Navajo nation TRANSCRIPT: 5/20/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA KARLAN, STANFORD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: The list of impeachable
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have a – they had a
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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
Dr. Weniger, it`s an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you for
DR. BRUCE WENIGER, EMORY UNIVERSITY PUBLIC HEALTH ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE
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
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.
Politico.com 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.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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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