DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Health and life, living is number one, but the rejuvenated economy, and I think it`s going to go quickly. We`ll be utilizing our robust testing capacity for the governors. We`ll be giving them what they need if they don`t have it themselves. We hope by now they`ll be able to have it themselves. We`re hoping they would have it themselves early on but they weren`t. But such great advances have been made. So, we`ll be dealing with them on that.
And they can rely on us very strongly. They`re going to be relying on us, I think, for some help, and we`re there, whether it`s building hospital beds, which I don`t think they`re going to need. You look at Javits Center, a great, great job that the Army Corps of Engineers did. FEMA got involved. We actually ended up sending our medical people. That was not a COVID-19 center. And they asked could you do that.
And then even after we did that, it was not used very much, meaning they didn`t have to use it nearly to the extent that they thought when they conceived that. It wasn`t that they made a mistake. Nobody made a mistake. We built it. I`d rather have too much than too little, err on the side of caution. And it`s really incredible what they did, including the two ships, the two great ships.
And I just want to thank a lot of really great people, a lot of great politicians, and, again, we`re going to be announcing the political list tomorrow. And on there, we`re going to have a lot of senators. And we`re going to be having a meeting with the governors probably on Thursday, a meeting by teleconference and a lot of things will be discussed and some of the details will be discussed. But we want them to do an incredible job of running their states. I think they`ll do an incredible job too after having gotten to know so many of them. I think each one will do an incredible job.
And again the federal government is there. We have ventilators if they need them. We have beds if they need them. We have hospitals if they need them. We have a testing capacity that`s now second to none. We`re, again, other countries are calling us -- countries that you thought were doing well are calling us for help on testing. So we`re there to help.
And with that, if you have a few questions, we`ll take them. And if not, that would be okay too.
Yes, go ahead, please, Jeff.
REPORTER: Mr. President, two questions. First, on your announcement about WHO. I understand your grievances with them, but can you address why it is the correct time to do this now in the middle of a pandemic.
TRUMP: Well, we`re going to be dealing with countries and we`re going to be dealing with leaders of different parts of the world. We spend $500 million a year, we have for many years, far more than anybody else, including China. And, I mean, look, I read off a long list of problems that we have, and we`ve had problems with them for years. It doesn`t -- we`re looking at a term of 60 to 90 days. We`re doing a very thorough investigation right now as we speak. But this should have been done by previous administrations a long time ago.
And when you look at the mistakes that were made, all of the mistakes that were made, it`s just something we have to look at. And it is very China- centric. I told that to President Xi. I said, the World Health Organization is very China-centric, meaning, whatever it is, China was always right. You can`t do that. You can`t do that, not right.
And we spend -- and again, it`s not a question of money, but when we`re spending $500 million and China is spending $38 million, $34 million, $40 million, $42 million in a case, it`s, again, not money, but it`s not right. So we`ll see. This is an evaluation period. But in the meantime, we`re putting a hold on all funds going to World Health. We will be able to take that money and channel it to the areas that most need it. And that`s another way of doing it. But we have not been treated properly.
REPORTER: Mr. President, you mentioned that you`re going to be speaking with all the governors tomorrow, make recommendations --
TRUMP: On, probably, Thursday.
REPORTER: Thursday. What if they don`t listen to you or take your advice or obey you? Will you consider taking away their federal funding?
TRUMP: I don`t want to say that. They`ll listen. They`ll be fine. I think we`re going to have a good relationship. They need the federal government, not only for funding. And I`m not saying take it away, but they need it for advice. They`ll need maybe equipment that we have. we have a tremendous stockpile that we`re in the process of completing. we`re in a very good position.
Again, the cupboard was bare when I got here. Nobody ever thought a thing - - in all fairness to previous administrations, no one ever thought anything like this was going to happen, but it did happen. Now, the governors will be very respectful of the presidency.
Again, this isn`t me. This is the presidency. The presidency has such a great importance in terms of what we`re doings. And you can talk about Constitution, you can talk about federalism, you can talk about whatever you want. But the best way, I`m talking now from a managerial standpoint is to let individual governors run individual states and come to us if they have difficulty, and we will help them. Yes, John?
REPORTER: You talk about having testing and tracing equipment and the facility for that in place to open up the government. Dr. Fauci said this morning that that critical testing and tracing ability does not currently exist.
TRUMP: Well, I don`t know. Look, I don`t know. I don`t know what he said. Nobody knows.
REPORTER: My question is will it exist by May 1st?
TRUMP: The individual governors have testing. The individual governors -- we have many forms of testing and new testing is being developed. Our country has to get opened, and it will get opened. And it will get opened safely and hopefully quickly. Some areas quicker than other areas. But there is tremendous testing, and the governors will use whatever testing is necessary. And if they`re not satisfied with their testing, they shouldn`t open. But they`ll use whatever testing is necessary.
Go ahead, please.
REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Back to the WHO. Will you support the organization again if Tedros is immediately replaced or do you want to see him step down as possible?
TRUMP: Well, we`re doing an investigation. I don`t know the gentleman, but I know there have been problems, and it`s been very unfair to the United States, just like the World Trade Organization has been very, very unfair. Now, they are coming into line. When they consider China a developing nation, and because China is a developing nation, they take massive advantage of the United States? Why didn`t other presidents stop this? I`ve been talking about it from the day I got in. And we`re looking at that very, very strongly. World Trade, so I have a problem with World Health and World Trade, both of them. I`m not sure which is worse, if you want to know the truth, but we`ll figure it out. Okay?
REPORTER: Mr. President, you were just criticizing the WHO for praising China as transparent. But you were saying many of the same things about China just a couple of months ago. So, I mean, how do you square your decision --
TRUMP: Well, I did a trade deal with China, where China is supposed to be spending $250 billion in our country. We`re going to be watching very much to see.
Now, we`ve got a little waylaid by the virus. But, look, I`d love to have a good relationship with China. But if you look, and we made a phenomenal deal, China has paid. Because of me, China has paid us tens of billions of dollars over the course of a very short period of time, billions of it. Some of that money has been spent to farmers where they were targeted by China. We cannot let that happen. We can`t let that happen.
So we ended up signing a very good trade deal. Now, I want to see if China lives up to it. I know President Xi. I think he will live up to it. If he doesn`t live up to it, that will be okay too, because we have very, very good alternatives.
REPORTER: Today 600,000 cases, 25,000 deaths. I know you want to blame to the WHO. But I`ve spoken to hundreds of people across the country in the last few weeks who say they still can`t get tested and that they aren`t social distancing. Because they aren`t --
TRUMP: Excuse me. I know your question. Are you ready? The governors are supposed to do testing. It`s up to the governors. Go ahead, please.
REPORTER: But Mr. President, that`s not the question.
TRUMP: Go ahead, please, quiet, quiet, quiet.
REPORTER: Mr. President, the question is that they say that they are not - - they are following your lead, that they are not social distancing --
TRUMP: The governors are doing the testing. It`s now not up and hasn`t been up to the federal government.
REPORTER: The question is about social distancing, sir. The question --
TRUMP: I told them when they put this guy here, it`s nothing but trouble. He`s a show boat. If you keep talking, I`ll leave and you can have it out with the rest of these people. If you keep talking, I`m going to leave and you can have it out with them.
REPORTER: Just a simple question.
TRUMP: Just a loud mouth. Go ahead.
REPORTER: If you could kind of clarify, are you basically lifting your slow-the-spread before the May 1 deadline --
TRUMP: No, I`m not at all. The governors are going to be running their individual states. Some of them will say, no, I can`t open now, and some of them may last longer than we even would think. Others will say I can. You can go, I don`t want to mention states. But there are numerous states that are in great shape right now. They`re viewing the rest of the country like we don`t even believe this is happening. We have a lot of those states. They`re set to open practically now. I mean, they would be open now. We`re going to let them open sooner than the date. We`re going to pick a date. We`re going to get a date that`s good. But it`s going to be very, very soon, sooner than the end of the month.
But there are many states out there that are looking at this and reviewing it and they`re saying, we shouldn`t be even included in this. You know, there are some that want to open up almost now. Now, if we disagree with it, we`re not going to let them open. We`re not going to let them open. If some governor said, you know, has a lot of problems, a lot of cases, a lot of death and they want to open early, we`re not going to let it happen. So we`re there to watch. We`re there to help. But we`re also there to be critics.
And on testing, very important, we`ve always wanted the states to do the testing. We`re now providing great testing, but the state has to provide the great testing. The state has to provide the ventilators, but they didn`t do that. So we ended up going into the ventilator business, essentially. And we`ve made tens of thousands of ventilators and we solved the big problem for the states. But we want them to do the testing. And we are there to help.
REPORTER: I have two questions.
TRUMP: One question, just one.
REPORTER: I have a question on the governors. But, first, can I follow up on Jordan`s question. Do you want to walk back where you did praise China in January for being transparent about coronavirus?
TRUMP: I`m always respectful of China. I`m respectful of other countries. Why wouldn`t I be respectful of China? In the meantime, China has paid us nothing in your last administration, nothing in any previous administration. They paid us tens of billions of dollars because of what we`ve done. And the trade deal we have, they have to give us $250 billion in purchases. Let`s see if they do that. And they`re also paying us 25 percent or $250 billion in tariffs. So we`re taking -- wait a minute, we`re taking in billions of dollars for China, from China. They never paid us ten cents. That`s a great thing.
Now, if they don`t produce or if we find out bad things, we`re not going to be happy. But right now -- and we`re doing that. That`s what we`re doing. Look, we have an investigation under way. We`re paying almost $500 million. We have an investigation under way on this World Health Organization. We will find out exactly what went on, and we may be satisfied that it can be remedied and we may be satisfied that it`s so bad that it can`t be remedied. And if it can`t, we`re going to go a different route.
REPORTER: This is my question, you`re criticizing the WHO for praising China, for being transparent, but you also praise China from being transparent --
TRUMP: I don`t talk about China`s transparency. If I`m so good to China, how come I was the only person, the only leader of a country that closed our borders tightly against China? And by the way, when I closed the border, that was long ahead of what anybody -- you can ask anybody that was in the room, 21 people. I was the one person that wanted to do it. Deborah can tell you that better than anybody. I was the one person that wanted to do it. You know why? Because I don`t believe everything I hear. And I close -- and if we didn`t close our border early, very early, long before the kind of dates you`re talking about, we would have had thousands, and probably hundreds of thousands more deaths.
Please, that`s enough. Thank you.
REPORTER: Last week, you said that you would have data in the coming days about the coronavirus` disproportionate impact on black Americans?
TRUMP: Yes, that`s being worked on very strongly.
REPORTER: When will we have that?
TRUMP: I would say within two weeks. That is being worked on, Deborah. But we`re working on that very strongly. Okay, CDC is working, but we`re getting reports on that.
Yes, please go ahead.
REPORTER: Mr. President, you`re talking about reopening parts of the country by the end of the month. And if you do that, and as a result you see a spike in cases in those areas --
TRUMP: We may or may not. You know, some countries have and some countries haven`t. I`m watching other countries. I`m studying other countries as they open. I mean, I don`t want to go into names because for some it would be a little embarrassing. But I`m studying other countries as we go along.
So on that, we have looked at every country that`s opened, some successfully, some okay, no total disaster, but some okay. And some have to go back to the hot spot and fix the hot spot. We think we`re going to do it very successfully. Again, we have one country but we have lots of different pieces. It`s a puzzle. We have beautiful pieces, beautiful states with capable governors. They know when it`s time to open.
And we don`t want to put pressure on anybody. I`m not going to put any pressure on any governor to open. I`m not going to say to Governor Cuomo, you`ve got to open within seven days. I want him to take his time, do it right and then open New York. I`m not putting any pressure on the governors. Some of them don`t need pressure or not pressure. I mean, they`re ready to go. And that`s a good thing. So we`ll open it up in beautiful little pieces as it comes along.
Please, go ahead, behind you.
REPORTER: Yes, just a quick question. You spoke about Governor Cuomo. I`m just wondering if you have any thoughts on some of his remarks from earlier today where he basically said that were in New York to be pressured to be opened, it would cause a constitutional crisis and he basically said that you declared your sing King Trump. So I`m wondering if you`ve heard those thoughts.
TRUMP: Yes. I declared myself as king. You know, I heard he said that. But I didn`t see the remarks. But he understands how we helped him. He needed help. We gave them --
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Let me bring back Kristen Welker and our two medical experts, Dr. Lipi Roy and Dr. William Schaffner. First, I want to start with you, Kristen Welker, because the president -- I do think we are learning what the president has ordered, and I think it`s important he just said and emphasized he`s not going to order any state to open before they want to open. That`s an important point there. He`s hinted that he`s willing to open before then if a state is ready. But he seemed to want to walk that back.
But the biggest thing that I think that I can`t figure out here that I want you to try to untangle is this issue of saying, well, it`s the states that have to do the testing. That`s not on the federal government. That seems to be a big deflection and a big missing piece of this puzzle to open up the country.
KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It`s a huge missing piece, Chuck. And President Trump, remember, had initially said, look, we`re ramping up testing, we`re making sure that various different states have the tests that they need. there`s going to be testing in the parking lot of Walmart, for example. And yes, there has been this ramping up of testing across the country, and yet it`s still not anywhere close to where it needs to be.
And the United States is lagging when it comes to testing per capita, when you compare it to other countries like South Korea, for example. And so it`s still hard to see how some of these hard-hit areas like New York will be able to reopen until they have that widespread testing. And it remains to be answered why President Trump is deflecting that solely to the states, why he`s not taking more responsibility for that.
It`s also just worth underscoring, Chuck, this point again. Yesterday, President Trump said that he has total authority. This is a major backtrack from that. He is now saying that the decision to reopen is up to these governors, even indicating some of them are so eager to reopen because they haven`t been hit as hard, that it might open before that May 1st deadline that he had been looking at.
And so there have been a number of contradictions and confusing statements that we`ve seen from this administration. The ones about testing, yet another example of that, Chuck. Because the bottom line, every single medical professional and official has said there needs to be more widespread testing before some of these hardest hit areas in particular can reopen, Chuck.
TODD: I want to bring in the two doctors, Lipi Roy and William Schaffner.
Dr. Roy, I have to admit, if you`re just trying to follow the logic train here of his complaints about the WHO, at the same time he`s shielding apparently the lack of transparency by China, going out of his way to praise China and simultaneously criticize the WHO for apparently being duped by China. Okay, that logic train is very difficult to follow. But the bottom line is, did China deceive the WHO, or is that something that`s too soon to know?
DR. LIPI ROY, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Yes. So, I think it`s important to recognize that the World Health Organization, many countries around the world depend on the World Health Organization for its technical assistance and guidance, in particularly a lot of developing countries, India, for example.
We need to remember we live in a world with other countries. This global pandemic has shown that. India also mass produces a lot of medications that we depend on, both China and India. And they`ve actually shut down some of that production which is going to result in medication shortage for us.
So this idea of cutting back funding by our president, cutting back funding to the WHO in the midst of a global pandemic is nothing short of insanity. We really need to work together and develop a public health strategy and a strong public health infrastructure to follow up on Kristen`s point of both widespread testing hand in hand with contact tracing so we understand the scope of the problem and get people healthy and safe.
TODD: All right. I`m going to go back to the briefing here in a minute. But it is worth noting on that front that this testing issue, again, this is equipment that the federal government was supposed to get, the biggest thing being swabs. With that, let`s go back to the briefing.
REPORTER: The United Nations` economist, Dr. Maximo Torero, says that there`s a danger that the food supply could be interrupted during this pandemic. And I wanted to know what you`re going to do about that?
TRUMP: Well, I think our farmers are incredible. They`re producing levels of food, like, just unbelievable. Our transportation -- that`s one of the reasons I have the transportation people on the line tomorrow for the delivery of the food.
No, we`re doing phenomenally with the food. And I will say the stores Kroger and Walmart, which does a lot of the food, and many of the stores, they seem to be in very good shape. But I haven`t heard that at all.
We`re going to be very strong on food supply. OK, how about one more question? Go ahead please.
QUESTION: Mr. President, yes, the death projections that you mentioned earlier are based on full social distancing until the end of May.
QUESTION: So if you ease up on these guidelines now, how many more Americans do you think are going to die?
TRUMP: Well, I`m not easing up.
First of all, we`ll have guidelines, even for the states that open, and there`ll be guidelines. But we will not have any problem with that. Your question`s a very interesting question, but the states that are opening are not states which will have a problem with that.
Plus, they will have to adhere to guidelines until a certain point into the future, when the enemy is vanquished.
QUESTION: But the reason they don`t have a problem now is because of social distancing. So, if you ease the guidelines...
TRUMP: No, the reason they don`t have is partially -- and some of that will stay in effect. Much of it will stay at effect for a period of time.
But the reason also is, they`re different kinds of states. They have lots of room. They have fewer people, and they have lots of room. And that`s one of the primary reasons.
I want to thank you all very much.
So, a lot of positive things are happening. We`re going to have some very strong recommendations for the governors. We`re going to work with the governors. The governors are going to do a good job. And if they don`t do a good job, we`re going to come down on them very hard.
We`ll have no other choice.
Thank you all very much. Thank you.
TODD: And, there, we have been listening to President Trump`s coronavirus briefing there.
He appears to have, I believe, ended the briefing there completely at this point. Obviously, everybody is not 100 percent sure on that front.
But the big news coming out of it, number one, we`re withholding new funding to the WHO. He was very careful on What he said. The money has likely already gone out the door. So, this was about additional new money.
So, as soon as we learn more about that, but he was very specific in how he identified that. So, it may not be actually yanking money away.
It`s about putting new money forward. That`s number one.
Number two, he`s backing off on his demand when it comes to the governors, that they open when he says so. He acknowledges that it is not his call. But he did say he wanted a plan from every individual governor on that front.
Let me bring back a couple of the doctors with me, Drs. Schaffner and Roy.
And, Dr. Schaffner, let me get to you.
I want to go back to this issue of the WHO and China. And, again, I think you, in the medical community are like, what`s with this blame game now? We can worry about this in three years.
But, again, if you`re irritated with the WHO on how they handled China, then, by logic, you should be more upset with China for deceiving the WHO. Did China deceive the WHO, or is it too soon to tell?
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, DEPARTMENT OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE CHAIRMAN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I think it`s too soon to tell, Chuck.
In the beginning, the Chinese molecular virologist, of course, identified the coronavirus, sequenced its genome, and sent it out to the world scientific community, which allowed progress on vaccine development, diagnostic tests and the like.
So, that was a marvel of transparency. And we all praised China.
Then, of course, when they started to count cases, those data were very uncertain. They seemed to change the ground rules. We weren`t entirely sure whether we were getting the whole story. And, of course, China did not allow in a delegation from the World Health Organization or from the CDC, which surprised many of us, because I think the world`s community would have been there working shoulder to shoulder with Chinese colleagues, helping out, identify the outbreak, its extent, and defining which populations were most affected.
So, it took a while for China to begin to open up and provide information in a more coherent fashion. That`s certainly true.
TODD: So, ultimately, Dr. Schaffner, is it China`s lack of transparency, then? If you`re looking to say who caused a slow response, is it China`s lack of transparency, or should that not have been on them?
SCHAFFNER: Well, Chuck, you know, an after-action report is very important.
But we are here going forward. And what we hope to do is, throughout the world and certainly in the United States, bring this outbreak to a close, or at least reduce it as much as we can as quickly as we can.
I`d like to hold off on the after-action report for a little while, and look at what we`re doing now.
And, certainly, I would agree with your previous statement and Dr. Roy that testing is terribly important as we go forward.
TODD: I was just going to say.
And, Dr. Roy, I want to go back to this testing front. He seemed to say the federal government is here for ventilators. The federal government is here to building field hospitals. Testing? Sorry, not on the federal government`s docket here.
And, frankly, if you`re going to go down the after-action reports, the reason we`re here is due to the CDC`s faulty tests from the beginning.
So, again, can this get done without the federal government supporting testing?
ROY: So, Chuck, the medical and public health communities have been very consistent with our messaging and our requests.
In fact, we have been begging for the Defense Production Act to mass- produce protective equipment, the vents and other -- and medical supplies and federalize the distribution of said supplies directly to hospitals and front-line doctors and nurses, so they can do their job, which is save lives.
We absolutely need these items to save lives and do the work that we need. Testing, yes, absolutely. It`s crazy that we still are having the same conversation. We need widespread testing, and that`s effective in terms of specificity and sensitivity.
We need to know exactly who is sick in terms of the diagnostic, but we also need to understand who is immune, possibly, and who is recovered and can maybe go back to work.
And this idea of the economy opening up, I understand the president has multiple times said, let`s open up the economy. He`s created a task force. Correct me if I`m wrong, but I don`t think there`s anyone with medical or public health training on that task force.
So, look, I`m no financial pundit, but I know something about health and wellness and sickness. And I don`t think you can open up an economy with dead people. So let`s do what needs to be done. I agree with Dr. Schaffner. Let`s move forward and get some action points, so we can really get people going here.
TODD: For the life of me, I don`t understand why this testing debacle hasn`t got a Manhattan Project-like sense of urgency from the federal government that this is everything. It`s everything to open up the government. It`s everything in order to get us out of our houses.
And it`s one of those frustrations to watch. And it`s like a slow-motion train wreck.
TODD: Dr. Roy, thank you for that.
Kristen Welker, final point here. I think we got -- and it`s always sort of interpreting where the president`s head is at. The decision to go after the WHO, not attack China, the decision to walk back the governors hit today, and at the same time talk very optimistic about the economy, you cover this president very closely.
What did you learn from those decisions by him today?
WELKER: Well, look, he`s been signaling that he was going to cut the new funding or halt it to the WHO...
TODD: Well, we went pretty well today, two-and-a-half hours where we didn`t have too many -- any major transmission error on that.
Unfortunately, I`m going to have to leave it there.
I will, for Kristen Welker, thank you. Sorry about that last technical hiccup.
Dr. Roy, Dr. Schaffner, and Stephanie Ruhle, for the entire NBC and MSNBC team that helps us out with these briefings, thank you.
Ari Melber, I`m handing it to you, my friend. The baton is yours.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Back and forth.
TODD: I`m out.
MELBER: Appreciate it, Chuck Todd.
NBC`s Chuck Todd has been helming our special coverage.
I am Ari Melber.
And let me tell you exactly what we`re going to do.
MSNBC broadcast part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing you saw there.
And we have our experts lined up to go through it. And in a few moments, after we hear from our experts, we have a special fact-check prepared, because some of what the president said was false, demonstrably so. And we want you to have the facts as part of our coverage.
One headline here, President Trump blaming the World Health Organization for its response to this ongoing worldwide pandemic, and announcing that he is using his authority to halt funding the organization.
He`s arguing they were China-centric, and basically took China`s word on the virus in those early stages.
The president, of course, has ignored his own recent activities, which is to say how he downplayed the virus, meaning what he`s accusing the WHO of, he did even worse. We have the public evidence of that.
President Trump also saying that he does want to move forward on reopening the economy, that the plans on that are being finalized. Chuck was just discussing some of those efforts. But he wants to basically, the president, let each governor make their own calls for what is appropriate.
Of course, under our system of federalism in the U.S. Constitution, that`s not how it works. Any president, this one or another, can say those words, that he is going to stand up there and tell governors what they can do and when they can do it. The fact is, it does didn`t really matter.
I offer that not as a criticism of the president, but a reminder that, under our system of government, every state has a governor with its own co- equal government branch. The governor makes those calls in each state.
Now, as promised, I want to go right to our experts, before we turn to a fact-check in a few moments.
Right now, we are joined by Jeh Johnson, who ran the Homeland Security Department under President Obama, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious disease physician and medical director of special pathogens at the Boston University School of Medicine, and "The New York Times"` Peter Baker.
Thanks to each of you.
Doctor, what does it mean when the U.S. government withholds funding from the WHO? And what, as a reminder for everyone, does the WHO do in coordinating these intergovernmental pandemic responses?
DR. NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Ari, thanks.
WHO has been a technical partner in this pandemic, but let`s step back and see what it does on a regular basis, right? There is a World Economic Forum study that said every month, WHO looks at about 7,000 reports of potential outbreaks and does about 300 investigations, so keeping us sort of protected at baseline from outbreaks.
But in this particular pandemic, WHO helped set up the diagnostic capacity in a lot of countries, along with regional partners. They are the platform all over which sovereign countries share data, technical expertise.
And they are our eyes on this pandemic. And so if we hadn`t learned the lesson before, this idea that an outbreak anywhere is outbreak everywhere, by basically reducing the funding for WHO, we don`t know what that actually translates to be in what they have said in the press conference today, is basically cutting off the global response to this pandemic at its knees.
MELBER: That`s important context.
Jeh Johnson, this has been a fight often waged and led by the governors. The president didn`t exactly lead in closing down the economy, so to speak. The governors did.
Governor Cuomo has been speaking about that. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): This wasn`t a bending of the Constitution, what the president said last night. It was a breaking of the Constitution.
He basically declared himself King Trump, right? Look, the governors are in charge, because the president put them in charge. Now you get to the next phase, which is going to be the reopening.
I understand the president wants to do it quickly. I understand the political environment. I get it.
But I also know that, if we do this wrong, you will see the number of infections increase dramatically.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Jeh, what you just saw from the president, in battling with the governors, claiming that he could authorize what they do, and then trying to distract and deflect onto WHO, what`s your response, as someone who`s run a complex agency?
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Ari, thanks for having me.
Let`s be clear. The federal government has the authority in a situation like this to regulate our international borders with other nations. The federal government has some authority to regulate the travel of contaminated persons one by one in interstate travel, between states.
The federal government does not have, the president does not have the general police power or public health authority to tell people to stay in their homes or to stay away from their places of work.
I am sitting here in my home in New Jersey, by virtue of an order of the governor of New Jersey. I am prohibited from going to my law firm in Manhattan, by order of the governor of New York.
President Trump does not have the authority to tell these governors, lift your executive orders, I am king, and I can tell you what I want you to do. That`s authority...
MELBER: So, Jeh, let`s pause on that.
And you`re giving us a very clear capsule explanation, probably because you`re an esteemed attorney, as well as a former homeland security director.
But to put that in plain English, that means, when the president claims that he will authorize or bless what these governors do, on a scale of zero to 10, how much credibility or value does that have?
JOHNSON: The president does -- when he says, I`m authorizing the governors to do what they want to do, implies that he has the authority in the first place. And he does not.
So I don`t know why he keeps stating it that way. Yesterday, it was basically, I am king and I can supplant the governors. Today, it`s, I will let the governors do what they believe they need to do. It`s up to them.
But it`s only Tuesday. We will see what tomorrow brings. But the roles should be very clear here. The federal government`s role is to surge resources, including, by the way, test kits.
MELBER: Yes. All very important context.
Peter Baker, again, as we widen out beyond just what the president says to what`s actually happening, I want to put up something on the screen that`s a reminder of, in this grim time, so many cases, so much loss of life, so many lost jobs.
That`s what America and the world is going through. But that doesn`t mean there aren`t places where things are working. It`s also our job to tell that story.
Look at California, the blue line here, vs. New York, from March to April 14. I just showed Governor Cuomo. He`s gotten a lot of attention. He`s got a tough job in a higher population density of Manhattan to manage.
But, Peter, with your reporting on the federal response and what`s going on in the states, what does it tell us about the governors that have had progress to see California keeping that curve so flat?
PETER BAKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I think that`s a really good point.
And that`s -- first of all, it`s one of the reasons why the president talks about parts of the country that are not doing badly. He looks at charts that are even more extensive than that and says, well, why should we have limits in these states where there aren`t a lot of cases and there aren`t a lot of deaths?
Well, the answer would be from the public health people is because we have these restrictions in place that a lot of these places have either flattened the curve or haven`t seen as much of an outbreak as they might have otherwise, and that the risk is, if you open it up too quickly, if you don`t do it with the right cautions, if you don`t keep at least some measures in place, that you could suddenly see those lines on that chart begin to spike in the same way they did in New York.
It`s not a given that they would stay down just because they`re down now. Now, the question -- the president did seem to indicate that he understood that a little bit today, where he said that even states that will reopen will not reopen without guidelines.
What you have heard from some public health people is, even if you were to reopen, you might reopen only some businesses at a...
BAKER: You would take your time, a phased kind of way, or you do it with masks or you do it with other kinds of guidelines.
So I think that what you`re seeing is kind of an evolution of his position from yesterday. As Secretary Johnson said, it`s no longer quite this, I will tell you what to do. It`s now, well, there may be different answers for different situations.
And, Peter Baker, everyone knows you to be a pretty straight shooter, straight reporter. I`m curious. Within those guidelines that obviously you follow, since we talk so much about guidelines, what you can contribute or tell us about "The New York Times" issuing such a body blow to the president.
I will say it this way. You can say it the way you want. He -- the president was clearly rattled yesterday by "The Times"` investigative reporting.
To use a colloquialism, he sort of owned himself in hijacking the briefing to try to play a video that was -- as many people pointed out, looked like the White House defense of his own record, rather than new information, which caused its own set of responses, viewers and citizens, I`m sure, are familiar.
It would seem, though, that what hit home there was not opinion or criticism or the like, but rather an exhaustive documented piece of investigative reporting that called out the response.
I`m curious what, as a member of "The New York Times," you can tell us about that and this reporting, at the same time that people often say, well, wait a minute, are we relitigating the past at a time when we need to be doing the crisis response?
But it would seem that investigating this stuff is a part of getting the response right, Peter.
BAKER: Well, it`s really our responsibility as a news organization to look at what the government did or didn`t do and to try to figure out what lessons can be learned from it. That`s inimical to American journalism.
And I think the piece that ran over the weekend by my colleagues has stood the test of all sorts of blows. Nobody has challenged it in a factual way. It was based not only on documentary evidence, in terms of including e- mails, some on-the-record interviews -- almost all of the sources are people who work for the government.
These are not Trump critics. These are people who were involved in the situation who were telling what happened, when it happened, how it happened. And the president of course, in his defense yesterday, understandably upset about it, but he was misleading at several points.
He played, for instance, my colleague Maggie Haberman and some quotes that she had said on our podcast, "The Daily," without me putting the entire quote of what she said, in order to try to make it sound like she was saying something that she wasn`t.
So that goes with the territory. We stand by our reporting. We think the reporting is important. And I think that it`s important for everybody, including the president, to look at what happened and try to figure out how this could be done in a different way if it ever happens again.
MELBER: All really good points. We wanted to give you the benefit of the mic there for our viewers to follow a story that obviously has legs with what it exposed.
My thanks to Peter Baker, Dr. Bhadelia, and Jeh Johnson.
Let me tell you what we`re going to do. Obviously, we have been keeping up with this breaking news.
We want to turn now on the facts that undercut what we saw and heard in the Rose Garden today.
Now, the larger context here is that, as I have mentioned, today and yesterday, the president has seized the time that is allotted for federal updates about the coronavirus to keep you and your family safe, to tell you what you need to know, to provide the information that your taxpayer dollars fund, he has very clearly hijacked that time to wage what can only be considered as scores to settle, attacking the WHO today, and attacking the press, as Peter was mentioning, and defending the president`s record yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said I acted late on closing down the country. Some people wish we never closed it down. Now, if we didn`t, we would have lost hundreds of thousands of people.
You know, interesting, so I`m against it -- we did the right -- everything we did was right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Let me be clear speaking to you as a journalist. Those are empirical claims. Meaning we can gather the evidence to show whether they are true or false. Now, experts and members of Donald Trump`s own administration say those were false claims, for him to assert he acted early, decisively or correctly in every case involving the virus.
Here are the receipts. That thorough "New York Times" investigation finding the president was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and the warnings from senior officials. Now today his new claims that the WHO was wrong, late and China-centric, those are misleading and contradicted by Donald Trump himself.
Take a look at this. In January, Trump saying the U.S. greatly appreciated China`s efforts and transparency. Referring to the virus, he said, it will all work out well and I want to thank President Xi. In February, he added that President Xi was powerfully focused on leading the counterattacks on the coronavirus.
And Donald Trump, you need to know this today, as he attacks the WHO, he went out of his way to dismiss criticism of China`s handling of the virus at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you concerned that China is covering up the full extent of the coronavirus?
TRUMP: No. China is working very hard. Late last night I had a very good talk with President Xi. We talked about, mostly about the coronavirus. They`re working really hard and I think they`re doing a very professional job.
They`re in touch with the world, our world organization, CDC, also. We`re working together. But World Health is working with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: World Health is working with them. That`s what the president sounded like in real time.
Today, he`s criticizing the World Health Organization for saying at that time that he was praising them and China, they weren`t doing the right things. And that`s Donald Trump`s own record.
We also know what life was like just a few months ago. Everyone remembers it. Trump was downplaying the threat. The presidential primaries were in full bloom. People were living a normal life in America.
We know behind the scenes, the State Department`s epidemiologist put warnings that the coronavirus was spreading across the globe and heading to the U.S. Trump and his top officials also on notice because experts inside his Security Council will urging officials to think of plans for quarantining cities the size of China.
So, as Trump attacks the WHO right now, what was that health organization actually doing in January? Let me show you. The WHO was publicly urging countries to prepare for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation, case management and contact tracing.
Why am I showing you this right now? Because you need to know the facts that while Donald Trump defunds the WHO and tries to blame them to distract from his own response, he is actually only calling attention to the fact that the WHO was ahead of President Trump.
In fact, just days after getting the coronavirus briefing, he said this in January.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been briefed by the CDC, are there worries about a pandemic at this point?
TRUMP: I have. No, not at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No, not at all worried. Now, the political ploy here is easy to see. You have Donald Trump projecting his own weakness, what he did four months in public in front of you, downplaying the pandemic, he`s projecting that on others, trying to claim maybe it was the WHO doing what he did. Again to the facts, by late February, Donald Trump`s task force which included Dr. Fauci concluded they needed to move toward the aggressive social distancing we`re now living through.
And then there was their own doctor issuing this blunt warning on February 25th.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. NANCY MESSONNIER, DIRECTOR OF CDC`S NATIONAL CENTER FOR IMMUNIZATION AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES: We expect we will see community spread in this country. It`s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: That was in February. That was in public. We all know what happened. We`re all living with the consequences. This is as serious as it gets.
So, today, when the president walks out and says he`s taken the money from the WHO, that it`s their fault, that they were China-centric, that they didn`t do the right thing, you need to know what President Trump was doing and saying at the time, because I just showed you, the WHO was actually putting out the warnings, calling for containments, telling countries to get ready.
And here in late February is exactly what President Trump was saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, the CDC said yesterday they believe it`s inevitable that the virus will spread in the United States and it`s not a question of the but when. Do you agree with that assessment?
TRUMP: Well, I don`t believe it`s inevitable. It probably will, it possible will. It could be a very small level. It could be at a large level. It`s going to be very well under control.
Now, it may get bigger, it may get a little bigger, it may not get bigger at all. We`ll see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We`ll see what happens. You`ve probably heard that phrase. It`s one the president uses a lot.
Unfortunately, we`ve all seen and lived through what happens. We`re not going over this history right now to make any kind of point against this or that government official. We`re going over this history because the president, now the second day in a row, has hijacked the time to update everyone on the virus, to tell you the public information and security and public health information you need, he`s hijacked that time to defend his record to attack other people, in this case inaccurately attacking the WHO, which may not be a perfect organization above reproach, but happened to be ahead of him.
Why do I say that? Because it was three more weeks after what I just showed you until the president did issue the first social distancing guidelines at the federal level on March 16th.
Having gone through the facts, I want to bring in Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization Center on Health and Human Rights.
We reached out to you when the president announced very recently, within the last two hours, that he was defunding the WHO there in the Rose Garden. You agreed to rush and make this interview, I appreciate it, sir.
LAWRENCE GOSTIN, DIRECTOR, W.H.O. CENTER ON PUBLIC HEALTH & HUMAN RIGHTS: Of course, yes. I mean, it`s truly shocking. I mean, I think every one of your viewers understands we`re in a once-in-a-century event, an unprecedented global health crisis. To actually in the midst of that crisis cut the funding of the world`s global health leader, the World Health Organization is truly shocking.
And what he`s taking from the WHO is not just money for preparedness. It`s not just money that WHO is going to need when this marches through Africa and Latin America and the Indian sub-continent. But it`s also things that Americans care about, it`s AIDS, it`s polio, it`s mental health -- all the good things that the World Health Organization does.
And really, all this is doing is shifting the blame because, as you said, it was abundantly clear for many weeks and months that there was a tsunami coming from China, then east Asia, then Europe. We had plenty of notice and we were unprepared and we can`t blame China for that. We can`t blame the World Health Organization for that. I just --
MELBER: Let me jump in. If a president -- take this one out of it. If a president correctly found a level of failure in an organization, domestic or foreign, that they thought it merited defunding, there is a mechanism by which that might be valid. I think what gets to the heart of it, you`re mentioning the WHO does a lot of good work. I think that`s clear, I think the viewers know that.
At the heart of this, though, is the president going out today and making a claim that the WHO missed the boat, wasn`t ready, didn`t put the word out in January and that he did. Those are two empirical claims. How do you rate both of them?
GOSTIN: Well, empirically, they`re just simply flat-out wrong. You know, when WHO got its first report from China, it transparently issued that report. It very quickly called for strict containment measures, for isolation, quarantine, contact tracing.
It approved a WHO test kit which the United States never used and has done testing at a paltry level compared to other WHO member states like South Korea. And it`s just simply factually untrue that we could hold WHO accountable for our failures because we had notice, and WHO was warning.
MELBER: We had notice, and the president had notice. And even when Americans thought, boy, I wasn`t thinking about this in January, the reporting, which is so vital, shows the president`s top people had notice.
Final question to you again, and I really appreciate you jumping in on this quite major development. In your view as an expert, does defunding and disentangling to whatever degree the United States from WHO right now, does that make it more likely that more people will catch this virus and die?
GOSTIN: There`s no question about it. Without a WHO, there will be that`s (INAUDIBLE) -- there will be many, many more deaths. And not just as it marches through sub-Saharan Africa, which is next, but here in the United States, because if there are epidemics everywhere or anywhere, it`s going to get to the United States.
So we will see a second wave. We could see a third wave. And we will have done nothing about it. In fact, we will have done the opposite.
MELBER: Lawrence Gostin, we wanted to get your expertise on this. Again, thank you.
We are in rolling coverage here. I`m Ari Melber in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour.
And I want to tell you what we`re going to do now is turn now to another one of the reports that we had planned.
Michele Norris is a contributing columnist to "The Washington Post" joins us, as well as Charlie Sykes, editor at large of "The Bulwark", New Orleans mayor, LaToya Cantrell.
Thanks to all of you for your patience, as we`ve been in rolling coverage.
Mayor, first, as a -- as a local official dealing with this on the front lines, your response to what we were just discussing, the Trump administration`s incredibly unusual and controversial decision to try to cut off the WHO in the middle of a pandemic. And anything else you wanted to respond to from the president`s remarks today.
MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D), NEW ORLEANS: Well, I think that the world health organization is one that we definitely need to be adequately funded, because we`re not in this world alone. And so as it relates to this pandemic as we have seen the hurt disrupt the world, we need to also prepare to support countries that have yet to experience what we have been experiencing every single day.
And so adequate resources we know are necessary. And even the role that the United States of America, you know, has played with aiding and providing support of nations across this -- throughout the world. So, it`s very important.
CHARLIE SYKES, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It`s fascinating watching the president ping-ponging back and forth essentially saying, I alone can solve this problem and it`s up to the governors. So, yesterday, I have total support and I have total power, and today, then backing off from all of this.
Look, this is -- this is a president that wants to play at being the big problem solver, but he doesn`t want to do the work, because he doesn`t want to take the responsibility. And you have to understand the cutting off the funds of the World Health Organization is very much a meme now in conservative media, finding someone else to blame, to point the fingers at, because this is a president who doesn`t believe the buck stops with him.
And I think we`ve really seen this. We`ve seen a month ago, the president says, I have no responsibility whatsoever. Yesterday, I have total power. Today, hey, it`s up to the governors and I`m going to blame the World Health Organization.
I really do think that we are seeing this sort of quintessential Trumpism in very real time with unfortunately potentially tragic consequences.
MELBER: Well, Charlie, viewers will know you as someone with a history in traditional conservative thought in America. By that standard, where is the president`s approach to federalism to the governors fit in here tonight?
SYKES: Well, that was fascinating, because I was wondering yesterday, so are conservatives still in favor of federalism, do they still believe in state`s rights or are they going to go along with the president`s idea that he can tell the states what to do? Obviously, somebody pointed out to him that, you know, despite his constitutional know-nothingism, that there are no provisions in the Constitution that enables him to enforce his will on the state government.
But it was interesting over the last 24, 48 hours to watch the silence among Republicans, very few other than people like Lynne Cheney -- Liz Cheney, pressed back against the president, because this is a fundamental tenant of conservatism, or it has been for decades, that in fact the 10th Amendment reserves most of the powers to the states, not the federal government.
And here`s the president who, as claims sweeping powers before that do not exist, rewriting the Constitution. It was an extraordinary moment as we saw the president`s constitutional know-nothingism unchallenged by a party that off tries to wrap itself around the Constitution.
MICHELE NORRIS, CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, it`s interesting to listen to the president speak at a moment where the country so badly needs stability and the notion of having someone having a steady hand on the helm. Instead one day he says he has total authority, the next basically saying carry on, governors. It`s up to you.
What you`re seeing is a president who deflects, demeans, and denounces others as opposed to taking responsibility. You didn`t hear him talk at all about the long lines at food banks. You didn`t hear him talk about the specifics of what we`re going to do to test people if we`re going to be sending people back to work.
I think Charlie is exactly right, he likes the notion of power, but he doesn`t take on the actual mantle of power, which is about logistics, which is about details, which is about building teams, and exactly at the moment when we should be linking arms with an international organization, he instead deflects the blame and sends them off and does exactly what the head of the WHO pleaded with him not to do, which is to turn this into political matter.
And that really goes to what`s happening in the real world. Louisiana Governor Edwards has been speaking about this, Mayor, and that`s where you are, where these decisions can be life and death, but they are what local officials are really dealing with. You, obviously, working in concert on when and how eventually to reopen.
Take a listen to Governor Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s an optimistic phase, that we move from surge and we begin to transition into suppression, ultimately on our way to herd immunity and ultimately to a vaccine. But in this transition, where we do see light at the end of the tunnel, where there is a ray of optimism and hopefulness, that this too shall pass. It`s also perhaps the most difficult and challenging phase of all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We`re actually going to play Governor Edwards. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: We`re still very much in the middle of the efforts to flatten the curve and see that curve actually starts to trend downward, which is incredibly important. And we`re reporting and everybody is seeing some of these favorable numbers. We know that the day`s death count is serious, the largest ever. But as I mentioned before, that`s a lagging indicator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Two governors there, in contrast to the president, the second obviously being in your state.
Walk us through how you`re making these decisions in the coming months.
CANTRELL: Well, one is that we have to let the data truly guide us. What is very clear that the virus is in control as it relates to a timeline. And so, looking at the data sets, but also looking at where even perishes in the state of Louisiana for example, are behind the city of New Orleans.
So when I made the initial no gathering order and canceling events and parades, which was on March 9th. So, the state of Louisiana followed, but then also various parishes, as well. But not only that, when you look at our neighboring states that had yet to take any action.
So, you really can`t look at it in isolation. You have to look at your neighbors next to you, both parishes, as well as states that you`re surrounded by. The city of New Orleans is a destination city. You know that, a world class city and very -- in terms of our industry, hospitality and tourism, that`s our main driver for the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.
So when we think about opening up, it really does -- you have to factor in what`s happening around you.
CANTRELL: And so, until other areas are safe, I don`t see how we as a city could feel safe.
MELBER: Understood. Mayor, these are serious times, but on a slightly lighter note, I will say, I always loved going to jazz fest in New Orleans. Sad to not have it this year, but we`ll be back when it`s time, you know?
CANTRELL: Yes, yes. We will be back and we`ll be ready to receive you and love on you the way that only the people of New Orleans can.
MELBER: There you go. I`ll take that up as an offer made on live TV but I`ll hold you to it.
Charlie and Michelle, with the 40 seconds I have left, your final thoughts? Where do we go from here?
SYKES: Well, this is a nation desperately in need of reassurance and a sign of empathy for the president, and for two straight nights, we certainly did not get it. We had that meltdown yesterday, and then tonight we had the president essentially filibustering, reading off this, sort of bizarre, reading off of the list of people he`s going to be talking to. And so --
MELBER: And let me get Michele, because I have 20 seconds.
SYKES: This is a country that needs his leadership.
MELBER: Let me get Michele. Your thoughts?
NORRIS: Stay at home, let`s look to the date when the virus will allow us to go back and in the meantime, think of those who need help right now. There are a lot of people that are hurting right now.
MELBER: Appreciate it. Strong final words from our experts. Thanks to each of you.
That does it for me. Thanks for staying with our special coverage.
"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