COVID-19 cases TRANSCRIPT: 5/18/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
BHARAT RAMAMURTI, CARES ACT OVERSIGHT COMMISSION MEMBER: And if you look at
the data from that day, some of the biggest movers in the corporate fund
index were oil and gas companies, that stood to benefit from the changes
that the Fed had made.
So I think they`re getting support from basically every different angle in
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. Bharat Ramamurti, one of the few people
sort of on the case on this, thank you so much for sharing your expertise
RAMAMURTI: Thank you.
HAYES: 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 to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
One week from today is Memorial Day. Weekdays, versus weekends is a
distinction that`s kind of losing its difference right now, I know.
Holidays versus non-holiday work days is also a divide that is getting a
little bit fuzzy.
But even still, even in this new weird reality that we are living in, where
it is hard to tell the days from one another, Memorial Day is still a big
deal. It`s one of the most important days on the American calendar. It`s
one we remember Americans who have given their lives fighting for this
country. It is always a big deal.
This year, it will be even more somber than usual, with over 90,000
Americans killed over the past two and a half months by the coronavirus.
With over 1.5 million Americans infected with the virus. But Memorial Day,
this year, again, one week from today, is also going to be more notable
than normal this year, because Memorial Day this year is also the day by
which Vice President Pence said this whole thing, this whole epidemic, was
going to be over, done and dusted in the United States.
Vice President Pence is, of course, not just the vice president, he is the
head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, even as he went to the Mayo
Clinic and talked to coronavirus patients, while not wearing a mask, even
when he caused all of the senior political leadership of the state of Iowa
to have to go into quarantine, after he visited with them, with no mask and
no gloves, literally hours after one of his top staffers tested positive.
Despite all of the stuff he has done, in public, Vice President Pence
nevertheless gets credited with being less – than the president, when it
comes to the epidemic.
But I think his reputation should be constantly revised because for one
thing, I mean here he is, announcing on the Geraldo Rivera radio show that
by Memorial Day this year, by a week from today, this will be done and
should be all wrapped up by this time next week.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think honestly, if you
look at the trends today, that I think by Memorial Day weekend, we will
largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.
GERALDO RIVERA, “GERALDO IN CLEVELAND”, WTAM 1100: Well, from your lips to
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Your lips to God`s ears, Mr. Vice President. I think honestly if
you look at the trends, I think by Memorial Day weekend, we will largely
have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.
Wouldn`t that be awesome if this thing was going to be over next week?
This thing is not going to be over next week. I mean, as ridiculous as that
is, though, coming from the vice president, while he is running the
coronavirus task force for the White House, that thinking, and that
specificity about when it`s going to be over by turns out to be kind of an
important piece of the puzzle in terms of us figuring out, us understanding
why our national response to the epidemic, has been so terrible over time.
I mean look, here`s a really simple way to look at what`s going on with us
as a country right now. This is total deaths from coronavirus in our
country, over time, in the United States. The red line there is the deaths
just in the tri-state area. So that`s New York, New Jersey, Connecticut.
New York, as you know, is the initial major epicenter, the tri-state area,
just got walloped, that tri-state region, dominated in depths with the
initial weeks of the epidemic. So, that tri-state area, that`s the red line
you see there, you its shape, sort of flattening out.
The blue line there is the deaths from coronavirus in the rest of the
country, which surpassed the tri-state area about a week ago, and is still
just climbing on up.
So what this, this is a very simple idea, right? But what this is showing
is that the worst, the first worst-hit areas in the country, are finally
starting to get better. But the rest of the country now is not only
catching up to how bad those first three states were, the rest of the
country is now getting inexorably worse. It`s even easier to see when you
don`t look at total deaths, but you instead look at total cases. And again,
here, the red line is the tri-state area, that`s New York, New Jersey, and
Connecticut, and the other line, the blue line, is the whole rest of the
country, other than those three states.
And you see the tri-state area, flattening out, as they start to get a
handle on their epidemic, and the rest of the country is just a ramp
straight up. This is what`s going on in our country right now. One epidemic
is finally flattening and waning, in the first hardest hit part of the
country and the rest the country is going great guns. Not letting up at
all. That`s not the kind of graph, that`s not the kind of growth you would
want or expect to see in a country where people are being told to open up,
it`s all behind us, everything`s fine.
Here`s another look at the same situation. This is the list of where the
outbreak is worst now, which is something that “The New York Times” is
tracking on a daily basis. This is new cases per capita over the past two
This is the same portrait of the same country painted a different way.
Number five, where the outbreak is worse now, new cases of the last two
weeks, number five worst is Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Number four worst is
Saint Cloud, Minnesota. Number three worst is Amarillo Texas. Number two
worst is Sioux City, Iowa. The number one worst place in the country in
terms of where the outbreak is the worst right now is Gallup, New Mexico.
Next Mexico, Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, Arkansas, I mean, that`s where the
numbers are worse in terms of the case numbers piling up over the past two
weeks, a whole swath of the country. That`s not what one place where it`s
bad and everybody else is all right. That`s the whole country, right?
You can also look at where the case numbers are growing the fastest right
now, and it`s a similar portrait. The top five there is Arizona, Texas,
North Carolina, North Carolina, and then Texas again. I mean, if the
epidemic is bad and worsening, the fastest, in all of these heartland
places, right, growing this fast in all of these heartland and southern
towns, why is there all of this political pressure that now is the time to
open up, particularly in Republican-controlled states?
Well, it doesn`t come from nowhere. It comes from a very specific place in
Washington. It comes from a specific kind of magical thinking that we`ve
had out of Trump White House which is traceable to a very specific decision
that they made. And that is what it has brought us to this weird place,
where Vice President Pence is fantasizing out loud on the radio with
Geraldo Rivera, that by this time next week, this whole thing will in be
the rearview mirror and we will be looking back on all of this and
This is what`s brought us to the point where the president has been saying,
it`s all just going to go away, right away, like magic and we don`t even
need a vaccine, because by the time we have a vaccine, it will all be gone
by them. Why are the president and vice president saying those things? Why
are they telling everybody to open up in the country as if our curves are
the opposite of what they actually are?
Well, this has sort of been hiding in plain sight. The “Washington Post”
reported this out at the beginning of this month and we are now seeing it
come to fruition, as the deadlines set by the White House, from their
magical thinking that they`ve been working on for the past month, have now
started to come to pass.
This is from the “Washington Post,” just a couple of weeks ago. Quote: The
epidemiological models under review in the White House Situation Room in
late March were bracing. In a best case scenario, it showed the novel
coronavirus was likely to kill more than 100,000 Americans. President Trump
was apprehensive about so much carnage on his watch, yet also impatient to
reopen the economy and he wanted data to justify doing so.
So the White House considered its own analysis. A small team led by Kevin
Hassett, former chairman of Trump`s Council on Economic Advisers, with no
background in infectious diseases, quietly built an econometric model to
guide response operations. Quote: White House aides interpreted the
analysis as predicting that the daily death count would peak in mid April
before dropping off substantially, and that there would be far fewer
fatalities than initially foreseen. This model was embraced inside the West
Wing by the president`s son-in-law Jared Kushner and other powerful aides
helping to oversee the government`s pandemic response.
The model affirmed their own skepticism about the severity of the virus and
bolstered their case to shift the focus to the economy, which they firmly
believed would determine whether Trump wins a second term. By the end of
April, though, with more Americans dying in that one month than in all of
the Vietnam War, it became clear that the Kevin Hassett, econometric model
was too good to be true. The former senior administration official briefed
on the data described it as, quote, a catastrophic miss.
The president`s course, however, would not be changed. Trump and Kushner
nevertheless began to declare a great victory against the virus, while
urging America to start reopening businesses and schools.
They didn`t like the real models. And so they invented their own model
inside the Trump White House about a month ago. And that model from a White
House economist, with no background whatsoever in health, let alone
infectious disease, told them that this thing was soon to be done, it was
going to be over. What did they call it, they called it an econometric
model, created by Kevin Hassett, this economist with no background in
infectious diseases. That was “The Washington Post” on May 2nd.
Two days later, White House officials gave this model a name. Quote: White
House officials have been relying on models, including a, quote, cubic
model prepared by Trump adviser and economist Kevin Hassett and the Council
of Economic Advisers.
What is this cubic model that is telling them we should get the whole
country open right away because this whole thing is going away magically on
its own, and soon. It will be in our rearview – it will be in the rearview
mirror by the time we get to Memorial Day? What is this cubic model? Nobody
really knows, but “The Washington Post” did get multiple White House
sources to tell them what the model said.
Quote: The model shows deaths dropping precipitously in May and essentially
going to zero by May 15th. Zero deaths by May 15th. May 15th was this past
Friday, three days ago. American deaths from coronavirus did not go to zero
by May 15th.
Why are they calling this a cubic model? Why did the White House decide
this was the model they were going to follow? That seems obvious. What is a
cubic model? Where did they get this? Nobody really knows.
A cubic function is a mathematical concept that has nothing to do with how
viruses work or contagion works. It is a sort of a math way to put a
meaningless line on a bunch of numbers on a graph that makes the numbers
look like they will drop to zero or less than zero right after they peak.
You can do that, you can draw a line like that, on any amount of data, on
an excel spreadsheet, without having any understanding of infectious
diseases or contagion whatsoever.
And I`m sure it`s very comforting if you decide to believe that line is a
real thing. But that line isn`t a real thing. It`s just a thing you can put
on a graph.
Kevin Hassett and the Council of Economic Advisers eventually tweeted out
this sharpie. Look at this. This isn`t somebody else drawing on it. This is
actually what they tweeted out this. This sharpie-looking thing, to defend
how rigorous their model was.
But this is their model created by an economist that the White House used
to base decisions on reopening around the country. But it is literally just
a thing they made up about what they hoped might happen with the epidemic
that has nothing to do with real epidemiology. It said the deaths would be
zero by May 15th. And so they cranked to get the whole country open, to
take advantage of the fact that deaths would be zero.
Jason Furman was chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President
Obama. He said in response to this, from the Trump White House, quote: This
might be the lowest point in the 74-year history of the Council of Economic
Advisers. The stakes on the epidemiological questions are so high, that
this utterly superficial and misleading modeling has no place whatsoever in
any discussion of the government`s response.
He continued, quote: Faux expertise is even worse than ignorance. To the
degree that this crowded out input from genuine experts and confused other
participants into thinking that the Council of Economic Advisers or other
economists had any sort of real or valid model of the epidemic, it is
really and truly terrible.
But here we are, in the world created to some degree by policies, pushed by
a White House that decided to believe this model that they invented out of
whole cloth. Here we are, three days after the White House`s imaginary
model made by their economist friend, said that U.S. deaths would be at
zero, and, of course, U.S. deaths are not as zero.
We have the biggest coronavirus epidemic in the world. U.S. deaths continue
their inexorable climb up over 90,000 at this point. The only question
right now, in terms of the milestones here is whether we are going to hit
100,000 dead Americans by the beginning of next month or are we going to
hit it sooner.
But policy in the United States, policy from the White House, policy aped
and praised particularly by Republican governors around the country, was
created at the White House, on the basis of that deaths will go to zero
fantasy, and it really did lead the head of the government`s coronavirus
task force to say on the radio that this thing would be done and over by
this time next week, it will be in our rearview mirror. And it really has
driven the national led presidential imperative to open things back up,
don`t believe your lying eyes, the deaths are about to go to zero, anybody
who says otherwise is just a Democrat.
So we`re opening up, all over the country. And you know, this isn`t a
national story, because these deaths happen in local places, and governors
are being responsible for what their policies are going to be state by
state, to a certain degree. But as we open up, as the imperative to open up
is led from the White House every day, every day, all over the country,
this are stories like this one, you know, as Texas reopens, coronavirus
cases are increasing while testing misses benchmarks. Minnesota`s case
numbers, deaths rise as stay-at-home order ends.
This from Arkansas. With 130 new COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday,
Arkansas saw one of its biggest jumps in confirmed cases since the virus
reached the state in March. Arkansas businesses began to reopen under
lighter COVID-19 restrictions last week.
It is understandable to want this thing to be over, but just proclaiming it
so doesn`t get you there. You know, there`s, you know, there`s obviously
still a lot going on every day, some of it still harder to believe than is
comfortable for this far into this epidemic. Today, a “Reuters”
investigation showed that the CDC`s national numbers on coronavirus cases
in jails and prisons, the CDC numbers are dramatically, dramatically wrong,
dramatically way too low. CDC official numbers on infections in meatpacking
plants, also appear to be dramatically wrong, dramatically low.
And CDC numbers on testing in this country appear to be dramatically wrong.
The CDC has now started posting national numbers on testing that happen to
vary wildly, and radically, in an unpredictable ways from the numbers that
you can get from the 50 states.
The CDC has got bad numbers on meatpacking plants, on jail and prisons, on
testing overall. That`s bad. The CDC is the public health gold standard in
our country. They used to be the gold standard for public health worldwide.
But if all their numbers writ large and writ small are garbage, that is
going to be bad not only for now in terms of making decisions but for the
long run in terms of how this thing is handled and who is held accountable.
Today, also, the president announced somewhat blithely, somewhat gleam in
his eye he is taking personally this unproven malaria drug,
hydroxychloroquine as well as zinc. He say he is taking it because a doctor
wrote him a letter and the doctor who wrote him a letter told him it really
works. And so, the president is taking that now.
At least he says he is, and the White House today is affirming that the
president really is taking that now, even after multiple studies were
stopped because of danger to patients taking it, and no provable benefit to
patients taking it. Even after the FDA, the actual FDA formally cautioned
quote against use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the
hospital setting or clinical trial due to the risk of heart rhythm
Tell me now from the president`s meager health history that he`s got some
heart issues, so now he`s just taking drugs that are off-label and unproven
for coronavirus that he says he doesn`t have, despite the fact that one of
its known complications is heart trouble? And the White House medical
office is saying, oh, he said he wanted to, and the president is kind of
advertising this as his approach though this public health crisis now?
We also got intriguing news, worrying news today, that a number of sailors
on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, sailors who had had coronavirus, who
had been tested positive and recovered from it, they all initially tested
positive and they each tested negative at least twice, a number of those
sailors, more than a dozen of them, had now tested positive again, even
though they tested negative twice, before. Positive, and then negative,
making it seem like they had it and they cleared it and now they`ve got it
That raises a whole bunch of different worrying questions about, you know,
the testing, for one, is the testing showing false positives, or false
negatives, but if the testing is all right, then there`s also the worrying
prospect that this might mean that people who got coronavirus once before,
might be re-infectible, so they could get it again, despite all of the
hopes that we have that at least being infected with it once might render
you at least somewhat immune to being able to get it again.
So there`s a lot going on. We`re going to get some expert advice on some of
these questions and worries in just a moment.
But big picture, the more we understand about what is going on in our
country, I know it sucks to hear it, forgive me, but things really aren`t
getting better. We do have the worst epidemic in the world. And yes, the
tri-state area, that got it initially, they have started to bend that curve
down, and there are a few isolated states that have started to bend that
curve down, but by and large, writ large, big picture, outside of that tri-
state area, the country`s epidemic is getting worse.
And it`s getting worse, not on the coasts, it`s getting worse not in the
biggest cities in the country, it`s getting worse all over the heartland of
America. And that`s real. A couple of weeks ago, we showed you this photo,
which we received from the daughter of this woman, her name is Tin Aye, she
worked for 12 years at the JBS beef plant in Greeley, Colorado.
Ms. Aye is 60 years old. Her family says she felt ill at work. She went to
the on-site clinic at JBS. They told her she was fine, to stay at work, she
tried to do so but then ultimately, she had to go home and she ended up
checking herself into the hospital. She ended up on a ventilator.
Yesterday, Ms. Aye became the eighth worker from JBS in Greeley to die from
Her daughter gave birth to Ms. Aye`s first grandson just as Tin went into
the hospital. She was never able to spend time with her first grandson
before she died.
Her son is a lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps. He is
deployed right now in the Pacific. He was not able to come home and see his
mother before she died.
The Greeley, Colorado, beef plant, where Ms. Aye apparently contracted the
virus that has now killed her, and where these seven people have – seven
additional workers have now died, you might remember that that is the plant
that promised that they would test all of their workers before they
reopened. They shut down, and they had a major outbreak, Vice President
Pence talked about them from the White House, they said they were going to
get testing for all of their team members before they reopened the plant.
And then something happened with the JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado. And
they went back on those promises. And they decided to reopen without
Well, tonight, we can report that what they`re doing at JBS is that they
are screening their workers now for symptoms. They`re giving their workers
instructions that they shouldn`t work if they don`t feel well. And it`s
true. Nobody should be going to work if they don`t feel well. But that also
shouldn`t count as screening workers for coronavirus before they go into
Given the hundreds and thousands of cases we`ve had in meatpacking plants,
screening workers at those plants for fever, before they go in, isn`t going
to help keep the virus out of those plants. You can have coronavirus and
infectious to others with zero symptom, including zero fever and even in
that place where they have had all of those workers killed, they are
screening for symptoms and otherwise come on in.
We can also report tonight, that according to two sources, the huge
Smithfield meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, they have also
made testing available to their workers. They have encouraged their workers
to get tested. But workers at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South
Dakota, that has given rise to a good-sized outbreak, more than 2,000 cases
attributable to that outbreak there as of weeks ago, we can report tonight
that workers at that Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls now that the plant is
reopened, they are told to report to work and get on the line, start
working inside that plant, while they wait for their test results.
So they`re being encouraged to be tested, right, they`re getting tested,
but before they know if they`re positive or not, they are going into the
plant starting to work. And the result there we have on authority from two
sources is that the workers at that plant in Sioux Falls are getting
positive test results while at work and only then are they being sent home.
Like I said, there are is over 1,300 positive cases associated with workers
at that plant already. They`re telling people to go in and get swabbed and
get tested and get on the line and go to work.
The science is getting further from our national response over time. The
science and our policy responses, both when it comes to individual
workplaces, and when it comes to our national policies, the science and
what we`re doing are divorcing further every day. The chasm is getting
wider. As the epidemic gets worse, you would at least hope that the
scientific foundation of our actions would become more solid. Instead, it
is becoming thinner and thinner and thinner and weaker and dumber with each
We`re going to take that on here directly next.
MADDOW: In our new coronavirus world, a temperature check may soon be the
way you`re allowed to get on an airplane in the United States. “The Wall
Street Journal” today reporting that TSA may start temperature screenings
in U.S. airports before people are allowed to board flights, which is
But in terms of the science of this, since people can still be infectious
to others without having a fever, without having any symptoms, is that
actually a good idea in U.S. airports? But it`s not just something that is
maybe starting at airports. Being screened for fever is now also how you
get put back on the factory line or not at some of the big meatpacking
plants in this country, including one with a huge outbreak and now eight
workers dead in Greeley, Colorado.
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the union tells us they have had 1,300
positive tests among workers at that plant so far. Smithfield, South
Dakota, meatpacking plant. Excuse me. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Smithfield
At that plant, they are testing asymptomatic workers but the union says
workers without symptoms are sent to work while they are waiting for their
test results, which means some of them are going into work, awaiting their
positive test results, potentially spreading the virus without knowing it,
inside a plant where we know it is almost uncontrollable.
Initially, relying on symptoms, as a way to find this virus, might have
made sense, before we really understood more about the virus`s dynamics.
But now, that we know that huge numbers of people can be positive, and
infectious, with no fever and no symptoms, why are we still doing that? Why
would we be starting to do that on a broader scale now?
And what about places that are finding outbreaks of the virus but officials
are not reporting it? So the public doesn`t know?
In Arizona, for example, they`re not reporting where nursing home outbreaks
are in Arizona, because the governor says it would be bad for business to
report where outbreaks are in individual nursing homes. Bad for business?
How good is it for business for everybody to know?
In Iowa, they`re not reporting outbreaks at any workplaces, including meat
packing plants, until 10 percent or more of the work force there is
infected. Isn`t that backwards? Why would you do that? Why would you wait
for the problem to get that big, before you told anyone? Instead of trying
to get on it, when it was still potentially a manageable problem.
The longer we coexist with this virus, the more we learn. And sometimes the
more we realize we don`t know. How can we make the best use of the lessons
we have learned? Are there simple steps would he can take to make big
gains? Is our policy keeping pace with what we are learning about the
virus? Or is my perception correct that actually the science and our policy
is diverging more, even now, than it was in the early days?
Joining us now is Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins
University Center for Health Security.
Dr. Adalja, thank you so much for talking to us tonight. I really
appreciate you being here.
DR. AMESH ADALJA, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY, SENIOR SCHOLAR:
Sure, thanks for having me.
MADDOW; First, let me just ask you, if anything that I have said thus far
strikes you as wrong or backwards, or if I`m already asking dumb questions?
ADALJA: No, I definitely think the points you made about not notifying
which nursing homes have outbreaks, which workplaces have outbreak, that is
the exact opposite of what you want to do in an infectious disease
emergency. You want full transparency. You want the public to be completely
informed so they can take the best action and that is definitely something
we need to emphasize.
The other points you made about fever screening being not this panacea,
that again is something I completely agree with.
MADDOW: In terms of a fever screening, I feel like when we saw initial
reports that companies like Walmart, or other large companies, were going
to start fever screening for their employees, it seemed like the first
initial sense that a big organization with a lot of equity for this crisis,
was at least starting to take seriously, the possibility of their employees
were going to be bringing it into the workplace. Now that we`ve learned so
much about asymptomatic transmission, and just the number of people who can
be, the proportion of people who can be positive while asymptomatic, it`s
made me rethink whether or not those were good moves initially.
It`s made me worry that maybe fever screening is a kind of security feeder
that makes people feel more confident than they should, as if it were a
real screening when it`s really not.
ADALJA: That is definitely true about fever screening because there are
many people who don`t have fevers, so people can take Tylenol or ibuprofen
and that can suppress the fever. There are airports around the country,
even in a non-pandemic time, not in the country, other countries, that have
done fever screening and haven`t gotten much value from it. So, that`s not
something I technically recommend as one – as a sole, standalone type of
You really have to – if you are going to be screened, you really have to
think about all of the other symptoms. Do you have a fever – not just do
you have a fever, sore throat, cough, muscle aches and pain, shortness of
breath, all of those types of things are what you have to use when you`re
screening. That`s what many hospitals do.
The question about asymptomatic transmission that`s still very
controversial. We still don`t know what the context is when asymptomatic
transmission occurs. We know what happens in households. We know there have
been reports about it, but we still don`t know how common it is. We know it
does occur and it`s something that we – a scientific question we have to
answer about asymptomatic transmission when you start thinking about how to
screen people going back to work in meat packing plants, for example, in
hospital, other places like that.
MADDOW: Does it make sense, from a medical perspective, scientific
perspective, for people who work in high risk environments, like a meat
packing plant, to be tested and then to be told to go to work on the line,
to go into the factory, and start working, while they are awaiting their
ADALJA: No, we know that meatpacking plants are a place where it`s a
congregate setting, it`s indoor, we`ve seen explosive outbreaks in
meatpacking plants, often rural areas which can easily in inundate a
hospital where the contact tracers, the health department. So we want to
make sure that those places are safe, so if you`re giving a test, you
probably have that person stay away from the plant until you get the result
back and then let them – then let them work. That`s the only reason –
that`s the only way that the testing actually makes sense, because of what
might happen, in a place where you can`t social distance.
MADDOW: Dr. Adalja, let me just ask you one last question about something
that I find both concerning and really intriguing in the news over the past
few days and it is this news that first it was five and then it was eight
and now it is apparently 13 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt who
tested positive, who were believed to have recovered, all of these sailors
reportedly had at least two negative tests, after initially having had a
positive test, but now, these sailors have tested positive again.
Looking at that, do you think that is probably an artifact of the testing,
not being that great, and so maybe we had false negatives or false
positives? Or is this potentially a window into the prospect that people
can be re-infected after they`ve cleared the virus and recovered from an
ADALJA: My best analysis of this is probably a testing artifact. We know
that people can toggle between positive and negative when they`re near the
limit of detection. We know that people can cough up, or have remnants of
the virus that can be detected by the test. So I would want to know a lot
more about these cases.
But there`s no strong evidence that you can be reinfected in the short
period of time after infection. We`ve seen this in South Korea, where they
actually were able to cultivate the virus and they couldn`t actually grow
it. So, it may be noninfectious and the test toggling between positive and
negative because of the viral degree. At least that is what we hope and I
think that`s what most evidence points to.
MADDOW: Dr. Amesh Adalja from the Johns Hopkins University Center for
Health Security – thank you for helping us put some facts on those news
stories today. I feel like the scientific basis of a lot of what we are
talking about and deciding as a country right now is getting really wobbly.
It`s helpful to be able to go to you for expert advice. Thanks.
ADALJA: Thank you.
MADDOW: Much more news ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One early sign that something might be off about Mike Pompeo`s use
of government resources was just about a year not Trump administration when
he was still director of the CIA, “The Washington Post” and then CNN
reported that Mr. Pompeo`s wife, for some reason, had set up what amounted
to her own office in the director`s suite at CIA headquarters as well as a
support staff of CIA employees to assist her.
To be clear, Mike Pompeo`s wife did not work for the CIA. She was just wife
of the CIA director. But that apparently got her, her own CIA office, and
her own support staff, of CIA employees.
Then, after Director Pompeo left the CIA, and moved on to become secretary
of state, he very quickly managed to tick off a bunch of people there. His
new job as well, when in the middle of a U.S. government shutdown, that
forced many State Department employees to work without pay, Mr. Pompeo
brought his wife on a tax-payer funded eight-day trip across the Middle
State Department sources told CNN that at each of the stops on that trip,
Mrs. Pompeo had her own staff and her own security personnel. A taxpayer-
funded entourage for the second`s spouse, the entourage was at one point
tasked with taking Mrs. Pompeo to a local market to go shopping with her.
But it wasn`t just international trips. Secretary of state and his wife
made frequent trips to the home state of Kansas last year, using State
Department funds and aircraft, as Mr. Pompeo reportedly considered a U.S.
Senate run in Kansas. The State Department does have a lot of far corner
responsibility, not a lot of them are in Kansas.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee formally called
for an investigation into whether Secretary Pompeo was violating the Hatch
Act, which says you can`t use your official taxpayer-funded government
position to, you know, run a stealth Senate campaign for yourself. But it
is just, it has just kept devolving over time.
Who can forget, for example, the whistle-blower who came forward who
alleged the Pompeos were using their taxpayer funded diplomatic security
agents to pick up their dog from the groomer and to go collect their
Chinese food for dinner. CNN reported, quote, prompted agents to lament
that they are at times viewed as Uber Eats with guns. Not to mention the
full-time security detail for Mrs. Pompeo which agents were allegedly told
to keep secret.
Immediately after President Trump fired the State Department`s inspector
general, late on Friday night, right after we got off the air, we learned
two things in rapid succession. One is that mike Pompeo had personally
asked Trump to fire the inspector general for the state department. And
two, we learned that that inspector general was in the midst of
investigating Mike Pompeo, over some of these allegations of misusing
government funds, and resources, and personnel, for his own personal and
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the top Democrat on
the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said exclusively this weekend that it
is their understanding that Secretary Pompeo asked for the inspector
general to be fired because the inspector general was investigating him
That guy`s investigating me, all right, well that guy`s got to be fired,
right? That is just about as bad as it gets in terms of bad governance,
right? No. No, it`s just scratching the surface. It gets much worse.
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: When the State Department inspector general was abruptly fired late
on Friday night, the fourth inspector general to be fired in six weeks, we
already knew that he had reportedly been investigating allegations that
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been doing things like making State
Department staffers walk his dog, and pick up his dry cleaning, and get his
Chinese food for dinner. That`s an investigation we knew about already.
This morning, we woke to news of another potentially more concerning
investigation, that that same I.G. had reportedly been working on as well.
“The Washington Post” was first to report that at the time of his firing,
the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick had almost finished an
investigation into whether Pompeo had illegally approved billions of
dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi arms sale was pushed
through by Pompeo last year, over the bipartisan objections of Congress. He
used a somewhat dubious emergency declaration in order to do it.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress wanted to block that arms sale
because, among other things, the Saudi regime being implicated in the
murder of a U.S.-based journalist named Jamal Khashoggi. So, Congress
wanted to block it. They didn`t want to sell the Saudis billions of dollars
worth of weapons.
But this emergency declaration was invoked by Pompeo to say, well,
Congress, you can`t block it even if you want to, I`m going to go ahead
with it without even notifying you.
So, the I.G. was reportedly looking into that as well. And we don`t know if
that investigation into the Saudi armed sales was the reason that inspector
general got unceremoniously fired late on Friday.
But we did learn today that Secretary of State Pompeo refused to sit for an
interview as part of that I.G. investigation, and Secretary of State Pompeo
did admit in an interview today that, yes, he`s the one who told President
Trump to fire that inspector general. He says he was unaware that the I.G.
was investigating him, but how plausible is that?
And if this new angle on billions of dollars in Saudi arm sales, if that
did play a role in his firing, what does that mean that Congress might do
Joining us now is Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, member of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee.
Sir, it`s great to see you. Thank you very much for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Thanks for
MADDOW: First of all, let me ask you if I`ve explained that in a way that
comports with your understanding or if I`ve left anything important out in
terms of what we know about the firing of this I.G.?
MURPHY: Yes, listen, I mean, Mike Pompeo using taxpayer-funded assistance
to pick up his dry cleaning probably is fairly middling in the hierarchy of
Trump administration scandals but it speaks to this broader ethos inside
the State Department which they, you know, just don`t believe that the
rules apply to them.
And the other revelation that you described speaks to that trend line. This
was last year when the State Department decided to declare an emergency so
that they could sell weapons to the Saudis that didn`t have to go through a
congressional approval process.
The problem was there was no emergency. They claimed it was general Iranian
threats but the Iranians are always threatening the United States and our
interests. And so, there was no particular emergency that required them to
go around Congress.
It was just that the weapons sales were becoming increasingly hard to
defend, especially when they were being used to bomb innocent Yemenis and
cause more space to be created inside that country for really bad groups
like al Qaeda and ISIS.
And so, at the time, we wonder whether the real reason that they were
declaring this emergency was simply to avoid embarrassment. Of course,
that`s not allowed by the statutes that they are subject to for arms sales
and now, it is possible that the inspector general was maybe going to come
to that same conclusion, and it might have been part of the reason that he
is no longer the inspector general.
MADDOW: We have seen the State Department inspector general fired under
these circumstances. It is remarkable to have the secretary of state
saying, yes, I`m the one who told the president to get him out of there.
We`ve also seen the Defense Department inspector general, the intelligence
community inspector general, the HHS inspector general, all fired, all sort
of Friday night news dumps, trying to keep it out of the news cycle and in
pretty quick succession.
Is the president in – with this – the series of firings, is he violating
not just the spirit but the letter of the law in terms of how these things
are supposed to be handled? Isn`t he at least supposed to notify Congress
of why he`s doing it if he does want to fire some of these folks?
MURPHY: Well, not only is he required to notify Congress why he`s doing it,
he`s required to give 30 days notice so there can be action taken by
Congress to protect some of these inspectors general.
Listen, you know, democracies don`t tend to hang around as long as ours has
and it`s because, you know, it`s completely natural for human beings to try
to accumulate as much power as possible. And so, over the years, as the
bureaucracy around presidents have gotten bigger and bigger, we`ve
developed some additional checks beyond those that are in the Constitution.
One of them are inspectors general, because, you know, Congress just can`t
see everything that`s happening in multibillion dollar departments like the
And so, as much as Trump has taken, you know, an assault on the
constitutional checks on his power, he is now also taking these pot shots
at the statutory checks on his power like inspectors general. And I just
don`t have the ability to see wrongdoing given how big and how cumbersome
and complicated the State Department is without an inspector general there.
And that`s why this is worrying.
The eyes of Congress just are not good enough to see what`s happening
inside the administration without independent I.G.s.
MADDOW: We have seen a few, a small number of your Republican colleagues in
the Senate express some discomfort with what the president has done here
and specifically with firing this State Department I.G., Mr. Linick.
Do you think that the concern is bipartisan enough in the Republican
controlled Senate that we might see him testifying in the Senate about his
work and the circumstances of his firing? Do you think that the Republican-
controlled Senate will do anything to try to stop what the president is
doing here and also, to get to the bottom of what this firing might have
been trying to cover up?
MURPHY: No. No, they won`t. Listen, they`re fantastic Republicans in the
Senate at expressing alarm and concern. Occasionally, they even send a
letter in which they put on the record their alarm and concern. What
they`re really bad at is actually doing anything to stop this president.
Listen, ultimately, this is all about an election in November. If you
really care about stopping the president from removing the checks on his
power, then you have to put in charge of the Senate, people who are going
to actually do something about it, not just occasionally send out a
statement or send a letter.
I reserve the right to be monumentally surprised by Republican colleagues
but I have literally been part of this script about 1,000 times in the last
three years, and I think, once again, they`re going to let the president
get away with murder.
MADDOW: Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, Foreign Relations Committee –
sir, it`s always a pleasure to have you here. Thanks very much for being
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One quick programming for you tonight – you need to stay right
where you are. Among the guests joining Lawrence O`Donnell in the next hour
on MSNBC is Senator Amy Klobuchar. That is coming right up.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the