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WH briefing TRANSCRIPT: 3/23/20, MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: David Shulkin, Andy Slavitt, Susan Michaels-Strasser, Kirsten Gillibrand, Susan Michaels-Strasser

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We`ve been in touch with the governors.  Today, I spoke with a man that I happen like. I spoke with Phil in New  Jersey. And we`re going to be doing something very meaningful in New  Jersey. We`re doing something.

I spoke with J.B. Pritzker. He called me today. We`re going to helping him  out in Illinois. We`re doing a lot of things in Florida. We`re doing a lot  of things between FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers and the admiral in  your group in terms of the purchasing, that`s what he does, he purchases,  he`s supposed to be great, I`ll tell you in about two days. But he`s going  to do a fantastic job.

So we have an incredibly talented group of people. But, yes, we`ll be doing  two things and three things at one time. While at the same time though,  we`re going to be watching very closely the hotspots. We`re going to be  taking care and watching very closely our senior citizens, especially those  with a problem or an illness, we`re going to be watching them very, very  closely. And we can do that and have an open economy, have an open country,  and we have to do that because that causes other problems. And maybe it  causes much bigger problems than the problem we`re talking about now. You  understand.

Jeff, please?

REPORTER:  Mr. President, following up on that same topic, and on your  tweet, do you think that the cure so far has been worse than the problem?

TRUMP:  I think the cure has been very tough. This has been very tough.  This was an operation. This was somebody going to a doctor and saying, we  need an operation. And we`ve had an operation. We`ve learned a lot, and  we`ve fixed a lot of problems.

One of the things we`ve fixed, if you look at the obsolete system that this  administration inherited, it wasn`t meant for this. It was meant for a  small group of people. And even for that, it was not very good and very  obsolete. We have a testing program now that will hopefully be able to be  used for many years into the future should we have another Event like this.

I don`t think you`ll have another event like this. This is very unique. You  look back into time. You look back decades and decades. We can name them  all even if you go back ten years. You know, you go back to `09, but that  wasn`t like this, as it turned out. But they lost a lot of people. We were  early. We were early, Jeff, because of the fact that we closed early. That  was a big move.

Please, Kristen? Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER:  You had said previously, I think from this podium, that the  virus could still be with us through July or August. By suggesting now that  you might -- or that the government might change these standards or these  recommendations --

TRUMP:  Well, it`s not change. No. We`re doing things -- yes, this was a  learning experience for the people of the country.

REPORTER:  I`m just wondering if the timeframe has changed for you, the  July/August time frame of when you think the virus will be under control.

TRUMP:  Well, I think we`ve learned a lot. I think that there`s so much  discipline now that we never had. Nobody ever said don`t shake hands. I did  actually before I became a politician, once I became a politician. Then  it`s hard to getting used to not doing it, because you do it with  everybody, literally thousands of people a week, you`re shaking hands with  big groups of people.

You know, there`s a lot of -- we`ve learned a lot. There`s a great  discipline that this whole country has learned, having to do with  distancing, having to do with shaking hands. I think a lot of it is going  to stay long after the virus is gone. I really think it`s probably good  practice anyway. But I think it`s going to stay long after the virus is  gone.

But we can -- we have to open our country, because that causes problems  that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems, far bigger. Look, this  is a medical -- a severe medical situation that could cause problems far  beyond the medical and then increase the medical problems to things that  had nothing to do with this original medical problem. We can`t let that  happen to our country. We have the greatest country in the world. I`m not  going to let that happen. But these two weeks that we have spent has been  an incredible learning period and process. Please, Kristen?

REPORTER:  One, you said it`s likely going to be weeks not months before  you suggest easing these guidelines that you put out. Have any of the  doctors on your team told you that`s the right path to pursue?

TRUMP:  We spoke to them today and I was telling them that we have two  things to look forward. Don`t forget, the doctors, if it were up to the  doctors, they may say, let`s keep it shut down, let`s shut down the entire  world, because, again, you`re up to almost 150 countries. So let`s shut  down the entire world and when we shut it down, that will be wonderful, and  let`s keep it shut for a couple of years, you know we can`t do that, and  you can`t do that with a country, especially the number one economy  anywhere in the world by far, number one economy in the world. You can`t do  that. Well, it causes bigger problems than the original. That`s why I talk  about the cure being worse than the problem. We can`t have the cure be  worse than the problem.

But what we have done -- so this is not retracing. This is not -- we`ve  done it really well, because this two-week period has been good. And I`m  not saying it ends at that time. We have another seven days or so. I`m not  saying it ends at that time. But I am saying it`s been like this incredible  learning process. That`s going to go into the future. That`s going to go  even as we open up our country.

And we`re going to be watching New York and we`re going to be watching  California, we`re going to be watching the State of Washington, and other  places, Illinois is becoming a hotspot. And we can do -- we can do both.

Now, we may quarantine -- we will be quarantining many people in these  areas. There are other areas that just aren`t affected or they`re affected  very little. And why would we close down 100 percent of the country? There  are areas within New York where New York will be open but there are areas  within New York.

Remember this, New York has the New York Stock Exchange. It has Nasdaq. It  has the exchanges. To close the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq and all  -- with all of the great work they`re doing, I mean, they`ve gone largely  to computer. You look at the floor, it`s incredible what they can do but  it`s fully open. But we don`t want to be doing that. But we can do -- what  I`m saying, basically, is that we can do two things simultaneously. And  we`ve had this incredible learning period.

Plus, people have been in a period and they won`t be calling, oh, gee,  because I`ve got many, many people, that now come to me and say, we get it,  we think we can really do it now and do it while we`re open. So at some  point, we`ll be setting some guidelines, we`ll be setting some datelines,  and then we`ll be announcing them in the not too distant future.

REPORTER:  Have any of the doctors on your team endorsed easing the federal  guidelines?

TRUMP:  Not endorsed. We talked together and I think they`re okay with it  and I`m okay with it. But this could be a much bigger problem. This could  create a much bigger problem than the problem that you start off with.

Now, other nations are going to have to do what they`re going to do but  they`ll probably do something very similar. But in our case, much more so  than anywhere else because of the magnitude of our economy, the tremendous  size of what we have built and what we have and the jobs involved. You have  160 -- almost 160 million jobs in this country now, the most ever by far,  by far, the most ever, the number of jobs, almost 160 million.

So we can`t turn that off and think it`s going to be wonderful. There will  be tremendous repercussions, there will be a tremendous death from that.  Death. You`re talking about death. Probably more death from that than  anything that we`re talking about with respect to virus.

REPORTER:  -- if we continue with these strict guidelines than if we ease  them?

TRUMP:  No. I think we`re going to do them both. I think -- that`s what I`m  saying. I think we can do them both.

Now, we haven`t announced a date but we`re fairly close to coming up with a  date and it`s a much shorter period of time than I`ve been hearing the news  report. And I think everybody should be happy with that. But great  knowledge was gained.


REPORTER:  I have two questions for you, Mr. President. My second one is on  what your economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said today. He was talking about  this and he said that they are going to have to make some difficult trade- offs if you do ease these guidelines because he wants the economy to --

TRUMP:  You mean with the Democrats that you`re talking about?

REPORTER:  No, no. He was talking about how you said the cure shouldn`t be  worse than the problem and he was talking about reopening the businesses,  getting the economy going back, going again. What are those difficult  trade-offs?

TRUMP:  Well, it is true. I didn`t hear him say that. But if he said,  difficult trade-offs, sure, it`s less convenient. Before, you walk, and you  hop in the subway and you grab the handle and you go to wherever you`re  going in on Wall Street and you do all sorts of things. And you go in and  you into the exchanges. And now, you`re not going to have to maybe think  about doing that or you`re going to think about doing it in a different  way. No, no, there are many trade-offs. It`s a different life

And maybe it will remain that way, frankly, after the invisible scourge is  gone. Maybe it`s going to stay that way. Not a bad thing to stay that way.  But, no, there are trade-offs, there`s no question about that. But I  actually think it`s going to -- I think, in the end, we`re going to end up  being bigger, better and stronger. We have learned a lot.


REPORTER:  We`re seeing an increase of cases in Latin America, in the  Middle East and some places in Asia. Are you considering a new round of  travel ban?

TRUMP:  No, we`re not, really. Something like that could happen, I guess.  But we`re not, really. They thought we were going to have bans within the  United States. We didn`t do that. We`re not going to have that. Hopefully,  that will take care of itself.

In Latin America there`s been an uptick. 

Yes, please.

REPORTER:  Mr. President, just quickly, a second question. What prompted  you to say, at the beginning of your comments, that you`re going to take  care of the Asian-Americans? Has there been something in particular that  was --

TRUMP:  Yes, because it seems there could be a little bit of nasty language  toward the Asian-Americans in our country, and I don`t like that at all.  These are incredible people. They love our country. And I`m not going to  let it happen. So I just wanted to make that point, because they`re blaming  -- people are blaming China and they are making statements to great  American citizens that happen to be of Asian heritage. And I`m not going to  let that happen. Please.

REPORTER:  Mr. President, you say you want to reopen the country but most  schools across the country are closed. Two states now are closed for the  rest of the school year. How are parents supposed to go back to work and  educate their children?

TRUMP:  Yes. The governors of the various states will have a lot of leeway.  If we open up, and when we open up, the governors in certain states, for  instance, you go to some of the states I just mentioned, those schools are  going to be open. In many cases, they`re open now. But the schools are  going to be open. In other cases, Governor Cuomo, Gavin Newsom of  California, certain governors are going to maybe have a decision to make.

Now, they may make a decision to keep them open in a certain part of New  York and maybe in Westchester County or wherever it may be, they`ll keep  them closed. But they`re going to have leeway. We`re giving the governors a  lot of leeway.

REPORTER:  Do you agree with the decision to close it several months out at  this stage (ph)? These governors are saying they`re expecting a peak in the  next couple of months and they`ve made the decision to --

TRUMP:  The governors will make those decisions. That`s going to be up to  the governors. And they`re very capable, they`ll be able to make the  decisions. Please.

REPORTER:  Sir, will you explain why the $2 trillion economic stimulus is  needed if you are going to reopen the country in a period of weeks, not  months?

TRUMP:  Because the virus has had a big impact on our country. So we`re  going to give a stimulus so that the workers can live their life. It was  not their fault. It wasn`t the workers` fault. And we are going to give a  kick so that -- it`s a kick. And this way, we think the workers can get a  fair start. The small businesses, we`re taking very good care of, we want  to take care of these small businesses. They really are the engine, and I  think so these great, big, beautiful businesses who, by the way, have been  very badly hurt also.

But the small businesses have really historically been the engine and they  still are the engine of the country. And you would be amazed, the workers  love those businesses. And the workers contact us and they want us to help  those businesses, because that`s where they`ve made their living, that`s  where they -- you know, they`ve been paid a lot of money over the years.

And you`ve been seeing what`s happened over the last three years where  salaries and wages have gone up very substantially for those workers and  then we got caught by this sudden craziness coming into our country and  coming all over the world. So we need to make sure that the companies are  strong and that the workers are strong. And that`s what we`re doing.

And, you know, hopefully the Republicans and Democrats are going to be able  to make a deal. They`re actually fairly close. But we`ll see what happens.  Please.

REPORTER:  Why does it still need to be $2 trillion, is my question.

TRUMP:  You have to save companies that have been shattered. You`re going  to have to save various -- you know a lot of the companies yourselves. We  had a company that was the greatest company in the world named Boeing.  Boeing is going to need some help. Now, Boeing had some difficulty before  that`s unlike others. We have other companies that didn`t have a problem  coming in. Boeing had the obvious problem that everybody knows about from a  little more than a year ago, a double problem, and it was a big one.

And then on top of it, as they`re getting ready to really show their stuff  on top of it, we all get hit by this. And obviously the airlines are going  to have a problem. But the airlines aren`t going to be buying from Boeing  or from anybody else right now because of this difficulty. So we have to  work with the airlines, we have to work with the cruise lines, we have to  work with companies like a Boeing, because Boeing is, potentially, again, a  great company in a very rough period of 13 months, very rough period, a  horrible period, unbelievable period.

If you would have told me this would have happened to Boeing, I wouldn`t  have believed it, because, to me, it was one truly one of the great -- one  of the truly great, probably almost one point of GDP, if you think of that.  It`s hard to believe that a company could have that kind of an impact. But  Boeing, we have to work with it for two reasons. Number one, it`s a great  company that we have to save. Number two, it produces unbelievable numbers  of jobs. And so, you know, the numbers have to be reflective of that kind  of a thing.

Please, you know what I`m going to do? We have wonderful people behind us  that are working very hard and we want Bill to get back to the Department  of Justice and we want the admiral to start going and doing their job, and  the same thing with Deb. If anybody would have any questions, maybe I`ll  ask Mike to stay around. But if anybody would have any questions for the  group, and otherwise I`ll let them go back to work. Please.

REPORTER:  Dr. Birx, we seem to be talking about different geographical  slopes on this, the curve would be changing. And yet you just said 20  percent numbers coming out of New York gives indication that we don`t know  quite when the seeds, to use your metaphor or plan. So how confident are  you on the start dates for each curve for each of the geographical areas  that the president seems to be indicating we`ll be adjusting the policy  for?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE:  So that`s a very  good question. So what we do know is now we can backtrack from people who  get very seriously ill to when they probably got infected. This is when  they were exposed. And so when you start backing out each of those pieces,  when you start seeing hospitalized patients, you know that the virus has  probably been there for three to four weeks substantially circulating  within the population. So that`s what we`re looking for.

Now, as all of our testing is improved, and we want to really applaud the  group that has worked on it, if you look at the pandemic flu preparedness,  all of this was built on a flu platform. It was never, ever thought that  you would have a simultaneous respiratory disease hitting at exactly the  same time as your flu hits in the country. And so when you`re doing all of  your flu surveillance, you could have small cases of these pneumonias and  flu-like illnesses characterized as a flu-like illness for the last four to  six weeks. And so that`s really a caution to all of us. And so when we get  through all of this, we`ll be looking at each of the pandemic preparedness  plans.

A long way of saying, we know Washington State is a little bit ahead of New  York because of the hospitalization records. The country -- the testing  that will be available is being able to do what the president talked about  simultaneously, simultaneously doing containment contact tracing at the  same time you`re doing mitigation.

And I think right now, we`ve put everything into mitigation. Yet if we  geographically get specific data by zip codes and counties, we`ll be able  to approach this in a laser focused way, making sure what we`re doing in  each of those areas is absolutely appropriate for where they are in their  own little bell-shaped curve.

REPORTER:  Dr. Birx, are you -- know possibly if they`ve been exposed?

BIRX:  So several of them have come to the FDA, I believe. Obviously,  that`s something I am very interested in, for two reasons. One --  retrospective on how where these infections were, who was actually infected  and how really asymptomatic versus mild versus all of that have comes into  the spectrum.

Secondly, by people who have high titers of those antibodies, those can  become our solution with plasmapheresis for those in need and the making of  hyperimmunoglobulin. So knowing who they are becomes really critical. But I  think we`re still a couple of weeks out. I have to go back and talk to the  FDA on where each of these are, because this is what saved us when you do  flu swabs, when you do strep throat swabs, and now where you do an HIV  test. So these are the kinds of tests that we know will be critical in the  future.

I wanted to say one other thing, because you see a lot of numbers out  there, about 70 percent of the population is going to get infected or 60  percent of the population based on those models. Understand that the way  you get to that number is you do nothing, and it goes through three cycles.

So they`re talking about this cycle that we`re currently in, another cycle  in 2021 and a third cycle in `21-`22 in order to get that level of  population infected. And you know we will have vaccines by the `21-`22  season and we`re going to hopefully have therapeutics in the fall of the  next season.

So the reason we`re so much focused on blunting the curve for this piece is  if the virus comes back, we`ll have much more facility both for diagnosis,  testing, monoclonal antibodies, treatments and then the vaccine.

REPORTER:  A question about the serology blood tests which some people have  said holds some real promise here. When will those be FDA-approved and when  will they be widely available?

BIRX:  So that`s what she was just asking about. So these IGGs and IGM, bot  point of care, I can tell you, it would be no problem making ELISA today.  But then you`re drawing blood, you`re processing blood, you`re running  plates, that`s what we did in the past. We really want a finger prick-type  assay, where you can just put a fingerprint on and get your IGG and IGM. So  that`s what we`re working on right now.

QUESTION:  So, realistically, how long until that is approved and  available? Would you...

BIRX:  I can`t answer, because I have to look at where each of these  companies are that are in their development processes.

QUESTION:  That sounds like a while, then? 

BIRX:  Well, there`s some that are developed now that they were using in  Singapore. 

So we`re looking at those to see how those work. 


TRUMP:  It should be fairly quick.

BIRX:  So we`re looking at those.

But we`re very quality-oriented, because we want to make sure we don`t give  people false negatives or false positives. 

TRUMP:  I have a question for you. 

So we have a lot of very angry media all around this room. And they want  one of these seats up. But, because of social distancing, we are keeping  them empty, and they are keeping them empty. 

Will there ever be a time when all of those really angry, angry people who  don`t like me much to start off with, but now they really don`t like me,  will there ever be a time when these seats are full, like full to the brim,  like it used to be, where people are almost sitting on each other`s lap,  and this whole row over here is packed?

And now they`re outside wanting to get in, and they`re very jealous of all  of these reporters. Will we ever have that again? Or is that something that  will be -- it`ll look like this forever?

BIRX:  So, we`re learning a lot about social distancing and respiratory  diseases. 

And I think those are the discussions we have to have in the future. It was  what you were talking about changing our whole behavior patterns of what we  touch and being conscious of that. 

I remember, when I was worried Saturday morning, I was trying to think,  what all did I touch on Friday? Did I touch a doorknob? Did I do this? Do I  do that? Did I not wash my hands? 

I mean, you go through this whole piece. Did I touch my face by accident?

So I think this awareness that we all now have that we didn`t have before,  where we would have pushed through that door or turned that doorknob  because we were in such a hurry, now I think all of us think twice. I think  all of you think twice.

TRUMP:  But, when the virus is gone, will the people be allowed to sit next  to each other again, in your opinion, in a tight room, with a tight...

BIRX:  I don`t know.

You will have to look and see if we have a new respiratory piece.  Certainly, this is the way we set up every clinic around the world when  we`re worried about T.B. and T.B. transmission. 

QUESTION:  Dr. Birx, I`m wondering if you could comment on the new measures  that Britain has put into place. 

Also, Germany has said that it doesn`t want to have crowds of less than two  people, except for families, which is a pretty restrictive number. Does  that inform your thinking as you are coming up with advice for this next  period for the president and vice president?

BIRX:  The president and vice president have asked us to look at every  single scenario in every single country, because, the more data we have,  the more our decisions can be completely data-informed, and really  understanding what impact that has. 

I mean, we`re interested right now -- I mean, Italy obviously waited until  about March 7. The virus had been circulating for almost four weeks before  actually going into that methodology. But for the first time, it looks like  their number -- their mortality rates are starting to decline, which would  be an illustration that things that they did two and three weeks ago may  actually have an impact.

Those are the kinds of data we`re looking at very carefully, as well as  very careful data within the United States of exactly where the virus is,  what`s the attack rate? 

MELBER:  We have been listening to President Trump and members of the  Coronavirus Task Force, who`ve been briefing reporters at the White House. 

Good evening to you. I`m Ari Melber anchoring our special coverage. 

Let me tell you exactly what we just saw, including some fact-checks. And  then we will bring in our experts.

President Trump today basically doubling down on comments that he made  overnight that disturbed many experts, because he suggested that he may  already be looking to ease up on some of these medically required  restrictions in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the United  States, discussing the idea that the administration would reassess its path  forward in as soon as 15 days. That would be March 30. 

That, of course, cuts against the medical guidance of some of his own  experts, particularly because there`s a two-week-or-more lag on the very  confirmed cases that we have. 

Now, before we bring in our experts, I want to tell you the very latest we  know tonight about this virus.

The World Health Organization warning, the pandemic is still today  currently -- quote -- "accelerating."

Well, and here`s the map, 41,000 cases in the U.S., a number that has  actually doubled just over the weekend, since Friday night. And we have now  over 450 deaths inside United States. 

We can also report for you the list of states that are urging people to  stay home continuing to grow today. It includes Massachusetts, Indiana,  Ohio, Delaware, Michigan, and Louisiana. 

All told, we are nearing all-time highs for the precautions being taken  across the country, because we have over 100 million Americans -- that`s  about one in three of you -- who are now subject to some type of stay-at- home guidance, precaution or government order. 

Meanwhile, when we talk about some of the conflicting statements that are  coming out of the Trump administration, today, Surgeon General Jerome Adams  warning the coming week will actually be critical to slowing the spread of  the virus. 


DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES:  I want America to  understand, this week, it`s going to get bad. And we really need to come  together as a nation.

Every single day counts. Every single second counts. And, right now, there  are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously. And you just  see it looking in California, people on the beaches. You see it in  Washington, D.C., the people out looking at the cherry blossoms. 

We need to take this seriously. 


MELBER:  Yesterday, meanwhile, President Trump approving a new request to  activate the National Guard to assist in three specific states that have  been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

That`s Washington state, California and New York, which has become  something of an epicenter, with a surge of new cases. 

Now Donald Trump again balancing what his own medical experts and his own  CDC advises, as well as what we have seen throughout this process, which is  times where the president will say one thing, and then say another,  basically today doubling down on the idea that, regardless of this new  information, the new numbers we have just showed you, his idea is that  America will soon be back open for business.


TRUMP:  A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was  suggesting, a lot sooner. 

We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We are not going  to let the cure be worse than the problem. 

At the end of the 15-day period, we will make a decision as to which way we  want to go, where we want to go, the timing. And, essentially, we`re  referring to the timing of the opening, essentially the opening of our  country, because we have it pretty well shut down in order to get rid of  this invisible enemy. 


MELBER:  Now we`re joined by Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent  for "The New York Times," Andy Slavitt, a former acting administrator of  Medicare Services for the United States, Susan Michaels-Strasser, assistant  professor at Columbia University School of Public Health. And we`re joined  by a former member of the Trump administration. David Shulkin was the  secretary of Veterans Affairs for President Trump. 

Hello to everyone.

Andy, first of all, a fact-check. 

What did you hear that computed for you in this briefing and anything you  want to warn our viewers that was misleading? 

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND  MEDICAID SERVICES:  I think what we`re hearing is a left-shoulder/right- shoulder, Larry Kudlow. Dr. Birx, that is going to be whispering in the  president`s ear.

And I think the question we`re going to have out of the White House is, who  does he listen to? 

Sadly, there is no shutting and opening of the country. There is a path.  The path is get widespread testing, widespread intelligence, widespread  capabilities that buy ourselves some time, buy our hospital sometime.

And then if you want to let businesses reopen, let them reopen and require  temperatures to be taken as people walk in. And so there`s a smart way to  do this.

And I completely understand the president`s frustration. I completely  understand the left shoulder, right shoulder. I think his tendency -- I  think our fear is his tendency will be the jump towards the Kudlow  tendency. 

And if that`s the case, the governors of the country are going to have to  stay strong. And we will have some governors that will -- will stay -- will  stay strong, because they have to, and we have others that don`t. 

And I urge us all to take our own minds and understand what this really  means. 

MELBER:  Right. You`re speaking about the tension across the government  response and across the country, personified by sort of a medical expert  and an economic czar.

Peter Baker, I mean, to paraphrase -- and I see, Peter, you have a nice pet  behind you. And it is National Puppy Day, I should mention, so we welcome  that. It`s appropriate. We`re all working from home here. I love it.


MELBER:  Bring your dog to work. 


MELBER:  If we can get any levity out of this, we will take nice camera  time with pets. 

But what Andy`s really saying here is that, if it`s Dr. Jekyll and Mr.  Hyde, with no disrespect implied to Larry Kudlow, it could be Dr. Fauci and  Mr. Kudlow, and a lot of Americans and experts at this juncture, at this  early juncture in trying to stem this thing, seem to be more concerned that  Dr. Fauci`s expertise is heard, he, of course, not even present at today`s  briefing, Peter. 

BAKER:  Yes.

I think that, look, the president`s point of view and the point of view of  some of the people in the White House is that perhaps they have gone too  far. This is a debate that`s happening right now, is, is, in fact, the  shutting down of the economy, passage of a $2 trillion deficit spending  economic package, at what point have they, in their view, potentially  overreacted? 

This is the debate, as we were just saying, between the economic weighing  of the White House and the help wing of the White House. The economic wing  is saying, when do the health guys get to decide all policy? Why isn`t this  balanced out in some way?

So, you see the president eager, anxious to be able to try to pivot, to be  able to move on, to say, look, there is a future coming. Within a week, we  will be able to tell you something positive about the reopening of the  country, even as these numbers seem to get worse and worse and worse. 

And what -- what will be interesting to see is whether he actually does  that at the end of this week, or whether, in fact, the reality of this week  that the surgeon general just outlined on television this morning, in fact,  becomes so palpable, that there`s no way to go as far as he would like to  go in terms of beginning to lift these restrictions. 

He said he sees this as weeks, months. But you hear a lot of experts say  actually months may be required. 


And both of you alluding to, of course, the ongoing clash in Congress,  where, any other day, in any other news cycle, the idea of another trillion  dollars, give or take, coming out of the Congress would be the biggest  story in the world. 

Here, it obviously comes in second to the medical emergency, although  they`re related. 

We`re going to keep our entire expert panel here for more response and  fact-checking of the Trump administration plans. 

But, turning to that congressional story, I want to bring in U.S. Senator  Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is taking a little time out of a busy  evening to join us. 

I want to get your views on what Congress is doing and the standoff in the  Senate. 

But, first, any reaction to what we heard out of the press conference here,  and, specifically, Donald Trump already sort of trying to tout the idea  that we have a return to normalcy soon? 

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY):  Well, the president isn`t making any  sense. 

And, in fact, we have a major health crisis in front of us. I have talked  to almost every hospital in New York state, and they`re still worried about  getting basic personal protective equipment, getting more masks, getting  more gowns, getting more ventilation machines. 

This is a huge crisis. And for him to downplay it because he`s worried  about stock prices or his own economy, it`s shocking. It`s a lack of  leadership. 

And so what Congress is working on right now is, how do we support our  small businesses? How do we support employees who have lost their jobs  through no fault of their own? How do we make sure people can have sick  days and paid leave days? How do we make sure that those who cannot be  working because their children are home, because the schools are closed,  how can they still keep putting food on the table? 

Everybody has a purpose right now. And our purpose as individuals is to  stay at home, to keep our families safe, to make sure we don`t transmit a  virus more than it needs to be transmitted. 

Every time you choose to stay at home, and not go look at the cherry  blossoms, or not go to the beach, you are making a choice to not transmit  this virus and to keep more people safe. That is the right choice. And we  all have a duty to do that. 

MELBER:  Understood.

Take a listen to something that Vice President Pence, who is the leader of  the task force, said.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`re going to give  guidance out of HHS and DHS today about how those workers, even if they  have been exposed to someone with coronavirus, as long as they don`t have  symptoms, would be able to return to work immediately, wear a mask for two  weeks, but otherwise return to the important roles that they play in all  our communities. 


MELBER:  Your response, Senator? 

GILLIBRAND:  Well, the CDC and the doctors have told us that, if you have  been exposed, you need to stay at home, you need to be away from other  people for two full weeks, and you cannot go back to work for two full  weeks. 

And so for him to imply that, if you don`t have symptoms, you`re fine,  that`s contrary to what the doctors have told us. They have told us you can  transmit this virus and be asymptomatic. You can transmit this virus before  you`re actually showing your symptoms. 

We have people in the U.S. Senate whose husbands are sick who are on oxygen  right now because of the coronavirus. I have talked to families all New  York whose children, whose parents are sick with the coronavirus. 

This is a real epidemic. 

And, again, for the president and the vice president to downplay this  because of their stock portfolios, again, is shocking and really  antithetical to the moment we`re in. 

And that`s why Congress is working hard to try to meet the needs of the  American people, because the president...

MELBER:  Yes. 

GILLIBRAND:  ... and his administration certainly aren`t. 

MELBER:  So, let`s get right into that. 

I have tried to remind viewers, because there`s so many different things  going on, that we did see some rare bipartisan progress -- and so credit to  anyone involved in that -- in both parties on some speedy initial bills.  Call them one and two. 

This bill number three, though, with it -- which has a ton of money in it,  has become a huge clash. 

I want to give you a chance to update everyone here watching on what the  latest is in that and a chance to respond to what we heard -- we were just,  of course, showing the president and his views. We also heard from Senator  McConnell, basically accusing your party of -- quote, unquote -- "playing  politics" and being partisan about this. 

I wanted to get your update on all of that. 

GILLIBRAND:  Well, those comments are absolutely absurd. 

The first version of this bill that -- that Mitch McConnell put forward was  outrageous. He literally wanted to create a $500 billion slush fund for  Steve Mnuchin to give to his donors or to his favorites or to Trump`s  businesses, with no oversight and no accountability. 

They also didn`t have enough money for hospitals, the personal protective  equipment, for the supplies that people are desperate for. They didn`t have  enough money for small businesses that are going out of business. 

And they didn`t have enough money or even a way to help employees that were  losing their jobs and not able to provide for their families, pay their  bills. 

So, the good news is, Senator Schumer and the Democrats have been working  24/7 over the last two days to get a bipartisan solution. They are very  close to having a deal in place that Democrats will feel comfortable  supporting and putting forward. 

These type of ideas will include money for workers to make sure this is a  workers-first bill, money for small businesses, making sure people who are  sick can stay home, making sure they have to access to health care.

MELBER:  And that would pass by when? When might that pass by?

GILLIBRAND:  Our goal is to have that bill written in the next couple of  days and be able to on it and get it into the economy. 

MELBER:  Understood. 

And I think a lot of people keeping their eye on that part of this as well. 

Senator Gillibrand, a busy evening in the Congress, a lot of folks in  government working all kinds of hours. Appreciate you making some time for  us. 

GILLIBRAND:  Thank you. 

MELBER:  Thank you. 

I`m going to bring back in our panel of experts, Peter Baker, Andy Slavitt,  Susan Michaels-Strasser, and David Shulkin. 

David, interesting to turn to you, as someone who served in the Trump  administration with a health care portfolio. Your view of how the president  is handling this? And given your close-up experience, again, Dr. Fauci  missing from today`s press briefing. He`s missed some previously. 

But he certainly made waves over the weekend here, in speaking out and  saying, in his own measured, sort of Brooklyn doctor way, that he wasn`t  trying to create any extra rift with the president. He`s just going to get  the facts out. But he will continue to fact-check the president in real  time because there has been misinformation. 

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:  Well, Ari, I`m  not at all surprised to hear what the president said today. 

I have spent a great deal of time with the president and had many  discussions with him. He`s a man who always follows his gut. He is always  willing to offer an opinion. And that`s why it`s so important that people  who are around him have a very defined point of view, feel strongly about  their principles and continue to advocate for what they think is best,  because the president will listen. 

It`s when you don`t push back, when you don`t share your point of view with  the president, that he tends to follow the way that he instinctually wants  to handle a problem. 

So I think Dr. Fauci is doing an incredible job of sticking to what he  believes in. He is a man of science. He follows his principles. He`s doing  it in a nice way that he`s willing to work with the president, but he`s not  willing to compromise on what he thinks is right for the American people. 

And I think that`s what you have to do. And that will get us the best  result. 

The president, of course, has a correct point of view, that these  unintended consequences of social isolation, of the economic harm that many  Americans are feeling are very serious. But we`re dealing with a health  crisis, not necessarily an economic crisis. And the virus is going to  respond to us addressing it in appropriate health way, not in dealing with  the economics here. 

MELBER:  Yes, I mean, that takes us perfectly to Susan and your expertise  here, because it`s one thing to say that many people are worried about the  secondary economic effects. I mean, this is a huge problem for everyone. 

And the less money you have, and the more that you`re in a day-to-day job  scenario, the scarier it is, for sure. And yet we`re hearing from all the  experts that the way the president is talking about rushing -- trying to  rush through or skip over the containment period would not only make the  health care crisis worse, but it would ultimately potentially make the  economic crisis worse. 

And Hong Kong is one of several places that people point to where trying to  rush past this sort of containment period can actually exacerbate it. 

I`m curious if you could walk us through your views. 

SUSAN MICHAELS-STRASSER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:  I will give the analogy of  medicine that we have to take when we`re ill. 

I am a public health professional, a doctor of public health, but, first  and foremost, I`m a nurse. And, sometimes, patients have to take treatment  that`s very difficult to swallow or has very severe side effects. 

And that`s where we are right now. Quarantine, self-isolation, it is very  difficult. It`s difficult on all of us. I haven`t been outside all day  today. I see my daughter out of school. She might not have her senior prom. 

These are -- these are heart-wrenching things. 

MELBER:  Sure.

MICHAELS-STRASSER:  But it`s what we must do to get ahead of this epidemic  and 100 percent, we have to do it now or do it later. And right now, the  most important thing is protecting our health workers who are begging for  protective equipment and helping our elderly to stay at home and for all of  us to do what we should do as citizens. 

Stay home. Listen to the guidance of Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. They know what  they are doing. They are data-driven. They are using science to protect all  of us. And they are the experts in this regard. 

MELBER:  So, in your view, when the president says, well, maybe we can just  skip ahead and get people back to work soon or end of the month, that`s  wrong, half wrong, half-right? What`s your view? 

MICHAELS-STRASSER:  I would just say there`s no shortcut here and we have  to continue to self-isolate until we know that it is safe to do otherwise.  And that is the priority. In public health, we have to weigh the benefits  to individuals and society. And right now, society needs health care. It  needs to address this virus, stop this virus. That is first and foremost. 

MELBER:  That makes sense. You`re mentioning you haven`t left today. It`s  making me wonder whether Peter Baker has left the house today and walked  the dog. We may never know. 


PETER BAKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The dog has been walked. I was not  the dog walker today. I was yesterday. 

MELBER:  So with all of that wrapped together, from the fact that there are  many people suffering in real ways but there`s also, as mentioned, all of  the ways that people are just ground down by this, Peter, what do you  think, as someone who watches the White House, what do you think we can  learn? 

Another point we saw in the briefing was the president trying to goad one  of the members of the task force into saying, oh, well, eventually the  restrictions on the press briefing area will be lifted and more people will  be able to sit in there, folks like yourself and many of our viewers who  follow this will recall, this is a White House that has never held regular  press briefings, it took an epidemic to force that into happening. So, it  does put a spotlight on this president`s uniquely disrupted approach to  governing in the first place, Peter?

BAKER:  Well, we`re in an awkward position where we all would like to go  but in fact we all know, in fact, we shouldn`t all go to the briefing. The  Correspondents Association last week limited the number of reporters who  could sit in the seats there. As of today they limited it even further, to  keep reporters further away, further at distance. 

One of our colleagues, we understand now, has some symptoms, is being  tested. So, we don`t know where that will end up. But that`s what the  president was referring to at the beginning that have briefing. 

And, of course, that very room is sort of ground zero for the conversation  that we`re having about what is appropriate right now in this society. The  president is up there with several different people every day. And people  have commented on that online, people have commented on that. Why is he so  close to other people if in fact he`s telling everybody else not to be? 


BAKER:  He has at least stopped shaking hands so that example has finally  stopped. But, yes, I think that, you know, we see in a microcosm there sort  of the disruption you`re talking about. 

MELBER:  Yes, I`ll give the final word on that to David, who, again, served  in the Trump administration. I mean, we`ve seen that in the reporting, we  mentioned Dr. Fauci, we`ve seen reporting that Vice President Pence has  been pushing harder to have more distancing in the briefings, in their work  as a task force. But whether it`s just the visual microcosm of it or not,  here we are, deep into this crisis, and it still seems that the  administration is giving out advice that is itself not always following. 

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:  Well, Ari, I think  you saw the president`s reaction when Dr. Birx said that she had a fever  and until he heard the results of her test, he physically walked away. 

I`ve spent a lot of time in that briefing room. That is a very small room,  as Peter knows. It looks big on television but it`s a very small space. 

And I do think -- I`m pleased to see they are putting in the social  distancing. But I think we all need to model the behavior we want others to  follow. And that means we really do need to stay away from each other,  because this is a virus that has the ability to spread up to six feet from  one another. 

And, you know, it`s different. As the president has said, none of us are  used to this. But this is a new world, we all need to begin to start acting  differently. 

MELBER:  Yes. I mean, for those of us in reporting or working who have been  in the White House, it`s an old building with very small areas. I mean, the  hallways are tight, the coveted offices tend to be small, they`re coveted  only by proximity to the Oval. And so, this is another reminder that old  buildings, obviously lower income areas, places where people have smaller  space and less freedom of movement, are actually places, for different  reasons, are more susceptible to spread. 

This has been a great panel of government and journalistic and medical  experts to help guide us through what we just heard. So, I want to thank  each of you. Peter Baker, Andy Slavitt, Susan Michaels-Strasser and David  Shulkin, thank you and be safe. 

I`m going to fit in a break here. But when we come back, we`re going to get  into how America is not only dealing with the virus but also all of these  problems around the facts. 

Don`t go anywhere. I`m Ari Melber and we will be right back. 


MELBER:  Welcome back. 

There are many officials confronting this coronavirus outbreak but one has  stood out. Dr. Anthony Fauci, emerging as the key voice of reason. The  public relying on him for the facts even when there has been spin and worse  from the president. 

Now, as we just saw tonight, Dr. Fauci was not visible at this briefing  tonight. His absence comes after he publicly addressed the challenges of  working with this president. Fauci telling Maureen Dowd of "The New York  Times," for example, I`ve been telling the president things he doesn`t want  to hear, it`s a risky business. It`s going to get pissed off, he`s going to  get pissed off. Thankfully, he is not, interestingly.

When asked about the president`s statements, Fauci suggested a diplomatic  approach works best, telling science in a much read article over this  weekend, I can`t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. 

Meanwhile, despite Trump`s rhetoric, Fauci says he will never, ever say the  words, quote, Chinese virus. Today, "The New York Times" also reporting  that Trump has become frustrated Fauci`s blunt approach at the briefing  lectern, which often contradicts things the president has just said.

We`re joined now by John Brennan, who`s former CIA director under president  and overlapped in the transition period with this administration. 

Good evening to you, sir. 


MELBER:  You are someone that has dealt with this, knows it intimately, and  I think viewers have seen it including your battles at times with the  president, him taking shots at you and others. I wonder how you view this  fight with Dr. Fauci, because if there`s a hierarchy of concerns, in CIA  parlance, sometimes we hear about the level of confidence, and the  president is entitled to make his public debates over things that evolve  into policy, devolve into the level of confidence. And yet, this is an area  where the medical science seems so clear. 

Do you view it as worse in some regards when he`s clashing with the medical  experts? 

BRENNAN:  Well, Ari, two things. One is that I was the homeland security  adviser to President Obama in 2009 when we had to deal with the H1N1  crisis, and the contrast between President Obama and Donald Trump could not  be more stark. In terms of President Obama`s reliance and thirst for  information in terms of data, science and facts, he wanted to learn from  the medical professionals. 

Secondly, Tony Fauci, I worked with very, very closely, he has been a  national treasure for years. He helped us understand aspects of the H1N1 in  terms of transmissibility, fatality, what type of antivirals might be  applicable here. And so, Tony Fauci is the type of person we in the White  House were dependent on to make sure that he was able to guide our policy  decisions. 

And so, when I see that Tony Fauci behind Donald Trump is having to close  his eyes and you can see he`s very uncomfortable with the things that  Donald Trump is saying because Donald Trump does go on his gut instinct. He  believes he`s the know-it-all and he has the answers. 

Now is not the time to be playing know-it-all when people`s lives are at  stake. And so, Tony Fauci, I hope he`s taking care of himself, getting the  rest he needs. But he is the type of person along with the folks at CDC  that need to be guiding our policy makers so they make the right decisions  that make the health of our country paramount. The economy issue, economic  issue will come behind it. 

But I know having worked in the White House that this is a very, very  challenging issue. It was challenging for H1N1, and H1N1 paled in  comparison to the complexity and the challenges that we face right now with  coronavirus, which is much more lethal, much more prevalent, much more  contagious and it`s going to be something that`s going to be with us for  many, many weeks and months, I think, to come. 

MELBER:  Appreciate your clarity there. You mentioned the rest, I mean, Dr.  Fauci mentioned in "The New York Times" that he was sleeping at one point  only three hours at night. He`s 79. He`s upped it to four or five hours in  the last few days. 

He has become something of a national treasure here as you mentioned, maybe  more visibly to more people. 

Here was the president putting his spin on preparedness, take a listen. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Tony Fauci and all of the  people, the talent that we have, would have loved to have had three or four  months of additional time if you knew that this was going to be happening.  They didn`t have that time. They read about it in newspapers like everybody  else. China was very secretive, OK? 


MELBER:  From your knowledge, is this the kind of thing that experts in the  federal government only read about in the newspapers? 

BRENNAN:  No, and I think it`s been clear that there have been intelligence  briefings and I`m sure briefings from health professionals that have taken  place in the last several months. I just think that Donald Trump has been  in denial and he continues to be in denial in terms of the magnitude, scope  and seriousness of this issue. 

And this is the time that even his critics want him to rise to the  occasion, to lead this country and not just look for adulation and, you  know, people to be saying all great things about his leadership. 

No, they really need to make sure they`re doing exactly what the health  professionals want us to do, which is to ensure that we`re going to be  taking the measures we need to in order to keep ourselves safe, because  this disease, and the coronavirus, it`s really going to continue to sweep  through our country unless we take these precautions now that Tony Fauci  and others are not just recommending, they`re pleading with the officials  to do. 

And, unfortunately, I think it`s late already. And I`m hoping it`s not  going to be come even later because lives are on the line. 

MELBER:  A lot of lives on the line. John Brennan, working from home, and  giving us much needed context. Appreciate your time tonight, sir. 

BRENNAN:  Thanks, Ari. Take care. 

MELBER:  Thank you.

I`m Ari Melber, anchoring our special coverage. We are going to fit in a  break and we will be right back. 


MELBER: Thanks for spending the last two hours with us. MSNBC`s continuing  coverage of the coronavirus pandemic will be a part of all of this  evening`s coverage. 

I will mention to you, I`m Ari Melber. You can find me at 6:00 p.m. Eastern  for "THE BEAT" again tomorrow night. You can find online @arimelber on  Facebook, and Instagram, or wherever you get your news online. 

But don`t go anywhere because "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. 


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.