Navajo nation TRANSCRIPT: 5/20/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Michelle Lujan Grisham, Bruce Weniger


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris. That was a little weird.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Just saying, I`m just saying it`s another day in

quarantine, and it`s another 9:00 p.m., and here we find ourselves again.




MADDOW:  Like 9:00 on the nose.


Thank you very much, friend. Artfully done, and gymnastically done, in this

case, as always. Much appreciated.


Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well. We`re happy to have

you with us on this Wednesday night. When President Trump was impeached in

December, oh, my god that was only December, you might remember that one of

the impeachment hearings that the Judiciary Committee held was one where

they heard from a panel of constitutional scholars about the legal

threshold for impeachment, and how members of Congress should understand

the seriousness of the president`s behavior, in light of what the Founders

meant, and what they wrote, when they wrote impeachment into our

constitutional system of government.


One of the scholars that Congress heard from in those hearings is Pam

Karlan, Professor Pam Karlan, as a sort of legal superstar from Stanford

Law School. Little to be known at the time that Professor Pam Karlan from

Stanford Law School is also a person who could see very clearly six months

into the future, to predict for us, at that impeachment hearing, the news

that would happen today, in the middle of this epidemic.





offenses that framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence

of an impeachable offense is a president`s decision to sacrifice the

national interest for his own private ends. Imagine living in a part of

Louisiana or Texas that`s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding,

what would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a

meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid, that Congress

has provided for, what would you think, if that president said, I would

like to do you, I would like you to do us a favor, I`ll meet with you, and

I`ll send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal?


Wouldn`t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office,

that he betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt

the electoral process? I believe that that the evidentiary record shows

wrongful acts on that scale here.




MADDOW:  Professor Pam Karlan, in the impeachment hearings for President

Trump, reaching there, for a hypothetical example of presidential abuse of

power, so obvious, so outrageous, so clearly wrong to any observer, that

this hypothetical would clarify the nature of the impeachment allegations

the president was facing. What would you think if the president wouldn`t

send disaster relief to a state unless that state took an action that would

help him win re-election in that state? Can`t we all agree that such an

outrageous hypothetical would be a clear instance of presidential

wrongdoing? Wouldn`t that be just outrageous?


Well, no, apparently, that would just be a Wednesday, six months later, in

the Trump presidency, in the middle of this disaster. Because today,

President Trump really did threaten the state of Michigan that he would

hold up funding to the state unless that state stopped preparations to vote

by mail in the next election, because the president has decided he doesn`t

like people being able to vote by mail. He randomly calls voting by mail

illegal, said it is illegal for Michigan to send out absentee ballot

applications to voters.


It`s not at all illegal. But after declaring it illegal, the president then

says he will cut off Michigan`s federal funding if they could doing it.


It should be noted that this happened today, on a day when not only is

Michigan dealing with one of the worst death tolls in the country, in the

coronavirus catastrophe right now, they are also dealing, since yesterday,

with catastrophic flooding in the central part of the state. So shame about

what`s happening in your state, make it harder for people to vote in the

next election, or I`ll cut off all federal funds that you`re getting.


Soon thereafter, the president also accused the state of Nevada of acting

in some mysteriously illegal fashion, by also planning vote by mail options

for the next election. The president also threatened to cut off their

federal funding unless they stopped making those plans. And it is not a

mystery as to why this is happening, right? The president believes that if

too many people vote, that will disadvantage him, in his re-election

efforts, so he is threatening states to make it harder to vote, or else,

they will get their disaster funds cut off, in the middle of the pandemic.


I would usually at this point say you can`t make this stuff up. But

Professor Pam Karlan from Stanford Law School literally made this exact

thing up as a hypothetical to try to explain the cartoonishly evil nature

of the president`s alleged crimes in the impeachment scandal, tried to

explain to the country the risk of not removing a president from office,

who has shown that he`ll use the power of the government office he holds to

try to rig his re-election effort.




KARLAN:  What you would think if you lived there, and your governor asked

for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that

Congress has provided for, what would you think if that president said, I

would like to do you – I would like you to do us a favor? Wouldn`t you

know in your gut that such a president had abused his office? That he

betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt the

electoral process?




MADDOW:  Yes, we do know that in our gut. We do know that in our gut. But

apparently, we just live with that kind of stuff happening right out in the

open now.


You can see, actually, when he tweeted these things today, he tagged the

secretary of the treasury, and he tagged the guy who runs the Budget

Office, in the White House, that`s to make sure the threat to cut off funds

is really unsubtle. It really puts some teeth in that threat. Professor Pam

Karlan speaking six months ago, warning us of this in a hypothetical

designed to portray cartoonishly evil and impeachable behavior by a

president, and then he just lives up to it.


The president is due to go to the state of Michigan tomorrow. He wants to

show off the fact that U.S. auto companies have reopened some of their

production plants as of this week. He`s due to visit a Ford plant in

Ypsilanti, Michigan, tomorrow, and while there`s been a lot attention today

as to whether or not the president will wear a mask on that visit, because

that`s required of everybody who was on that plant.


Perhaps more substantively, it should be noted that as excited the

president is to basically proclaim the epidemic over and to insist that

everybody must be open back up, and that`s part of the reason for this

visit to Michigan tomorrow, while he is taking the victory lap, look, the

plant is opened. Ford has already just since Monday of this week had to

reclose two of the plants that they just reopened, because of coronavirus

cases among the workers there, once they reopened. They had to reclose this

week, a plant in Chicago, and they have had to reclose a plant in Dearborn,

Michigan after reopening.


And that sort of thing is happening now, in states that are reopening all

over and it is not only in workplaces. Big workplaces like those auto

plants. It is also happening in places like church, too. “The Washington

Post” today profiling two churches, one in Georgia, one in Houston, Texas,

that were happy to open back up, everything`s fine, things in the past now,

let`s start holding services again.


But now, after doing that, they have closed their doors once again, because

families who attended services at the church ended up contracting the

virus. Two priests who conducted services contracted the virus. One priest



Speaking of Texas, this was a protest outside a meat processing plant last

night in Dallas. These are former workers from the quality sausage plant in

Dallas, Texas, also, family members of at least one worker of the plant who

died from coronavirus.


“The Fort Worth Star Telegram” covered that protest last night, and posted

this today.




CARLOS QUINTANILLA, ACTIVIST:  They have to come in because they`re being

called every day, that they got to produce, so that the American public can

have meat on their tables. But yet, the American public has abandoned the

immigrant community that is dying to maintain the food supply for America.




MADDOW:  This one plant in Dallas, the sausage plant in Dallas is believed

to have had three of its workers die from the coronavirus, and 63 other

known cases among workers at the plant. But that`s an estimate. That`s just

an unofficial count from activists representing the families of people who

have died there. There is no official count. Either from the plant, or from

Dallas County, or from the state of Texas, and apparently, there`s no plans

to make that information available at all.


Now, yesterday, this is interesting, the president was asked directly about

these ongoing large outbreaks and meat processing plants around the

country, despite his executive order telling all these plants to reopen.

The president responded to that question, with a veritable pooh-pooh

platter of assorted made-up announcements about meat processing plants.





disproportionately high number of people that had the problem and that`s

going away, the plants are very, very clean now. They`re getting to a level

where I think we had, a report that they`re cleaner than they`ve ever been.

That`s a good report. I don`t know exactly what that means but they are

cleaner than they`ve ever been.




MADDOW:  That`s going away. That`s going away. They`re cleaner now.


Yes, maybe the problem there is that they were dusty before. Had like scuff

marks and stuff. But now they`re clean.


He says they`re so clean, there`s a good report, I don`t know exactly what

that means, there`s a report they`ve been cleaner than they`ve ever been, I

don`t know what that means but that`s all going away.


I mean, we`re getting on to three solid months into the thick of this thing

in this country, and nearly 100,000 Americans have been killed already. And

the president is still just kind of feeling around the edges of any

specific question, hoping to say words that might in someone`s mind map on

to some portion of the problem as posed in the question to maybe give an

impression that he understands anything about that that he was just asked.


The plants, they`re very clean now. I don`t know what that means but that`s

all going away. Next question? I mean we`re used to it now, because this is

the way he talks, but literally, like three months into this thing, he just

throws word salad at anything, tries to approximate a noun that might have

something to do with the real problem he was asked about, and assumes that

you`ll round him up to the nearest “he might understand that” perception of

his comments.


I mean, it`s – if you weren`t teaching a kindergartener how to answer a

basic direct question, you would continue to ask for further tries and

answers before you would let that kindergartener finish that lesson. And

it`s true about the most fundamental fatal things in this crisis that has

killed nearly 100,000 people in this country, of which he is the leader.

It`s just, I mean again, I know we`re used to it, but I will never be that

used to it.


To the point of the president saying that`s going away, about the

meatpacking plants. I will tell you that there is a sense in which the

problem in meatpacking plants appears to be going away since the president

ordered them to reopen. And that is, that we have since seen Republican

governors around the country, in states that have meatpacking plants, we

have seen those Republican governors and their state governments crack down

on people`s ability to know about outbreaks in specific meatpacking plants.


In Nebraska, for example, we have seen Republican Governor Pete Ricketts

announcing that the state will no longer release information about

coronavirus outbreaks in meatpacking plants. Once they started getting big

outbreaks in his state, and started doing testing, he announced nobody will

be able to see those numbers anymore.


In Iowa, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds applying this bizarre 10 percent

threshold standard, where no one, including the people who work at the

plant, their families, or local public officials who want to prepare their

hospitals in the event of a large outbreak within their city limit, no one

in Iowa is allowed to know if there`s an outbreak at any one plant until at

least 10 percent of the entire workforce at that plant is positive. That is

the 10 percent threshold that Governor Reynolds has set in Iowa.


So if you`re a local official and want to try to act and prepare while the

outbreak at your local meat processing plant is still small, so you might

still be able to test and track and isolate and contain it under good

public health practices, no. Iowa`s governor says you cannot do that. You

are not allowed to know what is going on until the outbreak is giant. You

have to wait until the outbreak has infected at least 10 percent of the

people who work there, before you are allowed to know that the outbreak is



And it`s – I mean, it`s, this is the thing that Republican governors are

doing now. In Arizona, they`ve got what appears to be a good-sized outbreak

at a JBS meat processing plant in Tolleson, Arizona. I think that`s how you

say it, T-O-L-L-E-S-O-N. It`s just west – due west of Phoenix, Arizona.

Neither the plant, the JBS plant, nor the county, Maricopa County, nor the

state of Arizona, will tell anyone how many cases there are at that plant



The workers are freaking out. The union who represents those workers is

freaking out. They`re asking for help. But even if they`re going to be

testing, it is all going to be kept secret. Nobody is allowed to know.


Which of course makes it easier for the president to bumble through a 5-

year-old`s answer at the White House, saying well, as far as he`s

concerned, everything`s very clean now, and it`s going away, I don`t know

what that means, but I`ll be fine, right? It is easy to say when it`s going

away when the numbers are going away because Republican governors won`t let

anybody see them anymore.


But beyond that, beyond this sort of new and newly-concerted effort by

Republican governors to not divulge the bad news, from these meatpacking

plants, we have also seen, from the beginning, some of the plants at least,

the plants themselves, trying to pretend the problem isn`t there. The

problem isn`t that bad. The problem has gone away by just avoiding testing

in the first place.


And to that end, we just obtained a document that I want – that I want you

to see. I find it very strange. What we have just obtained is – this

document, it is a document from Greeley, Colorado. Greeley, Colorado, of

course, is one of the first meat packing plants that we covered, one of the

huge meatpacking plants that came to attention, at that Greeley, JBS plant,

they have had we believe eight workers die in Greeley already. This is the

plant they pledged publicly that they would test all of their employees

before they reopened the plant.


But then they didn`t. They just reopened anyway without doing the testing.

We have been trying to figure out why and how that was allowed.


Well, as we`ve been trying to figure that out, look at this document that

we just obtained. This document is so strange, I first assumed it was all a

misunderstanding. It was like a three`s company plot. It was a typo.


But it`s apparently real. And it`s apparently not a typo. And this is what

they meant. This is a document from Weld County, where the plant is, where

that JBS plant is the largest employer, and what we`ve got here, can we put

it up on the screen, this is the form that was sent to JBS, to the plant,

from the county health department, as a screening form, for any JBS

employees who were going to be tested back when JBS set up its first

testing session in Greeley, back when they were still saying they were

going to test all of their employees.


And you can see what`s on the screening form there. Employee name. Date of

birth. Temperature reading, taking their temperatures when they were going

to screen people to see if they were going to test them. What language the

employee speaks. Whether the employee needs an interpreter.


Then the screening form says list your symptoms, have you had cough,

shortness of breath, fever, body aches, et cetera.


And then this is the kind of amazing part. The bottom part of the form

there is labeled exposure questions. Do you have a household member who has

had fever and/or respiratory symptoms? Or one who has been told they have

COVID-19? Yes or no.


Has the person you stand next to on your work line had fever and/or

respiratory symptoms? Yes or no. Do you ride to work with anybody who has

had fever and/or respiratory symptoms? Yes or no.


Do you eat lunch? Have you eaten lunch next to somebody at the plant with

fever or respiratory symptoms? Yes or no.


But then look at this, on the very bottom, in bold, if the person answers

yes to any of the above screening questions, they are not eligible to be

tested. Wait a minute. They`re not eligible to be tested?


If you have – if you`ve been exposed to somebody with fever or respiratory

symptoms, if you`ve been working next to somebody with fever or respiratory

symptoms, if you`ve been traveling to somebody who has fever or respiratory

symptoms, if you`ve been in the lunchroom at the plant with somebody who

has had fever or respiratory symptom – no, you can`t be tested? What fresh

hell is this? You`re not eligible to be tested at the meat packing plant if

you potentially have been exposed to coronavirus.


If you have had any evident exposure, we`re not going to test you. Yes,

because what might that turn up? What might that test result indicate?


We actually called the Weld County Health Department after we obtained this

document to see if it was a typo. If you answer yes to any of these

exposure questions, you can`t be tested? You were not eligible for being



The county health department cheerfully wrote back to us, no, we understand

this is not a typo, thank you.


I mean, this means that the local county health department, in the county

where the JBS Company is the biggest employer in town, in conjunction with

the county, they set up a testing protocol, for the meatpacking plant

workers, that ensured that no one would be tested if they had any reason to

be tested, if you know what I mean. Well, that`s one way to keep your

numbers down.


But that plant is open, up and running. Eight employees dead already. Still

hundreds of known cases in that plant, even though that was the approach to



The county health director there in Weld County just quit his job without

explanation after more than 20 years on the job.


The president says these plants, though, it`s all going fine, it`s all

going away, I don`t know what that mean, but it`s fine.


Where we are willing to look, we are still finding some of the very same

persistent problems we have had in responding to this virus so disastrously

as a country from the very beginning. The original problems we had at the

outset aren`t getting better. I mean, going back to the – to the official

declaration that we were facing a pandemic, health workers in the United

States have been pleading, they have been standing outside hospitals, and

publicly pleading for personal protective equipment, to keep them safe, as

they cared for COVID patients, right?


We saw them on Twitter, begging, get me PPE, and in newspapers, describing

workplaces, that had transformed, basically, into infectious disease war

zones, where front line health workers dealing with COVID patients were

forced to make due with a single mask for days on end, and conditions where

having what you need close at hand can make the difference between your own

life and death. I mean, that was the story from the outset, right? Back in



And that was the story the following month, in April. Including for one

California nurse whose colleague said she was not given an N95 mask at the

start of her shift. And they have one to give her.


So, wearing own a thin surgical mask she jumped to help a patient who had

stopped breathing, she herself was exposed to the virus. She died from it.


I mean, this dangerous shortfall on protective equipment for American

health workers was the news in March. It was still the news in April. And

it`s still the news tonight.


A new poll of health care workers from the “Washington Post” and Ipsos this

afternoon, asked health workers directly, health workers who deal with

COVID-19 patients, about conditions in their hospitals and clinics. They

still do not have enough of those N95 masks, and two thirds of the health

workers polled. Funding surgical masks, the ones that are not really

appropriate for protecting you in a health care environment, from patients

with active disease, even finding the surgical masks is, still a problem

for 42 percent of health care workers who are working with COVID patients.


This poll of health workers found persistent notable shortages for hand

sanitizer, protective gowns, face shields, cleaning supply, eye protection,

all the way down to glove, still now in May. We have this problem at the

very outset. And we have it now, still, today.


As total known cases in this country are now well above 1.5 million, and

93,000, almost 94,000 Americans have died.


Today, a coalition of advocacy groups staged a national day of mourning, a

national funeral, to mark the administration`s abysmal response to this

public health catastrophe, and the loss of tens of thousands of American

lives because of it. These funeral-like protests were held in roughly 20

states today and in Washington, D.C. protesters in dc staged a mock funeral

procession in their cars outside Mitch McConnell`s house in Washington,

honking their horns, displaying signs like Trump lies, people die. The

procession later made its way to Lafayette square, which is right across

the street from the White House, demonstrators again laid out body bags,

within view of the Oval Office.


And in Denver, activists stacked fake body bags outside the office of

Republican Senator Corey Gardner. You can see his cardboard cutout there at

the right to protest his support of the administration through all of these



It`s the same in New Orleans outside the office of Republican Senator John

Kennedy. You can see again, the symbolic body bags and the signs, mourning

in America.


In South Lake, Texas, outside Fort Worth, protesters set out body bags in

the town square there. And the grim reaper was there. And the protests of

the rush to reopen, even as Texas case numbers and deaths spike.


The anger is real, right? The anger is palpable. The grief for 92,000

Americans lost, also the anger that this has been so screwed up, so

horrifically managed, the worst in the world.


You can find that anger in your town square among your fellow voters. You

can find it among the ranks of health workers and scientists. Tonight, we

will have with us a former senior scientist at the CDC who has had it up to

here who is now basically trying to sound the public alarm about what has

gone wrong with his old agency, within this botched national response.

We`re going to be speaking with that former CDC scientist coming up.


We`re also tonight going to be talking with the governor of one of the very

hardest hit states in the nation. The governor who also as a matter of

fact, happens to be getting vetted right now as a potential vice

presidential running mate for Vice President Joe Biden. That governor joins

us next.


Big night ahead. Stay with us.




MADDOW:  Gallup, New Mexico, is a beautiful part of our country. It is

toward the western edge of New Mexico. It`s about two hours west/northwest

– west/northwest of Albuquerque. Gallup borders the Navajo Nation, which

is the largest Native American reservation in the United States.


The Navajo Nation is huge. It actually spans the territory of three

different U.S. states, mostly in New Mexico and Arizona.


Right now, the Navajo Nation has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the

whole country. A grim milestone achieved this week. Quote, Navajo nation

surpasses New York state for highest COVID-19 infection rate in the United



The worst outbreak in the country, within the Navajo Nation has also caused

consequences that spill behind Navajo borders. If you look at the last two

weeks, Gallup, New Mexico, right on the edge of Navajo Nation, has had the

second highest rate of new cases per capita anywhere in the country. They

follow only Sioux City, Iowa, which has a meatpacking-driven outbreak there

that just won`t quit.


Over that same time period in the past two weeks, coronavirus also took

more lives per capita in Gallup, New Mexico, than anywhere else in the

country. And that is partly a function of how fast the virus is spreading

near Gallup, but it may also be of – may also be partly because of how

hard it is to get health care there.


The city of Gallup has one acute care hospital, Rehoboth McKinley Christian

Hospital. It`s the only acute care medical center for more than 100 miles.

That hospital has eight intensive care beds, which are all full. Doctors

and nurses at that hospital have been protesting and trying to get further

help as they have been overwhelmed.


Rehoboth has had to start transferring any COVID patients with severe

breathing problems to other facilities because they don`t have the

facilities there to continue to keep up with the case load. And as I

mentioned, there are no advanced health care facilities that are close by.


Earlier this month, the governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham,

called the spread of the virus in Gallup, quote, uninhibited. She closed

all roads leading into Gallup to try to mitigate that uninhibited spread

but the problem there is dire.


So the governor of New Mexico is dealing with the challenges of one of the

worst coronavirus outbreaks anywhere in the world. She`s also

simultaneously dealing with a sharp increase in the national scrutiny on

her on the heels of news that she right now is being vetted by Joe Biden

and his campaign as a potential vice presidential running mate on the

Democratic ticket this year.


Joining us now for the interview is Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham from

the great state of New Mexico.


Governor, it`s a real honor to have you here tonight. I have a ton to ask

you about. I`m really glad that you made the time.


GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D), NEW MEXICO:  Well, thank you, Rachel. I

appreciate the opportunity. Nice to talk with you.


MADDOW:  Let me just – let me just ask you first about the epidemic in

your state, some of the information that I`ve said about Gallup and where

the crisis has been so difficult there and within the Navajo Nation.


Can you just give our viewers a broad strokes picture of what`s going on

with the epidemic in your state, and in some of those real hot spots that

you`re still contending with?


GRISHAM:  Yeah, and I hope you don`t mind, I`m going to correct actually

something about Gallup. There are two hospitals in Gallup.


MADDOW:  Good.


GRISHAM:  There`s the Gallup Indian Health Center, Medical Center, and

they`ve got acute care beds and critical care beds. There are after-care

sites that we built in Gallup in Rehoboth.


Rehoboth is a private rural hospital that`s long been troubled and is now

under direct management and support by the state of New Mexico, and I feel

very confident that the men and women who are on the front lines, providing

incredible care, are getting what they need, they`re amazing.


And part of our plan in New Mexico all along has been to move patients to

hospitals in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and in areas where you`ve got much

higher percentages to serve the population, in critical care, acute care,

and ICU settings. And so, that`s always been part of our plan.


And you`re right. Some days, we were seeing two patients transferred an

hour from the northwestern part of the state. So what is going on?




GRISHAM:  What`s going on is the Navajo Nation, and we sounded the alarm to

the White House, months ago, about the impact on sovereign nations, lack of

testing by Indian Health Services which I`m going to really defend them.

The federal government is not giving them what they need either, and have

long underfunded Indian health.


So, what do you have? You have intergenerational families living hundreds

of miles from food, water, health care services, just the basics. You`ve

got children and elders and working family members in very tight quarters,

which is ripe for having containment issues that you can`t get your arms



And, in fact, I want to give a shout-out to the Navajo Nation, both the

council and the Navajo Nation president have been good partners and really

effective leaders by having some of the strictest stay-at-home orders and

curfews in the country, and we`re seeing a flattening in Gallup, and in

McKinley County, and in San Juan County, as a result. And we`re seeing the

transmission rate finally beginning to decline.


But we are not out of the woods in Indian country around this country, in

Indian country in New Mexico, and not in the Navajo Nation either.


MADDOW:  Because of that unique circumstance with Indian country in terms

of the Indian Health Service and the federal responsibility for providing -

- for providing health care, to a certain extent here, what specifically

should the federal government be doing to contend with the situation in

Navajo Nation that they`re not doing? Obviously, there`s federal

responsibilities here that are unique.


GRISHAM:  There are. And I will give you a couple of examples.


So one is, and we`ve got support. Admiral Weahkee who`s from Zuni, Pueblo,

which is also near Gallup, in New Mexico, he`s the leader of IHS, and he`s



But he`s supporting us to tell the federal government, give us the testing

supplies, and when I say “us,” the state. Let us at our state lab do the

testing, because here`s what happens – and give us some personnel to do



We can increase the testing of the Navajo Nation. We can increase the

testing in all of our Pueblos and Apache Nations. We can turn those tests

around in incredible amounts of time, which means we can then support

directly the contact tracing.


Here`s what they do now, right – they wait to get supplies. And when those

supplies are available, they get them out to the Navajo Nation. Then they

have to get those test samples to LabCorp, or another laboratory that

they`ve got a national contract with. They compete with all of the other

testing in the country. They might get it back in 24 hours. They might it

get back in four days.


That means no one gets isolated. Nobody`s getting contact tracing. None of

that is happening in a way that`s meaningful. Nor have they invested in the

right personnel to beef that up.


So, we`re doing contact tracing. We`re doubling the amount of personnel on

the ground. We want to just take control with IHS as a partner, of the

whole thing.


New Mexico`s done more testing in total than Colorado, which has a

significantly higher population. So we have capacity to do much more, and

it`s been really hard to disrupt that. And I am confident that gets done

immediately, and that`s going to make a big difference.


We`re also going to get cell phones out to everyone we test. We`re going to

work with telecommunications companies, to put towers out, so we can do

contact tracing, because we can reach people who do not have a self service

or Internet connections.


And probably too much, but last legislative session, that was January in

New Mexico, even though I had to veto many capital projects because of the

COVID-19 impacts on the economy, I kept, which were part of our projects,

we need broadband, water, and electricity, and public safety emergency

response investments in the Navajo Nation, and they`re going to get it,

because we`re clear as a state, we have a responsibility to meet the

shortfalls of the federal government.


MADDOW:  Governor, I also need to ask you about reports that you have been

approached by the Biden campaign to vet you as a potential vice

presidential running mate for the – for the vice president. I want to ask

if you can confirm those reports and tell us anything about what that

process has been like.


GRISHAM:  Well, I really appreciate that you – literally, what happened to

me all the time when I was in Congress, people would say I was a senator,

so I got a boost, reaching out to me, to make sure we`re on track for an

endorsement, I`m a big Joe Biden fan, and I`m doing my part, as the first-

ever Democratic Hispanic governor in the country to make sure that we`re

getting out Hispanic voters and minority votes across the country.


So that`s speculation, you put into vetting – I don`t know if that`s an

endorsement, Rachel, but I appreciate your kind words. We`re working on the

campaign specifics that I should be doing as the chair-elect of the DGA,

and then the rest of my work is to make sure, to your point, where you have

significant issues going on in the state, you need to be focused on getting

them addressed.


And you know, New Mexico is the – one of the, was the first step to test

asymptomatic individuals, who tested 7 percent of our population, we can do

better than that, and will.


We are – we lowered our transmission rate. We`re meeting our gating

criteria. We`ve been very slow and steady.


But I`m troubled today, I was troubled yesterday. We need to do everything

in our power to disrupt the lack of federal responding and support to

protect our sovereign nations, in New Mexico, and we`re going to keep

fighting to slow the spread, to support the Navajo people, to support the

president, and vice president of the Navajo Nation and the Council, and

we`re going to get a hold of this virus, and we`re going to create a system

where no one in the federal government can put the Navajo Nation, or any

sovereign nation, in harm`s way ever again.


MADDOW:  Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of the great state of New Mexico

– Governor, it`s great to have you here. We`d love to have you talk about

this as it proceeds. I appreciate you taking the time tonight.


GRISHAM:  You got it, Rachel. Thank you very much.


MADDOW:  All right. Thanks.


We got a lot more to get to tonight. Stay with us.




MADDOW:  It`s titled “Straight Talk from an ex-CDC for the long slog



And straight talk is what they mean. This is about the White House plans to

reopen the country, and the guidelines they put out around that. Quote, the

White House, in obvious desperation as the election looms, rushed out its

guidelines for relaxing mitigation efforts and lockdown, titled as a

political slogan, Opening Up America Again, complete with campaign logo

bars, the guidelines are banal, quantitatively, and subjectively vague,

ambiguous, and they shirk any federal responsibility.


As any thinking person would have anticipated, opening up America again is

now serving as political cover for some states to relax whatever mitigation

efforts were in place. Thus, the nation is entering what epidemiologists

call a natural experiment. The resulting state and national epidemic curves

will be as volatile as the recent stock market. Governors who open up their

states too soon, or too broadly, may turn out to be pied pipers, leading

some constituents into the folkloric river to drown.


Quote: CDC`s logo was sullied when someone put it on the White House web

page and download of the opening up guidelines. Such labeling was

defamatory of a document, so unlike the thousands of well-defined, clearly

explained recommendations and guidelines the CDC has published under that

logo, often cited and respected worldwide.


Straight talk from ex-CDC indeed. People who work at the CDC have started

speaking out anonymously now, telling reporters about the way the agency

has been compromised and sidelined and pushed aside, and not really

defanged so much as deformed by the Trump administration over the course of

this epidemic.


But people who are ex-CDC, who are retired from the agency, can put their

name to some of these critiques. Dr. Bruce Weniger is a medical

epidemiologist who`s retired from CDC, he`s is one of the ex-CDC scientists

who wrote that article, he joins us next.


Stay with us.




MADDOW:  There`s only one infectious disease known to infect human beings

that has been totally eradicated and that is smallpox, which was only

eradicated in living memory, 40 years ago after the World Health

Organization went on a mission to wipe smallpox off the face of the planet,

in part, by deploying smallpox eradication basically SWAT teams that went

house to house in hard hit areas administering vaccines. They also offered

cash to anybody who reported smallpox cases so these teams could do a strip

down quick version of contact tracing to try to find all the last instances

of this disease on earth.


This is one of those smallpox SWAT teams at work in Bangladesh in 1975. You

can see the posters offering cash rewards like I described and the maps

tracking active infections they have been able to find. The gentleman you

can see in this picture with the beard is Bruce Weniger, UCLA med student

at the time who was recruited by the World Health Organization to go to the

front lines in Bangladesh and try to wipe smallpox off the face of the

earth. He was later recruited by the CDC and sent to work with refugees in



Bruce Weniger over time would become the CDC`s vaccine guru and particular

expert on the spread of HIV and AIDS across the continent of Asia. That`s

Weniger there with President Bill Clinton who appointed him to the

presidential advisory committee on HIV and AIDS in 1995.


So when Dr. Bruce Weniger who spent 30 years fighting deadly viruses under

the banner of the CDC, when this man in particular fires off a public

rocket aimed squarely at the CDC over their handling of this current

pandemic and what they have not done that they should have been expected to

do, when it comes from him, you ought to sit up and listen.


Joining us now is Dr. Bruce Weniger, a medical epidemiologist, 30-year

veteran of the CDC. He`s affiliated with Emory University, as well as

Shanghai University.


Dr. Weniger, it`s an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you for

making time.



PROFESSOR:  Well, thank you for having me here and also for your coverage

of what is happening to the CDC whose mission my co-author on the essay,

Dr. Jimmy Oh (ph), and I have been very proud to serve for our entire

careers. I must correct you, the rocket, as you termed it, was not aimed at

the CDC, it was aimed for the CDC.


MADDOW:  Well, to that point. Let me just ask you as somebody whose been in

the middle of the CDC`s response to the most – what seems like the most

difficult things on Earth before we got here, what do you think is the most

important thing that the CDC could be doing and should be doing that it

isn`t in this crisis?


WENIGER:  Well, basically, taking the forefront on the scientific public

health efforts to control the pandemic in this country, which has been

their role for Ebola, the Ebola outbreak in Africa because what happens

anywhere in the world can quickly come to this country and they have been

doing this for roughly 70, 75 years, and many other people have already

spoken publicly about the proper role for CDC, including our wonderful

former director, Dr. Tom Frieden.


MADDOW:  In terms of what`s been going wrong with the CDC, one of the

things that we`ve reported here and that we`re still trying to get our arms

around is what appears to be political pressure from outside the CDC from

the White House, from other parts of the administration to soften their

scientific language to soften their assessments about not only what`s wrong

but what needs to be done and it appears that the CDC has been acceding to

that pressure.


Is this something that I`m just being naive to be disappointed about? Is

this – is this rare or unusual, or something that you`d expect people

inside CDC to be squawking more about if they are, in fact, getting that



WENIGER:  I think you have it correct that there is political interference

that I don`t think we`ve ever seen before. The comments that you quoted

came on October – on May 3rd, actually and they were based on the initial

Opening Up America guidelines and just today, I found we were able to track

down the new 60-page version of those guidelines that are officially

promulgated and it was really long and difficult to get through. They are

like nothing I`ve ever seen come out of the CDC.


They are very complicated. Their recommendations you probably need an

attorney with 20 years experience argumentation before appellate courts to

explain inconsistencies from page one to another on these recommendations.

Some of the recommendations have exceptions and they`re often exceptions to

the exceptions. So, this is just a good example and I`m sure many people

still at CDC are embarrassed to even look at this document.


MADDOW:  Is there anything we, the public, can do to support the scientists

and the science at CDC especially against the kind of political pressure

that may be resulting – may be causing this compromise that you`re seeing?


WENIGER:  To use one word that President Obama used recently, vote.


MADDOW:  Dr. Bruce Weniger, medical epidemiologist who work with the CDC

for 30 years, now speaking about the shortcomings at that agency`s response

– Dr. Weniger, thank you for being here and thank you for your service.


WENIGER:  You`re welcome, thank you.


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




MADDOW:  As we wrap up tonight, one quick piece of breaking news. We led

the show last night with news that the Trump administration had planned to

end the federal deployment of National Guard troops in the United States to

fight the coronavirus epidemic in June, specifically on day 89 of the

deployment of all of those national guardsmen and women because if they

served until day 90, that would render all of those national guardsmen and

women eligible for some retirement and education benefits that President

Trump didn`t want them to get. That was one of the lead stories last night. just reporting that, quote, under pressure, the Trump

administration is now weighing extending those National Guard deployments.

Oh, yeah. When people find out what you`re doing, sometimes they pressure

you about it, especially when it`s something that evil.


All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.




Good evening, Lawrence.







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