Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Lashes Out In Grievance-Filled Briefing, Says No Plans To Dismiss Task Force Doctor, Despite #FireFauci Retweet; Governors On East And West Coasts Team Up By Region To Decide When To End Stay-At- Home Orders; Trump Claims He Has "Ultimate Authority" To Reopen Economy, Not Governors; U.S Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 23,000; Trump Uses Task Force Briefing To Try And Rewrite History On Coronavirus Response; Influential Model Projects Coronavirus Deaths Will Stop After June 21, Other Experts Disagree. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. A day that began with the director of the CDC expressing cautious hope that the country as a whole is, quote, "nearing the peak right now of the coronavirus outbreak" -- well, it ended in a very different place, one that revolves around the president, his grievances, and the credit he believes he deserves but is not getting, with more than 23,000 people in this country now dead and many hundreds still dying every single day.

We certainly focus on the hope tonight on the new effort by states to work on ways of slowly getting back to normal, tempered by the enormous challenges that remain, and the deep wounds the country continues to suffer day in and day out.

But the president today chose yet again to hijack what is supposed to be a briefing from the Coronavirus Task Force. Yet again he hijacks it, this time with a briefing very -- a brief -- excuse me -- a briefing full of a very public diatribe in yet another attempt in a long line of attempts to rewrite what has now been widely reported to be his late and incomplete response to this crisis, apart from imposing a travel restriction on China, which according to "The New York Times", still allowed 40,000 people to enter the country. It wasn't a ban.

Shortly after the press conference got underway, the president called Dr. Anthony Fauci to the podium to explain the remarks that Fauci made yesterday with CNN's Jake Tapper about whether social distancing efforts could have prevented fatalities, had they been imposed in February, not in mid-March. Here's what Dr. Fauci said on Sunday.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, what he says is clear and it's just a fact. He isn't attacking the president, isn't attacking the administration. It's just a fact. That was yesterday. Here's Fauci today when he was called up by the president.


FAUCI: I had an interview yesterday that I was asked a hypothetical question, and hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty, because it's what would have or could have.

The nature of the hypothetical question was, if in fact we had mitigated earlier, could lives have been saved? And the answer to my question was, as I always do, and I'm doing right now, perfectly honestly -- say yes. I mean -- obviously -- that was taken as a way that maybe somehow something was at fault here.

The first and only time that Dr. Birx and I went in and formally made a recommendation to the president to actually have a, quote, "shutdown", in the sense of not really shutdown, but to really have strong mitigation -- we discussed it. Obviously, there would be concern by some that in fact that might have some negative consequences.

Nonetheless, the president listened to the recommendation and went to the mitigation. The next -- second time that I went with Dr. Birx into the president and said, 15 days are not enough. We need to go 30 days. Obviously, there were people who had a problem with that because of the potential secondary effects. Nonetheless, at that time the president went with the health recommendations, and we extended it another 30 days.


COOPER: So Fauci stood by what he had said on Sunday to Jake Tapper, but he made sure to point out that he wasn't criticizing the president and he pointed out that the times he was actually asked to meet with the president and made a direct recommendation, the president backed his recommendations.

Now, you might ask why wasn't Fauci invited in much earlier and asked for recommendations, because he clearly wanted stronger efforts earlier. Nevertheless, the president went on then from there to launch a series of attacks on the press, including the report in "The New York Times" this weekend on the many warnings that went unheeded before the administration, especially the president, began treating the outbreak as the threat it became.

Maggie Haberman, one of the reporters on that story which he called, quote, "a total fake", joins us shortly. The president then introduced, I guess you could call it a campaign-style video. It had earmarks of a propaganda-style video. We're not going to show it to you because it's full of deceptive editing and taking statements out of context, and is clearly designed to tout his administration's response and rewrite history of it.

He followed that with more complaints about the coverage, including the "Times" story. Again, and said if he'd acted sooner -- three months sooner is how he put it -- quote, "I would have been criticized for being way too early." That, of course, is an unknowable hypothetical.

This, on the other hand, is how he did act, and what he did say about the outbreak and how it evolved over time. Take a look.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.

The coronavirus, which is, you know, very well under control in our country, we have very few people with it. The people are getting better, they're all getting better.

We're very close to a vaccine.

We're going down, not up, we're going very substantially down, not up.

Of the 15 people, the original 15 as I call them, eight have returned to their homes to stay in their homes until fully recovered. And again, when you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.

It's going to disappear one day, it's like a miracle it will disappear and from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, maybe it will go away nobody really knows.

Anybody who needs a test gets a test, they're there they have the tests and the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test, as of right now and yesterday anybody that needs a test - that's the important thing. The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect, right? This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good.

It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.


COOPER: So with that on the table, and because the President has so much more to say, I want to go to CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim I'm not even sure where to begin with the briefing.

There was this propaganda video touting the administration's response, or the campaign-style video.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. COOPER: What's particularly interesting - first of all I'd like to hear your thoughts just overall, in terms of all the statements, you know, kind of stunning statements the President has made over time, how this ranks, just overall, what did you think?

ACOSTA: Anderson, I mean I think this was a total meltdown the President had in that briefings earlier today. I have not seen him that off the rails since the days of Charlottesville, when clearly that was a failure of presidential leadership on his part, and to some extent he is back pedaling, because he knows the same kind of scrutiny is on him now.

He responded pretty angrily during that briefing because of these stories that have been coming out over the last 48 hours, calling into questions his actions as this pandemic was building up, and gaining momentum. And one thing we should point out about the video, which looked straight out of Beijing or Pyongyang, I mean there were White House officials working on that video this afternoon.

So that video, campaign-style video, propaganda video whatever you want to call it, was paid for by your tax dollars, but the White House put that video out there to respond to the criticism that has been coming in over the last couple of days and the president was asked about this during the briefing whether or not he let too much time pass as he was offering all these rosy projections about the coronavirus, and here's what he had to say.


PAULA REID, CBS REPORTER: What did you do with the time you bought?

TRUMP: You know what we did?

REID: The month of February -- that video -

TRUMP: You know what we did?

REID: Yeah.

TRUMP: What do you do when you have no case in the whole United States

REID: You had cases in February.

TRUMP: Excuse me, you reported it. Zero cases, zero deaths on January 17th.

REID: But you don't have the complete gap.

TRUMP: On January 30.

REID: What did your administration do in February with the time that your travel ban went into effect.

TRUMP: A lot and in fact we'll give you a list what we did, in fact part of it was up there. We did a lot.

REID: (INAUDIBLE) but then you had a gap.

TRUMP: Look, look, you know you're a fake. You know that, your whole network, the way you cover it is fake. And most of you but not all of you, but the people are wise to you. That's why you have a lower approval rating than you've ever had before times probably three.


COOPER: His go to-

ACOSTA: That was Paula Reid reporter with CBS news, who is a good reporter Anderson.

COOPER: Yeah I mean again he goes to, like ratings-

ACOSTA: Go ahead Anderson, yeah.

COOPER: --and approval numbers, like that's a metric that matters when so many people are dying, and he's the President of the United States. The fact he focuses on, you know, his ratings during this press conferences is, I mean it's pathetic.

It is fascinating, a lot of epidemiologist and others have talked about this lost month of February. The idea, you know, the comments she was making and sort of the direction she was going in was, okay, you bought time with this alleged travel ban from China, wasn't really a ban, tens of thousands of people still came in on flights, but you allegedly bought some time.

What did you do with that time in the month of February? And he couldn't answer it. That was a lost month, because he was holding meetings with diamond and silk if that's what they're called and talking about the magical disappearances in April.

ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson and keep in mind the President was trying to defend the actions that he took during that lost period, but his words are also important.

Keep in mind, Anderson, you know this all too well. Half of the country is following his every word.


There are governors in red states that were waiting to act because of what he was saying. And when the President of the United States is saying it's going to go away like a miracle, that this is just like the seasonal flu, and he is in an echo chamber with other people and conservative media, and this information, this misinformation, is reverberating back and forth, obviously that is going to influence policymakers outside of the federal government in states where those kinds of decisions are critical.

And I think that is something that the president is just -- he is trying to erase from everybody's memories, but propaganda videos and temper tantrums in the briefing room just won't do that, Anderson. COOPER: The president was also asked about Dr. Fauci and why he

retweeted a "Fire Fauci" tweet, and I just want to -- to play it, because again, his logic, I -- there is no logic to it. Let's just play this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- time to(ph) fire Fauci?

TRUMP: I retweeted somebody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you notice that when you retweeted it?

TRUMP: Yes, I -- I notice everything. That's somebody's opinion. I was told about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Fauci, you're on the same page?

TRUMP: Yes, we have been from the beginning. I don't know what it is exactly --


TRUMP: -- but if I put somebody's opinion up, you know, I don't mind controversy. I think controversy is a good thing, not a bad thing.


COOPER: So, I mean, the idea that he just, you know, retweeted somebody who says to fire his top scientist, and he was aware of it but it didn't mean anything, but he went ahead and did it, I mean, I would think a presidential use of time is more valuable than searching online for tweets, like, to fire the scientist if that's not what you in fact believe or at least want to warn the scientist about and threaten him to start toeing the line more. I --

ACOSTA: That's absolutely right, Anderson, and keep in mind, last Friday, I pressed the president on this and whether or not he is going to tell his conservative allies to stop bashing Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, and he declined to take that opportunity. He said he had respect for them but he declined to take that opportunity.

We have seen this time and again. He wants his officials to be like cats on a hot tin roof, and constantly nervous about what the president thinks about them.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci -- I mean, one of the reasons why, I think, people have responded so positively to him around the country is that he has the kind of credibility that so many public officials right now just don't have.

Keep in mind this is a public health official who was praised by former president George H.W. Bush, Bush Senior, back in 1990 -- 1988, excuse me -- as a hero. So this is somebody who has a track record that has been trusted over

the -- over the last couple of decades, and has stood the test of time, because he has been praised by both Republicans and Democrats.

And it was -- it was a sad sight to behold to see Dr. Fauci fall on the sword during that briefing, but you do get the sense -- and I hear this from talking to my sources, that to some extent, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx have to placate the president in order to stay in these very critical roles, because as you know, Anderson, without Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci in those kind of roles, the wheels really could come off of this response from the administration, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, thanks. I want to bring in CNN's senior political analyst Maggie Haberman, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Maggie, first of all, what are you hearing about the president's motivation behind him erupting today at the briefing like this? Was it -- I mean, it seems like it was linked to your reporting over the weekend.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A little bit, yes. I think it was linked to our reporting. Look, he's very upset about that story. He has made very clear for 24 hours that he's very upset about that story. It was an accurate story. We stand by all the reporting.

I'm candidly a little disappointed with Anthony Fauci for claiming he didn't say something yesterday that he did say. Jake Tapper's question to him was clearly about our story and the gap between when the social distancing measures were put in place in March compared to when they wanted to bring them to him in February. That does not help Fauci's credibility.

In terms of the president, he is going to be judged on what -- how he handles this virus. That is going to be his legacy and it is going to be this election, and he would rather have a fight with the media, and you saw it today. And unfortunately, it will work with a lot of folks.

COOPER: Of course. Yes. People are -- people like that.


COOPER: Can you just lay out your reporting about the warnings --


COOPER: -- to the president, what he knew and when? Because the -- I thought the Fauci, you know, kind of public walk-back was interesting, because he -- he -- you know, what he said was factually correct, obviously, he had this, you know, social -- you know, social distancing --


COOPER: -- but what he said was, from the first time he was actually called in by the president to directly give a recommendation, the president went with it, but that was the mid-March, you know, social distancing recommendation.

HABERMAN: Right. Right.

I was surprised he hadn't -- I mean, I don't know if it's true, but he's indicating that he hadn't been called in earlier to give direct recommendations to the president.

HABERMAN: That -- look, that's our reporting as well. I think that he had made some recommendations that were not in a formal setting. As I understand it, that presentation between Fauci and Dr. Birx was very brief.

The president had supposedly already made up his mind, which fits with a bunch of other pieces of reporting we had, but what we described in the story -- and there were six of us on that story, we worked on it a long time -- was that there were emails among a group describing themselves as the Red Dawn Group that were very focused on this virus in January, wanted to take more extreme measures -- that the president did do this travel ban, and it was a limited ban with China.


But he did it at the end of January, we talked about that in the piece, and he basically treated that as a "Mission accomplished" moment.

He did speak to Alex Azar, according to our reporting, the HHS secretary, on January 3rd. Azar said that he said he wanted to go on TV and say that this was at risk of a pandemic, and be critical of China, and the president told him, "Stop panicking," and he didn't want him going on television and doing that.

There was a memo by Peter Navarro, the trade adviser, that was widely circulated around the White House, that the president, as we understand it, was not shown, but was aware of at the time, told that it existed. He was not happy that Navarro put very high estimates of potential deaths on paper.

And then you basically have the month of February where not a whole lot happened. The president went to India, he went to the West Coast, and no action was really taken.

And the irony here, Anderson, is that the video he showed tonight in the briefing room, his timeline showed that, which is what he was being asked by reporters -- Where is February? Why is this month missing? It's not going to just go away because he yells at reporters.

COOPER: Which is why he got so mad at the CBS reporter --

HABERMAN: Correct.

COOPER: Because she pointed out that in his own propaganda video --

HABERMAN: Correct. COOPER: -- they couldn't come up with stuff from February, and that's why he --

HABERMAN: Literally -- literally nothing.


HABERMAN: He turns the task force over to Mike Pence at the end of February, and that's it. And then Pence and his folks took several days to get their bearings and figure out where things were, and then Jared Kushner came in, and the rest is history.

COOPER: Right. I mean, it's classic, like, you're trapped in a corner with your argument.

HABERMAN: That's right.

COOPER: Your own video propaganda video has failed because you didn't realize you had nothing from February --


COOPER: -- and so you attacked the reporter who smartly has pointed that out.

I want to get to the rest of the panel, but Kaitlan -- the president's -- the conference just wrapped up. Kaitlan Collins was in the room. She joins us now.

What was that like? You were in the room, I mean, Jim Acosta was saying it's, you know, one of the most -- more unhinged things he's seen from this president.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Anderson, we had a feeling when he came in here and we saw the video screens being set up, and then the president said he had a video for us to watch.

He smirked while standing over to the side, looking at reporters as that video was playing. But of course that video didn't include, you know, the president's own comments during that time period when he was repeatedly downplaying the threat of the coronavirus.

Something he continued to do, and then he even, in March, tweeted that he believed the media was inflaming the coronavirus past what the facts warranted, he said. And at that time he quoted the surgeon general saying that the risk to the American population was low.

So the president himself, of course, was downplaying it, and the questions that remain are not only about Maggie's great reporting about the steps that they didn't take in February, but also what kind of decisions that led governors to make.

Because we know Ron DeSantis of Florida said that his thinking was influenced by the president, and once he realized -- the president came out here, that briefing we all remember, with the very grave tone, that's what DeSantis caused him to issue that stay-at-home order.

And of course, Anderson, the other thing that came out of this briefing was the president said he believes he has total authority, as President of the United States, over these states' decisions. And, of course, that comes to this topic of whether or not they're going to open up the country, and how they're going to do that.

And many states have said they're going to make their own decisions based on the data they have. You've seen states on the West Coast and the East Coast deciding to work together.

And I asked the president who it was that told him he had the total authority over that, because I just -- I don't know any Republican governors who would agree to that. I don't believe that Vice President Mike Pence, when he was governor of Indiana, would have agreed that President Barack Obama had total authority over his state.

And the president did not answer that question, he said he would provide reporters with a legal briefing. But it does show you what the president is thinking, and how he's viewing this, as they're preparing for the end of the month, when those social distancing guidelines are up.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Kaitlan, as you point out, one of the ironies of his now alleged belief that he has the power to do this is just -- I think it was last week, when he was trying to explain was he wasn't trying to force all governors to have a nationwide and state-wide stay-at-home orders, was that he believes in -- you know, he knows the constitution better than anybody, and he's, you know, a federalist, and he wants to leave it up to the states, because that's his understanding of the constitution.

I just want to play one of the exchanges you had with the president today.


COLLINS: A quick question about something you just said. You said when someone is president of the United States their authority is total. That is not true. Who told you that?

TRUMP: OK. You know what we're going to do? We're going to write up papers on this. It's not going to be necessary because the governors need us one way or the other. Because, ultimately, it comes with the federal government.

That being said, we're getting along very well with the governors, and I feel very certain that there won't be a problem. Yes, please go ahead.


COLLINS: Has any governor -- has any governor agreed that you have the authority to decide when their state --

TRUMP: I haven't asked anybody. Because I don't -- you know why? Because I don't have to. Go ahead, please.

COLLINS: But who told you the President has the total authority?

TRUMP: Enough.



COOPER: So it's interesting he said they're going to agree one way or another. It sort of indicates that he has things they need and that may be part of the convincing process.

COLLINS: Yes, and we can talk about the legal authority and what legal scholars will say about this all day long. We pretty much know their answer. They do not believe the president has total authority.

But also, Anderson, it goes against -- like what you said, what the president has been saying. Because he repeatedly deferred to governors to make their own decisions for their states, saying it was up to them. That not only was about the stay-at-home orders, and whether or not they should issue them, but also about supplies, where the president repeatedly said they were only there to back the states up.

So we have been drawing this line between states' authorities and the federal government's authorities for some time now. So of course, the question is, you know, if it does come down to this -- and this could be a very real situation where the president is recommending one thing and some governors, even those with Republican governors in certain red states, do not take the president's guidelines, because they do not feel it's right for their state.

Now, with that being said, we have heard from governors who said they do want guidance from the federal government on what to do. We saw that play out with the social distancing guidelines. They're just saying they don't have the authority to decide whether or not a certain business in Alabama or whatnot is going to open back up.

COOPER: Dana, I want to get your reaction to that briefing.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Where do we start? First, just a little bit of reporting, you were talking to Maggie about the obvious, that the president was ticked off about the reporting that she and her colleagues of "The New York Times" did over the weekend, not to mention the interview that our colleague, Jake Tapper, did with Anthony Fauci.

And that was clear in the phone calls that the president was having on Easter Sunday. I spoke to somebody who is familiar with the president's phone calls, who described him as cranky, and curt, and not happy, and exclusively talking about the idea of the press out to get him, that they're blaming him for things that happened in the past.

And that -- of that, kind of, feeling was born that crazy propaganda video and the lashing out that you saw in the press conference that none of us has seen anything like. And that says a lot in the Trump era. So that's number one.

And number two, as we've all been talking about the notion of whether the president has the authority to do what governors may or may not want him to do. If you play it out -- let's just say, Andrew Cuomo in New York -- he says, I don't want to do -- I don't want the schools to reopen, and the president says, no, I'm going to do it.

Let's say he goes to court and he gets approval by a court to do that. What happens if people get sick and they get -- and everything goes back to where it was? Does he really want that? Especially for any president, but especially a president heading to re-election, that he's going to own that decision in a way that he has not wanted to do before?

I think there was a lot of bravado at this press conference, and not a lot of reality when he stops to think about it, or when his political and policy advisers, never mind his health advisers, remind him of that.

COOPER: Wow. You mean, what he said is actually not what he's going to do? Wow.

BASH: I know. I know. I know. I know -- you'll pick your jaw up off the ground, Anderson. I know.

COOPER: Sanjay, just from a medical standpoint, let's just talk about where things stand with the virus right now. Is this week a kind of a turning point of some sort?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think so. I mean, it's a significant week, because I think, as -- the message that a lot of people are hearing is that in some of these hot spots, the numbers are starting to plateau.

That's obviously a good thing, but it also might give the sense to people that, you know, we're sort of through the woods, or out of the woods on this, and we're not. And, you know, the numbers in terms of people who may still be tremendously affected by this will continue to grow. We know that, Anderson.

But one of the things I want to point out, it's very interesting when you listen to what we knew when. We have this timeline that I sort of -- I was reading Maggie's reporting over the weekend and I wanted to put sort of a public health timeline on top of her reporting. What did we know when?

January 7th -- let me preface by saying, as things -- as we learn more and more about this virus, our level -- the level of concern among public health officials went up. January 7th, we knew that there was now this novel coronavirus. That's concerning, a new virus that is spreading in humans. It's always going to raise antennas and stuff like that.

But even at that point, the question was, is this going to be more like SARS, which was bad, but ultimately affected 8,000 people around the world. 800 people died. Was it going to be like H1N1, which affected tens of millions of people, but had a very low lethality rate, or was it going to be something worse?

By the end of January, when President Trump put that travel ban in place, which, you know, probably had some significant benefit to it -- at that same briefing, Anderson, you may remember, Dr. Fauci got up there and said, we have some evidence that there is asymptomatic transmission of this virus.


That is huge. That is a very huge concern. That changed it into an entirely different picture at that point. That was the end of January.

By, sort of, middle of February I interviewed Dr. Robert Redfield the head of the CDC on February 13th and he confirmed that. So February 13th, we knew that there was evidence -- there was clearly asymptomatic transmission, which changed this.

By February 26th, we knew this was now circulating in the community. Important points -- a level of concern Anderson, this is nuanced point, the level of concern wasn't the same every step of the way it grew as we gained more information.

But there was significant information by the end of January about asymptomatic spread which is something that the entire public health community looked at and said, whoa, this is different than what we've heard with SARS, this is different than what we heard with other viruses.

If it's that lethal and can spread asymptomatically, we've got do something about it. So on March 16th, when we had the 15-day pause that was a month and a half after that really significant information came out Anderson.

COOPER: Sanjay, appreciate that it's interesting to see. Maggie Haberman as well for your reporting, Caitlin Collins, Dana Bash that you so much. Coming up next more on the President's comments, and this question of the Presidents authority to tell states and state at home orders.

David Axelrod and Juliette Kayyem join us and later we'll as the doctor behind some new modeling about its prediction that by the third week in June no one will be dying of coronavirus that and more as we continue.




COOPER: We're talking tonight about the president's press conference on a day that saw the death toll from coronavirus in the country top 23,000. Today's briefing wasn't about them -- the president, yet again, went out of his way to make it about himself.

Also, as Kaitlan Collins mentioned before the break, and as she factually confronted the president on, he said that he has the authority to order states to lift stay-at-home orders.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you say my authority, the president's authority. It's not mine, because it's not me. This is --



TRUMP: When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's got to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's total? Your authority is total?

TRUMP: It's total. It's total. And the governors know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if -- if a governor -- if a governor issued a stay-at home order --

TRUMP: The governors know that. You know, you have a couple bands of -- excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you'd just rescind that -- could you rescind that order?

TRUMP: You have a couple bands of -- of Democrat governors, but they will agree to it. They will agree to it.


TRUMP: But the authority of the President of the United States having to deal with the subject we're talking about is total.


COOPER: As you know, he has repeatedly stated that it is up to the states to determine whether to impose the same orders that he says he has the power to lift. He also said it's up to the states to seek out ventilators and supplies, and the federal government is only there as a backup.

But joining us now, a former state and federal official responsible for such issues, CNN's National Security Analyst, Juliette Kayyem. Also, CNN's Senior Political Commentator and former Senior Advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod. David, is the president's power total in this?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clearly, it's not total, and as you pointed out earlier, you know, he was very -- he was very clear when he wanted to defend the seven governors who are allies of his who didn't impose stay-at-home orders, that he didn't feel it was his role to -- to tell them what to do, and that he studied the Constitution, and that's the conclusion that he drew. And as you point out, there's a great irony, because minutes before he said that, he said the governors chose not to get ventilators. They should have gotten ventilators. Basically it was their responsibility to get ventilators, that they needed to take care of themselves in a global pandemic.

And so, you know, the mixed messages were kind of -- even by Trumpian standards, it was really something today. And it was clear he was very motivated to try and rebut -- you know, he was steamed up about what had been written about what hadn't been done.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, The Times story which clearly set him off -- you know, he said today the story in the New York Times was a totally fake, it's a fake newspaper, and they write fake stories. He then proceeded to dim the lights to play this sort of propaganda, campaign- style video.

Juliette, just from -- you know, clearly, part of this may have been set off. Also you had, you know, Governor Cuomo and a number of other governors from eastern states holding a press conference, talking about their plans, and instituting plans.


COOPER: I'm wondering, you know, the president made the threat to states who don't open, saying that, quote, he calls the shots and that, essentially, that, you know, he has stuff they're going to need. I'm wondering what you make of the president's approach on this?

KAYYEM: Well, it's a unique one, because in Homeland Security, we tend to talk about unity of effort between local, state and federal government, under the belief that we have a common goal of saving American lives.

I have come to believe, and I think the governors and mayors and the private sector and university presidents and everyone else has come to believe, that the president has run out of tricks, that he basically -- his anger is because he failed to exert authority when he had it in trying to stop the pandemic, and now is pretending like he has authority when he doesn't.

And so, you know, we've got to deal with the crisis with the president we have, not the one we deserve, and so you're seeing the governors in particular fill the vacuum.

And you saw these regional efforts both on the west coast and on the east coast to try to figure out a way in which we're going to open up again responsibly, and that's going to be the only standard.

What is the president going to do? Force me out of my house? Like, it's -- it's so ridiculous that it -- and the absurdity is such an insult to the first responders, and the -- and the health and medical workers, who are simply trying to save lives right now.

COOPER: You know, David, though, I --

AXELROD: Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, go ahead.

AXELROD: Yes, I just want to -- I want to say, one of the ironies is this is, you look at those governors out on the west coast, for example, and the governors on the east coast, who have a much more difficult problem, but you look at the governors on the west coast who didn't wait for the president's guidance --


AXELROD: -- who acted on their own and acted quickly, and they were able to blunt some of the worst edge of this still serious problem out there, but not what it might have been, because they acted when the president didn't act.

And now he's saying, "I'm going to tell them when they can stop doing it, when they have to stop doing it," it's -- it's completely absurd.


The other thing is that when -- you know, we should point out that the whole point of the travel restrictions that he put in was to buy time, so that steps could be taken to deal with what was inevitable, which was going to be an outbreak here in this country, to get the ventilators going, to get the flow of materials to the states that would -- that would need them.

And that process really began in mid-March, when the president finally acknowledged that no, this isn't under control, we're at war.

ANDERSON: And, Juliette, I mean, just in that idea, of buying time, was squandered, essentially. I mean, you look again at that month of February, where, you know, clearly the president's attitude was very different than what, you know, his epidemiologists, what scientists were pointing out.

KAYYEM: That's exactly right. I think that the "New York Times" story is so damning in so many ways, not simply because of what the president failed to do, but the president's role was also to guide all of us.

So I think about things like the shock that, sort of, all of us experienced, who were not expecting the shutdowns, in terms of because all of a sudden there's no pandemic, and then there's a pandemic because the president had been denying it.

I think about things like New Orleans still having the Mardi Gras in February, which is probably what -- a hot spot that we have, with no knowledge by the local leaders about what was going on in the White House, right? So, no knowledge that maybe they shouldn't have had it.

It's that kind of leadership role that the president, by denying that this was coming, denied us, right? In other words, us being able -- being prepared, being ready for what was about to happen. Getting the kits ready, and communicating, leaders communicating, governors, mayors, university presidents, CEOs, about what was likely to happen, which was we were going to do this, right? We were going to social -- socially distance.

COOPER: Juliette Kayyem, David Axelrod, thank you very much.

Up next, we're going to continue the conversation about presidential powers versus those of the nation's governors to end the stay-at-home orders. We'll talk to Republican governor of Ohio, Mike Dewine.



COOPER: As we reported earlier, the President was adamant today that he and only he has authority to lift the stay at home orders that governors put in place. He said his authority is "total", and that the governors know that.

His response came after news broke today that governors of states in the Northeast and west have decided to form regional pacts to determine when and how they may lift stay at home orders and try to get the economy in their states moving again. Joining me right now is Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Governor thanks' so much for being with us you have been consistent-

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Thank you.

COOPER: -- in saying that it's up to Governors when their states open back up. Obviously many governors would like guidance from the President, from the administration. I'm wondering though, when you hear the President saying it's absolutely up to him, what do you think?

DEWINE: Well, Anderson, first of all, we have had good relationship with the White House when I've asked them to do things that we really needed in Ohio, they did it.

For example, two weeks ago I called the president on a Sunday morning and said the FDA is just not moving fast enough in regard to Patel labs in Columbus and they have a machine and a process where they can actually sterilize these masks, 80,000 a day, they sped it up.

I mean he called the FDA, they got moving on it and we had it done by that night. I think, you know, I heard the president, I heard you just play it back on TB, but look, the President of the United States, any president has a big bully pulpit, he has a big megaphone.

And I think he's going to be very be influential, just when he, you know. told people to stay home that's very influential. SO I think that's what the President's talking about he has a big megaphone.

What we're trying to do in Ohio and we were working on it today and all weekend is come up with a plan where we can get Ohioans back to work and we can start moving down the pathway of getting our economy built up. But every states different, every region of a country is different. What we're putting together is going to be a plan that's going to work, we hope, work for our state.

ANDERSON: But you are putting together that plan. I know you said the President has a big bully pulpit and this one certainly does, as all presidents do, but in the end, if you are asked who is making the decision about Ohio and what's good for Ohio, it's you, yes?

DEWINE: Well, I have to make the decision that's my responsibility, but we're certainly going to consult with the White House and I think what sometimes is missed is how much flow back and forth between the governors and the White House.

I was on the phone today for an hour and a half with other governors, with the Vice President. We do that two or three times a week, it's a very candid exchange of ideas, here's what we need, here's what is going on and I think sometimes, that's obviously not public, but I think sometimes people miss that there's that much give-and-take going back and forth between this White House and governors, democrat and republican governors and it's very helpful frankly.

COOPER: I mean it's certainly the way it should be and it certainly is good to hear that does exist. Just the way the President is presenting it does make it sound -- you know it doesn't sound like he's just talking about , well I have a big bully pulpit and I'll use that, it's he has presidential authority under the constitution to determine what all states do, and that's just not the case, I mean, from my limited understanding of things.

DEWINE: Well, ultimately the buck stops with me and stops with the other governors, but again I understand what the President's saying.


You know, he's aspirational he wants to get us back to work and he's frustrated and I'm aspirational I want to get us back to work, and I'm frustrated. The people of Ohio are frustrated.

So I don't blame the president for describing it that way. And we're certainly going to work with the press. One of the things that we really, really need is testing. You know, if you talk about a pathway -- if you talk about a pathway to get us back, testing -- ample testing is going to be the way that we get back, and get our people working again. That's a huge challenge.

COOPER: Testing and contact tracing, and things like that, is that something you in the state are set up for already? Or is this a time when you're looking to get all that in place? Because, you know, some states are talking about hiring, or needing to hire a lot of people to do real contact tracing. Is that something you're looking into?

DEWINE: Well, we're in the process of getting people. I don't think that's as big a problem as actually making sure you've got the capacity on the testing. And this is changing. You know, for example, the testing of the blood which enables you to tell whether that person has had the virus, and whether or not they, at least, you would think, would have immunity.

You know, a lot of different companies are on the market today. One of the things I had to tell Ohioans and our businesses today in our daily press conferences, please be careful.

COOPER: Yes, there's a lot of shady ones.

DEWINE: If the FDA has not approved it, you know, it may not work. And so, these are the things that we've got to work our way through, and it's -- it's not going to be easy.

COOPER: Governor DeWine, I appreciate talking to you. Thank you very much.

DEWINE: Thanks, Anderson. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thanks for all you're doing. Just ahead, a coronavirus model cited by the White House -- there's a new projection for what the death count may look like over the next two months. The director of the institute that publishes the model joins me next to talk about details.



COOPER: We spoke of hope at the top of the program. Here's another piece of it. A new projection from a group at the University of Washington projecting coronavirus zero deaths, none after June 21. Now, as you might imagine, that kind of headline is stirring questions.

Joining us now is Dr. Christopher Murray. He's the Chair of Health Metric Sciences at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Dr. Murray, we've talked to you about a lot of the different modeling that you've been having. I think it was in the 80,000s by August when we first started talking to you. I think last week it was down around 61 or so thousand. Can you explain your newest model, how it gets to the conclusion of no deaths, no new deaths after June 21?

DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, CHAIR, HEALTH METRICS SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: So we get to no deaths by the middle of June on the same basis we've -- we've been saying that since two or three weeks ago. That's what happens if everybody stays the course on the closures right through to the end of May.

Now, we're right now having a national discussion about rolling opening, and if that does start to happen, then we will, of course, have to change our forecasts, because the risk of resurgence is really very large in some states.

COOPER: And a number of experts have pushed back on the notion of no new deaths after that day. A professor of epidemiology at Harvard said, "There is no way that amount of control could happen by this summer." I'm wondering how you respond to that.

MURRAY: Well, the one thing we absolutely know for sure is that social distancing measures work. It leads to a situation where every case is infecting less than one other case. And that means, if you keep -- keep the course, you'll get transmission essentially down to zero.

And we saw that in -- in various parts of -- we're seeing that happen live in Italy, we saw it in China. No reason it wouldn't work here. The real question is, what's the way to decrease the risk of a resurgence if we don't stay the course?

COOPER: Is it -- I assume your model is based on the idea that somebody who has been infected cannot get infected again. And I know that's sort of a working assumption of Dr. Fauci and others, but is that something that has been proven definitively at this point?

MURRAY: Yes, there's these reports that are coming out that have people concerned about, you know, recrudescence of the virus, which is a little different than being infected again. But just to be clear, that in our model, we're not assuming that there's a lot of people who become immune to the -- to the virus.

In fact, we think that because of the closures, we will end up getting to June with only about 5 percent of the country who have been infected.


MURRAY: So the reason we can get to zero is not because of immunity, it's because we've actually just put the brakes on transmission through social distancing.

COOPER: But if the brakes on transmission are -- as you said, go through the end of May, if things open up in June, just logically, isn't it possible for more transitions to occur in June?

MURRAY: So the way we're trying to study this, and we're going to be putting out some more information midweek, is to say the following question, which is, when would it be reasonably safe to open up by state?

And reasonably safe means a really small number of cases left in the community, and then of course, there has to be some capability of the state to do contact tracing -- you know, testing, contact tracing and quarantine.

But if you only have five or 10 cases in a state left, that should be manageable. If you have 100 or 1,000, that's going to be a very risky situation for that state.

And of course, there's the whole issue of border control. Like, how do you stop infections coming in from states that are later in the process or from other countries?

COOPER: And -- and that's obviously with sort of rolling -- rolling efforts state by state, changing, obviously (INAUDIBLE) as you said, from other countries. It's fascinating. I -- certainly, let's hope that it's -- it's accurate. Dr. Chris Murray, we'll continue to check in with you on the models as they -- as they -- as they shift. We'll be right back.

MURRAY: Thank you.



COOPER: We hoped to end the program tonight by focusing on frontline health care workers, as we do many nights, but the White House task force briefing went longer than expected. So tomorrow night we'll bring you one nurse's remarkable account of what she's facing here in New York, as she treats COVID-19 patients.

The news continues right now. I want to hand things over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

How are you doing, Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I'm doing better than I deserve. Good to see you, Anderson. I hope you had a good weekend.

And welcome to everybody here, in the new age of rebirth and renewal, after Easter. I am Chris Cuomo, and welcome to PRIME TIME.

The president can try to rewrite history. He can try to cover up and do what he does best, which is cover his own flank. But all Americans want to know, all we must demand to know, is how the hell is he going to get us out of this.

Saying "time to reopen" is not enough when 23,000 lay dead. More than half a million of us are sick. You know I have it. I'm fighting through it.