White House looks to wind down coronavirus task force, focus on fallout from economic shutdown

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This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 5, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Greg's video is why I don't like cats. Thanks, Jesse.

Good evening. I'm Bret Baier. President Trump has just wrapped up a speech at a Honeywell mass production facility in Phoenix, Arizona. Breaking tonight, it appears that a fixture during this hour for much of the coronavirus pandemic is on the way out.

We learned today, the president's special task force for dealing with the outbreak will be phased out in the next few weeks. But the virus and the political ramification of course from it are far from finished. That was evident today as the president made his first major trip since the outbreak intensified.

Chief White House correspondent John Roberts, joins us now from the North Lawn. Good evening, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Bret, good evening to you. One of the missions of the White House Task Force was to ramp up domestic supply chains of equipment that would be needed to fight the coronavirus.

Today, on his first big trip outside of Washington, in weeks, President Trump checking in on one of the companies on the front lines of producing that equipment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: President Trump touching down in Arizona today, touring a Honeywell plant where coveted N95 masks are produced. And meeting with leaders of the Navajo Nation -- hit hard by coronavirus.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 70 people lost their lives. The administration is deploying the full resources of the federal government to support and protect our Native American communities in this very grave time of need.

ROBERTS: Back in Washington, news that preliminary talks have begun to wind down the White House coronavirus task force. Vice President Mike Pence, saying that by Memorial Day or early June, the work of the task force can be turned over to the responsible agencies, most likely led by FEMA. The news drew snark from the Senate minority leader.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): They really haven't had anyone in charge, except the president who everyday has a different -- he spends half his time on whims, medicines that don't work.

ROBERTS: President Trump, today pushing back against a presentation from FEMA over the weekend. A slide show including projections that by June, the number of infections will skyrocket to 200,000 per day and the deaths will jump to 3,000 today.

TRUMP: That's a report with no mitigation. So, based on no mitigation, but we're doing a lot of mitigation.

ROBERTS: Democrats had criticized the White House for those numbers. Insisting it was more proof that President Trump hasn't done enough to expand testing. But even the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health which provided the data said it wasn't ready for primetime. In a statement saying, "These preliminary results are not forecasts, and it is not accurate to present them as forecasts."

Democrats, also taking aim at the president's announcement that he would make Dr. Anthony Fauci available to the Senate, but not the House. President Trump, today saying, why would he?

TRUMP: The Houses are set up. The House is a bunch of Trump haters. They put every Trump hater on the committee. The same old stuff.

ROBERTS: One person who will be testifying before the House is the government's former head of vaccine development. Today, former HHS Deputy Secretary Dr. Rick Bright, filed a whistleblower complaint against the administration.

Bright, claiming he was retaliated against for opposing spending on unproven COVID therapies like chloroquine. In a lengthy complaint and dozens of pages of e-mail exchanges, bright claims he has evidence the government was engaged in cronyism, supporting therapies with a political connection, and not supporting what might work.

DR. RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (via telephone): Scientists need strong leadership too. Leaders who refrain from pressuring them to ignore science. To bend the rules, and to prioritized politics above all else. It is inappropriate to place dedicated scientists in crosshairs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Dr. Bright is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on May the 14th.

On the coronavirus task force wrapping up, President Trump, today said, in Arizona, that is time to begin transitioning to a different phase, but promising that doctors Fauci and Birx, familiar faces now in dealing with this virus, will continue to be heavily involved. Bret.

BAIER: John Roberts, live in the North Lawn. John, thanks.

Stocks were up for a second day in a row. The Dow gained 133, the S&P 500 was up 26, the NASDAQ finished ahead 98.

"BREAKING TONIGHT", President Trump, says the U.S. government has nothing to do with an alleged plot to overthrow disputed Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela claims it stopped a U.S. and Colombian organized attack and says it captured two former American Special Forces fighters.

State Department correspondent Rich Edson has details tonight. Good evening, Rich.

RICH EDSON, FOX NEWS CHANNEL WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good evening, Bret. And state officials say they're still trying to figure this out, looking into two former Army Special Forces soldiers who are apparently appear to be in custody in Venezuela, and the security contractor based in Florida that apparently sent them there as the Maduro regime claims it has thwarted an incursion.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EDSON: Disputed Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, accused them of playing Rambo. Capturing two former Green Berets, arresting 11 more, and killing eight others. On the Americans, U.S. passports, V.A. medical cards, and expired military I.D.s.

An American security contractor apparently sent them, Silvercorp USA, tweeting to the commander-in-chief, "Strikeforce incursion into Venezuela. 60 Venezuelan, two American ex-Green Beret. The group explained their operation to free Venezuela from Maduro. Now, they're in his custody.

NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): We were able to uncover this terrorist incursion.

EDSON: Maduro security forces claim they arrested Luke Denman and Airan Berry.

Fox News spoke with Luke Denman's parents. They say they have no idea how their son ended up in Venezuela and learned about an incursion yesterday from someone who served with Luke in Iraq.

They say he's a sweet, caring, non-political person, and they last heard from him, a couple weeks ago when he texted to see how they were weathering the coronavirus.

Officials say they suspect the two carried their American documents in order to request U.S. citizen services if security forces arrested them. It's still unclear if outside groups or others opposed to Maduro prompted or bankrolled the operation.

MADURO: Mike Pompeo was betting on this attack and believed that this attack would end the revolution, and the constitution, overthrow the government and kill me. God save us and protect us.

EDSON: President Trump denied any involvement in the operation.

TRUMP: But it has nothing to do with our government.

EDSON: The U.S. has recognized interim President Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader. Officials in Guaido's government, claim they have no relationship with Silvercorp.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

EDSON: State Department officials say they are also investigating the role of the Maduro regime here and the Cuban intelligence apparatus that supports it. This is about a year to the day after Guaido launched his own failed attempt to try to remove Maduro from power.

And just weeks ago, the U.S. government charged Maduro with drug trafficking, putting $50 million reward on. Bret.

BAIER: Rich Edson at the State Department. Rich, thanks.

A first and a second for the Senate tonight, it's the first committee hearing since fleeing Washington over the coronavirus, and it's the second time around in the consideration for the president's picked to be his intelligence chief.

Congressional correspondent Chad Pergram is on Capitol Hill tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I call this hearing to order. This hearing will be a little bit different.

CHAD PERGRAM, FOX NEWS CHANNEL SENIOR CAPITOL HILL PRODUCER: A hearing called to order for the first time in two months. DNI nominee John Ratcliffe sat 40 feet from senators in a cavernous hearing room. A bottle of Purell at his side.

Senators usually squeezed onto the dais for a hearing, but Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr limited how many senators could sit in the hearing room at once. Senators had to stay in their offices until it was their turn to ask Ratcliffe questions.

This is a do-over for Ratcliffe to be the nation's top spy. President Trump, tapped the congressman to succeed resigning DNI Dan Coats last summer. But Ratcliffe pulled out after bipartisan questions arose about his qualifications.

REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): And you start out day one down 47-0 because every Democrat is against you. My concern was there's not a lot of margin for error there and --

PERGRAM: President Trump tweeted that he told Ratcliffe, "How miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people." The president never nominated somebody else and the fall Ratcliff emerged as one of Mr. Trump's most ardent defenders during impeachment hearings. President Trump gave Ratcliffe a mulligan. Democrats wondered what changed.

SCHUMER: He is a deeply partisan cheerleader for the president. A yes man in every sense of the phrase, someone who doesn't speak truth to power to the president of the United States.

PERGRAM: Ratcliffe assured senators, he wouldn't tilt intelligence to align with the president. He pledged independence. Even as Mr. Trump has suggested the intelligence community tried to undermine him.

RATCLIFFE: Whether you're talking about the president, whether you're talking about Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, anyone's views on what they want the intelligence to be will never impact the intelligence that I deliver. Never.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PERGRAM: Ratcliffe testified that he didn't think that the intelligence community had run amok. He also sidestepped a question about intelligence agencies and the deep state. His confirmation vote should come before the full Senate later this month. Bret.

BAIER: Chad, thank you.

Some major sellers are limiting meat purchases in their stores and some restaurants running out. That is leading to calls for investigations into market manipulation. Senior correspondent Mike Tobin has the latest tonight from Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE TOBIN, FOX NEWS CHANNEL SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wendy's, the chain that gave us the phrase, where's the beef? Now, has customers asking that very question due to a beef shortage. Kroger and Costco are among the stores limiting meat purchases because of a fear they will run out.

There is no shortage of cattle, with the slowdown of processing, there's an oversupply driving the price down, ranchers say they're losing up to $400 per head.

CHAD BERGER, BERGER CATTLE COMPANY: This cow industry went to heck in a handbag, it's a -- the markets chopped of a bunch and -- you know, the producer can't make it on with these going to get for these calves now.

TOBIN: But the price for processed beef roughly doubled since January. Ranchers claim the meatpackers see gross profit around $2,000 for each cow or steer.

COLIN WOODALL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, NATIONAL CATTLEMEN'S BEEF ASSOCIATION: There is no doubt that the packers are currently making a lot of money.

TOBIN: Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota complains that four meatpacking companies control 80 percent of the market.

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): You're seeing, in my view, I think some games being played with both the pandemic and the vulnerability of our supply chain.

TOBIN: The cattleman wrote the president, requesting an investigation by the USDA and Department of Justice, in the hope of identifying whether inappropriate influence occurred in the markets. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue agreed.

SONNY PERDUE, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: We'll continue to do that to make sure there's been no collusion or criminal activity there.

TOBIN: The CEO for the North American Meat Institute, which represents 95 percent of meat production in the U.S. said it will cooperate. "The North American Meat Institute will continue to work with the administration to ensure that markets operate in a fair and transparent manner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TOBIN: Senator Cramer, says there's something that doesn't make sense when the price of the critter goes down, but the price of the end product goes up, and the guys in the middle control the price. Bret, back to you.

BAIER: Mike Tobin in Chicago. Mike, thanks.

Let's talk about feeding people during a pandemic. Jose Andres is the chef and restaurant owner. He's also the founder of World Central Kitchen. Chef, thanks for being here. We really appreciate it.

JOSE ANDRES, FOUNDER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Thank you for having me, Bret.

BAIER: First, I want to brag on your group a little bit. World Central Kitchen, as of May 3rd, more than 4.5 million fresh meals served, 200 cities, 30 U.S. states and territories, 10 cities in Spain. It is a job to feed people during this time. Talk about it if you would.

ANDRES: Well, we saw very early on that this pandemic was going to be having a big effect in America. We were following what was going on in China, then in Europe, Italy. We began feeding people -- many Americans in Yokohama when the Princess cruise ship. We had to go to start feeding the people inside the ship.

For many weeks, we follow with Oakland and we help the Governor Newsom to do the same, and we activate it. Because we knew that those restaurants were going to be closed, people were going to be losing their jobs, we were going to be having to cover the blind spots of the system, and that's what we've been doing. Right now we are doing over 200,000 meals a day all across America.

BAIER: You know, you tweeted out the other day something that I really, really caught my eye, and that is this. "People of America I want to talk about two photos that tell the story of food in our country in this moment. Two different painful realities that we're experiencing, and the opportunity we must seize to make sure food is not the problem but the solution."

Worse, the one is from Idaho. "Huge mountains of potatoes without any buyers because so many of forms, in which we eat them -- stadiums, cafeterias, restaurants are shut down for safety and low demand." And then, the lines in San Antonio.

And you look at these two pictures, Chef. Some people say how is that possible in America?

ANDRES: Well, we need to understand that America is a food nation. Our founding fathers were farmers. America is a good nation and we are the melting pot. We need to make sure that food really is the solution to many of the problems we feed.

I think if something brings America together, it's a love for our traditions, our foods. We can see it in days like Thanksgiving. So, let's make sure that those photos will not happen in the weeks and months to come.

Right now, as many Americans are losing their jobs, as many situations of food production and food distribution, we need to solve those problems and transform them into opportunities.

We need to partner with the federal government, the private sector, the NGOs, organizations, faith-based, and all of the sudden, make sure that we cover every American through this pandemic in need of a plate of food. Together, we can make this happen.

BAIER: You want some legislation to move forward, as far as FEMA help, as far as feeding people.

ANDRES: I don't really -- I'm interested in legislation per se, but I understand if we want the federal government to put their weight to solve these problems, we should be bringing both sides: Republicans and Democrats together.

And when this happened is when America, with the people, show its best. So, is this proposal of this bill -- which on this bill is called the Feed Act, where already we have bipartisan support in the Congress, with Jim McGovern, Thompson, Congressman Davis from Illinois, and then on the Senate, we have Senator Harris and Senator Scott of South Carolina.

It's amazing that food, in a moment that somehow the party seems they are away, they are coming together to come with the smart solutions, bring in the private sector, partnering with the federal government, the states, and the mayors to come up with a simple idea to feed America. Let's put restaurants to work and let's -- at the local level, cover every single problem that we're going to be facing in the weeks and month ahead.

BAIER: Those two -- the tweet showed potatoes basically being thrown away and cars in the line in San Antonio for a food line. We got a lot of questions for a town hall across the country from food providers, from farms, and from cattle ranchers, saying they're really concerned that they're not going to be able to sell their food.

ANDRES: We need to understand that the vast majority of restaurants in America, and they are close. And even if some estates, they want to start with opening, we need to understand that hopefully, will be reopened soon. But first, we need to make sure that everybody is safe and everybody is healthy.

So, in this process that's why World Central Kitchen has been coming up with very smart out-of-the-box ideas to maximize its potential. If we're able to make sure that FEMA like has happened in California, partners with the governor, so they can feed elderly. To make sure that we use restaurants to do that.

You know, in the process of moving away from this pandemic, we put America to work, we make sure that restaurants are part of the solution. We bring Americans back to work and doing good. That is what everybody wants, to be back to work and be an agent of change.

One meal at a time, we can be solving some of the bigger problems we face right now in America. And right now, is keeping everybody need the food fed.

BAIER: Jose Andres, thanks for all you're doing for the country. World Central Kitchen is the organization. We appreciate your time.

ANDRES: Thank you, sir.

BAIER: Up next, the devastation in the hotel industry because of the coronavirus pandemic. First, here is what some of our Fox affiliates around the country are covering tonight.

Fox 13 in Memphis as the Tennessee judge rules the state's much-debated school voucher program is illegal. The judge says it cannot be implemented despite education officials receiving thousands of applications from parents, hoping to use public tax dollars on private schooling tuition.

Fox 29 in Philadelphia, as major sports leagues wait to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their arguments on whether they have to pay millions to New Jersey over sports betting litigation.

The Leagues and the NCAA wrote to a judge last Friday, saying settlement negotiations have stalled. Next week, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the dispute.

Fox Five in New York as Colson Whitehead becomes the rare author to receive Pulitzers for consecutive books. His novel about brutal Florida reform school during the Jim Crow-era, called The Nickel Boys was awarded the fiction prize today. Three years ago, he won for the Civil War-era novel, The Underground Railroad.

And this is a live look at Salt Lake City from Fox 13 our affiliate out there. One of the big stories there tonight, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper makes one of the most unique traffic stops of his career.

Trooper Rick Morgan noticed a slowly moving SUV swerving in between lanes yesterday. When he approached the driver, he saw a 5-year-old boy behind the wheel. Morgan, says the child was upset and trying to drive to California to see his sister and to buy a Lamborghini with the $3 he had in his wallet. Not going to get it.

That's tonight's live look "OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY" from a SPECIAL REPORT. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Carnival Cruise Line plans to start voyages again in August. Ships will leave from Florida and Texas. The Caribbean trips will be the company's first since the pandemic forced a near-total pause in the cruise industry.

One of the hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic has been the hotel industry. National correspondent William La Jeunesse, reports tonight from Santa Monica, California that the losses are staggering.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM LA JEUNESSE, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Boom to bust. After one of its best years on record, America's hotel industry is now losing more than $2 billion a week because of the coronavirus.

CHIP ROGERS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN HOTEL AND LODGING ASSOCIATION: We see the occupancy across the U.S. right now less than 20 percent.

LA JEUNESSE: From East Coast to West, hotels are mostly empty and seventy percent of workers have been furloughed or laid off.

ROGERS: We want them to have a job to come back to, but if the underlying business goes out of business, they won't have that job.

LA JEUNESSE: Yet, all of that federal money made available so far less than nine percent went to hotels and restaurants. And while the signs may say, Marriott or Hyatt, a majority are franchises owned by individuals or groups, with 60 percent considered small businesses by the SBA.

DAVID HUTTON, GENERAL MANAGER, COURTYARD, MARRIOTT: Everyone is hoping for the best, but you know, that's to be determined.

LA JEUNESSE: Hotel owners say the high revenue, months of spring, and summer are dead. Others are trying to get by with contracts housing the homeless, COVID patients, and hospital workers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is your temperature pass?

RUDY TAUSCHER, GENERAL MANAGER, FOUR SEASONS HOTEL NEW YORK: We take their temperature, and we ask to several questions, you know, are you having a sore throat? Experience a temperature?

LA JEUNESSE: When hotels do reopen, don't expect pampering, no bellman to take your luggage or valet parking. Say goodbye to the breakfast buffet and happy hour, and hello to temperature checks, mobile check-in, and extra cleaning throughout the hotel, but don't expect daily room cleaning service.

HUTTON: I think social distancing is definitely going to continue for the foreseeable future.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LA JEUNESSE: Experts say vacation spots like here in California will rebound faster than those that depend on convention, say, Chicago. But all told the hit. On tax revenues generated by the travel industry, some $80 billion is money the cities can never recover. Bret.

BAIER: William, thank you.

Up next, a shocking revelation from New York about coronavirus deaths. First, "BEYOND OUR BORDERS" tonight. Israeli airstrikes in the eastern Syria have killed 14 Iranian and Iraqi fighters and wounded several others. That is according to a British war monitoring group.

It says the strikes targeted positions of Iranian and Iran-backed fighters. There was no immediate comment from Israel.

A Philippine government agency is ordering the country's leading broadcast network to halt operations. The company's 25-year congressional franchise ended Monday. The president's -- president of the Philippines has targeted the network for its critical news coverage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un a commemorative war medal marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

The Russian embassy, says the medal was awarded to Kim for his role in preserving the memory of Soviet soldiers who died on North Korean territory.

And the new baseball season began in South Korea today, after a week's long delay because of the coronavirus pandemic. Umpires wore protective masks, cheerleaders dance beneath rows of seats which were occupied by cardboard cutouts of fans. Real fans are not allowed into the stadiums. Guess what? People are betting on South Korean baseball already.

Just some of the other stories, "BEYOND OUR BORDERS" tonight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: A shocking new report out of New York tonight. The state governments says 1,700 more people died in nursing homes from coronavirus than it had previously counted. Correspondent David Lee Miller is in New York with an update on the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID LEE MILLER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The latest statewide daily death toll has 230 New Yorkers losing their life to the virus. Fighting the virus has devastated the city and state budget. Mayor Bill de Blasio lashed out at President Trump, who in an interview with "The New York Post" said there would be no financial aid package for blue states such as New York.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This morning I woke up to this. The president of the United States, a former New Yorker, who seems to enjoy stabbing his hometown in the back, talking about no bailout for New York.

MILLER: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged President Trump not to let partisan politics stand in the way of helping New York recover. He also pushed back on critics, calling for him to accelerate reopening businesses.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: How much is a human life worth? That's the real question. I say that the cost of human life, a human life is priceless, period.

MILLER: New data reveals more deaths in nursing homes than previously disclosed based on a change in reporting criteria -- 1,727 New York nursing home residents who were not tested are now presumed to have died from the disease. New York's health commissioner says 15 kids, most of whom either had or recovered from the virus, had to be hospitalized for a potential life-threatening illness resembling toxic shock, or Kawasaki disease.

OXIRIS BARBOT, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: The strain of the virus that we are actually seeing here in New York is behaving slightly different than the strain that was observed in China.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MILLER: In just a few hours, for the first time ever, New York subways will not be running around the clock. Between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., the system will be shut down in order to clean cars and stations to reduce spread of the virus. Bret?

BAIER: David Lee, thank you.

President Trump is pushing for a major investment in U.S. infrastructure as part of future spending and aid programs. He's also pressing states and cities right now to take advantage of the lull in traffic because of the coronavirus. Chief congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel shows us tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our country, our roads are, excuse me, they are going to hell.

MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Roads empty, major highways eerily silent. For some state officials, a rare opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are doing I-4 in Orlando. We're doing bridges in Tampa.

EMANUEL: The president encouraging others to follow suit, tweeting this morning "Governors should let roads and highway construction begin before heavy traffic starts, which will be soon." New Jersey and Colorado are also accelerating projects during the coronavirus pandemic. Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis are among a growing list of cities ramping up construction plans. And as lawmakers and Congress look to move forward on an infrastructure bill, it's more than just roads they are considering.

SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D-MD): Building roads and bridges, building transit systems, building water infrastructure, dealing with broadband connectivity issues and energy grids, all of that brings people to work.

EMANUEL: With White House advisors warning unemployment could hit levels not seen since the Great Depression and predicted terrible economic numbers over the next couple of months, there are many in both parties who suggest now is the time to put people back to work rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure. But there isn't much trust between the parties on Capitol Hill.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX): The big question is, are the Democrats actually willing to work together on real infrastructure, on roads and bridges and genuine infrastructure? Or do they just want to hand out billions or trillions to their special interests right before an election?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

EMANUEL: A passed and signed infrastructure package would allow a president on the ballot and many lawmakers seeking reelection to claim a signature legislative achievement and to show the American people visible improvements in their communities. Bret?

BAIER: Mike, thank you.

President Trump takes a road trip today and says he will let Dr. Anthony Fauci make a trip to Capitol Hill to testify. We'll talk about it all with the panel when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike Pence and the Task Force have done a great job, but we are looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening. And we will have a different group probably set up for that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying mission accomplished?

TRUMP: No, no, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it's over.

CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: They really haven't had anyone in charge except the president who every day has a different -- he spends half his time on whims, medicine that don't work. He spends half his time on blaming other people or other issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: The Senate minority leader and the president today as the president travels out to Arizona. What's the latest? Let's bring in our panel, Bill McGurn, columnist for "The Wall Street Journal," Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Jonathan Karl, ABC News chief White House correspondent, author of the new book "Front Row at the Trump Show." It's a great read. Panel, thinks for being here.

Jonathan, I want to start with you. I covered the White House for several years. It's all about knowing what has changed day-to-day. As you look at this week, we obviously had our town hall at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday night, and the president is out in Arizona today. What has changed with this president as he's looking at things?

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Look, the president has had his eye on reopening the country. The thing that has, I think that's always been his instinct. Remember when he talked about we can't let the cure be worse than the problem. But he was looking, listening to those health advisors, see the numbers coming, seeing the images.

I think one of the key moments in this crisis, Bret, was when a good friend of the president's, and he talked to you about this at the Lincoln Memorial, good friend of the president's went into the hospital with coronavirus and ended up dying. He had a visual representation of what this crisis means. He also talked about seeing the body bags outside the hospital in Queens, a hospital that he knew. So he knew the human toll of the crisis.

I think that now what he is looking that is the economic cost of shutting down the country, and today you see with this decision to begin to phase out the Coronavirus Task Force, an effort to move to the next phase. The question is whether or not this disease will cooperate.

BAIER: By the way, phasing out the Coronavirus Task Force obviously doesn't mean, as Jim Acosta questioned, mission accomplished, as the president answered.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": Yes. There have been so many press conferences featuring these medical professionals who have spoken at great length about the coronavirus and its effects and how the country is expecting to handle it. What has been missing from these press conferences, frequently, has been enough discussion of the economic impact. And it is, we've been getting a sense from the White House that they are moving more toward caring about the economic catastrophe that has resulted from this widespread shutdown, even as people support the need to shut down much of the economy, or many people support it. And so moving those press conferences away and having different experts talk about these other issues is probably going to be well received.

BAIER: One of the controversies was whether Tony Fauci was going to testify on Capitol Hill. Take a listen to Chuck Schumer and the president today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: It's a disgrace that we are not having hearings this week not only with Fauci, and let's hope he stays. They pulled him back from the House.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The house is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters. They put every Trump hater on the committee, the same old stuff. Dr. Fauci will be testifying in front of the Senate, and he looks forward to doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Bill, your thoughts on this back and forth? Fauci seems like he's going to testify on the Senate side.

MCGURN: Yes, he's going to testify in the Senate. So we will hear from him. I think the president has a point about the House testimony. So we will get a chance to hear Dr. Fauci. That's the important thing. We're going to have it.

BAIER: But Bill, what about this balance between the health situation, the people are obviously in the polls still fearful about, and governors who are making these decisions, because some of these states, frankly, are running out of money to pay the unemployment benefits.

MCGURN: Absolutely. That's the big tension. Look, I think a lot of this is now a natural function of a lot of the decisions being made by mayors and governors and not the president. And we are going to have a giant experiment in federalism as they do different things.

Now, they are mostly lifting this week, for example, Florida and so forth. We won't find out for two or three weeks if that's really had an effect. But I think as we move forward and as different governors and different mayors take different steps, the questions are going to be different, and they are going to be about the economy. We simply can't stay underwater for two years and wait for a vaccine. It's just not going to work.

BAIER: Jonathan, the move has been from the president to push it to governors, whatever the issue is, the decision making.

KARL: It's an extraordinary move on the president's part, because on one hand he has said that this would be the most difficult decision of his presidency, the decision on reopening the country, how to reopen the country. He had the one day where he declared it was his decision, not the governors, that he had the power, not the governors. But since then, Bret, the president has made it clear that this is in the hands of the local leaders, the governors and local officials. So the most difficult decision on his presidency is effectively now in the hands of those individual governors, and even those that he has said he strongly disagreed with, you saw what he said about Governor Kemp in Georgia, he has made no effort to flex any muscle from the executive branch of the federal government to override those decisions.

He sees this as an incredibly consequential moment. It is. It's a potentially perilous moment. It may be absolutely necessary in terms of the economy, but may also have real repercussions in terms of lives lost, and he is leaving this decision up to the governors.

BAIER: Mollie, do you think that this election really is a referendum on this moment?

HEMINGWAY: I think that people will be thinking a great deal in November about how their elected representatives have handled this at the local, state, and federal level. We hear people in the media say we must keep this shutdown going and going, and it's very broadly popular with people. I'm not sure if it will be so popular in November, particularly as people started dealing with some of the consequences of extreme measures taking place.

But we see that whenever a governor tries to say, Kristi Noem in South Dakota, saying I trust my people to make good decisions, but I'm not going to use the government to shut everything down, she gets condemned by many people in the media. Same with Ron DeSantis who said we focused on nursing homes as opposed to beaches. But in fact this type of local ideas, people making different decisions than they might in New York makes sense, and that's why governors and other people should be handling these decisions, but they also have to face got sconces of shutting down the economy and having so many people be out of work.

BAIER: Panel, standby. They fight over a new intelligence chief and other items after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER, (D-VA): I don't see what has changed since last summer when the president decided not to proceed with your nomination over concerns about your inexperience, partisanship, and past statements that seemed to embellish your record.

REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE, (R-TX) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE AND JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If confirmed as DNI, you have my commitment to deliver timely, accurate, and objective intelligence, and to speak truth to power, be that with Congress or within the administration. Let me be very clear. Regardless of what anyone wants our intelligence to reflect, the intelligence I will provide if confirmed will not be impacted or altered as a result of outside influence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: John Ratcliffe, Congressman up for DNI. His hearing, the first hearing of the coronavirus Senate. Back with the panel. Mollie, obviously a lot of questions about politics and whether intel and politics will collide. There's a lot that has come out since his first effort and being DNI, and then it was pulled back.

HEMINGWAY: Even as an elected Republican, Ratcliffe has nothing on previous intelligence officials like James Clapper and John Brennan, who are currently on Twitter being incredibly partisan when they talk about anything. People know Representative Ratcliffe as a serious person. He was a very strong investigator of the Russia collusion hoax. So much of what we learned about that hoax perpetrated against the American people which caused so much damage to the country was done by investigators in Congress, and not major media corporations. He understands why that was so serious and damaging to the intelligence community, and he probably wants to hold people accountable. That's why he has faced resistance, but it's also why he would be very effective in this role.

BAIER: John, do you think that there is more to come out here about this investigation into what happened when it comes to intel at the beginning of the Russia investigation?

KARL: I think it's certainly the attorney general will continue on that, but I've got to say regarding Ratcliffe, it looks like one thing that has changed is that he has total support of Republicans in the Senate now. He said the right things at the hearings to convince people like Susan Collins not only about speaking truth to power but also saying that he would protect whistleblowers in the intelligence community.

I think there is one other factor here, too, which is Ric Grenell is now the acting director of national intelligence, somebody that anybody that would have concerns about Ratcliffe taking over the DNI is going to have far greater concerns about Grenell staying there. But he looks to be well on his path to getting confirmed, Bret.

BAIER: Bill, big picture, the intelligence on this president?

MCGURN: The big picture here is the opposition to Ratcliffe is not that he would keep secrets and so forth. That he would declassify information. Mr. Grenell is there and he's made it clear he's willing to declassify, and a lot of these people don't want truth to come out. That's the real threat that he poses, that he's willing to dig in and find out what they did.

I don't think -- I am with Mollie on this. Anyone who found Clapper OK leaking to CNN, misleading Congress, I don't think has a leg to stand on complaining about John Ratcliffe.

BAIER: Mollie, we have heard that the John Durham investigation was going to come out sometime in May. We are obviously in May. We have seen this move several times, but it could. Any thoughts about where we are on that investigation of the investigation?

HEMINGWAY: I'm not sure if it will come out in May. It could come out in a rolling fashion. And because none of the people being investigated are running for office, it doesn't matter if it comes out in May or it comes out in October. It needs to just come out when they find information. We had so much come out last week that helped explain some of the contours of this Russia hoax and why Mike Flynn was such an obstacle to bureaucrats who were unethically spying on the Trump campaign. More of that to come, I hear.

BAIER: And this election, John, really is about coronavirus?

KARL: This is the biggest crisis the president has faced, really his first major outside crisis. It's the biggest crisis of our lifetimes. How can this election be really more about anything than this?

BAIER: All right, Jonathan Karl is the author of the new book "Front Row at the Trump Show," a great read. Check it out. Panel, thank you very much.

Next up, the fight over a new intelligence chief -- and the brighter side of things. We just talked about that, but the brighter side of things, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Finally tonight, the brighter side of things, a few silver linings.

A dad in Georgia caught a very special moment on camera, his son's first homerun. They had been working, according to the son, Asher (ph), practicing baseball for the past month. He finally clocked one out of the park, and his dad is fired up, I think maybe more than Corey (ph).

A fleet of World War II era planes went up in the air today to write words of gratitude for New York health care heroes, first responders, and essential workers. The planes wrote messages that were as tall as the Empire State Building spanning five to 10 miles and were visible from a 15- mile radius. Thanks for all you do, saluting our frontline heroes. Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for the SPECIAL REPORT. Fair, balanced and still unafraid. "THE STORY" hosted by Martha MacCallum starts right now. Hey, Martha.

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