May 5, 2020
Donald Trump David Muir Interview Transcript on Coronavirus
Donald Trump sat down with David Muir of ABC News on May 5 for an interview. He said “there’ll be more death” from coronavirus, but reopening is worth it. Full transcript here.
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David Muir: (00:00)
I want to start with reopening the country. I know this is your first trip back out into the country …
Donald Trump: (00:05)
David Muir: (00:05)
… In Quite some time. And you’ve said that the decision to open the economy is the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make. How do you, and I suppose this is the central question, how do you save livelihoods without risking more lives?
Donald Trump: (00:19)
Well, I think actually the decision to close the country was the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make and I’ve said that very loud and clear. I mean we had the greatest economy in history, in the history of the world, not only our economy, it was our greatest economy, best employment numbers, best numbers in every single way. And they said, sir, we have to close the country. I said, what are you talking about close the country? Because nobody’s ever heard of such a thing. And we saved millions of lives by doing it. And by putting the ban on China very early was a big thing.
Donald Trump: (00:50)
But the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make is closing the country. And certainly this is now also a big decision, but the people want to go back to work.
David Muir: (00:58)
I want to ask you about what Dr. Fauci said last night about the reopening of the country. He said it’s the balance of something that’s a very difficult choice. How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back where you want to be? Do you see it that way? Do you believe that’s the reality we’re facing, that that lives will be lost to reopen the country?
Donald Trump: (01:19)
It’s possible there will be some because you won’t be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is. But at the same time, we’re going to practice social distancing. We’re going to be washing hands. We’re going to be doing a lot of the things that we’ve learned to do over the last period of time and we have to get our country back. People are dying the other way too. When you look at what’s happened with drugs, it goes up. When you look at suicides, I mean take a look at what’s going on. People are losing their jobs. We have to bring it back and that’s what we’re doing.
David Muir: (01:51)
Let me ask you about testing …
Donald Trump: (01:52)
David Muir: (01:53)
… Right now in America. Early on there were hurdles. Dr. Fauci at the time acknowledged it was a failing. But for Americans who do want to go back to work, should they be able to have access to a test now? Should they know whether they’ve been exposed to the virus? Should they know if somebody’s at the workplace asymptomatic and they simply don’t know, or do they have to go back to work having faith in their leaders and you, Mr. President, that the workplace will be safe?
Donald Trump: (02:17)
Yeah. No they don’t. They have to test if they want. Some people are strong believers in testing.
David Muir: (02:24)
So right now for any American worker who’s nervous about going back, if they want to get tested to see if they’ve been exposed to the virus, they can have access to both the antibody test …
Donald Trump: (02:33)
They should have not problem. They should have no problem. And as good as this is, we’re even getting better. We came up, don’t forget the cupboard was bare. The other administration, the last administration left us nothing. We didn’t have ventilators. We didn’t have medical equipment. We didn’t have testing. The tests were broken. You saw that. We had broken tests. They left us nothing and we’ve taken it and we have built an incredible stockpile, a stockpile like we’ve never had before.
David Muir: (02:58)
Many people heard you say that along the way, and have wondered though, you’re three years into your first term, you’re now applying for the job again. What did you do when you became president to restock those cupboards that you say were bare?
Donald Trump: (03:10)
Well, I’ll be honest, I have a lot of things going on. We had a lot of people that refuse to allow the country to be successful. They wasted a lot of time on Russia, Russia, Russia. That turned out to be a total hoax. Then they did Ukraine, Ukraine, and that was a total hoax. Then they impeached the president of the United States for absolutely no reason and we even had 197 to nothing vote by the Republicans.
David Muir: (03:36)
Let me ask you about something Governor Cuomo said today, and this is really the debate I think for a lot of Americans who really do want to go back to work …
Donald Trump: (03:44)
David Muir: (03:45)
… But who are afraid for their own health. And Governor Cuomo said, the question comes down to how much a human life is worth? That you monitor the transmission rate, the hospitalization rate, the death rate. If it goes up, you stop, you turn off the valve, you slow things down. Do you agree with him that that is the way a lot of these governors who are reopening should proceed?
Donald Trump: (04:04)
No, I don’t know yet. I’d have to see this full statement. Look, we’ve gotten along very well. Don’t forget Governor Cuomo last week said, the president and the federal government have done a phenomenal job. He said that, a phenomenal job.
David Muir: (04:16)
Yeah. He’s saying now that you just have to be ready to turn the valve off for a time if you see a spike.
Donald Trump: (04:21)
David, I can only tell you what he said last week. Our country has to go back to being our country again. You have people that are not going to stand for this and I understand them very well and we are going to put out little embers and little fires and maybe some big fires, but we still have to go back to work.
David Muir: (04:40)
You talk about the embers and the possible big fires. There were two new studies out in the last 24 hours. I know that the White House has shot down a couple of them saying they weren’t vetted through your taskforce. One was from Johns Hopkins that said the death rate could double if we’re not careful with this reopening of America by June, the daily death rate. The University of Washington saying we could have 135,000 Americans dead by August. What do you make of those numbers, Mr. President?
Donald Trump: (05:10)
A couple of things. First of all, these models have been so wrong from day one, both on the low side and the upside. They’ve been so wrong. They’ve been so out of whack and they keep making new models, new models and they’re wrong. Those models that you’re mentioning are talking about without mitigation. Well, we’re mitigating and we’ve learned to mitigate, but we can be in place, work in place, and also mitigate. We’ve done it right, but now we have to get back to work. We have to do it.
David Muir: (05:36)
But let me ask you, because you’ve responded to those two new studies out with these forecasts, your own numbers have shifted over time.
Donald Trump: (05:43)
They have. They have.
David Muir: (05:43)
You said 60,000 Americans could die. That’s what you said last week. I watched her town hall over the weekend. You said 75, 80 to 100,000 people could die. Which models are you looking at and what should Americans be prepared for as reopen the country and head into the fall where we could see a potential second wave?
Donald Trump: (06:01)
Well, the upper number was, as you know, 2.2 million people. And then there were some models or charts that showed higher than that. But 2.2 million people, I always felt 60, 65, 70, as horrible as that is. I mean, you’re talking about filling up Yankee Stadium with death. So I thought it was horrible, but it’s probably going to be somewhat higher than that. There’ll be more death, but the virus will pass with or without a vaccine and I think we’re doing very well in vaccines. But with or without a vaccine, it’s going to pass and we’re going to be back to normal, but it’s been a rough process.
Donald Trump: (06:38)
There’s no question about it.
David Muir: (06:40)
Are you still convinced we’ll have a vaccine by year’s end and 300 million doses, which you had spoke of?
Donald Trump: (06:45)
Yeah. You can never be convinced. When you say, am I convinced, I can say this. We’re doing really great, Oxford, Johnson and Johnson, these companies and I get reports every single day. They’re doing really great. Am I convinced? I can’t be convinced of anything, but I think that we have a really good shot of having something very, very substantial.
David Muir: (07:06)
Let me ask you about the tremendous hurt in this country. There are 30 million Americans who are unemployed. You don’t need me to tell you that. We’re expecting the new unemployment rate this week. There have been forecasts 15, 16, 17%. One of your advisors projected at an unemployment rate of 19%. that’s nearly one in five Americans without a job. How bad is this going to get?
Donald Trump: (07:30)
Well, that is what it is and it’s very interesting. Even the Democrats aren’t blaming me for that. We had to closed it up and we saved millions of lives and we did the right thing. Now we’re getting back to work. The third quarter, I think, is going to be, I call it a transition quarter. A lot of people, you see it. I’ll tell you what. I got on the plane today. There was such spirit. People are starting to feel. We land in Arizona. I leave from DC. I get calls from everybody all over the country. I just spoke to the governor of Florida. Florida is really active.
David Muir: (08:03)
I think a lot of people share that hope, Mr. President, but the reality for so many of the families that we’ve reported on is they can’t afford to wait for the next quarter. They’re just trying to get through next week or the next dinner they put on the table.
Donald Trump: (08:16)
Well, we’ve done a lot for that. We’ve done our small business, as you know, or PPP paycheck, if you want to call it that, where small businesses are given billions of dollars so that they can take care of their employees. We’ve done a lot of other, look, we, we’ve done $2 trillion and it’s actually close to three if you really add it up, but $2 trillion has been approved and we’ll probably do more. It’s a stimulus. It’s to keep people employed, to keep small businesses open.
David Muir: (08:46)
Let me ask you, because people will look back and we have an election six months from now. They’re going to look back to the beginning of this and they’re going to wonder what you knew and when you knew it and I have no interest in going back over everything you said. But there was one thing you said that perhaps you could clarify. You said this, this was at the end of February. A full month had gone by. You’d stop travel from China and you said of the cases here in the US. When you have 15 people and when the 15 within a couple of days is going to go down to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.
David Muir: (09:19)
Help me understand that moment. Did you really think we were going to have 15 cases in the US?
Donald Trump: (09:23)
Let me, I said, even you would say, worse than that. I said one person one time and it’s true. There was a time when we had one person in this country. We knew about it, we worked on it, but we had one person. It mushroomed to 15 people, mushroom. Other people were coming in also from Europe. Don’t forget.
David Muir: (09:43)
But we’re at more than a million cases now.
Donald Trump: (09:44)
But don’t forget, in January. Okay, let’s talk about cases. You know why you’re at a million cases? Because we have more testing than anybody else. If we tested as much as these countries down here, okay, who don’t do very much testing at all. Look at Japan, very little testing there at the bottom of the rung. Look at South Korea gets so much publicity. The president of South Korea is a friend of mine, President Moon. He called up. He said, what you’re doing with testing is amazing. If I tested this number of people instead of this number of people, I’d have far fewer.
Donald Trump: (10:15)
See, this line goes all the way up over seven million tests. If I tested down here at one million tests, I would have a lot fewer cases too.
David Muir: (10:25)
I understand the argument you’re making …
Donald Trump: (10:28)
But look at your question.
David Muir: (10:28)
But you understand there’s a huge disparity between 15 and more than a million cases. Was it an intelligence failure? Where was the breakdown that we didn’t know the scope of this?
Donald Trump: (10:39)
Look, let me tell you this. I closed the border if you want to use that term. I banned people from coming into China. There were approximately 40,000 Americans. If you were in my position, you would let them come in. You could ask Ron DeSantis, great governor of Florida. Those people went through quarantine. They went through tests. They went through everything, but they were American citizens. I had to let them come back in. What I came in and what I did is I said against many people, including Anthony Fauci, who I like very much, including Deborah, who I liked very much, the doctors and many other people, they said, don’t ban China.
Donald Trump: (11:22)
It’s going to blow over, and they said this at the end of February. Now at the same time, I want to be optimistic. I don’t want to be Mr. Gloom and Doom. It’s a very bad subject. I’m not looking to tell the American people when nobody really knows what’s happening yet, this is going to be so tragic. I want to be aside from everything else and I’m going to use a term and some people love it and some people hate it, but I love it. I want to be a cheerleader for our country.
David Muir: (11:51)
When we come back, is president comfortable if the election six months from now becomes a referendum on his handling of the pandemic? What he told me and his message tonight when we asked what he would say to the families who’ve lost loved ones now more than 70,000 lives lost in our country.