Oval Office
11:30 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, thank you very much.  It’s an honor to be with Governor Phil Murphy of a wonderful state known as New Jersey.  I spent a lot of time in New Jersey.  It’s a beautiful state.  People don’t realize how dense it is, right?

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  That’s right.

THE PRESIDENT:  They keep saying, I guess, you’re number two?  And I’ve even heard number, right?

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Yeah, I think number one.

THE PRESIDENT:  Nobody would think that about New Jersey.  But it’s a great place and a great state.  And they have a wonderful man that’s running it, who’s — he runs it with heart and with brains, and he — he’s done a terrific job.  We are together.  We are working closely.  I think we — somebody said we got you more ventilators maybe than any other state, which surprised me also.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Yep.

THE PRESIDENT:  But you’ve used them well.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  And your numbers are headed in the right direction.  And I just want to thank the Governor and his very capable people.  The relationship has been a very good one.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  And we’re working very hard with New Jersey.  We’re working hard with everybody.  But we’re working hard with this governor.  He’s one of the governors that’s really done a job.  He’s stepped up to the plate, and he has — and he swung, and he’s just — you’re going to see the results very soon.

So, with that, I’d like to ask — Phil, perhaps you’d like to say a few words.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  First of all, Mr. President, to you and your team, we’re incredibly honored to be here.  I thank you for the enormous help in our darkest hour of need: ventilators; as you could see, PPE; testing sites.  Now, I think, we’re going to be in a very good place thanks to you and your team as it relates to expanding testing dramatically so that we’ll be able to begin to take those steps to reopen.

We’ve been crushed as a state.  As you know, it’s a state you know very well.  We have 6,770 fatalities.  But the curves, thank God, are beginning to show promise.  And we’re beginning to take some baby steps on that road to reopen.  In fact, we’ve announced that, as of this weekend, our state and county parks, golf, under certain protocols, as of Saturday morning will be able to be open again.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  And that’s a step on that road.  And again, we couldn’t be making the progress we’re making without you and your administration.

And so to you and to your incredibly talented team with a very heavy dose of New Jersey blood on your team, including yourself — (laughter) —

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s true.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  — who knows that state extremely well, we thank you for everything.

And again, financially, that’s another topic we’ll — you know, we’ve been crushed, and I appreciate your consideration on the financial side going forward as well.

So thank you for everything.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  And we have been helping on the hospitals.  And your hospitals have been really under stress, to put it mildly, right?

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Amen.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, you have some hospitals where you don’t have such a big COVID problem, and they — they do what they do.  In fact, they really could do a lot more because they weren’t allowed to use the elective.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Correct.

THE PRESIDENT:  And by not having the elective, all of a sudden they had such a different situation from you —

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  No question.

THE PRESIDENT:  — because you had to use it for COVID, and it was a tremendous strain.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  You bet.

THE PRESIDENT:  So we’re going to work with you on that.  We have been, but we’re going to be working with you on that.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I just want to thank you for the great job you’ve done.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Thank you, Mr. President.  And likewise, thank you for your partnership and leadership on this.  It’s meant an enormous amount on our state.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  And, you know, I have to speak as President but I also speak as somebody that is in New Jersey a lot.  It’s a great place.  It’s a beautiful state.  People don’t understand New Jersey quite.  But it’s a beautiful — it’s a beautiful state.  And it’s great to have you as the governor.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  An honor to be with you.  And this is a big deal for us.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  And, by the way, he’s a Democrat, so I’m getting myself in trouble, but that’s okay.  (Laughter.)  I have to tell the truth.  He’s — he’s something.

So, any questions?  Jim?

Q    Mr. President, your economic advisor, Kevin Hassett, said this morning that the unemployment rate could be around 19 percent — numbers we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.  What is you plan to get the country out of this ditch?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think we’re going to have a great third quarter.  That’s going to be a transition.  So when I say “great,” I think the transition is going to be really terrific.  And we’re going to take it into the fourth, and I think we’re going to have, potentially, a great fourth quarter.

There’s tremendous pent-up demand.  I don’t know if Kevin said that or Larry Kudlow.  But they’re telling — they see it.  But I feel it.  I feel it.  I think sometimes what I feel is better than what I think, unfortunately or fortunately, Phil.

But I tell you what: I feel it.  And I will say that I think next year is going to be a spectacular year in terms of growth, in terms of bringing our country back.  I think we’re going to have a really good year.  We want to be where we were.  And I think we can actually surpass where we were.  And we were the strongest anywhere in the world.  We were the best that we ever were, but we were the strongest anywhere in the world.

But I view what we have now as obviously a period of — here we are; it is what it is.  We just got hit by a vicious virus that should have never been allowed to escape China.  They should have stopped it at the source.  They didn’t do that.  A hundred and eighty-four countries have been devastated by it, including China, by the way.  Because I looked at their numbers, and their numbers are terrible.  And it’s just a very tough situation for the people of our country.  All the loss, the death, it’s a terrible thing.

But I think we’re going to make a very strong comeback.  It’ll start with the third quarter.  I think you’re going to see some — some pretty good numbers.  I think you’re going to see really good transition numbers.  But the fourth quarter is going to be — I really believe it’s going to be terrific.  And I think that next year is going to be a great year.

Q    Is it fair for the voters to take into consideration your handling of the pandemic when they assess whether to reelect you in the fall?

THE PRESIDENT:  Sure, I think they do.  I think they have to do a number of things.  They do have to do that.  And maybe Phil could speak to that because I think I’ve handled it — and not me; I think our whole group has been spectacular.  We had ventilators; we didn’t have any.  We built them.  We have thousands — tens of thousands are right now under construction.  And we’ve given — as Phil said, you got, I think, more ventilators than anybody in the United States.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  I believe that’s correct.

THE PRESIDENT:  New Jersey needed them very badly.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Yep.

THE PRESIDENT:  And there was never a person that needed a ventilator that didn’t get one in any state.  Not one person that needed a ventilator.  So we didn’t say, “He didn’t get a ventilator and somebody passed away.  Somebody didn’t make it.”

Now we had a mask problem.  Now we have so many masks, we don’t know what to do with them.  We had a big problem.

And you have to understand: When we took over, the cupboards were bare.  And the thing that — frankly, it’s not as tough as the ventilator situation.  We’re the king of ventilators.  But what we have done is — on testing, we’re doing numbers the likes of which nobody has ever seen before.

And I told you, the President of South Korea, President Moon, called me to congratulate me on testing.  And we did more tests than any other country anywhere in the world.  And I think they told me yesterday a number — if you add up the rest of the world, we’ve done more testing.  And it’s a higher quality test.

So I think we’ve done a — I think the whole team, federal government — we built hospitals for you and others.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  You bet.

THE PRESIDENT:  We built medical centers.  And I’m talking about thousands and thousands of beds.  Many, many medical centers.  We had — as you know, we had the governor of Florida and the governor of Louisiana over the last two days.  They could not have been — and one was a Democrat, and this gentleman happens to be a proud Democrat.  They could not have been more supportive of the effort of the federal government.

And I’ll tell you, Jim —

Q    But aren’t you seeing massive lines for food?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me just tell you, we have — we started off with empty cupboards.  The last administration left us nothing.  We started off with bad, broken tests and obsolete tests.

What we’ve come up with, between the Abbott Laboratories, where you have the five-minute test.  Did they test you today?

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  They did test me.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Now I feel better.  (Laughter.)

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’m negative.

THE PRESIDENT:  You did the five-minute — the Abbott test.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  I did the quick turnaround.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s so great.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  I feel like a new man.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a brand — you know what?  That’s a brand-new test.  That didn’t exist eight weeks ago, and now it’s like the rage.  Everybody wants that test.

No, I think we’ve done — I think we’ve done a really great job.

Q    But the Obama administration — people from the Obama administration would disagree on your assessment that the cupboards were bare.  They said that there was equipment in —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well — well — I know, Jim.

Q    — the National Stockpile.

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me just tell you — I — that’s fine.

Q    And as for, you say, broken tests, it’s a new virus.  So how could the test be broken when you needed a new test?

THE PRESIDENT:  We had a broken — Jim, we had broken tests.  We had tests that were obsolete.  We had tests that didn’t take care of people.

But here’s what’s very important: If you take a look at the swine flu, H1N1 — or, as Joe Biden would say, N1H1, but it’s actually wrong.  He didn’t even know the name, okay?  H1N1, the swine flu — the Obama administration was a disaster.  And they did polling on how did they do, and their polls were so negative, so bad.  They did a very poor job.

And they did a poor job on a lot of things.  They did a poor job on our military.  They did a poor job on our ammunition.  When I got here, we had no ammunition.  Just like we had no ammunition, we had very little medical, too.

So I think, when you ask how did we do — and I have to say it because the news is so fake and so corrupt — I think we did a spectacular job.  I’m not even referring to me.  I’m referring to all of these people, including your people who have been working with my people so closely.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  You bet.  You bet.

THE PRESIDENT:  But the federal government has done a spectacular job, to a point where we’re building, now — we’re going to have thousands and thousands of ventilators, and we’re helping other countries.  Because Phil doesn’t need ventilators.  You needed them very badly at the beginning.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  We did.  We did.

THE PRESIDENT:  And maybe you could say something to Jim’s question.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Yeah, I don’t know — I don’t have a view on the history, but I will say this: In our hour of need, whether it was ventilators, the Army Corps building out capacity, FEMA with our testing sites, and a big part of our ability to reopen as fast as we all want to is to rapidly expand testing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  And you all — literally, in the here and now, this week — are helping us in a big way to at least — I would expect by the end of May, thanks to you and your team’s help, we’ll be able to at least double, and I hope more than double, our testing capabilities.  And because of that, that will allow us to much more aggressively and responsibly do the reopening that we all need to do.

THE PRESIDENT:  And, Phil, how did we do on ventilators, as an example, where you were really in —

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  — you needed them badly?

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Yeah.  We got them.  I mean, there’s just no other way to put it.  And I’m told that we were the number one state recipient of ventilators.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve heard that.  Yes.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  And this was — you know, we were at the edge, and this is life-or-death stuff.  And we got them, and we are forever thankful for that.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Phil.

Q    Mr. President, on operation — on this vaccine operation, “Warp Speed,” who’s in charge of that?  And are you overpromising when you say you’re going to have 300 million doses of vaccine in eight months?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I’m not over-promising.  I don’t know who said it, but whatever the maximum is, whatever you can humanly do, we’re going to have.  And we hope we’re going to come up with a good vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson and Oxford and lots of different great companies, representatives of our country in some time- — in some ways.  NIH is working very hard and doing a terrific job.  No, I hope we’re going to have a vaccine, and we’re going to fast-track it like you’ve never seen before, if we come up with a vaccine.  I think they probably will.

Q    And who is in charge of that Operation Warp Speed?

THE PRESIDENT:  We have — you know who is in charge of it?  Honestly?  I am.  I’ll tell you, I’m really in charge of it.  I could say somebody else.  I will say, we’re dealing with, as you know, the General and the Admiral.  They’re very much in charge.  But I think probably, more than anything, I’m in charge.  And I’m the one that gets blamed.  And I get blamed anyway.

Don’t forget, if we come up with a vaccine in record time, they’ll say I should have done it faster.  But we have a lot of good — a lot of good possibilities.  Like the Gilead yesterday, that was a big thing.  That was a big thing.  And as explained — and I think very importantly, that was a step.  You know, that was a big step: 31 percent step.  But the step means, I guess, Deborah — what Tony, yesterday, was explaining — the step means you now take another step, another.  All of a sudden, you’re up to 50, 60, 70.  But that was a very positive — that was a big step, as I understand it.

Okay?  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  Go ahead, please.

Q    Thank you —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, Jeff go.

Q    Thank you, sir.  The intelligence agencies today said that they agree with the scientific community, that the virus did originate in China but was not manmade and was not genetically modified.  Do you agree with that assessment?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven’t seen the report yet, but I will tell you, if you speak to the head of intelligence right now, you speak to the head, they did say that I was given a briefing when I said I was given it, not before.  And they also said that it wasn’t specific and it was not a panic briefing.  It wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re going to be invaded.”  It was in January, later January —

Q    You were getting a briefing in January?

THE PRESIDENT:  And I think — I think what you’ll do is you’ll speak to them.  In fact, I’ll ask Mark to make a report to you because the — the news was totally — you know, as usual, fake and corrupt.

So intelligence is doing a report, and the report turned out to be exactly as I said.

Q    So, Mr. President, so you’re saying that you got a briefing in January about the —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I’m not saying it.  No, no.  I’m not.

Q    — about the coronavirus.

THE PRESIDENT:  You didn’t hear me.  I said intelligence are saying it.  And they’re going to give a report —

Q    Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  — and it will make you very unhappy because it makes you so wrong.

Q    Well —

THE PRESIDENT:  You, in particular.

All right.  Go ahead.  Behind you, please.

Q    Governor, states received $150 billion in the first CARES Act.  What are — what are you going to need now to get back on your feet?  What have you told the President on that front?  And how do you address Republican complaints that the federal government should not be bailing out states who were badly managed prior to the pandemic?

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Yeah.  So, I’ve been in office two — going on two and a half years, and I got elected to, sort of, fix the economy.  And we made a lot of progress on what I would call the “legacy issues”: record pension payments; stabilizing indebtedness; record surpluses.  And as Mike Tyson says, “Everyone’s got a plan until you get punched in the face.”

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  And we — and we did.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  And we did.  So we — we’ve made — we’ve got a plan, and we’re comfortable with the progress that — it’s going to take a while, all the legacy stuff.

The financial assistance we need — and we need a significant amount; this is a big hit and this is somewhere, in New Jersey alone, could be 20 to 30 billion dollars.  But this is to allow us to keep firefighters, teachers, police, EMS on the payroll, serving the communities in their hour of need.  And that’s something that we feel strongly about.

We don’t see it as a bailout.  We see this as a partnership, doing the right thing in what is the worst healthcare crisis in the history of our nation.  And I want to again thank the President for an extraordinary spirit of partnership across the whole spectrum of our needs.  And I want to reiterate that.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  And I will say, that’s a tough question because you’re talking about the states, and whether you call it a bailout or a lot of money, and it’s — a lot of it’s for years, long before you were there.  You can’t have a better representative than this man.  That, I can tell you.  Plus, he’s an old Goldman Sachs guy.  (Laughter.)  And what they don’t know about him — he’s done a great job, but he went through a big operation just before this happened, and that’s a hell of a thing.

GOVERNOR MURPHY:  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, that was a — that was a big deal.

Q    Mr. President — Mr. President, are you worried about the food supply chain breakdown —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, not at all.  No.  We solved that problem —

Q    — especially in the meat market?

THE PRESIDENT:  We solved that problem yesterday.  I expect to see the supply chain as strong as ever — maybe stronger, for certain reasons.

We did something.  We got — we had a roadblock, though.  It was a legal roadblock more than anything else.  It was a foolish thing that nobody ever took care of for a long time, and we took care of it.

No, I expect things to go very smoothly.

Q    So the American people shouldn’t worry about any shortage in the market at all?

THE PRESIDENT:  Not even a little bit.  There’s a lot of supply too.  But now they’re going to get it.  And that was solved yesterday very late in the evening.  Okay?

Q    Mr. President, at what point do people need another check if unemployment is at 20 percent?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re talking about that.  I know a lot of people are talking about it.  But we’ve given a lot of stimulus.  And again, we think now it’s so great.  I’m so happy that you’re opening up parks and things because that’s a big step for New Jersey because they were hit very hard.

I think that — I think you’re going to see something that’s going to surprise maybe the world.  And, you know, we’re the leader of the world.  We’re really the leader.  In this case, the leader of the world.  And we’ve done better.  If you look at our deaths, if you look at mortality rates, if you look at the things, we’re — in fact, I’m going to get a chart, because it’s maybe the most impressive thing — right? — how we’ve done.  And that’s a tribute to the governors, and it’s a tribute to the federal government and all of us working together.

But I would love you to get that, if you could.  Because we’re right at the top — meaning top, in a positive way, of those charts.

I think you’re going to see economic numbers that are going to be fantastic.  I believe it very strongly.  And you’re going to start to see it with the transition period, which is number three.  And quarter four, you’re going to have tremendous numbers.  Tremendous numbers.

Q    Would you —

THE PRESIDENT:  And I think next year you’re going to really have tremendous numbers.

Q    Mr. President, can we ask you about General Flynn?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

Q    Are you going to pardon him?  This is what you tweeted back in December of 2017: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

Q    Do you still believe that he lied to the Vice President and the FBI?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, well, I’ll tell you —

Q    Shouldn’t he be punished for that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Sure.  When I looked at what they did to him, they tormented him.  Dirty cops tormented General Flynn.  General Flynn is a fine man.  Thirty-five years or so in the military.  You don’t get to be where he is by being bad — that, I can tell you.

And then, he — right at the beginning of the administration the dirty cops came in.  And you see the notes, Jim.  I mean, whether you’re on our side, that side, whatever.  I mean, I assume, let’s all talk about fairness.  What they did to General Flynn — and, by the way, to Roger Stone and to others — was a disaster and disgrace.  And it should never be allowed to happen in this country again.

And what I really hope — because CNN tormented him, in all fairness — I really hope to see, because they haven’t been doing it, and I appreciate your question — I hope to see that CNN will not even apologize, which they should, but just cover it fairly, because he’s in the process of being exonerated.  If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration.  These were dirty, filthy cops at the top of the FBI.  And you know the names better than I do, and they were dishonest people.

Now we have to see what’s going to happen.  But General Flynn was treated like nobody should — and I’m not talking about generals; I’m saying like nobody in this country should be treated.

Q    So were you wrong to fire him at the time?

THE PRESIDENT:  And they did it right at the beginning.

Q    Why did you fire him at the time?

THE PRESIDENT:  They did it right — Jim, they did it right — well, look at what they did to the guy.  I mean, he couldn’t haven’t known too much what was happening.  They came at him with 15 buses and he’s standing in the middle of a highway.

What they did to this man — they tormented him; they destroyed him.  But he’s going to come back — like I say, he’s going to come back bigger and better.  But what they did to him, and I hear there’s a lot of other stuff coming out if I believe everything I’m reading.  Because I like to stay out of it.  I don’t have to stay out of it at all.  But I like to stay out of it.

And, Jim, what they did to him is terrible.  And I hope that CNN is going to give him a fair shake and cover it, because I think it’s very important.

Yeah.

Q    But, sir, just to follow up on was it a mistake to fire him, would you bring him back on to the administration?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, what I wish I had was all the information where they were out to get him.  They wanted him — they were trying to force him to lie.  You see the written statements where they were trying to force him into a position where we can get him on a lie or can we get him this way or that way.  This is terrible.

This is like what happened in — and I’m not going to name the countries, because we deal with these countries, okay?  But what would happen in other countries, not the USA.  What they did to General Flynn and others — and others — is a disgrace.  And I hope — really, I hope your networks are going to cover it.

Because, you know, I’ve seen where it’s the biggest story in the world a year ago and a year and a half — “Flynn.  Flynn.  Flynn.”  And then he’s essentially exonerated.  Now, that’s not official yet.  But when you read the notes, how could you do anything else?

Q    In his letter of resignation, though, he admitted to —

THE PRESIDENT:  And I hear there’s — I hear there’s much — Jim, I hear there’s much more coming out.

Q    — giving bad information to the Vice President.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it would be so good for CNN, if you covered it honestly and if you’d report it honestly.  It would be so good for the network.

Q    Of course, we have.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, with that, thank you all very much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Jim.

 END                11:52 A.M. EDT