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TRANSCRIPT: On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Schumer Says Sen. McConnell & Senate GOP Must Immediately Begin Vigorous Oversight Hearings Of Trump Admin’s Response To COVID-19, Including On Testing And Small Business Lending Programs

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, urging Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans to immediately begin vigorous oversight hearings of the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19, including hearings on testing and small business lending programs, when the Senate returns next week. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Joe Scarborough: Let's bring in the top-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

Sen. Schumer: Good morning.

Joe Scarborough: We obviously are still having concerns with PPP, helping out small businesses. There was a glitch yesterday. But also, you're looking into something bigger and that is the fact that The New York Times has reported that Wall Street banks are actually giving preference to their bigger clients, their preferred clients. What can you tell us about that? And how can you make sure that small business owners from New York to Florida to California all get a fair shake, the same fair shake that the big companies get?

Sen. Schumer:  You're a hundred percent right, Joe. And one of the things that the Treasury and SBA should have done from the beginning which they didn't is give guidelines to the banks saying give these smaller lenders, not the people who know a big shot banker, the loans first. They didn't. So in COVID 3.5, we did wall off $125 billion that couldn't go to the big boys and had to go to these people, but they haven't implemented it yet. But let me make a larger point Joe. At the beginning of the show, you talked about testing and now about small businesses. You know Congress can pass laws and they can be very good laws. These are bipartisan, they passed 96 to nothing. But this administration has been an abject failure at implementing most of these laws. They don't have the qualified personnel. They don't have the focus. All too often it seems the president's ego is at stake. So I'm sending a letter with my Democratic ranking members and leaders today to McConnell and saying what we should do, now that we're coming back next week, is have hearings, oversight. Call in Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, and Azar and say why isn't testing working? Your plan, the plan they put out yesterday, had almost no details in it as to how it's going to work. Why don't we need a national regime to make sure that the manufacturing and supply chains work. The states can’t do it. Same thing, call in the Treasury Secretary and the SBA administrator. Why after 30 days we passed the first COVID bill, 30 days, are the computers breaking down? Where was the extra support? Where were the personnel? So we could have oversight hearings and I hope Leader McConnell would do that. It seems why he brought us back, well, there's someone who has nothing to do with COVID on the calendar Monday night. The rumor is he wants to put a judge on these calendar whose claim to fame seems to be that he worked for McConnell as a staffer, a nominee for a circuit court judge. The ABA rated him as unqualified. We have an obligation, in a bipartisan way to the American people, to do oversight. Call these people before the Congress, the Senate, having these hearings be publicized and this will enable them to be asked tough question after tough question. Not for the president and vice president to attack the reporter who asked the question and then move on. This is part of what the Constitution gave Congress the responsibility to do, oversight of the Executive Branch. And I have to tell you, the Executive Branch has failed miserably at implementing almost all of the things that Congress has passed. And I've never seen an administration so bad at enacting the laws that Congress has put together. So, we need these oversight hearings and we need them now. This could be the opportunity for Leader McConnell, when we come back, to do something real that affects the American people in the midst of this awful crisis.

Joe Scarborough:  Yeah.

Willie Geist: Senator Schumer, Willie Geist here. Good to have you on. I think most people agree, you need to perform your job of oversight but what small business owners in upstate New York want right now are not hearing. They want their checks. As you pointed out yesterday, small banks, local banks, mid-size banks couldn't even get on to the website. They couldn't get through, let alone get the money and get the approvals from SBA.

Willie Geist: So what do you say to the small business owners who missed the boat on the first round of money and now their banks can’t even login to the website to get them? They can't go on like this.

Sen. Schumer:  Well, we’ve got to have the SBA straighten this out quickly. I have small business owners all over New York who have applied. Some of them have been approved, but they haven’t gotten the money and they're going to go out of business. So two things have to happen. They've got to straighten this computer system right away. They've got to tell all the banks no more big boys, no more of these chains. Approve the small business loans. And get more personnel there right away. The only reason I talk about hearings Willie, is you need pressure on this administration, you need it because they're not doing it now. Why is it 30 days after the first COVID law was passed are the computers still all glitchy, as the president said. Worse than glitchy—crashing, not working. So, we need them to fix  these computers immediately to wall off – we gave $125 billion to not go to the big boys, but to go to the nonbanked and underbanked. Focus on that and get those loans moving now.

Joe Scarborough:  So, let's talk about New York State, the state that you represent, the state that you love. How is New York doing? The curve is bending—for now, because we understand that there may be a second wave in the fall. How is New York State doing? How is the city doing?

Sen. Schumer:  Well, the curve is bending a little bit, but we still have too many deaths. We still have too many hospitalizations. And I think our governor and mayor have done the right thing. They've been cautious. If you move too quickly, this second wave could come back with a vengeance maybe even earlier than the fall. So to listen to the medical experts. To be patient, to understand there is some balance here, obviously. But to make sure that we don't move too quickly. Because if it comes back again and it comes back with a vengeance, it will be even worse than the first time, hard as that can be to imagine. So I respect the states that are being careful and cautious. And I'd say one more thing about the states here, Joe. We need to get aid to the states and to the local governments. That's what my governor and mayor are talking about correctly. When Mitch McConnell says they should go bankrupt and now he's coming in with some little subterfuge, he says we don't want to give the aid until we make sure there's no liability. Well, does that mean if the boss tells a worker you have to work next to somebody that has no mask, that that worker can't protect him or herself and the boss is immune from liability? The aid is not going to “government.” It's going to police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, food, health safety inspectors. These are the people who need help. There's going to be massive layoffs at the state and local level unless we get some money to them quickly. And we've got to do that and we’ve got to do it quickly in COVID4. When McConnell says, well I’m maybe I’m not for bankruptcy but we've got to do A, B, C, D, E, which is really irrelevant to getting the people the money they need, that's wrong.

Willie Geist: Senator Schumer, you're calling for a national testing strategy. You're obviously not alone in that. Many people have been calling for that for months. And the president, as we said earlier in the show, is unwilling. He's said famously, the federal government shouldn't be standing on street corners conducting tests. Obviously, that's forced states across the country to improvise. New York City found its own testing in Carmel, Indiana. The state of Maryland to reach out to friends in South Korea to get 500,000 tests. In your eyes, what would a national testing strategy look like? How would it work exactly?

Sen. Schumer: Well, I called the president months ago and called on him to use the Defense Production Act and appoint a czar. One person in charge. That person has the ability under the present law under the DPA to say these ten factories are going to make these tests. And these 20 factories are going to be the supply chain and supply the factories with the tests they need. Then you give the tests to the states, and the states can implement the testing in the best way possible. But there will be no way to ramp up and get the number of tests and the auxiliary things like the swabs that we need unless the federal government takes over. You're exactly right, Willie. It's hit and miss. So yesterday evidently, there was a meat plant in Kansas where there was a lot of corona. The governor had to call in the National Guard to air-drop an adequate number of tests. You can’t do it on an ad hoc willy-nilly basis. What about other meat plants, what about other PPE needs in so many places? So you have to ramp up the manufacturing. You know the report they issued yesterday, it was pathetic. It didn't have any details. And at the end, it said, let the states do it. No one in the administration has given an answer specifically as to how the state should do it. That's one of the reasons I think we need hearings. I want to hear from not so much the president and  vice president. But from Birx, and Fauci, and Azar. What is the plan? How are the states going to do this and why isn't the federal government doing it? We haven't heard one good reason, one good reason why the federal government shouldn't be in charge. We put in COVID3.5  bill, $25 billion, $11 billion to the states to do the contact tracing and administering the tests. But we gave them over $9 billion to get these supply lines working. For a month, they’ve resisted. And you know what, no one can figure out why. And one of the problems is, I think, the experts are not listened to by the president. He gets in his head, let the states do it. He says "I made this decision I'm not going to change my mind." And guess what, it is hurting people, people are getting ill because there aren't tests. The testing is so simple. A month and a half ago when New Rochelle was quarantined, I called up the mayor. I said, “What do you need?” He said “If I had tests I could solve this  problem.” Adequate tests for everybody. He said, “If I give a test to everyone in New Rochelle, if they have the virus they have to stay in, if not they could go to work, go on the streets.” Korea did it, Germany's doing it. Other countries are way ahead of us. And this administration clings to the idea that the states should do it with no plan as to how the states can do it, no rationale as to how the states can do it. It's awful. That's all I can say. It's awful. And Mr. President, Donald Trump, you're hurting the recovery you want so badly by not having the tests. The best way to recover quickly is testing, testing, testing. And I want him to do the right thing. I want him to do the right thing for the American people. And it is frustrating.

Joe Scarborough:  So, Senator Schumer, let me ask you a question, sort of a larger question that's going to become very relevant when the Supreme Court takes up a case on the power of congressional oversight. One of my frustrations, I talked to David Remnick with The New Yorker about this earlier today was the fact that we seem to be captive to just one person, and the failings of one person when, in fact, we have a Madisonian democracy with three separate but equal branches. We've got checks and balances. And yet, this president has refused to comply with congressional subpoenas from the start of this administration. Now, I know Democrats are concerned about that. But Republicans and small government conservatives, people like myself, that have talked about Madisonian democracy our entire lives and checks and balances and pushing back against the imperial presidency should be concerned as well. How concerned are you that the Supreme Court is now asking for additional information regarding, “Whether this is a political question or not?” And how important is that the Supreme Court does the right thing and actually curbs the power of the imperial presidency? So that Democratic presidents, Republican presidents and independent presidents can't just ignore congressional oversight requests?

Sen. Schumer: You're so right, Joe. What has been conservatism in America for 200 and some odd years? Fear of an overreaching executive stemming from the days when the Founding Fathers feared King George. And here so many of the conservatives have abandoned that principle and just gone along with Donald Trump which history will show was one of the worst things that they could have done, for their own movements, for their own beliefs, but also for the United States of America. I do think this, if the president resists having Fauci or Birx or the SBA administrator come before us, I dare a court to say that we shouldn't be allowed to do that. If there's ever a crystal clear moment where oversight is needed, warranted and life and death, it's now. I don't think they would do it. But who knows. Some of these judges are so ideological that they don't look at the history, they don't look at the Constitution. They don't look at the facts. And it is, in the long term, this is a serious problem that we're going to have to deal with. And I respect the handful, maybe more than a handful, but the bunch of conservatives who have broken with the president on these very grounds.

Joe Scarborough:  Yeah. Same here. And obviously, Republicans need to understand that what applies to this president and what this president doesn't have to do is going to apply to Democratic presidents in the future. And I suspect if you look at demographics, there are going to be a lot of Democratic presidents in the future. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, thank you so much. Great talking to you as always. Please stay safe. And please give our best if you will to New York State's health care workers, the doctors and the nurses giving their off.

Sen. Schumer: Thank you. Joe, one quick thing, still every night at 7:00, I lean out of my apartment window and so does the whole city, and we applaud these people. And you can hear the applause bouncing off the walls of the buildings. It's a great moment that gives us some strength. So thank you for remembering them.

Joe Scarborough:  All right. Thank you so much, Senator. I just want to say to health care workers that may be watching, doctors and nurses, obviously, we saw the sad and tragic news of what happened to one emergency room doctor. Know that you are loved, know that you are respected, know that you are doing great things, and better days are ahead. Stay in there. We're all counting on you. Thank you, Senator.