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FEMA TRANSCRIPT: 3/24/20, MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: Leana Wen, Michael Osterholm, Yamiche Alcindor, Donna Shalala, Jared Polis, Jared Bernstein


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening and thanks for joining our special coverage. I am Ari Melber.

President Trump shifting gears today. He has a, quote, 15-day initiative to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus and then get everyone back to work.

Meanwhile, the reality not matching his plans. These new cases continue to mount by the hour tonight. Donald Trump says he also wants to loosen federal guidelines for some parts of the American workforce. In his briefing late tonight, he said we are near the end of our battle with this pandemic.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up to very large sections of our country as we near the end of our historic battle with the invisible enemy.


MELBER: That is false, not only false but false according to Donald Trump`s own medical experts who are not saying we are near, as in within weeks, an end of all of this.

There was also a virtual town hall the president did with Fox News where he discussed how these policies to protect Americans` lives are also hurting the economy and saying, the risk of a recession to people`s wellbeing may be even greater than this virus. He also discussed the idea of getting things back on track by Easter. Take a look.


TRUMP: You can destroy a country this way by closing it down. Then we`re supposed to pay people not to go to work. We don`t have that. We used to pay people to go work. You`re going to lose a number of people to the flu. But you`re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression. You`re going to lose people. You`re going to have suicides by the thousands.

I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.


MELBER: Health experts disagree. Politico reporting the prospect of resuming typical business so soon horrifies public health leaders who see all of this is very premature. The fallout would be worse if the White House declared victory now only to have the virus resurface.

And here is what the president also said today about the advice of his experts.


TRUMP: They came in, experts, and they said, we`re going to have to close the country. I said, we`ve never closed the country before, this never happened before. You`re going to -- you`re saying -- I said, are you serious about this? We are going to take this country that`s fully employed, where we have 160 million people working, and you`re telling me we have to close it? And people are going to go out of business and they`re going to go bankrupt and they`re not going to have jobs? What are we talking about here?


MELBER: What are we talking about here? Well, we`ll show you right now and you can make up your own mind. We are talking about 682 deaths in the United States and 52,671 confirmed cases of the virus tonight. Donald Trump`s calls to reboot the economy are not also in line with what many of the frontline governors and other local officials are seeing and what they`re doing to keep residents, they say, safe.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says, these cases continue right now to multiply at an alarming rate.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The rate of cases, the rate of new infections, is doubling about every three days. We`re not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own.

We haven`t flattened the curve and the curve is actually increasing.


MELBER: It`s a portrait of two different realities. A president saying, we are weeks away from everything being literally done, back to work, and governors, like Andrew Cuomo in New York, one of the hardest hit areas, saying not only is that not true but things are literally getting worse right now, that we`re not even over the proverbial coronavirus hump.

Now, meanwhile, around the world, new measures are kicking in. The government of India ordering a three-week lockdown of the entire nation`s population, if you`re keeping track, that is over a billion people.

Growing international pressure also has led to this stunning change, the 2020 summer Olympic Games, obviously a huge global undertaking planned in Tokyo, they have now been postponed.

I`m joined now by Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and a Professor at George Washington, Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota, and Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour.

Dr. Wen, your view on all of the above.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Well, I don`t know where to begin. But with President Trump and the comments that he`s making, I want to know where are the data and why is there such a profound disconnect between what he`s saying and the reality of what people are experiencing on the ground.

We`re seeing hospitals that are overcrowded already. We`re seeing healthcare workers that don`t have basic equipment. We`re seeing patients dying, numbers of cases escalating. We don`t even know where the peak of this epidemic is. And it seems like we`re talking about building houses and actually this forest fire is still raging. And we don`t even know what is the extent of the fire.

So we really need to focus on helping hospital capacity and then developing testing capacity too, because otherwise we have no data. How can we make decisions if we don`t even know what`s going on?

MELBER: Yes, and I think testing is very important. I just want to stay focused on some of the new and breaking information here, and, Dr. Osterholm, I want to bring you into this, because the president is saying things that have consequences and people need to know facts. We will endeavor to show what the president has said in our coverage and then we try to bring on the medical experts to make sure we`re getting the facts.

Dr. Fauci, who had publicly fact checked the president, was absent from yesterday`s briefing, he was back today. I want to play a little bit of what he and other experts have said. Take a listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you look at the trajectory of the curves of outbreaks in other areas, it`s at least going to be several weeks. I cannot see that all of a sudden next week or two weeks from now, it`s going to be over. I don`t there`s a chance of that. I think it`s going to be several weeks.

DR. JEROM ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: 15 days is likely not going to be enough to get us all the way through. But we really need to lean into it now so that we can bend the curve in the next 15 days. And at that point, we`ll reassess.


MELBER: Both the surgeon general, who, of course, serves in this administration, Dr. Fauci, who serves as an independent expert, he was, the president, claiming that everyone agrees with a, quote, beautiful Easter timeline.


REPORTER: You have two doctors on stage with you. Have either of them told you that`s a realistic timeline?

TRUMP: I think we`re looking at a timeline we`ve discussed. We had a very good meeting today. If you add it all up, that`s probably nine days plus another two and a half weeks, it`s a period of time that`s longer than the original two weeks. So we`re going to look at it. We`ll only do it if it`s good. And maybe we do sections of the country, we do large sections of the country, that could be too. But we`re very much in touch with Tony and with Deborah with everything we`re doing.

REPORTER: Who suggested that --

TRUMP: I just thought it was a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline.


MELBER: Dr. Osterholm?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, : Well, first of all, we`re approaching this like it sounds like we`re getting ready for a Minneapolis blizzard where we`re going to hunker down for a couple of days. We`re in the first few weeks of a coronavirus winter. We`ve got many weeks ahead of us, just as this outbreak in New York will continue to grow for some weeks ahead, I agree with Governor Cuomo`s assessment.

We`re going to see other places in the United States become hotspots. They may not be anywhere near as large as New York but they will be important. So I don`t see us getting out of this for many many months. And to say anything other than that is just denying reality.

MELBER: Yamiche?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: I think what we see is a president who is eager to try to get the economy back on track because he sees it as wedded to his chances of being re-elected and being able to serve a second term. But the president, even today, started the press conference by saying, we`re in the historic end of this and that there`s light at the end of the tunnel. But what we`re hearing from health experts, including the ones that are on this show right now, is that things are likely going to get worse and that we don`t know whether or not we`re at the peak of this and we don`t know when the peak is going to be.

So you have the president really making a political message when health officials, including the ones in his own administration, are saying that`s just wrong.

MELBER: I`ve got great experts here, so all of you hang with me. I`m going to turn one-on-one with Congressman Donna Shalala of Florida, who has quite a bit of healthcare experience here with Speaker Pelosi today addressing the issues around Dr. Fauci.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you be concerned if Dr. Fauci is pushed down after having served since the Reagan years or not listened to?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Yes, of course. Dr. Fauci has been on a pedestal for many years for many of us who have worked with him when I started over 30 years ago on HIV and AIDS, and he was our champion. George Herbert Walker Bush at that time called him a hero, his hero, when they asked him who his hero was.


MELBER: Congresswoman, your view and your response to the briefing that so many Americans saw today.

REP. DONNA SHALALA (D-FL): Well, I think that what the president has been saying about getting back at Easter time is both dangerous and immoral. And let me say that I know of no -- he defies ethical standards. No American believes that we should choose the economy over human life. And that`s what`s at stake here.

And the president is putting human life at risk because he wants the economy to get back and he simply -- it`s literally immoral for him to do that.

MELBER: I understand your critique there. And as a former director of basically the nation`s healthcare, you know a lot about how these decisions get made. I guess I`ll ask you the rebuttal. His argument would be, and the way he worded it on Fox News today, was that economic health is the nation`s health, that a widespread recession or worse would literally compromise people`s public safety.

SHALALA: Congress and the Fed can deal with the economy. There`s no question in my mind that we`re going to have a big bill. But to equate them as equal or even interrelated in a case like this where you have a pandemic is just wrong. And I think it`s very important that we`re straight with the American people, that this is going to take time. We`ll work on the economy. We`ll find ways to get people most of their salaries. We`ll find ways to prop up the economy. We have the resources to do that. But the healthcare issues, life and death, is far more important to all of us.

MELBER: Right. And I gave the best presentation of their defense. A lesser version of it came very unvarnished in a statement, I`m sure you heard about it, it got quite a bit of controversy today, again, I`ll play it, viewers can make up their own mind. This is Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick with Tucker Carlson, basically saying let`s do the trade-off. Take a look.


LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R-TX): No one reached out to me and said, as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren. And if that`s the exchange, I`m all in.

I want to, you know, live smart and see through this. But I don`t want the whole country to be sacrificed.


MELBER: Your response?

SHALALA: It`s unethical and immoral even to have that debate. And I want to be no part of it. And I think most Americans would agree with me.

MELBER: And, finally, Congresswoman, Larry Kudlow speaking today in that briefing said there`s basically going to be a $6 trillion level package if you count all the lending authority plus give or take two T if you will in all the assistance, big, big numbers for a big, big challenge. Can you give us any insight into that package, and is it close enough to what Speaker Pelosi and your team wanted?

SHALALA: Well, they`re all talking about being in the red zone but we don`t really know. I expect them to finish it in the next 24 hours. They really would like to vote on it tomorrow. We would all like it vote on it tomorrow. And -- but I do believe we`re going to get a deal on this. But it is -- this is the third package. There will be a fourth package and a fifth package and a sixth package, because we will make corrections in this one. But more importantly, we will do everything that`s necessary, the Congress, in a bipartisan manner, to save our economy, but more than anything else, to save human life.

MELBER: Congresswoman, I know this is near and dear to you, and as mentioned, you have a wealth of experience. I appreciate you taking some time tonight. We`ll let you get back to work or work from home, as it were.

Yamiche Alcindor is back along with us, along with the rest of the panel, I should say.

But, Yamiche, I`m curious what you thought of how starkly the congresswoman puts it. And the economic side of this, the markets rallying today, who knows why, but many have said it`s at least partly pricing in what they think will be this infusion.

ALCINDOR: Well, I think the congresswoman is really expressing what a lot of people across the country feel when they hear people saying that maybe we should sacrifice seniors in order to give millennials and Gen Z a good economy. That seems like something that most Americans would not want. You don`t want to sacrifice your grandmother so you can save her granddaughter.

But I think the thing that the president is saying more clearly is that he`s saying that there are people that are going to kill themselves and that are going to die because of the economic slowdown. But that might be even more than the people who die of the virus. But there`s actually no medical data, there`s no health data to back up what the president is saying. That is his argument.

But I think it`s interesting to hear the president say that he`s going to move on data but that he also has these instincts that gave him this date of Easter Sunday out of thin air. He didn`t say, I got this date because Dr. Fauci or someone else gave it to me. He said very clearly, I got this date because it made a good feeling for me. I liked the idea of churches on Easter Sunday. So what you hear the president making political decisions about medical issues.

MELBER: Yes. Dr. Osterholm, we just heard through the clips I played and through the congresswoman, the back and forth that is really stark. I mean, if this were a movie, and you had talking heads on T.V. and politicians, in this kind of conversation, you would kind of say, well, that`s not very realistic. I mean, I`m curious, from a medical health perspective, Doctor, what you think hearing literally politicians say, yes, I`m ready to die to save the economy, or vice-versa, if you want to call it that.

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, we don`t have a plan in this country right now. We don`t know what we`re doing. Are we going to try to sequester all the cases from occurring for the next 18 months? Are we just going to let everything happen as it is? If we had a plan, we could surely begin to finesse, both keeping our lives as we know them and also making sure people don`t get infected.

But one of the things that`s been missing in all this discussion, and I find it very difficult when I hear people talk about, well, maybe if you`re older, it`s time to kind of move on. Okay, if you want to agree with that, I don`t. But what no one is talking about is right now, in Italy, and where 5,000 healthcare workers, many of them very young people, have been infected with this and a number of them have given their lives, being on the frontline who are trying to provide care. Because we`re so unprotected in this country right now, we don`t have the protective equipment to take care of our healthcare workers to protect them. Many of them are going to become infected and a number of them are going to die.

Now, tell me, wouldn`t we want to protect them? And so What we`re talking about is not just protecting the general public but protecting one of the most valuable resources we have today, our healthcare workers.

MELBER: Dr. Wen?

WEN: I completely agree. And I also think we need to keep in mind that we have a chance to make a difference here. I mean, it`s not too late. It`s not like, well, if we just do nothing, or if we do something, we`re going to have the same outcome. Actually, we have a very narrow window of opportunity. Now is that window to continue our social distancing measures, to continue shoring up our healthcare system, to continue protecting our healthcare workers. We can actually save a lot of lives in this country. And it just seems unconscionable and immoral, as the congresswoman said, for us to not to do everything we can. Because at the end of the day, what kind of society will we have if there are tens of thousands of people who died as a result of our deliberate inaction?

MELBER: Dr. Wen, Dr. Osterholm and Yamiche Alcindor, my thanks to each of you.

We have a lot more in our broadcast tonight. What will America`s governors do if Donald Trump starts ordering people back to work? We have one of them with us.

And later, the deal that puts $2 trillion potentially back into the economy, what you need to know about it, including checks that could be coming to your home, when we come back.


MELBER:  Welcome back. 

President Trump has been discussing reopening the nation and rolling back these newly instated virus restrictions, basically citing economic woes as the reason. 

Meanwhile, many of the nation`s governors are actually increasing the restrictions, seven announcing new measures this week alone. More than 100 million Americans, about one in three, are now subject to stay-at-home orders. You may be one of them.

Millions more in states with some kind of restrictions. That includes Colorado, which now has over 900 confirmed cases. 

Meanwhile, the mayor of Denver issuing a stay-at-home order that goes into effect tonight. It`s a new one, and it would last until April 10. 

Governor Jared Polis has not issued, however, a strict statewide order. President Trump also comparing the virus to the flu. 

Take a look. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have had flus before. We have had viruses before. So this is something new. And this is why I say, we have to -- I gave it two weeks. And I guess, by Monday or Tuesday, it`s about two weeks. 

And we will assess at that time, and we will give it some more time, if we need a little more time. But we have to open this country up. 

I said: "This has never been done before. What are you talking about?"

But we understand it. You have hot spots. But we have had hot spots before. We have had horrible flus. 


MELBER:  Colorado Governor Jared Polis joins me now. 

In holding back on a statewide restriction, some could argue that you and the president are in line. Your view? 

GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO):  Well, I think there`s a few states that have those. 

We want to maximize people staying in their home in Colorado. We have issued statewide guidance last week. People over age 65, people with respiratory conditions should not leave their homes at all, except for respite, except for health care needs or medical attention. 

We have asked her neighbors to step up and bring them groceries. We have closed down our bars, our restaurants. And today, for the first time, the order I did a few days ago takes effect. So, a majority of workers in our state in non-critical industries are now telecommuting or working remotely. 

So we are trying to increase social isolation as much as possible during this emergency for a sustainable period. 

MELBER:  But, from a policy standpoint, why haven`t you gone further?

Presumably, you think there is some merit to not overdoing it.

POLIS:  Well, we want people to stay at home, unless they absolutely need to go out. 

So, some people, if they want that to be an order, they`re welcome to consider it in an order. If they react negatively to orders, and that makes them more likely to go out, then it`s not an order. However you psychologically respond to maximize your likelihood of staying at home, that`s the way we are expressing it to you. 

Please stay at home, not just in Colorado. I know we`re talking to a national audience here. 

MELBER:  Sure.

POLIS:  Across our entire country and across the world. 

MELBER:  We have seen governors also raise alarms about the way the Trump administration at the federal level is dealing with resources and trade-offs. 

Take a look at your counterpart in New York, Governor Cuomo. 


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY):  How can we be in a situation where you can have New Yorkers possibly dying because they can`t get a ventilator, but a federal agency saying, I`m going to leave the ventilators in the stockpile? 

I mean, have we really come to that point? 

FEMA says, we`re sending 400 ventilators. Really? What am I going to -- what am I going to do with 400, ventilators, when I need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.


MELBER:  Governor, it`s serious. 

I will note, as someone who spends time in Brooklyn, that Governor Cuomo is issuing that argument in a very New York way. 

I don`t know if, out West, you guys are a little more diplomatic, but what do you think about the substance of his challenge? And are you seeing those problems with the Trump administration, FEMA or otherwise, on the ground, or that`s not an issue that you have had a problem with in your state? 

POLIS:  Well, we are a little bit nicer in Colorado than your average New Yorker. 

MELBER:  Fair.

POLIS:  But we feel the same way.

Absolutely, the federal government needs to act. And, by the way, I want everybody to know this. Where New York is now is where the entire country is likely to be in a week. They are no different than anyone, than you or I, than Texas, than Colorado, than Florida, than Illinois. 

That`s where we`re going to be in a week, without these extreme social distancing measures that Colorado and a number of other states have taken, and the additional steps taken by our population centers and ski areas here in Colorado. 

MELBER:  And how do you, as someone leading local efforts, state efforts, look at this coming stimulus bill?

We just heard, viewers just heard from members of Congress, as well as Larry Kudlow earlier, that it looks like it`s on the way. 

POLIS:  I have been in touch with our entire delegation, our congresspeople, our senators. We had a call today. I have talked to them every day several times. 

It`s absolutely critical. There`s a hole in state budget. States will have to cut Medicaid and health care eligibility without it. There`s a lot of people out of work in food services, waitstaff, retail. There`s a lot of real need out there. 

Most states, like my state, can`t have deficit spending. We`re not allowed to do that in our state constitution. We need the federal government to step up for the economic recovery to reduce the severity and the duration of this difficult time for people, both on the health care side and on the economic side. 

MELBER:  It all makes sense, when you say it, a lot of problems that your state is obviously tackling.

Governor Polis, I really appreciate you joining us tonight. 

POLIS:  Thank you, Ari. 

MELBER:  Thank you. 

As mentioned, Congress very close to reaching what could be the biggest deal of the Trump era or the biggest economic deal we have seen at least since the financial crash, if not longer, but does it do enough right now? 

And what about those checks heading your way, if it passes?

We have all of that coming up. 


MELBER:  Welcome back.

Congress and the White House inching closer to a deal that would infuse up to $2 trillion in direct aid to businesses on the brink of financial ruin because of the virus pandemic. Workers would also stand to benefit, and trillions more in loan guarantees.

President Trump and Mitch McConnell have played basically, according to public accounts, supporting roles. This thing, which is pretty remarkable, has been driven by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and certain members of Congress, Mnuchin negotiating directly with Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, for example.

A big sticking point has been how Congress would oversee these massive checks cut to companies, checks that you sooner or later are writing. These are taxpayer funds, obviously.

"The Washington Post" reporting Republicans wanted to give companies, including the airlines and hotel industry, $500 billion in loan guarantees with few restrictions on the spending. 

President Trump, who, of course, runs a hotel business and could benefit from the bailout, assuring reporters that, as far as he`s concerned, instead of oversight, which, by definition, means some other entity overseeing what you do, he himself would be the oversight. 


QUESTION:  It`s about the lack of oversight, where Treasury has the unilateral authority to dole out all of this money.

TRUMP:  Well, look, I will be the oversight. I will be the oversight. We`re going to make good deals. We make good deals. 


MELBER:  Many in Congress thought that set back negotiations and the whole purpose of having somebody to watch where the money heads. 

Now take a look, brand-new, at what Donald Trump told FOX News about the purpose of the bill. 


TRUMP:  It`s loaded to save corporations. We will have an unemployment rate the likes of which nobody`s ever seen before. We have to save these companies. 


MELBER:  The markets, meanwhile, have been snapping back from lows on this economic rescue package. 

Meanwhile, today, Bill Gates, who knows his way around the economy, offering a stark warning for people who want to rush too fast to do what Trump is asking. 

We have all of that, with special guests, when we come back. 


MELBER:  Welcome back. 

As we report tonight, senators still hashing out the final sticking points of a massive $2 trillion stimulus package to address this unfolding pandemic. 

The bill, which is bipartisan, faces its next vote as early as potentially tonight. It would include four months of full salary payments for people who lose their jobs in this crisis. It would broaden the ways that people can get unemployment support, and also those critical funding for hospitals. Then there is the much-debated issue of overseeing all of this.

Today, meanwhile, Microsoft founder Bill Gates warning the U.S. is missing its chance to really deal with this crisis with a full-blown shutdown. 

He`s urging everyone to basically ignore Trump`s advice and keep businesses closed. Here`s the exact quote: "It`s very tough to say to people, hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy a new house, ignore the pile of bodies in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there`s some politician that thinks GDP growth is what counts" -- a stark statement from someone who knows his way around the economy. 

I`m joined now by Jared Bernstein, senior fellow for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, also a former chief economist of Vice President Joe Biden, who is, of course, the leading contender to be the Democratic nominee, and Stephanie Ruhle, an MSNBC anchor, of course, and also our senior NBC business correspondent.

And I should mention at the top, for both of you, but especially for my friend Stephanie, there is a slight audio delay, which could further compromise any bad jokes I tell you later in the segment. 

Good to see you both. 





MELBER:  Stephanie, let`s begin -- there it is -- and this is the delay. 

Stephanie, let`s begin with your view of what Mr. Kudlow argued today of what is in this package and, when you get to it, the rather stark warning from Mr. Gates. 

RUHLE:  So, I would start with what`s been really interesting in the last 24 hours. 

We know that lots of CEOs were calling President Trump because, by the hour, they`re laying off more people. They have no visibility going forward. They`re desperate for this stimulus package to get signed. 

But what the president has done and now what Larry Kudlow has done, instead of taking it 90 -- instead of they have gone a full 180, right? So now they`re saying -- the president saying, I want the whole world to be opened up by Easter. 

And think about what Bill Gates just said. You do that too early, and you`re going to be ignoring all the bodies in the corner. They won`t just be in the corner. If you open up all business and resume commerce, we haven`t hit the peak in any American city yet. 

And if you do it too early, you`re going to have a more disastrous situation economically. 

Now, what many people have asked for, small business and big business leaders alike, is more visibility, more continuity, because the messaging we get from the president or Anthony Fauci don`t think seem to be in line. 

So, there are some who argue, in less hard-hit areas, maybe, in a couple of weeks, you can open up some things, because think about some retail businesses. Even if they went to 30 percent capacity, that would help those businesses not not be able to pay their rent, and they will be able to stay with payroll. 

But for the president to go full on, let`s open it all up come Easter, anyone who truly understands this and speaks to medical experts knows what a risk that puts us in. 

MELBER:  Yes. You lay it all out very clearly. 

I should mention, since we have come on the air, there`s indications that they`re still negotiating, Jared, and thus the vote is not expected tonight, but everyone is still expecting it soon. 

I want to play a little bit, for folks who may not have seen it, just briefly, the president and economic adviser Larry Kudlow today, and the notes they were striking that so many have said just don`t seem reality-based. 

Take a look. 


TRUMP:  Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up. I hope we can do this by Easter. 

I think that would be a great thing for our country. And we`re all working very hard to make that a reality. 

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL:  We`re headed for a rough period but it`s only going to be weeks, we think, weeks, months, it`s not going to be years, that`s for sure. 


MELBER:  Only going to be weeks, Jared? 

JARED BERNSTEIN, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER ON BUDGET & POLICY PRIORITIES:  Well, I think I heard Larry say weeks and months. Weeks is wrong. Months is correct. 

And this is one of the reasons why the president`s pivot, this idea that you`ll somehow pivot away from the health care containment efforts to focus on markets and GDP, is so misguided, because we`re already in a recession. We don`t have quite all the indicators we need to confirm that but we certainly know that`s the case. 

If we look at the spike in unemployment insurance claims, if you look at forecasts for this week`s claims coming on Thursday, people are talking about claims going up about 3 million. Now, if that happens, I can tell you, because I was there in the White House at the time, in the first quarter of 2009, in the heat of the great recession, we lost 2 million jobs in one quarter, meaning over three months. Now we`re talking about 3 million jobs in a week. 

And that is the direct outcome of putting an economy in deep freeze, which is the essential response to the exigencies of the health care crisis. So basically we`re in a situation where to deal with this existential health threat, we have to temporarily put the economy on hold. And that`s why this fiscal package is so crucially important. 

The Federal Reserve can help at the margins. But when it comes to actually getting relief to families and businesses, it has to come through the fiscal authorities, through the bill that`s being debated right now. They`re already behind the curve, they`ve got to get this thing out as quickly as possible. 

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR:  And let me just say this, Ari, as far as getting this thing out as quickly as possible, they`re going to have a huge framework issue. How do you get all that have money out so quickly? When Jared was talking about all these unemployment insurance claims, thousands of people can`t even make that happen, because the websites across the states are crashing. 

If you`re going to get those direct payments to people, how do you think that`s going to happen? When TARP happened, the government had to pay just over 700 companies. And just doing that was a logistics disaster. 

So, people are sitting on their couches right now who are worried they cannot provide for their families, they cannot go back to work. We want them to be safe and stay at home. And they`re in a complete panic. 

So while Congress doesn`t have this thing ironed out yet, and the president`s now saying, we`re going to open this thing back up, people are paralyzed and scared. And the more scared they get, the more anxiety that goes up, that hurts us. 

BERNSTEIN:  So, I definitely agree with what Stephanie is saying. The thing to recognize here is that the most -- the quickest way to get water to the fire, that is, income to people who are actively missing paychecks right now, even if they have a job, they`re furloughed from work, they don`t have paid leave, they`re missing a paycheck, is through direct checks of which this bill has, $1,200 for adults, $500 for kids, and through the unemployment insurance system. 

And no question that system is going to be under great pressure. It`s also the case that unless Congress significantly injects revenue into that system, and that is in this plan, $250 billion, people aren`t going to get enough unemployment for a long enough period. So there`s a lot we have to do. 

If I may make one quick public service announcement here, it is my understanding that in the Senate bill, people who don`t pay federal taxes are still eligible for these checks, and they`re the ones who need it the most, so this is crucially important. But for them to get those checks, they`re going to have to file an income tax return. And they can do that by going on the, there is a free file component there that they`ll have to apply to. 

But it`s really important that people understand, even if you didn`t file a federal tax form yourself, you`re eligible for this check, but you will have to file one and do so as quickly as possible. 

MELBER:  Meaning if you`re in a situation where because of your status you wouldn`t normally have to do it, you now have a reason to do it, Jared? 

BERNSTEIN:  Correct. It`s not so much your status, it`s that if your income is low enough, and, you know, the vast majority of the people we`re talking about, they`re income is below $25,000, and we`re talking about, you know, at least 7 million plus households, it`s because they don`t have a federal tax liability. 

Now, they`ve paid state taxes and payroll taxes and things like that. But because they haven`t filed and because the checks are going out based on 2018 and 2019 filings, they`re going to have to file a return. And they can do that, even if they don`t have a liability. 

MELBER:  Yes, that`s an important point for people who obviously do need the help like so many. With the limited time we have left on the tape delay, Jared, do you have a favorite economist joke? 

BERNSTEIN:  Yes, you know the rapper 50 cent, right? His brother is actually an economist. His name is 50 basis points. 

MELBER:  Wow. Stephanie, that was incredible. 

RUHLE:  OK. Can I say one thing? 

I`m going to say, it`s not funny when we`re talking about money, and I just --  


RUHLE:  Let me just give you this perspective. Larry Kudlow two weeks ago said this thing is airtight. This thing is airtight, people should buy the dip, right? 

We now have thousands and thousands of people who have the coronavirus. And now he`s saying it`s not going to be months, it`s going to be weeks? Put this in perspective. Today, the Jacob Javits Center, a 1.8 million square foot, the biggest commercial space in New York City, is now being converted into an emergency medical facility for people who have coronavirus, OK? That`s what`s actually happening. 

So you can take the predictions from the storytelling that`s happening inside the White House because they love to see the stock market go up, or you can look at the reality that this thing is now in 50 states and you`ve got the Jacob Javits Center with National Guard there waiting to take care of patients. Who are you going to believe? 

MELBER:  Who you`re going to believe? Historically, I think both of you make important points. Stephanie laying out the fact that these forward-looking statements that are designed to hype or juice things are not necessarily accurate or helpful and we all have to keep our eye on the facts. 

And then Jared Bernstein, spitting hot fire with a hip-hop basis points joke I believe off the top of the dome, so thank you for that, Jared. 


BERNSTEIN:  You`re welcome. Next time I`ll try to come up with -- 

MELBER:  I appreciate both of you. We can all take a moment of levity within these hard times. I appreciate both of you.

We`re going to fit in a quick break. When we come back, we actually have a top chef Tom Colicchio to talk about what`s happening to so many people working at restaurants, people who go to restaurants. You`re looking at the pictures. He`s going to tell us the road ahead when we come back. 


MELBER:  Welcome back. 

To curb the spread of the coronavirus, many states closing bars and restaurants for any type of dine-in service. And as a result, we have millions of workers laid off at least until restaurants can reopen. The crisis potentially continuing though for weeks as the president put it or months as experts put it. 

So, what will happen to so many restaurants and so many communities around the country? 

Well, chef and restaurant owner Tom Colicchio, who you may also know from Bravo`s "Top Chef" is now warning this virus could actually result in the loss of the majority of American restaurants, up to 75 percent. Mr. Colicchio joins us now. 

Thank you for making the time. What are you warning about and what should be done? 

TOM COLICCHIO, CELEBRITY CHEF:  Well, what we`re warning about is that around 7 million people who have already been laid off, the independent restaurants in this country employ about 13 million people and each one of them are at risk of losing their jobs. And so, what we`re asking for is direct income replacement for our restaurants, providing that we rehire everyone who was laid off, we pay our suppliers, we pay our rent, we pay our utilities. 

I think we`re uniquely positioned because we employ more people than any other entity exempt for the federal government, and we were forced to shut down and we didn`t complain about it because we had to do our part to make sure we stopped this virus. We need help and we need it now. 

MELBER:  You lay it out starkly. You remind us that restaurants are a key part of the American economy, and, obviously, a part of our life and culture. What has made them in your view so susceptible, so vulnerable to this crisis? 

COLICCHIO:  Well, sure, it is a place where people gather. It is a place where people, you know, celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries and deal closings. And so, you know, we are a place where people come together and a lot of people come together, and right now that`s dangerous. 

And so, closing down is, again, we`re not complaining about it. We`re not asking for a handout from the government. We`re asking for the government to put us back to work. 

And what`s really important is that because so many people -- that their insurance, their health insurance is tied to their job, they need to stay in their job. So it is great that the government is writing checks for people and families, but they need to actually a paycheck and they need the money to come through. And again, because we`re already set up to do that, we can flow that money right through to people who need it. 

And, you know, that will also give us additional cushion for when we get the restaurants open, that we have actually some capital left to actually get the restaurants open and survive because we know when we open up it is not going to be as busy as it could be. So we need additional capital as well. 

MELBER:  The president was speaking about some of the potentially affected industries. Obviously, this has all happened fast and the relief packages have been spun together very quickly, but I`m sure given what you are discussing you will notice an omission in the specific industries he names. Take a look. 


REPORTER:  Treasury proposed $150 billion today for those industries, but their proposal doesn`t detail which industries would get that money and how much. So, aside from the airlines, which you just mentioned, what about the cruise industry, the hotels? How much of that money do you see each getting? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We are talking about all of it. Haven`t detailed it yet. Certainly, hotel industry, the cruise ship industry, the airlines, those are all prime candidates absolutely. 


MELBER:  Tom? 

COLICCHIO:  I`m expecting that`s an oversight. We -- again, because we employ more people than any other entity except the federal government, we are hurting the most. Again, we are talking between 5 million and 7 million people out of work. 

Restaurants actually account for 4 percent of the GDP in this country. So, again, we`re just asking that we have a seat at the table here, making sure that we can take care of our employees so they can take care of their families. 

Also, really important right now is we don`t want people who are laid off out there trying to find jobs in the gig economy right now. We need people to stay at home, especially people who have children, whose schools have been closed right now. They don`t have health -- they don`t have daycare, and so keeping those people attached to their job is really important, making sure they stay at home is really important. 

But, again, we need -- we need the stimulus package right now. We also need it not to go through the Small Business Administration. It should go actually flow right through to our banks because the red tape get through the SBA is going to take months and months and we don`t have that time to wait. 

MELBER:  Understood. 

Tom Colicchio, a lot of people know you for your passion and your work in this area. It clearly extends to the well-being of a lot of people in this industry that is such a part of the fabric of American life. We have talked a lot about other parts of this in Washington, but we did want to get this in and I`m really glad to have you be a part of it. 

Tom Colicchio, thank you, sir. 

COLICCHIO:  Thank you, Ari. 

MELBER:  What we`re going to do here is fit in a break and have an update at the top of the hour as well as, of course, Chris Hayes coming up soon. We`ll be right back. 


MELBER:  Thanks for watching our MSNBC special coverage. Stay informed, stay safe. Stay clean if you can. 

I am Ari Melber. I am signing off. I will be back tomorrow though at 6:00 p.m. eastern on "THE BEAT". If you want to tune in, you can always find me online @arimelber on any social media platform. 

And don`t go anywhere because "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.