3:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, everybody. Please. So, welcome to our Cabinet meeting. And every member of my Cabinet is working tirelessly to defeat the invisible enemy. That should have never happened to our country. It should have never happened to the world. It’s a disgrace. It could have been stopped at the source, but they decided not to do that.
But we’re going to safely reopen our country and our economy, and it’s happening very rapidly. And it’s happening, interestingly, where numbers are actually going down; you look at Florida, the state of Florida. Done a great job. You look at Georgia, you look at others — they’re open. And some are doing extremely well, far beyond what people thought.
And the numbers are going down. The numbers that we have been talking about for the last two months, they’re actually going down. So it’s really terrific.
In our drive to crush the virus, the U.S. has completed nearly 12 million tests. And that test — that number today is almost 14 million. Nobody is close. Germany would be second with approximately 10 million less than us. And we also have the best tests. South Korea is doing very well, but we’re at 14 million, and they’re at numbers that are very small by comparison.
What has been done with testing, what’s been done with ventilators, what’s been done with the distribution of product has been incredible. We’ve made a lot of governors look very good. We’ve actually made all of the governors look very good. Some have done a good job, but we’ve made them all look very good. We got them equipment, and we got them their gowns and their ventilators and their tests like nobody would have thought possible.
Vaccines are moving quickly into phase one and phase two trials, and trials of dozens of therapies and cures are underway. And we’re making tremendous strides with therapies, cures, and vaccines. I think we’re way ahead of schedule.
And you probably heard: Logistically, we have our military engaged. And as soon as we have whatever it is that we’re going to have, whether it’s therapeutic or vaccine, it will be distributed very rapidly. Our military is ready to go. They can deploy hundreds of thousands of men and women a day. And now what they’re going to be doing is they’re going to be doing the vaccine, which we are geared up for even before we have it. But the chances of us having it are extraordinary.
Secretary Azar will update us on all that we’re doing to safeguard Americans. He’ll be talking in a second.
To protect our people and defeat the virus, we must also defend the health of our nation’s economy. Secretary Mnuchin will report on the economic recovery efforts and the good numbers that are being produced ahead of schedule.
Secretary Carson will update us on the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council. And, Ben, you’ve done a fantastic job. We appreciate it. He’s looked at HUD much differently than people that would have been in the pure real estate business, and he has a way of seeing things that’s different and really good for our country. And Ben is working on — very hard — different plans to restore health and prosperity to disadvantaged and minority communities, and that’s really working out well.
One of the things we’re very proud of is Opportunity Zones. Tim Scott of South Carolina came to me with a proposal, and few people understand how successful the Opportunity Zones have been. It’s a great tribute to Tim and to others in the Senate that helped us with that.
The pandemic has shown once again the vital importance of economic independence and bringing supply chains back from China and other countries. I probably got elected — one of the primary reasons was that. “Make America Great Again,” “America First” — call it whatever you want. But we went way out of bounds; we build a car and we go to 12 countries to build a car. I want to build a car from one country: We make the parts.
To achieve this goal, we’ve slashed red tape and bureaucracy and unleashed the largest industrial mobilization since World War Two, especially when it comes to big things like a ventilator. It’s a very big, clumsy, highly sophisticated product. And we have now assembly lines. We’re the talk of the world. We’re supplying them to other countries. We’re helping other countries that are going through this plague and they’re never going to be able to do ventilators.
So we are — it’s really been an incredible thing what’s happened. It’s the biggest mobilization since World War Two. And we’re fighting for the livelihoods of American workers, and we must continue to cut through every piece of red tape that stands in our way. And that’s why this is such an exciting meeting — beyond being a Cabinet meeting, which is always good — because with millions of Americans forced out of work by the virus, it’s more important than ever to remove burdens that destroy American jobs.
In a few minutes, I will sign an executive order instructing federal agencies to use any and all authority to waive, suspend, and eliminate unnecessary regulations that impede economic recovery. And we want to leave it that way. We want to leave it that way. In some cases, we won’t be able to, but in other cases, we will.
And you’ve heard me say many times — I’ve said and I’ve said it very strongly that regulations — we’ve done more regulation cutting than any President in history, whether they’re there for four years, eight years, or, in one case, more. We’ve done more regulation cutting — I don’t mean just in a year or two years. I mean in the three and a half years that we’ve been here, we’ve cut far more regulations by a factor of a lot than any other administration, any other presidency. So that’s really something.
I’m directing agencies to review the hundreds of regulations we’ve already suspended in response to the virus and make these suspensions permanent where possible. I’m also instructing agencies to use the emergency authorities to speed up regulation cuts or new rules that will create jobs and prosperity and get rid of unnecessary rules and regulations.
We had cases where it would take 20 years to build a highway. You’d have to go through various agencies to get the same permit. I lived with it in the private sector, so I know it better than anybody, where you’d go years and years and years to build a simple roadway or a simple building, and it would end up costing an absolute fortune — many, many times what it should cost.
And it would take years before you could even seek final approval — 5 years, 7 years, 20 years, 21 years. A certain highway built recently — a small highway; I would call it a road — 21 years to get it approved. And then, by the time they get it approved, it costs 100 times more, in some — numbers that you wouldn’t even believe. We’re getting rid of all of that.
We’re down now, on roads — working with Elaine and the Department of Transportation, we’re down to a two-year period. We want to see if we can do better. We have roads in there for 18, 17, 20, 21 years, over the years. I’m not blaming Elaine for that. I’m just saying, over the years, there have been roads that have gone through a process for many years — roads and highways.
So we’re going to be getting it down to a year. And maybe it’s not going to get passed for environmental reasons or safety reasons, but we’re going to know quickly. But if it does pass, it’s going to happen fast.
Acting OMB Director — soon to be permanent director — where’s Russ? Did you hear what I said? “Soon to be permanent director.” (Laughter.) Okay? That’s a big statement. Some people would say that’s big news. He’s done a fantastic job, so congratulations. But we have to get them to approve but — good. (Applause.) We’ll give you a congratulations just prior to approval, right? So you’re doing great. Thank you very much.
So Acting OMB director Russ Vought will present details on this effort, and we’ll go into that. So Russ has done a great job on exactly what we’re — he used to come into my office and he’d say, “I think we can cut a lot of different things, in terms of regulation.” And, Russ, I think also, very importantly, we’ll have a better product. It’s actually going to give us a better result. And we’re adhering to environmental — the environmental impact studies and all of the other things we have to do to get these permits. But — so, Russ Vought, thank you very much.
I want to once again thank every member of the Cabinet for your commitment to helping our nation reopen, to recover and rebuild. I’d like to now ask a man who has done a fantastic job as the head of the task force — he’s worked — literally, I mean, I think literally 24 hours a day, sometimes, to make sure everything has gone well.
Today we had a really great article by Rich Lowry, who talked about the tremendous job that we’ve done in terms of the task force, in terms of the coronavirus, and getting things going and getting people what they need — whether it’s ventilators, testing, or many other things. And I appreciated that article very much because there’s been a very false narrative. People have no idea what an incredible job the people in federal government have done. And that includes generals and admirals and lots of others.
So I want to thank Mike Pence for the great job you’ve done, Mike. And, please, say a few words.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Mr. President. And I think everyone around this Cabinet knows that, from the first day of this administration, you’ve made it clear that you have no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people.
In January, when you took the unprecedented action of suspending all travel from China, before there was a single case of community transmission in the United States, it is inarguable, Mr. President, that your decision bought us a critical amount of time to stand up a national response all across this country.
At the same time, in January, you stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force. And over the course of February, you began to suspend more travel, establish screening at more than 11 airports around the United States — again with a priority of protecting the health and safety of the American people.
And from the first day, Mr. President, that you asked me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force, we have — we have focused on the health of the American people.
It would be on March 15th, at your direction, that we released the — the White House Coronavirus Guidelines for America. We asked a lot of the American people and the American people responded. Fifteen days would become forty-five days, and in that time it was our objective, Mr. President, as you made clear, to save lives, to slow the spread, to flatten the curve. And because of what the American people did, because of the direction that you gave, and all the dedicated members at HHS and FEMA and all of those around this table who served on the task force, because of the partnership that you forged with every governor of both political parties across the country, we’ve made great progress.
That being said, Mr. President, I know that you believe, as we all do, that one life lost is too many. And — and we grieve today for the loss of more than 90,000 Americans to the coronavirus. At a time like this — the first Cabinet meeting that we have had since the advent of this epidemic — it’s important to remember that when we asked the American people to make all of those sacrifices, the estimates before you were that if we did nothing, we could lose between 1 million and 2.2 million American lives. And in fact, even by taking the steps that we took, the estimates were still clear that even if we flattened the curve that we could still lose 100,000 to 240,000 Americans.
And so, while we grieve the loss of those more than 90,000 Americans — and their families are on our hearts today — we recognize — we recognize the progress that we have made.
Among the progress that we made, Mr. President, in flattening the curve and slowing the spread was preserving, as you directed, the capacity of our healthcare system. One of the great concerns that we had early on was that our healthcare system, our hospitals would be overwhelmed by the coronavirus. That did not occur, Mr. President. Truth is, as you’ve reflected many times, because of the ingenuity of the American people, because of our partnership with states, because of a great logistics team that worked with the task force, no American who has needed a ventilator was ever denied a ventilator in the United States. It is an extraordinary accomplishment.
And the report that I received today is that the National Stockpile now has more than 15,000 ventilators. And because of the public-private partnerships that you’ve forged, we’ll actually see American companies manufacture more than 110,000 ventilators in 100 days.
Over 13 billion supplies and critical PPE were also delivered to doctors and nurses and first responders and to Americans on the frontlines of this pandemic.
And on the subject of testing, Mr. President, when you tapped me to lead this task force, we had fully done, under the old system of public labs — we had fully done only 8,400 coronavirus tests at the end of February. But as you just reflected, because of the public-private partnership that you formed with commercial labs across the country, we’ve now performed nearly 12 million coronavirus tests, and more than 400,000 in a single day this past weekend.
And, Mr. President, as I’ll share with the team, as we’re increasing testing, the good news to Americans is, nevertheless, cases are going down. You reflected on that in your visit to the Capitol today and in your opening remarks. And in that, I hope — despite the heartbreak and the hardship that we have all endured, I hope the American people can sense that they’ve made progress. That as we continue to scale testing all across the country, our team — with Admiral Giroir at the helm, and FEMA at the helm — estimates that we’ll be able to conduct maybe 40- to 50 million tests a month by this September. And even as testing is expanding across the country, we’re seeing cases coming down, and that’s a tribute to the American people.
But it’s not just been a health of the American people that’s been challenged, Mr. President. As you rightly observed, businesses large and small who have had to shutter their operations — we heard from restaurant owners earlier this week. And with the great work of our Secretary of the Treasury and your leadership, Mr. President, $188 billion in loans have been approved to small businesses, nearly $583 million have been awarded through community health centers to all 50 states. We have been there at the point of the need for businesses large and small. We have been there for vulnerable populations. And at your direction, Mr. President, we’ll continue to lean forward in that fight.
The action that you’re taking today with signing the executive order is going to make it even more possible for us to — to build this economy back again for the American people. And it was in that spirit that one month ago, Mr. President, as I close, you directed the White House Coronavirus Task Force to release guidelines to open up America again.
And I’m proud to report to the Cabinet today that our best information is that all 50 states, as of today, are partially reopening their economies, and the American people are responding and breathing that free air again. They’re doing it responsibly. They’re — they’re enjoying the opportunity to be out; in many states, to enjoy restaurants, businesses opening back up. The big three automakers went back to work this last Monday in Ben Carson’s hometown of Detroit. And America is on its way back through a great, great season of hardship. It’s a testament to the resilience of the American people.
So, Mr. President, you charged the White House Coronavirus Task Force to have one mission and that was save lives, to have one team and that was to forge relationships all across the country. And because of your leadership, because of the great work of this Cabinet, because of governors around the country, but mostly because of our incredible healthcare workers and the cooperation of the American people, we’ve slowed the spread, we’ve flattened the curve, and we are reopening America.
And, Mr. President, I’m proud to report to you that we’re on our way. And I promise you, this entire team is going to continue to work with governors around the country, at your direction, until we bring the American economy all the way back, as you often say, “bigger and better than ever before.”
So thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mike. And again, thank you very much for doing a great job.
So I’m going to sign this now, and then Ben and Steve will speak, and then we’ll go around the room a little bit, and we’ll say what we want.
I’d like to congratulate Rick Grenell for doing such a fantastic job as Acting — I don’t think you want to be permanent, so I think you’re very happy to be Acting. But what a job. I think you’ll go down as the all-time great Acting ever, at any position. So thank you very much, Rick. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Would you like to say something? Go ahead, please.
MR. GRENELL: Sure. I would just say greetings from an intel community that is very interested in providing policymakers, everybody around this table, with raw intelligence that is not politicized in any possible way.
And I have to tell you, Mr. President, that I have heard from hundreds of members of the current intel community who are extremely pleased with transparency of their work. And that’s what they’re shooting for. That’s what they want to provide to policymakers — is information that is not politicized by politicians in any way, on any side of the aisle, but to be able to protect their intelligence estimates — we all know that they’re estimates — and they’re proud to give them when not manipulated by others.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we appreciate your great work. Thank you, Rick, very much.
MR. GRENELL: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m going to sign this now. And so this is regulations are going to be cut. And the potential is that you’re going to find regulations that nobody has ever thought of before because you’re going to be doing it yourselves. And this gives you great authority to cut regulations. So we’ve already had the record by a lot. It’s not even close. But you’ll have a chance to cut regulations.
When I look at EPA sitting here and I look at the Veterans sitting here and I look at all of the different people — Homeland Security, Chad — I look at all of the great talent around this table, you’ll have a right to do something that nobody would ever have thought you would have the right to do that.
And so I just want you to go to town and do it right. Do it proper. Make sure everything is safe and make sure it’s environmentally good, for those of you that are in that category, but it’s very, very important. Elaine, you can do things that nobody would believe in your department: Department of Transportation.
So, good luck. And I’m signing this. It gives you tremendous power to cut regulation.
(The executive order is signed.)
Here you go, Ben. Here, take that. (Applause.) Okay, Ben, would you like to say something please?
SECRETARY CARSON: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. President. And a big thank-you to all the Cabinet members. Almost everybody has been deeply involved in the refocusing of the Opportunity and Revitalization Council. And Jared and Christian and Brooke also big, big help.
Just as was done during the Greatest Generation, many sectors of our society are being reconfigured to meet the singular goal of winning our war against this invisible enemy. Companies that made bedding linen are now making masks, and plants that produce vehicles are now producing ventilators. I worked at some of those plants growing up in Detroit.
And now the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which was formed by you to help long-forgotten communities achieve economic opportunity will refocus and expand to help America’s hardest-hit communities and achieve economic recovery, overcome health disparities, and thrive through educational advancement — education being the ticket. It doesn’t matter where you came from. If you get a good education, you can write your own ticket.
Since your historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, billions of dollars from the private sector have been invested in these designated Opportunity Zones, which are home to nearly 35 million people. Through this initiative, we’ve fostered partnerships between people who seldom sit down together. We’re talking about business leaders, community leaders, faith-based leaders, housing advocates, investors, builders, state and local and federal officials.
The Revitalization Council, which I have the privilege to chair, alongside our executive director Scott Turner, who’s here in this room somewhere — oh, there he is over there, okay — has played a big role in the success, identifying more than 270 different federal actions to support and increase investment in Opportunity Zones through things like grant preference points, loan qualifications, reduced fees, eligibility criteria, modifications, and a number of other incentives.
And at your direction, we’re now taking our considerable capacity to discover opportunity and drive recovery in disadvantaged and minority communities that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Based on our work and analysis, the Revitalization Council is identifying diverse policy approaches in areas including housing, education, technology, broadband, workforce, entrepreneurship, health, and long-term community development. And under your leadership, this administration has shined a light on the forgotten men and women whose job prospects and health disparities are often hidden in the shadows.
Mr. President, you’ve been a champion for all Americans, especially our low-income and minority communities. And we’re committed to continuing — continuing your work not only to restore, but to advance the historic gains and prosperity many enjoyed before this global epidemic. Your council will not only continue its focus to bring more jobs and better jobs, but it will also expand to better fortify public health services that will improve medical and social health outcomes and uplift our most distressed communities.
The American people will come out the other side of this crisis stronger and more determined than ever. Thanks to the authority you have vested in the Revitalization Council, we will leverage these powers to heal America’s hardest-hit communities and return to prosperity as safely and swiftly as possible. And thank you for not giving in to the naysayers and to the people who use fear to control people, and instead giving people hope not with just your words, but with your actions. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Ben.
You know, I had to run against him, and he was very tough. And he was even tougher when he’d run onto a stage holding a Bible up in the air. That was tough. I said, “That’s tough to beat.” But I said, “If I’m ever so lucky, I have to get him in the administration.” So that’s what happened, and you’ve done a great job. Thank you very much.
Steve, where are we and what are we doing?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Thank you, Mr. President. So I’m pleased to report your administration has been hard at work implementing the CARES Act. We’ve really made incredible progress over the last month working on putting over $3 trillion into the economy — unprecedented amount of support for American business and American workers. And I just want to highlight a few of the things.
Working with SBA, we were able to develop the Paycheck Protection Program from scratch. That’s now impacted over 4.3 million companies, impacting over 50 million workers; $513 billion, having 5,500 lenders working. And we are extremely pleased that we have increased the number of CDFIs and minority lenders and fintech lenders, now making sure we get this across the country with an average loan size of $118,000. So this program is really impacting American workers.
Working with the Federal Reserve, I have approved nine special facilities, totaling about two and a half trillion dollars. That’s about half of our capacity. And in particular, I’d just like to highlight the Main Street Lending Program, which is for small- and mid-market companies, will be up and running by the end of this month.
And then I would just comment on the economic impact payments, Mr. President, have really had a big impact. We delivered over $239 billion to 141 million Americans. And I want to highlight, we couldn’t be more pleased 114 million of those we did direct deposit into people’s accounts. We did 27 million checks.
And, Mr. President, we now have developed debit cards. So in an effort to expedite money to people even quicker, in a very safe way, I’m pleased to show you what a debit card looks like with your name on it, Mr. President.
Now, there’s no money for you on it. This is a blank debit card. But I want you to see what many Americans will now get so that we can get their money to them even quicker. And going forward, we think debit cards are a safe and secure way of delivering refunds.
So, thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Do I sign the letter again or not? (Laughs.)
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: The next time we send money, you’ll get to send another letter.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Thank you, Steve. Steve has had a great career. He had a great educational career — a tremendous student — and went on to very, very tremendous business success. And all of that experience was necessary for what you’re doing, right? But there’s nobody better with money and controlling money and handling money. So I want to thank you very much.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Alex, please. Say a few words.
SECRETARY AZAR: Well, thank you, Mr. President. You know, your top priority has always been the health, safety, and wellbeing of the American people as we’ve been going through this pandemic. And that’s been our priority throughout this crisis.
We’ve got to get life back to normal, and we’ve got to restart the roaring Trump economy, and we have the tools to do that. The right mindset for reopening is not about balancing health versus the economy. It’s actually about balancing health versus health. By one estimate, the virus-induced recession will see an extra 65,000 deaths from suicide, drug overdose, alcohol abuse in the coming years. Possibly even more.
States are seeing a decline in the reporting of child maltreatment because kids aren’t at school. They’re not seeing doctors and teachers who would otherwise report maltreatment in the home environment, and so it goes unaddressed.
Mammograms are down 87 percent. Colonoscopies are down 90 percent. Approximately 1.7 million new cancer cases are diagnosed per year in our country, and if we’re seeing an 80 percent drop in cancer cases identified, we could already have 300,000 or more undiagnosed cancer cases as a result of this crisis.
A CDC report found a 60 percent reduction in vaccine administrations including, for our kids, pediatric vaccinations. Millions of kids not getting vaccinated.
The good news is that, under your leadership, we’ve built a path forward so that we can have safe reopening. We have the surveillance tools. We have the testing tools. We have the containment methodologies and resources. We are developing therapeutics, and we’re developing vaccines. So we have the strategy and the recipe to support the safe reopening of our economy. And for the sake of Americans’ health and wellbeing, we’ve got to support this and move ahead with safe reopening.
You know, I mentioned some of the physical health risks of the — of keeping our country closed down, but we have here today with us our Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse — for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Dr. Eli McCance-Katz, who’s a psychiatrist and is the first-ever psychiatrist to lead SAMHSA.
And she, if you don’t mind, was going to say a couple words, really, about how extended stay-at-home orders can impose really lasting mental health challenges for us. If that’s okay, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: We’d love that. Please, Doctor.
DR. MCCANCE-KATZ: Mr. President, Vice President Pence, members of the Cabinet, and colleagues, as I’ve listened to states and communities struggle with mental illness issues that have arisen as a result of the virus, I wanted to ensure that governors, yesterday, heard these concerns from a medical perspective.
As my physician colleagues on the task force have been careful to rightly note, their perspective and advice centers on one aspect of the pandemic: virus containment. However, even medically, it is not the sole perspective. I felt that it was important to offer the governors a different, albeit equally important, medical perspective.
As such, I made the following remarks:
It is my privilege to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. But today, I really speak to you more as a psychiatrist who also happens to hold a PhD in infectious disease epidemiology.
Never did I imagine the nation would be experiencing the coinciding of mental health issues and infectious disease that my training addressed. The research literature is clear on the effects of quarantine and stay-at-home practices on mental health. We know that the longer the duration of these orders, the greater the intensity of the mental health problems experienced. We also know that these symptoms persist for years to come, even once quarantine is lifted. The data tells us that when the lives of adults, children, and families are drastically changed for extended lengths of time, for many, anxiety, depression, and stress disorders will become manifest and will persist. These are real health conditions with potentially long-lasting consequences that must be taken seriously.
To put all of this in perspective, I believe it is important to point out that, pre-pandemic, we lose 120,000 lives a year to drug overdose and suicide. How many more lives are we willing to sacrifice in the name of containing the virus?
When we look at strategies to reopen, as a medical doctor, I ask that you take into account whole health, not just one narrow aspect of physical health. We continually ask ourselves what the health costs and risks may be of reopening, but I ask: What might they be of not reopening or reopening in such a restrictive way that American lives are not restored? Of course, containing the effects of coronavirus are critically important, but so too is preventing suicide. So too is keeping a person from being terrified to ever leave their home. So too is protecting the mental health of our nation’s young people.
I ask you to remember that not every home is a safe home. Not every individual can withstand the trauma of not seeing or interacting physically with loved ones. Not every parent can survive the mental anguish of not being able to feed their children because of lost employment. Not every child can exist in a healthy way without the structure and support of school. We have to take a step back and recognize the other effects of our policies.
While we contain the virus, are we increasing the risk for suicide and drug overdose? Are we creating a future of substance use and addiction for millions of additional Americans? And if we are doing those things, why have we decided collectively that this is okay? We’ve worked so hard in states and communities across this country to combat epidemics like the opioids crisis. Why are we willing to forget those efforts now or deem them less important?
As a psychiatrist, I would argue that a life lost to suicide is just as important as a life lost to coronavirus. A family who loses someone to drug overdose experiences the same grief as a family who loses a loved one to coronavirus. Let us not forget that all American lives are precious.
Our citizens count on us to remember their health and safety in all aspects of life. The preservation of Americans’ health and the health of our citizens cannot be measured by only one metric. Virus containment cannot be our only goal, no matter the cost to Americans.
If we ignore the reality of the enormous mental health strain we’ve put on our citizens on the backdrop of an already overburdened mental healthcare system, I’m saddened but certain that the next major public health crisis of our time will be that of mental and substance use disorders, and it is not far behind.
I urge you to factor this reality into your planning, and I thank you for the work you’ve done thus far on behalf of the millions of Americans with mental and substance use disorders.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Doctor. Appreciate it. Very sobering. It’s tough. It’s very tough, but we’re getting there. We’re getting back. That’s very important. Thank you. Great job.
I’d like to ask Chad Wolf from Homeland Security just to say — maybe discuss the record-low numbers we have of people crossing the border — our southern border, in particular.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Absolutely, Mr. President. I think we are taking — at your direction, the Vice President’s direction, the task force — we’ve taken a number of measures that — protecting public health: proactive and prudent measures at the border. Those include nonessential travel restrictions that we have with both Canada and Mexico. Those also include continued construction of the border wall system. But perhaps most importantly, new measures that we’ve instituted along that southwest border regarding illegal border entries. And those are the numbers that you’re referring to.
Last month, in April, we had a little under 17,000 folks that crossed the border illegally. Compare that to a year ago: April of ‘19 was over 120,000 individuals. So —
THE PRESIDENT: And they were all brought out, right?
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: That’s right. And so 80 percent of those —
THE PRESIDENT: Seventeen thousand crossed, but seventeen thousand were brought out and sent back.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Eighty percent of those 17,000 were removed within 120 minutes — two hours. The rest took just a little bit longer, but are continuing to be removed as well. So —
THE PRESIDENT: And that’s a first. That’s a first in the last 40 years.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: That’s absolutely right. Again, at the — at your leadership, the task force leadership, we continue to make progress on that border. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thank you very much, Chad.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Also, Mark Meadows, who’s our Chief of Staff, he’s been around Washington for a while. He’s very popular in North Carolina. He had a seat that was very easy for him to keep. And I talked to him long and hard for a while — for a long while. But he’s a friend of mine but he’s — he’s going to go down as the ultimate, hopefully, Chief of Staff. So, Mark, it’s really nice to have you. Would you like to say a few words?
MR. MEADOWS: Thank you, Mr. President. Obviously, your work and the work of this Cabinet on behalf of the American people is very evident. It’s critical that we make sure that Americans are healthy, safe, secure, and prosperous. And because of the work of everyone around this table, and, more importantly, your leadership, we’re setting the example of how not only to tackle one of the most difficult, silent killers that we’ve ever faced in our history, but also how to come out of that more united.
And because of your executive order today, we are not only ready to reopen our com- — country, but we’re open for business once again. So I thank you for your leadership. And it’s an honor to serve you and the people of this great country.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mark. You’re doing really — really well. Appreciate it.
And Bob Lighthizer is working on the trade deal with UK — United Kingdom. And I hear they want to very much do it. And we’d like to do it. How are you doing?
AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER: Well, thank you, Mr. President. We’re doing well. I’m never in a hurry to do a deal, as you know. So, yeah, we’ll see how that works out. I would like to report though, that on July 1st, we will have USMCA fully in effect, which is just in time for the reopening. We’ll have the new rules that will help American workers, farmers, and ranchers. And we’re now beginning to see some substantial new sales — I’d defer to Sonny, of course, on agriculture — but in the agriculture area and a variety of others, because of this and the other deals that you’ve done.
But in terms of the UK deal, we’re just beginning that and we’ll see how that turns out. As you said to me 1,000 times, “We’ll see how that turns out.” (Laughter.) So, that’s what I tell them: “We’ll see how that turns out.”
THE PRESIDENT: It’s through experience. You never know. You never know, do you? Well, we usually do. And actually, we’ve signed a great deal with Japan: $40 billion. We’ve created a new deal with South Korea, which was many, many billions of dollars. It was a defective deal; now it’s a very good deal.
But USMCA is actually the largest trade deal ever made anywhere in the world. People don’t realize the amount of mon- — of business that we do with Canada and with Mexico is monumental. It’s the biggest trade deal in the world. Bigger than the deal we’ve made with China. Most people don’t know that. And the China deal is kicking in. They’re buying a lot, but I feel differently now about that deal than I did three months ago. And we’ll see what all happens.
But it’s been a very disappointing situation. Very disappointing thing happened with China because the plague flowed in. And that wasn’t supposed to happen, and it could have been stopped.
So, I want to thank you very much, Bob. You’re doing really a fantastic deal. You have a lot of records. And one of the people I wanted to get when I was elected was Bob Lighthizer because he had the record and really had the reputation as being the best trade negotiator anywhere in the world that everybody respected. He was the authority. So I got him and you’ve lived up to your reputation. Now let’s see if you can exceed it, because you have plenty of work to do.
AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER: It’s going to — it’s going to take four years.
THE PRESIDENT: How is going with UK? What do you think?
AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER: Four more years to do any of that.
THE PRESIDENT: I know. (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR LIGHTHIZER: That’s all — that’s all I ask.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Boris — the first thing Boris did when he got — when — fortunately, he was better, because he’s a great guy — Boris Johnson, Prime Minister. He called me, and he wanted to talk about the trade deal: “How’s it going?” That was his first words to me: “How’s the trade deal going?” I said, “How are you feeling?” So it was really something.
But great job. And Mike Pompeo has done a fantastic job at State, and he’s been doing a lot of traveling. Working hard. Anything to say, Mike?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sir, I’d just add that, in the course of this, we have brought 93,000 Americans back home who were stuck because travel had ceased. The State Department has done fantastic work getting these Americans back to their families. There’s still a few more out there. We still got a little more work to do. And we’re working to make sure that the global economy gets back on its feet too. So, along with Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation, we’re trying to make sure that we’ve got all the processes in place so people can travel again in the way that they did before this virus hit this entire world.
THE PRESIDENT: Good, Mike. Thanks. Great job.
I’d like to maybe ask Scott Turner to finish. He’s somebody who’s young and strong and powerful. And he’s done an incredible job with Opportunity Zones and other things. And maybe you could finish it off. And we could take a couple of questions from the media if you’d like.
But, Scott, make the media so crazed — (laughter) — that they say, “Boy, are they doing a great job.” (Laughter.)
MR. TURNER: Well, thank you, Mr. President for the — is this on? Okay. Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership, and Secretary Carson and Mr. Vice President. Thank you all.
And, you know, I was sitting here listening to all the remarks and what’s going on, and I’m very encouraged. And I was reminded of my time from playing peewee football, all the way to the NFL. And one of the greatest times that we had was the huddle.
The last time I was with you all was last summer. We had traveled to 21 cities in 12 weeks, and you all encouraged me greatly. And so we finished by traveling to over 60 cities with the Opportunity Zone and the council. And much fruit came about in America because of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council.
And many of you, your staff members and your teams from your agencies have been tremendous, and that has been a great team effort. Not one man, not one person; it’s been a great team that’s brought much fruit because of Opportunity Zones in America to the people inside the distressed communities.
And I’m so humbled by that. But we have a lot of work to do. Our resolve is still the same. Our spirit is the same. Our fortitude is even stronger.
The President has refocused the council, so our vision is broader. And because of that, we will not quit.
And I want to thank all of you for your leadership. Thank you for your vision. Thank you for your encouragement.
But back to the huddle. In the huddle, it was time to refocus. It was a time to reset and to encourage one another. “I know you got beat on that play, but you won’t get beat on the next one. And we have you. We have your back.” We were a team. The enemy was on the other side of the ball.
In America, we are a team. The enemy is COVID. And I want to remind everybody in the room and everybody listening in America: We’re all one team. This is the huddle today. We’re encouraging each other. We have each other’s back. We know to anticipate what’s happening on the next play. We have a great game plan. We got great leadership. All around the room, it’s a tremendous team and it’s called the United States of America. COVID will get whooped. (Laughter.) It will. But it’s going to take all of us.
And I say that, Mr. President, because this is a blessing to me to be in this huddle. But when we say, “Ready? Break,” the enemy better look out because we’re going to be victorious against the enemy and have long-term sustainability and a generational vision for America. So, long after we’re gone, the people that come behind us will be blessed. So I want you all to be encouraged.
And I want thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Dr. Carson and Mr. Vice President, and all of you for your leadership. And I’m encouraged to be here. So thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: So, you know, we have a couple of seats available — congressional seats — (laughter) — where I’m not overly impressed with the candidate. (Laughter.) And I think — would you like to move to a little different section of the United States? Because I could guarantee this guy would be in Congress in about two minutes. (Laughter.)
And, you know, I know somebody that knew Scott from the NFL. I said, “What kind of a player was he?” He said, “He was fast, but more than anything else he was tough. He was just mean and tough.” And that’s what we want. He’s tough but he’s got a great heart. He’s got a great heart. And I’ve known him now a long time, Scott. And we’re lucky to have you. Thank you very much.
Thank you. Fantastic. (Applause.) True and tough.
Okay, any questions? Please. Yes. Steve, go ahead.
Q When you say you feel “differently” now about the China trade deal, could you amplify on that a little bit?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it just seems to mean less to me, because, you know, we did this great deal with China — they have to buy billions and billions of dollars of product, farm product and other product, and it was very exciting. One of the biggest deals ever made. Actually, not as big as the USMCA, which surprises people. But it could have been bigger over a period of time, because the potential there is just beginning, in a sense. And it was very exciting.
But once the virus came in — once the plague, as I call it, came in, I said, “How did they let that happen? How did they let that happen?” And how come it didn’t go into other sections of China? Why did they block it from leaving Wuhan but they didn’t block it from going to the rest of the world, including the United States? Why is that? Beijing doesn’t have it; other places don’t have it. So why is it that it was blocked very effectively from leaving that area and going into China, but it went out to the rest of the world, including the United States? And why didn’t they let us go in and help them fix it? So I’m very disappointed in China.
Q Mr. President, can I follow?
Q Mr. President, why —
Q Just to follow up: You’ve been talking about possible retaliation for that. Are you any closer to a decision on that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t talk about retaliation. Go ahead.
Q Mr. President, why haven’t you announced a plan to get 36 million unemployed Americans back to work? You’re overseeing historic economic despair. What’s the delay? Where’s the plan?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think — I think we’ve announced a plan. We’re opening up our country. Just a rude person you are. We’re opening up our country. We’re opening it up very fast. The plan is that each state is opening and it’s opening up very effectively. And when you see the numbers I think, even you will be impressed, which is pretty hard to impress you.
Yeah, go ahead. Please.
Q But, Mr. President, a lot of these jobs are —
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead. That’s enough of you.
Q — not coming back, according to these studies —
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Canada has confirmed that the border is going to remain closed until June 21st, 10 days before the UM —
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q — the USMCA. Aren’t you worried for the economy of the border states?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, we do. And we speak to Canada all the time. Obviously, the relationship is very good with the Prime Minister and myself and with the two countries. You know, Canada is our neighbor. We have a great relationship. We love Canada. So we’re going to be talking, and at the right time we’ll open that up very quickly. That’ll go very easily.
Q It could happen before June 21st?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, it could. Sure. It could. They’re doing well. We’re doing well. We’re both doing well.
Q Thank you. Mr. President, you’ve said repeatedly that the United States is now the “king of ventilators” and that we have so many that we’re sending them overseas — selling them and then, in some cases, actually gifting them to other countries. My question is: Are you looking to use these diplomatically to strengthen ties with other nations and counter Chinese influence in some parts of the world?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I’m not looking to do diplomatically. I’m looking to save lives. If we can save lives of another country, that’s a great thing. So I’m only looking to save lives. Probably, that’s good diplomatically, but I’m not looking at that.
You have countries that have no chance; they have no ventilators. They would — they don’t have a capacity to build them. And we’re sending hundreds and even thousands — and we have thousands now — and they’re being produced at a very rapid pace. Jared and his whole team of geniuses from Silicon Valley and other places came in, and they’ve done an incredible job. So we have them by the thousands.
We had none, essentially. We had very few, and they were obsolete. They were broken. We’re building not only a lot of them, but we have a very high-quality ventilator, one of the highest. So, countries know that, and they’re calling us and they’re asking for help. They need help.
So I — I only think in terms of saving lives. The country — we’ve gotten some very unusual calls from people that normally wouldn’t be calling us too easily, calling — asking for help. You know, you can get swabs and you can get gowns and you can get a lot of things, but getting ventilators is very tough — very, very tough — because it’s a very complex machine, very expensive machine.
So we’ve done a very good job. And probably it does help diplomatically, but we do it for helping people’s lives — save lives.
Yes, please. Please.
Q Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q Do you — so, Ford Motor Company has previously required visitors to wear masks when they visit their facilities. Do you plan to wear one when you go there on Thursday?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. It’s — I haven’t even thought of it. It depends. I mean, you know, in certain areas, I would. In certain areas, I don’t. But I will certainly look at it. It depends on what situation. Am I standing right next to everybody or am I spread out? And also, you look — you know, is something a hospital? Is it a ward? Is it — what is it exactly? I’m going to a plant. So we’ll see. Where it’s appropriate, I would do it. Certainly.
Q Mr. President, you continue to talk about helping minority communities. What specifically are you looking at to help those communities? What actions?
THE PRESIDENT: So one of the things I was most proud of was the minority community and all of the work we’ve done for the minority communities. Black unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, Asian unemployment was the best ever in the history of our country. We’ve never had anything like it. We’ve never had so many African American jobs ever — ever — in the history of our country, by far.
And we are bringing our country back, and a big focus is exactly that with the minorities. Specifically, if you look at the Asians, they’ve done incredibly well; Hispanics, incredibly well; African Americans, record-setting, every month. You know that. Every month it was a record-setting jobs number. And that’s what we want to do. We want to get it back to that level.
We had to artificially close our country. One day, we had to — we did the right thing. We would have lost millions of lives if we didn’t. Think of it: If we lost 100,000 lives, the minimum we would have lost is a million-two, a million-three, a million-five maybe. But take it to a million. So that would mean 10 times more than we lost already.
Now I’ve seen hospitals like Elmhurst Queens, where — I grew up near that; I know that hospital — where they had, one day, 11 body bags in a hallway and they had some outside. And that — they had refrigerated trucks coming to take bodies away.
Now multiply that times 10. It would have been unacceptable. And that’s the lowest number possible. It probably would have been times 20 or maybe 25. So we did the right thing.
But now we have to get back to work, and we want to open up, and the people want to open up.
But we’ve learned a lot about the disease. We’ve learned about distancing — nobody ever heard of social distancing before. We’ve learned about the washing of hands. I used to wash my hands a lot, but I’ll tell you, right now I wash them more. We learned a lot. And we also learned how to put out the embers or the fires, whatever may come — we learned — without having to close down the whole country.
And we have big sections of our country that don’t have much of a problem. We have some sections that don’t have any problem at all. So we’re opening up our country, we’re doing really well, and most excitingly, we’re working on vaccines, therapeutics, and cures that are really moving along at a level that nobody would have thought possible.
And the military, I can say, Mark Esper — okay, you know Mark Esper? He’s become a very important person in the world of medicine because his military is going to be distributing — whether it’s therapeutically or whether it’s cures or whether it’s a vaccine. And, by the way, I have to say, all three are doing unbelievably well. But Mark and the military are going to be getting them out. So he has hundreds of thousands of people that he is immediately — that work for us right now. They’re fully ready to deploy. They’re ready to get the job done. They’ll be doing it at a record business.
And everything we’ve done with the military has been terrific. We’ve had admirals. We’ve had generals. I remember when Cryin’ Chuck Schumer said, “We should get the military involved.” I said, “They are.” He said, “We should use one of our generals.” I said, “We do.” Our generals have done a great job, Jared, right? And our admirals have done a great — we had everybody involved. And they are tremendously talented people. And this isn’t what they do; they fight. They’re great fighters, and they fight.
But, yeah, the minority communities are really going to be well served. I think we are going to get it right back — and this includes everybody; this includes our whole country — but right back to where it was, which was record-setting numbers.
Q But are there specific options right now that you are considering for those communities?
THE PRESIDENT: Right now, we’re opening up areas and a lot of people are getting jobs. I heard some numbers yesterday that were really incredible — the amount, percentage-wise, of the country that opened up so quickly over the last few days. I think you’re going to see some very big numbers. And I think next year is going to be an incredible year, economically.
You can never make up for all of the loss of life; you can never do that. From an economic standpoint, however, next year is going to be — I think, it’s going to be potentially a great year for us.
Q The FDA has said hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of a hospital setting or outside of a research study.
THE PRESIDENT: No, that’s not what I was told. No.
Q So can you —
THE PRESIDENT: There was a false study done where they gave it to very sick people — extremely sick people, people that were ready to die. It was given by, obviously, not friends of the administration. And the study came out. The people were ready to die. Everybody was old, had bad problems with hearts, diabetes, and everything else you can imagine. So they gave it. So, immediately, when it came out, they gave a lot of false information, just so you understand. Great studies came out of Italy on hydroxy. You know what I’m talking about, right? Right? Great studies came out. And the combination of the three.
But we had some great studies come out: Italy, France, Spain, ourselves. Many, many doxes [sic] — doctors. Many doctors came out, and they said, “It’s great.” Now, you have to go to a doctor. I have a doctor in the White House. I said, “What do you think?” And it’s just a line of defense. I’m just talking about it as a line of defense. I’m dealing with a lot of people. Look at all the people in the room. You know, I’m the President, and I’m dealing with a lot of people. And it’s a very inexpensive drug. It’s — it’s almost pennies. It’s very inexpensive. And it’s been out for close to 70 years for a couple of different things, right? Lupus and malaria and even arthritis, they say.
But I think it’s worth it as a line of defense. And I’ll stay on it for a little while longer. I’m just very curious myself. But it seems to be very safe. But that study was a phony study put out by the VA. You may want to talk about that. I mean, we could talk about that if anybody wants to. And maybe I’d ask Alex to talk about that — if you would introduce our great, talented head of the VA and let him say a couple of words.
But that was a phony study, and it’s very dangerous to do it. The fact is, people should want to help people, not to make political points. It’s really sad when they do that.
SECRETARY AZAR: Yeah. So hydroxychloroquine has been approved by the FDA for decades here in the United States for the treatment of malar- — for the prevention of malaria, the treatment of lupus, the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. And the system we have here in the United States is: Once a drug has been approved and on the market, a doctor, in consultation with a patient, may use it for what we call “off-label” purposes, which are indications that are not yet proven and not yet in the label.
And this is the Right to Try President. He, for the first time, got the historic Right to Try legislation for experimental therapies, but that applies to our existing regime, which is approved products may be used in the judgment of a physician in consultation with their patient.
As the President said — and I’ll ask Secretary Wilkie to talk a bit about the VA study — there has been — there’s been some studies around the use of hydroxychloroquine later in disease progression. But we are still working on some controlled studies earlier in the disease progression to see if we can measure the effectiveness of it in preventing the replication of the virus’s spread in mild to moderate cases rather than the more serious. And that data is still pending, but —
THE PRESIDENT: And it’s got — well, it’s got very good reviews. Very good. From many, many doctors. Many, many doctors.
SECRETARY WILKIE: Thank you, Mr. President. I — and I want to clear up something that the media has not reported accurately. That was not a VA study.
THE PRESIDENT: Can you hear him? Because I think it’s important. You asked the question.
SECRETARY WILKIE: Yeah. That was not —
Q Yes. Yes, I can hear him.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you want to listen? Because I don’t even think you’re listening.
Q I can hear him.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead, why don’t you listen to him?
Q I am listening.
SECRETARY WILKIE: That was — that was not a VA study. Researchers took VA numbers and they did not clinically review them. They were not peer-reviewed. They did not even look at what the President just mentioned — the various comorbidities that the patients who were referenced in that study had.
I also want to echo what the Secretary of HHS said. The instructions I received from the President were very clear, and that was to preserve and protect life. Those of us who’ve had a military life — some of us around this table — we’ve been taking this drug for years. As the President mentioned, the Department of Defense and VA have been using it for 65 years. On every — any given day, VA uses 42,000 doses of this drug. And what we did, when this virus first hit us, was to use every means necessary to help preserve life.
We believed that the Congress was right, and the President signed legislation to protect life: the Right to Try. And we did this in consultation, not only with the families of those veterans, but we did this in consultation with our doctors, under FDA guidelines.
So I want to knock down the phony story that this is somehow the VA going back on what the President told us to do, which was to use every means possible to protect and preserve the lives — the lives of our veterans. And I think, as the President mentioned, we’ve seen in many cases across this country — in fact, I was on the news the day that the Governor of New York was asking you for tens of thousands of doses.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
SECRETARY WILKIE: We are doing everything we can to protect the lives of our veterans. And this is one of the means that we used.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Hydroxychloroquine is used by thousands and thousands of frontline workers, so that hopefully they don’t catch this horrible disease or whatever you want to call it. It is a — a terrible virus. It’s a terrible thing. And a lot of people are taking it. A lot of doctors are taking it. A lot of people swear by it.
It’s gotten a bad reputation only because I’m promoting it. So I’m obviously a very bad promoter. If anybody else were promoting it, they’d say, “This is the greatest thing ever.” But because of me —
So, a lot of doctors swear by it; I think we can say that, Mr. Secretary. A lot of doctors think it’s great. But the one thing that is true, one way or the other way, whether you like it or not: It’s been around for 70 years. Unbelievably effective for malaria and for lupus, and probably effective for arthritis. And what has been determined is it doesn’t harm you. It’s a very powerful drug, I guess, but it doesn’t harm you.
And so I thought, as a frontline defense, possibly it would be good. And I’ve had no impact from it. I’ve now — I’ve had no — I feel the same. I haven’t changed, I don’t think, too much.
And at some point, you know, I won’t take it. Might be soon, might be in a little bit. It doesn’t — it doesn’t seem to have any impact on me. But it seems to be a extra line of defense, and it’s gotten tremendous reviews from some people, including many, many doctors all over the world.
And you should look at some of the studies. They’ve been amazing, some of the studies. But that’s up to people and it’s up — I think, strongly recommend to people with their doctor’s advice and acknowledgement. Okay?
Q Is anyone else in the Cabinet taking that regimen, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Say it?
Q Is anyone else in your Cabinet taking hydroxychloroquine?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. I don’t know. I — that’s a personal thing as to whether or not they want to answer that question. But I think many of them would take it if they felt it was necessary.
I also had a case where we had somebody fairly close to me — a very nice, young gentleman — he tested positive.
Q Your valet?
THE PRESIDENT: And he tested positive. Plus, I deal with Mike alike — a lot, and Mike had somebody very close to him, who I also see, who tested positive. So I think — I thought, you know, from my standpoint, not a bad time to take it, because we had the combination of those — the two people. It’s two people in a very big building with a lot of people working. But — so I thought it would be appropriate, but it has had no impact, in terms of me. Okay?
Any other question, please?
Q Mr. President —
Q Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Can I ask you —
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead. Do you want to go? Go ahead.
Q I just want to ask you a question on Brazil, which is now —
THE PRESIDENT: Brazil?
Q — yes — in third position — place now, catching up to Russia in second place for the number of cases. Are you finally considering a travel ban from — from Brazil and Latin America?
THE PRESIDENT: We are considering it. We hope that we’re not going to have a problem. The governor of Florida is doing very, very well. Testing is — in particular Florida, because big majority come into Florida.
Brazil has gotten more or less “herd.” You know what that is — herd. And they’re having problems.
By the way, you know, when you say that we lead in cases, that’s because we have more testing than anybody else. So we test much more than anybody else. Again, we’re close to 14 million and we said 12, 12 and a half. It’s actually close to 14 million now.
And so we have 14 million tests. And Germany, if they do 2 million, that’s a lot. And others are doing 1 million. So if you’re testing 14 million people, you’re going to find many more cases. Many of these people aren’t very sick, but they still go down as a case. So actually, the number of cases — and we’re also a much bigger country than most.
So when we have a lot of cases, I don’t look at that as a bad thing; I look at that as — in a certain respect, as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better. So if we were testing a million people instead of 14 million people, we would have far fewer cases. Right? So, I view it as a badge of honor. Really, it’s a badge of honor. It’s a great tribute to the testing and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done. Okay?
Q Aren’t you worried that they’re going to bring their cases and —
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yeah. No, I see — I mean, as to your first part of your question: Yeah, sure, I worry about everything. I don’t want people coming in here and infecting our people.
I don’t want people over there sick either. We’re helping Brazil with ventilators. We’re sending them ventilators, okay? They — they need ventilators. I’m sending them ventilators. We have so many thousands of them. We’re sending them. We’re sending a lot of people. No, Brazil is having some trouble. No question about it.
Sweden, by the way — you know, I’ve heard a lot about Sweden and the way they’re doing. Well they have — you have Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden. That little group of beautiful countries. Well, Sweden, took a little different attitude, but Sweden has far more deaths than the other three. You know that, right? Do you know that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, a lot more death — many times the deaths. But they did it a different way, and, you know, I understand that too. And — and as Mike said very well before, there is death on both sides. There’s death on both sides. There is death in staying in a shutdown also and lots of other things, but there’s also death. Okay?
Q What do you — sir, what do you want to see in terms of travel between the United States and Europe — lifting travel restrictions?
THE PRESIDENT: I’d love it to open up as soon as it can, but we have to make sure that we’re doing well and they’re doing well. And in many cases, we are. But, you know, we have a very big country. We have some areas that have done incredibly well. We have other areas where the results are — it’s tougher. New York and New Jersey are tougher.
People don’t realize New Jersey is the most dense state. A lot of people don’t realize that. The governor is a terrific person. He’s very liberal, but that’s okay. He’s a very liberal guy, but we like him. He’s a good man and he’s working very hard. But New Jersey is a very dense area — very, very dense.
And I speak to Andrew a lot — Andrew Cuomo — a lot. We’re working very well together. And, you know, those are the two spots that have really been very heavily hit — a big portion, a big percentage. I don’t know what it is. It’s a very big percentage. Almost half of our deaths would be to those two.
Now, at the same time, the numbers, even in those two places, are coming down. They’re coming down very rapidly. And I put out yesterday a statement: Numbers are coming down, with the exception of very little — few exceptions — the numbers are coming down all over the United States very rapidly. Very rapidly. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. But it’s left behind serious death, and it shouldn’t have happened.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
4:21 P.M. EDT
Cabinet slashes budgets to pay for 6 new ministries, including ‘alternate PM’ – The Times of Israel
The cabinet on Sunday approved widespread fiscal reforms that will cut the budgets of most ministries in order to fund the establishment of six new ministries, including the office of the “alternate prime minister,” in a series of controversial decisions.
A unity coalition deal between Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White’s Benny Gantz ended over a year of political deadlock when the most minister-rich government in Israel’s history was sworn in earlier this month. New ministerial positions were created to accommodate the cabinet’s 33 ministers, who number over a quarter of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers.
The price tag for the overhead costs of the new government has been estimated as high as a billion shekels ($285 million) over its three-year span. There have been widespread accusations that the government is overlarge and costly at a time when the economy is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the new offices created Sunday was the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office, which will be held by Defense Minister Gantz for 18 months and then be transferred to Netanyahu as part of a power-sharing deal designed to allow him to keep the prime ministerial title even after vacating the post. Unlike other ministers, a prime minister can remain in his post even after he is indicted on criminal charges.
Other offices are Ze’ev Elkin’s Water Resources and Higher Education ministries; Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Ministry of Community Empowerment; David Amsalem’s Cyber Ministry; and Tzipi Hotovely and Tzachi Hanegbi’s Settlements Ministry.
Gantz — who is currently defense minister, in addition to the new post of alternate premier — is set to take over as prime minister in 18 months under the coalition deal, at which point Netanyahu will become alternate prime minister.
As the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office was approved, Netanyahu on Sunday denied reports that the alternate prime minister would also be granted an alternate prime minister’s residence. “It’s not true. It didn’t come up and it won’t,” he said.
In order to create the new posts, ministers approved a government decision that will see a 1.5% cut to the budgets of all government offices, specifically at the upper personnel level. The move will slash 300 posts from the various offices to free up some NIS 100 million ($28.5 million).
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi opposed the budget cuts to foreign service, whereupon the cuts to his ministry were reduced from NIS 11.5 million ($3.2 million) to NIS 4.8 million ($1.3 million), the Walla news site reported.
On the 22-item agenda, the cabinet was also voting on filling the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, led by Blue and White’s Avi Nissenkorn, and other ministerial panels; appointing directors general of the defense and economy ministries; and giving the green light to new Finance Minister Israel Katz’s program to encourage employment amid the pandemic.
In a Saturday night address, Katz presented his new Finance Ministry plan aimed at encouraging employers to take back employees placed on unpaid leave during the height of the pandemic in March. For every employee called back, places of business will receive a grant of NIS 7,500 ($2,141) starting on June 1, according to the plan. An additional grant of some NIS 3,500 ($1,000) will be handed out to employers for employees called back in May. Katz said some NIS 500 million ($142 million) have been allocated for businesses that would put employees back to work.
Economy Minister Amir Peretz opposed the treasury proposal during the meeting, arguing that it rewards employers who dropped their workers while harming those who kept their employees on the payroll even at a loss, according to the Globes business daily.
Katz retorted: “There is an alternate prime minister. There is no alternate finance minister. I am the finance minister and I will lead the implementation of the government decisions, which I proposed, and which were accepted by an overwhelming majority,” the Ynet news site reported.
Sunday’s cabinet meeting also saw Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri receive building and planning powers that were previously under the treasury’s purview, while the Health Ministry was granted additional powers to combat the coronavirus.
The meeting on Sunday was held in the Foreign Ministry’s auditorium as the regular cabinet meeting rooms were not large enough to accommodate all the ministers while maintaining social distancing, according to reports.
Opposition chairman Yair Lapid issued a statement blasting the government after ministers approved funding for the newly formed offices created by the Gantz-Netanyahu coalition deal.
“The government handed half a billion shekels to itself today. Not for the self-employed, not for the unemployed, not for small businesses, but for itself,” said Lapid.
“For redundant offices like the Water Resources Ministry, the nonexistent Community Empowerment Ministry and for deputy ministers that no one needs. Detached lawmakers, we’ve had enough of you.”
Separately, last Wednesday, a bill allowing ministers to give up their positions as Knesset members in order to enable a different member of their party slate to take their spot in parliament passed its preliminary Knesset plenary reading. The so-called Norwegian Law — which still requires three more votes to become law — would allow any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.
The opposition has blasted the bill, and the coalition’s rush to pass it, as a way of pushing more people into sweetheart jobs on the taxpayers’ dime.
Tapper: Some of Trump’s allies think he’s not up to the task – CNN
In Days of Discord, President Trump Fans the Flames – The New York Times
WASHINGTON — With a nation on edge, ravaged by disease, hammered by economic collapse, divided over lockdowns and even face masks and now convulsed once again by race, President Trump’s first instinct has been to look for someone to fight.
Over the last week, America reeled from 100,000 pandemic deaths, 40 million people out of work and cities in flames over a brutal police killing of a subdued black man. But Mr. Trump was on the attack against China, the World Health Organization, Big Tech, former President Barack Obama, a cable television host and the mayor of a riot-torn city.
While other presidents seek to cool the situation in tinderbox moments like this, Mr. Trump plays with matches. He roars into any melee he finds, encouraging street uprisings against public health measures advanced by his own government, hurling made-up murder charges against a critic, accusing his predecessor of unspecified crimes, vowing to crack down on a social media company that angered him and then seemingly threatening to meet violence with violence in Minneapolis.
As several cities erupted in street protests after the killing of George Floyd, some of them resulting in clashes with the police, Mr. Trump made no appeal for calm. Instead in a series of tweets and comments to reporters on Saturday, he blamed the unrest on Democrats, called on “Liberal Governors and Mayors” to get “MUCH tougher” on the crowds, threatened to intervene with “the unlimited power of our Military” and even suggested his own supporters mount a counterdemonstration.
The turmoil came right to Mr. Trump’s doorstep for the second night in a row on Saturday as hundreds of people protesting Mr. Floyd’s death and the president’s response surged in streets near the White House. While most were peaceful, chanting “black lives matter” and “no peace, no justice,” some spray painted scatological advice for Mr. Trump, ignited small fires, set off firecrackers and threw bricks, bottles and fruit at Secret Service and United States Park Police officers, who responded with pepper spray.
The police cordoned off several blocks around the Executive Mansion as a phalanx of camouflage-wearing National Guard troops marched across nearby Lafayette Square. A man strode through the streets yelling, “Time for a revolution!” The image of the White House surrounded by police in helmets and riot gear behind plastic shields fueled the sense of a nation torn apart.
Mr. Trump praised the Secret Service for being “very cool” and “very professional” but assailed the Democratic mayor of Washington for not providing city police officers to help on Friday night, which she denied. While governors and mayors have urged restraint, Mr. Trump seemed more intent on taunting the protesters, bragging about the violence that would have met them had they tried to get onto White House grounds.
“Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence,” the president wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. “If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action.”
His suggestion that his own supporters should come to the White House on Saturday foreshadowed the possibility of a clash outside his own doors. “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” he wrote on Twitter, using the acronym for his first campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Asked about the tweet later, he denied encouraging violence by his supporters. “They love African-American people,” he said. “They love black people. MAGA loves the black people.” By evening, however, Mr. Trump’s supporters were not in evidence among the crowds at the White House.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington responded sharply on Saturday morning, saying her police department will protect anyone in Washington, including the president, and by Saturday evening her officers were out in force around the White House.
But she called the president a source of division. “While he hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/ people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & hundreds of years of institutional racism,” she wrote. “There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man. Afraid/alone …”
After his morning barrage, Mr. Trump tried to recalibrate later in the day, devoting the opening of a speech at the Kennedy Space Center following the SpaceX rocket launch to the unrest in the streets and clearly trying to temper his bellicose tone.
“I understand the pain that people are feeling,” he said. “We support the right of peaceful protesters and we hear their pleas. But what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or peace. The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists.”
The days of discord have put the president’s leadership style on vivid display. From the start of his ascension to power, Mr. Trump has presented himself as someone who seeks conflict, not conciliation, a fighter, not a peacemaker. That appeals to a substantial portion of the public that sees in him a president willing to take on an entrenched and entitled establishment.
But the confluence of perilous health, economic and now racial crises has tested his approach and left him struggling to find his footing just months before an election in which polls currently show him behind.
“The president seems more out-of-touch and detached from the difficult reality the country is living than ever before,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida who has been critical of Mr. Trump. “At a moment when America desperately needs healing, the president is focused on petty personal battles with his perceived adversaries.”
Such a moment would challenge any president, of course. It has been a year of national trauma that started out feeling like another 1998 with impeachment, then another 1918 with a killer pandemic combined with another 1929 given the shattering economic fallout. Now add to that another 1968, a year of deep social unrest.
It is fair to say that 2020 has turned out to be a year that has frayed the fabric of American society with an accumulation of anguish that has whipsawed the country and its people. But in some ways, Mr. Trump has become a totem for the nation’s polarization rather than a mender of it.
“I am daily thinking about why and how a society unravels and what we can do to stop the process,” said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University. “The calamity these days is about more than Trump. He is just the malicious con man who lives to exploit our vulnerabilities.”
As the nation has confronted a coronavirus pandemic at the same time as the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, whatever unified resolve that existed at the beginning of the twin crises quickly evaporated into yet another cultural clash. And the president has made everything into just another partisan dispute rather than a source of consensus, from when and how to reopen to whether to wear a mask in public.
Mr. Trump led no national mourning as the death toll from the coronavirus passed 100,000 beyond lowering the flags at the White House, posting a single tweet and offering a passing comment on camera only when asked about it. Rather than seek agreement on the best and safest way to restore daily life, he threatened to “override” governors who prevented places of worship from resuming crowded services.
“Crisis leadership demands much more from the White House than irresponsible threats on social media,” said Meena Bose, director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University.
Mr. Trump’s initial response to the rioting in Minneapolis, where a police officer has been charged with murder after kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he cried out that he could not breathe, underscored the president’s most instinctive response to national challenges. Threatening to send in troops, he wrote early Friday morning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Only after a cascade of criticism did he try to walk it back, posting a new tweet 13 hours later, suggesting that all he had meant was that “looting leads to shooting” by people in the street.
“I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means,” he said, a reformulation that convinced few if any of his critics.
Even some of Mr. Trump’s usual allies were distressed at the original shooting tweet. Geraldo Rivera, the television and radio host who often spends time with Mr. Trump at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, decried “the recklessness” of that message and called on the president “to self-censor himself.”
“Come on, what is this, sixth grade?” Mr. Rivera said on Fox News. “You don’t put gasoline on the fire. That’s not calming anybody.” He added: “All he does is diminish himself.”
But many of the president’s defenders rejected the idea that he had mishandled the crises, pressing the argument that Democrats and the news media were to blame for the turmoil in the streets, which spread from Minneapolis to New York, Atlanta, Washington, Louisville, Portland and other cities.
“Keep track of cities where hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage and serious injuries and death will take place,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who has served as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, wrote on Twitter on Friday night. “All Democrat dominated cities with criminal friendly policies. This is the future if you elect Democrats.”
Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was pardoned by Mr. Trump for tax fraud earlier this year, amplified the point on Twitter. “It should be no surprise that every one of these cities that the anarchist have taken over, are the same cities run by leftist Democrats with the highest violence, murder and poverty rates,” he wrote on Twitter. “They can’t handle their cities normally, so how are they going to deal with this?”
Mr. Trump, who this past week retweeted a video of a supporter saying that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” (though the supporter insisted he meant that in a political sense), picked up the theme on Saturday.
With crowds visible from his upstairs windows, Mr. Trump reached for his phone and again assailed the “Democrat Mayor” of Minneapolis for not responding more vigorously and called on New York to unleash its police against crowds. “Let New York’s Finest be New York’s Finest,” he wrote. “There is nobody better, but they must be allowed to do their job!”
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