TRANSCRIPT: On MSNBC, Schumer Calls Trump Announcement He Takes Unproven Drug Reckless, Says Firing Inspectors General Shows Aversion To Truth

May 18, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer tonight appeared on MSNBC and called President Trump’s announcement that he takes the unproven drug, hydroxychloroquine, reckless and says that Trump’s firing of inspectors general shows his aversion to truth. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Steve Kornacki: And I am joined by the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Senator, good evening. Thank you for joining us.

Sen. Schumer: Good evening, Steve. Good evening.

Steve Kornacki: We've got good reporting. First coming out over the weekend that Linick had been looking into Pompeo having staff do personal errands for him. Now, this morning, there's reporting as well this involved getting aid over to Saudi Arabia. What is your understanding? Do you have a clear sense here of what Linick was looking into?

Sen. Schumer: No, I don't. I don’t think many people do, but I’ll tell you one thing we know for sure—this president just simply has an aversion to truth. Inspectors general were put into agencies to be independent truth-seekers, to find things that wrong, bring them to the president's and public's attention, so they could be corrected. But when the president hears truth from someone, particularly a truth he doesn't like, he fires them.

As you said, this is the fourth inspector general in the last few months, and it has happened over and over again. It happened just with the head of BARDA. When you have a presidency that is founded on running away from the truth whenever you don't like to hear it, you know it’s going to be a failure. It’s one of the reasons they’ve been such a failure in fighting the COVID-19 crisis. Again, they ran away from the truth: ‘Oh, this is a hoax. Oh, this will go away when the weather gets warm. Oh, we don't have to worry about it.’

You cannot hide from the truth, you cannot run away from the truth. This is another rather glaring example of the president's aversion to truth which hurts the American people.

Steve Kornacki: Let me ask you about the effort here under way from one of your colleagues, Republican colleagues, just trying to get more information on this. The president earlier today saying he doesn't know exactly how Linick had been unfair to his administration. But in a letter that was sent today by Chuck Grassley, Republican from Iowa, Grassley has asked the president for “a detailed reasoning” for Linick’s removal by June 1st.

And this follows a similar letter after Michael Atkinson's firing last month, another inspector general. According to Grassley, he hasn't received a response there. Again, the way it works, there’s 30 days until the firing would take effect. Do you expect Senator Grassley—do you expect all of you in the Senate to get response from the president here, and if not, is there any step you can take?

Sen. Schumer: Well, the president always stonewalls. But the greatest pressure can be exerted by Senator Grassley who has always stood up for these inspectors general. That's been part of his career. So let him put public pressure on the president, let him rally some of the other Republican Senators, most of whom seem to just bow down whenever the president wants them to, and get something done. That's our hope.

Steve Kornacki: We mention there are Democrats, I think Nancy Pelosi out there, saying there could be an illegal aspect to this. Let me ask about the argument you do hear from some Republicans, and it essentially says, ‘well, the president, any president, shouldn't be getting rid of an inspector general if he is looking into somebody in his administration, but the president can get rid of any inspector general.’

Sen. Schumer: That's something, Steve, I don't know the answer to that. The lawyers will have to look at it.

Steve Kornacki: What would you look for here in terms of the Senate, in terms of your role in the Senate? I know you're not the majority party there. What action would you like the Senate to take?

Sen. Schumer: Well, our role is to put pressure on the president to respect the truth, to keep the truth tellers in office, and to let the public know when he's doing what he always does. Even what he said about hydroxychloroquine. Who knows if it's true. He may not have been taking it for all we know. He just likes to make a splash. And I want to make a comment on that, Steve.

What the president did with hydroxychloroquine was reckless, simply reckless. The experts say—every expert that has looked at it says it doesn't help you against COVID. So he’s giving people false hope. He may have—people may take it instead of going to the doctor, but it’s worse than that. His own FDA has said it has bad side effects, whether it affects the rhythm of the heart in many bad ways. For him to say this is reckless, it shows no regard for the public.

And then you have to ask yourself, Steve, why did he say it? Does he have a friend or member of the family who might be benefitting? Is he trying to divert attention from his failure at COVID? Maybe he just likes to make a splash, regardless of the consequences. But as I mentioned, one thing you don't know, maybe he is really not taking it because the president lies about things characteristically, and when he hears the truth like with the inspector general, he runs away from it. He fires it. He pushes it aside. That's happened throughout COVID most recently with the head of BARDA.

Steve Kornacki: When you’re saying maybe the president’s not taking it, do you have any information or have you heard something or is that just speculation?

Sen. Schumer: No, I don't. I just know he seems at the press conferences oftentimes to go into flights of fancy and make things up. I don't know whether he is taking it or not. I know him saying he is taking it, whether he is or not, is reckless, reckless, reckless. It gives people false hope, has people avoid real medical attention, and can actually cause them trouble. It is just dangerous what he did.

Steve Kornacki: Want your reaction too to some news that came out today, there's this congressional oversight commission that was set up to oversee this funding, this CARES Act funding, that’s starting to go out the door here. There's a $500 billion Treasury fund that’s been set up to get loans, to get loan guarantees out there to Main Street. Reports today saying about $37 billion of the $500 billion, a very small share, has gone out the door. What is your reaction to that?

Sen. Schumer: Well, we need a great deal of oversight, and the person that I appointed, Bharat Ramamurti, has been leading the charge, and they’ve asked a whole lot of questions about these $37 billion. You know, when Trump proposed this and the Republicans put it on the floor, there was no accountability. You would not know who got the loans and what the loan terms are until months and months later. We required in the legislation, we had to fight them but we won, that within 14 days, every contract that’s issued must be published in full with all the codicils and every contract that's rejected should be shown as well. So we'll get some real insight from our oversight panel as to what's going on here, and if it’s being done in a—with the straight and narrow or something’s going amiss. It should be the merits of the case—not who you know.

Steve Kornacki: This does get to another question here surrounding this debate that’s playing out there where you are now about another round of stimulus. Certainly the House, the Democratic-controlled House has moved on that front. I know you want the Senate to be moving on that front. One thing you're hearing from Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader there, they're saying they want all money from the stimulus that’s already been enacted, including presumably the rest of this $500 billion to be out the door, to be disbursed, to measure impact of that before moving on to another round. What do you say to that?

Sen. Schumer: Well, it’s absurd. It all won't be disbursed for months and months and months. Some of these things take a long time to be dispersed. The unemployment insurance goes until July 31st. As we speak, there are miles, distressing miles of cars lined up at food banks, families who can't feed their children. People are being kicked out of their houses. People are losing their jobs. Small businesses are going out of business. And even if you listen to Chairman Powell, he says do something now or we'll create a much worse problem. The Republicans' idea of waiting, of sitting on their hands as we have the greatest crisis since the Great Depression is outrageous. It’s outrageous. And we are pushing them hard. And if they're interested in where the money is being spent, why aren't we having ten hearings about where the money is being spent right now? We’ve had to push them to do a very few hearings. They're not doing them. They're not interested in them. Their hard right people say don't spend money, and they are hurting America dramatically. Don't ask me, ask the Chairman of the Federal Reserve—Chairman Powell. And I look forward to his being, finally coming before us, three or four weeks after we Democrats asked—tomorrow before the Banking Committee.

Steve Kornacki: Alright, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Senator, thank you for joining us.

Sen. Schumer: Thanks, Steve. Thank you.