Meet the Press - April 19, 2020

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday: Opening arguments.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We're opening up our country.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump releases broad federal guidelines for a phased-in return to normal.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

A national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump leaves the decision -- but not money -- to governors --

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO:

You're going to say I'm providing no help, no assistance, no financial money?

CHUCK TODD:

-- and offers only limited plans for increased testing.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Today we have a sufficient amount of testing to meet the requirements of a phase one reopening.

CHUCK TODD:

But health care professionals are deeply skeptical.

NURSE:

I don't understand why they would even consider it. Not until we're in the clear.

CHUCK TODD:

This as the president encourages anti-shutdown protests:

PROTESTOR:

I don't think the government really has any business telling us what we can and can not do.

CHUCK TODD:

Plus, the economy in freefall. Twenty-two million file for unemployment in one month.

KIM CHAPMAN:

The average working family, you know, is only a couple of weeks away from not being able to pay their bills.

CHUCK TODD:

Why some Americans are faring so much worse than others. My guests this morning Vice President Mike Pence, and two governors: Republican Mike DeWine of Ohio and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Also, Joe Biden's big week. Three key endorsements.

BARACK OBAMA:

I'm so proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats are unified this time. Will it make a difference? Joining me for insight and analysis are: NBC News White House Correspondent Peter Alexander, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, and former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press and our continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history. This is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. A week that began with President Trump declaring that his authority was total ended with the death toll in the US topping 38,000 and Mr. Trump telling governors it's up to them to decide when to re-open for business. But the president's broad guidelines leave many issues unresolved, like the lack of protective gear for health care workers, plans to handle a likely resurgence in the pandemic, and most of all, how to vastly increase the testing and contact tracing needed to safely restart this economy. Mr. Trump is being squeezed by depression-like economic numbers that have prompted some of his allies to argue that losing lives to the coronavirus may be an acceptable price to pay for getting the economy going again. At the same time he's encouraging anti-social distancing protests by tweeting that states need to be "liberated" from his very own guidelines. We have a brand new NBC News - Wall Street Journal poll on the federal government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis. By a 58-to-32 margin registered voters say they're more worried that the U-S will move too quickly to loosen restrictions than take too long. 65 percent say President Trump did not take the threat seriously enough at the beginning of the crisis while just 32 percent say he did. Overall, 44 percent approve of the way President Trump is handling the crisis, while 52 percent disapprove. And now 50 governors are being told to come up with 50 solutions to a national problem, as President Trump tells them, in effect: I'll take the credit for trying to re-open the country, while you take the blame for anything that goes wrong.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The governors are responsible for testing

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump - lurching between declaring power --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and denying responsibility:

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

It's going to be up to the governors.

CHUCK TODD:

After promising on Thursday --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time.

CHUCK TODD:

On Friday, the president fueled reopening protests in a handful of states with Democratic governors, tweeting liberate Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER:

I hope that it's not encouraging more protests.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM:

I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars.

GOV. TIM WALZ:

I’d like to know what they think we could have done differently because again, we’re leading as we were asked, we flattened the curve, we built up our PPE, we kept Minnesotans alive.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump’s tweets come as media on the right is amplifying the protests and in some cases conservative groups are organizing and funding them.

STEPHEN MOORE:

This is a great time, gentlemen and ladies, for civil disobedience. We need to be the Rosa Parks here.

CHUCK TODD:

More than 22 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the past month, nearly ten times the previous record, set in 1982. In a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, just 22% say the economy is excellent or good, down from 53% in December. But even Trump-friendly Republican governors have been slow to embrace the president's call to lift statewide stay-at-home orders.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT:

In opening Texas, we must be guided by data and by doctors.

GOV. TATE REEVES:

I wanted to come here today and announce that we can all ease up and reopen, but we can't.

CHUCK TODD:

Just 36% of voters trust what the president has said about the coronavirus, compared to 66% who trust their own governors and 69% who trust the CDC. And 64% are not satisfied with the federal government's actions on testing. After months of promises --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Anybody that needs a test gets a test. They're there.

CHUCK TODD:

Only about 3.7 million tests have been conducted - an average of 146,000 per day - far short of what experts say is required for reopening. The president once promised a national testing website and widespread testing in drug store parking lots.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

You’ll be directed to one of these incredible companies that are gonna give a little bit of their parking lot so that people can come by and do a drive by test.

CHUCK TODD:

Now - a month later --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Federal government's supposed to do testing of parking lots in the middle of a certain state that's 2,000 miles away. It's ridiculous.

CHUCK TODD:

And President Trump is trying to shift the blame - tweeting, "The states have to step up their testing!"

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO:

He said 11 times "I don't want to get involved in testing." It's too complicated, it's too hard. I know it's too complicated and it's too hard. That's why we need you to help.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now from the White House is Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. vice president, welcome back to Meet the Press and I want to --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

-- just start simply with what some governors have had to say on the issue of testing. Take a listen, sir.

[BEGIN TAPE]

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER:

There needs to be more testing infrastructure, more test kits, more capacity to test.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER:

We need some assistance from the federal government when it comes to swabs and reagents.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

One of our problems for our hospitals who are doing the testing is lack of reagents. And this does lie with the FDA.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU:

They set the expectation very high. But then they didn't send the cartridges to actually do the test.

GOV. LAURA KELLY

We now, I think, have put in seven to nine orders to FEMA and not received anything.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO:

This is mayhem. We need a coordinated approach between the federal government and the states.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

I'm sure, Mr. Vice President, you probably can recognize the voice of all 50 governors these days because of how often you're on the phone with them. But those were three Republicans and three Democrats. And I know you're hearing this. And it has to do with the new guidelines that seem to indicate that states have to take the lead on testing. It seems as if every governor is basically saying they'd love to do that but they need the federal government's help to do it. Why doesn't the president want the federal government to be the lead on testing?

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Well, Chuck, thanks for having me on. And it really is remarkable to think about the progress the American people have made over the last several months. When the president tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force, he gave us the first objective is to save lives. And to focus on slowing the spread, bending the curve. And because of the extraordinary efforts of the American people, we continue to see every day evidence that cases are declining, hospitalizations are declining. That'sa tribute to the American people. Frankly, it's a tribute to all of those governors, governors in both parties across the country who put these mitigation efforts into effect. Secondly, the president made it clear to us that we were to make sure the hospitals in impacted areas had the resources and the equipment that they needed to be able to save as many lives as possible. And I have to tell you that tens of millions of personal protective equipment that we've coordinated for delivery around the country, especially in areas most impacted and the fact that ventilators have been delivered in areas across the country so that no American who needed a ventilator has ever been denied a ventilator. We're actually increasing the stockpile today. But testing has been a focus of ours as well, from very beginning. And it's the reason why the president, early on, brought in this vast array of commercial labs that took us from 80,000 tests one month ago to now four million tests as of yesterday. And as we'll make clear again to governors tomorrow in our weekly conference call, we look forward to continuing to partner with governors all across the country as we continue to scale testing. Because we really believe that, while we're doing 150,000 tests a day now, that if states around the country will activate all of the laboratories that are available in their states, we could more than double that overnight and literally be doing hundreds of thousands of more tests per day in a very short period of time. But, Chuck, just so we're very clear, when the president outlined his guidelines for opening up America, we laid out a plan for both -- for when and how we thought it was best according to our best scientists and advisors for states to be able to responsibly and safely reopen. And we believe today as Dr. Birx has said, as Dr. Fauci and others have said, is that there is a sufficient capacity of testing across the country today for any state in America to go to a phase one level which contemplates testing people that have symptoms of the coronavirus. And also doing the kind of monitoring of vulnerable populations in our cities, in our nursing homes that we ought to be watching very carefully for outbreaks of the coronavirus. But we believe working with the governors, as we'll continue to partner with them, that we can activate labs around the country and that states --

CHUCK TODD:

But --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- today, if the governor so chooses, have sufficient testing to be able to move into the testing contemplated --

CHUCK TODD:

I --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- in phase one.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe governors are not activating their testing capacity? I mean, these governors have said they'd love to enhance their capacity but they're missing swabs or they're missing the reagents. Or, you know, in one case, Governor DeWine has told me that they've been rationed. That is what -- you know, I guess the question is this, why haven't you used the Defense Production Act to basically get swabs and reagents prioritized?

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

What we've done through FEMA and through U.S. public health service is literally marshal the full resources of the American economy. We've been bringing medical supplies including, testing supplies, in from all over the world and will continue to do that. But, look, as you said, Chuck, I've been working almost daily over the last two months with Republican and Democrat governors across the country. And this vast and complex system of testing, using the commercial labs around the country and using hospital and public labs is a new concept. And so we've been working with governors around the country to make sure that they and their health officials know about all the resources in their states. And we also have deployed a team from Walter Reed that over the last two weeks has been calling every single laboratory in the country that can do coronavirus testing. And tomorrow we'll be presenting all of those details to governors so that they can activate those tests in their state.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Vice President, aren't you making the case of why this needs to be nationally coordinated? I mean, you just said you've identified this capacity, you've identified this. This is why, I think, a lot of governors have said the federal government has to play point on testing. Is there even a single person whose sole focus is on what is happening with our testing strategy in this country and how are we going to expand it?

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Chuck, we actually have coordinated it at the federal level. Admiral Brett Giroir of the U.S. Public Health Service spends all of his time coordinating testing deployment and resources deployment from FEMA. And what we're making clear to governors, and I want the American people to know, is that we will continue to do that. While the president has made it clear that we want the governors to implement testing and deploy testing where they deem it's most appropriate in their state, we're going to continue to fully partner with states around the country to increase the supply, to make sure that they have the reagents and the test kits necessary to perform those tests. But I want to say again, it is truly -- it's a tribute to the president's leadership that early on in this process he brought in the top commercial labs in the country. They formed an alliance. And we went from one month ago to 80,000 tests being done to four million tests being completed as of yesterday. We'll continue to increase that. We'll continue to make governors aware of that. But our approach from the beginning, Chuck, has been we want -- in any health care crisis, we want to make sure the health care workers at the local level have the resources they need because it's locally executed. It is state managed. But it's federally supported. And the federal government at the president's direction will continue to support governors as they deploy the testing resources in the time and manner of their choosing. But we believe today, as Dr. Deborah Birx has confirmed, is we have a sufficient capacity of testing today for any state in America to move into phase one and begin the process of reopening their state and their economy.

CHUCK TODD:

Who should pay for the contact tracing? Is that going to be the states? Is it individual companies? Or should the federal government, since you're requiring contact tracing be a part of this, is the federal government going to pay for that?

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

The CDC has deployed across the country today literally in every state. But at the president's direction, as we announced last week, the CDC is going to deploy teams in every single state in the country to do contact tracing over the next 12 to 18 months. The CDC is really the expert at contact tracing. And it really is, Chuck, the way that we, that we typically control the outbreak of infectious disease. You identify someone who has symptoms. You test them. And then you immediately find out who they've been in contact with. That's what the CDC does. And, as we announced last week, we'll be deploying coronavirus CDC teams in every state in the country on top of the hundreds of CDC personnel that are already embedded in states today.

CHUCK TODD:

Is one of the reasons we're behind on testing because of the -- I saw, the FDA came out and said basically the CDC's initial test was faulty? That they found a lot of bad parameters that weren’t -- or guidelines that weren't followed that ended up having that? How much did that set us back as a country? How many lives, unfortunately, might have been lost due to this faulty test kit?

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

I've seen that report in the papers this morning. And I know that HHS is making inquiries. But we believe those issues were resolved on that particular test by early February. But it's important for your viewers to know that that test, the slow lab-based test that is typical for CDC and public health labs would never have been able to meet the needs of testing in this coronavirus epidemic. That's why President Trump was so right when he brought together these commercial labs and formed a consortium. And literally took us from -- at that time in February we had done some 20,000 tests total across the country. Now --

CHUCK TODD:

But again --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- we've done more than four million and --

CHUCK TODD:

-- this isn't nationally coordinated.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- we believe we'll have done more than five million tests before the end of this month. None of that would have been possible without the president's leadership, without the innovation, without the incredible efforts of companies like Roche and Avid Laboratories. And the American people can be --

CHUCK TODD:

So you believe --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- confident that whether it is supplies, whether it is testing, we're going to continue to make sure that our governors, our state health care officials and most especially our health care workers have the resources and the support they need. But I want the American people to know that sitting here this morning we really are seeing encouraging signs because of what the American people have done, we believe we are slowing the spread. There's a downward trajectory beginning in even some of the hot spots around the country. And now more than ever it's important that each of us continue to do our part. And I can assure the American people that, at the president's direction, we'll continue to play our role, we'll have a full partnership of governors around the country.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

And we will some day --

CHUCK TODD:

-- let me ask you about the president --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- in the near future, we, will put the coronavirus in the past.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about the president's tweets on Friday, he wants to liberate Minnesota, liberate Michigan, liberate Virginia. All three states have issued guidelines that follow the national advice that you've been giving them. They're following the president's guidelines to the best of their ability. Can you explain what the president is trying to liberate Minnesota from? I don't quite understand that use of language.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Well, no one wants to reopen America more than President Donald Trump. And I think the American people have known that from weeks ago when the president declared that important balance, we have to make sure that the cure isn't worse than the disease. Because the reality is that for all of the sacrifice the American people have made, sacrifices that literally have saved lives, the truth is that there are real costs including the health and well-being of the American people to continue to go through the shutdown that we're in today. And so the president laid out new guidelines for every state in the country --

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- to say that if you’ve seen --

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Mr. Vice President --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- cases decline for 14 days, if you're in a position to do --

CHUCK TODD:

But that is --

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- the kind of, the kind of testing --

CHUCK TODD:

But what's he tweeting?

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- and you have the health --

CHUCK TODD:

What's he tweeting?

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- hospital capacity that we want to encourage every --

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Vice President, I've given you a lot of leeway here.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

-- state to examine the way to go to phase one. And that's the new guidance that we're giving.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. I've given you a lot of leeway here. I've not been wanting to interrupt you. That's not true, I always want to jump in on some things. I've given you a lot of leeway. Why is the president trying to undermine the guidance you've been laying out and that he's been -- he laid out this guidance on Thursday and undermined it on Friday.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Chuck, I just -- I don't accept your premise and I don't think most Americans do either. The president's made it clear, he wants to reopen America. And we laid out guidelines for every state in the country to safely and responsibly reopen their economy at the time and manner of their choosing. We laid out the criteria for when our best scientists believe that would be appropriate. If it was 14 days of declining of cases and they had proper hospital capacity. And we laid out the means that they could move into phase one. When you hear the president, when you see people across the country talking about reopening, every American and this president want to do that in a safe and responsible way. The guidelines for opening up America are a framework for doing that. And we'll work with governors across the country to implement those because we want to, we want to put America back to work as soon as we responsibly can. And at the president's direction we're going to continue to work to do that every day.

CHUCK TODD:

It does seem as if the president wants credit for reopening the economy and he wants the governors to get the blame for not opening it fast enough. That's what the tweet seems to imply, that he doesn't want to own the responsibility of these, of these necessary shutdowns.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

The American people can be confident that this president wants to reopen the American economy as soon as we can safely and responsibly do it. But we believe, with the guidelines to open up America again, we've given governors around the country our very best counsel about how they can do just that. And we'll continue to work with governors to make sure that they have the guidance, that they have the council and they have the resources to accomplish that. And to put the coronavirus in the past someday and to put America back to work.

CHUCK TODD:

And I just want to clarify one other thing. You said that you believe five million tests by the end of April is a success story? The fact that we have yet to -- that will mean we have yet to test 2% of the population. That is a success story on testing?

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Chuck, we believe that under the phase one criteria that we have a sufficient amount of testing at that level to allow states to begin to responsibly reopen. And literally doing more than 150,000 tests a day now, a number that we believe we could double once we activate all the laboratories around the country, we're confident that that would enable any governor who's otherwise met the criteria of 14 days of declining cases to be able to have the testing capacity sufficient to monitor people that may have symptoms so we can identify them and do contact tracing and also deploy the resources to vulnerable populations, nursing homes and particular vulnerable populations in our city to ensure that we don't see a resurgence of the coronavirus. So yes, we think we've laid a strong foundation for testing for phase one and we're going to continue to expand testing going forward for the nation in the weeks and months ahead.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Vice President, it was nice to see some normalcy yesterday at the graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy. I think a lot of people are hoping for more and more normalcy when the time is right. Thank you for coming on and sharing the administration's perspective.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Thanks Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, President Trump has left the reopening of states to governors, some of whom are being pressured by what appear to be coordinated anti-social distancing campaigns from the right. I'll talk to two of those governors from Michigan and Ohio next. And as we go to break, numbers from our poll on the impact of coronavirus. And how it's having an impact on Americans.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. On both coasts and now in the Midwest, governors are forming regional coalitions to figure out how and when to begin the tricky task of slowly reopening their states. At the same time, demonstrations have broken out across the country, particularly in the Midwest by protestors demanding states loosen their coronavirus restrictions and allow people to get back to work soon. Two governors who have seen some protests in their states are with us this morning, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Republican Mike DeWine of Ohio. Governors Whitmer and DeWine, welcome back to Meet the Press.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to start with something that the vice president said and I want to confirm it with you all. He said that every state has enough testing capacity and enough equipment to begin enough testing to get through phase one. Governor DeWine, is that true is Ohio?

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

Well, first of all, Chuck, we've had a great partnership with the president and vice president. Three weekends ago, I called the president about a real problem we had about sterilizing masks, the N95 mask. And, that was an FDA problem. And the president got that, got that done. Our big problem today -- I could probably double, maybe even triple testing in Ohio virtually overnight if the FDA would prioritize companies that are putting a slightly different formula together for the extraction reagent kit. And that’s -- if the FDA would do that -- we have a shortage, worldwide shortage of some of the materials that go into this. So we really need help. Anybody in the FDA's watching, this would really take our, take our capacity up, literally, Chuck, overnight. And that's what we need to get moving in Ohio.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, there's the answer in Ohio. You need more federal help. Governor Whitmer, do you have enough right now, or, on testing, both capacity and equipment, to have enough testing to do this phase one guideline?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER:

Well, similar to Ohio, I think part of the story in Michigan is we have the capacity to double or triple the number of tests that we are doing. But we need some of these supplies. The reagents and the swabs are absolutely essential. You can't process all these tests if you can't take the sample and protect it and move forward to, to -- through testing. And so while our capabilities are there, these important supplies are not. And that's I think one of the points that you were making in your interview, is that if the federal government would use the Defense Production Act and say, "We're going to make every swab people need and we're going to expedite creation of the reagents," we would be able to know how prevalent COVID-19 is. It would take down the risk associated with taking actions to reengage parts of our economy because we would have a lot more data about how prevalent COVID-19 still is in our states.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let's talk about the issue of reopening the economy. Governor Whitmer, I want to start with you. You, you saw those protests. So let me ask this, do you have any regrets on any of the restrictions that you have put into place?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER:

I don't. And here's why. You know, Michigan right now has the third highest number of death from COVID-19. And yet, we're the tenth largest state. We have a disproportionate problem in the state of Michigan. And so, we could take the same kinds of actions other states have, but it doesn't rise to the challenge we're confronting. And that's precisely why we have to take a more aggressive stand. It's working. We are seeing the curve start to flatten. But as people come in from across the state and gather and congregate without masks, without standing six feet apart, without those important protections, it means that they might have gone back to these parts of our state and perhaps brought COVID-19 along with them. Our rural hospitals are not equipped to handle a big surge. And that's why this -- important steps that we've taken are just critical to continuing to flatten that curve.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor Whitmer, I want to stay with you here a minute on this issue though. I'm just curious, what have you learned about people's patience, I guess, and your citizenry's patience? And are you contemplating figuring out how to balance that a little bit? How do you essentially open a steam valve a little bit so that you don’t -- so that these protests don't become distractions to the greater good?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER:

Yeah. Absolutely. You know, every executive order that I've taken weighs heavily on me. I know when we pull kids out of school, that means they're not getting the education they need. And some of them aren't going to get the meals that they've come to rely on. I know that when we shut down bars and make restaurants dine out only, there are businesses that may never open again. And a lot of people are going to get laid off. These stay home orders weigh incredibly heavy because I know there's an economic cost. I know there's a mental health cost. People are struggling with this isolation that we have, you know, on top of all of the other stressors. But the fact of the matter is we have to be really smart about how we proceed. I'm glad to see that the White House recommended opening in phases or waves or whatever terminology you want to use. The fact of the matter is, we can't just turn back to what life was like before COVID-19. We have to be strategic. We have to be careful. We have to look at different sectors of our economy. How often do they interact with the public? How close are -- they work together? Are they indoor or outdoor? Do they share tools and machinery? I mean, all of these are factors that have to go into a really thoughtful situation where we start to phase back in sectors of our economy. But I’m always -- we're doing this calculation every day and looking to when we can do that safely because the worst thing would be a second wave.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor DeWine, Congress is -- as a former member of Congress, certainly, you're not surprised that Congress is struggling here to do the second response financially. There's going to be some partisan back and forths. And you may have personal views on this. But let me ask you this, Congress' priorities here on the small business fund, unemployment insurance, help to the states, help to the hospitals. What do you want to see Congress -- should they prioritize one or the other or should all three, states, hospitals and that small business fund be prioritized simultaneously?

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

Well, all of these are very important. What we really need at our local government level as well as at the state level is just more flexibility. We're looking, as you can imagine, Chuck, when we have a downturn in the economy, two things happen as far as the state is concerned or local government. Your revenues go dramatically down and the costs go dramatically up. So it’s just more flexibility so that we can fight this virus, but at the same time, be able to educate our children, be able to take care of people who have mental health challenges. That's really what we need. So flexibility would be the one word that I would ask from Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, Governor DeWine. You've had some protests. We've seen that the president's egging on this protest. Is this wise to politicize social distancing right now?

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

You know, Chuck, the only thing that I've asked our protests to do is to observe social distancing. We're all big believers in the First Amendment. They were protesting against me yesterday, and that's just fine. They have every right to do that. We're going to do what we think is right, what I think is right. And that is try to open this economy, but do it very, very carefully so we don't get a lot of people killed. But we have to come back. And that's what we're aiming to do beginning on May 1st. And frankly, it's consistent. Very, very consistent with the plan, the very thoughtful plan that the president has laid out.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor Whitmer, Governor DeWine, Michigan and Ohio respectively, thank you both for coming on and sharing your perspectives --

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

--from your states. Good luck. Stay healthy--

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

--stay safe out there to both of you. When we come back, is President Trump hoping to get the credit for reopening the states while leaving the blame for anything that goes wrong to governors? Panel is next. But first, we asked respondents to our poll for a word or phrase to describe what America is going through right now. Here's the word cloud.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is with us from their remote locations. NBC News White House Correspondent Peter Alexander, Danielle Pletka, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Welcome. I want to show the president's job approval rating trend in our new NBC Wall Street Journal poll. Here it is from April of 2019. I want to show you these numbers here. 46% approved, 51% disapproved. Now, think about what's happened, guys. We had an impeachment and a pandemic. So an impeachment and a pandemic have happened in between April of '19 and April of 2020. And the president's job ratings are 46% approve, 51% disapprove. Peter Alexander, obviously, the durable nature of the president at times knows no bounds. A pandemic, an impeachment, nothing seems to break through there. That said, the president seems to be, and I'm curious, Peter, he seems to have moved on to a new phase. He seems to believe he's got a big part of his job on the pandemic done.

PETER ALEXANDER:

Yeah, Chuck, I think you're exactly right. And in my conversations with White House officials and those close to the president, they agree. They say in the eyes of the president, this is a transition to the new phase. But what's particularly striking here is you sort of have this me president in what is best described as a we crisis. The president who, as you said earlier in your conversation with the vice president, is trying to sort of claim credit for the guidelines being out. They say they beat the May 1st deadline, saying that he's trying to move the economy on, get things back to normal life, is also now casting the blame for perceived failures on testing and other issues if the economy isn't to come back quick enough, on the governors here. And you just compare that, Chuck, to what Americans, a lot of them, millions of Americans watched last night with leaders and artists together in this concert that was watched around the globe, right? This was something that focused on the sort of sense of togetherness right now. Acting selflessly, working together with other nations, including frankly the World Health Organization and the effort to stay inside. Most presidents you would see really raise, their numbers would rise dramatically in moments of crisis like this. It hasn't been the case for this president.

CHUCK TODD:

No, there's been a temptation to engage politically. But Jeh Johnson, as a former head of DHS, how would a national testing strategy work if you were told to put together a national strategy?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Two things. First, Chuck, I do have to put my public safety hat back on here. The president, the vice president, the White House are so anxious to say, "The worst is over. We're on a downward trajectory. We're flattening the curve," without delivering the equally important accompanying message that Governor Cuomo and others have been so good at, which is, "We're still in the depths of this crisis. "And we still need to be vigilant and rigorous in our social distancing and the like in order to get to where we all want to be." Now, that aside, the vice president in his interview with you said three times, "We have the testing in place right now to go to phase one of the White House guidelines." But if you read the White House guidelines carefully, phase one is still social distancing, keep the vulnerable population at home, no common areas, bars close, nonessential travel should be banned. So phase one looks a lot like mid, early March. And so it's relatively easy to say, "We have the testing adequate to that right now." To go back to normalcy, we need way more than what we have right now, which is why there needs to be a national federal effort at getting what we need to do the testing.

CHUCK TODD:

Dany Pletka, we shouldn't be surprised by the president's eagerness to open. I get that. And that is to be charitable, one way to look at what he's doing. But he also seems to be desperate to engage politically in this and in ways that feel like they're unhelpful to him long term.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

You know, we've all been having this conversation since Donald Trump was elected. At the beginning, everybody hoped that campaign Don was not going to be President Donald Trump. And that didn't happen. And at this point, I think we need to recognize that there is not going to be any personal growth in office for Donald Trump. You know, he is going to be the man who he was. And we shouldn't be surprised. He wants to take the credit where he can take the credit and shift the blame because that's who he is. And to be fair, most politicians are going to be that way. On the other hand, I really -- I think he's in an extraordinarily difficult position. You know, 22 million people have filed for unemployment. And when we talk about those numbers, you know, we are talking about people's lives. We're talking about people's income. We are talking about their wellbeing in ways that aren't about the coronavirus. And to want to give people hope and the sight of the light at the end of something I think the president needs to do. The problem is, of course, he also needs to be there, helping to provide the tools necessary on a state by state level. And that's why the government, and especially the FDA from my standpoint, is falling down on the job.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. Peter, the way this response has worked in the past is that they dig their heels in, they're not going to do something, not going to do something, and then literally, they'll do a 180°. What's the likelihood they do a 180° and say, "You know what? You're right. We should take over testing"?

PETER ALEXANDER:

Well, I think you saw them try to sort of detail what they view as the national testing strategy in your conversation with the vice president. But Chuck, I'm struck by the continued mixed messaging by this administration here. Consider the president with those "liberate" tweets about Minnesota, Michigan and about Virginia, all three states with Democratic governors. All three states are battlegrounds. In effect here, you have the president as the leader of the resistance against his own policies, right? The bottom line is back and forth once again on this issue. One day, he claims total authority. The next day, he's blaming the governors. They put out the guidelines. The day after that, he says, "Hey, you know, we need to remove these guidelines," in effect, in those places. Consider his past mixed messages on issues like the masks, when the CDC put out its guidelines and moments later, the president said, "Well, I don't really plan to wear it." And back and forth on the DPA as well. This is an unprecedented moment. And in fact, we don't know what the backlash -- how this will backfire here. It's a test. We want to see how Americans respond.

CHUCK TODD:

Hey, Jeh Johnson, just very quickly, do you think it looks odd that Congress isn't working, that they're trying to do this remotely? It's, like, look, at the end of the day, you chose to be an elected official. You chose to be in public service. You do probably have to risk your life more than somebody who chose not to be. Should they physically be here? Maybe protect their staffs, but these individual members?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

Well, in defense of the members of Congress, the reality is that most of them, just like we are right now, can do their jobs remotely. They can't vote on the House floor or the Senate floor, obviously. And maybe we need to look at how, you know, you can make that work. But I'm sure most members of Congress are pretty busy right now even though they're not physically in Washington.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess. But I have to say, it's, like, part of me, that it does seem odd. They're not here. The governors are on the job. Everybody else is on the job anyway. But I'm going to pause it here. When we come back, why some people are doing so much better than others economically during this crisis. But first, here're some New York City firefighters thanking health care workers in Brooklyn.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. Another week, another set of deeply disturbing unemployment numbers during this pandemic. But not all states are feeling this the same way. An NBC News analysis found these five states have seen more than 19% of their labor force file for unemployment since March 14th. None of them are New York, by the way. On the flip side, these are the five states where less than 7% of the labor force has filed for unemployment since March 14th. Florida may change soon there. But beyond the state where you live, our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that your socioeconomic status has a lot to do with how the pandemic is impacting your job security. 14% of poor or working class Americans say they've already lost their jobs, and there may be a reason for that: the kinds of jobs that offer teleworking capabilities and those jobs that don't. 44% of the wealthiest Americans say they can work their jobs from home. That means that what feels like a lifestyle headache for some is more of a tumultuous and life-changing event for many others. When we come back, why this year's veepstakes, the competition to be Joe Biden's running mate, is unlike any we've ever seen. Stay with us.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Here's a couple of the political items from our new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. I know some of you want to see the big head-to-head, Trump v. Biden. Well, here it is. Biden continues to lead here. He leads by seven in this new one, 49-42. He's essentially had about that kind of lead over the president throughout this calendar year. But here are some match-ups on some specific issues. President Trump leads Biden on who best to handle the economy. But it is Biden that leads the president on handling a crisis and Biden that leads the president on responding to coronavirus. Dany Pletka, we went back. The last three incumbent presidents, when asked about who best to handle a crisis, Obama was picked over Romney, Bush was picked over Kerry, Clinton was picked over Dole. It's rare to see an incumbent president not seen as better handling a crisis in the middle of a campaign.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well, I mean, I think the evidence speaks for itself, doesn't it? You know, we've seen Donald Trump handle this crisis, and that's where his numbers are coming from. I think people hoped -- would hope for more from their president, and they haven't gotten it. On Donald Trump's side though, the numbers you showed right at the head of the show are unbelievable. His approval ratings are exactly the same now as they were a year ago. What that tells us is that Donald Trump has what he has to assess is a very, very solid base of support. And they're not going to be affected, not only not by the economy that we see now, but not by the coronavirus or his handling of it.

CHUCK TODD:

And, Peter Alexander, we now have an idea of what the negative campaigns are going to look like between both candidates, with Team Trump deciding to make China the boogieman. With Biden, frankly it was something Obama did to Romney --

PETER ALEXANDER:

Romney, yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

-- back in 2012, was to hit him hard on China. And it was effective in the Midwest. Doesn't the president undermine his own China attacks when he talks about his great relationship with Xi?

PETER ALEXANDER:

Yeah, you're right. I mean, this is what's been striking watching the president as he speaks about China here, right? And this is what a lot of his critics say is why he held back criticizing China in the early days. Remember, he attacked the WHO, the World Health Organization, for saying that China was being transparent. Early on, the president himself praised China for its transparency here. It's because the president fundamentally was trying to maintain that good relationship with President Xi because he thought the relationship in terms of the trade deal on which he thought he might be judged as we came into this political season would be so critical here. But in conversations that I have with White House officials here, they say it's the president's effort to really focus on this economic issue. That's what's driving him, is very much a political calculation, with the belief they say that Americans will be making up their minds on the fact in their eyes that the country is going in the right or wrong direction in late August or early September, which gives the president, they say, three or four months, which is motivating him to try to push people back to work so aggressively.

CHUCK TODD: Bashing China is pretty popular on a bipartisan basis, Jeh Johnson. And already Joe Biden's trying to respond, going, "Hey, you think I'm close to China. What about you?" What's the unintended consequence of that?

SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON:

The unintended consequence is that it makes it much more difficult to deal with a very large economic power on multiple fronts. And we will get through this. The president's favorite tactic is to find somebody else to blame in a crisis like this. You know, it's, "I can do whatever I want, but I have no responsibility for anything, and I look for somebody else to blame." And for some, China is a convenient target. But we need to focus on what we need to do here at home.

CHUCK TODD:

One other topic that got a little bit of news this week, Dany Pletka, was the veepstakes for Joe Biden. And we're seeing some actual honest responses. We've got people asked about it and not pretending they don't want the job. Stacey Abrams says, "Yes, I'd love to do it. I'm ready." And Kamala Harris, "Yes, I'm ready." And Elizabeth Warren. Frankly, I look at it as a pleasant change. It used to be ridiculous when all these people would pretend that they didn't either want the job or weren't thinking about it.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I agree with you. I think it's a completely pleasant change. Look, you know, in the time of social distancing, people can't sidle up to the vice president, Vice President Biden, and say, "Hey, you know, I'd love that job." So they're being very frank. Frankness in politics is something to be appreciated. Hey. you know, I want to add something about what my colleague --

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, please.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

-- said about China as well. You know, this isn't just a convenient target. China is where this started. China is where lies were told that have cost lives. China is definitely something that we are going to need to talk about and talk about distancing from China. That's going to be a challenge for both Joe Biden and Donald Trump once we're done with dealing with this immediate crisis.

CHUCK TODD:

And it has a global impact, a definite global impact about sort of who is sort of the leading light of the world. That's for sure. Anyway, thank you, panel. You guys were terrific under these social distancing circumstances. That's all I have for today. Thank you for watching these days. Please be careful and stay safe out there. And we're going to leave you this morning with pictures of buildings lighting up blue in honor of health care workers. We will be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.