COVID response TRANSCRIPT: 5/19/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Will Humble
Transcript:

 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: But then when you think about the scope of the

crisis that likely is going to be inherited by this administration, it`s

quite daunting and this choice is going to be quite consequential.

 

Jonathan, it`s always great to see you. Thank you so much for joining us

tonight.

 

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Great to see you, Chris. 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

appreciated.

 

And thanks to you at home for joining us. Tomorrow something to watch for,

tomorrow afternoon. They`re calling it a national funeral, a day of

mourning.

 

And we have seen these kinds of protest actions before here and there. But

tomorrow, as our country approaches 100,000 Americans dead in the

coronavirus crisis, we think that protests like this are going to be

happening in roughly 20 different states tomorrow afternoon, including in

Washington, D.C., where we have seen a protest like this outside the

president`s hotel. Tomorrow, we expect to see a funeral procession of at

least a couple hundred cars, to try to bring home to the administration the

consequences of how terrible our response has been to the epidemic so far.

 

Again, we do think there will be protests under this national funeral day

of mourning rubric all over the country tomorrow. But the one in

Washington, we`re expecting to be a large funeral procession that is

apparently going to proceed from the home of the – the Washington home of

the leader of the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell, to the White House, and

clergies are expected to speak in memoriam for the dead. Relatives of those

killed by the coronavirus are expected to lay out body bags outside the

White House grounds tomorrow.

 

We know of planned similar protests tomorrow, not just in Washington. Also

at the president`s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. Also at the

federal building in Little Rock, Arkansas. Also in Columbia, South

Carolina. We know of planned protests in Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire,

Illinois, all over.

 

That`s something to watch for tomorrow afternoon. The United States does

have over 92,000 deaths from coronavirus now, by far the largest number of

deaths in the world. Our outbreak is now over 1.5 million cases. Again, the

largest outbreak on earth by far.

 

It`s worth keeping that in perspective though. Our epidemic is now so

massive compared to every other country in the world, it`s almost a

qualitatively different thing. I mean, look, we are – we are 1.5 million

plus cases right now, so that makes us first. But the second, third, and

fourth largest outbreaks on earth – the second, third, and fourth ranked

countries in terms of the size of their outbreaks, they`re all between

250,000 and 300,000.

 

Our epidemic is five times larger than the next largest outbreak on earth,

which is in Russia. It`s also slightly bone chilling, slightly eerie at

least to see that the leaders of the countries with the four largest

outbreaks on earth are Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the U.K., who has

been called the British Trump, President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil who`s

been called the Latin-American Trump, President Trump himself, and

President Vladimir Putin of Russia. I mean, it`s Boris, Bolsonaro, Putin,

and Trump now overseeing the four worst outbreaks on earth, not just

because they`re countries with large populations but because they`re

countries that have radically mishandled the virus.

 

I mean – and the four of them, you know, they do have some links and

similarities in terms of their style in politics. When it comes to the

virus though, it`s not hard to see how they all ended up with the four

largest out of control outbreaks on earth. All four of them took a stance

early on that it was somehow either un-macho or magically unnecessary to do

anything to try to slow the spread of the virus. And so they didn`t do

anything to slow the spread of the virus or they at least undermined those

efforts with their blow hardiness and skepticism about the public health

imperatives.

 

And now, I mean, we`re five times worse off than any other country on earth

under president Trump. But president Trump at the top of the heap is in

company he very much likes. In terms of world leader who is have blown this

crisis the most disastrously and paid for it in the lives of their

citizens.

 

I should also just mention incidentally that in Brazil, where President

Bolsonaro is in charge, they have a raging out of control epidemic right

now. Interesting, that country`s president, Bolsonaro, like our president,

is publicly going whole hog that the idea that the malaria drugs

chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are some sort of miracle cure for

coronavirus.

 

President Bolsonaro in Brazil is expected tomorrow to announce a national

expanded protocol for the use of chloroquine. He reportedly fired the

health minister because the health minister wouldn`t sign off on this

cockamamie plan. But that`s going to be announced tomorrow in Brazil. And

Boris Johnson`s government in the U.K. has also just announced a new bulk

purchase of hydroxychloroquine.

 

It`s like we`re now learning all the weird markers of the most poorly

managed large disastrous epidemics on earth in the era of coronavirus. I

mean, first, look for Trumpiness or Trump friendliness. Second, does your

world leader fetishize a random malaria drug that doesn`t seem effective

against this virus but this leader nevertheless insists it`s a miracle

cure?

 

So far, Trumpiness, weird attraction to hydroxychloroquine, and – well,

third factor, I don`t even want – I don`t even want to tell you a third

thing I could tell you about all these guys but I won`t. But we are seeing

a weird sort of stripe, a similar stripe among the kinds of leaders who are

handling this the worst.

 

Domestically, the American response has a pretty distinct theme song at

this point in the epidemic. It sings like this in the headlines every

single day now. Maryland reports largest rise yet in coronavirus cases four

days after reopening. We`re also just seeing headlines like this from all

over the country every day now.

 

Texas, North Carolina, Arizona seeing rising cases as they reopen. Quote,

Texas saw it`s largest one-day increase in cases on Saturday. North

Carolina also saw it`s largest single day jump on Saturday. Arizona

reported close to a record high as well. Seven-day average in new cases in

all three of those states has been rising. The data with the risks of the

states reopening amid ongoing outbreaks and, boy, do we have ongoing

outbreaks.

 

And they`re off the coasts, they`re in the middle of the country, and in

many cases, they`re in rural cares or small cities. I mean, the most new

cases in the past two weeks, Sioux City, Iowa. The most new deaths in the

last two weeks, Gallop, New Mexico.

 

The highest daily growth rate in cases right now, rural Northfield,

Minnesota. The fastest growing death rate in the country right now,

Huntsville, Texas. I mean, you`ve seen all this footage, all these weeks

now of governors and state legislatures and sometimes mayors arguing we`re

not New York City, so we don`t need to worry about this. We need our

restaurants open and our churches open. We`re not New York so we should be

fine.

 

Yeah, well, you know, New York – you`re not New York. You`re right. New

York City`s epidemic is going away. They`re on the far side of their curve

and coming down more every day. Where it`s growing is all these places that

are emphatically not New York. And that shouldn`t be a comfort at this

point.

 

The CDC just today publishing a case study in the MMWR, Morbidity and

Mortality Weekly Report, documenting a church in rural Arkansas where the

pastor and his wife held services because they thought it would be fine.

They thought the virus certainly wasn`t there.

 

It turns out they were both positive. It turns out they infected 35 people

in that church service. They infected 61 people in total in the community.

That has left four people dead from that outbreak already.

 

They don`t say exactly where that is, but it`s described by the CDC as

attendees at a rural Arkansas church in the second week of March. More than

60 infected, four dead already from the pastor and his wife.

 

But even as that sort of character of our local outbreaks now and the

widespread far flung locales where you can see the outbreak at its worst

right now, the national response, the federal response continues to be

basically insane.

 

I mean, the president is insisting to the public now that not only is he

taking this unproven miracle drug and it`s great, he loves it. He says he`s

definitely taking it. But he says he`s taking it as a preventive, as

something that`s going to prevent him from getting the coronavirus. It`s

like it`s a fake vaccine or something. He also says – can`t just leave it

at that. He also says all the front line workers across the country are

also secretly without telling you, they`re all secretly taking this drug as

well. They`re all taking it themselves to keep themselves from getting

infected.

 

There is no sign that front line health workers are doing that in any

significant workers. There`s no clinical sign whatsoever that the drug

offers any preventive effect in terms of the keeping yourself from getting

the coronavirus. The president is saying that yeah, he`s taking it for

sure, and he`s taking it as a preventative, and all the doctors and nurses

are too. They`re just not telling you.

 

He`s saying it`s a preventive for this disease. He`s claiming that he`s

using it himself despite the fact that those things have no support

whatsoever. But presumably, that will not just be another random one of the

president`s lies about this crisis. Presumably that will lead lots of his

supporters to try to take this drug or get their hands on this drug as

well, which of course will just compound a new public health danger on top

of the existing one that we are trying to survive.

 

When I say that the national response is increasingly insane, I mean,

that`s what I mean. It`s one thing to be incompetent. It`s another thing to

add a whole new self-inflicted level of public health harm, misinformation,

and almost literal insanity in terms of understanding the facts about the

virus on top of what you already have to cope with. I mean, and all the

while the president continues to try to blame somebody else, anybody else,

for what has gone wrong here.

 

Yesterday, you might have seen he sent this letter to the world health

organization threatening the World Health Organization anew and saying that

the United States was going to leave the World Health Organization

altogether in the middle of the pandemic. The president`s letter, in making

that threat, cited one of the most influential peer reviewed medical

journals in the world, the British medical journal called “The Lancet”, as

part of the American government`s beef with the WHO.

 

The president said in his letter that the WHO had ignored reports from

early December about the virus spreading in China. The president`s letter

said, quote, we know the following: the WHO consistently ignored credible

reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even

earlier, including reports from “The Lancet” medical journal.

 

Well, “The Lancet” medical journal wrote to the White House today to say

oh, my god, what are you talking about? I`m paraphrasing that. But that`s

basically what they – I mean, here`s what they said. I can quote it.

 

Quote: This statement is factually incorrect. “The Lancet” published no

report in December 2019 referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or

anywhere else in China. Like I said, oh my god, what are you talking about?

 

They continued, quote, the allegations leveled against WHO in President

Trump`s letter are serious and damaging to efforts to strengthen

international cooperation to control this pandemic. It is essential that

any review of the global response is based on a factually accurate account

of what took place.

 

It is so embar – I mean, we`re beyond shame at this point. I would like to

note for the record that it is humiliating that this is the behavior of our

government. It is so embarrassing that this is the kind of thing the White

House sends out these days in the name of the American people. I mean, did

you even look that up before you put it in the letter to the WHO? Oh,

there`s stuff in “The Lancet” in early December about Wuhan. I heard it

about – on talk radio or on “Fox and Friends” or something.

 

And so, without checking whether or not that was true you put it in a

letter in writing and sent it to the World Health Organization, assuming it

was true or wouldn`t matter if it wasn`t. You`re not writing a letter to

the editor. You`re not some crank calling in at the end of the Rush

Limbaugh show, right, to get your dittos. You are the White House speaking

on behalf of the government – of the most powerful and previously most

respected country on earth, and you`re just making that stuff up in front

of everybody.

 

I mean, it`s one thing to be like defunding the WHO and blaming them for

what we`ve done wrong. It`s another thing to be completely incompetent at

even trying to ineffectually insult someone whose help we need.

 

It`s just – but it`s endemic now. It is just the way they are. And with

this president in charge for long enough, it`s now in every aspect of the

federal response.

 

Take, for example, the Trump appointed defense secretary, Mark Esper who a

few days ago in the Rose Garden got really excited and blurted out this.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Winning matters and we will deliver by the

end of this year a vaccine at scale to treat the American people and our

partners abroad.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW: Winning matters. Winning matters. We will deliver by the end of

this year a vaccine at scale to treat the American people and our partners

abroad.

 

He`s saying by the end of the year, we – I guess the U.S. military because

he`s the defense secretary if not the U.S. government, the United States

more broadly – we will have a vaccine that prevents people from getting

coronavirus and we will have it produced and delivered at scale by the end

of the year to treat the entire American population and the population of

our allies overseas.

 

Boy, would that be amazing? That would be amazing. And when you speak as

the defense secretary of the United States of America, there is some

inherent gravitas to your words. We assume that you are speaking on the

basis of information that supports your public assertions.

 

Well, on the basis of what information from the Defense Department did the

defense secretary say we are going to have a vaccine produced and delivered

at scale by the end of this year, not only for the entire American public

but for other countries as well? On the basis of what information did he

make this assertion?

 

Well, I don`t know. But “Task and Purpose” today reports on the internal

guidance of such matters that`s currently being circulated inside his

department. From the person at the Pentagon who`s actually in charge of

this stuff, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and

global security who says something that is the opposite of what Secretary

Esper is telling the public from the Rose Garden.

 

Quote: The Defense Department should prepare to operate in a globally

persistent novel coronavirus environment without an effective vaccine until

at least the summer of 2021. Quote: We have a long path ahead. All

indications suggest we will be operating in a globally persistent COVID-19

environment.

 

That`s the actual advice inside the Defense Department for the U.S.

military in terms of planning ahead. At least think about through next

summer before you start thinking about any vaccine being here to help.

Nevertheless, there`s the secretary of defense in the Rose Garden standing

there with the president saying isn`t winning awesome? We`re going to win!

Just tell people it`s all better already.

 

And by the way, there`s no reason to plan for any need for long term

mitigation of any kind. It`s cool. It`s all over. It`s done. Pay no

attention to 92,000-plus dead Americans and the rising daily case numbers

in most states in the country now.

 

And I think that we`re now calloused and immune to the lies and happy talk

from the White House, right? It`s still feel – even if it`s the Trump-

appointed defense secretary, it feels different to have that coming from

the Pentagon, right, to have that message about winning being delivered

from the secretary of defense to the American people. It still feels

different coming from the military. But they`ve got that too.

 

Along those lines, if you want a nomination for the most excruciating Trump

administration self-defeating cruel policy of the day, I commend to you

this new reporting from “Politico” which finally gets to the bottom of why

it is that President Trump picked a random Wednesday in June as the day his

order would expire that provides federal funding for the deployment of

national guard troops around the country to fight the epidemic.

 

You`ve probably seen in your local news, news about your state or news

about notable coronavirus combating efforts around the country involving

National Guard troops. Roughly 40,000 national guardsmen, guardswomen are

deployed right now around the U.S. It`s the largest domestic deployment for

the U.S. National Guard since Hurricane Katrina. And these National Guard -

- guardsmen and guardswomen, they`re doing everything from running

community testing sites. They`re doing that all over the country.

 

They`re providing medical staffing in hard hit prisons that have tons of

cases. They have been running food banks and food distribution sites. These

are field hospitals. They`ve been dispatched to states like Massachusetts

to run the state nursing home program for residents and staff.

 

National Guard has been doing all of this work from an order from President

Trump that allowed this to be paid for by the federal government. Now after

the president did that in early March, a whole bunch of different members

of Congress and senators and governors lobbied the president to please

extend that authorization so these National Guard deployments could go

right through to the fall. The federal government would continue to pay for

them as a federal deployment.

 

The White House would not agree to do that, would not agree to extend them

to the fall. But weirdly, they decided that they would extend it a little

bit. They decided they would extend the federal deployment to June 24th

which is a random Wednesday in late June.

 

Nobody could really figure out why they picked that day until somebody

finally did the math and as politico.com reports today we`ve now realized

that if this thing ends on June 24th, that means that the federal

deployment for these 40,000 national guard troops will end at day 89 of

that deployment.

 

And ending on day 89 is really important because if their deployment had

gone to day 90, if it had gone one more day, those national guardsmen and

women would have become eligible for benefits towards retirement and

education funds under the new G.I. bill if that federal deployment had gone

one more day.

 

So, President Trump is cutting off their deployment. They`re calling it a

hard stop at day 89 of the federal deployment, specifically so they don`t

get their benefits.

 

Thank you, National Guard. This is how your president thanks you. This is

how the Trump administration wants you to know that you`re valued and

appreciated for your work.

 

And not only do the guardsmen and guardswomen get screwed this way

personally, but the states of course that are counting on all these folks

to do all of this front line work against coronavirus, the states are also

going to lose them all, hard stop, because they`ve all got to end this

deployment on Wednesday the 24th so they don`t get their benefits.

 

And in fact, the states are likely going to lose these national guardsmen

and women in early June because protocol says they`re all going to need to

go into two weeks of quarantine before they go back into civilian life,

hard stop, on June 24th. I guess they`re all going to be out of commission

in terms of the states being able to use them by June 10th.

 

But it`s all so the president can keep them from getting them benefits. Use

them up to the moment they might get something that might benefit them in

their retirement or in their educational benefits. I mean, that takes

planning. That takes thought.

 

Don`t let anybody tell you the federal government is being slow or lazy or

cumbersome here. They`re nimble when they need to be, right? They`re hard

at work devising complicated systems like that to mess with the people who

are actually putting themselves in danger and doing the hardest work to

save American lives here.

 

And, of course, they`re also hard at work because what better time than a

global pandemic that`s going to kill 100,000 Americans by the end of this

month, what better time to try to take advantage of the pandemic to rye to

achieve some totally unrelated but very unpopular long-term goals. For

example, we have been reporting on the president firing four different

inspectors general over the past six weeks, all of them fired late on

Friday nights hoping to avoid press scrutiny.

 

The inspector general of the intelligence community fired after he didn`t

go along with the Trump administration`s efforts to block a whistleblower

complaint from getting to congress. That`s the whistleblower complaint that

ultimately led to the president being impeached in December. Remember

President Trump got impeached in December.

 

Also, the inspector general of Health and Human Services, she was fired

after she reported hospitals were short on critical supplies including PPE

as they try to fight the epidemic. The inspector general at the State

Department fired, according to the White House, at the insistence of

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as that inspector general was investigating

multiple serious investigations against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 

Now, tonight, we learn that the House is investigating the replacement of

the transportation inspector general as well, while that inspector general

was reportedly investigating Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for

allegedly running her federal department in a way that was designed to

shore up her husband`s political prospects in his home state. Her husband,

of course, is Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate.

 

Secretary Chao was being investigated for running the Department of

Transportation in a way that was designed to maximize benefit to her

husband`s re-election effort, while the I.G. was investigating that, that

I.G. was hustled out at the Department of Transportation and replaced.

Democrats now want to know what involvement, if any, Secretary Chao`s

office had in that one as well. And what better time for it, right?

 

The Republicans in the Senate today though may have outdone themselves once

and for all in an effort to try to use this particular moment in American

history to go after the Obama administration. What they have done today is

an effort to try to go after the Obama administration that appears to have

backfired quite spectacularly. I mean, it`s one thing to not do the basic

work of trying to keep Americans alive during a crisis like this when we

are running the worst international response to the coronavirus on earth

and we have the body count and the case count to show for it.

 

It`s another thing – it`s a sort of different, slightly lower circle of

hell to try to turn the moment of this crisis to your own political

advantage either through distraction or simply having the field to yourself

while everybody else is working on trying to save lives. But then for it to

not work, and for those efforts to actually make yourself look terrible in

the process, well, that was – that was – that was part of today`s news.

And the full story of that boomerang Republican disaster today is next.

 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: Susan Rice served as President Obama`s national security adviser in

his second term, and in the final weeks of the Obama administration, she

says she made time for one final very, very final email.

 

Here`s how she wrote it up in her memoir. She said, quote, the email was to

memorialize a brief meeting that President Obama hosted January 5th, with

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, Vice

President Biden and myself. The discussion followed a larger meeting in

which President Obama was briefed on the version of the intelligence

community report titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in the

Recent U.S. Election”.

 

Quote: Obama was explicitly not seeking to inject himself in any law

enforcement business and, as always, he insisted that we proceed by the

book to avoid inappropriate White House involvement in Justice Department

matters. Rather from a national security advantage point, Obama wanted to

know if there was any risk in fully sharing information related to Russia

with the incoming Trump team. Comey offered his best judgment, which

remains classified, and agreed that if anything change, he would let the

president know.

 

This is what I hurriedly write, hurriedly wrote up as a summary of that

brief conversation. I say that was a final email because Secretary Rice

sent herself that email on the day, on the last day that the Obama

administration existed before president Trump became president. She wrote

up that summary. She emailed it to herself, CC-ing her deputy as national

security adviser.

 

And the reason you do that, the reason you write a note to file is so that

something like that will be in the file, so something like that can`t be

disappeared. She memorialized that conversation.

 

And except for not spelling out what she described as Comey`s best judgment

on whether there was risk the in sharing information about Russia with the

incoming Trump team, that assessment from James Comey was still classified

so she couldn`t describe that. Apart from that Susan Rice described what

was in that email she wrote to herself on inauguration day 2017.

 

Well, Senate Republicans have decided this is a scandal and have been

trying to demonize Susan Rice from day one. They`ve also been chasing this

specific email since early 2018, since just after Susan Rice`s successor,

Mike Flynn, pled guilty for lying to the FBI about his repeated contacts

with the Russian government. And, you know, maybe it`s just because Mike

Flynn and now the Trump Justice Department want to take that guilty plea

back from Mike Flynn.

 

Maybe it`s because we`re about to have a presidential election and Susan

Rice has a credible possibly as Joe Biden`s vice presidential running mate.

Or maybe it`s because everybody just needs a quarantine project. But

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham this week has announced plans to subpoena

officials from the Obama administration over the Russia investigation. That

list includes Susan Rice.

 

And today, the Trump administration decided they would declassify that

final email from Susan Rice, the email she wrote to herself, that memo to

file. They decided they would declassify it to let everyone see the untold

evil that must lie within, the smoke coming from that smoking gun.

 

So, now we can see the part that was previously classified, the part that

Susan Rice wasn`t able to herself disclose because it was previously

classified. This is the part that Republicans were so sure is a terrible

smoking gun and should be shown to the American people. This is what they

wanted us all to know.

 

Quote, Director Comey affirmed that he is proceeding by the book as it

relates to law enforcement. Quote: From a national security perspective,

Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming national security

adviser Mike Flynn is speaking frequently with the Russian ambassador.

Comey says that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive

information.

 

President Obama asked if Comey was saying the national security counsel

shouldn`t pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey

replied potentially. He added he has no information thus far that Flynn has

passed classified information to the Russian ambassador but noted that,

quote, the level of communication is unusual.

 

The president asked Director Comey to inform him if anything changes the

next few weeks that would effect classified information with the incoming

team. Comey said that he would. That`s the smoking gun? Who was holding it

exactly? I mean, that`s the mystery paragraph Republicans have been hell-

bent on seeing themselves and exposing to the public.

 

The FBI director saying he would proceed by the book but there might be a

problem with the incoming Trump national security adviser because, yes, the

level of his communication with the Russian government is unusual and I`m

not sure we should let him see anything sensitive when it comes to

something that the Russian government ought not get their hands on.

 

That is what Senate Republicans have finally pried loose today. That`s

their big prize. I don`t know if this is their quarantine project but I

imagine they would prefer now that this is out, they would have preferred

to spend this time doing more jigsaw puzzles.

 

Joining us now is Jeremy Bash. He`s the former chief of staff of the CIA

and the Pentagon during the Obama administration.

 

Mr. Bash, it is nice to see you. Thank you for being here tonight.

 

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE CIA AND THE PENTAGON: Hey,

Rachel.

 

MADDOW: As you can tell, I am a little bit flabbergasted by this story. I`m

a little bit up to here in terms of everything that`s going on, in terms of

the coronavirus response and the trying to blame other people, trying to

distract from other things.

 

Big picture though, I see this as a real on goal on the part of the Trump

administration and Republicans who are really out to blame the Obama

administration and get them by showing that they were very concerned for

good reason about Mike Flynn`s communications with the Russian government.

 

BASH: Yeah, Rachel. What was the context here? The FBI and the national

security agencies were looking into Russian interference. Not only that

Vladimir Putin had directed Russian interference in the 2016 election but

that they were doing so to benefit Donald Trump.

 

And as the Susan Rice memoir that you referenced noted, the administration

had been reviewing a classified document that outlined all of this Russian

interference. This document of course was ultimately declassified and led

to the special counsel investigation. So, on January 5th, the key national

security –

 

(AUDIO GAP)

 

MADDOW: Jeremy – I – as soon as I started interrupting you, your audio

came back, but it was otherwise like a pixilated nightmare there for a

second where we could neither see nor hear you.

 

Do you by any chance have a back up phone on you that you can speak into

now that I can see you again?

 

BASH: Sure.

 

MADDOW: Hey, there you go. See, that`s all it takes is triple defense. Very

good.

 

Say what you were just saying in terms of the by the book request by the

president that this be handled as a by the book matter. Say again what you

were saying about that request from the president and that assurance from

James Comey.

 

BASH: Yeah, absolutely. The president made clear that he wanted the FBI

director to handle any law enforcement matters strictly by the book. And

according to this contemporaneous email that Susan Rice wrote in January

17th, Comey and the FBI leadership provided that assurance to the

president. And Susan Rice makes clear in that email that the Congress was

not asking about, initiating, or instructing anything with respect to a law

enforcement matter.

 

They were concerned about the national security implications of Mike Flynn

having so many conversations with the Russians, conversations he ultimately

misled the vice president about and the Justice Department said, hey, wait

a second, this guy can be blackmailed by the Russian Federation. The

incoming national security adviser could be blackmailed by the Russian

Federation because he`s clearly covering up conversations he`s having with

a U.S. adversary.

 

BASH: Jeremy, let me just ask you how you feel about, and how you view the

recent developments around the Flynn case. I mean, we`ve got the Justice

Department moving to drop the charges. We`ve got the lead prosecutor in the

case abruptly resigning from the case. We`ve got the judge overseeing the

case appointing a retired judge – very unusual move – appointing a

retired judge basically to argue against the Justice Department dropping

the charges against Flynn into looking whether or not Flynn may have

committed criminal contempt and lying to the court.

 

And now, we`ve got in Congress we`ve got the effort to expose – in

Congress and in the administration – to expose people from the Obama

administration who took a look at those intelligence reports to see who

this American private citizen was who was cautioning the Russian government

not to worry too much about the sanctions that were being imposed on them

for their interference on the election. I mean, all of these things

happening at once. It seems like Lindsey Graham is going to try to turn the

time between now and the election into an opportunity to bring Obama

officials in under subpoena to question them over this stuff.

 

Big picture when you look at this, how do you view this and how serious a

situation is this?

 

BASH: Yeah, two things, Rachel. First, the career prosecutors at DOJ, the

Senate confirmed trial judges in the district court are very concerned

here, and they are pushing back at what they view as a side door or back

door pardon effort by the president of the United States outside of

traditional constitutional processes. So, with respect to the Flynn

prosecution, we can see the discomfort that the professionals have, but I

think at the end of the day Trump will probably pardon him if he doesn`t

get his way.

 

Now, with respect to what`s happening on the Hill and this unmasking

scandal, by the way, the formal name is unminimizing, but I guess in an ode

to today`s lexicon, we`ll call it unmasking, that`s a process when you`re a

national security professional, you`re reading intelligence reports, you`re

interested in what a foreign official is saying but you`re talking to an

American known as U.S. person one in the report, in order to understand the

context, you need to know who the person is.

 

Now, you don`t know X ante who the person is which makes me laugh because

everyone is saying Susan Rice tried to unmask Mike Flynn. Well, if she knew

it was Mike Flynn, she wouldn`t have had to request his name be unmasked.

So, there`s no way to target someone for unmasking. This was done, by the

way, Rachel 16,000 times in 2018 under Donald Trump as compared to about

9,000 times under President Obama.

 

This happens about 40 times a day. This probably happened twice in the hour

since you`ve been on the air. This unmasking process is a very routine

process. It`s well overseen. There`s no scandal here.

 

MADDOW: Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff of the CIA and the Pentagon –

Jeremy, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to help us understand

this, particularly since we had to hurdle our technical difficulties. It`s

great to have you here.

 

BASH: Thanks.

 

MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: Arizona is one of the states in the country where the state

government is getting more and more parsimonious in terms of releasing

information about what`s going on with the epidemic in their state. They

initially fired university modelers who were working on projecting –

making projections about the epidemic in that state. Then they brought them

back after a public outcry. They`ve only tested less than 1,000 of the

41,000 plus prisoners in the state, so we really don`t know what`s going on

in the state`s prisons.

 

There are believed to be new outbreaks in Arizona meatpacking plants but

the state isn`t releasing that information either. And we also don`t know

how many Arizona nursing homes have coronavirus outbreaks right now or how

many residents in nursing homes have died from the virus because the state

won`t release that information ether. But that explanation for why they`re

not releasing the data on nursing homes, that has evolved in a weird way.

 

Their first (INAUDIBLE) for explaining that was last month. The government

and the state`s top health official cited the federal medical privacy law,

HIPAA, as the reason they couldn`t tell the public where nursing home

outbreaks were happening. That makes no sense because the federal HIPAA law

is about personal information, releasing names of nursing homes with

outbreaks is not personal information.

 

Two weeks after that, they were asked again. This time, they gave a

different reason. This time they said it wasn`t the federal privacy law.

They said it was a state privacy law that prohibited releasing the

information and they would only tell the public which nursing homes had

coronavirus outbreaks if a judge ordered them to do so.

 

That at least gave everybody a way forward. The Arizona and four other

media outlets sued the states to get the names of the nursing homes. The

state is fighting that as well, but now they`re doing so in court with a

third excuse. The state of Arizona is now arguing in court they cannot and

will not release data on outbreaks and deaths in the state`s nursing homes

because it would be, in their words, bad for business. It would be bad

publicity for the nursing homes that have coronavirus outbreaks.

 

Quote: The department and this court cannot ignore the reality that

disclosure of the records at issue is likely to cause harm to the

businesses and their residents. Really? More harm than them dying from

coronavirus with nobody knowing where the outbreaks are?

 

“Arizona Republic” this week calling the excuse, quote, truly astounding.

That seems like an understatement.

 

Joining us live is Will Humble. He`s the former director of the Arizona

State Department of Health Services. He`s now the executive director of the

Arizona Public Health Association.

 

Mr. Humble, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you

coming back to talk to us about this stuff.

 

WILL HUMBLE, ARIZONA PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Good

evening. Thanks for the chance.

 

MADDOW: Am I right that this is the third evolving explanation for why they

can`t release the nursing home data?

 

HUMBLE: Yes. The first two arguments were really public arguments during

press conferences and stuff like that. And they essentially you heard the

health director invite a lawsuit which now there is one. And in those court

documents, the new argument came up which is that it would be, in quotes,

financially detrimental to the facility if we were to release that

information.

 

They used another excuse too which was – get this one – it said it would

have deleterious effect on the community`s trust that the department can

prevent infectious diseases. So, that`s another one that was in the court

document.

 

MADDOW: It would seem to have a deleterious effect on the confidence in the

Department of Health if the Department of Health lies to them and hides

information from them about where the virus is and what facilities might

need the most help in keeping people alive. It seems like – I know a lot

of states don`t want to release this information. But these arguments from

Arizona just are confounding.

 

HUMBLE: Yes, you know, it doesn`t make a lot of sense to me either. Here`s

the thing. If you look at it from a big picture point of view, when I was a

health director, I always felt like transparency is what improves the

public`s trust in your agency`s ability to do work. And when you have trust

with the community, then you can get better results because people trust

you.

 

And if you hide information and if you are not transparent, people just

naturally have a lower level of trust with you. So, it`s really – you

know, I don`t understand the decision making here, but nevertheless there

it is.

 

MADDOW: You used to run the Arizona Department of Health Services, as you

said, do you think that this is likely a Health Department decision, or is

this the sort of thing that the governor might be leaning on the Health

Department to try to prevent this information from coming out because he

doesn`t want to answer questions about it?

 

HUMBLE: You know, it`s hard to tell. I`m not behind closed doors anymore.

I`m not in those conversations. So I don`t really know.

 

I know that they are very sensitive to stakeholder sort of concerns about

this, especially in the industry. But on the other hand, you know, you have

a big stakeholder group here called the AARP, and they`re super interested

in this. And so, you know, the public as a whole is really interested in

these results, and you are know, what`s happening out there in nursing

homes, but especially at AARP.

 

And, you know, as you mentioned at the top, you know, Arizona is sort of on

the bottom – actually we`re 51st when it comes to testing per capita, and

that in and of itself makes people nervous. And then you combine that with

the fact that the lack of transparency is out there and not really allowing

folks to get that information that like to have about their loved ones and

the facilities that they`re living in.

 

It just – it compounds that lack of trust, I think. And I think it`s

counterproductive.

 

MADDOW: Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health

Association, former health state director – sir, thanks very much for your

time tonight. I am confounded by what Arizona is doing here. We`ll stay on

the story. Thanks for being here.

 

HUMBLE: All right. Thanks.

 

MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: On the theme of sticking one`s head in the sand and pretending that

if you hide the data, you hide the problem, here`s a doozy from the state

of Ohio. It was a big deal last month. You might remember the reporting. It

seemed like promising new there is a public health perspective.

 

Last month, state officials in Ohio said they would test everybody in the

state`s prisons. They started that testing in Ohio, and they immediately

found some of the highest infection rates anywhere in the country. At the

Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio, more than 2,000 prisoners

tested positive, nearly 80 percent of all the prisoners there.

 

At Pickaway Correctional Institution, more than 1,500 prisoners were

positive there, about three quarters of the prison population. At Franklin

Medical Center in Ohio, more than 100 prisoners tested positive there,

about one in every five. So where they were doing this universal testing in

Ohio prisons, they kept finding outbreaks.

 

And now, it looks like there might be another one. But after this pattern

of uncovering huge outbreaks in all the prisons they were testing, Ohio`s

apparently decided they are done with all this testing mishegoss now.

 

This is from “The Columbus Dispatch” this week. Quote: Belmont correctional

institution is emerging at the state`s latest prison hot spot for the

coronavirus as COVID-19 cases soar there. But the public may never know it,

because the state has stopped the mass testing that showed prisons in

Marion and Pickaway counties were the top COVID-19 hot spots in the nation.

 

Instead, the state is now primarily testing inmates exhibiting symptoms of

the disease.

 

The whole point of mass testing is that you find everybody who has the

virus, not just the people who are sick from it. That`s because you can

spread it, even if you are not sick from it.

 

As of today, 61 prisoners and four staff members have died from coronavirus

in Ohio. Maybe Ohio has decided they would rather not know how widespread

the problem is in the rest of the state`s prisons, but not knowing, hiding

the data, really does not make the problem go away.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: Thanks for being with us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

 

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

 

Good evening, Lawrence.

 

                                                                                                               

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