It may have taken a long time for someone on liberal CNN to come around to President Trump’s way of thinking on one angle of the coronavirus outbreak, but that finally happened on Monday. The admission took place during the CNN Newsroom weekday program, when host Poppy Harlow stated that “every expert agrees, now looking back that the president's call to restrict that travel from China pretty early on, was a good decision.”
Harlow made the statement while interviewing Mark Mazzetti, Washington investigative correspondent for the New York Times, who wrote an in-depth investigation entitled “He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump's Failure on the Virus.”
Of course, Mazzetti slammed Trump for failing to respond quickly enough to warnings he received while flying back from his trip to India on February 25, when Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the head of the National Center of Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, who issued a warning and a blunt assessment of the approaching virus.
He also noted that the stock market tumbled, and Trump didn’t react for three weeks despite growing concerns in the medical community, and a briefing with other medical experts was cancelled and the new procedures waited until the middle of March.
At one point, Harlow lectured on what "every expert agrees upon."
And look, every expert agrees, now looking back that the president's call to restrict that travel from China pretty early on was a good decision. The question is just what else could have been done in the subsequent weeks?
Oh really? In February, CNN.com published this article on the travel restrictions: “The US coronavirus travel ban could backfire. Here's how.”
That article by Catherine E. Shoichet complained:
Experts say travel restrictions the Trump administration put in place to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading could have unintended consequences that undermine that effort.
It's been days since the US restrictions went into effect, blocking foreign nationals who've visited China in the past two weeks from coming to the US.
Details about the US travel ban's impact are still emerging. But some are already urging the US to reconsider.
On Monday, Mazzetti indicated that his article “lays out a lot of different channels that the information was coming up through the system. These warnings that were getting delivered, sometimes directly to the president.” Azar sent his messages to the White House twice, but he was dismissed as being “overly alarmist” because he’s considered a “China hawk,” the correspondent added.
Harlow also noted that “overnight the president called your story ‘fake’ and said that Azar’s quote “told me nothing until later’. Do you want to respond to that?” “Yes,” Mazzetti stated. “We stand by our reporting and saw all the president's comments, and we'll just leave it with that.”
See transcript below. Click "expand" to read more.
9:24 AM ET
POPPY HARLOW: The New York Times releases an in-depth investigation into President Trump's coronavirus response. The headline, "He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump's Failure on the Virus". Mark Mazzetti; Washington investigative correspondent is on the byline of that. Important reporting, Mark, thanks very much. Take us back if you would to February 25th, the president's coming back from his trip to India, and the woman who heads the National Center of Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, makes a historic warning and a blunt assessment of what could come for the United States, the stock market tumbles and then ensues basically three weeks of delays.
MARK MAZZETTI (Washington investigative correspondent, New York Times): That's right, Poppy. So Dr. Messonnier's warning comes after several weeks of growing concern in the medical community among the president's medical experts about the spread of coronavirus, and especially the new revelation in the community of asymptomatic spread, that people could be spreading this around without showing any symptoms.
And that, this really as one e-mail showed, you know, one doctor says provides a hole in our response. And so they get to the point where they're ready to brief President Trump on new measures that includes social distancing. The president's returning from India, Dr. Messonnier makes the public warning, the stock market tanks, and by the time President Trump lands, his meeting with those doctors to deliver that warning gets canceled. And so that -- those new measures don't get put into place for three weeks until the middle of March. And as Dr. Fauci said yesterday, those three weeks might have been critical to halt the spread of the disease and might have even saved some lives.
HARLOW: I actually remember that day really well because when I saw her comments come in, then a few hours later, the country was briefed by other medical experts and the message was much more -- it was less alarmist, if you will. And I remember thinking, well, what are Americans supposed to believe? In the middle of all of this, you have the head of Health and Human Services, Secretary Alex Azar, and you write that Azar quote, "directly warned Mr. Trump of the possibilities of a pandemic during a call on January the 30th.mThe second warning he delivered to the president about the virus in two weeks. The president who was on Air Force One while traveling for appearances in the Midwest responded, Mr. Azar was being alarmist." Subsequently, Azar gets essentially demoted, Pence elevated.
MAZZETTI: Yes, that's right. Our story lays out a lot of different channels that the information was coming up through the system. These warnings that were getting delivered, sometimes directly to the president. Alex Azar does it twice. He's dismissed as being overly alarmist. There's been a memo that got reported on that, Peter Navarro; one of president's -- the president's trade advisors is warning, and his views are dismissed in part because he's a China hawk. His views are always seen as colored through the lens of being anti-China. So, that is dismissed. And the people, the voices that did carry a lot of weight during this period are the economic advisors including Steve Mnuchin who are warning that any strict measures that are put in place could have devastating effects on the economy. And so this was playing out over two months, this push and pull, up until the very end, and the middle of March, when the president finally agreed to these more strict social distancing measures.
HARLOW: And look, every expert agrees, now looking back that the president's call to restrict that travel from China pretty early on was a good decision. The question is just what else could have been done in the subsequent weeks? Mark, before you go, overnight the president called your story "fake" and said Secretary Azar quote, "told me nothing until later". Do you want to respond to that?
MAZZETTI: Yes, we stand by our reporting, and saw all the president's comments and we'll just leave it with that.
HARLOW: Mark Mazzetti, appreciate your work. Thanks very much.