TRANSCRIPT: On MSNBC, Schumer Says President Trump Needs To Focus On Testing; Schumer Says Pres. Trump Often Has Grandiose Announcements And Then No Follow Up

May 15, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on MSNBC and emphasized that President Trump needs to focus on ramping up testing and that the president often makes grandiose announcements without following through. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Nicole Wallace: Joining our conversation, New York Democratic Senator and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Sen. Schumer: Good afternoon.

Nicole Wallace: Senator Schumer, it's refreshing I guess these days to see someone so close to Donald Trump admit that they were wrong. But to say he still doesn't have enough information as the country is in, I don’t know, week nine or ten of historic level of infections, historic collapse to our economy, historic number of deaths in such short period of time—to say they don’t know anything about anything was almost as jarring as the original lie.

Sen. Schumer: Well, exactly. I mean, my guess is if Donald Trump had followed that plan we would be in a lot better shape. The administration seems to have no plan. Just look at what he did a few minutes ago—another grandiose announcement. This time a Marshall Plan on vaccinations. Well, I hope they succeed—we need vaccinations. But if past is prologue, you have to be dubious because Donald Trump always has these grand announcements, and then there is no follow through whatsoever.

Look at testing. Two months ago he said everybody who wants a test will get a test. We still are way behind in testing, and if we would be up to snuff and be like other countries that have done adequate testing this crisis might be a lot less virulent right now than it is today. And so we need real focus here.

President Obama put together an extensive plan. Donald Trump seems to have no plan for anything, just an announcement with no follow-through, no agencies all marching together to get something done. And then there’s another grand announcement, and then the next day there's picking on somebody, you know, finding a foil. McConnell found Obama, they're going after Biden, they go after China, they go after W.H.O., there's no real focus by this administration to actually roll their sleeves up and solve the problem. I think I would recommend they read the Obama plan.

Nicole Wallace: Read the Obama plan or read the Lancet, the highly respected medical journal out with a stunning recommendation for Americans to replace Donald Trump in the fall because of a lack of what we're talking about, the lack of a plan. And they boil it down to three things, three low-tech things—test, trace and isolate. To your understanding, what is the reason that the White House gives for not really having either—any of those three practices figured out yet.

Sen. Schumer: They don't give reasons, they lash out. I called the president and said, why don't you invoke the DPA, the Defense Production Act and commandeer the factories and the supply chains so we’d have enough testing. And the answer was a nasty letter from Donald Trump just calling me names. You know, this president—whatever else you think of him—has shown such lack of focus and direction in the midst of the greatest crisis we’ve had since the Great Depression that many Americans who might have before said well maybe he's okay are scratching their heads and saying this guy ain’t for the job.

You know, we have such a huge problem. At best what they say—Donald Trump says, I want to pause. Mitch McConnell says he doesn't see the urgent need for action.

I would suggest to the president and Leader McConnell: talk to a family that can’t feed their kids. Talk to a small business person who has spent years creating with blood, sweat and tears a business and it’s now falling apart. Talk to people who are waiting for hours on food pantry lines—you see the cars all lined up—or to someone who's lost his job and is ready to be evicted from his house or his apartment. There are so many urgent needs, that's what we're trying to do. And we want to work with the Republicans, don’t get me wrong, we’d like to work with them. We don't expect they’ll agree with everything, but this idea we don't have to do anything, it's eerily reminiscent of Herbert Hoover, who when the stock market crashed and the economy was beginning to head downhill said I want to leave this alone just the private sector will solve it. Well, the private sector can't solve these problems of such magnitude. Every business leader admits that, but somehow Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell cling to that belief.

Nicole Wallace: I think the kinds of people who’ve lost everything are the ones most perhaps susceptible to the non-science, non-data-driven rush to reopen, and I wonder what you say to people in your state and people all over the country who are literally agitating to get out of those lockdown orders. In Wisconsin, the Supreme Court made it the law of the land there—something their governor called the Wild Wild West. But what do you say about that tension that I think most people feel?

Sen. Schumer: Well, I understand the—first of all, I understand the anxiety. People want to earn a salary, they want to get back to work, but if we do it too soon, if we do it without the advice of science, if we just let a thousand people, a few of whom hold automatic weapons, determine what we do, we'll lose out.

Look at what Dr. Fauci said yesterday, he spoke the truth and you can't ignore the truth in a crisis like this. Donald Trump always ignores the truth. Yesterday, he said there are two sides to what Dr. Fauci said. His view is: well, there’s truth and lies and let’s look at the lies, let’s look at the things that aren’t true.

So, we need science to govern us on how to open up because if we don't open up in the right way this could come back with a vengeance and be even worse and then imagine how we will be. So you have to have a bit of a long-term perspective. I sympathize with the anxieties of people, but the best thing we can do right now is listen to the scientists and come up, as I mentioned, with testing. Testing. If we had a test available for everybody in the degree we needed—millions a day— this crisis could be greatly decreased and we could get the economy going.

You know, the mayor of New Rochelle—his was the first city quarantined—it’s a city in the suburbs of New York City, and I called him that day and I said, “what do you need?”

He said, “I have 70,000 people. Get me 70,000 tests, I can test everybody and those who have the virus I will say you must stay inside for two weeks so it doesn't spread or go to the hospital if it's virulent. But those who don't have the virus can go to the work, go to the stores, shop in comfort knowing they won't be exposed to others because everyone else who has the virus will be in quarantine.”

We need testing, we need tracing, we need the right—the scientists know what to do. And the other countries, the countries that have been much stricter about this, a New Zealand, a South Korea, a Finland, a Germany are in much better shape than we are.

You can't ignore the truth. You can’t ignore science. And that’s what Donald Trump—you know, he seems to encourage the small groups. And I do fault the media. A thousand people gather in a state of 8 million people and they’re carrying Confederate flags and Nazi flags and all of that. And they're given a whole lot of attention. They shouldn't be governing our policy, and I understand Donald Trump is egging them on but still.

Nicole Wallace: Well, take solace, Senator Schumer, in the fact that large swaths of the American public see this as you do, as I do, that it's a lot safer to stay home. And we always welcome your media criticisms. I take them to heart.

Sen. Schumer: Well, I meant it with affection and—

Nicole Wallace: No, no. It's got to be a part of the conversation, and it all starts with telling the truth. I, personally, appreciate it.

Sen. Schumer: Thank you. Thank you very much.