monitor themselves. If they get  sick, bring it to the attention of a physician. Get tested. 

Also, the idea about self-isolating for two weeks will be very important,  because we don`t want that to be another seeding point to the rest of the  country, wherever they go. 

And then thirdly, just one -- one just comment about drugs and the testing  of drugs. You know, you heard yesterday about drugs being out there that  physicians, on an off-label way, can prescribe it to give people hope of  something that hasn`t been definitively proven to work, but that might have  some hope. 

I don`t want anybody to forget that simultaneously with our doing that,  we`re also doing randomized clinical trials on a number of candidates.  You`ve heard about candidates, but there are others in the pipeline, where  we`ll be able to design the study and, over a period of time, particularly  since we have so many infections, we`ll be able to determine definitively  are these safe and are they effective. 

We`re talking about remdesivir, other drugs, immune sera, convalescent  serum, monoclonal antibodies. All of these are in the pipeline now, queuing  up to be able to go into clinical trial. 

So I will stop there and... 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, thank you, Tony. Great  job. 

Larry, how about just a quick few minutes on how we`re doing over at the  Hill, please? 


We`re gaining great progress on this phase three legislation. Negotiations  continue. We`ve had continued reports. I`ve been up there with Secretary  Mnuchin. Secretary Mnuchin continues today with the Chief of Staff, Mark  Meadows, checking in with the president. They`re getting closer and closer.  They expect a vote as soon as possible. 

I just want to walk through a couple of key points. This legislation is  urgently needed to bolster the economy; provide cash injections and  liquidity; and stabilize financial markets to get us through a difficult  period -- a difficult and challenging period in the economy facing us right  now, but also to position us for what I think can be an economic rebound  later this year. 

We started the year very strong. And then we got hit by the coronavirus in  ways that probably nobody imagined possible. We`re dealing with that as  best we can. 

This package will be the single-largest Main Street assistance program in  the history of the United States. The single-largest Main Street assistance  program in the history of the United States. 

Phase two delivered the sick leave for individuals -- hourly workers,  families, and so forth. 

Phase three, a significant package for small businesses. Loan guarantees  will be included. We`re going to take out expenses and lost revenues. As  the president said, eligibility requires worker retention. We will maintain  the people eligible. We`ll maintain their payrolls during this crisis  period. And, on top of that, we will have direct deposit checks of roughly  $3,000 for a family of four and that will bridge to enhanced, plussed-up  unemployment insurance benefits that will essentially take those up to full  wages. This is one, two, three, four. 

You know, a strong work force requires strong business. You can`t have a  job without a business to work for. And the hope here is that -- the  companies that were operating very well at beginning of the year when the  economy was in good shape, we will help them and their employees get  through this tough period so they will come out the other side -- let`s say  this -- later this spring or summer -- and will continue their operations.  That`s the key point. 

Now, don`t forget there`s income tax deferrals for individuals and  corporations without interest and penalties. There is student loan interest  and principle deferrals without any penalties. 

And finally, I want to mention, the Treasury`s Exchange Stabilization  Refund. That will be replenished. It`s important, because that fund opens  the door for Federal Reserve firepower to deal a broad-based way throughout  the economy for distressed industries, for small businesses, for financial  turbulence. 

You`ve already seen the Fed take action. They intend to take more action.  And in order to get this, we have to replenish the Treasury`s Emergency  Fund. It`s very, very important; not everybody understands that. That fund,  by the way, will be overseen by an oversight board and an inspector  general. It will be completely transparent. 

So, the total package here comes to roughly $6 trillion:  $2 trillion  direct assistance, roughly $4 trillion in Federal Reserve lending power.  Again, it`ll be the largest Main Street financial package in the history  the United States. Liquidity and cash for families, small business,  individuals, unemployed, to keep this thing going. 

We`re headed for a rough period, but it`s only going to be weeks, we think.  Weeks and months. It`s not going to be years, that`s for sure. And  hopefully pave the way for continued economic recovery after this crisis  departs. 

Thank you, sir. 

TRUMP:  Thank you, Larry. I`ve been hearing that voice for so many years --  like 30 years or more, maybe. And it`s a great voice and it`s a great man.  So Larry Kudlow, thank you very much. 

KUDLOW:  Thank you, sir. 

TRUMP:  I want to say that that package -- and we went over parts of it,  but pretty big parts -- it really sets us up to, I think, even supersede  where we were a month ago. I think we can get up there quickly and I think  it allows us to supersede. 

It allows us to help these great companies that need help, like Boeing,  which is -- you know, it had a problem and then, on top of that problem, it  had the virus come in. But we`ll be helping Boeing. We`ll be helping the  airlines. We`ll be helping the cruise lines. We`ll be doing a lot of things  and the money will all come back to us, and it will come back to us in a  very strong form. 

And before we take some questions, I`d like to ask our great Vice President  to say a few words, if you wouldn`t mind. Please. 


The White House Coronavirus Task Force met again today. And on behalf of  the president of the United States, everyone on our team, and our state  leaders, let me just say:  Thank you, America. People across this country,  businesses large and small are responding to the threat of the coronavirus  in ways that are deeply inspiring. 

Now, people are acting on the president`s 15 Days to Slow the Spread and it  is making a material difference. 

Our experts standing beside us told us that if every American -- regardless  of whether you`re in an area that`s impacted by an outbreak of the  coronavirus or not, if every American would embrace these guidelines, that  we could significantly reduce the number of Americans that would contract  the coronavirus and protect the most vulnerable. And as the president  reflected earlier, tens of millions of Americans are doing just that and  we`re grateful. 

The focus of our task force, of course, is to slow the spread, to promote  mitigation strategies. Beyond that, though, the president has us focused on  testing and on supplies, and making sure that those that are enduring the  symptoms of the coronavirus and those who are ministering to them -- our  extraordinary health care workers -- have the support that they need. 

In the category of supplies, you just heard Dr. Birx indicate that we`ve  made great progress. We have done more tests in the last eight days than  were done in the previous eight weeks. And it`s because of the public- private partnership that the president forged with commercial labs. 

And I would encourage people around the country to remind your family  members and friends:  If you don`t have symptoms, don`t get a test. We want  to make sure that people who are having symptoms, who have a concern have  the ability to be tested and to have those tests processed. 

We`re continuing to urge all county hospitals, all labs around the country  to report to the CDC all the results of the test, as it`ll give these  experts around us the ability to continue to advise the president on best  practices. 

As I mentioned, we all continue to follow the outbreak around the country  and the test results. But as several have mentioned, we`re particularly  focused on New York. The reality is the New York metro area was 60 percent  of the new cases in the country. 

And specifically, as a lay person, I can tell you that the infection rates  are roughly 1 in 1,000 in the New York City metropolitan area, where they  are 0. 2 percent per 1,000 or 0. 1 percent for 1,000 in places like  Washington State. 

It is the reason why today the White House Coronavirus Task Force is  calling on any American -- first and foremost, if you`re in the New York  City metropolitan area or elsewhere -- to take the guidelines that we  issued and avoid nonessential travel. But for anyone in the New York  metropolitan area who has traveled, our task force is encouraging you to  monitor your temperature, be sensitive to symptoms, and we are asking  anyone who has traveled out of the New York City metropolitan area to  anywhere else in the country to self-isolate for 14 days. 

We have to deal with the New York City metropolitan area as a high-risk  area. And for that reason we`re -- we`re taking these steps and ask you for  the cooperation of the American people. 

Because of the spread in New York City, we will continue to surge  resources. The president has described this. FEMA is coordinating with New  York State for the arrival of the USS Comfort in just a matter of a few  short weeks. Over the next 24 hours, more than 4,000 additional ventilators  will be delivered to New York State as well. 

New York State has prioritized three alternative medical facilities, and,  at the president`s direction, the Army Corps of Engineers is working on  plans to build those facilities out. 

You`ve heard the president speak about the Javits Center -- the addition of  1,000 beds. And we`ll continue -- I want the people of New York City and  the Greater New York City area to know that we`re with you. We`re going to  continue to provide resources to support your state and local officials as  they confront the spread of the coronavirus in that great city. 

On the subject of supplies, we had team meetings today at FEMA, which is  working on identifying the critical personal protective equipment and  ventilators. At this point, FEMA informs us today that they are  distributing 7. 6 million N95 respirator masks, more than 14 million  surgical masks, and FEMA has already shipped 73 pallets of personal  protective equipment to New York, 36 pallets of personal protective  equipment to the State of Washington. 

We`ll be meeting again tonight. As you know, the president stood FEMA, as  the National Response Center, up and they are in the lead for the approach  to the coronavirus, which is locally executed, state-managed, and federally  supported. And we`ll continue to surge those resources and make sure that  they`re available. 

One last word, if I may:  The president reflected on the response that  businesses around the country have brought to this moment. It truly is  extraordinary. 

Now, the president did initiate the Defense Production Act last week, but  as the president has reflected many times, we will use the Defense  Production Act if we need it to mandate production of -- of critical  supplies. But so far, no one has said no. 

And, in fact, we see industry stepping up. The president mentioned Ford  Motor Company working with 3M and GE Health to expand production of medical  supplies. We heard that McDonald`s is now offering curbside delivery to  truckers who are unable to use the drive-through to pick up a Big Mac. 

And I spoke today, and the president spoke last week, with Tim Cook of  Apple. And, at this moment in time, Apple went to their storehouses and is  donating 9 million N95 masks to health care facilities at -- all across the  country and to the National Stockpile. 

There is a level of generosity that I know is inspiring to the president  and is truly inspiring to all of us who are working on the White House  Coronavirus Task Force. 

The president has made it clear that he hopes -- in weeks, not months -- to  be able to open up the country. But let me make one last encouragement to  every American:  We will get to that day quicker if every American will put  into practice the president`s coronavirus guidelines for our nation:  15  Days to Slow the Spread. If every American will do this, I have no doubt  that we will slow the spread, we will protect our most vulnerable, and we  will heal our land. 

Thank you, Mr. President. 

TRUMP:  Thank you very much, Mike. Thank you. 


QUESTION:  Mr. President, you just reiterated that you hope to have the  country reopened by Easter and you said earlier you would like to see  churches packed on that day. My question is -- you have two doctors on  stage with you -- have either of them told you that`s a realistic timeline? 

TRUMP:  I think we`re looking at a timeline. We`re discussing it. We had a  very good meeting today. You know, if you add it all up, that`s probably  nine days plus another two and a half weeks. It`s a period of time that`s  longer than the original two weeks. 

So we`re going to look at it. We`ll only do it if it`s good. And maybe we  do sections of the country; we do large sections of the country. That could  be, too. But, no, we`re very much in Tony and with Deborah on everything  we`re doing. 

QUESTION:  Who suggested Easter? Who suggested that day? 

TRUMP:  I just thought it was a beautiful time. It would be a beautiful  time, a beautiful timeline. It`s a great day. 

QUESTION:  So that wasn`t based on any of the data? 

TRUMP:  It was -- it was based on a certain level of weeks from the time we  started. And it happened to arrive -- actually, we were thinking in terms  of sooner. I`d love to see if come even sooner. But I just think it would  be a beautiful timeline. 


QUESTION:  Mr. President, if you look at what we`ve just seen in the last  day or so, you`ve seen the number of known coronavirus cases in the country  double in just two days. 

Another 95 people died just in the last 24 hours. New York -- New York`s  governor is saying this is spreading like a bullet train across the  country. And the governor of Louisiana is saying that his country -- that  his state may not be able to handle the cases that they`re facing by the --  by early April. So what are you seeing in all of this that leads you to  think that...

TRUMP:  Jon, we`re working with all of them. 


QUESTION:  ... we can reopen by Easter or even earlier? 

TRUMP:  Sure. Sure. 

We`re working with all of them. We can be talking about large sections of  our country, because there are sections of our country that you didn`t talk  about that are doing unbelievably well; they have very little incidents or  problem -- very small numbers. It`s very possible that they won`t be ever  subject to what`s happening in New York. 

New York is definitely a hot spot. There`s no question about it. And you  know what we`re doing in New York to try and help, and I think we`re doing  an incredible job. We`re going to have the hospitals up quickly -- the  medical centers, also, quickly. 

But we`ll just have to see. We have to follow it. We have to see. We`re  going to look at that curve. We`re going to see when it starts coming down.  And we`ll do the best job that can be done. 

John, please. 

QUESTION:  A question for you, Mr. President and Dr. Fauci, if we could.  This would -- looking at this idea of an Easter timeline -- and I know  that`s probably flexible -- what are the metrics by which you will make the  decision as to whether you can say, yes, we can open up this area of the  country or, no, we can`t open up that area. 

I mean, will you be looking at disease numbers? Will you be looking at  possible containment, isolation? What are you... 


TRUMP:  I think we`ll be looking at a lot of things. We`ll also be looking  at very large portions of our country. And I will be guided very much by  Dr. Fauci and by Deborah and by some of the other professionals that work  with both of you. 

And we`re going to see what will be, but that would certainly be -- I think  that`s a goal that perhaps can happen, or at least for a very large portion  of our country. 

QUESTION:  Dr. Fauci, since, as the president said, you and Dr. Birx and  others will be guiding him in making the decision, where are you now with  this timeline of 19 days from now? 

FAUCI:  So, I mean, that`s really very flexible. we just had a conversation  with the president in the Oval Office, talking about -- you know, you can  look at a date, but you got to be very flexible. And on a literally day-by- day and week-by-week basis, you need to evaluate the feasibility of what  you`re trying to do. 

And, John, you asked for what kind of metrics what kind of data. When you  look at the country, I mean, obviously, no one is going to want to tone  down things when you see what`s going on in a place like New York City. I  mean -- I mean, that`s just good public health practice and common sense. 

But the country is a big country and there are areas of the country -- and  I referred to this in my opening remarks -- that we really need to know  more about what the penetrance is there. 

So if we do the kind of testing that we`re doing -- and testing will always  be associated by identification, isolation, and contact tracing. And you  find, after a period of time, that there are areas that are very different  from other areas of the country. You may not want to essentially treat it  as it -- just one force for the entire country, but look at flexibility in  different areas. 

So I think people might get the misinterpretation you`re just going to lift  everything up and, even if somebody going like that, you -- I mean, that`s  -- that`s not going to happen. It`s going to be looking at the data. 

And what we don`t have right now that we really do need is we need to know  what`s going on in those areas of the country where there isn`t an obvious  outbreak. Is there something underneath the surface that says, Wait a  minute, you better be careful and really clamp down, or what looks there  that you don`t really have to be as harsh as you are in other areas? 

So it`s looking at information that, up to this point, John, we never had.  So it`s a flexible situation. 

QUESTION:  So is New York becoming our Wuhan? Is New York becoming the  epicenter... 


TRUMP:  Well, it certainly is, by far, the -- if you call it hot, if you  call it any word you want to use. It is at a level that -- I was speaking  to Tony before -- it`s a level that no place else is close. It`s very  unfortunate. 

You know, one of the things that`s -- that`s happened -- that we`ve done, I  think, a really good job on -- I think that it`s something special what`s  happened is I learned from Dr. Birx, a little while ago, when she said -- I  learned it actually this afternoon, in eight days -- because we kept  hearing about South Korea. 

And they had a very tough time at the beginning, if you remember. In eight  days, we`re doing more testing than they`ve done in eight weeks. That`s a  tremendous turn. And with our testing, it`s going -- exponentially, it`s  going up, up, up every day. 

So we`re going to be able to do things with this very highly sophisticated  testing. And it`s also -- the test itself is considered the best test. So,  on top of doing now more than anybody else, we have a very high-quality  test. That makes a big difference. It also makes a big difference, even in  terms of opening, because we`re going to see those areas like the hot  spots. But New York City definitely is a very hot spot. 


QUESTION:  When you talk about areas that you could open up, what  specifically are you looking at? What states? Are you talking about out  west or the Midwest or the southwest? Where exactly? 

TRUMP:  Well, you can talk about the Farm Belt. Take a look at the Farm  Belt. Take a look at the areas out west. Look at big sections of Texas. 

I was talking to the great Governor of Texas. They have done a fantastic  job out there. But they have very big sections of Texas where -- you know,  it`s  like numerous states, frankly. 

But we can have large sections of -- if we want to do it that way, we can  have large sections of the country open. But I think it`s very important  that we start moving on that and start thinking about it, because our  country wants to be open, our people want it to be open, and they want it - - they want -- they`re raring to go. And I think it`s one of the reasons  that we`re going to have a tremendous bounce back. I think it`s going to go  very quickly. 

Also, I want to thank -- while I`m here, I want to thank Larry for the job  he`s done, Steve Mnuchin for the job he`s done. If you look at Peter  Navarro, he`s sort of doing different things. He`s really -- he`s a force,  in terms of getting masks and getting all of the ventilators and all the  things. He`s been fantastic -- Peter. 

But I also want to thank Congress because whether or not we`re happy that  they haven`t quite gotten there yet, they have been working long hours. I`m  talking Republicans and Democrats -- all of them. The House, the Senate. I  want to thank Congress because they are really trying to get there, and I  think they will. 

And I will see you all tomorrow. Thank you very much. Thank you. 

QUESTION:  Did you give the Governor Cuomo a heads-up, Mr. President, about  the quarantining for people who left New York? 

TRUMP:  Beg your pardon? 

QUESTION:  Did you give Governor Cuomo a heads up about quarantining  people? 

TRUMP:  We`re talking to them about it. 


QUESTION:  What are you asking for, Mr. President?

QUESTION:  Is it wise to pack churches on Easter? It takes contaminate a  whole...

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  And there you have it, around 6:24 p.m. on the  East Coast, where we have been listening live to this briefing by the White  House Coronavirus Task Force. 

President Trump detailing his administration`s ongoing response, arguing,  the president says, that the precautions that health experts have demanded  last for some time, the president saying just then again he hopes they end  soon -- quote -- "in a matter of weeks."

And the president welcoming signs that Congress will, by all accounts, soon  pass this giant stimulus bill, Larry Kudlow coming out and approximating it  in total at $6 trillion. 

We should note the president just then was rejoined by Dr. Fauci, who has  recently spoken out about how part of his job involves fact-checking Donald  Trump`s misinformation. 

He was absent from yesterday`s meeting. 

If you`re joining us right now, I can tell you I`m Ari Melber. I`m  anchoring MSNBC`s ongoing special coverage here. 

And we turn, as we often do after these briefings, immediately to our  experts, "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson, Michelle Goldberg  from "The New York Times" Dr. Ann Marie Kimball from the University of  Washington. 

My thanks to each of you.

Doctor, what medical facts should people keep in mind or know, after  listening through that briefing? 

DR. ANN MARIE KIMBALL, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON:  I think the most  important thing to understand about this virus is that it can be  asymptomatic and still transmitted. 

And the other medical fact is in fact that the rate in New York City right  now is higher than the rate in Italy. So it`s not a wise time to really be  aspirationally talking about opening up that part of the country, because,  as you listen to Governor Cuomo and you look at the stats, that`s really a  hot spot. 

MELBER:  You`re using Italy as a kind of an approximate warning example,  and saying, if parts of the United States, like New York, are anywhere in  Italy territory, we`re nowhere near what the president and Mr. Kudlow just  referred to, which is the idea that you could have this wrapped up with  regard to precautions in weeks?

KIMBALL:  Yes, I think what you heard was twofold.

And one piece I want to really emphasize that did come through in that news  conference is that they`re going to look at the data. 

And we have the Centers for Disease Control, which is really the agency you  want to go, to get the facts and figures on when it`s safe to open it up.  Two weeks is very aspirational and really optimistic, and probably not at  all realistic for New York. 

MELBER:  When you say it`s not realistic for New York, which is one of the  big centers -- and for folks who are watching, we saw the president just as  he was walking away get one more question about New York, and he sort of  turned and took the bait, which is why reporters in that room always throw  out the extra question. 

You seem to be zeroing in on that. Is your view that the president or  anyone discussing this as a matter of weeks is being unrealistic about New  York? 

KIMBALL:  Well, it appears so.

I mean, New York`s rate right now is 17 per 10,000, which is higher than  Italy`s rate, and much higher than the state of Washington`s rate or  Seattle, King County`s rate. And it is really a hot spot right now. 

So, if you take that, and you understand that a lot of people are getting  sick now, and they`re trying to marshal their hospital care, this is at  least a couple of weeks away from any kind of turndown in their infection  curve. 

But we will -- we have to wait and see. And I`m sure they`re doing  everything they can. 

MELBER:  Yes. Stay with me. 

Michelle Goldberg, we saw the reemergence of Dr. Fauci. I`m not  exaggerating when I refer to the fact that millions of people watch these  things. We know that. And many thousands yesterday took to the Internet and  other places and said, where is Dr. Fauci? 

He had spoken out quite bluntly about how, in essence, the president makes  his job harder with misinformation. 

With that in mind, I want to play for you something brand-new that also  just occurred. We`re obviously tracking responses from all different parts  of the story.

Joe Biden, doing a newsworthy interview just an hour or two ago on MSNBC,  take a listen to what he said about all this.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It`s frustrating to hear this  president speak. He should stop talking. Let the experts speak. 

This is not a political thing any longer. This is about how we spare this  nation from a potential disaster. We can deal with the economy. And the way  to deal with the economy is now take care of those people who are in  desperate need now. 


MELBER:  Michelle, what do you think of former Vice President Biden`s point  that the president`s speaking has been bad for public health, the markets,  really the whole -- the whole response, in his view? 

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Well, I don`t care about the  markets, but it`s clearly been bad for public health. 

I mean, there was already a case of a man who died after taking too much of  a drug, an untested drug, that Trump has been touting as a cure for this  disease. 

And you hear -- there was another case recently of somebody in Kentucky, I  believe, who got sick after attending a coronavirus party. 

Well, some people are out there getting the message that this is not as  serious and not as grave as public health experts are saying that it is.  When Trump says that we`re going to open up the country by Easter, which is  less than three weeks away, he is -- it`s not just that he`s giving people  false hope. 

He is making it harder for people to make practical plans for what is  actually more likely to be a several-month-long lockdown. It`s hard to plan  for your children, if you have children out of school, if you think that  they`re going to be back in two-and-a-half weeks vs. if you think that  they`re going to be out for the rest of the year.

And you already see -- you see Disney talking about opening up its parks on  April 1, even though I can`t imagine that would actually be happening. 

So, he`s already talking about the light at the end of the tunnel, as if we  have turned a corner, when his own surgeon general has said that we`re  heading in, this next week, into a very, very dark period. 


I want our whole panel of experts to stay with me. 

We were listening, of course, to a Republican White House briefing.

I want to turn to Democratic congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley of  Massachusetts. We should note over 1,100 COVID-19 cases there. 

Thanks for joining me.

Take a listen to Dr. Deborah Brick -- Birx, I should say, from the task  force. 


BIRX:  What the president is doing is looking for the future and looking  what we can do in the future, not looking to change what we`re doing now. 

Please, he`s made it clear, and the vice president, continue to follow the  guidelines of social distancing, and all of the other things about knowing  where your hands are and washing your hands. 


MELBER:  What do you see as important coming out of the briefing? And what  else can you tell us about the progress on this multitrillion-dollar  stimulus bill? 

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA):  Well, I will say, Donald Trump had prepared  remarks for this presser. And I`m walking away with no more confidence  about where Donald Trump`s head is at, at this moment. 

I think he`s operating it in a way at that is reckless and irresponsible.  His words and actions are not commiserate with the response of someone who  holds the Oval, who works in the Oval Office, who is the president of the  United States.

He`s not a fan of my calling him the occupant. Well, then, act like the  president. Embody the responsibility, the empathy, and the compassion and  the strategy that a president would in the midst of the pandemic. 

I`m appealing to the American people to listen to the medical  professionals, the esteemed panel you just had participate, and Dr. Fauci. 

And Dr. Fauci, I trust. And Donald Trump, I do not. 

In that presser, he referenced the border. He fanned the flames of  xenophobia once again. He is giving false hope about the need -- about  people being in safe houses on Easter Sunday. 

I mean, this is just reckless and irresponsible. And it is already costing  people lives. He needs to activate the Defense Production Act.

In this presser, he said he has. But I am on the ground in Massachusetts, a  health care mecca in this country. And the health care professionals, the  doctors and nurses, our front-line workers, our most vulnerable workers,  are heroes in the midst of this pandemic. And our hospital and our health  care centers do not have the supplies that they need. 

MELBER:  What do you think Donald Trump`s endgame is here? 

You just laid out a view that argues that he is making it worse, that he is  providing misinformation, that he is trying to speak or will into reality  something that you`re not seeing. 

And what we are seeing -- and we have been very clear with the facts for  viewers every night -- people can read it on their screens right now -- we  have topped 52,000 cases, over 600 deaths. There are not indications that  we have gotten over any -- quote -- "hump" in the numbers we`re tracking. 

PRESSLEY:  In fact, his own surgeon general said the worst is yet to come. 

And so, you know, it is very worrisome when Donald Trump is engaging in --  threatening quid pro quos with governors. Governor Cuomo today saying, we  have 400 ventilators, but we need 30,000. 

Medical professionals are going to be forced very soon to quite literally  choose who deserves to live. 

And, you know, in Massachusetts, one of the communities in my district is  Dorchester. And there is a young girl there, Gaby, who is 10 years old at  Saint Brendan School, who has been personally sewing 24 masks a day. 

Listen, I`m grateful for that benevolence from our children and from our  private sector, but it is not going meet the scale and scope of this  pandemic. 

And, listen, our greatest wealth is our public health. And it is being  threatened right now. And that`s why I continue to fight for not only the  investments in our health care infrastructure and to support our vulnerable  health care work force, but to ensure that we have a bailout for workers,  for our families, and not for corporations. 

And that`s what we`re focused on, the public health, unemployment  insurance. I have introduced some things specific to student debt to try to  relieve some of that burden and hurt, also supporting rental freezes,  mortgage freezes, all of these things that will assuage people`s anxieties  in the midst of this, that`s the last thing they have to be worried about  in the midst of a pandemic. 

MELBER:  Congresswoman, I know it`s a busy time on the Hill, as well as in  your home state, as you mentioned, with your own work. You`re recounting  the story of young people literally sewing these masks as we deal with  these problems.

I appreciate your time and you telling some of your stories tonight. 

PRESSLEY:  Thank you, Ari. 

MELBER:  Thank you. And we will be in touch. 

I want to bring back in some of our analysts here. 

If you are just joining us, we have watched a different type of White House  briefing this evening. It was a little shorter than yesterday. It included  Dr. Fauci. It included the economic leader of the recovery for the Trump  White House, Larry Kudlow.

And, Gene Robinson, who has been with us, but we haven`t heard from you  yet, I`m curious your thoughts on the press conference in general, but  also, as the congresswoman just mentioned, on the stark contrast we  continue to see between the president`s approach, what he says, how he  describes reality, and people on the front lines. 

I have a little bit of Governor Cuomo here, who has been one of the most  visible in one of the hardest-hits states. Take a listen to him discussing  the trade-off with the economy. 


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY):  We`re talking about public health. We`re talking  about isolation. We`re talking about protecting lives. 

There also has to be a parallel track that talks about economic viability.  You can`t stop the economy forever. 


MELBER:  Gene?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, you can`t stop the economy  forever. 

I mean, what we -- what we saw at the press conference today, Ari, was kind  of a bifurcated session, in which first you had fiction and then you had  fact, right? You had you had kind of a mini President Trump rally, in which  he touted his accomplishments and how well he`s doing.

He stoked fear of people who might come across the border. He did all the  things that you would expect him to do. 

And then he turned it over to people who actually know something about  what`s happening and the crisis we face. And he left unresolved this very  obvious tension between his desire, his fantasy, I believe, that the  churches of America will be filled safely on Easter Sunday, vs. what the  scientists are telling us, which is that we have our greatest city, our  most populous city, in an absolute full-blown crisis at this point. 

We have people leaving New York, because -- because people come and go in  New York in a city of nearly nine million people. And so you have those  people going out. And so if there are areas of the country where there`s  not a problem now, there`s going to be a problem soon. 

And so you have to kind of separate those two halves, I think, of the of  the briefing. 

And recall Governor Cuomo this morning, who was, I don`t want to use the  word apoplectic, because he wasn`t apoplectic, but who was clearly  exercised and clearly worried about the numbers that he saw overnight vs.  the numbers he saw the day before, and how the curve is not bending, in  fact, it seems to be steepening. 

So, we are still in the middle of a crisis, and the president`s reaction is  not commensurate to that crisis. But he at least let the experts give us  some information that is more useful. 

MELBER:  Dr. Kimball, do you want to weigh in on any of that? 

KIMBALL:  Yes, I`d like to say one thing in support of what`s different on  the ground. 

We are -- let`s see, this started in January. And we`re in March now. And  we`re just now starting to see the mobilization of testing and supplies  that we have needed for two months. 

It`s a federal failure. And I`m not partisan about this. I`m just saying,  in my state, we still don`t have enough masks and personal protective  equipment and testing to know exactly where this epidemic is. 

And this is really hitting us now, because they`re asking for volunteers,  like me, who are retired physicians, to come back and work on the front  lines. 

But we`re also in the high-risk group. So, we can`t go back in without  personal protective equipment. And if we can`t go back in, how can you  reinforce the health workers who need -- who need a break? 

I mean, this is really serious in Seattle. It`s going to get really serious  in New York. And we really have to have those materials. And they are now  two months` late. 

MELBER:  Yes. 

KIMBALL:  Thank you. 

MELBER:  How long have you been retired, Doctor? 

KIMBALL:  I have been retired from medical practice for about two years. 

MELBER:  And how many other people do you know in your community who are  doing what you`re doing, coming back to the -- to serve? 

KIMBALL:  Oh, we have a whole Washington state retired physicians corps.  And we have a reserve corps here on Bainbridge Island. Many of us stay  active. And we do free clinics all the time. 

I mean, I did Seattle, King County, free clinic about three weeks ago. So,  yes, we all volunteer. 

MELBER:  I will just say, amidst all the other sad parts of this story,  when we think about how many public health professionals, nurses and  doctors, on the front lines every day, as well as people like yourself,  doing well beyond what obviously you would have to do to come out and  serve. 

I do think it`s inspiring. So, shout-out to you and those of you doing that  work, and also giving us some of your expertise tonight. We`re better for  it. 

Dr. Kimball and Michelle Goldberg, my thanks to both of you. 

Gene Robinson comes back. 

We`re going to fit in a break here. We`re obviously tracking a lot of  stories. 

We have a special report we have been working on that I`m going to share  with you when we come back on this new dynamic that is so important between  Donald Trump, a president who brooks no resistance, usually, among his own  staff, and, of course, the doctor who has been increasingly eclipsing him,  Dr. Fauci -- when we come back. 


MELBER:  Might be easy to forget right about now, but one of President  Trump`s many attempts to undercut the free press included largely ending  the 50-year bipartisan tradition of White House press briefings. 

That`s a time when the White House faces journalistic inquiries to inform  the nation. For over half of last year, the Trump White House didn`t hold a  single briefing, obviously a contrast to these now daily briefings in this  coronavirus era, which also feature something of a new tradition that we  want to speak about right now, medical experts who provide key facts, while  the president does not. 

And, sometimes, President Trump does worse, spreading outright  misinformation, which the experts then correct, sometimes in front of the  president`s face, a dynamic driving some very powerful fact-checking of  Donald Trump in real time at the same presidential lectern sometimes he  just used.

And it is often led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose absence at Monday`s  briefing was widely noted, many Americans even taken to social media to  ask, where`s Dr. Fauci? 

Well, now, Fauci was at today`s hearing. 

But all of this has followed a very interesting period between Dr. Fauci  and the president, because the doctor did a blunt interview, telling  "Science" magazine he knows Donald Trump spreads misinformation and added:  "Let`s get real. What do you want me to do?" -- stressing the best he can  do is correct Trump, a point he expanded on to Maureen Dowd, explaining: "I  don`t want to act like a tough guy. I just want to get the facts out."

And "The Times" reports that blunt approach at the briefing lectern,  contradicting Trump, is frustrating the president. 

The tension comes amidst larger battles over when to send Americans back to  work, and Donald Trump giving out unvetted ideas for drugs people should  try right now that actually led to a man dying this week. 

Now, in one striking moment, with, of course, the nation watching live, we  saw Dr. Fauci step up to correct Donald Trump`s dangerous misinformation  recommending a potential drug for the virus. 


QUESTION:  Yesterday, there were questions about the use of this malaria  drug. Have those questions now been resolved?

TRUMP:  Well, I don`t know that resolved. 

I can say that it`s going to be distributed. Look, I feel, as the  expression goes, what do we have to lose? 

FAUCI:  Are you going to use a drug that someone says, from an anecdotal  standpoint, not completely proven, but might have some effect? 

There are those who lean to the point of giving hope and saying, give that  person the option of having access to that drug. And then you have the  other group, which is my job, as a scientist, to say, my job is to  ultimately prove without a doubt that a drug is not only safe, but that it  actually works. 


MELBER:  Dr. Fauci is pressing science over spin, no matter who`s in the  room. 

To paraphrase Shawn Carter`s message to liars, Dr. Fauci`s name should be  just the facts, while the rest of you all just adjust the facts. Some put  words together just to match, while this doctor drops science. You all  adjust to that. 

Back with me is Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The Washington Post," and  someone interested in empirical truth.

Your view of the role Dr. Fauci is playing, sir?

ROBINSON:  Well, look, for all of us, he is the reliable narrator of this  crisis. 

He is telling us what is going on from day to day, what the situation  really is, what we should believe, what`s a matter of science, what`s a  matter of hope. And he is so -- we know him. We have known him for so long  since, since back to the Reagan administration.

And he has been a trusted voice. And he continues to be a trusted voice.  And I think he is essential. To the extent this is -- this administration  is launching any sort of coordinated response to this threat, Dr. Fauci, I  think, is absolutely critical to that, because he is the great communicator  here. 

Donald Trump believes he is -- he is always the great communicator, the  only communicator. And we know he does not like being contradicted in  public. We know he does not, in fact, like to be contradicted in private.

He doesn`t -- and certainly not by people who work for him. We have seen  the reporting that he`s upset about this. But I do know that President  Trump understands television. And so he has decided that we will have these  daily televised spectacles, these daily episodes of the reality show.

And I`m betting and I`m hoping, frankly, that he understands that Dr. Fauci  is essential to that...

MELBER:  Right. 


ROBINSON:  ... and to not -- when Dr. Fauci isn`t there, there`s a -- it`s  like the main character is not there. 

MELBER:  Well, when he isn`t there, it`s even more dangerous, Gene, which I  -- before I lose you, I want to play some of this reporting, NBC exclusive,  with -- a discussion with the widow of someone who, as mentioned died, this  week after trying the drug that Donald Trump just threw out there. 

Take a look. 


VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER:  Did you see the president`s  press conference? Where did you hear about...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. Yes. We saw the -- we saw his press conference.

It was on a lot, actually. 

HILLYARD:  And then what -- and then what -- did you seek out chloroquine? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I had it in the house, because I used to have koi  fish. 


MELBER:  We`re over on time, but I wanted to let you speak to that briefly,  Gene. 

ROBINSON:  No, look, it`s a tragedy, right?

A man died because he heard about this drug that the president was touting  as a miracle cure. We needed Dr. Fauci to tell us, it`s not a miracle cure.  Don`t go out and try to hoard and take chloroquine. You can really hurt  yourself.

Even if you get pharmaceutical-grade chloroquine, it does have side  effects. And for some people, it can be dangerous. We have no idea what the  dosage would be. That`s the information we need. 

That`s why Dr. Fauci is so essential. 

MELBER:  All well put. And we wanted to get your views on this.

Pulitzer Prize winner, "Washington Post" writer Eugene Robinson, thank you  so much. 

We have a lot more in this hour and next hour, where I will be anchoring  special coverage.

We`re going to fit in a break and be right back. 


MELBER:  We are in the midst of a whole range of developments, obviously,  mostly virus-related, the Congress working on the stimulus bill.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis will be talking about Donald Trump`s hope for  reopening the country by Easter in the next hour on MSNBC. 

And something else interesting that affects so many people, including  people working around the country, the closure of so many restaurants and  bars. Well, "Top Chef" host Tom Colicchio will join in on MSNBC, discussing  how this is impacting restaurants and the president`s timeline. 

And I will tell you one more thing I mentioned earlier. I will actually be  back anchoring our next hour of special coverage right after a quick break. 

Keep it right here on MSNBC.