Vice President Mike Pence called in to the show for a lengthy interview spanning many topics including winding down the Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Rick Bright’s whistleblower complaint and how the administration has worked to slow the spread of the coronavirus and their efforts to supply all 50 states with the testing supplies and PPE they need.
Full transcript is below and you can listen to the whole, unedited interview here:
BRIAN KILMEADE: All right. Mr. Vice President, I know you’re having a busy — a busy day, so I’m just looking at numbers here. They’re staggering. There are 70,000 people that lost their lives, unemployment expected to hit 34 percent; dramatically different from January of the same year. Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Brian, it’s good to be with you. And first, let me just say there’s never a day that goes by that we don’t think of and pray for the families that have suffered loss. As President Trump often says, one — one life lost is too many. And when the president tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force he said, one mission, that’s to save lives. And we brought together the full weight of the federal government and with the incredible efforts that the American people have made in states across the country, as we stand here today the truth is, we have slowed the spread. We’re seeing encouraging signs all across the country including in areas where the epidemic was very significant, the greater New York City area, New Orleans, Detroit, elsewhere. We’re seeing declining cases, we’re seeing declining hospitalizations (ph), declining losses. And all of that has only been made possible because of the willingness of the American people to step forward, as families, as businesses large and small to put into practice The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America. I just couldn’t be more proud of the American people.
KILMEADE: I know how hard you’ve worked on it, and that’s why I was somewhat surprised that there was talk of – in fact, it might have been you that said that you’re probably going to be disbanding the task force soon – Anthony Fauci, Dr. Birx and company. What could you tell us about that?
PENCE: Well, what I can tell you is that they’re just preliminary discussions, but it’ll all be based on the conditions on the ground. The president stood up the White House Coronavirus Task force in January, he asked me to lead it in late February to bring a whole of government approach. But as we continue to make progress, as we continue to see hospitalizations and even heartbreaking losses begin to decline, as we have now 41 states that have turned their attention to reopening America, we really believe that there will be an appropriate time for us to wind up the work of the task force. But make no mistake about it, all of the work we have done will continue. We’ll have agencies of the federal government work to expand testing, make sure supplies are available through the course of the summer, and of course for the fall. And we’ll continue to bring the president the very, very best medical council. But no decision’s been made on timing. Ultimately it’ll be the president’s decision. But our objective is to continue to work our hearts out everyday to continue to slow the spread and to heal our land.
KILMEADE: What was the reaction of the doctors or those in the task force when you brought that up (ph) that we’re going to be sun setting the task force soon?
PENCE: Well as I said, it’s all been preliminary discussions, Brian. And – but make no mistake about it, whether it be Dr. Birx who’s just done an extraordinary job for America since we brought her in a few days after I started (inaudible), Dr. Tony Fauci, or Dr. Redfield at the CDC – this team will continue to – wherever they’re doing their role they’ll continue to provide the very best council to the president. And as the American people have seen from the first day that the coronavirus emerged in our country, you’ll continue to see this president take decisive action to put the health and well being of America first.
KILMEADE: I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to see this, but a whistleblower lawsuit has been filed. You’ve been down this road before, Dr. Rick Bright the ousted director of the office involved in developing the vaccine, formally filed an extensive whistleblower complaint, in it Mr. Vice President, it says the president and others were (AUDIO GAP) — got to take action against the virus. The quote is, ‘indifference in his urgency which then developed in to a hostility towards him,” when he was warning you guys in the winter of 2020. What could you tell me about Dr. Bright? Do you want to clarify from your point of view?
PENCE: Well, I don’t know the man. I don’t believe that I’ve ever had any interaction with him. And I haven’t seen the report. But I can tell you Brian, that really from the time that the president suspended all travel from China in January, from the time that he stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the same month, took decisive actions in the weeks and months that would follow, you know, ending — ending travel from Europe, the U.K., Ireland and all the (AUDIO GAP) — to embrace the — what would become 45 days to slow the spread. This president has spared no expense and brought incredible energy and urgency to the mission of saving American lives. And as I said, remember when the — when the health experts working with our task force went to the president with the recommendation about slowing the spread and the mitigation efforts, there were — there were some estimates that without any mitigation — without any social distancing, that we could lose between 1.5 and 2.2 million Americans. And — but even with mitigation, Brian, the estimates that we would lose 100,000 to 240,000 of our countrymen. And I can tell you that because of the president’s leadership and because of what the American people have done, despite the heartbreaking losses we’ve seen, we — I truly do believe we’ve saved lives and — and we prevented our healthcare system, the greatest in the world, from being overwhelmed. I must tell you that I think every American should be proud of the fact that no one who has required a ventilator has been denied a ventilator in the United States.
PENCE: That — that’s a tribute to the president using The Defense Production Act. It’s a tribute to the entire team that served this president. And we’ll continue to bring that same level of urgency to provide the supplies for testing, for healthcare workers, and we’ll continue to meet this moment.
KILMEADE: I just want you to hear something you might not have heard before. Anthony Fauci joined John Catsimatidis’ radio show in January 26th of this year. Listen to the question and listen to the answer.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN CATSIMATIDIS, RADIO SHOW HOST: What can you tell the American people about what’s going on? Should they be scared?
ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I don’t think so. The American people should not be worried or frightened by this. It’s a very, very low risk to the United States. It isn’t something that the American public needs to worry about.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KILMEADE: He was talking about the virus. If Anthony Fauci is our premiere expert and in January 26th he’s telling us don’t worry about the virus, what do you say and what do you remember of that period in this — in this journey?
PENCE: Well, I just remember a president whose healthcare team came to him just a few short days after that and said that the threat was real and that President Trump had to take the — a step that no other American president had ever done, suspending all travel into the United States from China. It was an extraordinary measure. And some — you know some have pointed out that –that some 40,000 Americans returned from China in the days that followed. But what they fail to mention is the president also had our team stand up a screening process at 11 American airports when people were coming back into the country. They were asked to quarantine for 14 days in many jurisdictions depending on the circumstances.
PENCE: But this president on — even — even while — while health officials going off of the best information they had at the time were still assessing the risk was low, President Trump took decisive action. And Brian, there’s no question that it bought us invaluable time to stand up our national response and save American lives.
KILMEADE: But it’s just also no question that a premiere expert in the country did not think this virus was going to be bad on America in late January. So —
PENCE: Well, I think that may have been around or shortly before the time that we had information about — about human-to-human transmission. I mean, the truth is China sat on information, Brian. And as the president said, at the right time and in the right way, we’re going to hold China and the World Health Organization accountable (ph). They disserved America and disserved the world —
PENCE: I don’t want to be critical of people’s limited information, but it just really does put in high relief the decisive leadership that President Trump demonstrated in closing all travel from China, standing up the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and in the months that would follow, I couldn’t be more proud than to have been a part of our national response.
KILMEADE: You might not know this, but on Tuesday, 40 Democratic senators have signed a letter to the president urging him to ramp up testing and develop a detailed national plan of action, quote from Schumer, we are deeply troubled by the lack of detailed strategy and — in the testing blueprint – and I fundamentally reject the notion that the federal government bears the little responsibility in increasing test capacity. What would be the vice president’s answer to the letter to the president signed by Schumer and Senator Patty Murray?
PENCE: Well, just, I would encourage every member of the Senate to talk to their governors around the country. We had another great conference call with governors, and frankly, it would be a number of weeks ago that we assisted governors in unlocking massive amounts of laboratory testing capacity in their states. And starting this week we’re going to be shipping literally millions of swabs, and medium, and test tubes to all 50 states and territories at the level that they have requested to do the testing that they deem to be appropriate. But none of this could have happened – this is important to remember when you speak about the president’s leadership — none of this could have happened unless the president and this administration brought these massive commercial labs into the White House in early March and formed a public and private partnership that’s literally unlocked – as I stand here today 7.3 million tests have been done. When I took this job, Brian, in late February, all of the public labs and the CDC had done 8,500 coronavirus tests in the month of February and from the first of the year …
KILMEADE: But now (ph) –
PENCE: — 7.3 million – and more than a quarter of a million tests every day. It’s a testament to a strategy that President Trump implemented, and we’re going to continue to work with governors to make sure they have the tests and the resources to meet their needs.
KILMEADE: Here’s the Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, cut two.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): — have risen to the challenge. You know, I talk to my fellow governors, Republicans and Democrats; we have shared ideas with one another about how to keep people safe.
We’re gotten some guidance from the CDC that’s been helpful, but much of what came out of the White House for many weeks was not helpful.
We needed the White House to lead on the Defense Production Act, to help us get swabs, to help us get VTM (ph), to help us get reagents. That really hasn’t much happened —
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILMEADE: Do you want to answer him? He certainly is a critic.
PENCE: Well, I spoke to Governor J.B. Pritzker in our conference call on Monday with all the governors from all the 50 states and territories, and I think at this point he informed us that he’s – because of the laboratory capacity that we helped him unlock in Illinois, and the testing supplies we’ve given him, that he’s doing more than 20,000 tests per day. And we’ll continue to scale that. I mean, look, this is an unprecedented national response. We’ve had a full partnership with governors around the country. And I have to tell you, in all of my interactions with governors in either political party, I just couldn’t be more proud of the way this president has forged the kind of a partnership with all of our state governors that’s really served the interest of the American people, and we’ll do that. But I — I will tell you (audio gap) stood up with the states, this week we’ll — this will start shipping out, as you — as I said, swabs and medium and test tubes. Every state is going to receive on a weekly basis this month everything they need to do the tests —
KILMEADE: Yes, I don’t think he’s ever going to be happy. I just wanted to bring you something I know is passion on your side. I know you have to run. But in Virginia the Department of Justice is siding with a Virginia church that filed the lawsuit against the state over — Ralph — Governor Northam stay at home order restricting in person religious services to do more than 10 people. So they had 16 people in the Lighthouse Fellowship Church, and they got served a restraining order, and the Department of Justice has sided with them. Is this a case of overreach by a governor aside, in your judgment, of the Department of Justice ruling? Does this offend you?
PENCE: Well, the Department — the Department of Justice believes that, and I — and I strongly agree. Look we — even in the midst of a national emergency every American enjoys our cherished liberties, including the freedom of religion. And the very idea that the Commonwealth of Virginia would — would — would sanction a church for having 16 people come to a Psalm Sunday service when I think the church actually seats about 250 was just beyond the pale. And I’m truly grateful for Attorney General Barr standing by religious liberty. And as we approach the National Day of Prayer this Thursday, we’re going to be celebrating the faith of the American people and the freedom to — to practice and live out our faith everyday. And — and that’s why I just — I wanted to — I wanted to speak out in favor of the DOJ’s action and just to assure every American that we are going to stand by men and women of faith of every religion in this country and — and protect — even in this challenging time — protect their freedom of religion.
KILMEADE: The other major story in the news is General Michael Flynn. It was his conversation with you that prompted the president to say he wasn’t candid with you, I have to let him go. You said, upon further review, maybe he was not lying. Can you bring us in that moment, being that his reputation is on the line? He’s been financially ruined, and this could be the beginning of him — us getting his side of the story. What would you like to ask General Flynn if you could talk to him now?
PENCE: Well look, General Michael Flynn is a great American patriot who served our country in uniform with courage and distinction. And — but when I look at the evidence that’s come to light in recent weeks, real evidence of prosecutorial abuse, it’s deeply troubling to me. And I’m — as I said last week, I’m — I’m — I’m more convinced than ever that the comments he made to me were — he misrepresented what he had said in a telephone call with the Russian ambassador that were unintentional. It — I’m much more inclined to believe that he unintentionally misstated the facts in that call and — but look, there’s a great injustice done to General Michael Flynn, and I think it’s becoming more and more clear, not only to me, but to people all across this country.
KILMEADE: That he was targeted?
PENCE: Well, I just — it’s hard to believe. When you see language written in the margins of official documents that talk about trying to get someone to lie, it just — it’s — it just represents a level of prosecutorial abuse that is just — it (ph) should be deeply troubling (AUDIO GAP) — whatever their political philosophy.
KILMEADE: Vice President Pence, can’t thank you enough for our time, and (AUDIO GAP) as well. Truly appreciate it.
PENCE: Brian, great to be with you. And I just must tell you that as we have made our way in the past few months, and we continue to make our way, I just am so grateful to the American people for the way they have stood — their faith, their resilience, their willingness to care for the most vulnerable has saved lives. And because of what they’ve done, we’re getting through this. We’re getting through this as a nation, and I truly do believe the day will come soon when we put the coronavirus in the past, and it’ll be a great tribute to all of the American people when that day comes.
KILMEADE: And do you want to rethink the task force if it does come back in the fall like they – like Fauci said? It’s going to come back in the winter, he can guarantee it. Would you bring this task force back if you had sunsetted it?
PENCE: That will be a decision for the president of the United States. The president stood up the task force in January, but I can promise you that at President Trump’s direction, we’re going to continue in whatever format to marshal the full resources of the federal government to confront the coronavirus and put the health of the American people first.
KILMEADE: Best of luck, Mr. Vice President, thank you so much.
PENCE: Thank you Brian, all the best.
KILMEADE: Go get them.