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COVID-19 Task Force briefing TRANSCRIPT: 4/16/20, MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: Amy Klobuchar, Ezekiel Emanuel

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It could be that sometime in the fall, there will be some flare-ups. We`re going to be in a great position with everything we`ve done and everything we`ve learned. This was something that nobody ever saw before, such contagion and very powerful people don`t realize because we all probably have friends.

I have a number of people that were --just great people who were just decimated by what happened. Some are dead right now. They`re dead. They went into a hospital. One called me. He said, I tested positive. Four days later, he was dead. The following day, after he said that, he was unconscious. So this is a tough deal.

At the same time, some people got sniffles and they didn`t even realize they had a problem. And they are, supposedly, immune. We`re going to find out about that. Even that`s a little bit soon because we don`t know how long the immunity lasts.

But, Peter, some states are in great shape. And they`re really in great shape to open. And I think you`ll have quite a few states opening soon, and they`re going to be very vigilant. They`re going to be very careful.

REPORTER: Sorry. More public health experts have said that this would be better done if there were comprehensive surveillance testing, which we`re obviously not in the position to do. I wonder if maybe Dr. Birx or Dr. Fauci --

TRUMP: Sure, we can do that.

REPORTER: Do they feel comfortable --

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Dr. Fauci and I will do it together. It`s why I wanted to put up the syndromic and influenza-like illness piece. Because what is key in this is the early alerts and getting in there before they even know they have a problem.

And I think CDC has been remarkable in building these platforms. Dr. Redfield integrated them, so they`re all on the same website. If you look at COVID-19, go into cases, you can find all of the data. And the beauty of it is the states are used to utilizing that through flu season.

So the testing and contact tracing, and Dr. Redfield will be putting people in every single state to make sure that CDC is standing beside the state and local health officials to make sure that all of those cases are immediately identified and contact traced.

I think what`s new and what`s really critical is this constant sentinel surveillance for asymptomatic individuals in communities that we know are particularly vulnerable, and that hasn`t been done in flu before. And I think that`s going to be the added dividend that`s really focused on who is most vulnerable and how do we get the fastest alert by generally screening people without symptoms? So people who are just coming to the clinic will be screened for COVID-19.

And we do have enough testing capacity to do both that surveillance piece, as well as the diagnostic piece and contact tracing.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, people have gotten confused about that, because in the beginning, we were focusing really on just mitigation and really trying to keep peaks down and trying to worry about ventilators and PPEs and things like that.

Well, now, when you get a little bit more grace period, you can start figuring out what is the penetrance of this virus in society? What are we missing in people who might be infected? What is the percentage of those people that are out there? That`s going to inform us, greatly, for a number of things, including the level once we prove that antibody test that you have is really protective. And we still don`t know that yet. We`re going to find that out.

We may get a good feel of what the level of protection might be in society. But we don`t know that, yet. So it`s going to give us information as to what the vulnerable areas are and how we need to respond.

Remember, there`re two types of things, antibody tests and tests for the diagnosis of who has the disease. One, you need for contact tracing, the other, you want to need for finding out what`s in society. We`re going to have both of those much, much better as we go in the next weeks and months. And by the time we get into the fall, I think we`re going to be in pretty good shape.

REPORTER: Mr. President --

TRUMP: As we see a hotspot possibly developing -- maybe not -- but if we see a hotspot developing, we`ve learned a lot, we`ll be able to suppress it, whack it. We`ll be able to do things that people weren`t even thinking about because nobody has ever gone through this.

In 1917, they went through something that was similar, probably not as contagious, probably more powerful in certain other ways. But we are going to be able to suppress it, we think, and we`re going to watch it very closely. We`re going to be able to watch things very closely.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CDC: Thank you, Mr. President. I think what`s really important is, during this -- we`re bringing people back to work and our economy back to work. And what`s going to go back is that we`re going to be very aggressively focused on early case recognition, isolation and contact tracing.

In the event that we just went through, unfortunately, and as we started, we were very capable of doing that. When the initial cases all came from China all the way through January, all the way to the end of February, we were able to identify cases early, the first 14, do the contacts, do the contact tracing, over 800 contacts. We identified that two of those contacts were actually infected. We were able to isolate them. We were able to contain the outbreak.

We`re about to enter a new phase of this where we`re going back to containment. And mitigation is going to continue, as Dr. Birx and others have said. Some of the things that we`ve learned to do, we`re going to continue.

But the major thrust of how we`re going to control and make sure that we continue to keep this nation open is early case recognition, isolation and contact tracing. That`s the fundamentals of public health. That`s what we`re going to do. You see we have very good surveillance systems that are going to help us as we see these cases sporadically across the country. We`ve got to jump on them with early isolation, contact tracing. That`s what CDC is going to help to build that capacity in the states across this nation.

TRUMP: One other thing, because we`ve discussed this today with the senators. We have the senators. We had the congressmen and women. There will be some areas of our country, wide open plains, wide open spaces, with not that many people, relatively speaking, where you`re not going to have to do that. Senators are saying there is no reason to do that in certain states, in certain areas, where you have the wide open. In other cases, we will be doing that. So we`ll be following it.

Largely, that, also, will be a function of governors. They know their states. So largely, that is going to be a function of governors.


REPORTER: You mentioned I think you used the term clear scientific benchmarks on testing. And the main periscope that I think you guys are talking about is the IOL (ph) syndromic as well as the surveillance and the sentinel testing.


REPORTER: Are you opening things up then without doing -- I just want to be clear, are you opening things up without doing widespread testing? Is that because you don`t have the capacity or you don`t think it`s necessary?

TRUMP: We do have the capacity but you have states without any problem. You have states with few cases. And those few cases have healed. You have states with very little death, relatively speaking. As I said, one is too many. But you have states with very little and, frankly, they`re at a point where they have almost nothing.

So this is a much different case than in New York or New Jersey, where they`re through -- frankly, they go through hell.

And if you look at New York, I`m looking at bed count, because you have to look at bed count, and it`s dropped. We built the Javits Center with 2,900 beds. And it was -- I mean, they built it in four days. They did an incredible job, the Army Corps of Engineers. It was not used that much. We sent the ship, the hospital ship in to New York Harbor, and it was not used. Then we went COVID and it still was not used very much because the bed count has gone way down, way, way down.

Go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Mr. President --

TRUMP: This is -- this is not campaigning. I want to make the country better. I don`t care about campaigning. This is about making our country better.

I think this team has been incredible, whether it`s Army Corps of Engineers, whether it`s FEMA. One thing that happened on the call today that I noticed more than anything is Pete Gaynor. So many governors said, I want to thank you. Pete Gaynor called up -- they had tornados in a big part of our country this weekend -- this week. They were all saying that he has been unbelievable. They called one after another, they were thanking us for -- that`s FEMA. And they were thanking us.

Now, I want to heal this country. This is a war. We`ve been through a war. We have an invisible as opposed to a visible enemy. I think, in many ways, the visible enemy is much more dangerous, is much tougher.

In the G7 today, I went through country after country. We were there. We all get along great, Angela Merkel and Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan and all of them. And their countries have been devastated by this. Their economies have been devastated by this, 184 countries all over the world. And we went through one after another.

And I was angry because it should`ve been told to us. It should`ve been told to us early. It should have been told to us a lot sooner. People knew it was happening and people didn`t want to talk about it. I don`t know why but we`re going to get to the bottom of it. But people should have --

REPORTER: In China or, I mean --

TRUMP: I`m not saying anything. I`m saying people should`ve told us about this. They should`ve told the rest of the world too.

When I looked at Germany talking today, when I looked at France talking today, the European Union was there, represented, that represents a lot of countries, their economies have been devastated but they`re going to build them back. But we`re going to build this economy back bigger, better, stronger than ever before. You watch.

And we have stimulus and we`re going to do things, whether it`s infrastructure, which we would like to be able to do, our roads, our tunnels, our highways, our bridges. Our bridges need help. You know, a lot of you have reported on our bridges. A lot of bridges are in bad shape. They should have been fixed 25 years ago when they`re still standing. They have to be fixed. So, hopefully, we`ll get an infrastructure bill.

The good news is the interest rate is close to zero and zero interest is a good thing when it comes to rebuilding your infrastructure in your country back.

Please, in the back.

REPORTER: Mr. President, walk us through the calendar, if you would, when it comes to Memorial Day or even Pentecost in May, you`ve got July 4th, Labor Day weekend, what would you anticipate at each of those milestones?

TRUMP: Well, I don`t like to anticipate because you have a couple of states that are in difficulty, that have made a lot of progress, by the way. And they`re either here or they`re heading down. But -- so I`m not going to go in terms of dates. But I think we`re going very quickly now. I really believe. I think we`re going to have a lot of states open relatively soon. We`re beating the date. I set a date of May 1st.

And, you know, here we are, and I think you`re going to have some nice surprises over the next few days and that`ll be before. And that`s big stuff. Some of those states are big. They`re big stuff, big, very important states. And it`s going to be added on and on.

And as we -- look, I don`t want anyone coming back that isn`t in position to come back. The last thing we want is for, let`s say, a New York to come back too soon or a new jersey to come back too soon. We want them to come back when they`re ready. But they`re really heading that in a good direction and I think it will be much faster than people think. I think it will be quicker, but it`s got to be safe.

Yes, please.

REPORTER: Thank you. Has the government modeled the possibility of what might happen, how many deaths might occur, if there is a widespread resurgence, if this just doesn`t work? I mean, how many deaths are we talking about?

TRUMP: So if we didn`t do what we did, we were talking up to 2.2 million deaths. So that`s five times, almost, what we lost in the civil war, okay?

REPORTER: But from here on out?

TRUMP: If everything happens properly and if we continue to go the way we`re going now, we will be significantly less than the lowest number with mitigation. So we`ll be significantly less. And it`s still a lot of people. One is too many, as I`ve said. One is too many. But we`ll be under the number of 100,000, which was the minimum number projected by the model.

And I give everybody up here, I give all of the people that we`ve been -- I mean, this was a military operation with a lot of private help. If you look at Roche, they were incredible. Look at Johnson & Johnson now, what they`re doing. They are very far advanced on a vaccine. I think, therapeutically, we have some of these genius company -- they`re truly genius companies. I`m seeing them. I`m meeting with the people that run the companies and scientists. And, I mean, what they`re doing is incredible. It`s incredible. It`s a beautiful thing to see.

So I think we`re very far advanced, and I think we`re going to be in great shape soon.

Yeah, please.

REPORTER: Mr. President, I know you don`t want to mention specific states but what about Washington and California? Do you have some guidance for --

TRUMP: You mean Washington State or Washington, here?

REPORTER: Washington State and California.

TRUMP: Well, that`s going to be up to them. They`re going to have to make that determination. I mean, the governor of Washington was saying that he can`t find cotton because, you know, a swab is a very easy thing to get. And swab is -- essentially, it`s a little bit more sophisticated than a Q- tip, and you got to be able to go out and find.

You know, the federal government shouldn`t be forced to go and do everything. What we`ve done is incredible. What we`ve done are the ones that can`t be done, like, for instance, the ventilators, that can`t be done by anybody but a very powerful, very great manufacturing country, which is what we are and what we`re really getting to be.

And, I have to tell you, some of these companies, the job they`ve done -- and we`re going to recognize them pretty soon -- the jobs they`ve done in terms of getting out, in particular, ventilators, because ventilators are so hard. They`re so -- and I say, and some people say, it`s not really as complicated. Well, it`s like building a car. And you know what? The price is the same too. It`s a very expensive thing for a sophisticated ventilator. It`s very, very tough stuff.

Yes, please.

REPORTER: Mr. President, let me toss this question up to you and to the doctors, as well. Truthfully, for those states that aren`t ready to go to phase one, to get through these phases, do we have an idea of how many millions, tens of millions of tests, they`re going to need for them to get through these phases? Any number out there, tests of any sort?

BIRX: Yes. So I mean, I -- you`ve heard me talk about tests for a while from the podium. And I think what has happened, over the last several weeks, is hospitals and clinics that could move to the more point-of-care test moved to those point-of-care tests. And what is left is an amazing array of capacity that exists in the country for at least a million more tests per week.

So we have a whole team working lab by lab to see what it would take to turn on all of those labs that aren`t running the pieces of equipment now. So you see in the system -- I just said to you, there`s a million more tests per peek that we have testing sitting there and equipment sitting there. And now we have to deal with each single lab to really figure what they need.

And I just want to thank Administrator Seema Verma who went through with us. And thanks to the lab directors. They really explained to us highly technical difficulty to run some of these big pieces of equipment, because you have to ala carte the samples, you have to centrifuge, you have to put them on the machine, it takes tech full-time. At $50 a test, it wasn`t enough to hire another technician to run the machine full-time. So at $100 a test, it is.

So those are the kinds of changes we have to make bit by bit bit. But that alone doubles our testing capacity per week. So we`re committed to work with laboratories to answer every one of their issues with the state and local governments. And I think, frankly, every conversation I have and the governors will say, I need 5,000 people tested, and I say, well, at the university of X, there are 6,700 tests waiting for you. So it`s more of making sure that every governor and every public health official knows exactly where every lab is and where the tests are so we can create with them a real understanding so all these tests can be run.

So, yes, there is twice the capacity right now.

TRUMP: Just so you understand, we have tremendous testing capacity. You look at the labs. They`re actually saying send us. And the reason it`s gone down is because we have so many other tests that, frankly, are easier because you don`t have to send. They`re onsite. And now, we have the new saliva test that just came out yesterday, which is probably the easiest of them all when you get right down to it.

And I was seeing where Rutgers is involved, great school, great college, great university. And they are using that. So many people are going to want to use that. But they don`t have to use the labs anymore. Labs are great. Highly accurate, very, very great companies but they are down. They have tremendous -- as that goes down, you have additional capacity. We have tremendous testing capacity. And to think that a month and a half ago, we had virtually nothing.

I just want to conclude we are opening up our great country again. It`s going to be over a period of time. We`re working with some really great people, people that have become friends of mine. And I`m -- I`m including Democrat governors that have really done a good job, Republican governors, most of whom I`ve known, that have all done a really good job. They`re all working together. With few exceptions, the relationship has been outstanding.

And I want to thank Doctor, Doctor and Mike. I want to thank the director, fantastic job. We`ve all done -- by the way, head of the FDA, he has broken hurdles that, years ago, even recently, would have taken years. He was -- he got one thing done in one day that would have taken two years for somebody else. So I want to thank Dr. Hahn of the FDA. We have incredible people that we`re working with.

And we`re going to bring our country back, and it`s going to be bigger and better and stronger than ever before. We have learned a lot. We`ve learned a lot about ourselves. And I want to thank everybody. And, most importantly, I want to thank the American people. Thank you all very much. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: The president is walking out. It looks like the briefing is totally concluded there. Yes, we`re seeing the vice president also walk away there.

The debut of those new federal guidelines, three phases, that -- guidelines that the federal government believes states need to follow to begin the opening. What was interesting there -- we`re going to get into this here with my experts -- there still seems to be a bit of a disagreement on who`s responsible on the testing front.

It is noteworthy that the president didn`t put a start date or an end date on any of these phases. It is the beginning.

But it was interesting. The president`s tone had a -- sort of a conclusionary aspect to it, as if -- a feeling as if he feels as if he has finished this task, it`s onto the next task.

We shall see if it feels as conclusionary perhaps as it sounded.

So, with me now, I have got Stephanie Ruhle, Kristen Welker, and my two medical experts, Dr. Joseph Fair and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia .

And, in fact, I want to start with you guys.

Dr. Bhadelia, I want to start this testing issue, because that was undefined. It was undefined in the -- and, in fact, that last question to Dr. Birx, I was hoping she`d get there. They say it`s got to be adequate testing in your state, but it doesn`t say how you define that.

How do you interpret what Dr. Birx was trying to say? Because it did seem as if she was intimating that, yes, the federal government needs to help with this testing. Obviously, the president was in a different place on that.


You know, I think, Chuck, the problem here is that every state is having a different level of transmission, right? So it`s hard to say how many tests you need, because it depends on the number of cases you are going to get, the population density.

So, I see that from that perspective. But we need to have at least assurance that we not just have the test. It`s not just the test that`s important. And the president sort of spoke about this. It`s all these other equipments at the forefront, health care workers and personal protective equipment, these nasal swabs that he mentioned.

And so some ways around this are these new technologies that potentially don`t use -- don`t need to have health care workers put on the same type of personal protective equipment. The saliva test that was mentioned that received the federal emergency use authorization yesterday, for example, could help push that.

Potentially changing the pricing of tests might make things more available. I think it`s -- in my in my opinion, from a public health perspective, you need to have enough tests so that every person who comes in to get medical care who might have any symptoms, who has been around anybody who might have any symptoms gets that immediately.

And the shorter we can take that turnaround time, the easier it is to manage these in the health care setting. But then we need that testing to go out in the communities, so that we can quickly isolate people who are sick and test everybody around them who might be early in their symptoms who is not symptomatic, but is shedding.

TODD: Dr. Fair, I`m curious.

Dr. Birx also gave -- also brought up the surveillance, the flu surveillance map, and how that -- I guess it sounded like almost that, in hindsight, that would have been extremely helpful, and that this will be helpful going forward.

Do you concur?

DR. JOSEPH FAIR, MSNBC SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR: It is, in the sense that the flu surveillance maps work by people voluntarily entering in their information if they have influenza-like symptoms, or ILI symptoms.

And so what we have shown over the years, using Google and other platforms, that just people Googling those terms for those symptoms pretty much accurately represents what we see in terms of number of actual flu cases across the United States.

And so I think what she was saying was, if we had seen the number of symptomatic individuals and where those were spiking, especially geographically where those were spiking, we probably could have narrowed in more precisely on where COVID-19 was spiking in those days.

The problem with COVID-19 that makes it different from influenza-like illness is so many people, as Dr. Bhadelia just mentioned, transmit the virus when they`re pre-symptomatic or even asymptomatic, so before they`re showing any symptoms whatsoever, or the symptom might be so mild that they don`t even notice.

Otherwise. I think it is a good technology. And it`s -- those types of technologies, be they A.I.-based or app-based, they`re going to come into the picture of our solution, our grand solution for the United States in coming out of this outbreak.

TODD: Very quickly, Dr. Fair, do you believe these are fair guidelines? Maybe you may not agree with when -- when you might decide when a phase is, but do you think these are pretty good touchstones for states to decide when to start slowly easing restrictions?

FAIR: In the absence of wide-scale testing, I`d say they`re probably -- there`s probably some room for improvement on them, but I wouldn`t throw any major stones at them right now.

But I just go back to -- and we have talked about this, I think, ever since we have started talking, but just the need to have testing everywhere and readily available, be it the diagnostic test to tell you if you have the disease acutely, or the antibody test to tell you if you have recovered from the disease.

If we have that everywhere, that`s really how we`re going to get out of this the most safely.

TODD: Right.

On the economic front, Stephanie Ruhle, do -- does what the president unveiled today, will that give reassurance to some of these folks who did talk with the president earlier this week, who basically said, look, we`re all for don`t open too soon if you don`t have the testing capacity.

He didn`t address the testing capacity,. Is that going to continue to be an issue for some of these major economic leaders?


But I would -- I would point out one specific thing that he said that would be most distressing, where he said, if the virus comes back in the fall, some scientists think it may, we will get rid of it quickly.

Here`s why that`s an issue, especially for business leaders, because, remember, business leaders, it doesn`t matter what industry that you`re in. They`re risk managers. It`s not going away and coming back in the fall.

This is with us and will be with us. What business leaders are thinking, how are we going to manage this, understand the numbers and get this done until we get a vaccine, which, again, we don`t know the answer?

Bill Gates said earlier today maybe 12 to 18 months. So it`s distressing for business leaders to hear the president, even if he`s saying it anecdotally, again, if it comes back in the fall. It`s not coming back. It is currently here.

Now, oddly enough, basically, during this same hour, reports came out that a drug that Gilead has is showing signs that patients are leaving the hospital quicker. They`re recovering quicker, taking this new experimental drug, and that`s a positive.

And that definitely has people in the business world feeling good.

TODD: Yes, it is.

RUHLE: Except, just remember this, a drug that gets people out of the hospital sooner is great, but it doesn`t do anything as far as transmitting the disease.

It doesn`t do anything from a preventive standpoint.

TODD: Right. Of course.

RUHLE: So what they`re talking about in that press conference and what we`re recovering is, when do we get back to work?

This isn`t something that would solve for that. So don`t let the market moving up get you thinking, we`re heading back out there. They are two different things.

TODD: Right.

And, finally, Kristen Welker, I can`t help -- the president today was very -- for him, very focused. He didn`t sort of go off in too many extraneous directions, which usually means he`s happy. He seemed to be very almost -- enthusiastic is the wrong word, but sort of ready to begin, ready to start seeing these -- and he`s obviously excited about whatever state or two may open up in the next day or two.

But did you get a sense that he believes that he`s ready to move to the new phase of this, and that he`s -- he can start thinking about other things?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Chuck, that what you saw there was the fact that the president was determined to try to meet this May 1 guideline that he had put in place, this deadline.

And so you saw him sort of enthusiastically unveil these guidelines and say that there are going to be some states -- he wouldn`t name them, he wouldn`t say specifically how many -- that he believes will be able to move into that phase one as early as tomorrow.

And I think, just to underscore your point, Chuck, this was one of those briefings -- and this certainly hasn`t been the norm -- but where we largely, largely saw President Trump, Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci all speaking from, it seemed, what appeared to be the same page.

TODD: Yes.

WELKER: There was not a whole lot of distance in terms of what they were saying, in terms of these guidelines, and in terms of how they were presenting them.

And so I think that was significant. He clearly understands this is a big moment. He said himself, this is the biggest decision that he will make as president. And so I think he understood the importance of staying on message and trying to stay in line with what his top doctors were saying.

TODD: Right.

WELKER: But I also think it`s worth noting that Dr. Anthony Fauci has been saying now for days, look, this is not going to be like turning on a light switch. This is something that is going to be a rolling progression.

So, I think, is President Trump ready to turn the page? Not necessarily, but he feels as though he threw out that May 1 deadline, and largely, at least, some states are going to be able to meet it, or open up a little bit sooner, Chuck.

TODD: Right.

In his mind, he`s going to -- in his mind, he`s already met the deadline. I think that is what I think, in some ways, you could feel that coming out from him a little bit.

WELKER: That`s right.

TODD: Anyway.

All right, for Stephanie Ruhle, Kristen Welker, Dr. Fair, Dr. Bhadelia, thank you, guys. Thank you all.

Ari Melber picks things up now.

Good evening,Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Chuck. Thank you so much for.

We`re picking up Chuck Todd`s special coverage. I`m Ari Melber.

Moments ago, we saw the president do something new, unveiling a federal step-by-step set of guidelines for reopening the country. Indeed, we have been making our way through it, along with our experts. We have -- this is his new stuff.

Now, you may recall the president said something that he may not have even believed, it certainly wasn`t true, and it is now inoperative, like so many assertions the president has made recently with regard to the facts and science of coronavirus.

I note that not as criticism, but as your news update. The president made waves and was clashing with governors earlier this week by claiming -- quote -- "total authority" over this process.

Well, tonight`s news which we`re bringing to you is simply that the president is not claiming total authority. What he meant or he said that, if it proved to be untrue, inoperative, I can`t tell you.

What I can tell you is right here, guidelines. That`s what this is, not authority, not orders, not federal decrees, which, under our U.S. constitutional system, is not something that the federal government can usually decree to a state about what governors are directing within the confines of their own state, but, rather, something that many may find helpful, as a credit to the Trump administration, coordinated medically rooted federal guidelines.

Governors will be making most of the final calls.

And the big question, though, remains the testing, something our experts were just discussing with Chuck.

NBC News also reporting the White House is trying to find ways to increase and surge testing capacity to new levels. That would obviously be helpful. Others, though, who are familiar with those internal discussions say that would take -- quote -- "weeks," at a minimum.

Now, the president did say that, in his view, there are about 29 states that under these guidelines could reopen soon. Meanwhile, the officials also note all the potential setbacks here.

Dr. Anthony Fauci saying it moments ago. We are still in, let`s be clear, uncharted waters.

We want to get right to some of our experts.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel was a former health adviser to President Obama. He`s worked in medical ethics and has a great range of expertise at times like this, including how governments deal with these medical decisions. And we`re also joined by someone with a lot of experience in executive leadership, the White House political campaigns, our friend Steve Schmidt.

Good to see both of you.



MELBER: Doctor, I start with you.

What I mentioned in our top here about the actual facts, these guidelines, I think, comes through as both an observation that makes President Trump look less than fully in charge, which is there is, to put it mildly, inconsistency over the course of the week, but it`s an observation that also gives the Trump administration some credit, the idea that these are just guidelines, with Dr. Fauci and others contributing, so that governors can make these decisions.

Can you walk us through that evolution and what these guidelines mean, in your medical view?

EMANUEL: Well, I mean, let me just say that I think they have recognized that they don`t have authority to declare anything, and that they are going to advise states. ` And I think these guidelines are meant really to give cover to some states that either don`t have the infrastructure in terms of manpower to develop their own guidelines, and it`s trying to get ahead of the ball of, like, California presenting their guidelines and New York their guidelines for when they`re going to move forward.

And I do think, as has been suggested, that maybe there`s some cover for states to allow them to open up.

I would note several things. First of all, the guidelines say adequate testing, but never defines what adequate testing is. How many people do have to test? They`re still focused on testing people with symptoms, all right, health care workers with symptoms, other people who come in with symptoms.

The problem with that is, if you`re trying to contain spread, it`s the asymptomatic people who don`t have symptoms that are your real threat. I`m asymptomatic, I go to a big venue, I distribute the virus to other people. I can go to a meeting of 10 people, according to this in phase one, and I can distribute the virus to 10 people right there. And they could go on and distribute it, before they have symptoms, if they develop symptoms.

And we know that at least 25 to 50 percent of people may in fact be asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms and mistake this. So that`s not much protection.

Plus, they say you need 14 days of declining numbers, and they don`t give you a bottom threshold. You still might have a lot of new cases, but you have had 14 days of cases to get through to gate one.

And let me say, my biggest worry is they have this large venue category. And I think one of the good things about this is, it`s a phased approach, and they distinguish different kinds of employers for what they`re supposed to do.

One of them, though, is large employers, where they put together sites of worship, sporting events, and restaurants. Those are very different venues. A sporting event, you can have 60,000 people, in a restaurant, you know, what, 200 people maximum?

That`s not the same. And, by the way, bars are not included in that group. Bars are separate. But in that group, you could see he wants to urgently open up sporting events by making them the same as restaurants. And that just makes no sense, in my opinion.


EMANUEL: Sporting events and a lot of very large religious services, you could have one person, and you can`t have the social distancing of six feet. So I don`t know how that`s -- I don`t know how they`re even thinking about that in a logical way.

And that -- those are petri plates for big explosions of recurrence. And that`s the places you need to really be worried about.

MELBER: Well, Doctor, you have clearly studied this, which is why we`re glad to have you.

And, as you mentioned, they have bars segmented out, but then a lot of those other categories together. So you make an important point.

With regard to houses of worship and sports, I mean, the only commonality I see is, Mets fans do experience their sports a little bit like people during Hanukkah, which is, they need a miracle.

Quick Hanukkah joke, out of season, but I did want to get that in.



MELBER: But with regard to the -- to those different categories, bottom line, do you think it`s a net gain that we have federal guidelines that add some of this stuff?

Or, again, for viewers who are just -- just digesting this today, do you think that this is -- this is not necessarily helpful, because, at the bigger picture level, it does seem to be the kind of thing that we might have seen in the administration you served in, where the feds come out, they give us some guidelines, they give the material, and they let the states make up their mind?

In other words, it looks -- it has the appearance of looking more like professional policy-making.

EMANUEL: It definitely has more professional policy making behind it.

As I say, some of the things I like is, it`s a phased approach. And that adheres to what Dr. Fauci has said. It differentiates, recognizing that different employers are going to have different requirements.

What I get worried about is that, within that, I don`t think it`s consistent. And I don`t think we have got enough detail for key steps going forward.

Let me just raise one other issue. If you`re thinking of trying to limit spread, there are two groups, at least -- there are more, but there`s at least two groups you really want to be testing every week. One of them are health care workers who are on the front line who are taking care of patients, especially because a lot of them might be asymptomatic.

That`s three to four million people, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, the environmental staff, the phlebotomists who are drawing blood. And if you add in people who are in grocery stores, who are stocking shelves, who are doing checkout, who are intersecting with a lot of people, that`s another three million people, right there, seven million people who you should -- ought to be testing every week.


EMANUEL: And it`s not clear to me that we have anywhere near that.

And that`s before you test patients.

MELBER: Well, you`re making me feel....

EMANUEL: It`s before you look after asymptomatic people.

MELBER: You`re making me feel worse.

You can kind of zone out on the part of the briefing that Fauci is doing. It made me feel slightly better, although these are tough times. You`re making me feel worse.

I want to bring in Steve Schmidt momentarily, who is, of course, an expert for us on the leadership side, and who has been patient.

But I do have one more question for you, Doctor, just because we`re knocking through several of these points.


MELBER: You mentioned the crucial aspect of asymptomatic testing.

I want to play briefly the president speaking about testing, where there has also been inconsistency. This was just last week. Take a look.


QUESTION: How can the administration discuss the possibility of reopening the country, when the administration does not have an adequate nationwide testing system for this virus?

TRUMP: We want to have it, and we`re going to see if we have it.

Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We`re talking about 325 million people. And that`s not going to happen, as you can imagine.


MELBER: Doctor, fact-check that for us.

What is it that we would need to do? What should we know?

EMANUEL: We need several million tests a day.

Now, giving you the exact number, I`m not 100 percent sure. But we need to do the -- we need four groups. You need to do health care worker -- front- line health care workers, front-line grocery, policemen, all those workers who are intersecting with a lot of people.

You need surveillance of people who might be spreading the virus, unbeknownst to them, not just focusing on minority communities or older people, but focusing wider, because those people are present.

That`s the kind of testing regime we need. Having Quest and LabCorp being able to run that is good. Having a spit test is good. Having the Abbott point-of-care test is good.

But unless you have the sheer numbers -- and you heard Tony Fauci say, well, we`re building up the capacity. It`ll be here in weeks and months.

That`s what worries me, because people are going to rush. Fourteen days, I can get businesses open, but you`re not going to have the testing capacity. You`re going to have a disjunction.

And remember, what happens when you have a disjunction? You could have smoldering cases, and then that explosive exponential growth, before you notice it. And that is what I think is very worrisome, because we could have a very big resurgence going forward.

Now, some people say, any resurgence we have, it`ll be 10 percent of the peak that we`re having now.

I don`t know where they get the number. It all depends on how well you can test and predict and prevent that explosive growth, that exponential phase.

And that can`t be done without a very solid testing regime and noticing where you`re going to have these hot spots before they become hot spots.

MELBER: All very important points to give us all a deeper sense of fact checking. What we heard, which was, of course, a government presentation there over this past period. So I really appreciate it, Doctor. We like to start with the science.

I turn to Steve Schmidt.

Our viewers know you well. I`m just curious, big picture, Steve, how do you think the White House is doing? What is on your mind?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think the White House has done, historically, very poorly in this. This is one of the most significant crises in American history. It`s certainly the largest crisis of our lifetimes and it`s been the most inept response by the executive, by the president, I think, with regard to any crisis in American history but, certainly, any crisis in our lifetimes.

And we look at a president, who is so clearly in over his head and out of his depth, who has been dishonest, who has been imprecise, who`s been inaccurate, and whose deadly indecision will be paid for with the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, as this virus escalated to a place it never need have gotten. And that is all because of the wasted month of February, where the president was hate tweeting, firing people that he was angry with over impeachment, going on campaign rallies, and golfing. And, now, the country is paying the price for that.

We should be careful to understand that when the same guy says, well, it`ll be back in September but we`ll make it go away really quick, is the same guy, when there were 15 cases in the country, said, soon, it would be gone to zero and it would disappear like magic. The lack of credibility in these evening news events is epic and unlike everything we`ve ever seen.

It`s a Baghdad Bob show every night of the week, day after day, the airing of the grievances, the airing of his anger issues. The attacks on the governors, we see every night. All of the qualities you never, ever want to see in a leader, in a crisis, when lives are at stake.

MELBER: You lay it out there. And this is, also, a leadership test. Given that you know your way around campaigns and, historically, Republican campaigns, do you view the president`s leadership and record on this virus as crucial to the 2020 campaign?

SCHMIDT: It`s the essential issue. It`s the only issue. Look, we`re not talking about what I think is the defining image tonight, which is miles and miles and miles-long lines in Texas of people waiting hours upon hours on food lines.

These are people who never envisioned being on a food line. These are people who are hardworking, who were employed not long ago. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that these federal programs, aimed at the little guy in this country, the small business owner, aren`t reaching their targets.

People can`t get through the bureaucracy. They`re ruled ineligible for it. The programs are out of money. The bottom line is 42 percent of the country has $400 of cash available, and it`s not as if we didn`t have a crisis of hopelessness and despair or a suicide epidemic, an opioid epidemic, before any of this happened.

But when you look at unemployment numbers from the great depression, you look at the jobless claims filed on a weekly basis. And essentially, the job gains of the last decade, all eradicated over the course of a month. You look at the protests and the insanity that you saw in Michigan yesterday. What you see looking ahead is political instability, perhaps, certainly, economic instability.

And the question for the country is, who is the person who is going to be able to get the country, most quickly, back on its feet? Who is the person who is going to unify the country?

MELBER: Right.

SCHMIDT: When we look, now, we`re sharing the largest common experience that any of us have ever shared, that`s probably ever been shared in the history of humanity. There`s literally no one on the planet who is not affected by this.

Trump, who`s divided the country, says I want to heal the land now? I`m the healer? It`s a ludicrous proposition.

And so I think that this -- this election is -- is as fundamentally an important an election we`ve had in this country since 1864, when we decided, in that election, if we were to be a country at all.

MELBER: Well, you lay it out there. It`s -- it`s striking. We`re going to put back up what you mentioned. We just were showing viewers some of the photographs that we have here that were new in. And you brought up because it`s what people are feeling and living through.

We have footage of the way people are living, the checkpoints where people are trying to get food. People in line, six feet apart, long lines, heartbreaking devastation. We have people living through the pandemic and hurting. Then, we have the people who, through no fault of their own, Steve, talk about the task of how we organized society, no fault of their own, out of a job.

Households with both parents out of a job, wondering about food, rent, and everything else, week to week. The unemployment numbers that we got out today, as you mentioned, which is something we wanted to get to in our broadcast, bring total unemployment to 18 million, absolutely staggering, absolute pain and heartache there, again, which is a halo that far, far exceeds the number of people directly affected by contracting the virus itself.

With all of that stacked up, that brings me to the other question I wanted to ask you, Steve, which relates to the two answers you`ve given us. And, that is, what does this experience, which you said everyone`s living through together in America, around the world, what does this do to people who are fact-based or evidence-based in assessing Donald Trump`s core pitch when he ran for president, which apart from all the attacks on Hillary Clinton and what we remember in the politics of it, I think you know, and I think I will say, in fairness, there are plenty of people out there when they heard a business person say he would shake things up and bring a different sensibility to government.

They may have thought and some may say naively or incorrectly but they may have genuinely thought, you know what? We have tried a lot of politicians. Obviously, he`s going to be in office for the first time if he wins. Let`s try something different.

He said he would do that. He said he would bring executive leadership. He talked a lot about hiring the best people.

As a political expert as a political expert, do you think that this is also a reckoning for that core appeal -- again, to those folks who follow this less, who might be less partisan, about how it`s working out, his style of leadership, where are the best people when you look at what has been documented on "New York Times," on-air, elsewhere, as a lot of incompetence in handling this?

SCHMIDT: Again, the incompetence here has just been epic. And I think the one way to look at it is to imagine ourselves 50 years from now. Imagine we`re old men and we`re talking to historians trying to understand what happened in the era. And what -- what -- what we`ll tell them is that, in the year 2016, the American people, very narrowly, losing the popular vote, but winning the Electoral College, put a reality TV show host and a New York city con man into the office of the president of the United States, who was unequipped mentally, emotionally, morally, to be commander in chief of the most powerful nation in the world.

He didn`t understand its history. He didn`t understand its systems. He didn`t understand its values. He spent years tearing the country apart, attacking vital institutions, alleging conspiracies, internalizing his grievances, conducting himself in an immoral and corrupt way that led to his impeachment.

This has been a three-year reality show circus. And, hopefully, what this incident will do is bring down the curtain on the reality show era of politics, all of it, with finality. Because what we should understand, once again, is that politics and who we put into these positions of power matter profoundly. It is about life and death.

And so, we`re in a life-and-death moment. And when you read the first drafts of history, you know what happened. Not what the president is lying act about every night in these briefings and pretending happened. What really happened is this is one of the most inept responses to a crisis that you could have seen coming.

People saw it coming. And, as a result, the country has been devastated economically, and tens and tens and tens of thousands of Americans who, otherwise, would be alive, will not. The coronavirus is the leading cause of death in America. He ran on a promise of making America great again. What we see is death, economic collapse, and suffering, on an immense scale that nobody in this country could have imagined seeing in our lifetime 60 days ago. That`s what his legacy is.

MELBER: That is the word on that. Steve Schmidt bringing us his perspective and strongly stated.

Dr. Emanuel, I`m out of time so I`m not going to call on you. Also, I`m not sure if you could top that.

EMANUEL: No, I don`t think so.

MELBER: Steve has laid it out. I want to get a break in here.

I want to thank, again, Dr. Emanuel and Steve Schmidt giving us food for thought.

After the break, Senator Klobuchar joins us live on what Congress can do about the economic crisis and rural America when we come back.


MELBER: On the same day we learned that 5 million new Americans are jobless, President Trump announcing these guidelines for reopening the economy. Earlier today, he also was talking to bipartisan groups of members of Congress about all of these plans. Lawmakers actually have something that is new called a Congressional Task Force to reopen the country.

Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar was involved in one of those calls. She joins us now.

Senator, what can you tell us about those preparations?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): It was very similar to what you heard today from the president.

I just keep going back listening to your last segment and thinking it was this president at the Republican convention that said to the nation "I alone can fix this". Remember that?


KLOBUCHAR: Then, in the middle of the biggest crisis we`ve had in our lifetimes, he then said he was back-up to the governors. And then recently this last week, he said he alone could open the economy, which we know is not right under the Constitution, and we have major business leaders saying, wait a minute, we cannot put our customers and our workers in danger and we need testing.

So, today, we got some guidelines, that`s always helpful to have, but I think in the end, what happened on the call, the point that I made to him on the call that so many others did, as well, is that we actually need a national strategy for testing. And this means that we need workers tested on the front line. We need people who go into the hospital to be able to get tests or who have had coronavirus to find out whether they`re still contagious or not.

I`ve had all these experiences in own my life. My husband was in the hospital. It took six days to get the test back. So many other people are waiting right now on test results.

We need rapid testing. We need testing that also allows you to know if you had this disease in the past and as was pointed out, we lost precious time through February when we should have had that information.

So I look at this immediate. Let`s get the funding. That`s what we`re working on now, the Democratic Party, to push Mitch McConnell to make sure we have the funding for the hospitals and the workers. That`s immediate.

Short term, let`s get the testing out and hold them accountable to get the testing out.

And then it`s long term. Long term for me is the election because it`s Joe Biden that`s had the experience in overseeing a major federal program and making sure the money went to where it was. That was the Recovery Act. It`s Joe Biden that led the last response and worked on so many things when it came to Ebola and H1N1 and the like. We didn`t see anything like this.

And so, that`s where I look at this -- immediate, short term, long term.

MELBER: Makes sense. A lot of coverage and attention has been on the places hit hardest like New York. A lot of the states that are rural for a range of reasons haven`t been hit as hard. That may be changing as you know, and you`ve been working on this, and reading from a political reporting on this, cases are erupting threatening a local population that doesn`t always have easy access to the same health care as urban areas, the outbreak striking, the farming and meat backing industry, disturbing also the distribution of food.

You have a plan for addressing the pandemic in rural America. What does it do?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, let`s step back. And we know what we see every day in major metropolitan areas. We know how bad that is and the deaths we`re seeing. At the same time, we`re seeing hot spots in rural Georgia, an African-American town because people believe they could gather -- remember when the president said we want to be in church by Easter, he`s now changed his tune, people believed that.

And so, in the weeks leading up to that, you had people gather in rural areas including my state where we saw four deaths coming out of one church service in a very small rural county. So I think my plan here is number one education is so important. We can`t give people false hopes.

On the call today, it was noted that some like 25 percent of the counties don`t have a case yet. Well, if that`s the message, you`re not looking at last week where we had deaths in rural counties all over the country. We have to make sure we educate people --

MELBER: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: -- and make sure people understand it can happen.

Second, it`s broadband, so kids in rural areas can learn just like they can out in suburban areas. It is making sure that our rural hospitals which are operating on such thin margins get the help that they need, which is what we`re pushing for right now, and it is, of course, helping in our nursing homes. This is an older population.

And then finally, our ag economy. It`s not just farmers that are going to be hurt, Ari.

MELBER: Right.

KLOBUCHAR: It`s people that want to buy food in grocery stores or the people that are standing in line in Texas.


MELBER: Wider implications.


MELBER: Your approach to how this works. I have 90 seconds left -- on the presidential race, I did want to ask you amidst all this other news. There were reports here, in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" about an allegation of misconduct against Joe Biden. He has denied it.

I want to get your response to that before we go.

KLOBUCHAR: He has said and I agree with this, you got to get to the bottom of every case and all allegations. I think "The New York Times", I haven`t read all the stories. I read that one.

Your viewers should read that. It was very thorough, they interviewed people, and I have done a lot of work on this. I actually led the effort to change the rules in the U.S. Senate so that it is easier to bring these cases forward, and so that we have taxpayers not paying for bad conduct.

I think this case has been investigated. I know the vice president as a major leader on domestic abuse, I worked with him on that, and I think that -- again, the viewers should read the article. It was very thorough.

MELBER: Understood. An important topic so we did want to get your response to that as well. I know you`re doing a lot of different work here. I appreciate you making time for us tonight, Senator Amy Klobuchar.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you. We will be in touch as they say.

That does it for us here. You can find me tomorrow on "THE BEAT" at 6:00 p.m. Eastern or this slot. I`m going to be filling in tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for coronavirus special coverage.

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