DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I just wish the politicians would say to you what they say to us, really. And it is a good question.
Do you have one? Yes, please.
REPORTER: Mr. President, a national security question and another question about Governor Cuomo. The national security front, to the extent that you can comment on this, your administration is making heavy preparations to move against the cartels in Latin America right now. And did you expand --
TRUMP: You said Latin America?
REPORTER: Yes. could you expand on the reasoning of why now? Are their supply and logistics especially weak, is it a political, what`s the reasoning?
TRUMP: Yes, good question. We have moved a tremendous number of boats and ships to the area of -- different areas of exactly where you`re talking about because we are tired of drugs pouring into our country from other places and we are tired of seeing drugs pouring into different parts of Latin America, South America, and just coming into our country. Now, we have got them stopped at the border and they are trying to do it by sea.
So we stop them at the border with -- and, frankly, with the help of Mexico. Mexico right now is 27,000 soldiers on our southern border. They never had any soldiers. They`re doing that because I have asked them to do it. That`s the only reason they are doing it. They have 27,000 soldiers. So now they are trying to bring it in by boat and by ship, the drug lords and the people doing drugs and trying to destroy our country from inside with drugs. And we are hitting them very, very hard. And that`s why we are going in.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) that U.S. assets are targeting?
TRUMP: Say it?
REPORTER: Is it beyond narcotics? Are there other illicit activities that you --
TRUMP: Well, there are the activities of human trafficking and especially with respect to women. And as you know, proportionately, it`s mostly women. And it`s a horrible thing and there is never been a time like it and it is because of the internet. And this is all over the world.
But for the most part, they are coming through -- in this country, they are coming through the southern border, but we are hitting them very hard. They have tremendous illegal trafficking, and women and children also, but mostly in women. And it is illegal and it is horrible and it is disgraceful. And I have seen things that are an absolute disgrace. And we are trying to knock them out and we are knocking them hard.
And, again, I want to thank the president of Mexico, because he has really stepped up to the plate. 27,000 soldiers, they have never had any soldiers on our border. And I did that because the Democrats will not approve anything to stop, because they want to have an open borders. They want to have all these people flowing through our border and in many cases they are sick, they have problems that you don`t want to know about or they are criminals, in many cases. Not in all cases but in many cases. And they don`t want to have -- they want to have open borders, they want have sanctuary cities. So they protect criminals. And I don`t want to have that.
And Joe Biden doesn`t want to have that also, as you know, because he said that during numerous debates. I want to have strong borders and I don`t like protecting criminals with sanctuary cities. But we are doing it for drugs, we are doing it for human trafficking, we are doing it because we have to do it. If we do not have the borders, then we don`t have a country.
All right, go ahead, please?
REPORTER: Mr. President, my question on antibody testing, which is FDA approved now, but not widely available yet. I know the admiral said by May we expect to have millions available. How are you going to prioritize who is going to get the antibody tests and what does that going to show you? Do you think that`s going to be immunity?
TRUMP: Well, I do not have the answer for that. I`d rather have the admiral answer that.
ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HHS: So let me clarify and I know you probably understand this. Yes, the antibody test does not tell you if you have the active virus in your nose. If you are positive for the antibody, it strongly implies, it means that you have had the virus before. And to the degree that we know of medical knowledge, you will probably, highly probably be protected against getting the virus again in the future.
So I want to make something clear. There is no antibody test approved, okay. Approve is not a word we talk about. There is a test or two that has received emergency use authorization and many, many, many others out there that have not gone that way yet. And I want to take this opportunity to caution. There is a very consolidated effort between the FDA, CDC, NIH to validate some of the tests that are on the market right now because it is very important that they actually do what they say they do. And we have reason to believe that not all of them are going to perform well.
I don`t know the primary source but The Financial Times just reported that the U.K. had 17.5 million antibody tests that they bought and none of them work. So we are not going to get in that situation. We are going to be careful to make sure that when we tell you, you are likely immune from the disease, you are really -- that test really said that.
Now, I will also make a statement, and there is a lot of work on here and I am very excited about it. As opposed to the test for a novel virus, the antibody type tests are very sophisticated technology, but they are old technology. This, we expect to have many tens of millions of tests the first month that we are really sure that the tests make sense. So this allows for surveillance screening, and Dr. Birx is one of the world experts, to understand is 1 percent 5 percent 20 percent of Americans have been infected. But it allows us to have very widespread tens and tens of millions of people screened with a finger prick on the spot.
REPORTER: When (INAUDIBLE) by May you are saying this will happen or --
GIROIR: So we are --science doesn`t run on rails, right? So we need to make sure that the FDA, the NIH, which they are actively doing right now, assure that the tests that they`re testing really do perform the way they should. And if things work out the way we believe they will, we will have millions on the market by May in a sophisticated way, in a perspective way --
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: All right. Let just take an assessment of where we are after what has already been a long briefing. I`ll look at the headlines what we`ve learned.
Notably, it was from late in the briefing, but there has apparently been another perfect call. Second use that we`re aware of, of the phrase by the president. The first, of course, was his with the president of Ukraine. But, apparently, Mike Pence had a perfect call with the nation`s 50 governors and apparently not a negative word was spoken about the administration`s reaction thus far and it has earned that label.
The president started off by talking about Boris Johnson and marshaling the efforts of four U.S. pharma companies with offices in London to get the latest technology, therapies and treatment to the British prime minister. He said he appreciated Governor Cuomo`s nice statements today along with Governor Murphy of New Jersey. Again, about this call with the governors, there wasn`t a negative person on the call.
He has switched to calling 3M a great company. The fight between the U.S. government, between Donald Trump and 3M was still something he was railing about yesterday, but apparently all is well there, had a friendly call with Joe Biden today. Let`s dip back in to the White House briefing room for a moment.
REPORTER: What does that mean?
TRUMP: But I don`t want to -- yes, I`ve been looking to it. And I also think our Navy secretary is a highly respected man. So sometimes that happens with people and I will take a look at it.
REPORTER: What do you mean by that? Would you consider reinstating --
TRUMP: When he sends a letter out and he sends copies all over the place, and it is not a classified letter and it was very disconcerting to the families of the people on the ship, very disconcerting. So, number one, they get worried and scared. It was weak. We don`t want weak. But I am going to take a look because he is -- I think -- you know, he looks to me like he is an outstanding guy. I looked at his -- just a little while ago, I looked at his file and people have bad days and we will take a look at it.
REPORTER: I guess my question is what would you consider doing for him?
TRUMP: Well, we will take a look. I want to look -- I want to speak also to the secretary. I also want to speak to secretary of defense, who is Mark Esper, who is doing a fantastic job. And we will -- maybe I can help the situation out. I mean, you guys are saying why is the president getting involved? Well, I like to solve problems. That`s a problem, you know. I don`t want to see men hurt, women hurt, I don`t want to see people hurt unnecessarily. Maybe we can solve it easily where, you know, it is not life-changing.
But he did, he did a bad thing. Sending a letter out and many, many copies as you know. I don`t know, I heard 28 copies, I heard a lot. That`s a lot of copies. Plus, the letter was five pages long. I haven`t read the letter. But I think it was five pages long, single space. That`s a lot of writing. You know, he is the captain of a ship. He is a very important person of a very expensive ship, a nuclear-powered ship. He should not be writing letters like that. But it happens. Sometimes I will write a letter that I say, I wish I didn`t send it. Not too often, but it happens.
REPORTER: Mr. President.
TRUMP: Go ahead. Yes, go ahead.
REPORTER: A follow up on that, because the acting Navy secretary -- and I know you we are ask about this but I just want to try one more time. He did say in remarks to soldiers on the USS Roosevelt that Crozier was, quote, too naive or stupid to be in command if he didn`t think that way.
TRUMP: I don`t want to comment on what he said. I understand.
REPORTER: You used a different language, Mr. President.
TRUMP: It is tough language, but I don`t want to -- let`s not get into that. It`s tough language. There are some people that they go, wow, he says it like it is. Look, he made a mistake. He should not have sent that letter or he should have gone through his chain of command, which is the typical way of doing it. You know, he`s in the military. He is a very important person in the military. He knows it better than anybody in this room what he should have done. And I`m sure he feels he made a mistake. But I`m going to look into it and I`m going to see maybe we can do something. Because I`m not looking to destroy a person`s life who has had an otherwise stellar career, as I understand it. I looked at his file just now because I have been seeing what is going on. We can save a person`s career -- I don`t mind going after a person if they did something wrong. And, you know, but this was a mistake.
He made a mistake. I`m not justifying what he did. He made a mistake. He should not be sending letters. He is the captain. He is a very important person in the military. You don`t send letters and then it leaks into a newspaper. Of all newspapers, that was a beauty, right? So you just don`t do that. So it was a mistake.
But I may get involved. I will call secretary of defense and find out a little bit about it. And if I can help two people, two good people, I am going to help them.
REPORTER: Your tone has seemed to change a little bit on the captain since Saturday.
TRUMP: To the captain?
REPORTER: Yes. Has it been with the news coverage or did somebody speak to you in his behalf?
TRUMP: I mean, look, okay, ready? I said when you ask me and when the question was asked the last time, I said, you shouldn`t have sent the letter. I haven`t changed. He should not have sent a letter. And I should not -- if it`s a letter, it should go classified and it should go to his superior and he should not be jumping over his superior.
REPORTER: It`s mild, sir. Did somebody ask you?
TRUMP: So it has not actually changed in that regard. The only thing that has played right up here with me is that I looked at his record and he is been an outstanding person. If he wasn`t, I would not even be talking about this. He has been an outstanding person. He`s had a very exemplary military career. I mean, you know, he started off as a helicopter pilot. They called him Chopper. His name was Chopper. He was a great helicopter pilot. He has a tremendous skill. I know a lot about helicopters. And then he went to F- 16s or F-18s and he was a tremendous pilot.
And then he is very smart. He studied nuclear energy and he was fantastic, and very few people have the aptitude. They have the mentality to do that. Nuclear energy is very complex, very -- it`s very hard. Very few people can do it. And he did it well. And then he became the captain of a nuclear ship, right? He became a -- if a replacement cost, if you look at replacement cost, $18 billion are replacement costs. So he`s got, on a replacement cost basis, an $18 billion ship. You know the president, Gerald Ford, very expensive. That is, you know, the nearest thing I can think of. But they are spending money on that one like nobody has ever seen.
So he made a mistake. He made a mistake. And maybe we are going to make that mistake not destroy his life.
WILLIAMS: Okay, again, we are going to sum up some of what we just witnessed that gets me to one of the other points the president has decided to get involved in this U.S. Navy matter, talking briefly about the captain of the Theodore Roosevelt, the nuclear carrier, F-18 pilot, the aircraft, they fly in the Navy.
Back up, talked about his call with Joe Biden, has apparently convinced himself that we have so many -- as many positive cases as we do because we are doing more testing now. He thanked American citizens for doing a great job. He said stay inside.
But on the topic of the eight outlying states who are not part of the stay- at-home recommendation, he blamed that on the Constitution. He said, from a moral constitutional standpoint, he didn`t want to recommend such a thing. He called the states a localized form of government, reminded everybody, again, that, in his view, the U.S. moved early as he keeps putting it by closing off China and Europe, which did not happen.
He also defended testing. We are probably have quite a few tests, he said of himself and presumably the vice president, because the system of testing now is so quick and so easy. A reporter hopped on that, reminded him of the testing troubles in the country. He audibly sighed at one moment. Dr. Fauci got up briefly. He said, in response to a question about when we are getting back to normal, he said pre-corona back to normal may not ever happen in this country. Though he was confident in our ability to solve the current curve.
The president talked about the curve. He said people can`t even believe how low some of these bumps are, mentioned California by name. That`s what got him into social distancing. He said a lot of equipment is being moved by aircraft. He said, again, Daniel Dale, the fact-checker of this administration, de facto, keeps finding fault with this. The president again today insisting testing is done when people get onto those planes and testing is done when people get off of those planes, talking about air traffic in the United States which is just not true.
He, again, was troubled upon hearing reporters` questions that our testing was somehow troubled. A reminder to all watching, we have no earthly idea how many Americans are walking around with this virus because we are not doing widespread testing as a percentage of the population.
He went after Jonathan Carl, the ABC News White House Correspondent, Author, Journalist, said, you will never make it, went after the Obama administration, said we had no ammunition, again, when he started as president, called Chuck Schumer a lightweight and a disgrace and re- litigated the Mexican border, re-litigated his problem with the Democratic Party, said by him that checkpoints between U.S. states were fine, clearly laid out his view of mitigation as being finite, said, let`s get it done. Talked again about a short period of time.
And finally, he said to the press corps, I wish the politicians would say to you what they say to us, long way of getting into White House Correspondent, Peter Alexander. Peter, do we have that about right?
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brian, I think you do. It`s a lot to digest after hearing the president speak now for more than an hour. I think the most important thing, and there were a lot of things that require fact-checking here, was the the sort of misrepresentation or how the president was most misleading about the status right now of testing. Certainly, the number now more than a million, 1.6 million tests, he says, have now been completed.
But as you noted, that doesn`t take into account, the fact that per capita, the U.S. still significantly trails many other countries. And on top of that, it ignores the fact that while the testing at this point is now significantly better than it was before, before it was abominable. It was way behind. There were real concerns about it.
On the issue of the inspector general that you heard throughout the course of this conversation, the president just on Saturday said that in his conversations with hospital officials, he said that hospital officials said they were, quote, thrilled with the federal response. But as we learned today from the HHS inspector general, they are -- as it relates to shortages, there are severe and widespread shortages, there are testing delays and that the shortages specifically apply to the personnel protective equipment and all sort of other medical emergency supplies that officials there need.
So the president public casting of that, obviously is contradicted by the facts. The president`s allies and advisers there today suggested that this report was done or was completed in conversations with 323 hospital officials in late March. Nonetheless, as evidenced by our conversations across NBC News and MSNBC, as you speak to hospital officials and healthcare workers, even right now, they are still witnessing those significant shortages.
Brian, you will remember on March 13th, the president stood in the rose garden surrounded by the CEOs of places like CVS, and Walgreens, Walmart, I think, were among those who are gathered with him then. He discussed an initiative that would be setting up drive-through testing sites by the private sector in parking lots of those different CVSs or Walgreens as they were.
Well, the HHS tells us today that there have been 25 state-led sites set up around the country. But by the private sector, there, at this point now, more than three weeks later, are only five private sector sites, including just four drive-through sites that presently exist.
Brian, I was struck by what my experience is in that Briefing Room as well. The president, who really sort of views the media in a way -- he thinks they should be almost like his amplifier, as it were, calling out some of the reporters in the room, saying that they shouldn`t be asking tough questions, but that they should be congratulating him and telling him that he is doing a great job.
But it`s important to acknowledge the facts here. And even as it related to the -- to Captain Crozier, who is now in Guam, apparently in quarantine, reportedly because he has coronavirus as well, the president is now sort of trying to swoop in and say that he`s going to save the day, that he`s going to reexamined his situation and see what he can do, because he`s learned that this is a pretty good guy.
But even earlier today, we learned from our friend David Ignatius at "The Washington Post" that just one day before Crozier was fired by the acting Navy secretary, according to "The Washington Post," it was said by that same acting Navy secretary -- breaking news -- Trump wants him fired.
So it was the president who initially wanted him fired. The action took place. And now the president is saying, you know, I`m going to look into this and see what we can do to fix the situation.
WILLIAMS: Peter Alexander, thank you.
Let`s bring in Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious diseases physician, medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit up at Boston Medical Center, also Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, an infectious disease division of the Geffen School of Medicine. She runs the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health, where she specializes in emerging infectious diseases.
Dr. Bhadelia, begin with you.
First of all, there`s a rewriting of physics that we`re witnessing here, the role of the states in a pandemic. I`m reminded that when the Salk vaccine was developed, it wasn`t a state matter. It was a federal matter getting it to the U.S. population, especially children.
Also a rewriting of medicine, the question about testing. The president said that now they`re so quick and easy. Still, am I not incorrect that testing depends on where you live, and socioeconomics, how much money you have?
DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think -- Brian, thanks for having me.
The reality is -- so, just to answer your question first, of course, the level of access to testing is completely dependent on where you are in this country. And as was mentioned, we`re still not testing as many people as we should to -- if we want to get to a reality where we start lifting the restrictions, we are nowhere near the level of testing that we need to get.
And not only that, but now we have a whole number of people who might have gotten sick. And that`s why the serology tests and the testing for antibodies becomes important.
But the thing that struck me throughout this briefing was, outbreaks are not like earthquakes. When there`s an earthquake, there`s an epicenter. You set up your operations, and you sort of set up everything that needs to get done.
Here, with outbreaks, epicenters move. There is a shifting ground reality. It`s not a problem you solve at the -- up front and you sit back. You need to have continuous adjustments of resources. And this is where the federal stockpiles, the federal intervention to state level strategies is important, because not only does it give you insight about what the problems are coming up front, but it allows you to learn from experiences that you can then apply to another state.
So, a good example of this is, you cannot in this time blame or refuse to listen to people from your ground, from your front lines. Anne and I have both been in front lines of outbreaks in the past. You have to listen to people when they say something is not working, not take it personally, but take it as a sign of, OK, what exactly in the system is failing that we can improve, that we can improve outcomes and access and ensure that the outbreak doesn`t become -- or the pandemic doesn`t become even bigger than it is right now?
And so whether it`s the Navy captain, whether it`s governors, whether it`s your doctors and nurses, listen to your front-line staff, because they`re giving you a clue of where the breaks in the armor are.
WILLIAMS: Anne, two points.
Number one, it was no one`s fault that the U.S. economy has been trashed along the way. We`re in kind of a national power save mode. Number two, we often look to our presidents to cheer us on.
But when the president says about mitigation, he continues to say, another short period of time, let`s get it done.
The virus doesn`t respect a back-to-work date on the calendar, does it?
DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA EPIDEMIOLOGIST: No, it does not, Brian. That is exactly correct.
We -- as Dr. Fauci said early on, it`s the virus that dictates the timeline. We have no ability to do so. And I think that we have seen this with Ebola.
Dr. Bhadelia said it -- said it very clearly. We have both been on the front lines, and we have both seen what happens.
And I think that it`s very, very clear that, unless we have national strategy that is coordinated, and that that strategy is flexible and under -- and responsive to the real issues on the ground, we are not going to get ahead of this.
And so it`s useless to start thinking about dates of when we can open back up, when what we really need right now is to be doubling down and getting down to business and making sure that we are flattening this curve and getting the states and the cities and the individuals what they need to be able to combat this virus.
We know that testing, which is a benchmark of disease surveillance and of disease control, is not yet widespread available right now. And, as you mentioned, it is only available to people who can really afford it or who have the ability to go and actively seek it out and beg for it.
And even in those scenarios, people do not -- are not successful. So we only have a tip of the iceberg here. We have no idea where we stand right now. And so it`s critical that we start really understanding what is going on in this country, how many cases there are, and wrapping our brains around what it`s going to take to really get past this mitigation phase.
WILLIAMS: Dr. Anne Rimoin, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, thank you.
And thank you for your patience this afternoon, into this evening.
Our breaking news coverage continues now with our Ari Melber.
Ari, good evening.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thank you very much, Brian. Our coverage continues.
We have also been following the latest news both from the White House task force briefing and other facts from around the nation.
We have heard about the big surge in cases coming in next week. The death toll in New York has been rising. They are expecting that to apex as soon as Wednesday.
Donald Trump saying that he asked leading companies to contact officials in London about therapeutics that might help the British prime minister, Boris Johnson. He was transferred just to intensive care, that news breaking late today.
The president also lashing out at independent facts, including those surfaced by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services for that report that found U.S. hospitals have not only widespread shortages, but that the federal government under the Trump administration has been providing inadequate and sometimes completely out-of-date materials.
I`m joined now by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.
Governor, your response to what we heard today?
GOV. GINA RAIMONDO (D-RI): Good evening.
Well, here in Rhode Island, we had a very big day today. Overnight, we doubled the number of tests that we can perform. Today, we -- I announced a partnership with CVS. So, at least in my state, we have a big company that is stepping up. And they`re providing rapid results within 15 minutes, free for anybody, and it`s a drive-through.
So that will bring us up to very high levels of per capita testing. But it -- but that isn`t the experience everywhere. And I would say, as a nation, we certainly have a lot more to do.
MELBER: We have been seeing many governors take a different tack than this president, both in how they deal with the science and the medical facts, as well as how you address your own constituents.
It`s a difficult time, obviously.
I want to play something from Dr. Fauci. And I wonder where you come down on the point that he makes here, which is that, while there is eventually going to be improvements, and there may even be a very workable vaccine, he cautioned people against the idea that there will ever be a return to pre- coronavirus normality.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: But when we say getting back to normal, we mean something very different from what we`re going through right now, because, right now, we are in a very intense mitigation.
If you want to get to pre-coronavirus, that might not ever happen, in the sense of the fact that the threat is there. But I believe, with the therapies that will be coming online, and with the fact that I feel confident that, over a period of time, we will get a good vaccine, that we will never have to get back to where we are right back now.
So, if that means getting back to normal, then we will get back to normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that what you would tell your constituents, that there is no going back to that level of normal?
RAIMONDO: I think it`s a little early to say, but I think it`s certainly the -- a smart expectation to set.
I spend a lot of time now thinking about what the new normal is. And I`m very anxious to get into the business of releasing some of the restrictions, so we can get Rhode Islanders back to work.
But we know that the key piece of that puzzle or one key pieces of the puzzle is wider availability of rapid, accurate testing, which is why, as I say, we`re moving aggressively down that path here in Rhode Island.
What we what -- what I also know is, there`s no concept of flipping the switch with the economy. It`s not like, on some magic date, we`re just all going to be back to work the way we were.
It`s going to be a slow process, with new rules, new regulation, new screening, and probably a gradual process. And we`re going to be living that new normal for many, many months, or, as Dr. Fauci says, maybe forever.
But I do know where we are now is unsustainable, and the level of economic hardship is much too high. And we have to be very focused on getting to that new normal as quickly as is safely possible.
MELBER: Governor, thank you very much.
Our coverage continues.
We turn now to Dr. Aaron Carroll, professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for "PBS NewsHour."
Same question to you, Doctor.
What did you think of Dr. Fauci`s comments?
rMD-BO_DR. AARON CARROLL, INDIANA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: I think there`s a real chance we won`t be going back to normal. I think he`s exactly correct.
When we come out of this, we`re going to have to be able to do significant testing, I mean, being able to test every single person who has symptoms. We`re going to have to have a public health system which can do contact tracing of every single person that an infected person has come into contact with, put all of them into isolation, to do testing on them.
That`s an amazingly complex system that`s going to have to go on until we have a vaccine. And if any location starts to get an outbreak like this again, they will have to close things down along these lines.
Our goal is hopefully not having to have the whole country do it at once, but it`s very likely locations are going to have to do this again. And if it does rage out of control and the fall or again, before there`s a vaccine, we may have to do something like this again as well.
We`re not going to feel totally safe until a significant percentage of the population has either had it, which we`d like to avoid, or has had a vaccine.
MELBER: So what would be a medical precedent for that?
CARROLL: I -- we haven`t seen anything like this before.
But I think if you look at Singapore, for instance, right now, they have done some of the really good contact tracing and isolation, have managed to keep everything open, but things have just started to get out of control. And they have basically closed everything down for the next month.
They have been doing a really good job along the lines we can`t do yet. So, in order to reopen, we`re going to have to have at least 14 days of everything looking better day after day. We`re going to have to be comfortable that the hospitals and the health care system can manage this.
But we`re also going to have to have so many quick tests, on the order of like 750,000 to a million a week across the country, to have the capacity to test everyone who has symptoms, and then have that public health system which can track everyone down and keep at least the people who are infected isolated.
Otherwise, all of us have to be isolated.
MELBER: Yamiche, watching this press conference today, I have to pose the question to you, would it be more constructive and factual if the president weren`t there?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": I mean, obviously, that`s in some ways a question I can`t answer.
What I can say is that the president seemed very frustrated when he was being pressed on things that are of dire consequence, including this I.G. report from the Health and Human Services I.G., who is saying that there are dire shortages at the hospitals, who is saying that there might be health care workers who are at risk, and they might not be able to treat COVID patients in the way they should because they have these shortages.
He was lashing out, saying that the I.G. is someone who`s an Obama holdover, when, in fact, she`s been with the I.G. since 1999. So what we saw, I think, was a president who was lashing out because he just didn`t want...
MELBER: Well, and either way, I mean, to even -- I will jump in -- I will jump in for viewers, because we had that on our air and people saw it.
It doesn`t matter whether she was new or old. The inspectors general provide facts. And so the only relevant question -- it`s almost to even fact-check the president on when she got into the job is to accept potentially the legitimacy of that, when, in fact, what jumped out to me, Yamiche, in this reporting -- and I`m going to read some of it for your further analysis -- is what the I.G. found about the Trump administration.
The hospitals have these severe shortages, as I mentioned, of medical gear, of inconsistent guidance from the government that may have compromised response.
We can put up on the screen here, hospitals across the country facing dire shortages of vital medical equipment amid this outbreak. They fear they can`t ensure the safety of health care workers needed to treat patients.
All of that, Yamiche, from the government watchdog. And this comes, of course, on the heels of a story viewers may have heard about, but it`s gotten less attention because of the crisis, which was, going into the weekend, the Friday night news dump of the president removing a different I.G., also from facts he didn`t like, in that case about Ukraine.
ALCINDOR: That`s right.
And what you hear from the president is this disdain for the idea of an inspector general, this disdain for an idea of a watchdog. And what you have is someone like Michael Atkinson, who he was fired on Friday by the president, this intel community inspector general, saying, look, I was just doing my duty.
This is a nonpartisan role that I`m playing. What I`m trying to say is that, if people see abuse, if people see problems, they should have the legal right to come forward, even if those don`t bear out.
So what the president there is really doing is questioning the idea of whether or not government agencies should have anyone looking over them and whether or not there should be any sort of watchdog in our society.
MELBER: Yes, all well put.
We have been juggling these stories, so I have to release both of you to turn to one more expert.
Yamiche Alcindor and Dr. Carroll, thank you both.
I turn to Thomas Friedman, the well-known author and foreign affairs columnist from "The New York Times," joining us -- and I don`t make light of anything these days, Mr. Friedman, but joining us as I always imagined you, in a book-lined room.
MELBER: So happy to see you OK there.
There`s so much to get into.
I want to play a brief moment from the press conference that we haven`t aired yet of something that is so rare nowadays. Maybe it should be -- shouldn`t be. Maybe it should be basic, but just the president mentioning that, at least for a moment, he claims that he and Joe Biden were able to put politics aside to have a conversation today.
That`s news. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vice President -- former Vice President Biden, who called. And we had a really wonderful, warm conversation. It was a very nice conversation.
We talked about pretty much this. This is what we talked about. This is what everyone is talking about. This is what they want to talk about. And he gave me his point of view, and I fully understood that.
And we just had a very friendly conversation, lasted probably 15 minutes. And it was really good. It was really good, really nice. I think it was very much so. I appreciate his calling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tom, your reaction to that particular moment, and, big picture, what is on your mind tonight, as we go through this as a nation?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": So, Ari, I would say a couple things.
One, I actually have a column coming out tomorrow about why we`re going to need a national unity government to actually wrestle with this crisis, some kind of American equivalent of that.
And the reason is, the stresses and strains that are going to come from this crisis, first of all economically, people who lost their job, lost their business, lost their savings are going to need to be bailed out.
The stresses and strains over who gets bailed out and who doesn`t after this are going to be profound. They could -- they could rip this country apart if we deal with them on a partisan basis.
Secondly, Ari, as some of your guests have alluded to, there`s going to be required a massive amount of not only intrusive testing to track where the virus is and who`s got it, who can be released into the work force and who can`t, but a lot of also licensing and badging, literally through technological means.
Just as, after 9/11, you wanted to know that the person sitting next to you on an airplane wasn`t carrying a bomb, today or in the future, you will want to know that they`re not carrying the virus.
And that`s going to require a lot very intrusive technology. It is going to raise a lot of deep civil liberties issues. And that, too, is going to be really wrenching.
And so our ability to come together as a country around that, I think, is going to be very, very important going forward. More broadly...
MELBER: Let me ask you about that, before we go to the broadly, because are you sort of suggesting, in a little bit of a somewhat Orwellian way, that we may get to a point where -- where folks want to see people`s health papers, they want to see verification, if they`re going to be in any close quarters?
FRIEDMAN: I think that`s going to be -- you`re going to see things that we have already seen, say, in South Korea, Ari, and in -- and different countries already, where restaurants are taking the temperature of people before they come in.
Airlines will be doing that. If you are immune, there may be some way that you can be badged, that people will want to know that.
So, I don`t know exactly where this will go, but it will raise real civil liberties questions. And, again, if we come at it as a partisan -- with kind of our traditional partisan politics, it too could really rip the country apart.
More broadly, I listened to the president`s briefing last night. I listened to part of it tonight.
It`s hard -- it`s hard for me to watch, because, to me, you know, what the country deeply wants to know, what`s making people anxious, is, do you have a plan, and where are we on the course of that plan?
So, what would you do if you were a normal president? Well, to me, you would have three charts out there. The first chart is, who`s got the virus, what are the needs of every hospital in the country, and where are we as a federal government in meeting those needs both for the patients in the hospital and the health providers. That would be sort of one chart.
Second is, where is the virus growing and where is actually the curve flattening. That would be the second part of the briefing.
And the third part would be how can we think about as the governor of Rhode Island alluded to, getting people back to work? What would be required for that? What would be required is some kind of risk stratified approach that people like Dr. David Katz have talked about where we massively test everybody?
We know who we`ve got, we know who`s got the disease, who`s had it and is immune. How do we risk-stratify, phase them back into the workforce while we protect those who are the most immuno-compromised or the elderly --
FRIEDMAN: -- most likely to get the disease?
So, you`ve got kind of three charts. Every night you`d come out and say, here`s where we are, here`s where we`re falling behind, here`s where we`re making progress.
Instead, you have this president who comes out, just says everything is great, it`s all wonderful. We`re just doing great. And everything that is wrong is President Obama`s fault.
As a viewer, it makes me really -- it really makes me anxious. This is not helping.
MELBER: Right. As a viewer and I think as implied, as a citizen, the last thing I want to ask you about briefly while you`re here, we`ve had these conversations in the past. A lot of these things come back to the paradigm, what is the way that you`re looking at the world.
Are you looking at it with self-interest, or capitalism which does some things very well? Are you look at things in terms of sacrifice which leaders often call on us to do? We have a lot of nurses and doctors sacrificing right now.
And so much time has been spent thinking about the political developments in the world, and you`ve written books about it when you talk about post- Cold War and you talk about military strategy, you talk about inner dependence. I wonder whether in your view, is it too early to say whether this pandemic-level existential threat to so many people in the world, to so many economies of the world means that those of us need to try on a new paradigm when we think about world issues, because it seems now to be as big as so many of the other things that used to consume years of strategy and planning?
FRIEDMAN: Ari, it`s a good question. If I could put on my sort of paddy- daddy hat for a one second and tell you that the worst mistakes I`ve ever made as a journalist is to begin a column or a story with the phrase "the world will never be the same again".
FRIEDMAN: And so, you know, so much depends. If we get a vaccine early, if question get therapeutics early, if we have a different president who is able to rally the world together -- right now, globalization is fracturing. Maybe we`ll find that because of this, we need to work together in totally different ways.
I just -- I just hope we don`t go back to a world of hyper-partisanship and the kind of tribal politics breaking out all over the world because that will not be healthy. It wasn`t healthy before. It really will be unhealthy now because there`s a lot of countries going forward. They`re not going -- they`re going to face real problems in the developing world in particular. So --
FRIEDMAN: So much happens. I just know one thing, if I can say, you know, historically, America was counted on to do three things in a crisis -- lead, provide information and provide help and succor to people around the world. And we`re not doing any of those right now.
MELBER: Well, I feel you on all of that. That`s why we`re benefitting greatly to have that bigger perspective.
Before I let you go, I`m running over on time. Do you have time, though, for a bad Passover joke?
FRIEDMAN: Not only do I have time, I really need that.
MELBER: When you let Elijah in on Wednesday, make sure you stay 6 feet away from him.
FRIEDMAN: Absolutely. God bless you.
MELBER: You and my mom may be the only people who enjoy that. I apologize to everyone else. A little humor to get us through the hard times.
Thomas Freidman, thank you as always.
We`re going to fit in a quick break. But when we come back, President Trump taking on the intelligence community inspector general who actually spawned the factual report that proved true and led to impeachment. It`s a whole other important story when we return.
MELBER: Welcome back.
The country has been, of course, focused on the ongoing battle with the coronavirus. The president has at times called it a, quote, invisible enemy. Donald Trump hasn`t missed the opportunity to focus, though, on battling his other perceived enemies. In fact, late Friday night, the president sent this letter to Congress, which is required, informing them that he was actually taking the unusual step of firing the inspector general for the intelligence community Michael Atkinson. He says he needs the fullest confidence of the appointee serving in that role, and that`s no longer the case for this inspector general.
Why this among all the inspectors general? Well, he is the one who famously followed the law that is, did exactly as he was supposed to do by providing Congress with the now infamous whistle-blower complaint about Donald Trump`s attempt to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. That complaint, as you probably know, it proved to be true. It led to Donald Trump`s impeachment.
And there has now been outrage against this move in the middle of this coronavirus pandemic. Consider the reaction as the news was breaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), LEAD IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Now, the president is retaliating in the middle of a pandemic. It`s just reprehensible and dangerous. It sends a message throughout the federal government and, in particular, to other inspector generals that if they do their job as this professional did, and Michael Atkinson was a complete professional, they too may be fired by a vindictive president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: On Saturday, though, this so-called vindictive president doubled down and defended this very unusual firing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible. He took a whistle-blower report, which turned out to be a fake report, it was fake, it was totally wrong, it was about my conversation with the president of Ukraine, he took a fake report and he brought it to Congress with an emergency, OK? Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you. That man is a disgrace to I.G.s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The White House may hope that all of this goes away during this pandemic. But we are devoting time to cover it and we have quite the guest for it.
Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings was an impeachment manager. She`s also a member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence communities and has an extensive background in law enforcement.
Thanks for making time for us.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Well, Ari, it`s good to be with you.
And, look, the news of the firing of Michael Atkinson is just disgraceful. It`s very disappointing.
Michael Atkinson is a straight shooter and I just would ask that the American people remember that Michael Atkinson was fired for doing his job. He was fired for faithfully executing the duties of his office, which is totally disgraceful.
And, you know, as it has been said, the president is very vindictive. He should be focused on the over 300,000 Americans who have been stricken with the coronavirus and over 10,000 Americans who have died as a result. His response to this crisis has been substandard and for him to fire a man for simply doing his job, a man of integrity just shows the character of this president.
MELBER: You laid it out starkly. Do you think the timing of this removal is suspicious?
DEMINGS: It`s extremely suspicious. Remember, our president is the distracter in chief. Whenever he -- because, remember, it is all about him every movement, every issue, every tragedy. Wherever he is in trouble, which he is in this response, whatever he`s been rightly criticized, whenever Congress is providing necessary oversight, he tries to change the subject.
And so, he is playing the victim and trying to say that Michael Atkinson of all people was out to get him, is not a Trump fan. This man is a career public servant. He`s received numerous awards for his exemplary performance. And matter of fact, Director Maguire described him as a valued and trusted employee, but it doesn`t seem like they are very useful to this White House.
MELBER: Yes, and I wanted to draw you out on the wider part of this, because, you know, we don`t pick the stories that come up. We couldn`t have scripted more of an overlap that the president enters the weekend taking out this inspector general and viewers have now heard the history of the facts, your perspective, and we also played the president in fairness, people can make up their own mind about what`s going on here and whether it`s on the level.
And that`s going on into the weekend, and here we are on Monday, in the middle of this pandemic, Congresswoman, and a different inspector general releases material that he also then went on the attack for just in today`s press conference, and what seems to be consistent here is inspector generals doing the work, providing evidence and facts about failures, misconduct and in the case of at least the way your House ultimately determined, potentially abuses of office by this White House.
And then he goes on the attack, doesn`t address the fact, goes on the attack of the people doing fact-finding.
Does that concern you with regard to the health report that came out today?
DEMINGS: It extremely concerns me, but what is more troubling is that it ought to concern everybody. Inspector generals are interested in the numbers. They`re interested in the facts, with the purpose of really trying to make our country better, more efficient, more effective.
And for this president to fire the inspector general, Michael Atkinson, and now with the new inspector general`s report really looking at how we can better serve our health care professionals and our hospitals as they are all about to reach capacity, I`m extremely worried that this president will try to take the numbers and do what he`s always done, and that`s to cover them up, deny them and the people who need help the most, help may be slow coming to them.
MELBER: So what is the solution? When I saw this story break, some people online said, well, what are you going to do, quote, I`m impeach him again? And, obviously, that`s not where the Congress is at this week with everything going on.
But given that the law already does largely make these offices independent and it does require things get turned over so the president has to explain why he removed him, and everyone is debating it, in your view, is this it? Is this where it lands or is there something else, some other corrective that can be -- that can be done?
DEMINGS: You know, Ari, inspector generals, they are supposed to be fair and impartial, non-partisan and Michael Atkinson was the perfect example, a shining example of that. If we are going to effectively attack COVID-19 the way we need to save American lives because quite frankly, the president`s primary responsibility is supposed to be to protect Americans, then we have got to give an accurate overview of the president`s initial response, America`s initial response to this virus and look at what we could have done better.
Because you know reports are already out that we may see another case in the fall. So, the role that inspector generals play are critical, and we need to take this I.G.`s report and see what we can learn from it so we can be better with the sole purpose of saving American lives.
MELBER: Understood. And we definitely wanted to get your voice in on this. You mentioned the president`s penchant for distraction, we`re staying on these stories, even the ones that were dropped Friday night.
Congresswoman Val Demings, thank you so much.
DEMINGS: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
We will be right back.
MELBER: I want to thank our guests, doctors and experts and public officials who joined us this hour.
That does it for our special coverage. If you`re looking for me, you can follow me online @arimelber on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can actually critique any of the bad jokes there. If you have ideas, serious or otherwise for programming, you can always email me at email@example.com.
I`ll be filling in this hour 7:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, as well.
But don`t go anywhere right now. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END