SCOTUS TRANSCRIPT: 5/12/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it is striking right now there`s a little
getting high on your own supply situation happening among Trump and the
right. They think there`s more clamoring for the kind of thing they`re
calling for in terms of the virus than there actually is, and they`re
locked in their own echo chamber which can happen to politicians in
political movement sometimes and I think that`s where they are right now.
David Plouffe, who is a clear eyed observer, thank you for being with me
DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, Chris. Thanks.
HAYES: All right. That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
Thanks for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
In the early morning rush hour this morning, this was the view from the
steps of the state capitol in Florida, looking down over the capitol
grounds. As you can see, that is the grim reaper in the foreground and
people dropping body bags on the front steps of the capitol at his feet.
The body bags are stamped county coroner.
Again, this is Tallahassee. This is Florida state capitol building this
We`ve seen similar protests like this outside the president`s hotel in
downtown Washington, D.C. But at the Florida state capitol today, I think
this happened – I think we`ve also got shots of the signs that they held
as well after they dropped the body bags on the steps. You can see them
there. There you go.
One of these signs was actually echoed at the Trump hotel body bag protest,
Trump lies, people die. You can see a corpse is not a customer, mourning in
America. Also one of the signs there, we are better than this.
Florida has more than 41,000 cases of coronavirus now, over 1,700 people in
There`s also similar scene today outside the governor`s mansion in Austin,
Texas. People dumping body bags outside that building today too in Texas,
people holding signs showing the climbing case load and the mounting death
toll in Texas.
We also just got in some photos of something similar today that happened in
Phoenix, at the state capitol in Arizona. Body bags arrayed there too,
propped up, you see the grim reaper figure again propped up along with the
body bags was this sign that said, truth is 80,000-plus dead Americans
because the coronavirus did not magically disappear.
These protests are becoming sort of a hallmark, a visual hallmark of this
moment, this epidemic. The epidemic has really only been killing Americans
in huge numbers for two months.
But with over 83,000 dead Americans now in two months and 1.3 million
cases, by far, the largest epidemic on earth, and with no sign that
decisions about opening things up have anything to do with the actual pace
and toll of the virus as it continues to rip through this country, I think
this imagery, these kinds of protests, are not – not going away. Again,
that was Tallahassee and Austin and Phoenix all today.
In the past 24 hours, NBC News obtained these documents that were
apparently not intended for public release. They were prepared by and for
the White House coronavirus task force a few days ago, late last week,
while the president said publicly yesterday that, quote, all throughout the
country, the numbers are coming down rapidly. It turns out his coronavirus
task force knows that is not true.
Honestly as does anybody looking at the data. But these documents from the
coronavirus task force at the White House single out in very stark terms
top ten metropolitan areas in the country in terms of their growth and case
numbers over the past week. The top ten areas in the country all with case
numbers growing by 72 percent or more over the previous week include
Amarillo, Texas, Rockford, Illinois, Des Moines, Iowa, Garden City, Kansas,
Racine, Wisconsin, Gainesville, Georgia, Nashville, Tennessee, St. Cloud,
The top two are St. Joseph, Missouri, and in Muhlenberg County, Central
City, Kentucky area, where according to the White House coronavirus task
force, the percentage rise in coronavirus cases in both of those places,
St. Joseph, Missouri, and Central City, Kentucky, the percentage rise in
both of those places over the past week is over 600 percent, over 650
I mean, meanwhile the president is saying publicly the numbers are going
down everywhere rapidly. All throughout the countries, the numbers are
coming down rapidly, the president says. But internally, the White House is
grappling with these places having case numbers rising 75 percent, 100
percent, 400 percent, 650 percent in a week.
And this is not like one difficult epidemic in one corner of the country.
This is not like one state where things are bad. This is all over.
On the watch list, according to these documents, internally at the White
House coronavirus task force, again, this is a document that was not
supposed to be shown to the public. There`s other metro areas that have
horrific numbers of their own – Charlotte, North Carolina, up 250 percent
in case numbers in the past week. Kansas City, Missouri, over 220 percent
rise in a week. Lincoln, Nebraska, Minneapolis, Montgomery, Alabama, all
with case numbers up over 100 percent over the course of seven days, over
the course of one week.
And meanwhile, the places it is rampaging through are not getting any
better, still getting worse. Bloomberg News is out with a disturbing report
on what happened epidemiologically after President Trump issued his recent
executive order telling meat processing plants they had to be open despite
the huge numbers of people who work in those plants testing positive for
the virus. Here`s Bloomberg News, quote: In the first week after President
Donald Trump issued an executive order directing that meat processing
plants be reopened, confirmed COVID-19 cases in counties with major beef or
pork slaughterhouses jumped 40 percent in their case loads, compared with a
19 percent rise nationally.
That means a 19 percent rise in cases nationally over the course of a week
is bad enough. Nineteen percent in a week, that`s terrible. But in
meatpacking counties, it was more than double that in the week after Trump
ordered all those meat plants reopened.
The “Associated Press” reported today that when they crunched the numbers
nationwide, they came to the stark conclusion that, quote, of the 15 U.S.
counties with the highest per capita infection rates between April 28th and
May 5th, all of those 15 counties are homes to either meatpacking and
poultry processing plants or state prisons.
And I think some of that persistent fact – some of these used to be
interesting things about how to track where it looked like the epidemic was
going. But as this stuff persists and gets worse and digs in and is not
made better by federal policy and, in fact, is made worse apparently by
actions of the federal government, I think some of this is starting to
resonate in the states, especially as it becomes clear, more and more over
time, that if you`ve got outbreaks in your prisons or if you`ve got
outbreaks in meatpacking plants or even in your nursing homes, those
outbreaks are not going to stay inside your facilities. You cannot just
write off the populations inside those facilities and assume for one those
aren`t outbreaks that affect real Americans and for two that they`re going
to stay there.
With a highly contagious communicable disease, outbreaks anywhere can
quickly become outbreaks everywhere near there. And so, we are not fixing
the nursing home problem. We are not fixing the meat processing plant
problem. We are not fixing the prisons and jails problem.
And so, all of these places all over the country, red states, blue states,
rural states, urban areas, everywhere, all sorts of places all over the
country, with all sorts of different type of leadership that have these
persistent outbreaks that are not being addressed and are getting worse as
the national response to the crisis continues to flounder, all over the
country people are realizing these outbreaks that we`ve got, these are our
This is where our case numbers are coming from. This is where our case load
is coming from. This is where our viral load is coming from. This is where
our people are getting sick and where the virus will spread into the
community, into our population, ultimately into our hospitals, into our ICU
wards and into our morgues.
These little epidemiological outbreaks are now places where huge numbers in
cases are growing all over the country, not just in New York, right? Not
just in New York, right? Not just in the tri-state area, all over the
And so, you`re starting to see localities and states that may not have
wanted to deal with this before starting to figure out they`re going to
have to deal with this. Today, for example, the governor of the great state
of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, who has been as much a head in the sand about
any other governor in the country about opening things up because he wants
to open things up regardless of the status of the epidemic in his state.
Today, Governor Reeves announced that seven counties in Mississippi
actually won`t open up as much as everything else, despite his previous
plans and his previous announcements because it turns out they really do
have raging numbers, particularly in poultry processing plants now in
And you can`t just ignore that and write off those workers and assume the
rest of your state will be fine. And so, adjustments are being made in
Mississippi. Adjustments also being made today in Iowa, which has some of
the fastest growing outbreaks in the country right now. The Iowa governor
you will recall is now herself in isolation after spending time with Vice
President Mike Pence and his staff, after Pence`s communications director
Today, Governor Reynolds delayed what had been expected to be an even wider
opening things up announcement for Iowa after, among other things, “The Des
Moines Register” ran a fairly blistering long fact-check, pointing out that
her repeated claims that Iowa has flattened the curve don`t appear to be
true. They at least do not appear to be based on the real metrics of the
really quite large and growing epidemic in that state.
Again, Iowa has some of the fastest growing outbreaks in the country. In
Weld County, Colorado, where there has been a huge outbreak with hundreds
of positive cases that appears to have incubated at a JBS beef plant in
Greeley, Colorado, the rural county health director just quit his job. This
is the county health director that had told the JBS plant they needed to
test their employees before they reopened. JBS said publicly they would do
that, but then they didn`t.
The plant just then didn`t test everybody and they reopened anyway. And
now, the Weld County, Colorado health director has decided to quit his job
after 20 years there.
Today in Connecticut, the Democratic governor there, Ned Lamont, fired the
state health commissioner, blaming her for Connecticut being too slow to
address the virus in nursing homes in that state.
In Connecticut, nearly 60 percent of the coronavirus deaths in the case
happened in nursing homes. Connecticut is not alone there. They`re one of
more than a dozen states where a majority of deaths have been nursing home
deaths. But this is the first state that I know of where they fired the
state health director for it.
The governor now says that he wants every nursing home resident tested.
They`re also moving to set up COVID-only nursing homes in Connecticut,
presumably to move positive patients so they can more easily separate
nursing home residents with the virus from nursing home residents who don`t
have to try to get a late handle on what has been a very, very deadly
epidemic in that part of Connecticut. I mean, way too late in coming,
right? Hundreds of nursing home deaths in that state already.
But as we say basically every day, in this failed response to this epidemic
in this country, yesterday would have been better than today, but today is
better than never. Federally, things are as weird as ever. We`re going to
talk in just a moment with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren about the
truly surreal Senate hearing today with Dr. Tony Fauci and the head of the
CDC, Dr. Redfield, and the head of the FDA, Dr. Hahn.
And that was interesting. It was important I think to get, particularly Dr.
Fauci on the record without the president standing right behind him,
breathing down his neck literally while he`s talking about things. But
while that interesting, historic, and weird hearing was going on today, the
White House confirmed that the president and the vice president will be
keeping their distance from one another for a little while.
Again, both the president and vice president have had a close staffer test
positive in the past few days. The president`s personal valet and the vice
president`s press secretary both tested positive within the last few days.
Now, the president and vice president are going to keep apart from one
Does that mean in practical terms? I mean, presumably, they`ll still only
sometimes wear masks even at meetings if you`re the vice president and
never if you`re the president. They`ll presumably continue to sometimes
social distance at official events except when they don`t want to. But at
least they will do those things apart from one another for the time being,
so we don`t, I guess, pose the immediate risk of ripping right through the
line of succession if they both come down with it at the same time and do
The president spent the morning tweeting and retweeting other people dozens
of times in an almost frenzied pace, opining, you know, in fairly typical
for him fashion on how he wants to prosecute President Obama or Obama
officials or something, and opining on the free press being the enemy of
the people, and how terrible MSNBC is and how governors who have better
approval ratings from him right now, they stole their approval ratings from
him. Those were his good approval – it was more than his usual level of
petty and out of control I would say, just in terms of average census of
how he behaves in public.
But today, it did take on slightly more weight than usual because while the
president literally had only two things on his schedule today – he had an
intelligence brief at noon which is the thing he is often said to skip, and
he had a meeting with Republican senators at 4:00. Other than that, he had
nothing else on his schedule today. And we know from his public online
pronouncements what he did all day was tweet, including just tweeting about
stuff he apparently saw and liked while he was watching cable TV. The
president manifestly not busy today.
But while he was showing us that, today his lawyers at the same time were
at the United States Supreme Court arguing that the president should be
immune from any form of investigation, not just immune from prosecution,
but immune from investigation in part because responding to requests for
information in any sort of investigation is such a hassle. The president
responding to any effort to get evidence from him would take up his very,
very, very valuable time which as we saw today he always spends in very
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JUSTICE BREYER: Why isn`t it sufficient just to apply ordinary standards? I
gather ordinarily any person who gets a subpoena can come in and say it`s
unduly burdensome. And what counts as unduly burdensome for a doctor who`s
in the middle of an operation might be very different from a person who`s a
salesman and similar for the president, all the factors you raise could
come in under the title unduly burdensome.
So why not just go back? Let the president say I`ll show you precisely how
this is burdensome. I`m going to spend time, effort working all these
things out, figuring out what they mean, et cetera. And if he shows undue
burden and lack of connection, he wins and otherwise not. That`s true of
every person. That`s Clinton v. Jones. Why not the same here?
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: Justice Breyer, the hypothetical you just
gave I think proves the point. By the time you were to prepare, review,
analyze the various requests, just in these three cases that we have today,
shows the burdensome nature. And then to require the president of the
United States as you raised in your opinion in Clinton versus Jones, that
burden is being met just by us being here. But to require the president to
have to respond to each and every state district attorney that would –
BREYER: No, he would hire you and he would hire a lawyer to list what the
burdens are. That wouldn`t take a lot of time. And then he wouldn`t be
burdened because you would go in and say what the burdens are. And if
you`re right, you win that case.
They`re saying the other side, there are no burdens here?
SEKULOW: Well –
BREYER: You say there are. Send it back and let them figure out what they
SEKULOW: I think doing that establishes the problem with analysis of case
by case analysis. For instance, in this very case in this subpoena found on
page 118A and 119 of the petition appendix, there`s a list of documents
that are extensive. You would have to meet with the president of the United
I mean, could you imagine, Justice Breyer, and you say, let`s assume the
president were to hire me, I`m going to call the president of the United
States today and say, I know you`re handling a pandemic right now for the
United States, but I need to spend a couple or three hours with you going
over a subpoena of documents that are wanted by the New York County
district attorney. I know you`re busy –
CHIEF JSUTICE ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel.
SEKULOW: – but you – can you carve me out two hours.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Can you carve me out two hours? That would be a very good argument
with many presidents. But with this president, you getting two hours with
him to organize evidence related to what this subpoena about, money
laundering, bank fraud, insurance fraud, campaign finance felonies, yes,
you need two hours?
This president could probably afford to give you that time to help organize
evidence about serious investigations like that given what we know about
how he spends his time including what he put on display about how he spends
his time today. Yes, he probably could spare two hours with his lawyer to
We`re going to speak with one of the best court watchers in the country,
one of the best legal journalists our country has ever had in just a moment
about today`s historic Supreme Court arguments about whether the president
is immune from being investigated, whether the president is effectively
impervious to the law by virtue of being president.
But hearing them fight it out today was fascinating including the
inadvertently funny back and forth between Justice Stephen Breyer and the
president`s lawyer about whether or not this president has two hours to
provide evidence to various areas of investigations. But there`s also today
– you should hear this – some surprising lines of questioning from
justices you might not expect them from including this from Chief Justice
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Counsel, for all that, you don`t argue that the grand jury cannot
investigate the president, do you?
SEKULOW: We did not seek to have an injunction as was the case involving
Vice President Agnew and in joining the grand jury. We have targeted the
utilization of the temporary immunity here to the subpoena. That`s correct.
ROBERTS: Well, in other words, it`s OK for the grand jury to investigate
except it can`t use the traditional and most effective device that grand
juries have typically used which is the subpoena.
SEKULOW: You can`t use a subpoena targeting the president. Under his
Article II responsibilities and the Supremacy Clause, that, as our view,
would be inappropriate and unconstitutional. So, we have not challenged the
ROBERTS: I don`t understand if your theory in terms of distraction and all
that would seem to go much farther than resisting the subpoena, I don`t
know why you don`t resist the investigation in its entirety or why your
theory wouldn`t lead to that.
SEKULOW: Well, our position is that criminal process against the president.
That`s what we`re talking about. That`s before the court. Criminal process
targeting the president is a violation of the Constitution. We did not seek
to enforce an injunction or seek an injunction against the grand jury
investigating the situation with the president.
ROBERTS: You focused on the distraction to the president, but I don`t know
why in Clinton versus Jones, we were not persuaded that the distraction in
that case meant the discovery could not proceed. And, you know, there are
different things that distract different people, but I would have thought
the discovery in a case like Clinton versus Jones, even though civil, would
be distracting as you argue the grand jury proceedings are here.
SEKULOW: Well, Clinton versus Jones of course was in federal court. This is
in state court. Clinton versus Jones was a civil case. This is a criminal
And as this court noted on page 691 of its opinion, if in fact the Clinton
versus Jones case had originated in a state court proceeding, it would
raise different issues than separation of powers concerns over local
prejudice and in footnote 13, this court said that any direct control by a
state court over the president may implicate concerns that are different
than either branch disputes under separation of powers. So, it would be a -
ROBERTS: Justice Thomas?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Cuts him off. Justice Thomas, you go now. Lawyer, stop talking. Now
Justice Thomas. He goes next.
The telephonic format of these Supreme Court hearings now where the
justices all ask their questions in turn, it`s awkward. It`s brusque. It`s
a very different thing than I think Supreme Court advocates are used to.
For us the public, though, so few of us get to hear live Supreme Court
arguments, being able to dial in and listen in on them is a bit – is a bit
of a revelation even in a case that`s not this historic. But, I mean,
that`s Chief Justice Roberts saying to the president`s lawyer today, are
you saying the president can`t even be investigated? You`re saying it`s OK
to investigate him but they can`t collect any evidence for their
investigation? Is that what you`re saying? No evidence about potential
crimes by a president can even be collected?
I sort of expected to hear that line today. I didn`t expect to hear it from
the chief justice. But it was fascinating on a bunch of different levels,
fascinating day today.
We got more ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: Good morning, Mr. Strawbridge. I think what strikes me
about this case is this isn`t the first conflict between Congress and the
president as many of my colleagues have pointed out. We`ve never had to
address this issue. And the reason is because Congress and the president
have reached accommodations with each other and sometimes one has gotten
more and sometimes the other has gotten more.
But there`s always been this accommodation-seeking. And what it seems to me
you`re asking us to do is to put a kind of ten-ton weight on the scales
between the president and Congress, and essentially to make it impossible
for Congress to perform oversight and to carry out its functions where the
president is concerned.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Justice Elena Kagan not wasting any time with one of President
Trump`s lawyers this morning. Good morning, Mr. Strawbridge. Aren`t you
asking us to put a ten-ton weight on the scales to make it possible for us
to do its job? Straightforward.
President Trump is trying to block two banks and an accounting firm for
handing over information that pertains to him in response to subpoenas from
Congress and from the Manhattan district attorney. The investigations that
led to those subpoenas include things like money laundering, potential
foreign influence over the president, potential bank and insurance fraud,
the question of whether or not the president`s business was used as a
vehicle to facilitate the campaign finance felonies that put the
president`s lawyer in federal prison.
The president has been litigating these cases for months. He has lost in
multiple federal trial courts and in two federal courts of appeal so far.
But today, he was at the Supreme Court hoping that the Supreme Court unlike
every other court that has heard these arguments thus far will agree with
him, block the enforcements of those subpoenas, and hopefully, I`m
assuming, they want the court to side with the president in what appears at
least to me to be a truly novel argument that he is not only immune from
prosecution, he is immune from being investigated.
A Supreme Court ruling against the president would mean that the financial
information he`s been fighting so hard to keep secret could be turned over
to Congress as soon as this summer. But it seems like anything including a
black and white yes/yes or no decision and a lot of gray areas in between
is possible at this point.
Boy, is this a moment where I would like somebody to explain to me what we
can glean from today`s hearings, someone who has, say, decades of
experience dissecting Supreme Court oral arguments.
Thankfully, joining us right now, I`m honored to say, is Nina Totenberg,
who`s NPR`s legal affairs correspondent.
Ms. Totenberg, it`s really a pleasure to have you here on this big day.
Thanks for making the time.
NINA TOTENBERG, NPR LEGAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And it`s a pleasure to be here
and to actually be able to have put on a little bit of make up.
MADDOW: Well, for me, you never have to, although I appreciate it.
TOTENBERG: The radio I definitely don`t have to.
MADDOW: That is fair enough. This is what attracted me to radio in the
Let me just ask you as I just set up what I saw today in those hearings and
what I think is at stake in these cases, let me just ask you to steer me
right and correct me if I laid that out in a way that`s naive or wrong.
TOTENBERG: I think you basically have it right. The two things that are
missing from what you said is that they didn`t subpoena the president.
Neither Congress nor the grand jury in Manhattan subpoenaed the president.
They subpoenaed the accounting firm and Deutsche Bank and the Capital One
Bank, I think, all of which have information that they think is relevant to
Now, normally this is a pretty straightforward thing. When you subpoena a
third party, they just turn it over and they`ve got it all packaged up, and
there`s no burden to the president about that because they have it packaged
up and ready to go.
What`s to burden is for him to figure out what are my objections? Do I have
reasonable objections? What are my lawyers telling me? And what do I do
And what he`s done about it is to intervene to try to block all of these
subpoenas and take the case all the way up to the Supreme Court which
frankly today I thought seemed unpredictably divided I would say. And oddly
enough, maybe because these are not people who have generally worked in
politics, oddly enough, they were much more comfortable talking about the
grand jury subpoena where they clearly thought that you can`t just say
you`re temporarily immune. We`ve already said you can`t be temporarily
immune in the Clinton versus Jones case in 1997 where President Clinton was
forced to give a deposition in a sexual harassment civil lawsuit which
ultimately led to his impeachment.
And interestingly enough, Justice Alito, one of the court`s conservatives
said to the lawyer for this county of New York, he said, you know, we in
the court said there was really not going to be any problem with Clinton
giving a deposition. And has history borne that out? After all,
parentheses, it will lead to his impeachment.
And Carey Dunn who was the lawyer said it wasn`t the problem he gave the
deposition. It was that he lied under oath. That`s what led to his
So, he got very interestingly around that question, very amusingly in some
ways around that question. But I thought the justices were more befuddled
in a way about the congressional subpoenas.
MADDOW: Do you think that it is fair to put these arguments, particularly
the way they played out today in court on a continuum with the Paula Jones
case and with U.S. v. Nixon, and these other sort of – we think of these
generational tests of presidential powers and these incredibly dramatic
moments where two presidents come to the Supreme Court complaining that too
much is being demanded of them and in both of those cases we get decisions
by the court telling the presidents that too much has not been asked from
you, you are not above the law, you have legal obligations as well? Is it
fair to put this case today on the continuum with those other two?
TOTENBERG: I think – I think it is because, you know, if the president
wins slam dunk in the congressional subpoenas, it`ll make it very hard in
the future for the congressional committees to do effective oversight of
the president`s activities before he was in office, that`s what all these
involve, matters that occurred before he became president or certainly when
he is president.
And what I thought the court was looking for was some sort of middle ground
that wouldn`t just spear the president`s heart. At the same time, that it
wouldn`t spear the heart of congressional oversight and legislative powers.
And I`ll be very curious to see how they thread that needle, if they try to
thread that needle.
MADDOW: Nina Totenberg, NPR legal affairs correspondent, and truly the
person I most wanted to talk to about this today, of anybody in the whole
country – thank you so much for making time. It was a fascinating day to
be able to listen to those live arguments, you know, in my sweat pants. But
I thank you for dressing up and joining us tonight to talk about it here.
TOTENBERG: It was a fascinating day, you`re right, and a little bit the
Perils of Pauline when you`re filing on deadline.
MADDOW: I know that myself. Thank you, Nina. Great to see you.
TOTENBERG: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`re going to be joined in just a moment live by
Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Obviously, the plan to reopen America was meant
to be followed by more detailed nuanced guidance. So, my specific question
is, why didn`t this plan get released? And if it is just being reviewed,
when is it going to be released? Because states are reopening right now,
and we need this additional guidance to make those decisions.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: The guidances that you`ve talked about
have gone through that interagency review. Their comments that have come
back to CDC, and I anticipate they`ll go back up into the task force for
MURPHY: But we`re reopening in Connecticut in five days, in ten days. I
mean, this guidance isn`t going to be useful to us in two weeks. So, is it
this week? Is it next week? When are we going to get this expertise from
the federal government?
REDFIELD: I do anticipate this broader guidance, though, to be posted on
the CDC website soon. I can`t tell you –
MURPHY: Soon isn`t terribly helpful. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Soon isn`t terribly helpful. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut
today grilling the CDC Director Robert Redfield on why his agency`s
detailed guidelines for how various entities and businesses and
organizations should reopen remains stuck somewhere inside the
administration even as states are starting to reopen and they can really
use that granular guidance. The guidelines will be posted soon.
Some of them have already been leaked to the press. We know they exist.
Today, the Senate Health Committee got its first socially distant
teleconference crack at the head of CDC, Dr. Redfield, since the pandemic
ramped up. As well as some other top health experts who have been charged
with carrying out the president`s rather calamitous response to the
coronavirus, including Dr. Anthony Fauci.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Dr. Fauci, you have advised six presidents.
You have battled deadly viruses for your career. So I would just like to
hear your honest opinion. Do we have the coronavirus contained?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS
DISEASES: Senator, thanks for the question.
Right now, it depends on what you mean by containment. If you think we have
it completely under control, we don`t. I think we`re going in the right
direction, but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total
control of this outbreak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That exchange between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Dr. Tony Fauci
made headlines around the country. Fauci says, quote, we don`t have virus
completely under control. Quote, pressed by Warren, Fauci says coronavirus
is not contained.
Joining us now live is Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Senator, it`s great to see you tonight. Thank you very much for making time
to be here.
WARREN: Thank you. It`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: Let me first just ask you whether or not you think the Senate is
able to effectively do its job in the way the sort of partially socially
distant, partially remote, partially isolated, partially in person way that
we saw you all sort of struggle through this hearing today?
WARREN: Look, it`s not ideal, but we should be doing all of this remotely.
It makes absolutely no sense. We had a hearing today in which none of the
witnesses appeared because at least some of them are under social isolation
because they`ve been exposed to the virus the from being in places
presumably where people were not wearing masks and not distancing.
But the chairman of the committee was not there because he`s in isolation
because he has been exposed. None of the Democrats came because it
basically is a violation of the CDC guidelines.
I mean, I`m still looking for the health guideline that says, hey, if you
could do this remotely or you could all get together in person and breathe
on each other, pick the one where you all get together in person and
breathe on each other. There`s no health guideline that says that.
We can do this remotely. Most of this was done remotely. Why it is that a
handful of Republicans had to show up and ask questions and not wear masks
and show how tough they were, it just makes no sense.
And it`s just putting politics ahead of good practices. Everybody else can
manage to do this online. We can too.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about Chairman Alexander who you mentioned is also
socially isolating right now because of his exposure to a staffer who
tested positive. I was really struck by it. A bunch of people on my staff
are struck by the way he opened up the hearing today.
He kicked off the day`s hearing by saying he wanted this hearing to be
about being well-prepared for the next pandemic, which is definitely
laudable. I mean, the next pandemic is something we should worry about, but
it just struck a very discordant note for me and at least for others that I
work with in terms of whether or not he thinks we`re done with this one.
Do you think there is a sort of earth one, earth two divide where some of
your Senate colleagues really think that this is handled, this is dusted,
and we should start thinking down the road?
WARREN: Well, look, they can say that`s what they think, but they have to
confront reality every single day.
When the chairman said that today, I genuinely thought he meant how we
handle the next wave in this pandemic because what I heard from this more
than anything else was Dr. Fauci ringing an alarm bell – I mean, loud and
clear – saying that if we don`t ramp up testing, if we don`t get a
national program on contact tracing, and if we don`t follow appropriate
social distancing guidelines, then the next wave of this thing is going to
cause many, many unnecessary deaths.
He`s making it clear. As he said, it`s going to be a really bad fall if we
don`t get the preparations in place now.
MADDOW: Let me ask you a little bit about that specifically because what
Dr. Fauci is describing about that potentially catastrophic second wave in
the fall, while we are still in the middle of the first wave, is that we
really do need as a country to get really good and really big and really
expert at contact tracing and testing in order to try to head off the
second wave. And that is something that takes skill and good governance and
good administration. It`s just a technocratic thing that we really haven`t
developed nationally at all.
Do you – do you feel like that is going to have to happen state by state
or even city by city? Have you given up on the prospect that we might be
able to do that nationally at the kind of scale Dr. Fauci was talking about
WARREN: They`re saying we need competence and leadership, and that`s what`s
missing at the federal level. And the problem is there are many things the
states can do by themselves, and God bless them. They`re out there trying
to do it every day, to open more emergency hospitals and to do all kinds of
work to try to keep their citizens safe.
But contact tracing, we moved (ph). We move from place to place and state
to state. This is something that needs national leadership.
Same thing is true on testing. We need for the test kits to be produced
nationally. We need for all of the support materials that you need, whether
it`s swabs or tubes, test tubes, or whatever it is to be produced
nationally, to be distributed nationally. The notion of saying to the 50
states and to Washington and to Puerto Rico, hey, you all are on your own,
good luck to you, and try outbidding each other for what is necessary, that
is – that is not only wasteful, it costs people lives. It wastes dollars,
and it puts us further and further behind in responding to this crisis.
That`s why I said what I heard from Dr. Fauci is saying, in effect, we all
know over the past, it`s roughly about 16 weeks that we`ve been at this
since the first case appeared here in America. And in that period of time,
there`s been no real planning, no real organization, just as you say, just
good technocratic government, government that functions, government that
We`ve now got roughly about 16 weeks to when the next big crash could hit
us, when the next big wave could be upon us. We need to use that time to
plan, to get organized, and to be ready for it, and to have the measures in
place so that we can really do national contact tracing.
I`ve got this right now in the plan that Speaker Pelosi put out today. I`ve
been pushing for this for a long time. We`ve got some money in it.
You know, Rachel, what we`re suffering from is without federal leadership,
it is really hard to get this stuff done. And human beings across this
country and our economy are paying a terrible price for the lack of
MADDOW: Senator Warren, if you can stick with us for just a moment, you
just mentioned the plan described today by Speaker Pelosi, that`s exactly
what I want to ask you about. If you can stick with us, we`ll be right back
on the other side of this break.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is our guest. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Senator Warren, thank you again for sticking with us.
I wanted to ask you about the plan that was rolled out today by House
Democrats announced by Speaker Pelosi, which would be about a $3 trillion
relief effort. It would be the largest relief effort thus far, even though
it would not be the first.
What do you make about what the House Democrats are proposing?
WARREN: So, look, there`s some really important pieces in this. Think of it
this way. We have to think about health first, and how we protect Americans
and help restore health. And as we restore health, we need to be thinking
about the economic issues and how we make sure there`s enough economic
One of the keys to that is making sure there`s enough money for state and
local government. They need to be able to provide those essential services
and we need them to have enough money that they`re not laying people off.
So that`s critical.
I`ve been pushing hard for the essential worker`s bill of rights so that
our frontline workers, doctors and nurses, and the people who mop the
floors in the hospitals, the people stocking the shelves at the grocery
stores, the people who are making deliveries, the people who are picking up
the garbage, that all of those folks have got appropriate protective
equipment and health care coverage. But also that they`re getting hazardous
duty pay and that they`re getting enough support, and they have
whistleblower protections, so that they are fully protected. And we`ve got
a lot of that in the bill.
The bill also has in it one of the big pieces – it`s got student loan debt
forgiveness in it, which I`m really excited about, $10,000 for each person
who has outstanding student loan debt. It will be canceled from the
principal and a delay on payments.
That`s going to be really stimulative to the economy, help relieve a lot of
burdens for a lot of young people. So these are good pieces in there. It`s
also got a piece in it to protect voting.
On the other hand, there`s still work to be done in this bill. There`s not
nearly enough money for child care. And child care has become like basic
If we want parents to be able to go back to work to reopen the economy, if
we want people out on the front lines, we`ve got to be able to support the
child care centers, so they`ve got the resources they need to be able to
operate safely, and to be financially secure. Absolutely critical to what
We also need more oversight in this bill. Oversight on how the president
and Steve Mnuchin dole out money from what`s effectively a $450 billion
slush fund for giant corporations. We need to put some curbs on that and
some essential oversight.
And we need to make sure that everyone in this crisis has full health care
coverage. You know, you`re in the middle of a pandemic, and yet with 20
million people just last month losing their employment, they`ve also lost
their insurance. And we`ve got to make sure that everybody stays covered.
We`re in this together and we need to have a good bill all together.
And the Democrats, we started in the right direction, but there`s still a
lot of work to be done on it.
MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – it is great to see
you, Senator. Thanks for making time to be with us tonight in the middle of
all of this. I really appreciate seeing you.
WARREN: Good to – it`s good to see you. Stay safe.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. You too, thanks.
MADDOW: Thank you for being with us tonight. That is going to do it for us
for now. But I`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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