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U.S. Task Force Shifting Focus to Reopening Economy; More Than 70,000 Deaths in U.S. and More Than 30,000 Deaths in Britain; Roadmap on Exiting Lockdowns; Tony Blair, Former British Prime Minister, is Interviewed About Exiting Lockdowns; Keeping Voters Safe During November Presidential Election. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired May 6, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is different what you said yesterday.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I guess if you think we're always winding it down but, you know, it's a question of what the end
point is. But I think it is a change. A little bit. I thought we could wind it down sooner. But I had no idea how popular the task force is until
actually yesterday, when I started talking about winding it down, I'd get calls from very respected people saying, I think it would be better to keep
it going. It's done such a good job. It's a respected task force. It's -- I knew it myself. I didn't know whether or not it was appreciated by the
public, but it is appreciated by the public.
Then you look at the job we have done on everything, on supplies, on everything, the gowns, the gloves, the masks. You saw yesterday the mask.
We were at a factory yesterday, a great company, Honeywell. And in a period of four days they took a big factory, essentially four days, a little
longer, two weeks, but it was really most of the work done in four days. They took a big plant that did other things and they converted it into
Yes. It is actually complicated for us. But they have unbelievable equipment and they're doing millions of masks out of this factory, and that
took place so quickly. And that was because of the task force. I mean, all of this happened because of the people working within the administration.
And something I didn't know, Mike. They take different layers of material and compress it, put it together because one layer is good for something,
one layer is good for something else, one layer is good for very tiny particles. I mean, it is really -- you think of it as a mask. They make a
very good mask. This is really something that's very special.
So, the task force will be around until we feel it's not necessary. But I will say that I learned yesterday, even after I spoke, Jeff, that the task
force is something you knew. It's very respected. People said, we should keep it going. So, let's keep it going. And so, we'll be doing that. But
we'll be adding some people to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, who are some of the people you were thinking about --
TRUMP: We have a whole list of people that want to be on and we have a list of people that we want. And nobody is -- I'll tell you -- I will say
this, nobody's ever turned me down to be on that task force. It's very -- nobody's turned me down for anything, to be honest.
When we have a committee, like we had the various committees, the sports committee, the commissioners, everybody wants to be on everything we do.
The business committees. It is never had anybody suggest, I'd rather not be on that committee. You know, it is very important.
So, we'll be announcing -- I would say, by Monday we'll be announcing two or three new members to the task force. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, on the issue of reopening. It seems little question that by beginning the reopening process and continuing it
there will likely be more cases of coronavirus, more deaths than there would have been had everything stayed shut down. Will the nation just have
to accept the idea that by reopening there will be more cases, there will be more deaths?
TRUMP: So, I call these people warriors and I'm actually calling now is, you know, John, the nation warriors. We have to be warriors. We can't keep
our country closed down for years and we have to do something. And hopefully, that won't be the case, John, but it could very well be the
case. You won't be locked in a house and some people should stay if you're over a certain age. I mean, you have seen that, right? Elderly people or
especially elderly people with a problem, where they have a problem. It attacks these people viciously. And I think they will be staying back and
we're strongly recommending that they do that.
We're saying over 60, and especially over 60, if you have diabetes or heart problems or whatever problem you might have. So -- but we have to get our
country open again. And you see it, like you cover it. People want to go back. You're going to have a problem if you don't do it. If you don't do
it, you've a very big problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, sir, how close are we to a permanent problem if we don't reopen the country?
TRUMP: Well, I think people won't stand for it. Actually, I don't think our people will stand for it. Now, what I really believe you -- people will
be able to do is, at a certain age, they'll stay back longer. Because, you know, this virus is going to disappear. It's a question of when. Will it
come back in a small way? Will it come back in a fairly large way? But we know how to deal with it much better. You know, nobody knew anything about
it initially. Now, we know we can put out fires. We can put out -- I call them embers, if it's a small or if it's a fire or a hot spot. We can put it
But we can't have our whole country out. We can't do it. The country won't take it. It won't stand it. It is not sustainable. And I think you're going
to have a tremendous transition, which is a third quarter thing. I think you're going to have a good fourth quarter. I think next year is going to
be an incredible year economically.
And with that being said, if somebody lost somebody, a parent or a wife or a husband or, you know, any, brothers, sisters, if you lost someone, you
can never make up for that by saying, why you're going to have a great year next year economically? And so, you can never do that. But I will say that,
from an economic standpoint, I think next year is going to be a very big year. There's tremendous demand.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've been listening to the president of the United States talk about the task force,
his special task force and also, roots for exiting this lockdown. Amanpour is straight ahead.
Hello, everybody, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We can't keep our country closed, we have to open our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: As world leaders wrestle with how and when to reopen their economies, former British prime minister, Tony Blair, offers a road map for
exit from coronavirus lockdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STACEY ABRAMS, FMR. GEORGIA STATE HOUSE MINORITY LEADER, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT AND FAIR COUNT: And as a young black woman who often didn't see
people who look like me being asked to serve when I'm asked the question, I was raised to be honest and tell the truth and I answered the truth, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Throwing her hat in the ring for vice president, while working to assure every vote counts. I speak with activist and Democrat, Stacey
And later --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC BENIOFF, CHAIR AND CEO, SALESFORCE: I never even knew what PPE was, you know, three months ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The private sector steps in to fill the holes in the government response. Walter Isaacson speaks with salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
In the ongoing battle between science and politics on coronavirus, science just took a big hit. In the United States, the White House says it's
considering a plan to phase down its expert coronavirus task force by the end of the month. And while President Trump did respond to a public uproar
saying the work would continue indefinitely, he confirms the focus is now moving towards safety and opening of the U.S. economy.
And here in Britain, leading epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson, resigned from his government advisory post on the task force after admitting that he
broke his own social distancing rules by meeting his lover. Ferguson leads the team at Imperial College London whose shocking models for coronavirus
death rates helped convince the U.K. and the United States to enact strict lockdowns.
Meanwhile, the disease itself rages on. More than 70,000 people have died in the United States. And here in Britain more than 30,000 have died. It's
the highest number in Europe.
Former British prime minister, Tony Blair, calls the coronavirus outbreak the most complicated and difficult challenge that he's ever seen in
politics. He's devoting the total resources of his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change towards creating a strategy for pulling countries out of the
lockdown. And he's joining me right now.
Prime minister Blair, welcome to the program.
I wonder if I can begin by asking you about the shocking numbers here in the U.K.? It doesn't, you know, give anybody any joy to report that 30,000
and more have died here. That is the highest death rate around -- certainly in Europe, the second highest number of deaths. It is a real shocker. Just
your reaction to that and why you think that happened.
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, each of these cases is a personal tragedy and a tragedy for the family and all the loved ones of
those who have died, and the first thing to say is to offer condolences to them and say how terrible this has been. And it's been -- you know, for
countries around the world this has been the most savage and difficult thing to deal with in our memory, frankly.
Why is it happened? Well, you know, there will be a lot of inquests afterwards and what I have tried to do all the way through is offer
constructive advice than criticism. I mean, I think most people in government here would accept that we were probably too slow to lockdown and
too slow ramp up some of the measures that are necessary. But, you know, there will be a lot of investigation afterwards as to why some countries
have suffered much worse than others.
I think the most important thing now is to recognize not just the damage the disease is doing itself but also the consequential damage to our
economy, to livelihoods and therefore, by the way, to health because many people who have other types of condition, heart condition, cancer patients
and those who have suffered strokes are not getting the treatment they need.
And then frankly, if we have large numbers of people unemployed at the end of this, that will also have a consequence for their health, physical and
mental, and then government will be less able to fund our health care system. So, how you exit safely and start to get back to what, in any
event, by the way, will be a new normal, this is absolutely clear. And the report that my institute has published sets out the different levels that
you got to go through in order to do that safely.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you before we go on to the exit, because the exit is obviously linked intrinsically to the health of people and to the
virulence and the control of this virus. So, even though this government says it did everything right and it followed the science and that it can't
really compare itself to international countries, I mean, there must be a reason why we were 252 deaths in South Korea and over 30,000 deaths here.
And I guess what I'm trying to figure out is, and I know you don't want to criticize, but let's just say you were prime minister, what would you have
done in -- as soon as you heard that this was a big deal, it was in China, around Asia and coming to Europe?
BLAIR: Look, I think that the reality is the difference between ourselves and South Korea, South Korea, of course, having been one of the Asian
countries that went through the SARS experience earlier in this century. I think you've got to accept we should have locked down faster. And the
important thing to make sure that the lockdown happens in such a way you stop the spread of the disease. But there are many, many other factors in
And it is not that I'm being sort of coy about criticizing the government, it's just that I think there's a lot that we don't yet know about exactly
how this has grown. And one thing for sure is that there are elements of this like, for example, the large numbers of deaths in care homes that
we'll have to investigate very, you know, deeply as to how this happened since it's obvious the disease is most lethal, obviously, for elderly
The important thing now is to make sure you build what I call the infrastructure of containment so that you've got all the different measures
in place like testing, tracking, tracing, masks, making sure the protective equipment is in place so that you can start to open back up your economy
and your society. Because otherwise, the damage that the measures will do will be so immense you're going to spend years recovering from it and this
generation will be paying for it for a long period of time and the next.
AMANPOUR: I know. It really almost doesn't bear thinking about because there is such a long tunnel ahead, it seems. But I wonder, you know, you're
seeing your neighboring European countries start to gingerly open up and they have had pretty robust measures in place, early lockdowns, early
giving, you know, providing money for employers who have been furloughed, testing and ICU beds. I mean, just around Europe, there was a -- it seemed,
a better infrastructure.
So, I guess without the testing and yet again, we hear promises from this government, it hasn't met its target for the end of April and it's
promising another target even higher for the end of May. We don't have the test. Very important numbers suggest that there are only like 48 percent, I
think, according to the British Medical Association, almost half of them had to source their own PPE or rely on donations.
So, given that, what is the route that you see for Britain to exit?
BLAIR: Right. So, I mean, we are ramping up the testing capability but we got to do, obviously, much more and you got to have both tests in place.
You got to have the test, the so-called PCR test that enables you to see whether someone has the disease. But then, there's the development of the
antibody test which will allow you to see whether someone has had it.
And so -- because the problem with coronavirus is that it only ever affects a small number of the population at any one time. So, only a small number
of people need to be in quarantine. But because we don't know who has it, for sure, or who has had it, then you have to lockdown the entire country.
So, testing and then tracking and tracing is absolutely essential.
Because the one thing you know is, as you open back up again, you know, some activities are obviously much less risky than others, but as you open
up back up again, you're bound do get outbreaks and you have got to be in a position where you can immediately trace those and track them. And then
take the measures to make sure that people who are at risk to others are quarantined.
Now, all of that is whilst we wait for a vaccine which is obviously a longer-term prospect or a therapeutic which could happen more swiftly and
obviously, also be a game changer because it reduces the severity of the disease. But my point -- really the point I'm trying to make today is, each
of these areas has got to be go into real detail, the plans to be detailed plan telling you the level -- the levels of opening up that you are going
to go through, precisely what they are, the metrics that trigger each of them, the measures of containment that are in place and then communicate
that with people so that they understand why you're taking the decisions you are.
But, you know, if we don't start this process of opening up, then, you know, that -- as every week passes, the economic damage mounts. And one of
the things that I think that will be very clear going forward is that absent the vaccine or the therapeutic that makes a real difference, we're
going to have to be building the capacity now and here for things like masks and protective equipment because I think that will be part of -- you
know, I know the government's dubious about the question of masks and all. I've got no doubt at all in the end we will be saying to people, if you're
going on public transport, you know, wearing a mask is what you should do. I think people find it much easier and have much more confidence in using
public transport if that's the case.
So, there's a whole range of things that need to be done and actions that need to be taken now and making sure, obviously, that you're building the
capability of doing the PCR and the antibody test because I think -- and I thought this from the very beginning. Your only way out of this is to do
testing on such a scale that you have a high degree of confidence at any one time that whatever measures you're taking you understand exactly what
their implications are. And if there's anybody who gets infected with the disease, you can immediately trace them and track them.
AMANPOUR: So, what -- I mean, look. You know that there aren't enough -- there isn't enough testing going on right now and the government is being,
you know, prodded to try to open it. They say they're going to wait and they don't want to see a second wave. So, how do you get that ramped up?
Does it need a testing czar? Does it need different people in charge of these things, not just political people or the Brexit people who follow the
prime minister into Downing Street? Does it need people who are experts, whether their government types or business types or, you know, people who
can actually get things done? When you envision a safe emergence, who do you think needs to lead it and guide it, particular areas of it?
BLAIR: Well, I think you just got to divide up the tasks. There's political judgments, there's experts who can advise you on the science. But
as I suggested, you know, several weeks ago, I personally would have segmented these different issues like, for example, testing, tracking and
tracing and I would have a group of people that would be political expert but also, those who are business people who do logistics and procurement,
the involvement of the army, actually, I think is now happening an important but is obviously important as well.
You know, all of it is just about organizing and getting things done. But I think the other thing that we've got to do is to -- this is where political
judgments are important. Obviously, some activities are going to be most risky. I mean, when you -- one of the curious things about coronavirus is
when you attempt to analyze all the evidence about how it's transmitted, there's actually not a huge amount of academic study on this yet and we are
still accumulating data on it. But it looks like household transmission is easily the most common form of getting it followed by public transport. But
that may mean then that your workplaces, your schools can at least slowly open up.
And by the way, you'll have evidence from other European countries who are opening up their various bits of their society, you'll have some evidence
as to what's working and what's not working. Now, I think, you know, you need to build that infrastructure so that you can live with the disease for
some period of time because, you know, until there's a vaccine or, as I say, a radical therapeutic treatment, then, you know, you're going to go
through the summer but then, of course, there's a risk that in the autumn and next year you get further recurrences of the disease and you have got
to -- it's almost like, you know, post-9/11, we put in place a whole new infrastructure for security. We're going to have to do the same for health
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you've led me right into the next question. Because even Dr. Fauci and the big scientists say that they're very worried of a second
wave hitting in the fall. And even right now, on the ground in the United States with all these different counties and states and others trying to do
their own thing and opening and who knows what's going to happen, they're very, very concerned.
So, what do you think in terms of global leadership? You mentioned 9/11. Let's also talk about the financial crash when you were in office. There
was a galvanizing of a global response led by the United States, shored up by Great Britain and all the other major leaders. It just hasn't happened
this time. It just hasn't. The United States is absent without leave in terms of a leader on the global stage and it's Europe and G20 and others
that are sort of pitching in right now. How dangerous is it in this global pandemic not to have a U.S.-led or somebody led global effort?
BLAIR: You've got to a global effort. I mean, it is not to do with trying to help other people, although, that's a good thing to do. In our own
enlightened self-interest, there are certain areas that we should cooperate upon. So, for examples, in its everyone's interest that there's enough
capacity to build the equipment that we need. It's in everyone's interest that we're cooperating on the things like sharing of data, on trying to
find therapeutics that work, on incentivizing the science and technology to develop better testing or the vaccine. It's -- you know, a global
coordination is absolutely essential.
So, supposing we get a vaccine, the first thing that's going to happen is one of these vaccines will -- let's hope it work. You're then going to have
to manufacture it and distribute it and you can only imagine what's going to happen if the wealthy countries take it for themselves and then poor
countries can't afford it. So, you're going to have to have a massive international effort to make sure that's not the case.
When you're talking about the reinflation of the economy in the light of the -- you know, the drop in global GDP, you'll probably run about twice
that of the financial crash and still a lot of uncertainty going into next year. You know, you're going to need to have these global efforts.
So, for me, you know, I've said this before, I find the absence of global coordination completely shocking. But it is not about -- you are not
working with other countries because you're not interested simply in your own country, it's that it's in our own country's interest to work together.
And, you know, the one thing, I think, that will come out of this, hopefully, is an acceptance a bit like at the end of the World War II, we
had to revise and renew the global architecture of cooperation, we're going to have to do that again here in health care and elsewhere.
AMANPOUR: Right. I wonder whether that means moving away from the United States being the leader of this global leader cooperation as it was in the
aftermath of World War II. But I want to say, also, I was, obviously, you know, wrong, it was your successor, Gordon Brown, who was prime minister
during the financial crash.
But I want to ask you because you've explained very clearly the massive financial pain and the massive ripple effects that that's going to have on
ordinary people and everybody. We saw the result of that in the 2016 wave of populism and nationalism that brought us Brexit, that brought Donald
Trump to the United States and all these other nationalistic and populist leaders. What is your political forecast in terms of extremism on the left,
the right, versus the center coming out of this?
BLAIR: It's a really good question. I'm not -- I mean, I'm not sure exactly what the answer to it is. But my instinct is that, what this crisis
will do, because when people emerge from it and they look at the landscape, economically, socially, politically, they're going to find a lot of
wreckage. And my feeling is that everything that was there before this global pandemic will be there afterwards except more vivid and more
So, I think you will get some people on the right who will say, we got to go for economic nationalism. We got to repatriate our supply chains. We got
to move into a position of shop hostility to China. You will have people on the left say, what this shows you is it's exposed the iniquities of our
society and our system and you need a big government to come and take care of people.
And I hope there's a space for what, I would say, is a rational evidence- based policy that says, look, we're going to have to rebuild this thing together. We're going to have to recognize that critical to doing that is
understanding what the future work is going to be, how technology is going to change our society and about how we harness these changes for the public
good and for the benefit of the most number of people.
And what we need is a sense of big national and international endeavor but based around policies that actually work and not policies that push us into
either isolationism or policy positions that, frankly, aren't going to work.
So, I think your -- you know, there will be a -- I think everything's going to change after this. And I think politics will change in a big way. But
here's an interesting thing. If you look around the world at the governments that have done best, the governments that have done best have
been smart, capable, effective, fast moving and quick to take the appropriate action. They are the ones that have come through this best. So,
not the ones that have gone into ideological fantasies, left or right, but those who have just gone on with doing the job based on the evidence and
based -- you know, because these aren't all -- it's not all about scientific evidence, but the political judgments based on a hard look at
reality and then thinking what is in the best interest of the people.
AMANPOUR: Really great to get your perspective. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, thank you so much for joining us.
And with all of this going on right now, we are going to turn to the United States and the challenges of leaders who are facing the fallout from the
coronavirus, questions about how to keep voters safe during the presidential election in November are casting more doubt on a process
already fraught with security concerns.
My next guest is Stacey Abrams whose name comes up a lot as a potential running mate for Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate. She was leading the
fight for free and fair elections well before the pandemic hit as founder and chair of the activist group, Fair Fight.
The issue hits close to home because Abrams lost a tight gubernatorial race in Georgia in 2018 after the state purged more than a million voters from
the rolls. And Stacey Abrams is joining me now from Atlanta.
Welcome back to our program, Stacey Abrams.
Let me just ask you, you might have heard Former Prime Minister Tony Blair talking about what's needed and I wonder if you had a comment on science-
based rational, you know, leadership to get us out of this deep, deep hole and this tragedy and this economic, you know, pit that we're facing right
now. What do you make of what he said?
STACEY ABRAMS, FMR. GEORGIA STATE HOUSE MINORITY LEADER, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT AND FAIR COUNT: I think to boil it down to the fundamentals, what he
is talking about is competence. What democracies must show in this moment is competence of skills, of execution and of basing their decision and
rationale on science and the facts. And unfortunately, what we have seen happen in the United States has undermined the credibility of democracies
around the world.
Luckily, we have counter narratives that are showing that competency works. But one moment that Prime Minister Blair pointed to was a question of who
should lead. The challenge we have now is that in the absence of leadership from the United States, we're watching China use its bumbled response to
actually delegitimize democracy in other nation. They are the ones providing humanitarian support. They are the ones providing resources. And
the moment we cede territory to authoritarian regimes where they get to claim the mantle of competence rather than democracies that have, I
believe, the ability to deliver, we put ourselves in a very fragile place, not only for this pandemic but for the next international global health
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you because a lot of people were looking at the United States and very, very worried, you know, even before this pandemic,
that there was a trend towards delegitimizing institutions, towards delegitimizing and denigrating fact and science, all the way up from the
White House and threatening the very nature of American democracy.
Do you think this pandemic has, you know, perhaps reversed that a little bit, brought to the fore a much greater awareness of the need for, not just
democracy but accountability, science, fact, competence, you know, policy over just raw politics or do you think that the reverse is true?
ABRAMS: I think that, unfortunately, what we're seeing from President Trump and the United States, what we're seeing from President Bolsonaro in
Brazil is a false narrative that the worst is over simply by asserting political will and political want. But what we are also seeing, luckily
from governors both in the United States and governors in Brazil is the importance of that second layer of government, that state layer, that local
layer that it's pushing back and saying, that we will be competent, we will deliver for our people even if the heads of state won't do their jobs.
The challenge is that we shouldn't have to rely on our mayors and our governors to do the work that our federal governments were set up to do.
And the challenge, I think, that is embedded in what we're seeing is that the delegitimization doesn't stop, we've just simply shift focus. We have
to actually restore the capacity of our federal government, restore the capacity of our national leadership to actually meet the challenge of the
moment. Because if we do not, our ability to reassert the primacy of the liberal democratic order is in jeopardy.
AMANPOUR: Stacey Abrams, there are 70,000-plus deaths in the United States of America. It's really very, very tragic. It's been very, very hard hit.
It is the epicenter of the world now with this coronavirus in terms of infections and in terms of numbers of deaths. You can see, obviously,
because it's happening in your state and it's happening on the federal level, there's a huge push to reopen.
You heard the president talking about, you know, the task force would be there but maybe shifting its emphasis in terms of trying to reopen safely.
Your own state is undergoing its reopening right now. And there is "Forbes" magazine which says the risk of exposure to this COVID in Georgia has
increased by more than 40 percent since the state reopened for business.
The governor is the person who narrowly beat you back in 2018. What are you seeing on the ground in your own state? What are you hearing about this
experiment of reopening right now?
ABRAMS: The Friday before the state reopened, I had a call with hundreds of Georgians in the most vulnerable part of the state.
This is an area where we have multiple counties that are included in the top 40 counties for the highest rates of COVID infection. And what they
have said is that they haven't received the basics. They can't imagine reopening, when they have yet to meet the basic standards of testing,
tracing and treating.
But what we know has happened in Georgia across the board is that we have reopened too quickly, but we haven't done the work of increasing our
testing to a viable level. Every day, there are revisions to the number of infections in the state because there's a lag time in the data.
And it is not a decision that was grounded in facts or science. What's worse, though, is that, because our populations are the least resilient, we
have some of the highest populations of poverty, of people of color who appear to be less resilient -- and vulnerable to the disease, we have the
highest death rates among communities of color, especially African- Americans.
I live in a state where we comprise 32 percent of the population, but blacks comprise 54 percent of the deaths. There is a level of both
disingenuousness, but also of incompetence, that undermines the question of reopening our economy, because the bottom line is this.
I have run businesses before, and you can't run a business if you don't have customers. And if consumers cannot healthfully and safely reenter the
economy, then the focus should be on making sure that the health infrastructure is in place, so the economic infrastructure can actually be
AMANPOUR: So, then, you know, let me ask you about that, because we have done a lot of reporting, of course, on these shocking statistics that show
African-Americans, Hispanics are suffering the most, proportionately, because they are the most on the front lines.
Women also are the most on the front lines in terms of this key essential work force that's out there right now.
There's been another tragedy. A black man was killed in Georgia. And I want to read what Joe Biden has tweeted about a video that showed -- "Ahmaud
Arbery," he said, "was killed in cold blood. My heart goes out to his family, who deserves justice and deserves it now. It's time for a swift,
full and transparent investigation into his murder."
You know, some might say this shocking fact has been kind of overlooked because of the coronavirus crisis.
What do you say about the fact that this is still going on?
ABRAMS: I'm very privileged to be working with a group of activists that helped bring this to the fore, because it was indeed swept under the rug.
This is a case that's been ongoing for several weeks. And it's been shifted from one district attorney to another. We are very pleased that the Arbery
family is finally getting the attention they need.
But what's more important is a justice system that actually works. The challenge I see is one of competence and leadership across the board. Any
nation that allows justice to be served and meted out by vigilantes, and not holding those people accountable, is not a just system.
And I'm very pleased that Vice President Biden has spoken out so forcefully. I, too, have called for an investigation that brings to bear
the full resources of the state.
But what we also have to think about is, what's the next Arbery case? What's the next moment of crisis? That is why the elections that are coming
up are so critical. That's the only way in a democracy we can choose the leaders who can set the moral tone for who we intend to be.
And what we have seen happen under the current leadership at the federal level has been unable to meet this moment and unwilling to tell the truth
about its failings. That's why I'm such a strong supporter of not only Vice President Biden, but such a supporter of making sure that our elections can
be free and fair, because it's the only way we can hire the leaders we need to respond to issues like the pandemic, but also to issues of justice like
AMANPOUR: So, I'm going to get to Vice President Biden in a moment and your pitch to be his running mate.
But, first, I want to ask you about that, what you have been working on, what you're talking about, safe, secure, fair elections, as I said, that
you experienced yourself what happened when voter rolls had been purged.
And we have seen what happened in Wisconsin when there was a -- they wouldn't allow for mail voting by ballot, and it was in the middle of
Are you concerned that any part, whether it's the election in December -- in November, whether it's the primaries before, are in mortal danger right
now from even happening, due to this disease and due to how it might be might be used?
ABRAMS: When I created fair fight, we believe that there would be some catastrophe that would assail our elections. I never imagined it would be a
But we understood that we had to fight to protect the infrastructure of our democracy and start to fix what has been broken by voter suppression.
That's why we actually launched in 2019. And we are fully embedded in 18 states. We have 43 staffers across the country who are working on this
effort, including in Wisconsin.
Because we were on the ground during the primary, we were able to help man the hot lines, respond to the calls of concern and the questions. But we
were also able to gather data and information that should support the federal desire and the federal imperative of actually putting money in the
next CARES package, the stimulus relief package, that should invest in our election.
The call is for $3.6 billion that will allow every single state to scale up its vote-by-mail operations and to also safely allow in-person early voting
and in-person voting on the day of the election.
This is critical, because we have families and voters who cannot use vote by mail. They may be disabled, have language barriers, or they may be
homeless or displaced by COVID-19. And there are those who are going to try to vote by mail who may not be successful.
Our responsibility is to make it as safe as possible. And the safest path is to ensure that early voting happens by mail. And I would point out this.
The state of -- the nation of South Korea began to experience COVID-19 around the same time as the United States.
And on April 15, President Moon oversaw the highest turnout rate in a national election in South Korea in 30 years. If South Korea, a competent
democracy, can do it, so can the United States.
If we get the resources we need in time to deploy them to the states, every state has the capacity to do this work. They have the standards that they
need to meet the moment. And we should have the desire to elect the people who can lead us out of this pandemic and then to recovery.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, because, again, your name comes up over and over again about a possible running mate.
And the latest poll, CBS/YouGov, puts you third below Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, in terms of the favorites, let's say. And you have not been
shy about pitching yourself, showing your resume.
We even played a little clip of what you feel is your -- is your right, as a woman, as a black woman, to audition for a job, even publicly.
Tell me what it's like to be out there auditioning, knowing that many people think you should. Certainly, many people believe that it should be a
black or Hispanic woman on the ticket. What is -- what is your -- what is your goal? What is the way you're doing it?
ABRAMS: So, first of all, the decision of who his vice president will be is solely the decision of Vice President Biden. He has done the job. And he
knows what he's looking for.
And he has a smart team that will choose and help him select from among a number of credible, qualified candidates.
And I want to push back. I haven't been pitching myself, which has been a mischaracterization, I think, because I answer questions honestly. I have
been getting this question for 14 months. Since March of 2019, I have repeatedly received the question. And I'm honored that people would put me
into the category and think that that was a question to ask.
My responsibility is not to question what journalists think is a valid question, but to answer for the audience that they're speaking to. And, as
a woman, as a person of color, as a woman of color, it is my responsibility to answer honestly and forthrightly.
And if the question is about whether I'm competent and qualified for the job, my answer must be unequivocal, because I'm not simply speaking for
myself. I'm also speaking to that young woman of color who is thinking about what is in her future.
And if I deny her and deny myself, then I'm doing a disservice to women, to communities of color and to any disadvantaged community that does not see
themselves as the face of leadership.
AMANPOUR: OK, so, now I have to ask you a question about the Tara Reade allegations.
Yes, the vice president has come out and denied them. He has said that he would like the Senate records to be released. Apparently, the Senate has
said no, the personnel records.
You have said you believe his denial.
I want to, though, put to you what a very prominent feminist writer has written about the dilemma, OK? This is Rebecca Traister, who has written in
The Cut at the end of April.
She said: "We don't have a system or a culture in the United States that would permit a running mate to say, I'm deeply troubled by the allegations
persuasively leveled against my running mate, Joe Biden, and wish we didn't live in a world in which we had to choose between an accused rapist and
self-confessed grabber vs. an accused harasser who's now been credibly accused of assault. But this is what white capitalist patriarchy does. And
I'm actually here to try to change that."
That's a pretty out-there, gutsy way of saying what a vice presidential female candidate should maybe say to these allegations or to this -- this -
- what's going on in our society.
What do you say to that?
ABRAMS: I have the deepest respect for Rebecca Traister and the work that she does and the lens that she puts on the challenges that face women in
the public space.
And journalists are going to ask the questions that they ask.
I can only answer for myself, and I can only answer based on what I know. I know Joe Biden. I believe him. I am very pleased that he offered a credible
and strong rebuttal and that he directly addressed these issues.
But, more importantly, I think what we have to focus on is that there needs to be a process, a process for survivor justice, and that process does not
currently exist in our politics or in our communities.
And that has to be the focus going forward, so we can ensure that this doesn't become a political argument, but really becomes one that focuses on
the needs of survivors and creates a process so that they can have their concerns and their needs met.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, I mean, literally, finally, every time we read a story about Vice President Biden, it's like from his basement in wherever
it is. And President Trump has got all the limelight.
It's not a great way to be described as running for president.
What do you think he can do to break out of that inevitable kind of role that he's in right now, particularly when the president is the one talking
the -- talking to the country about this current crisis?
ABRAMS: I think that what President Trump and Vice President Pence continue to do on a daily basis is prove the case for the need for a
The dissembling, the lies, the misinformation, the mischaracterization, and the danger that they place Americans in every single day is once again,
every day, evidence of why we need new leadership.
Their incompetence, their inability to admit fault, their lack of accountability, and their lack of planning signals why we need new
leadership, not only for the United States, but new leadership to help guide the world forward.
The United States has always stepped up in moments of crisis, from saving Europe, to dealing with communism, to dealing with almost every crisis we
have faced in the 20th and 21st centuries. The challenge we have is that these men are incapable of meeting this moment.
And, luckily, we will have an election that will allow us to hire new leadership and to let Joe Biden be the person we need to lead our country
AMANPOUR: And, of course, that was a good part of your op-ed that you wrote in "Foreign Affairs" magazine.
Glad we got to all of that.
Stacey Abrams, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, let us turn to the state of California, where Governor Newsom says two counties that are reopening early without permission are making a big
mistake. The state has more than 30 -- 58,000 coronavirus cases, but the rate is slowing.
Back in mid-March, that wasn't the case. And the University of California at San Francisco's Medical Center was already running low on PPE. The
chancellor turned to his billionaire friend for help. That was the entrepreneur Marc Benioff.
He is the founder and chief executive of the California software giant Salesforce.
So, why go to a tech company to help unblock a medical supply chain?
Well, our Walter Isaacson spoke to Marc Benioff to find out.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Marc Benioff, welcome to the show. Thank you.
MARC BENIOFF, CEO, SALESFORCE: Thanks for having me, Walter.
ISAACSON: You just scored more than, what was it, 50 million pieces of protective equipment for your friends at the University of California, San
Francisco, Medical Centers in the Bay Area. How did you do that?
BENIOFF: Well, you're right, Walter.
We have acquired more than 60 million pieces of PPE, the masks and gloves and gowns, and distributed it to actually almost 200 hospitals around the
And I will tell you what happened, which was, a few months ago, we did get a phone call from the chancellor, Sam Hawgood, of UCSF, and he said he was
running out of PPE really quickly, much more quickly than he expected. And he thought all hospitals were going to have this problem, and could I try
to help him acquire some?
And so we have been very successful in doing that.
ISAACSON: What do you think of the fact that private citizens are supposed to be helping get protective gear for our health workers?
BENIOFF: Well, I have been surprised.
I never even knew what PPE was three months ago. So, I have had a full education. And what happened is, I was able to call a friend of mine,
Daniel Zhang, the CEO of Alibaba, in China, and he was able to prioritize us and acquire the material.
And that's been important for so many hospitals, especially in our country, who ran low unexpectedly.
ISAACSON: What do you think of the attacks on China that are now coming out of the administration, given the fact that you have a lot of
relationships and you were able to get PPE equipment from them?
BENIOFF: Well, I think this has been a really challenging situation for all of us.
I mean, this is my first pandemic. I have never been through anything quite like this. So, whether it's PPE, or PCR tests, or antibody tests, all the
things that we have had to learn about, it's a completely new world.
And I really can't put it all into frame. What I'm focused on is that we're really in three phases. The first phase is this 90-day phase. That is this
crisis that we have been in. And we're really coming to a close on that phase, Walter. We're moving into the second phase, which is getting back to
And that's really where my mind has been at. What are the things that we're going to have to do to get our economy going again and getting back to work
ISAACSON: So, what are you doing to help us get back to work safely?
BENIOFF: Well, what I have learned in the first phase is not just about PPE, but we have worked with so many companies around the world to deploy
we call emergency versions of Salesforce, about 6,000 companies and public sector organizations.
You can see it, the analytics in the state of New York or an emergency supply database here in California. And what we have been able to do is
start to build technology that mitigates the risk of the virus in organizations.
A great example is actually the state of Rhode Island. And they have a fantastic governor there. And what -- she had the vision that she would
coupled testing with tracing, and that, if you were positive as an infection, she would ask you, who have you been with, who are your friends,
who are people that should know?
And we built her a system, which is called a contact tracing system, that she's able to have almost like private investigators that call people up
and say, hey, can you shelter in place because you have been with someone who's had a private -- someone who has had an infection?
And that point is that we can bring that type of technology to companies to help them reopen safely.
ISAACSON: How do you guard privacy when you're doing things like contact tracing through the software?
BENIOFF: Well, when we get back to work, we're going to find a very different work environment than the one that we left 90 days ago.
We're going to take your temperature when you come in, and we're going to ask you to keep six feet apart and do social distancing, wear a mask. But
we're also going to ask you that, if all of a sudden, you get a positive PCR test, well, we're going to just ask you, who have you been with? Who
are the kind of people that we should notify?
Well, that's up to you to tell us that information. You can tell us what you want or tell us not what you want. But it's in the interest of those
people to keep them safe.
So, this is not an automated system, like you see in some Asian countries, where they automatically figure out who you have been with. This is a
manual system, where you are really disclosing that as part of your own individual liberties.
ISAACSON: It seems like it's part of the genetic code of Salesforce.com and your entire career in software, which is figuring out how to know what
contacts people have, how to manage those contacts.
You do it with Salesforce. How has that helped you develop any tools to do this for all of us?
BENIOFF: Well, we have learned a lot from our offices that have been going through this for -- even before the United States did.
When you look at what happened in Japan and South Korea and Singapore, our offices have been closed for months. In fact, our South Korea office is
just opening now. Our employees are already making sales calls in South Korea and, on May 11, our office will fully open.
And so we have been able to learn from those experience what we need to do. And one of the things that we have been doing that's been so interesting,
Walter, is something called shift scheduling.
That is, when we bring people back into the office, they're actually on different teams, team one, team two, team three. And the reason why we do
that is because if, all of a sudden, if somebody gets a positive infection in team one, we basically ask that team to self-quarantine, while teams two
and three are able to continue to work.
ISAACSON: How do you think this is going to change the workplace environments and layouts?
BENIOFF: Well, I think you're going to definitely have a different kind of work environment, where people are going to have to practice what we have
all learned, these words social distancing.
But that means that we have to kind of mitigate our risks with the virus. So, you might see it's the Plexiglas shields between cubes. You might see
only a certain number of people in the office.
But there's something else you might not have thought about. We, of course, have our Salesforce towers in New York and London and in San -- here in San
Francisco. Well, we have these things called elevators, Walter.
BENIOFF: And before this happened, we might have 10 or 15 or 20 people in an elevator.
Well, that's not going to happen in the new world. You're going to have to queue for the elevator. Technology's going to have to tell you when you can
get in the elevator, much like when you line up for a ride at Disney, because you're probably only going to have four or five people in the
elevator to maintain social distancing.
ISAACSON: You have staked out some ground with your payroll pledge and talked about having no layoffs and asking other companies to make pledges
about payrolls and no layoffs.
How can that really work? And do you think other companies should guarantee that there won't be layoffs in this period?
BENIOFF: Well, you're right.
We have really done something that we can't ask every company to do, but I have been surprised at how many companies have followed us, which is that
we have taken a no -- a 90-day no-layoff pledge. That is, we haven't laid off anybody in the last 90 days during the first phase of the crisis,
because we didn't want to, you know, take -- have some kind of knee-jerk reaction.
We didn't know we were going to -- where we're going to end up in 90 days. And it's also very difficult to hire these people back once you have let
them go or furloughed them.
So, we have also encouraged other companies. And many, many other companies have followed us in taking this 90-day no-layoff pledge.
Now, after the end of this 90 days, I'm sure that all companies are going to say, look, we're in a new reality now. We have a lot more clarity. We
can see where we are.
They might want to reshape. They might want to reduce hiring. They might want to build new products. They may want to do things that they weren't
there to do 90 days ago. I'm sure every company at that point will want to reassess.
But I think we have to be very careful with hiring. We have already seen that we have got 20, 30 million people out of work. We're going to need to
get those people back on the payroll. So, that's a key part of what the government needs to do as we enter the second phase.
As we get back to work safely, we also need to motivate hiring.
ISAACSON: Explain to me what Work.com does.
BENIOFF: Well, Work.com is really a platform that gives you the advice that you need to be successful at times like this.
It also gives you a community of people that are going through this with you. And it gives you the apps that I have been talking about, things like
contact tracing, work force triage, shift scheduling, elevator queuing, all these apps that we have had to rapidly build to help our customers get back
to work safely now.
ISAACSON: What advice would you give to a medium-sized company, one of your clients, say, who wanted to get back to work, and they have 100, 200
people working in an office?
BENIOFF: Well, I think the first thing that every CEO needs to do in this environment is ask themselves, what are they going to do to be relevant and
also to be successful at a time like this, not just commercially, but also philanthropically?
You know, Walter, I strongly believe in stakeholder capitalism, that the business of business is not business, but the business of business is
improving the state of the world, and that we need to look at not just our employees and our customers and our partners, but also our communities,
especially at a time like this.
Businesses can have a role for helping the world to get back together. And this is going to be critical for all businesses going forward.
ISAACSON: You talk about, in your book, say that businesses are a platform for change.
How will there be a platform for change coming out of this coronavirus pandemic?
BENIOFF: Well, I think, in each of these three phases that we're in, the first 90-day crisis phase which we're exiting now, the second phase we're
about to get into, which is going to be this 18-month recovery stage, or the new normal, which call that phase three, businesses have to do
They have to do something commercially. They have to do something philanthropically. The government also has to do something in each phase.
And for us, in the first phase, we were all about, well, first of all, getting our employees safe. That was extremely important to us, getting
And then we really looked at it and said, wow, we can offer tremendous value. And that's why we acquired 60 million pieces of personal protective
equipment using our resources and capabilities to make a difference during the spread.
Now, as we enter phase two, we very much think the same way. What are the things that we're going to do to be able to serve others? How will we help
others to be successful during this phase?
Yes, we're going to be successful, we're going to be productive. How can we now help others, both commercially and philanthropically? I think every
company needs to ask that. And the government's going to have to do that as well.
You saw, in the first phase, they did tremendous stimulus packages. In the second phase, they're going to have to do more, especially to help people
get rehired and back into the work force.
ISAACSON: Give me an example of what you might be doing.
BENIOFF: Well, I think one of the most important things that we're going to do is what we have been talking about. We have built new products.
We think there's going to be new opportunities, new things that customers are going to need to do to deploy and take advantage of. I just saw one of
my customers, Honeywell. Well, they have built an N95 mask factory in the United States.
That's a great example where a company needs to do something now that they didn't need to do just three months ago.
ISAACSON: Do you think, when companies like Honeywell are starting to build manufacturing plants for masks in the United States, it's going to be
the floor runner of a change in the global supply chain, so that more manufacturing is done close to where material is needed?
BENIOFF: Well, Walter, this has been a revelation on the supply chain, because you can even see it when we had to acquire those 60 million pieces
It was extremely difficult. And I have a lot of stories about what it took to make that happen. But one of the reasons I do have so many stories is
because we had to go so far away to get that very basic material.
But we need those kinds of capabilities closer to us, and the supply chain needs to be more distributed, so that we have more opportunities to acquire
materials. It can't all be centralized in one location.
ISAACSON: Over the past 30 or 40 years, there has been a shift in what we expect our corporations to do. It used to be that they was supposed to care
about their community and all their stakeholders and employees and customers.
But there's been a shift, so that they focus more, almost exclusively at times, on return to shareholder, shareholder value.
Do you think that's going to have to change?
BENIOFF: Well, I do.
I think that Milton Friedman, when he said, the business of -- business of business is business. Well, that's one way to look at it. I think second
way to look at it is, the business of business is improve the state of the world, that companies can be these incredible platforms for change, and
they can be part of the solution and improving of the world.
And it does mean that companies and CEOs specifically need to not only look at their employees, and their customers, and their partners, but they do
need to look at their communities.
One example is just right here in San Francisco. One of the things that I have been so excited about is that Salesforce adopted our local public
school system. And we did that both in San Francisco and Oakland.
In fact, we have given more than $100 million to the local public schools. And it's made a dramatic difference in the test scores and the attendance
and the quality of the physical plans, and also even in the motivation of the employees that they knew that we were behind them, that our executives
were mentoring in the schools, that we're actively involved, that we care.
Of course, we're the largest employer in San Francisco. We have a responsibility to take care of our public schools. We have a responsibility
to take care of our local public hospitals as well or even our homeless shelters that we have.
This is part of who we are in our company. And I see a lot more of that happening in all companies.
ISAACSON: You have thrown yourself into the homelessness problem in San Francisco and elsewhere, well before the coronavirus hit.
What has the coronavirus done to change your thinking and perhaps society's thinking on how we handle not just the problem of homelessness, but
especially people living on the streets?
BENIOFF: Well, the people living on the streets is an amazing phenomenon here in San Francisco, where we have about 7,000 people living on the
And we have really invested much more aggressively, not just in our homeless shelters, but in research programs here at UCSF, in studying the
problem, in understanding what we can do to help the homeless.
And the reality is that the major way to solve homelessness is by delivering more homes. We just have not built enough housing here. We don't
have enough low-cost housing. And we don't have enough what we call extremely low-cost housing, that is, housing for the very poor.
And, because of that, they end up on the streets. And we have shown that. We have proven that now with university research and mathematical models.
And the more housing that we can have available, the less of a problem that we have, and we have got to look at that.
When we look at other countries and how they have solved this problem, they have done it by creating these social housing programs and by giving
everyone the ability to be in a home.
And at the very core to our society, we have got to look at how we are going to able to provide housing to everyone.
ISAACSON: You have been talking about homelessness. You have been talking about how you supported public schools, how you got protective equipment
for health care workers in our hospitals, all the things that we used to expect government did.
How should we be now thinking about government? Should we be saying, you have got to get back to the business of governing again, and doing those
type of things?
BENIOFF: Well, I think it's more to look at, what is the role of business?
I think government can do some things, but government cannot do everything. That's not our system. We're not a system that we rely on government to do
States have their role. The national government has its role, but business has its role too. Individuals have their role.
That is the very premise that our country was built on, that we were all in it together, that we were all going to work together to make this a great
country. And that means companies have to do their part
That's really my message, Walter, which is that everybody has to do something, one thing. And especially at a time of crisis like this, you
have to ask yourself a question: What am I going to do philanthropically? What am I going to do commercially?
You have to do something for others. And everybody needs to make that choice. That's what's going to make things better now.
ISAACSON: Marc Benioff, thank you so much for joining us.
BENIOFF: Thank you, Walter. Great to see you.
AMANPOUR: And so important that Marc Benioff is reminding us there that everything does actually have to connect and fit in order to work at every
So, and, finally tonight, at a time when escape and perhaps even magic are needed more than ever, Harry Potter comes to the rescue, in the shape of
his alter ego, the actor Daniel Radcliffe, who's recorded himself reading the first chapter from J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
That is the first of her seven books. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL RADCLIFFE, ACTOR: He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak which swept the ground, and high-heeled buckled boots.
His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles, and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at
This man's name was Albus Dumbledore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And in fantasyland, Dumbledore, of course, is the headmaster of the wizarding school Hogwarts.
So, each week, a chapter will be read by a roster of different actors, including Stephen Fry, Dakota Fanning, and Eddie Redmayne.
The initiative is part of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter At Home campaign to bring joy during these hard times. And the much-loved stories are a
powerful reminder that, in the words of Dumbledore himself, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the
And that is it for now. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.