Trump speaks with ABC News' David Muir

During his first significant time out of Washington, D.C., in nearly two months, the president spoke about reopening the U.S. and what he'd say to those who lost loved ones.
14:36 | 05/06/20

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Transcript for Trump speaks with ABC News' David Muir
Ed good evening tonight from Phoenix it is great to have you with us here and we have just finished our exclusive interview with president drop his first major trip out of Washington in nearly two months. The president trying to send a signal that parts of this country are ready to reopen. But he is well aware of the debate the scientists who are concerned about what could happen if this country opens true quickly. And we know every night here it is not just a number these are American lives tonight the death total is now about 70000 now 2200 more lives lost. It just the past 24 hours. We asked the president's tonight about whether there is a danger will lives be lost in the effort to reopen parts of this country how he answered. Tonight at least 38 states have already eased restrictions meant to slow the spread wealth cases are still on the rise and at least nineteen of those states. We asked the president about those two new models those two projections that Warren what could happen if we as a country do not proceed with extreme caution. And of course the Americans out of work I asked is it possible reached 19% unemployment as one of his advisors has said. That would be nearly one in five Americans out of work. So many questions tonight you've been asking all along among them will there be a vaccine by the end of the year. And what does the president say to the families tonight of those who have lost their lives. I want to start with reopening the country I know this is your first trip back out into the country has been 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 it and I suppose this is the central question how do you save livelihoods. Without risking more lives well as. Think actually be decision to close the country was the biggest decision I've ever had to make and I've said that. And very loud and clear who we had the greatest economy in history the history of the world not only our economy is our greatest economy. Best employment numbers best numbers in every single way. And they censor we have to close the conscious of what he's talking about close the country is 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 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 I want to ask about what doctor about she 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. It's possible there will be some because you won't be locked into an apartment. Or a house or whatever it is. At the same time we're gonna practice social distancing we're gonna be washing hands were going to be doing a lot of things that we've learned to do over the last period of time. And we have to get our country back you know people are dying the other way too when you look at what's happened with the drugs goes up. When you look at suicides or me 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 let me ask you about testing yeah. Right now in America you know early on there were hurdles doctor about you to time acknowledged it was a failing. But for Americans who do want to go back to work. Should Dave. Be able to have access to a test now should they know whether they've been exposed to the virus should they know somebody's. At the workplace asymptomatic. And they simply don't know or do they have to go back to work having faith and their leaders in you Mr. President at the workplace will be safe. No they don't they have to. Test if they want you know some people are strong believers and testing so right now for any American worker who's nervous about going back. If they wanna get tested to see if they've been exposed to the virus. They can have access to both Daschle and has problems. And they should have no problem. And as good as this is were even getting better we came up don't forget the cupboard was bare. The other administration the last administration left does nothing we didn't have ventilator as 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 ticketed and we have built an incredible stockpile as a stockpile like we've never had been. Many people have for you see that along the way and have wondered though you knew your three years into your first term are now applying for the job again what did you do when you became president. To restock there was coverage that you say were bare. 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. Than they did Ukraine Ukraine and that was a total hoax then they impeach the president the United States. For absolutely no reason and we even had a 197. To nothing vote by the Republicans look. We ask you about something Governor Cuomo said today at it and this is. This is really the debate I think for a lot of Americans who really do want to go back to work sure but who are afraid for their own health. And Governor Cuomo said the question comes down to how much of human life is worth. That you monitor the transmission rate the hospitalization rate the death rate if it goes up. He stopped to turn off the valve he slow things down do you agree with him if that is the way a lot of these governors were reopening should proceed. No I don't know yet have to see his full statement look we've got along very well don't forget Governor Cuomo last week said. The president and the federal government had to have done a phenomenal job he said that. Yet he's somebody out that you just have to be ready to turn the valve offer actually really like. 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 gonna stand for this and I understand them very well and we are going to put up little embers and little fires and maybe some big fires but we still have to go back to work. You talk about the embers and and and the possible big fires there were two new studies out in the last 24 hours I know that the White House is shot. Down a couple of them saying they weren't vetted for your task force one was from Johns Hopkins that said. The death rate could double if we're not careful that this reopening of America fight by June the daily death rate. The University of Washington saying we could have a 135000. Americans dead by August. What do you make of those numbers and. A couple of things first of all. These models have been so wrong from day one both on the low side of the upset they've been so wrong they've been so out of whack. They keep making new models new models and their room. Those bottles that you mentioning a talking about without mitigation but we're litigating and we've learned to mitigate but we can. Be in place work in place and also mitigate we've got to write but now we have to get back to work we have to do it. Let me ask you because you responded to those two new studies out would these forecasts. Your own numbers have shifted over to have he said 60000 Americans could die that's what you said last week I watched your town hall over the weekend he said. 7580 to a 100000 people could die which models are you looking at. And and what shouldn't Americans be prepared for as we reopen the country and head into the fall where we could see it a potential second wave. Well the upper number was as you know 2.2 million people and then there is some. Some models are charts that showed higher than that but 2.2 million people. I always felt 606570. As as horrible as that is immediate Tug at about filling up Yankee Stadium with death. So I thought it was horrible but. It's probably going to be somewhat higher than that are you still convinced we'll have a vaccine by year's end and 300 million doses which you had spoke out. You can never be convinced music and might convince. I could say this we're doing really great Oxford. Johnson & Johnson these companies I get reports every single day. Did doing really great in my convinced I can't be convince of anything. But I think that we have a really good shot of having something very very substantial. Let me ask you. About the tremendous hurt in this country there are thirty 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 forecast 151617%. One of your advisors projected unemployment rate of 19%. That's nearly one in five Americans. Without a job how bad this is going to get. Well that is what it is. And you know it's very interesting even the Democrats are blaming me for that. We had to close it up and we saved millions of lives and we did the right thing now we getting back to work. The third quarter I think is going to be a quota transition quarter lot of they've used it. So what I got on the plane today there was such spirit people are starting to feel we lived in Arizona. I leave from DC. I get calls from everybody all over the country who spoke to the governor of Florida. Florida's really active. I think a lot of people share that hope Mr. President but the reality for so many families that we've reported on is they can afford to wait for the next quarter. They're just trying to get through next week but next dinner they put on the table well it was done a lot of that we've done our small. This is as you know our PPP. Paycheck if you wanna 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 two trillion dollars and it's actually. Close to three if you really added up but two trillion dollars has been approved and will probably do more it's a stimulus it's to keep people. Employed to keep small businesses opened let me ask. You because people will look back and we have an election six months from now. They're gonna look that's the beginning of this and they're gonna wonder. What you knew. And when you knew it in 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 he'd stop travel from China. And you said that the case is here in the US when you have fifteen people and when the fifteen within a couple of days is gonna go down to zero. That's a pretty good job we've done. Help me understand that moment did you really think we were gonna have fifteen cases in the US has a look. Let me do it I said even I you would say worse than that I said one person went on and it's true there was a time when we had one person in this country. We knew about it. We worked on it we have one person it mushroomed to fifteen people mushroom other people were coming in also from Europe. Don't forget the were up more than a million adults again in January. OK let's talk about cases you know why you're. Because we have one thing than anybody else if police tested as much as these countries down here. Okay who don't do very much testing at all. Look at Japan and very little testing there at the bottom of the round look at South Korea gets so much publicity and president of south who has a problem. President Roenick pulled up and so what you're doing with testing is amazing. If I tested this number of people consider this number of people I'd have far fewer if practicing this lying guzzle all the way up. Over seven million tests invite chested down here at one million tests. I would have a lot fewer cases of I understand the argument you're looking but it look at it look at your question every you understand there's a huge disparity between fifteen and more than a million pieces. What was it intelligence failure what where was the breakdown that we I don't know the scope of this look let me let me tell you this. I closed. The border you want to use that term I've been people from coming your kitchen. There were approximately 40000 Americans if you're my position you would let them come in you could ask Ron dissent is great governor of those people went through quarantine they went through tests they went through everything but there were American citizens. But I can and what I did. Here's I said against many people including. Anthony Thatcher who I like very much including Debra were like very much the doctors. And many other people. They should don't think Janet's it's gonna blow over and they said this at the end of that work now. At the same time I want to be optimistic I don't want to be missed a gloom and doom. It's a very bad subject I'm not look it did tell the American people when nobody really knows what's happening yet. Oh this is going to be so tragically. I want to be. Aside from everything else and I'm getting used a term and some people love it and some people hate it but I love a wanna be a cheerleader for a country. I would be remiss if I didn't ask you one more question. About the nearly 70000 Americans. Whose lives have been lost. Grandparents. Mothers fathers sons daughters. We've lost more people now than we lost the Vietnam War. What do you want to say to those families. I want to say I love you. A want to say that we're doing everything we can. I also want to say that they were trying to protect people over sixty years old was trying so hard and I what did you say to the people that have lost family and have lost loved it and the people that have just suffered so badly. And just made it. And yes they did. That we love you will with you we're working with you. We are supplying vast amounts of money like never before we want that money to get to the people and we wanted to get better. And we want that you can never really. Come close to replacing when you've lost some no matter how well we do next she I think our economy is going to be raging it's gonna be so that. No matter how well those people can never ever replace somebody they love. But we're gonna have something that they got to be very proud of and to the people that have lost someone there is nobody I don't sleep at nights thinking about it there's nobody that's taken a harder than me. But at the same time I have to. Get this enemy defeated and that's what we're doing David that's what we're doing. The president's message to the families who lost loved ones in this pandemic. I also asked the president if he's comfortable with the election six months from this week if it becomes a referendum on his handling of the pandemic. He said I am and then he said I am not more a much more on that tonight on Nightline be extended interview.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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