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Trump bristles amid questions about testing, states’ supply requests

President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force held a briefing Monday evening on the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yamiche Alcindor was there, and she joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Trump’s latest update on virus testing as well as an exchange she had with the president on Sunday regarding states’ requests for more medical supplies.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we take our latest look at President Trump's response to the pandemic with our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, who minutes ago left today's briefing.

    Yamiche, hello.

    We know that the president just yesterday announced that he's extending this period of social distancing. He had said it would — he would try to end it in the next few weeks. Now he's saying it goes through April, the end of April.

    What do we know about the thinking that went into that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president really got this information and got data from health officials, who advised him that it wasn't wise to ease up any guidelines on September — I'm sorry — on April 21, which would be Easter Sunday, which is when the president originally wanted to ease up White House guidelines.

    So, that's going through the end of April. And what we hear really is a president who's evolving on how seriously he has been thinking of the coronavirus.

    Just a month ago, he was saying that a miracle would wipe away some 15 cases and that the cases would go down to zero. Now he's saying this is a very serious virus. He's also reiterating that up to 100,000 Americans could die from the virus. And he said, that's a good scenario.

    So, what we're hearing is a president who has really done a 180 on this here. And I should say he was asked about that just in the Rose Garden a few moments ago. He said he didn't want to panic people, and that's why he was saying that the virus was something that would go away and would be something that would be dealt with very soon.

    The other thing to note is that the president is also talking about testing today. He said that the testing has ramped up. He was in the Rose Garden with a test kit that is supposed to now have a result for coronavirus for up to five minutes.

    So, the president's really also stressing that the United States is doing as much as it can at this moment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, we know this morning, in an interview he gave, the president was questioning the states' requests for some emergency materials.

    What do we know about the federal government providing to the states what they're asking for?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right.

    The relationship between President Trump and the governors has gotten better over time, but the president is still in this real contentious relationship when it comes to what states need.

    So, first, I want to play some sound for people. This was President Trump on Thursday last week talking to Sean Hannity and questioning openly whether or not governors needed the equipment that they were requesting.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they're going to be. I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That was President Trump just last week.

    And then, on Sunday, I pressed him about that and said, well, what is — how is that going to impact your thinking? Here's what he said.

    You have said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment that governors are requesting, they don't actually need. You said, New York might need — might not need 30,000.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • President Donald Trump:

    I never said that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    You said it on Sean Hannity's FOX News. You said that you might…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • President Donald Trump:

    You know, why don't you people act…

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    You said some state…

  • President Donald Trump:

    Let me ask you, why don't you act — why don't you act in a little more positive? It's always trying to get you…

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    My question to you is…

  • President Donald Trump:

    … get you, get you.

    And you know what? That's why nobody trusts the media anymore.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    My question to you is, how is that going to impact…

  • President Donald Trump:

    That's why — excuse me. You didn't hear me. That's why you used to work for The Times, and now you work for somebody else.

    Look, let me tell you something. Be nice. Don't be threatening.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Mr. President, my question is…

  • President Donald Trump:

    Don't be threatening. Be nice.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So that was President Trump. He was angry and lashing out a bit there.

    But the question of whether or not his thinking about whether or not governors actually need the equipment that they are asking for is still something that's unclear. We're not sure if the president's going to send New York the 30,000 to 40,000 ventilators that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he needs, or whether or not he's going to have a lower number because he thinks that's what governors need.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, I want to reiterate again, as we did yesterday, the "NewsHour" absolutely stands behind your questioning and your work as a solid journalist. We're very proud of you.

    Finally, Yamiche, you just came from today's briefing on coronavirus. What new is the White House saying today?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, first of all, thank you so much, Judy, for saying that.

    And, second of all, the president now in the Rose Garden was again talking about ramping up testing. We again got into a little bit of an exchange, where I put the question to the president, why is the United States not on par with other countries, like South Korea, when it comes to per capita testing, meaning that you're testing as many residents as your as your country has?

    And the president said that that was really not an important thing to be focused on, when, in fact, there are at least some governors and some people with symptoms of the coronavirus who say that testing just is not as available as it could be.

    But, as I noted, the FDA did approve a new test that's going to be getting people results within five minutes. So, the president is saying, in the future, we will have more tests and more people will be able to have that.

    So that's what the president was saying today at the Rose Garden mostly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But bottom line is, they are saying more tests available. As we discussed earlier in the program, there's still a lot of complications around that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right.

    And there was also, I should say, a little bit of back and forth. The president did have a number of CEOs come up and talk about the fact that they are working on all sorts of equipment and all sorts of inventory and resources to fight the coronavirus.

    So, there was a parade of CEOs from Procter & Gamble and other places. But the president was really underscoring that he was trying his best to do what he can do to get testing widely available.

    Of course, again, there is criticism of the president still saying that testing still is not as widely available as it is in other countries, including South Korea.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor at the White House for us today, thank you, Yamiche.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks so much.

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