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Dr. Birx TRANSCRIPT: 4/27/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Mike Saag, E.J. Dionne, Howell Raines

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So, the blueprint lays out the roles and responsibilities to enhance our partnership between the private sector and the public sector, bringing together state and local governments with the federal government to ensure that we can accomplish and achieve our core principles and objectives.

We can have the first slide.

The core elements of the testing plan include both -- three elements, robust diagnostic test plans developed in partnerships with state -- and I just really want to think the governors and the health officials, both at the state and local levels who`ve been working with us day and night to work through these issues, and also all the laboratory directors in many of the states, as well as the American Society for Microbiology, have been working with us to ensure that the plans were efficient and effective.

Within the robust diagnostic testing plans, it was really unlocking the full capacity of the state, increasing the number of testing platforms. We now have multiple tests for different platforms, increasing the ability to collect samples, increasing testing and laboratory supplies, and ensuring that we work together to make sure that every client receives the tests that they need.

This is added with timely monitoring systems. And what do I mean by that? Systems where we bring together the ability to not only diagnose the symptomatic, but proactively and interactively work with individuals that we know are at higher risk.

We have worked with states to look at where the outbreaks have occurred when they are not in the large metros. And we see that it occurs very often in places of closed settings, among our Native Americans and among our long-term care facilities.

So, an active monitoring program that is active, integrated, and innovative. And then combining this with the third element, which is the rapid response program, relying on CDC to be working with state and local governments to ensure that every symptomatic case and, critically, the asymptomatic cases are quickly tracked and traced to ensure that we can not only control this epidemic, but predict outbreaks before they expand.

And then, finally, the plan includes approach of using science and technology to develop even newer platforms, more efficient testing, really ensuring that the antibody tests that are utilized and recommended by both FDA and CDC have high quality in predicting both exposure to the virus and antibody development, and then, finally, working on innovative tests that could be high-throughput and point-of-care, an antigen-based test, or a point-of-care expanded nucleic acid test.

Thank you.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thank you, Mr. President. And, thank you, Ambassador Birx.

If I could have the next slide, please.

Want to spend just a couple minutes about telling -- going over where we have been, but, more importantly, where we`re going.

I think we all can understand how we can group this into three distinct phases. First is our launch phase, when we were really engaging the emerging epidemic, and the types of things we need to do, for example, mobilize the private sector to develop tests and have EUAs.

And I think you know, over the past two months, the FDA has issued 67 emergency use authorizations, which is far outpacing anything that has been done or could have ever been imagined.

Galvanizing the research community and the commercial labs. The reason why we`re here with ACLA labs, having done about three million tests, is because of that day when it was galvanized by the president and the vice president.

We also set models in the community, those first community-based testing sites that were federally supported, and really under the direction of the U.S. Public Health Service, people who had been in Japan testing people on the Diamond Princess, to assure that it would be done right and it would be done safely for everyone involved.

Then we moved to really scaling. That phase was very, very important, because we knew we needed to be at an immense scale to enter the third phase about supporting opening again.

This again -- for example, a lot of my life is about swabs. It was enhancing the production capability of a small company in Maine called Puritan that you will hear a whole lot more about that is provide -- that is sort of the swap provider for the country, but also because of the FDA actions and the actions of scientific community being able to broaden the types to spun polyester.

So, U.S. cotton can now come in and start delivering within the next couple of weeks three million swabs per week of a different type. It also did things like expanding the community-based testing sites. Whereas we started small with the commercial partners, you see today, right now, we have 73 of this 2.0 sites going to 110.

And, very importantly, this demonstrated the model. And 68 percent of those sites are in communities of moderate or high social vulnerability, and 22 percent are in the highest social vulnerability communities, so that we can make sure the testing gets where it needs to be.

You have just heard that that could be expanded to thousands of sites.

And, finally, stage three, which is very exciting, coordinating with governors to support testing plans and rapid response programs.

Over the past week, a multidisciplinary team from the White House, HHS, FDA, FEMA has met virtually with multidisciplinary teams from every state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia to understand what their testing aspirations are, and to make sure that we can meet those demands.

We`re going to have another round of those calls this week. But, as we talked about earlier today, we will be able to supply every state with the -- with the supplies and the tests that they need that will dramatically increase the number of tests we have done to this point.

And just to give you an idea, the supplies that we will be providing to states, the minimum that we`re supplying to states is approximately double in that month than the Republic of Korea has performed in the four months to now accumulated, to give you an idea of the amount of testing that we`re going to be -- going to be doing.

So, I`m -- very exciting right now, as we complete this ecosystem, with the large reference labs, the LabCorp and Quest providing the very high- throughput, large-scale testing, the galvanizing of the hospitals and academic labs that Dr. Birx has done by a machine-to-machine understanding and promoting that with the governors, and, of course, using point-of-care testing, when and where that`s very important to stop outbreaks or in remote areas, like in the Indian Health Service or in Alaska.

Thank you, Mr. President.


Great job. Thanks, Brett.

OK. So, with that, we`re here to answer some questions. And Mike is up here also. So, we will answer.

Steve, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) governors grapple with when and how to open their states, what`s the best advice from you on what they should do?


TRUMP: Well, we want them to do it. We recommend that they do it as quickly as possible, but safely.

We want everyone to be safe. And I think you`re seeing that. You`re seeing a lot of governors get out. And they want to open it up. Many are thinking about their school system, that -- not a long way to go in the school system right now for this season, for this year.

But I think you will see a lot of schools open up, even if it`s for a very short period of time. I think it would be a good thing, because, as you see, in terms of what this vicious virus goes after, young people seem to do very well. Young people seem to do very well.

So, I know that there are some governors that aren`t necessarily ready to open up their states, but they may be ready to open up their school systems. We will see. But that`s their choice.

But the word is safety, OK? Rapid, but safety.

Yes, please. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

I have a question for you regarding one of the members of your Coronavirus Task Force. And that`s Secretary of HHS Alex Azar.


QUESTION: On January the 28th, he was in the Briefing Room. And in the Briefing Room, he told reporters, for the individual American, the virus should not be an impact on their day-to-day life.

Three months later, more than 55,000 of our fellow Americans have now lost their lives.

Mr. President, why is he still your top health adviser? Why is he still serving as the HHS secretary?

TRUMP: Well, I think it`s a very unfair question, because you had many great professionals, some of them you have great respect for. And you have many people in the other party.

You have mentioned Alex Azar. But you have many people in the other party that have said the same thing and with even more confidence. So, a lot of people didn`t get that right.

I was -- I was very fortunate, whether it was through luck or whatever, that we closed the border. We put a ban on China, other than our citizens coming in. We had our citizens. You can`t keep out American citizens. Gee, you can`t come back into your country. That`s a little tough to do. But we put a ban on China. That was very fortunate.

But I could tell you that Nancy Pelosi was dancing in the streets in Chinatown. She wanted to go, let`s go out and party. Now, that was late into February. So, you don`t mention that. But you could mention that.

Go ahead. Any other -- please, go ahead. Go ahead.


QUESTION: ... since April the 3rd, Mr. President. He has not been in a briefing, Mr. President...

TRUMP: Yes, please, stand up.

QUESTION: ... since the April the 3rd. Does that show confidence in him?

TRUMP: You should -- you should have no complaints.


QUESTION: Mr. President.

Yesterday, you retweeted someone who alleged that Democrats have quoted -- quote -- "inflate" -- "inflated" the mortality rate of the coronavirus by underreporting the infection rate.

Do you believe that`s true, that there`s some sort of conspiracy theory regarding the number of infections states are reporting?

TRUMP: Well, I can only say what we`re doing. We`re reporting very accurately.

If you look at other countries, other countries are not. I mean, you can look at China. You can look at numerous countries where I don`t think those are right numbers.

I can only say what we`re doing. It`s very important to us to do very accurate reporting. And that`s what we`re doing.

Jon, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) by retweeting that, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you.

Please, Jon.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I wanted to ask you about the payment protection plan, the PPP plan to help small businesses.


QUESTION: There have been a lot of concerns today with the Web site just not working.

In fact, we heard from the American Bankers Association, saying that they are deeply frustrated, and that, until it`s fixed, American banks will not be able to help struggling small businesses.

Do you know -- can you give us an update?

TRUMP: Well, I just came out. And I hadn`t heard.

I heard there was a glitch. We will find out whether or not that is so. Certainly, it did work out very well for the original amount of money. This is the second amount. And I`ll find out about that.

We will find -- we`re relying on the banks to go out and do an accurate job.

Yes, please, in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: ... all the companies that get aid, Mr. President?


TRUMP: Well, I wouldn`t mind doing that. I don`t know what the legal status of something like that -- I would like to do that, as far as I`m concerned.

I`m not involved in that process. But I would certainly like to have it listed. I`d have to find out if there`s a legal problem. But if there isn`t, I would do it gladly.


QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.


QUESTION: Charlie Spiering of Breitbart News.

And a majority of polls show that Americans blame China for the spread of the coronavirus, and yet they`re taking advantage of the crisis to make the world more dependent on their supply chains.

How do you get -- how do you hold China accountable? And how do you keep our country...


TRUMP: Well, Charlie, there are a lot of ways you can hold them accountable. We`re doing very serious investigations, as you probably know.

And we are not happy with China. We are not happy with that whole situation, because we believe it could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped quickly, and it wouldn`t have spread all over the world. And we think that should have happened.

So, we will let you know at the appropriate time. But we are doing serious investigations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) American businesses from relying on China for their supply chains? How do you -- how do you fix that?

TRUMP: Well, we have already discussed that, and especially having to do with medical supplies and others -- and others.

If you look prior to this virus, the deficit was coming way down under my administration because I put massive tariffs on China. We took in tens of billions of dollars, gave some of it to the farmers who were unfairly targeted by China. Nobody`s ever done that before. We never took in 10 cents from China.

Now, all of a sudden, I think you know very well, we have taken in tens of billions of dollars. I helped the farmers by giving them two years ago $12 billion, all coming from China. And we had plenty left over too.

And then, the following year, $16 billion, and, this year, we`re also going to help our farmers. But nobody`s ever done a thing like that, because they were targeted unfairly by China.

So, we`re doing a very strong investigation. And we will let you know what the result of that is. We should be able to get the answers too.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

TRUMP: Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: As you talk about potentially reopening up America again, as we see in the slides behind you, what data are you going to look at in the future to see if restrictions need to be reimposed?

TRUMP: Yes, we`re looking very much and reliant very much on the local areas, the governors. And that`s been the way it has been for me, maybe not for everybody. But, for me, that`s the way it`s been at the beginning and from the beginning.

The governors, some of them are doing an extraordinary job, not all of them, but some of them. And I think all of them maybe has a -- have a chance to do that. Some will be a little bit different. The areas are much different. Manhattan is much different than Montana.

You have a lot of different circumstances, but -- and, obviously, if you look at the virus, it hits some areas, hasn`t hit very much other areas, not even at all, almost not at all. But the entire country has been infected.

West Virginia, as an example, I spoke to Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, and they were long before anything hit, and they had numerous deaths, even in West Virginia, and they were really the last one to be hit.

So, we`re dealing with the governors. We had a really great call today, as I told you, very, very solid. These are -- these were not complaining people. These were people that were -- they had everything they needed. They had their ventilators. They have their testing. They see their testing is growing. They`re growing they`re testing. We`re helping them. We`re getting them what they need.

And that was a group. I wish -- I mean, I`m sure some of you were on the line, even though you weren`t supposed to be. And I think you know what the result of that call was.

Please, go ahead.


QUESTION: Following up on Charlie`s question on making China -- holding them responsible, Germany sent a bill for $130 billion -- excuse me -- 130 billion euros for the damages caused by the coronavirus.

Would your administration look at doing the same?

TRUMP: Well, we can do something much easier than that. We have ways of doing things a lot easier than that.

But Germany is looking at things, and we`re looking at things. And we`re talking about a lot more money than Germany is talking about.

Yes, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President...


QUESTION: We haven`t determined the final amount yet.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: It`s very substantial, if you look at the world.

I mean, this is worldwide damage. This is damage to the U.S. But this is damage to the world.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Attorney General William Barr directed federal prosecutors to watch out for state and local officials that might be violating the Constitution by some of their stay-at-home orders.

What`s the strategy there? Will the federal government sue local authorities or...


TRUMP: Well, you would have to ask Attorney General Barr.

But I think he wants to see -- like everybody, he wants to see people get back, and he wants to see people get back to work. He doesn`t want people to be held up when there`s no reason for doing it.

In some cases, perhaps it`s too strict. He wants to make sure that people have their rights and they maintain their rights, very importantly. So, a lot of people would agree with him. But you would actually have to ask that question specifically, from a legal standpoint, to Attorney General Barr.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) federal government suing state officials?

TRUMP: It would depend on the state. It would depend on the circumstances of the state.

I mean, some states are perhaps a little early, and some states are a little bit late. And the attorney general -- I read that, and I saw that. And, frankly, the attorney general doesn`t want to have rights taken away, because, you know, there are some people, they are not allowed to open up a store or -- they`re going to lose their livelihood.

And, by the way, that causes death also, between all of the things that happen. And this has been a big study. The fact that people aren`t allowed to have their freedom causes a tremendous amount of problems, including death.

So, that`s what he`s talking about.

Please, in the back.

QUESTION: Maryland and other states, Governor Larry Hogan specifically said they have seen a spike in people using disinfectant after your comments last week.

I know you said they were sarcastic, but do you take any....

TRUMP: I can`t imagine why. I can`t imagine why.


QUESTION: Do you take any responsibility if someone were to die?

TRUMP: No, I don`t. No, I can`t imagine -- I can`t imagine that.

Yes, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that we need to increase testing by double, at least, and so does the Rockefeller Foundation.

When are we going to be doubling testing?

TRUMP: Well, that -- it doesn`t really matter what they say there. And we - - I just left him. We just had a meeting.

But -- because we`re going to have much more than double it very soon. Now, there are big believers in testing, and then there are some governors that don`t feel as strongly about it at all. You understand that. They feel much differently about it.

But we`re going with maximum testing, because it`s something we`re very capable of doing. But we will be much more than doubled.

You know, Mike, I`d like you to answer that. We`re going to be much higher than doubled on testing very shortly.

Mike? Please. Yes, please.


I hope the American people looking on today are as proud as the president and I are of the incredible public and private partnership that you heard from today.

It was two months ago that we had done less than 10,000 tests for the coronavirus in the United States. But because the president brought together these incredible commercial labs, brought together the best known retailers in America, now, Mr. President, we have 5.4 million tests.

And, as you said earlier today, we have -- we have done more than 200,000 tests in a single day.

As we met with governors today, I sensed the enthusiasm among governors for the way that testing is scaling all across the country. And we assured them on the call today that we`re going to continue to directly partner with them to make sure that all of the resources you heard about today continue to be expanded.

But I want to ask Admiral Giroir, who is literally working day in and day out with the governors, to describe some of the numbers for exactly where we will be. We`re -- we`re north of five million tests done now.

It is -- it is remarkable to think of the pace of acceleration.

But, Admiral, maybe you could speak about exactly when we will reach the point that some of the experts say that they think we need to be at, whether that be -- be 300,000 tests a day or 500,000 tests a day.

But what`s remarkable to me, as a layperson, Mr. President, is, because of this partnership you have forged, we`re -- we`re almost there. And we will be there very, very soon for the American people.

But everyone who is as anxious to see America reopen as this president and our entire administration are should know that the three-phased approach that the president outlined 10 days ago, we believe, and I believe increasingly governors understand around America, that we have a sufficient amount of testing today, for every state that qualifies to enter phase one, to begin to reopen their economies.

But, Mr. President, with your permission, I`ll just ask Admiral Giroir give some specific numbers about -- about how quick -- for all that we have done, how much more quickly you will see an expansion of testing because of the partnership that you witnessed again here today.

GIROIR: Thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President.

The number of tests that need to be done depends on the state level. You understand that places where there`s high virus circulating will need many, many more tests. Places that do not have high virus circulating may need less tests.

But let`s just assume Dr. Fauci was talking about, about a four-million- per-month number, which was sort of a week ago where we -- where we are.

So, we will -- according to the governor`s plans, for next month, we will that easily double that four million number. We will have over 20 million swabs that we`re going to send out. We will have over 15 million tubes of media.

We have all the tests matched machine to machine in a focused area. We have gone state by state and understand that. And this is not even including what you just heard, the five-million-per-month test by LabCorp and Quest, or the point-of-care tests by Abbott, or all the other tests that are out there.

So, in May, we are going to be doing more testing in this country. And people talk about South Korea a lot. The state -- the states with the least amount of testing will double the overall cumulative number per capita that South Korea has done in four months, to give you that understanding.

TRUMP: Go ahead, Jon.

QUESTION: Yes, I`m sure. And this sounds incredibly promising, Walgreens, CVS with the drive-through tests, the diagnostic (OFF-MIKE).

But we sat here in the Rose Garden back on March 13, and these companies were here. Some other companies were here. By my count, only 69 drive- through test sites have been set up by the companies that were here.

I`m wondering if you -- and, of course, Mr. Vice President, back in early March, you said we`d be at four million tests by the following week. We`re just now got there in the last few days.

So, what have you learned about what went wrong a month-and-a-half or -- over the last month-and-a-half or two months? And what`s going to go right now? What lessons have you learned from the mistakes over the last month- and-a-half or so?

PENCE: Jon, I appreciate the question, but it represents a misunderstanding on your part, and -- and, frankly, the -- a lot of people in the public`s part about the difference between having a test vs. the ability to actually process the test.

I mean, the truth was, when the president tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force two months ago, we saw the production of lots of test kits going into the marketplace.

But as the president has said many times, what he understood early on was, the old system would never be able to process the tests at the massive volume that we would need in the midst of an epidemic.

And that`s why the president brought together these extraordinary commercial labs that you have heard from today, literally sat them down in the Roosevelt Room and said, we need you to turn all of your energies loose on doing the kind of high-speed testing that would be necessary for us to reach the numbers we`re at today.

And so there was no disconnect at all. There were -- there were lots of test kits out there, Admiral. And, frankly, there still are today. There are literally millions of tests that could be run in the old-style slow laboratory that is -- are still conducting tests today, whether it be at the CDC or at state laboratories.

But what the president brought about with this public-private partnership has brought us to the point where we have done 5.4 million tests to date. And, literally, you just heard that, by next month, it could -- we could be doing as many as two million tests a week all across the country to give the American people confidence that we can reopen and get our economy moving again.


QUESTION: When you said four million tests seven weeks ago, you were just talking about tests being sent out, not actually being -- being completed?

I`m a little confused.

PENCE: Jon, I -- I think precisely correct that, in my first week on this job, we were informed at HHS -- I believe IDT was the vendor, Admiral Giroir -- that had distributed a million, was distributing another four million.

And we believe they did. But, again, those were tests that, frankly, but for the president`s leadership, we`d still be waiting on those tests to be done in many cases, because they were tests that were designed to be run in the old laboratory model.

But, early on, at the president`s direction, we brought in these incredible commercial labs. We partnered with these extraordinary retailers. And now we stand here today, literally, one day last week, more than 200,000 tests in a single day.

About the time that we were making those comments, we had -- we had done less than 25,000 tests in the entire country. But we have met this moment with American ingenuity, with the incredible companies that are represented here, and we couldn`t be more proud.


TRUMP: I think it`s very important to know -- and this, you can get from any other country, I think, if they`re being honest -- not only do we have the most testing in the world, by far, but we have, by far, the best testing.

OAN, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you.

As -- I`d like to switch gears and talk about General Flynn.

There are reports circulating now that he may well be fully exonerated this week. If that were -- if that were the case, is there any reason why you wouldn`t bring him back into the administration?

TRUMP: I will only say this.

I think that General Flynn is a wonderful man. He had a wonderful career. And it was a disgrace, what happened to General Flynn. Let`s see what happens now.

But what happened to General Flynn should never happen again in our country. What happened to other people should never happen again in our country.

What happened to your president of the United States should never again be allowed to happen.


QUESTION: Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you.

Today, one of your top economic advisers, Kevin Hassett, he said that the U.S. is likely to experience a 20 to 30 percent decline in the GDP in the second quarter, the worst since the Great Depression.

Do you agree with that assessment?

TRUMP: I don`t know.

But I can tell, you the third and the fourth quarter in particular are going to be, I think, spectacular. We were talking about it with the executives. I think we`re going to have a phenomenal third quarter.

Nobody, except one country, can be held accountable for what happened. Nobody`s blaming anybody here. We`re looking at a group of people that should have stopped it at the source.

But -- so, what happens in second happens in second. What we are doing is, I think we`re going to have -- you`re going to see a big rise in the third. But you`re going to see an incredible fourth quarter. And you`re going to have an incredible next year.

I think you`re going to have a recovery. Look, I built -- they were just telling me inside -- and it`s fact -- I built the greatest economy -- with the help of 325 million people, I built the greatest economy in the history of the world.

And one day, because of something that should have never been allowed to happen, we had to close our country. We had to close our economy. I built it. We had the best employment numbers and the best unemployment numbers for Hispanic American, for African-American, for Asian American, for everybody, best stock market numbers.

And, by the way, the stock market was up very substantially today. And people are seeing a lot of good things, a lot of very smart people investing in the stock market right now. It`s at 24000, approximately 24000.

And if you would have said, with the tragedy that this country had to endure and go through, with all of the death and the people that died and were so badly hurt by what happened, and you can only say, God bless them.

But if you would have said that our country would be in the position we`re now -- we`re ready to move forward. We will never forget loved ones. We will never forget these great people that sacrifice for a reason of incompetence or something else other than incompetence, what happened at a point where they could have protected the whole world, not just us, the whole world.

But we had the greatest economy ever in the history of our world. And I had to turn it off in order to get to a point where we are today. And now we`re making a comeback. And I think we`re going to have, economically, from an economic standpoint, next year an unbelievable year.

And I think that you`re going to see a fantastic fourth quarter, and the third quarter, we will start to build. But the second quarter, obviously, you`re going to have GDP, lack of growth

I`m looking at the head of Walmart. What a job Walmart`s done in going through something. I mean, they were -- they were doing yeoman`s work, including getting us millions of -- of really very, very protective outfits and -- I mean, the job that Doug, and Walmart did was incredible, millions of outfits.

And those are high-quality. I have seen them. Those are high-quality. That`s what we need.

So, people have stepped up to the plate. I think we`re going to have a really good -- I think it`s going to start building. I think it`s going to build fast. I think it`ll be a tremendous, tremendous comeback.

And, you know, so I say, I built the greatest economy, with all of the people that helped me and all of the people in this country. We built the greatest economy the world has ever seen. And we`re going to do it again. And it`s not going to be that long.

OK. Yes, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, opening up the country, how long will you keep up the travel restrictions for Europe?

TRUMP: Well, we`re looking at that. And it depends on how long it`s taken Europe to heal.

Italy is starting to make a comeback. I`m very happy to see that with my friend the prime minister. He is -- it`s tragic, what went on in Italy and Spain and France and Germany, frankly, and every -- every country over there. It`s tragic.

But we will be looking at what`s happening in Europe. And, certainly, we want to do that, and they want to do it too. They want to do it very badly.



QUESTION: Do you have any update on Kim Jong-un`s health?

TRUMP: Say it?

QUESTION: Have you gotten any update on Kim Jong-un`s health? Has he responded to your letter from March?

TRUMP: On Kim Jong-un?

I can`t tell you exactly. Yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can`t talk about it now.

I just wish him well.

If I weren`t president, you`d be in war. You would`ve been in war with Korea. You would have been in war with North Korea if I wasn`t President -- that, I can tell you. He expected that -- that, I can tell you.

I -- I hope he`s fine. I do know how he`s doing, relatively speaking. We will see. You`ll probably be hearing in the not-too-distant future.

All right. One or two more. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Is he alive? are you confirming he`s alive?

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to ask you a question about the 2020 election.


QUESTION: Your likely Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, recently suggested that you were considering changing the date of the election, that you might try something like that. That`s my first question.

The second question is...

TRUMP: I never even thought of changing the date of the election. Why would I do that? November 3. It`s a good number. No, I look forward to that election.

And that was just made-up propaganda -- not by him, but by some of the many people that are working, writing little statements. I see all the time: Statement made -- you say, So, statement made per Joe Biden. Sleepy Joe. He didn`t make those statements, but somebody did. But they said he made it. No, let him know I -- I`m not thinking about it at all. Not at all.

Go ahead. In the back, please. Please.

QUESTION: The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee came out with the fourth installment of its report. It concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections and there was not political bias. Do you accept its conclusions?

TRUMP: Oh, I don`t know. I haven`t seen the report. I haven`t seen the report.

Yes, please. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, nice to see you. I think you have a good relationship with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. But last Saturday, Senator Graham -- he mentioned in the FOX News -- he interviewed. He said...

TRUMP: He didn`t say anything last Saturday.

QUESTION: ... that Kim Jong-un...

TRUMP: Nobody -- nobody knows where he is, so he obviously couldn`t have said it. If you have a -- this is breaking news.


TRUMP: That Kim Jong-un made a statement on Saturday, I don`t think so.

QUESTION: Yes, but the...

TRUMP: OK, go ahead. Let`s do -- let`s do one more. Please, in the back.

QUESTION: If an American President loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died in the entirety of the Vietnam War, does he deserve to be reelected?

TRUMP: So, yes, we`ve lost a lot of people. But if you look at what original projections were -- 2.2 million -- we`re probably heading to 60,000, 70,000. It`s far too many. One person is too many for this.

And I think we`ve made a lot of really good decisions. The big decision was closing the border or doing the ban -- people coming in from China -- obviously, other than American citizens, which had to come in. Can`t say, You can`t come in. You can`t come back to your country.

I think we`ve made a lot of good decisions. I think that Mike Pence and the task force have done a fantastic job.

I think that everybody working on the ventilators -- you see what we`ve done there -- have done unbelievable. The press doesn`t talk about ventilators anymore. They just don`t want to talk about them and that`s OK. But the reason they don`t want to talk -- that was a subject that nobody would get off of. They don`t want to talk about them.

We`re in the same position on testing. We are lapping the world on testing. And the world is coming to us. As I said, they`re coming to us, saying, What are you doing? How do you do it? And we`re helping them.

So, no, I think we`ve done a great job. And one person -- I will say this: One person is too many.

Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.


QUESTION: Why did Maryland have to go to South Korea to get 500,000 tests?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: It`s hard to tell exactly why the president canceled today`s coronavirus briefing, per se, and billed this as a news conference on reopening the country and testing, because he got into the same familiar pattern that we have seen day after day after day of taking questions from and answering and sparring with journalists.

Brief review: The president opened with -- quote -- "Things are moving along."

Perhaps stung by newspaper reporting over the weekend that he`s talked for 13 cumulative hours on this subject, while having spent 4.5 minutes on the victims, he said: "We grieve by their side." He repeated: "We do grieve."

He said: "You don`t hear about ventilators anymore -- anymore, except in a positive way."

He talked about so much unnecessary death in this country. But then he pivoted -- and this matches all the talking points we have seen come out from the Republican Party -- "This could have been stopped."

This is the China blame, the China pivot now to get heat off the administration. He said, there`s tremendous energy in this country right now. He said about the governors: "I think you will see a lot of schools open up. I think will it be a very good thing."

"The word" -- here`s a quote: "The word is safety, rapid, but safety."

He had heard there was a glitch in the PPP payment system. We will get to that with Stephanie Ruhle in just a second.

Another quote: "Some of the governors are doing an extraordinary job, not all of them. Governors have everything they need."

He said: "Staying in, shutting down causes death also." That`s a common theme he refers to.

Mike Pence got up and said, "We`re almost there."

They unraveled a three-phased approach today, a lot of complex-worded graphics.

A lot of people looking at this today will come away and say, basically, phase three means, states, over to you. Governors, over to you.

He took a question on General Flynn, and then on China again: "Nobody except for one country can be accountable for what happened."

So this is 100 percent, as he sees it and wants it to be seen, squarely, firmly on China. He relitigated -- quote -- "I built the greatest economy in the history of the world."

He confirmed Kim Jong-un is alive, said: "I hope he`s doing fine. I do know how he`s doing," but teased out that he certainly couldn`t talk about that, but we will be learning more in a short period of time.

Quote: "Yes, we have lost a lot of people," and then followed up with the quote: "We`re probably headed to 60,000 or 70,000."

And then he reminded us we`re lapping the world in terms of testing, though we continue to point out not in terms of percentage of our population. We are still way, way behind.

We have a number of people to talk to about what we just witnessed.

And with us now, Stephanie Ruhle, veteran of the investment banking and business world, host of the 9:00 a.m. hour on this network, also happens to be NBC News senior business correspondent.

Stephanie, lay out what you heard that doesn`t match the truth.


We should first start with that specific group of CEOs. The last time we saw them at the Rose Garden, we should remember, one company that Vice President Pence and President Trump talked about was Google. They said that Google was developing a special Web site. It would be ready Sunday.

That press conference was on a Friday. That Web site would enable people to fill out a questionnaire, figure out if they needed a test. If yes, it would direct you to a local testing center. That was on March 13.

That hasn`t happened yet. So, let`s start from there.

The president introduced this as the greatest leaders in the retail industry. And don`t get me wrong, a lot of them are. But what was very specific about every CEO there, whether it`s Walmart, CVS, Quest, LabCorp, they all run businesses that are considered essential businesses, they are open, and they are hiring.

They are not reflective in any way of the awful economic picture that we`re facing, and what most business leaders are. So it was very tough, at least for me, to hear the president keep talking about the retail industry, because the retail industry, Brian, is among the worst-hit.

There are 47 million people employed in retail. They are hemorrhaging jobs. They are hemorrhaging money right now. Retail industry pays $20 billion a month in rent.

And I assure you, anyone involved in retail watching the president was praying he was going to talk about some sort of national rent relief. And he mentioned PPP. This is the most important program for the 30 million small businesses in America, most of whom were shut out for the first tranche of it.

The second tranche, over $300 billion went online today. And I can tell you, it was disastrous, the execution.

The president said: I put this squarely on the banks.

I have got to tell you, I spent my entire day talking to people who couldn`t get on the system and the banks.

And I`m going to give you one example. The five largest banks had $100 billion worth of loans approved, underwritten, ready to go. They needed to put them in the SBA system called E-Tran. And you know what happened with the system? It broke down, not because great people at the SBA aren`t working around the block, but because it`s the Department of Motor Vehicles that has been cast to put on the Grand Prix.

They cannot do that. It`s been an absolute failure. And every day that these small businesses don`t get money, Brian, we are closer to them going out of business.

And I will make one more point. The president continues, as he attacks China, to say, but guess what, we brought in billions in tariffs from China, and that money went to help the farmers in trouble.

That is a flat-out lie. China didn`t pay us the tariffs. We pay the tariffs. The president then put together $30 billion of farm aid, government money to the farmers, because of the trade war he put on that made the demand for their goods drop.

So, the president is absolutely not telling the truth when it comes to trade and China. And when he talks about building the greatest economy ever, and in the third or fourth quarter, it is going to be better than ever, I ask you this, Brian.

Even if we open up everything in this country, which you know we`re not, even if we do, once we adhere to social distancing rules, and our restaurants, bars, stadiums, airplanes are only half-full, which will be the rules, we will face a wave of bankruptcies again in this country.

So, the president simply isn`t telling the truth. And to bring on a tiny group of CEOs that represent a small vertical of businesses that are thriving because the demand for their goods and services are massive because of corona, they do not represent the rest of the country, and certainly not -- they do not represent the economic devastation that we`re facing today and we`re going to face going forward.

WILLIAMS: Steph, why do you reckon he keeps saying, we brought in billions of dollars in tariffs?

RUHLE: Because it sounds good. Because we know that the -- we know that farmers got $30 billion in aid.

And the president likes to say that he`s a free markets guy. Farm aid, aid like that is a form of socialism. The president doesn`t want to acknowledge that. I get that.

So, he likes to say, we got it from China, because at the end of the day, Brian, when you`re suffering, when you need help, and someone writes you a check, I don`t think you`re spending that much time figuring out where the check came from. You`re just glad that you got it.

But if people actually dug in and understood where that money comes from, and what it does to our overall economy, they might feel different.

But when you`re desperate and you need to support your family, you`re just happy to have the relief. And if the president tells you, those bad people in China are the ones who got us that money, you feel pretty good.

Unfortunately, it`s a flat-out lie.

WILLIAMS: Final question.

When people hear, as they will, a statement he repeated several times today, and has certainly said in the past -- quote -- "I built the greatest economy in the history of the world," how does that strike someone like you, with your background?

RUHLE: Brian, it`s just really hard for people to hear that right now.

It`s really hard for people to hear the president continue to say, look at the stock market.

Let`s say something about why the stock market is doing well. The stock market is not doing well because companies are making tons of money. The stock market, which is currently very disconnected from the real economy, is staying afloat because the Fed is pumping an enormous amount of liquidity, four times the amount of liquidity we saw after the financial crisis.

And they`re doing it to keep us alive. The president didn`t create the greatest economy ever. There wasn`t a turnaround. He deregulated. He created tax cuts. And guess what? We did a whole lot of hiring. Those are really good things.

But a lot of the good things that happened, happened because of consumer spending. And you know what consumers aren`t doing right now and they`re not going to do in three, six or 10 months? They`re not going to be out there spending, not with any great gusto.

So, he`s given a lot of false hope to people right now who are suffering.

WILLIAMS: Got to say, it`s tough to think about where the spending is going to come from, to your point.

Stephanie Ruhle, thank you for being part of our coverage.

Also joining us tonight, Dr. Joseph Fair is a virologist with the American Society for Microbiology. I believe they got a shout-out at today`s event. He is an epidemiologist and among our science contributors.

So, Doc, the numbers are something we have never gone after and repeated en masse. I tend to believe they are doled out to be withering, to be staggering. A number of reporters tried valiantly to remind the vice president that the numbers haven`t added up before.

The numbers don`t add up for this reason. You and I know that there are Americans who simply can`t get tested today. We will be impressed by the numbers when that is the case.


What we have seen over the last month is approximately a doubling of the number of -- the number of tests that we have run in this country. So, I think the plan that was laid out today was more aspirational than anything.

We have some significant challenges to get there. I am a big fan of the public-private partnerships. I worked in government a long time. And the public-private partnerships, especially when you have a drive and an initiative behind them, it does tend to drive the market and get the tests out.

And that`s what we are ultimately going to need, is those tests available really, frankly, everywhere, be it rural, urban, city environments. You need to be able to pick them up at the pharmacy. So I think they had a lot of the right people at the table to eventually get the tests out there that we need.

But, Brian, I think it`s going to take anywhere from, honestly, two to six months to get the real number of tests that we need availably to the -- for the country to operate safely.

WILLIAMS: And -- but you see what we see, and that is this trickling back into life.

We saw the beaches in Orange County, California, this weekend.

FAIR: Yes.

WILLIAMS: We have seen businesses just today, restaurants in Tennessee, opening with, if you have three booths along the wall, one of them is taped off, in keeping with social distancing.

So you`re watching your country kind of dip a toe into these waters, knowing we have a two-week delay now to see how successful this is.

FAIR: Absolutely.

And we -- other countries have done that, and they have done it too quickly, and they have regretted that decision. So, we`re going to see in places like Georgia, especially in about a week, whether or not that was a really -- a good idea or not, and how much worse it is, or if it`s worse at all.

So, I think we`re obviously going to have to reopen the country before there is a vaccine available, because a vaccine, realistically, is anywhere from 12 months to 18 months at the soonest, I think, available for mass production and use in humans widely.

So, I think we`re going to have to open the country before that time. But what we`re not seeing from the federal government or even a lot of state governments at this point, because it`s trying to happen a little too fast, are guidelines for individual businesses and how they should operate.

And to go to Stephanie`s earlier point, there`s going to be a lot of cut in business. And, frankly, a lot of businesses are not going to be able to stay afloat if they can, say, take 30 percent of the customers that they took before simply due to social distancing measures that are necessary during COVID-19.

WILLIAMS: Finally -- to Joseph Fair, thank you very much for your contributions to our wrap-up.

And, finally, to wrap up our wrap-up, we go to NBC News White House correspondent Hans Nichols.

Hans, let`s talk -- before we get to the context and background of what we learned today, let`s talk about the anatomy of a news story and White House insistence that these were done, the president was paring way back on his appearances, that these weren`t worth his time.

As I mentioned, the news cycle over the weekend was consumed with his theorizing about the insertion of U.V. light into the human body, the injection of disinfectant into the human body. He passed it off. He didn`t find it believable that complaints were up to poison hot lines and the like.

What was today, then, if this wasn`t the Coronavirus Task Force, but a news conference to get the country back open?

HANS NICHOLS, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Today seemed like a refutation of what the president and his entire team had been saying about testing up until a couple of weeks ago.

Remember, two weeks ago, there were enough tests. And now they are telling us that they need -- that they are going to be providing twice as many tests beyond twice as many tests.

So, yes, there was a lot of back-and-forth on just what kind of test qualifies as tests. We finally got a clear answer from Mike Pence. And that is that his earlier statements about a million, then four million, then double that amount of tests, actually only meant the test kits. It didn`t mean the ability to administer the test.

And I don`t want to get too ontological here, but there does seem to be a difference between the ability to administer a test and an actual test. And they acknowledged that today, that, before, they were just talking about the test kits, not the ability to process them.

I know, during the Clinton administration, we had a lot of conversations about what the definition of is, is. I think we finally have a definition of what a test is.

And now they`re acknowledging that a test isn`t a test until you can get a result, which would be the standard definition of a test.

Maybe I`m doing too much homeschooling here, but, in general, you give a test to find the results. They have acknowledged that.

When you heard the president talk about a good conversation with the governors, he seemed he back to his old position, which is, he`s encouraging governors, he`s offering them advice, he wants to see schools open up.

That`s a departure from what we had about two-and-a-half weeks ago, where he had the ultimate authority. So, he`s back to working in collaboration.

And just finally, on the China issue, the president didn`t go as far as what the Europeans are talking about, which is $130 billion, according to some numbers, in direct punitive damages.

The president hinted that they have some mechanism. He said, it`s an easier way. I don`t know if he`s talking about the tariffs that Stephanie alluded to earlier. But he didn`t go as far as the Europeans, which is actually trying to demand punitive damages.

So, in some ways, his rhetoric was hot on China, but his mechanism for enforcing that seems to be heretofore unknown.

And then one final point just on North Korea and the leader, Kim Jong-un, two slightly contradictory things. One, the president was pretty clear that no one has heard from him since Saturday or didn`t hear from him on Saturday.

But at same time -- and you mentioned this at the top of your remarks -- he was talking about Kim Jong-un in the present tense. He wishes him well. He knows how he`s doing.

All that suggests -- and there was a shout-out (AUDIO GAP) shout-out question yelled at him that Kim Jong-un is still alive. And that`s significant.

And the president, like he likes to do, teased something in the not-too- near-distant future -- Brian.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, that was the other news cycle of the weekend. A lot of folks woke up Saturday morning to news that, depending on your news source, indeed, Kim Jong-un had probably died.

Hans Nichols, who covers the White House for us -- Hans, thank you.

Back to homeschooling.

Our thanks as well to Stephanie Ruhle and Joseph Fair for joining our coverage, which continues live right now with Ari Melber -- Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Brian.

We will continue our coverage.

And I want to bring in our experts immediately, "Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne, Dr. Natalie Azar, a rheumatologist and NBC medical analyst, and Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Good to see everyone.

Dr. Azar, your thoughts on what`s important on the medical piece of everything we heard today?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Ari, look, we have placed a lot of emphasis on the testing, as we should have. It remains one of the most integral parts of reopening the economy.

And I would agree really with Dr. Fair`s assessment that it does appear to be a bit ambitious, although, certainly, I hope that those numbers will actually ring true.

Dr. Birx made a comment, though, that I think is important to remember, that the testing is only one piece. There`s also the monitoring systems that need to be in place that is to be able to diagnose symptomatic people, and also to do surveillance on our indigenous populations and also folks in long-term care facilities, and also the rapid-response programs.

That`s the isolation and contact tracing. And I think it`s also important to mention that, while we talk about the availability of the testing all the time, very little is being talked about in terms of the world reliability of the testing and interpreting the tests.

There`s been a lot written about how important it is that the sensitivity and the specificity, in particular the specificity, so that we don`t get a high false positive rate of these tests, and also what kind of tests are being done?

Are they just qualitative? Are they just saying, is there an antibody present or not? Or is it a more reliable, something called MELISA test, which actually quantitate the antibody titer, with the presumption, of course, that the higher the titer, the more immunity is conferred, which, by the way, has not been established yet.

MELBER: Understood.

E.J., looking at where the president landed today, as our previous coverage was mentioning, Brian Williams and others were covering this, he had a rough end of the week, even by his own standards.

There was all kinds of reporting about the disinfectant, bleach-type stuff, then backing off the briefings, then what we had today. It looked a lot like a White House task force briefing, although they claimed it was something different.

For context. We just want to show everyone something that documents this, the actual talk time in these briefings, where you have Dr. Fauci, who`s emerged as one of the most trustworthy sources, according to public polling, down at 5 percent of the speaking time. Dr. Birx, who has been a little more in the president`s corner, 10 percent, and then the whopping 63 percent of the time taken up by the president himself.

And so E.J., I`m curious what you think today shows, if it was just another task force briefing by a different branding.

E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I guess, these days, if the president does not suggest injecting a disinfectant, that`s a victory for him, because last week set such an incredible, dangerous standard.

And, as you know, Ari, all day long, we were told, well, he wasn`t going to do a briefing. So, what he did today was, first, he had all of these exact say, we are getting around to testing.

And he acted as if the administration never said anything that it said in the past about getting to a level of testing that we have never gotten to.

He also once again kept saying things that were just flatly untrue. He tries to pretend that we are doing a brilliant job on testing, when, if you look at the numbers on countries that were really heavily affected by this, we`re ninth in the world. We`re way behind Portugal and Italy and Germany measured as tests per one million people. We have an enormous problem there.

But the thing that really sort of made you say, well, what is he saying here is the moment when he said, well, somebody a long time ago decided not to do anything about it.

It`s -- again, this is about blame shifting. Who exactly is he blaming there?

MELBER: Right.

DIONNE: Is that about China? Is that about Obama?

So, we just got more of the same, without disinfectants, today.

MELBER: Dr. Saag, your views?    DR. MIKE SAAG, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Well, I`m a little confused, to be honest with you.

I heard a lot about testing today. And I heard the number four million tests, five million tests per month. But, actually, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, we`re looking for between somewhere between, at a minimum, of 500,000 to four million tests per day that are going to be needed.

So that`s a whole lot more than we`re talking about right now.

And the second point is, at least where I live, in the South, there`s a lot of states opening up, but there`s not a lot of planning that I have seen in terms of just saying, we`re going to go back and do social distancing.

I`m not sure what that means at a restaurant. I`m not sure what that means at a barbershop, because you have to come together in those settings.

What I`m very concerned about is that we`re going to end up back with more infections being transmitted and not enough tests to detect them, and we could end up slipping back to where we were in March.


To our doctors, Dr. Saag and Dr. Azar, I want to thank you both.

We`re coming up here on the end of the hour.

E.J. Dionne is going to stay with me. And I`m going to also bring in former executive editor of "The New York Times" Howell Raines.

Howell, take a listen to how a leader of a different country, Boris Johnson, spoke about battling this virus himself.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: If this virus were a physical assailant -- I can tell you, from personal experience, it is -- then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor.

I in no way minimize the continuing problems we face. I ask you to contain your impatience.


MELBER: Howell, it`s a reminder of a very different style.

Your views, as the president was returned today basically doing the same kind of stuff that the White House had leaked he was going to swear off, and then perhaps change the whole brief structure?

HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, with his usual acuity, E.J. Dionne put his finger on an important statement, some by the president.

Somebody a long time ago did something bad, and we do know who that person is.

Matthew Pottinger, the deputy NSC adviser, told the president in mid- January that our intelligence sources said this pandemic was coming. And President Trump did nothing for two months-plus. So, we know who did the wrong thing.

Now, lining up a group of drugstore executives does not amount to a national strategy. And what our medical authorities have made punishingly clear is, we don`t have the medical information right now, testing (AUDIO GAP) under the best case, to safely reopen the country.

We`re going to lose tens of thousands of people unnecessarily, I think, because of this premature opening. And, once again, the facts are coming from the American press. They`re coming from the traditional networks. They`re coming from cable news networks, with the radical exception of FOX. And they`re coming from our great national newspapers, like "The Times" and "The Post."

And I just think it`s important, at this moment, to -- with all this blather about fake news, to say the 60 percent of the American people who know Trump is failing are getting that news thanks to the traditional American journalistic workers of this country.

MELBER: We are short on time, but, E.J., a quick final thought?

DIONNE: Well, I think that we hit a wall last week after what the president said.

We need to approach him in a completely different way. We should have done that a long time ago, when he started talking about detergent.

I think what we need is the reasonable governors, who are really trying to struggle with this and do the right thing, they need to organize their own daily briefings, put somebody out there, and they need to band together, so they`re not worried about what they say and worry about, if they say something negative, Trump is going to reduce their aid.

You need a coalition of governors to stand up to Trump, both on the podium, but also on policy.

MELBER: It`s a striking point, and one we have touched on before.

There are different governors. Cuomo and Newsom have held their press conferences during the days. But whether Pelosi or Biden or someone at that stature held something in the evening that networks would feel pressure to take or, for fairness, keep an eye on, that hasn`t developed at this point.

And we`re going to continue to go to our journalists and our medical experts for our coverage.

I want to thank E.J. Dionne and Howell Raines joining me tonight, as you can see.

We are up against the end of the hour, so I`m going to be signing off, Ari Melber, anchoring on MSNBC. I will see you back here tomorrow.

Keep it on MSNBC.