PPE shortages TRANSCRIPT: 5/15/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

James Curran, David Rohde


JOHN BARRY, AUTHOR, “THE GREAT INFLUENZA”: So, rumors spread wildly and you

have society actually beginning to fray. I mean, fortunately, we`re not

facing that now. Even with misleading information. But that is what got to

be like back then.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: John Barry, thanks so much for making time



If you want to hear more about John`s expertise in the 1918 flu, you can

listen to our conversation from last month from my podcast “Why Is This

Happening.” We talk about it for an hour. It`s pretty fascinating wherever

you get your podcast.


That`s – that is “ALL IN” for this evening.


TEHE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.


Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Chris, thank you very much for stretching 30

seconds into my hour while I get myself settled.




MADDOW: You think anybody else noticed that`s what you were doing?


HAYES: I was just like – I couldn`t hear in my ear if she`s good or not

good. So, when I threw, I guess we`ll see if we`re getting an empty shot.




MADDOW: I will tell – I could tell you the backs of the dramatic back

story as to why it took me an extra 22 seconds to get here today but it is

best shared over a beer on the other side of the curve. I will tell you, my



HAYES: All right. On the other side of the curve, have a great weekend.


MADDOW: All right. Thanks, Chris. Much appreciate it.


All right. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.


I am super happy to have you here with us. I`m sorry that I was 22 seconds

late. Long story, I`ll tell you some day.


All right. I want to tell you about something that happens behind the

scenes at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW this week that has been interesting.


Earlier this week, it happened over the course of a few days, but by

earlier this week, we obtained a bunch of internal emails from a V.A.

medical center, specifically from the V.A. medical center in Minneapolis,

and what was interesting to us about those emails and why they were

provided to us is that they showed that the levels of PPE and other

necessary supplies for the people that work at that facility, things like

disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, it showed the levels of those things

currently in stock at the V.A. facility.


Show you what I`m talking about. Here`s one of those emails. This one is

from this past Wednesday. And as you can see, the little graphic here in

the email shows the current PPE status of each of these items.


Face shields, 30-day supply. Gloves, 30-day supply. It also looks like

they`re good in terms of masks needed for general use, 30-day supply.


But then look at this, hand sanitizer, zero days of supply on hand. Oh.

Same thing with hydrogen peroxide wipes, zero days of supply on hand.

Germinal bleach wipes, one day`s worth of supplies on hand.


In terms of goggles or safety glasses, that`s also very bad. It looks like

a total of a four-day supply of those.


Again, this is an active V.A. medical center that`s serving lots of COVID

patients. And the throw line is pretty much the same in each of these

emails that we obtained. It shows there being very little hand sanitizer

and very disinfectant wipes in stock. This applies whether you`re looking

at the supply chain emails from April or from the beginning of this month

or even from this week.


Now, on Wednesday of this week, we tried to report on this story in so

doing, we reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs for comment

about what was going on with PPE supplies at this V.A. medical center, and

a public affairs officer with the V.A. responded just before we were due to

go on the air with this. Quote, you`re misinterpreting a routine email on

supply levels.


He added the V.A. medical center in Minneapolis is always stocked with hand

sanitizer and has always been stocked with hand sanitizer. He said they

have dispensers mounted throughout the facility. He also said employees

have access to all the disinfecting products they need, sort of a strong

push back from the V.A. on that.


That might have been the end of it had that not been for something that

happened today because today we received yet another internal email. Today,

we received a copy of the new supply email that`s being sent out to

employees at the Minneapolis V.A. medical center and this one is different.


As you can see, the old email used to break out the various disinfectant

wipes they needed for working at that facility, hydrogen peroxide wipes,

germicidal bleach wipes, super sani wipes, but now, as of today, after all

of that reporting earlier on some of those stuff being completely out of

stock, now the email just says disinfectant wipes. Can we drop the bug to

see that on the lower right-hand corner of the screen? Can we drop that?


All right. Now, they`re just lumping them all together. Thank you. Because,

of course, when you lump them all together and you just pick the one for

which you`ve got 12-day supply situation, doesn`t look that bad.


As you can see, the email on Wednesday also showed that that V.A. medical

center had zero days` worth of hand sanitizer in supply, but as of today`s

email, they say they have obtained a 20-day supply, which is great. Good

for them.


Changing what you release in terms of information about how bad things are

doesn`t actually change how bad things are in real life. And it would be

one thing if this was a one off from the V.A., right? If they earned a

reputation of giving it to us straight and this is them getting wooly in

the one V.A. medical center in the one sore subject. But the V.A. has not

been straight with the American people or employees at any point throughout

this crisis.


Here is another example. The Department of Veterans Affairs is now pushing

to resume regular operations at the medical centers, that would mean

expanding medical services and offering certain elective procedures. Given

that and given the repeated reporting about a shortage of necessary

supplies for health workers at various V.A. facilities around the country,

V.A. health care workers are demanding they should get hazard pay given the

additional risk they are taking coming into work right now.


The V.A. for its part says that hazard pay is totally unwarranted. You

might expect them to push back. They don`t want to spend extra money on

employees but look at the statement the department`s press secretary put

out about it. Look at this.


Quote: Hazard pay is to compensate employees when risks cannot be

reasonably mitigated, and employees cannot be safely protected. That is the

opposite of the current environment at V.A.


But don`t ask us about those germicidal wipes and the fact that we don`t

have them anymore or we`ll just stop telling you that we don`t have them



It doesn`t seem like the V.A. is getting money`s worth in terms of their

spokespeople right now. Or maybe they are. Maybe this is what they going



But Baghdad Bobbing your way through this part of the crisis is something

worse than embarrassing, right? I mean, the truth will out – we will

ultimately learn what`s going on and then all your happy talk about it will

become at best embarrassing and at worst, indicting.


I mean, listen, I believe that V.A. medical staff are doing their absolute

best. If you meet someone that tells you they work at a V.A. medical

center, your first instinct likely is and definitely should be to buy that

person a beer or at least shake their hand. They are doing a great public

service by doing that work.


But the agency itself and its leaders and its spokespeople in particular

are not doing themselves favors by pretending everything is fine in the

V.A. right now. This is the largest medical center in the country, right?

It serves as incredibly vulnerable and valuable population of Americans who

have served their country, most of whom over the age of 65, who depend on

the V.A. for directly provided care. It`s the federal government`s direct

responsibility. They need to get this right.


Happy talk that the problems don`t exist in the V.A. is not a way to make

the actual problems in the V.A. go away. It`s not a way to get help for

those problems, for sure.


I mean, hello, V.A. leadership, you are not alone having a hard time

handling the challenges of the epidemic, including keeping your medical

staff protected with hand sanitizer and germicidal wipes and all the PPE

that they need. You`re not alone having those problems. It shouldn`t be

embarrassing to you that you are having these problems. If you tell people

the truth about what problems you are having, you`ll be a heck of a lot

more likely to get help to meet the challenges.


No one is looking to blame you. We want you to succeed. When you lie, you

make it hard to help you succeed.


But we see this over and over again. This is becoming sort of a character

test of various types of leadership and governance in this crisis.


Take the Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts who finally made headline national

news this week when he finally hit the front page of “The Washington Post”

for his remarkable decision to stop reporting coronavirus case numbers from

individual meatpacking plants in his state, just as two big meatpacking

plants in this state with significant outbreaks were starting to get test

results from their workers. That`s when Governor Ricketts decided, you know

what, we`re not going to allow this data out anymore. We decided this data

is privacy concern.


Yeah, heaven forbid people actually know where the problem is, right?

Heaven forbid the workers and their families know that the communities know

where these facilities are and workers go home at the end of the day, maybe

if we don`t talk about it, it won`t seem that bad?


The problem is not information about the spread of the virus. The problem

is the spread of the virus, which you can`t stop if you don`t have any

information about where it is. But still, even so, this week that same

governor, Pete Ricketts in Nebraska, got up in a press conference and

announced that he also will block the release of any data about coronavirus

outbreaks in specific nursing homes in his state.


He told Nebraskans this is on top of him deciding they`ll no longer release

data about specific meatpacking plants. There will be no data about nursing

homes released, and the way around that if you`re concerned is that he told

Nebraskans that they, as individual citizens, can just call nursing homes

one by one and ask if they have a coronavirus outbreak and how many cases

and deaths they`ve had. Just see what they say.


That`s how we`re going to handle the spread of coronavirus in nursing homes

in Nebraska. Individual citizens just calling around and seeing what you

can figure out.


Is that going to help? I mean do you think that`s going to make people

think Nebraska doesn`t have people dying in its nursing homes.


We are now far enough into this that we are seeing these kinds of dumb,

shoot-the-messenger distortions all over the place now. Various leaders in

various states are figuring out that when their epidemic is bad, people

will be able to tell that because the numbers are bad. And when the numbers

are bad, that makes the graphs look bad.


So, now, we`ve got all of this very artful, dumb, math lying going on all

over about both the numbers and the graphs. This is one of the best ones

this week.


This is a graph that the Georgia state government released on Monday as

Republican Governor Brian Kemp there is trying to justify his sort of

radical, rip the lid off, open everything up, end the stay-at-home orders

approach to what`s going on in Georgia and where his approval rating has

been paying the price for it.


Now, again, this is released by the state government in Georgia. You can

see at the top there this is the top five counties with the greatest number

of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia. Top five worst hit counties in



You can tell at a glance from looking at this, even if you don`t put on

your reading glasses, just take a glance. You can tell this is good news,

right? This is a good news chart about the worst hit counties in Georgia.

You can tell it`s good because everything goes down. It all slopes off

gently to the right until it disappears.


And the subhead explains, the chart below represents that most impacted

counties over the past 15 days and the number of cases overtime. Well, like

I said, I mean, that looks excellent, Georgia. I can see why you`re opening

up what with everything just dropping off to zero.


But you know what? Put your readers on. Look al the bottom here. Look at

the X-axis. Look at what they`ve done here. Look at the X-axis left to



It goes from April 28th back to April 27th, ahead to April 29th, ahead to

May 1st. Jumps ahead to May 6th. Then back to May 4th. Then up to May 5th,

then all the way back to April 25th. Then the 2nd of May, then the 7th of

May, then the 26th of April, 3rd of May, 8th of May and then 9th of.


What the heck is this? That`s how you had to stack it to make it look like

it was sloping down to the right? I mean, this is a graph that was

specially created to create the impression of a pretty picture of things

going down and getting better over time – when really, no, they`re not.


After the Georgia state government tried to pull this over on the people of

the state of Georgia, one state legislator from Atlanta wrote to the

department of public health to say, what the heck is this? He called it,

quote, cuckoo that they were trying to do this. The graph became the object

of sustained mockery and wonderment online in Georgia. You see this is from

the “Atlanta Journal Constitution,” their data interactive team.


Quote: This graphic has been the subject of much head scratching by the

interactives team. The AJC ultimately tried to make sense of it in a kind

of article that tends to follow a public official to the end of his or her



Here`s their headline, quote. It`s just cuckoo. State`s latest data mishap

causes critics to cry foul. Here`s the lead in that piece. Where does

Sunday take place twice a week? And where does May 2nd come before April

26th? Well, that happens in the state of Georgia as it provides data on the

COVID-19 pandemic.


Quote, in the latest bungling of tracking data for the novel coronavirus,

the Georgia department of public health`s website appears to show good

news, new confirmed cases in the counties with the most infections had

dropped every single day for the past two weeks. In fact, there was no

clear downward trend. Cases have held steady or dropped only slightly in

the past two weeks. Cases in those five worst hit counties were actually



Ultimately, after being ridiculed for it and questioned about it in ways

they couldn`t answer, the state changed the graph. The Kemp administration

actually apologized for having published that graph. The good news in that

bad news story is that shame and ridicule and pushback made them fix it.


I mean the governor in Georgia, Brian Kemp, is still trying to happy talk

the epidemic in his state to justify the policy which he wants, which is to

say everything`s fine and nothing needs to be done to slow the spread

anymore. And that`s his right to try do that and get away with that as

governor. But at least because of the pushback on what they tried to get

away with this week, at least he won`t have what appears to be public

health data backing up that B.S. happy talk that he`s otherwise trying to

get away with.


It`s one thing to be able to blame the politician for making stuff up. When

the public health people appear to be on board with it, that`s a much

bigger problem. I mean, you can still get real data. Actually, real data

well presented on what`s happening in Georgia, when they don`t muck around

with it and try to make the data tell a story.


And the real data is not good. I mean, here`s Georgia deaths from COVID-19

mapped by the Georgia department of public health. That`s bad. That`s

particularly bad if you`re opening up right now in the middle of that.


Here`s Georgia confirmed cases from COVID-19. Very similar shape to that

graph. That`s bad. That`s not what your state should look like if you are

opening up right now.


Here`s Georgia cumulative cases from COVID, cumulative cases over time.

That is the blue line. That`s bad.


So, yeah, if you want to look at graphs like that and say, oh, trust me.

Everything`s fine. Don`t believe your lying eyes. Let`s open up.


I mean, if that`s what you had – if that`s the real data in your state,

you might want to fudge something that looks better than that, which is

apparently what they did. But they got called on it, and ultimately, they

took it down.


Happy talk and hiding the data doesn`t make the problem go away. Happily,

right now, pushback against B.S. happy talk and hiding the data sometimes

works to shame the people trying to do it, and it makes them stop.


We`re seeing that at the national level too with investigative reporting by

the “Associated Press” over the past two weeks. “A.P.” reporting on the

White House shelving the CDC`s guidelines for how to safely reopen the

country, pressuring the CDC not to release those guidelines and not to let

anybody know they existed. It took a couple of weeks of sustained attention

and investigation by the “A.P.” and hard questions of people in the

administration and leaks of the early drafts of the CDC`s work that was

being suppressed.


But last night finally at least some of it was finally actually issued by

the CDC. That wouldn`t have happened without the “A.P.” investigating it

and calling them on it and asking them hard questions about it. But that

relationship, the survival and integrity of the CDC, the public health part

of the U.S. government that we ought to be able to look to even when our

politicians are plainly getting it wrong, that relationship between the

administration and the CDC is being sort of existentially tested now just

by the misfortune of us having an epidemic this bad while we have a

government this terrible.


I mean this kind of a headline is the last thing you want to see in a

country that has already got the biggest epidemic on earth with 1.4 million

cases now and more than 88,000 Americans already dead. This is not what you

want to see as the lead headline in “The Washington Post” more than two

months into this, growing friction between White House and CDC hobbles

pandemic response.


But that is what`s going on. “The Post” reporting tonight that the Trump

administration inexplicably gave a $10 million no-bid contract to a private

company to collect a bunch of data about the epidemic that the CDC already

collects. Well, why would you do that? Why would you undermine the CDC that



Well, maybe because you wanted to have an alternate source of data, in case

you wanted to trash the CDC`s reputation and have data you are more

comfortable with. I mean, keep that in mind when the White House starts

disputing the coronavirus death toll in our country and saying that not

that many Americans have actually died. Keep in mind that they have bought

and paid for a private source of data to compete with and undermine the

CDC`s data.


“The Post” further reporting that the CDC is now so demoralized, they`re

now so kicked and beaten down, they`re no longer even trying to play their

traditional role of keeping the public informed at the time of a public

health crisis. Quote: The CDC, which has not held a briefing since early

march, has repeatedly asked the White House to resume its sessions for the

media, but they have not received permission, and the CDC has finally given



Also this. Quote: Now as Trump has promised a reignited economy heading

into the November election, CDC is in the awkward position of producing the

information Trump want wants leased. The reminder that the COVID-19 death

rate has plateaued at nearly 2,000 Americans dead every day.


And if that`s not enough of a test to see whether the Trump administration

will allow the CDC to do its work unimpeded, the CDC director, Robert

Redfield, tonight tweeted this. Quote, CDC tracks 12 different forecasting

models of possible COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of May 11th, all forecast

an increase in deaths in the coming weeks and a cumulative total exceeding

100,000 American deaths by June 1st.


June 1st is two weeks away. This is the CDC director saying tonight that

the best, the rosiest of the dozen forecasting models the CDC is tracking

says there will be 100,000 Americans dead by then, by two weeks from now.

And it gets worse from there. That`s the best-case scenario.


And the president, you know, did say at the White House already today, when

he was asked by a CNN reporter as to whether or not the death toll might be

too low, he said actually the real death toll is – is much lower than what

the official numbers say. Who says that they`re overstating the death toll?



The president really has been saying for a solid week now that the virus

will go away on its own without even a vaccine. He used to say it would go

away on its own in April because, what, viruses hate months that begin with

“A” or something. But now he says it will go away without a vaccine. He

said this today at an event that was supposed to be hyping how great

America is doing at developing a vaccine.


The president saying that doesn`t really matter. He`s there to hype vaccine

development, but simultaneously he wants you to know it doesn`t really

matter because vaccine disappearance magic will fix this whole problem

before we need a vaccine so don`t get too hung up on it.


The president said today most Americans should not fear the virus because

most Americans are probably immune to it, which is a wonderful idea if the

only part of wonderful you care about is its root word, der.


I mean, that makes no sense at all. Most Americans are immune to the

coronavirus, really? The president literally said this last night.


He said, when you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something

is wrong with people. If we didn`t do any testing, we would have very few



I know you think that I am being hyperbolic and making fun of him and I am

making that up, but I am serious. He actually said exactly that.





case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn`t

do any testing, we would have very few cases.




MADDOW: If we didn`t do any testing, we would have very few cases. No,

actually, if we didn`t do any testing, we would have lots of cases. We just

wouldn`t know about them, which would be bad if you happen to be a human

being or at least some kind of being that recognizes that people who get

this thing are human beings, and human beings generally choose to avoid

unnecessary suffering, illness, suffocation, pain, death, and mourning.


If we didn`t do any testing, we would have very few cases. That`s the line

from the president right now. That`s the way we make our cases go away. We

stop testing for them.


That`s the way we make houses stop burning down. We close the fire

department. Then the data that says how many fires we`ve responded to goes

to zero. We haven`t had any fire responses at all. There`s also no more

houses left.


The president went on to say today, quote, it could be that testing frankly

is overrated. Could that be because they cannot figure out how to get

anybody outside the freaking White House tested on any regular basis?


This is a terrible time for us to have a terrible government. I mean both

in the persona of the president, who suggests, you know, injecting bleach

and that testing is the real problem and that viruses magically disappear,

and we don`t need vaccines. It`s a terrible time to have a terrible

government in the persona of the president and in terms of what he can do

to the rest of the government.


And in terms of what he has done already to public health, to the CDC, you

should see this editorial that ran today in the revered ancient British

medical journal “The Lancet.” It`s called reviving the U.S. CDC. Sometimes

people outside our borders can see these things more clearly than we can.


Quote: The COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen in the USA, prompting

pointed new questions about the inconsistent and incoherent national

response to the COVID-19 crisis there. The U.S. Centers for Disease

Control, the flagship agency for the nation`s public health, has seen its

role minimized and become an ineffective and nominal adviser in the

response to contain the spread of the virus. This is an agency that was

once regarded as the gold standard for global disease detection and



In the decades following its founding in 1946, the CDC became a national

pillar of public health and globally respected. It trained cadres of

applied epidemiologists to be deployed in the USA and abroad. CDC

scientists have helped to discover new viruses and developed accurate tests

for them.


The Trump administration`s erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation

and science and public health. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public

health threats both domestic and international and help prevent the next

inevitable pandemic. The USA is still nowhere near able to provide the

basic surveillance or laboratory testing infrastructure needed to combat

the COVID-19 epidemic.


The administration is obsessed with magic bullets, vaccines, new medicines,

or a hope that the virus will simply disappear. But only a steadfast

reliance on basic principles like test, trace, and isolate will see the

emergency brought to an end. And this requires an effective national public

health agency.


The CDC needs a director who can provide leadership without the threat of

being silenced and who has the technical capacity to lead today`s

complicated effort. Americans must put a president in the White House come

January 2021 who will understand that public health should not be guided by

partisan politics.


When who is the president of the United States is one of the world`s

biggest public health crises, that`s when you know these are – these are

very serious times. That`s “The Lancet” today in a scathing editorial. A

former star CDC scientist is now the dean of one of the nation`s leading

public health institutions is going to join us here live next for the



Stay with us.




MADDOW: If you`re looking for an American scientific leader who`s really,

really experienced in finding and fighting and explaining a terrifying,

deadly, new, mysterious virus, you should get to know Dr. James Curran.


All the way back in 1981, before anybody knew what HIV or AIDS were, Dr.

Curran was tasked with leading the CDC`s task force to study what was then

a mysterious, unknown disease that was inexplicably killing mostly young,

healthy men. Before we all learned to live through terrifying projections

about the exponential growth in coronavirus cases like we`re living through

now, Dr. Curran was the one making those kinds of projections for the

country about HIV.




REPORTER: Dr. James Curran gave the figures for the incidence in the United

States and the projection there will be 350,000 cases by 1982.



getting a little tired of making these projections. I`m even more tired of

having them turn out to be right. Twenty-eight thousand in the past year

alone or approximately one case reported in our country every 14 minutes.




MADDOW: Dr. James Curran spent 25 years at the CDC. He rose to the level of

assistant surgeon general. He joins us tonight for the interview. Dr.

Curran is now the dean of the School of Public Health at Emory University

and co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research.


Dr. Curran, it`s an honor to have you here with us tonight. Thanks for your



CURRAN: Thank you, Rachel.


MADDOW: With what you have lived through and the response that you helped

lead to what was then an unknown virus that took a terrible toll in the

United States, I wanted to ask you like sort of the biggest possible top-

level question of how you think our country is doing, how you think our

federal government is doing at responding to and mounting a fight against

this virus now.


CURRAN: Well, Rachel, this is the public health crisis of the century. This

is something that people haven`t seen before and nobody will see again.

Everyone in public health will, just like people did with World War II,

say, where were we before COVID, and where were we after COVID?


Now, the country has been overwhelmed by it, more so than most other

countries, and we haven`t had a very clear messaging or very clear aim at

goals. You pointed out, I think, quite clearly in the previous segment that

accurate surveillance is the conscience and guidepost for public health,

and it was for us with AIDS. And it`s a governmental responsibility to be

interpreted by people who are experts in epidemiology. That`s why it has to

remain with the CDC and of course can`t be interpreted wrong as it has been

in two instances you mentioned previously.


MADDOW: When it comes to the CDC`s particular expertise, obviously they`re

supposed to be our guiding light on public health matters, both for us as

civilians looking for expert advice about how we should live and what we

should do and what we should do to protect ourselves, but also guiding

public policy decisions by the rest of the federal government. And I know

the CDC comes in for a lot of criticism, and I know even that individual

leaders and scientists at CDC have had their time in the spotlight, some

uncomfortable and some celebratory.


It does feel to me, though, that the CDC has been sidelined and, in some

ways, compromised, sort of forced to accept political influence or

political inflection in a way that I don`t remember before.


Is that a fair assessment?


CURRAN: Well, I think “The Lancet” editorial points out the early problems

with the diagnostic testing capacity, which was a major problem, and CDC

played a role in that. But the CDC is the best prevention agency in the

entire world. Other countries model their public health prevention agencies

after the CDC, and it`s expected that the thousands of epidemiologists

there will contribute to what we know about prevention of a new infectious



The two goals from the very beginning was to prevent the new virus and to

save the lives of the people who were infected. And we could be optimistic

about that because of the short duration of the virus. And the goal from

the very beginning was the identification and isolation of infected people.


But because of the scarcity of testing, we said, well, we don`t have enough

tests, so we will change our policy toward what our priorities are, that is

saving lives, and we`ll pretend we don`t have to test because we know we



That`s really unconscionable because then you start to say, well, what is

testing? Well, it`s making test kits. No, that isn`t what it is. The goal

is to identify and isolate as many infected people as you can. And we still

haven`t gotten there.


MADDOW: Do you think that the president`s sometimes baseless remarks about

things like testing – today he`s calling testing overrated and saying

essentially blaming testing for revealing the existence of cases. If we

didn`t test so much, we wouldn`t have so many cases. The president

obviously has made some inappropriate comments about things that he

imagines might be effective treatments for the disease. He`s talked about

it disappearing on its own.


I think some of that is just baked into our expectations in terms of what

we expect from this president`s public remarks. But do you think that it

materially sets back our ability to fight this as a country and the ability

of the federal government to get its ducks in a row in terms of what it

needs to do to save the most lives?


CURRAN: Most of us know that the only thing that`s close to being accurate

in surveillance is the number of deaths and the number of hospitalizations

because the only people tested were those who were seriously ill. If you

assume that perhaps 1 percent of people who get COVID die and we have six

times that many deaths reported in the U.S., that means that we must be

underestimating the cases by a huge margin, particularly since the deaths

were infected four weeks ago.


So, it`s very likely that maybe 10 million to 15 million people have

already been infected. So if you employ effective prevention measures like

testing, isolating and contact tracing, you`re going to increase the number

of people infected, but you will – I`m sorry, you`ll increase the number

of people who reported while you`re reducing the number of people who

become infected in the future, which is what we want to do.


It seems like he just learned that if you increase testing, you`re going to

increase people who are diagnosed as positive, and that for some reason

that`s a bad thing, when that`s exactly what we`re trying to do.


MADDOW: Dr. James Curran, dean of Emory University school of public health,

co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research – Dr. Curran, it is a

real pleasure to have this much with you tonight. Thanks for making time

and thanks for your service.


CURRAN: Thank you, Rachel.


MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead this Friday night. Do stay

with us.




MADDOW: April 2nd, 1992, after years of evading prosecution and becoming

very, very, very famous as America`s most high-profile gangster, John

Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime family, on April 2nd, 1992, he was

finally convicted in a Brooklyn courtroom. It was murder and racketeering.




TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening. This time the wise guy smirk

disappeared. John Gotti, the modern grandfather, the so-called Teflon Don,

he also escaped the big convictions in the past but not today. Guilty of

murder and racketeering. 12 counts and now facing a long time in jail.


REPORTER: In a hushed courtroom, Gotti sat and heard the forelady of an

anonymous jury say guilty. Gotti and his co-defendant were charged of being

boss and underboss of the Gambino crime family.


REPORTER: The best evidence that Gotti was a mob boss came from his own

mouth over FBI bugs.


JOHN GOTTI: It`s going to be a Cosa Nostra until I die. Be it an hour from

now or be it tonight or a hundred years from now when I`m in jail. It`s

going to be a Cosa Nostra.




MADDOW: That conviction of John Gotti in 1992 was a huge deal, obviously

national news.


But one of the biggest moments in American law enforcement history when it

comes to organized crime. “The New York Times” called it a scintillating

triumph for a team of federal prosecutors who shattered the maddening aura

of invincibility of a notorious gangster.


“The Times” said, quote, the prosecution`s most visible member was 38-year-

old John Gleeson, who presented the evidence with a calm professorial air,

ignoring Mr. Gotti`s arm-swinging bravado and violent glares. With his

boyish appearance, dark, wavy hair, the horn-rimmed glasses and earnest

voice, Gleeson seemed to enhance the sincere image, a James Stewart

character perhaps, upholding truth against the mob.




REPORTER: After six weeks, prosecutor John Gleeson began by trying to

dilute whatever effect the aura of Gotti`s mob boss image might have had on

the jury. He said, this is not a media event. This is not a movie. It is

not about a movie star. It`s not a stage. It`s a trial in an American



Gleeson went on to read from the transcripts of FBI bugs that detailed the

murders and evidence that Gotti was the boss of the Gambino crime family.




MADDOW: John Gleeson, the prosecutor who finally got John Gotti, would go

on to serve as a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York. He

retired as a judge in 2016. This week he surfaced again in the news when he

wrote an op-ed weighing in on the Justice Department`s bizarre and

absolutely unprecedented decision this past week to simply drop the

prosecution of Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn despite the fact

that Justice Department prosecutors already secured a guilty plea from Mr.

Flynn multiple times.


Retired Judge John Gleeson wrote about that this week, that the

department`s handling of the Flynn case, quote, reeks of improper political



Well, two days after he wrote that in “The Washington Post,” the judge

overseeing the Mike Flynn case made an extraordinary decision of his own to

appoint John Gleeson, the prosecutor from the John Gotti trial, to appoint

John Gleeson, that retired judge, to essentially argue against the Justice

Department`s decision to drop the case against Flynn.


And, of course, the politics around this could not be more vulgar and

transparent, right?


President Trump now says on a daily basis that both President Obama and Joe

Biden are guilty of a deep-state criminal plot to do something to Mike

Flynn and to do something to President Trump. The president is making clear

that he wants them locked up just like he wanted Hillary Clinton locked up

four years ago.


He wants to imprison his immediate predecessor as president. He wanted to

imprison the person he ran against for president in 2016, and he wants to

imprison the person he`s going to run against for president this year in



What`s new now is that the Justice Department is helmed by Bill Barr, and

so nobody knows if the Justice Department might actually try to do that.

The president`s attacks calling on the imprisonment of Obama and Biden this

week followed the release of audio of former President Obama speaking at a

private event with members of his administration in which President Obama

warned of the justice department`s intervention to drop this case involving

Mike Flynn.




BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: That`s the kind of stuff where you begin to

get worried that basic – not just institutional norms, but our basic

understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those

directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we`ve seen in other places.




MADDOW: President Obama speaking at what was a private event that was

published, though, and made public, and it has become a sounding board for

President Trump, who this week has continued to accuse former President

Obama and former Vice President Biden of crimes, saying that he wants them

locked up.


Former president Obama replied to one of those outbursts from the president

today with a single one-word tweet. Simply, quote, “vote.”


Hold that thought. We`ll be right back.






OBAMA: That`s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic -

- not just institutional norms – but our basic understanding of rule of

law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can

accelerate pretty quickly as we`ve seen in other places.


Whenever I campaign, I`ve always said, ah, this is the most important

election, especially obviously when I was on the ballot. That always feels

like it`s the most important election. This one, I`m not on the ballot, but

I am – I am pretty darn invested. We got to make this happen.




MADDOW: Former President Obama on a private conference call this week

talking about the Trump administration`s to drop the prosecution of Trump

national security adviser Mike Flynn, warning in pretty stark terms that

the Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr has put the rule of

law in the United States into question, that that could accelerate quickly

and that therefore the November 2020 election is, as he said, the most

important we`ve ever had.


Joining us now is David Rohde. He`s executive editor of “The New Yorker”

website. He`s the author of most recently, “In Deep: The FBI, The CIA, and

The Truth About America`s Deep State.”


David, thank you so much for taking time to be with us tonight. I really

appreciate you taking the time.



having me.


MADDOW: So you freaked me out today with what you wrote in “The New Yorker”

about this. I know that you do not have rose-colored glasses on when it

comes to Bill Barr. But when you said Barr has won, Trump has won, the

post-Watergate reforms that were attended to stop presidents, attorneys

general and spy chiefs from using law enforcement and intelligence agencies

for political purposes have been obliterated – you have set me back weeks

in terms of figuring out how to sleep again.


You this is – you think this is bad, and it`s done.


ROHDE: I think in terms of, you know, through the election, yes. It was

sort of a wake-up call. I, you know, haven`t wanted to say that. But, you

know, let`s look at what`s happened in terms of the Flynn case being



Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, sort of

leaking this evidence of what he claims is there`s improper unmasking, and

then his replacement, John Ratcliffe, a Trump partisan, a member of

Congress, and you know, next week on Tuesday, he will be confirmed by the

Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee. So, it`s partisans

running the intelligence community and the Justice Department and helping

the president politically, it seems, at every turn.


MADDOW: In the past week, we have seen Bill Barr, or at least the Justice

Department under Bill Barr drop that prosecution of Flynn. We don`t know

how that`s going to play out in Judge Sullivan`s courtroom, but it`s

already an unprecedented act given that Flynn has pled guilty.


We`ve also in a related matter, perhaps, seen Paul Manafort, the

president`s campaign chairman, sprung from prison. A lot of people are

getting sprung from prison right now because of the risk of coronavirus. He

doesn`t seem to meet some of the criteria other people have been held up to

in terms of getting out, but he`s out.


When it comes to favorable treatment of the president`s friends, I feel

like we`ve got certain expectations now. I worry even more about

disfavorable treatment of the president`s enemies and his threat, his

insistence that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Hillary Clinton

should all be imprisoned as traitors and as enemies of the country.


How much of a higher bar is there at the Justice Department toward

punishing the president`s enemies rather than just rewarding people he sees

as allies?


ROHDE: I hope there`s a higher bar. One of the disturbing things that

Attorney General Barr also said recently is he has this ongoing

investigation. It`s a sort of reversal of history. That`s an investigation

of the investigators of the FBI officials who looked at the Trump/Russia

connections and, you know, John Durham is the prosecutor that Barr has

appointed to carry out this investigation.


And there are very strict Justice Department guidelines about not

announcing the results of a criminal investigation close to an election.

That happened four years ago. Jim Comey, you know, reopened the

investigation of Hillary Clinton for a few days. The new evidence, these

emails on a laptop didn`t prove to be new at all, but that impacted that



Now, Barr said he will, if he wants to, announce the results of this

investigation into the FBI and their conduct towards Trump just before this

election, and he says these guidelines don`t apply because Jim Comey`s not

on the ballot. And it`s just, again, what struck me to write this piece,

it`s just example after example of just using the Justice Department to

help the president politically.


MADDOW: David Rohde, executive editor of the New Yorker.com, David, thank

you for being here tonight. You have not made me feel any better even if

you have made me smarter in talking about it. Thank you, my friend. It`s

good to see you. I appreciate it.


We`ll be right back tonight. Stay with us.




MADDOW: Thanks for being with us tonight. I will see you again on Monday.

But now it`s time for a special hour here on MSNBC. “Life in the Time of

Coronavirus”, which is hosted by Dr. Zeke Emanuel and our own Ali Velshi.


Good evening, Ali.







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