TRANSCRIPT: On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Senator Schumer Says Trump Admin Must Immediately And Significantly Expand Coronavirus Testing And Contact Tracing As A Part of A National, Comprehensive Testing Strategy

May 5, 2020

TRANSCRIPT: On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Senator Schumer Says Trump Admin Must Immediately And Significantly Expand Coronavirus Testing And Contact Tracing As A Part of A National, Comprehensive Testing Strategy  


Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and discussed the urgent need for a national testing strategy and again emphasized the need for the Defense Production Act to be implemented to streamline testing. Below is a transcript of the interview:


Mika Brzezinski: The White House is seeking to limit agency officials including coronavirus task force members from testifying before Congress this month. The White House sent new guidance to congressional staff directors yesterday citing these unprecedented times. A copy provided to NBC News states in the month of May no task force members or key deputies of task force members may accept hearing invitations. The guidance notes that some exceptions may be made by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. One exception will be a Senate HELP Committee hearing next week where Dr. Anthony Fauci is slated to testify, Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander told reporters yesterday that Dr. Fauci will appear along with several other members of the coronavirus task force. Joining us now, the top-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of  New York. Senator Schumer, thank you so much. We'll get to the scientists and the doctors potentially testifying in just a moment, but first, Senate Democrats are putting together a letter that they are sending to the president asking for what?


Sen. Schumer: Well, over 40 Senate Democrats have signed a letter saying we need to do much, much better on testing. Mika, and you've said this on the show repeatedly and thank God you have. Until we get adequate testing we're not going get a handle on this virus. Two months ago, two months ago today the president said everyone who needs a test can get a test. The fact of the matter is we are way short. We should have 2 million tests a day if we were at the level of South Korea and every country that has beat this virus that has had a decline has done strong testing and contact tracing. We've been recommending for a month, the letter re-emphasizes it, put a military czar in charge. Get them to manufacture enough tests, get the supply lines to supply everything for enough tests and then we put money in the COVID-3.5 bill, the most recent bill, to give the states money to administer the tests and to do contact tracing. There is a pattern of success now in South Korea, in Germany, in Australia, in New Zealand. For some reason we are not following it. The president will invoke the Defense Production Act for meat plants, but not for testing, and, you know, I would say to President Trump directly, until you get a handle on testing this crisis will continue to go on and on and furthermore, if we don't have enough tests for the future, when it comes back and most scientists say it will in the late summer or fall it is going to be much worse. Testing is the key and they are so derelict in testing it has created many more cases and many more deaths than we could have had if we would have done it right. We must do it right now.


Mika Brzezinski: You used the word derelict. I wonder, could it possibly be considered negligent to continue to refuse to use the Defense Production Act to try to streamline testing?


Sen. Schumer: Mika, we used to think well maybe they had an ideological objection. They don't want government telling industry what to do, but they just did it for the meat plants. So now there is no ideological objection. I haven't heard of one good reason, and I've talked to the president directly about this, why they haven't invoked the DPA. The testing regime is still willy-nilly, scattershot, our governors, our hospitals, our mayors are searching for enough tests. It is the key. Scientists tell us it's the key and you know,  this administration somehow doesn't listen to scientists. President Trump says something that's totally false and somehow he seems to believe it and you made a second point here, and then they muzzle the truth. We came back this week and it's a disgrace that we're not having hearings this week, not only with Fauci and let's hope he stays, you know they pulled him back from the House. I'm not certain he'll be allowed to come to the Senate next week. What about Birx? What about Mnuchin? What about Powell? What about these other experts? We need have intense hearings where they're asked question after question. You know, at the White House a reporter asked a good question and the president just belittles him and shuts up the people up behind him. We cannot have that. There's too much at stake.


Mika Brzezinski: Willie?


Willie Geist: Senator Schumer, Willie Geist.


Sen. Schumer: Hi, Willie.


Willie Geist: The point you're making about testing is not a partisan point, in fact, the president’s own taskforce makes that point almost every time it speaks publicly, Dr. Fauci in every interview points to the importance of testing. So what do you suspect is behind this? Why is it willy nilly, why is it state by state, why isn’t there a national program?


Sen. Schumer: I wouldn't use the word willy nilly to you, Willie, I'm sorry. But the bottom line is no one can quite figure it out except that it’s the president's ego. The president seems to think this is all about him. He thinks he says something and it's true. That's been his pattern his whole life even before he was  president, but it just isn't. To say everyone will get a test does not mean that everyone will get a test. To say this will go away in a month, doesn't mean it will go away in a month and it sure as heck didn't. No one can figure it out -- look, I want to save lives and I want to get over this crisis, I want to get us all back to work, that's the key, but the president himself will benefit if he did this. He's hurting himself. You heard that the projections, and I think you mentioned it earlier in the show, of the number of people who will get corona, of the number of people who will die is going up. Many states, the number is not going down, my state thankfully it is because of the good work done there in our state, with real avoiding contact but in many states it's going up. It's hurting everybody including the President of the United States. He's hurting himself, but no one can figure out why and here's one other problem and it relates to what Mika said, no one speaks truth to power in that White House. They all seem to yes him to death and he’s wrong and they don’t correct him, that’s why we need hearings. Leader McConnell brought us back to bring in a divisive, right-wing judge who already said that the ACA should be repealed or criticized Justice Roberts for not repealing it. And that's what we're doing this week when COVID is raging? It seems that Leader McConnell along with President Trump does not want to hear the truth. The only way you solve this problem is the truth, Mr. President.


Willie Geist: Senator Schumer as you mentioned, the curve is flattening in the state of New York, particularly in New York City where it's been the worst, obviously the epicenter of this crisis. You don't want to get too optimistic or too comfortable at this point, but as those numbers come down, what do you tell to the people of your state who say ok I see the numbers are coming down, we have got to get back to business, I have got to reopen my shop, I’ve got to reopen my business, I’ve got to start to get back to life, what’s your message to for those people in your state?


Sen. Schumer: My message is health has to come first and if we are not extra careful about health, the economy will not improve. That's another reason testing is so important. If people are afraid, you can give money to the store owners and say open up but if no one’s  going to go out on the streets and they don't have customers, what good is it going to be? So we have to be careful. You have to err on the side of science and of caution. That doesn't mean you shut down everything all of the time. I think New York has issued a very careful plan, but when the president importunes 1,000 protestors, those fringe groups it seems most of them, to go protest and say open the government regardless of scientific information, that’s going to hurt all of us.


Mika Brzezinski: Senator, I’m just curious, I hear you on the record about this, can American citizens trust their government and their president to get clear, salient information and advice on this pandemic?


Sen. Schumer: Well, there are certain people maybe we can trust and that's why we want to have hearings and that's why we want to ask them questions. I mean, Fauci has been muzzled at times, but has times spoken the truth, I’d say the same of Birx. If we had real hearings we could bring in experts who are not part of the government to tell the truth. The president has been wrong so often, has belittled this crisis so often and has been incompetent so often like in producing the testing that I think we need to hear from a multiple variety of sources to get the truth.


Mika Brzezinski: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, thank you very much for being on this morning.