coronavirus in US TRANSCRIPT: 3/23/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell

Guests:
Ashish Jha, Vin Gupta, Chris Murphy, Zeke Emanuel, Jose Andres
Transcript:

 

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good morning, Rachel. 

 

And one of the most difficult things about us being separated, me on one 

coast, you on the other, and the technical implications of that is that I 

didn`t get to see the doodles. I`m assuming that the doodles just went up 

on the screen and I can`t see them from here. 

 

So, I`m going to have to watch the rerun of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.” 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  I will email you – I will personally 

email you all the doodles. I will take care of you, Lawrence. You have an 

aunt.

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. Thank you very much.

 

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you.

 

Well, how important are cooks, chefs? Ask the United States Army if they 

could have won World War II without an adequate food supply for our 

millions of soldiers. 

One of the world`s most famous chefs will join us at the end of the hour 

tonight. 

 

Jose Andres says that we are going to need a massive food delivery system 

to people who can`t otherwise get food as this pandemic continues in the 

United States. You might have enough food to get through it. But many 

elderly people, many poor people will not be able to survive without 

government action on food and without the private sector`s help on food 

delivery. 

 

And Jose Andres will outline his plan on how to do that at the end of this 

hour tonight. And he is already tonight being cheered on in that mission by 

Michelle Obama. Jose Andres will get tonight`s LAST WORD. 

 

Senator Chris Murphy will join us later in the hour with the latest 

developments in the Senate as the Congress continues to work out an 

economic and medical aid package. 

 

We begin tonight with the numbers. As of tonight the United States has 

43,151 reported cases of coronavirus and 533 reported deaths from 

coronavirus. Today, the president said repeatedly, quote, we cannot let the 

cure be worse than the problem. 

 

Donald Trump said that on Twitter. We can`t let the cure be worse than the 

problem. He then said it repeatedly in his White House coronavirus briefing 

that substitutes as his new version of a campaign rally. Dr. Anthony Fauci 

had no comment about what the president said at that briefing today because 

Dr. Fauci was not present at today`s briefing. 

 

Donald Trump droned on repetitively and meaninglessly at the White House 

briefing today to the point that live broadcast of the briefing was 

actually abandoned by this network and all the cable news networks and all 

of the big broadcast networks, NBC, ABC, CBS. They all abandoned live 

coverage of the president`s briefing today.

 

And so, not as many people as the president hoped got to hear him say, we 

cannot let the cure be worse than the problem. The problem with coronavirus 

is death. That`s the problem. There is no cure that is worse than death, 

except apparently in the imagination of Donald Trump. 

 

The White House press corps today chased the idea with the president that 

he was giving the very clear implication that maybe a week from now the 

president will declare America all ready to go back to work. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  America will again and soon 

be open for business, very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months 

that somebody was suggesting, a lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse 

than the problem. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  The problem for Donald Trump is that he`s not in charge of this 

one. Donald Trump has not closed down anything inside the United States. 

Donald Trump has not closed a single business in this country. Not a single 

school. He hasn`t closed anything. It`s America`s mayors and county 

officials and governors who have done that, mostly the governors. 

 

The governors of New York and California have both closed down their states 

and there is nothing Donald Trump can do about that. The governors of New 

York and California control more economic activity combined than most of 

the rest of the United States of America put together. And they are not 

going to reopen their states because of anything that Donald Trump says. 

Donald Trump didn`t shut down anything. And so Donald Trump cannot reopen 

anything. Donald Trump is not in charge here. The governors are in charge. 

 

And that is good news and that includes Republican governors who have shut 

down their states. Governor Gavin Newsom, whose state controls more 

economic activity than any other state, and has more people than any other 

state, the governor of California will not be listening to anything Donald 

Trump says about when Gavin Newsom should begin returning California to 

normal. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has more coronavirus cases in his 

state than any other state, and in the biggest city in his state, Governor 

Cuomo has a street named Wall Street. And it will be Andrew Cuomo and not 

Donald Trump who decides when New York state and New York City and Wall 

Street get back to normal. 

 

And luckily for New York, Andrew Cuomo is smart enough to not listen to a 

word Donald Trump says about that. But Andrew Cuomo has said publicly many 

times that he is guided by the medical professionals including Dr. Anthony 

Fauci, who was not present at today`s White House briefing and rally for 

some reason. 

 

“The Washington Post” reported today that Dr. Fauci is telling Donald Trump 

that it is too soon to think about sending people back to work. Quote, 

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious 

Diseases and a member of the president`s coronavirus task force, and other 

leading public health experts have told administration officials and 

Republican lawmakers that prematurely scaling back social distancing 

measures would hamper efforts to mitigate the virus and would devastate 

hospitals, according to the people with knowledge of the conversations. 

 

In an interview with “Science” magazine, published this weekend, Dr. Fauci 

was asked what it`s like to be standing there in the White House briefing 

room when Donald Trump says something that is not true. Dr. Fauci said, I 

can`t jump in front of a microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. 

Let`s try and get it corrected for the next time.

 

In that same interview, Dr. Fauci said he will never refer to the 

coronavirus as the China virus, which is Donald Trump`s preferred term. And 

in that same interview Dr. Fauci was asked if he has been criticized within 

the Trump administration for a moment at last Friday`s press conference 

when he put his hands over his face when Donald Trump referred to the deep 

state department. When asked in the interview if he was criticized within 

the administration for that moment that went viral, Dr. Fauci`s answer to 

that was, quote, no comment. 

 

Also in that “Science” magazine interview Dr. Fauci was asked what happens, 

what happens, before each of those Trump press conferences in the briefing 

room? And Dr. Fauci said, we`re in the task force. We sit down for an hour 

and a half, go over all the issues on the agenda. And then we proceed from 

there to an anteroom right in front of the oval office to talk about what 

are going to be the messages, what are the kind of things we`re going to 

want to emphasize. 

 

Then we go in to see the president. We present our consensus to him. And 

somebody writes a speech. And then he gets up and ad libs on his speech. 

And then we`re up there to try and answer questions. Today, the medical 

professional on the stage with the president was asked if they would be 

recommending that people be encouraged to go back to their jobs just a week 

from today, which would be the end of the Trump administration`s announced, 

quote, 15 days to end the spread, which is really just a public relations 

campaign that had absolutely no laws or rules or regulation in it. 

 

Dr. Deborah Birx said that they will still be collecting data for the next 

several days and she couldn`t say what recommendation she would give a week 

from now. She would never do that, she said. Donald Trump was asked 

repeatedly if he would follow the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci at the end of 

that 15-day period, which will be next Monday. And Donald Trump repeatedly 

refused to answer that question. 

 

We begin our discussion tonight with Dr. Ashish Jha. He`s the director of 

the Harvard Global Public health institute. Dr. Kavita Patel, an internal 

medicine physician and former Obama administration official. She is now an 

MSNBC medical contributor. And joining us from Seattle is Dr. Vin Gupta, a 

pulmonologist and global health policy expert. 

 

And, Dr. Jha, I`d like to begin with you and open it up to your reaction to 

what you heard from the president today and the possibility, although it 

might have no real effect since the governors are in control of this, the 

possibility that a week from now, the president might be recommending that 

everyone just go back to normal. 

 

DR. ASHISH JHA:  Yes, Lawrence, look, we are in the middle of the biggest 

public health cries crisis in a century. And we need federal leadership 

that moves the country forward that brings us together. 

 

The idea that we`re going to start rolling back these physical distancing 

measures a week from now, I don`t know any public health expert who thinks 

that`s remotely a good idea. We actually need to be pressing forward on the 

national pause to stop all unnecessary activity. We`ve got to ramp up 

testing. We`re still not there yet, and really understand the burden of 

disease. 

 

And then we`ve got to make a decision about how to slowly unpause and let 

people get back to work and get back to school, in areas where it is safe 

to do so. Look, this is a very difficult problem that we are facing. 

Simplistic solutions like, next Monday everybody goes back, it`s not going 

to work. We`ll all be stuck with high levels of disease, hospitals will be 

overwhelmed. This is not the way to move forward. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Patel, one of the most difficult treatments that I`m aware 

of that a patient can go through, and I`m sure there are many I`m not aware 

of, is chemotherapy, it`s very difficult, in so many ways that many people 

know. But it`s not a cure that is worse than the problem, since the problem 

for people with chemotherapy is that if they don`t get it, they will die, 

the consequence is death. 

 

And here is the president standing up there saying something that I do not 

comprehend and I don`t know if there`s a case that it can apply to. And he 

said this repeatedly. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem. Did 

that make any sense to you, with your medical training? Is there something 

I`m missing there? 

 

DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNB CONTRIBUTOR:  No, Lawrence, and look, President 

Trump is looking a lot more like President Hoover in terms of being out of 

touch with the people and what Americans are going through, not only kind 

of cytotoxic or, you know, chemotherapy, when I started training in medical 

school, we were still dealing with the outbreaks of gay-related infectious 

disease and HIV. And you can`t tell me there`s a single person now who 

wouldn`t take the triple cocktail or other medications despite their side 

effects. 

 

We talk about how hard it is to stop smoking, Lawrence. We would never 

think to say, well, that`s jut too difficult, we`ll just let people smoke 

and die. I mean, this is irresponsible, unethical. And he is just fiddling 

away while Americans are scared with no message of hope. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Gupta, if you were up there on the stage as a public health 

professional, medical professional, and you heard the president say we 

cannot let the cure be worse than the problem, and by the way, say it 

repeatedly, say it time and time again, as if they were the magic words 

that we should all live by. What – what would you have wanted to say to 

people if you were allowed to after hearing the president say that in that 

microphone today? 

 

DR. VIN GUPTA, PULMONOLOGIST :  Thanks, Lawrence. I think I would do my 

best Tony Fauci impersonation. I think he`s been a beacon of hope and 

somebody that we really revere in the public health community. I just want 

to echo what Dr. Jha and Dr. Patel have said, which is we need to do what 

we should have done three weeks ago, pursue a national lockdown. 

 

As an ICU physician who actively been caring for patients with COVIC in the 

ICU, that having Washington state and California and Ohio pursue one 

strategy and other parts of the country pursue an entirely different 

strategy makes our job harder as front line professionals. It does not 

allow us to bring this to a resolution. And we know that the one thing that 

did work in Wuhan, in South Korea, elsewhere, is strict, up-front control 

measures at the very beginning so that personal protective wear does not 

run out, so that we`re not talking about surge capacity in the ICUs and 

mobilizing the military. 

 

This is a – we are pursuing a middle of the road approach and we`re going 

to get a middle of the road outcome. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to how Dr. Birx responded to this reporter who 

pressed on, do you agree with President Trump that we are ready or on the 

verge of being ready to reopen the country. Let`s listen to her response to 

that. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REPORTER:  Just to be clear, do you agree with the president`s push to 

reopen the country? He said some of his doctors that he`s talking to about 

this remember says “I think they`re OK with it.” Are you OK with that? 

 

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR:  What the 

president has asked us to do is to assemble all the data and give him our 

best medical recommendation based on all the data. That`s what he`s asked 

us to do. So that`s what we`ll be doing this week. 

 

We were going to have to do it this week anyway, because we had to make a 

decision come Monday about the 15 days to reduce social spread. So this is 

consistent with our mandate to really use every piece of information that 

we can in order to give the president our opinion that`s backed up by data. 

Not our other perception, but our opinion that`s backed up by data. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Jha, the question at the end of the setup there was, are 

you OK with that? And we did not hear a yes or a no. 

 

JHA:  Look, I think we have to understand that both Tony Fauci and Debbie 

Birx, these are two incredible professionals. They are the leaders of 

global public health in the United States. They have incredibly difficult 

jobs. 

 

So they are walking a tightrope. If they upset the president, they`re going 

to be out, and the country is going to be much worse for it. So what Dr. 

Birx did today I thought was masterful. She stuck to the facts and the data 

and she did not say that she would make a recommendation that would go 

against the president. 

 

Look, I am very sympathetic to what both these guys are going through and I 

am just thankful every day that they`re there. Even if their opinion isn`t 

always listened to, at least they`re in the room and have a chance to 

influence a conversation. We`re all better off for it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, Dr. Patel, another extraordinary moment with Dr. Birx was, 

Donald Trump asked her a question in the middle of it all, saying will we 

ever be able to have all of the reporters filling all of the seats in the 

briefing room again since they`re now leaving a lot of empty seats for 

social distancing? And he pressed her on it and said, will we ever be able 

to allow all the reporters back in? And she refused to answer that 

question, and actually ignored the question, and then just made another 

statement of fact to the reporters in the room there. 

 

And obviously, Dr. Patel, the question is a lot of implications. If you can 

sit together like that in that small briefing room, that means you can sit 

together like that in movie theaters and Broadway theaters and in Super 

Bowl stadiums. 

 

PATEL:  Absolutely, Lawrence. Again, she`s really trying to thread a needle 

that is very difficult. And it wasn`t lost on many Americans that Dr. Fauci 

wasn`t on that stage and what that could mean. So we do need her to be part 

of that task force, to be part of that briefing room. 

 

I do worry, however, that, again, we have a president who might not even 

listen to even his most trusted experts. And what will the implications of 

that be for our country? It`s very disturbing. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, he was repeatedly asked if he would follow the medical 

advice on this and he refused to say that he would. 

 

Dr. Gupta, quickly, before we go, what`s the latest from Seattle, where you 

are tonight, I think we all have friends there, I do, who are very worried 

about the situation in Seattle. 

 

GUPTA:  It`s evolving, Lawrence. I can tell from you at least the inpatient 

side that ICUs, we`re managing right now. But we`re worried as well. I have 

to give credit to our elected leaders who are thinking ahead of the curve. 

They`re building triage capacity outside, in hospital tents right here in 

King County. So we`re preparing for a worst case scenario which all 

modeling forecasts from Dr. Jost`s (ph) team at Harvard suggests we`ll be 

needing more ICU beds, more capabilities. But our elected leaders are ahead 

of the curve. 

 

And that`s what we`re managing right now, but it`s tight. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you for joining us from Seattle tonight. 

Dr. Ashish Jha, Dr. Kavita Patel, thank you all for starting us up. We 

really appreciate it. 

 

And when we come back, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Senate 

Democrats are working through the night at this hour on a legislative 

package of economic aid and medical aid to replace a failed Republican bill 

that read as if it was written by corporate lobbyists in Mitch McConnell`s 

office. Senator Chris Murphy will join us next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump has refused to say that the economic relief 

package being pushed by Senate Republicans includes money that the treasury 

secretary will be allowed to use to bail out Donald Trump`s hotel business, 

which is doing very badly these days, including the hotel that he lives in 

in Florida. Earlier this evening, Donald Trump said Democrats are being 

very, very foolish for trying to find out how much money Donald Trump 

personally expects to pocket from the Republican version of an economic 

relief package. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Well, I think the Democrats want a deal and I think we want a deal. 

So it will be very foolish if they didn`t make a deal. The American public 

is demanding it. I can tell you the Republicans want to make a deal and we 

want to make a deal that`s good for the workers and good for the country. 

And I really believe the Democrats want to make a deal but they have to 

stop asking for things that bear no relationship to what we`re talking 

about. That are actually bad, that are actually not good for the country. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  And here is what the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer 

said tonight. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  The Senate is going to adjourn shortly. But 

that doesn`t mean negotiations are slowing down one bit. Secretary Mnuchin 

just left my office. We`ve had some very good discussions. And in fact the 

list of outstanding issues has narrowed significantly. We are going to work 

on into the night. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of 

Connecticut. He introduced a bill today that would force the president to 

use the Defense Production Act to address shortages in medical equipment 

and supplies needed to protect health care workers. 

 

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

 

What is your understanding of the status of progress, if we can call it 

that, in the Senate? 

 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Well, I think we`re getting closer to an 

agreement. But this is really a matter of a bill that was drafted by Mitch 

McConnell and his lobbyist friends that was going to be a gift to a lot of 

industries, a lot of folks who already make a lot of money in this economy, 

but wasn`t going to solve the problem. The worst thing we could do is to 

spend $2 trillion in a piece of legislation and not have that legislation 

actually get the job done. And the job, first and foremost, is stopping 

this virus. 

 

My worry is a lot of my Republican friends see this only as an economic 

crisis and don`t understand that if you don`t support the public health 

workers that are on the front lines, if you don`t give states and 

municipalities what they need in order to fight the epidemic, then there`s 

no amount of stimulus, $2 trillion, $3 trillion, $4 trillion, that will 

solve your problem. 

 

So, what we said when we looked at the initial draft of the bill, which by 

the way we were given by lobbyists, Republicans didn`t give the bill to us, 

they gave it to lobbyists on K Street and they shared with us, what we said 

to Republicans is, you`ve got to get serious about the epidemic, put enough 

money in here to stop the virus, and make sure that if you`re going to 

spend any money to bail out companies, that it`d be done transparently and 

it`d be done in a way that protects workers. 

 

We don`t want any money going to pad the pockets of CEOs and shareholders 

if workers are going to be laid off. And I think, tonight, at 10:30, we are 

getting closer to a product that achieves those goals. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Senator, one of the big items in the Republican version of this 

that you`ve been trying to get rid of is this slush fund, this $500 billion 

that the treasury secretary can just do with whatever he wants. No one 

would find out what he`d done with it until six months after he had done 

it. There`s a lot of speculation that he would use that money to help 

Donald Trump in his hotel business. 

 

Let`s listen to what Donald Trump said tonight about the oversight for the 

use of that kind of money. Let`s listen to this. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  We`ll take back stock for the United States. At the same time, most 

importantly, we`ll keep those companies healthy. But we can also make 

incredible deals for the country so that that number will increase 

exponentially. I mean – 

 

REPORTER:  The criticism about the fund is for lack of oversight, for the 

treasury having this unilateral authority to dole out all this money. 

 

TRUMP:  Look, I`ll be the oversight, I`ll be the oversight. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Senator Murphy, Donald Trump says he will be the oversight for 

that money being used responsibly. 

 

MURPHY:  Right. And remember, President Trump thinks that if he`s doing 

well, then the country is doing well. And so, it is not hyperbole for us to 

worry that a portion of this $500 billion slush fund could be used to bail 

out the president or the president`s family`s interests. 

 

And so, what we are asking for is, yes, flexibility to a certain degree for 

the treasury secretary to put money where it needs to be in order to 

protect workers, workers, not CEOs, not shareholder investments, but 

workers. And so, what we`ve said is if you`re going to take this money, you 

have to make a commitment to keep your workers on board. And if the 

treasury secretary is going to give any of this money out, it`s got to be 

transparent. Within days, the public has to see what happened. There`s got 

to be an inspector general who can make sure that there`s fraud and abuse, 

with subpoena power, so we can actually get to the facts. 

 

I think we`re making progress on all those demands. But they`re demands 

that come from our constituents who watched the 2008 bailout money go to 

save Wall Street. It turned out it saved a lot of CEOs. It saved a lot of 

billionaire shareholders. But a lot of people got hurt in the process. We 

can`t have that mistake repeated again. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Senator Murphy, I spent a few hours today watching the Senate 

floor after this network and others cut away from coverage of Mitch 

McConnell`s speeches and things like that. I went over to C-Span 2 to just 

keep my eye on the floor. 

 

And I noticed something that, you may correct me on this, you have a better 

view of what goes on there, but I was watching, for example, two senators 

sitting side by side, Republican senators, right behind Susan Collins when 

Susan Collins was speaking and then still sitting there when Susan Collins 

sat down. I was noticing much less social distancing on the Republican side 

of the Senate floor than on the Democratic side. And we discovered that 

Rand Paul has tested positive and that he was kind of irresponsible about 

it. 

 

Knowing that he had been tested, he still went to the Senate gym, a gym 

that you all use. He went in the swimming pool there, knowing that he was 

awaiting the verdict on a test. 

 

Is it your sense generally that one of the reasons the Republican Senators 

aren`t emphasizing health care in this bill is that they are themselves 

personally, individually less concerned with this as a health care crisis, 

which is what I seem to be seeing in the way they physically handled 

themselves on the Senate floor today? 

 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, listen, I think we all have to be careful 

to model the right behavior. And of course, the President consistently has 

not been doing that in his public appearances. 

 

I don`t know that my Republican colleagues take the health care crisis less 

seriously than Democrats do. But what I know is that for the last three 

years, Republicans have been attempting to destroy the American health care 

system. A million less people have health care today than did at the 

beginning of the Trump administration. 

 

And there is a lawsuit right now pending before the federal courts that 

would strip health insurance away from 20 million Americans. And so it has 

been true from the very beginning of the President`s terms that Republicans 

have been hell-bent on trying to take health care protections away from 

people. 

 

I think my Republican colleagues are really concerned about stopping this 

epidemic. And that`s why I think we are going to come to an agreement later 

tonight, as we did in the previous two versions of this bill. 

 

I think we`re trying to act like adults in the Congress because the 

President has made such a mess of this response. He`s put us in a position 

where we have to find bipartisan agreement or catastrophe will strike this 

nation. And so I hope we`ll get that agreement later today. 

 

O`DONNELL: Senator Chris Murphy, thank you very much for taking the time on 

this difficult day to join us and help explain this to our audience. We 

really appreciate it. 

 

MURPHY: Thanks. 

 

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, he`s a former Obama 

administration official. He will join us to tell us what he would be 

telling Donald Trump tonight if he still worked in the White House. It`s 

probably something very similar to what Dr. Anthony Fauci is trying to tell 

Donald Trump. That`s next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump`s golfing weekends in Florida have been ruined by 

the coronavirus pandemic. And today, Donald Trump showed that he is now 

very, very impatient. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: At the end of the 15-day 

period, we`ll make a decision as to which way we want to go, where we want 

to go, the timing, and essentially we`re referring to the timing of the 

opening, essentially the opening of our country, because we have it pretty 

well shut down in order to get rid of this invisible enemy. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL: The President was then asked if he would follow the advice of 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, and he refused to say that he would follow Dr. Fauci`s 

advice. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we get to next week, we`re deciding - you`re 

deciding what to do with these guidelines, whether to ease them or 

reinstate them for another 15 days. Will you follow the advice of Dr. Birx 

and Dr. Fauci if they say you should maintain them for–

 

(CROSSTALK) 

 

TRUMP: And others, yes. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: –four weeks. 

 

TRUMP: And then ultimately I have to make a decision. But I certainly 

listen to them. I listen to a number of people. But I have a lot of respect 

for Dr. Fauci and for Dr. Birx. And I`ll be listening to them and others 

that we have that are really doing a good job. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He is an oncologist, 

bioethicist, and Former Obama White House Health Policy Advisor. He is also 

Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. 

 

Dr. Emanuel, what is your reaction to what Donald Trump had to say today 

about this possible, what he calls, reopening the country and the specific 

refusal to say he would follow Dr. Fauci`s advice? 

 

ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER HEALTH POLICY ADVISOR, OBAMA WHITE HOUSE & VICE 

PROVOST, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, last Sunday, he saw the modeling 

from the Imperial College, London, that predicted 2.2 million deaths in the 

United States. The tone changed very radically in the early part of the 

week. 

 

And then you have seen some kind of backlash in the media about, well, 

maybe we don`t have to close the country, maybe that`s too drastic, we`re 

tanking the economy. We could do it more surgically, I think has been the 

word that`s been used, and Donald Trump has latched on to that and 

basically said, well, Tony Fauci doesn`t know what he`s talking about. He 

didn`t come out and say that, of course, because he can`t, given the power 

of -and respect that Tony Fauci has gotten in the country. 

 

And he says, but, you know, we`re going to reopen for business or we`re 

going to consider reopening for business and not have this physical 

distancing, closing of schools, closing of businesses, curtailing of 

transportation. 

 

And I think he made quite clear, Tony is one voice, he is not the - 

necessarily the most important voice. He`s going to listen to others. The 

problem here is that the others, at least in the public health community, 

are pretty uniform that you really do have to have this physical 

distancing, you have to shut down spread and contact because that`s the 

only way to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Once we reach a peak and 

then come back down, then you can begin slowly opening up businesses and 

other things. 

 

But it sounds like the President is going to do it prematurely. There is no 

way in 15 days that you are going - especially because it`s not systematic 

around the country, it`s haphazard that you are going to reach the peak of 

spread and come back down. And the consequence of this is going to be 

pretty clear. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people will get 

this virus, and tens, hundreds of thousands of people will die. 

 

O`DONNELL: Dr. Emanuel, Governor Cuomo in New York today said it could be 

four months, he said, it could be six months, it could be nine months, and 

he said, we just don`t know. And it`s Governor Cuomo who`s actually in 

charge of closing down or reopening New York. All Donald Trump can do is 

make a recommendation. It`s really up to the governors. 

 

EMANUEL: Well, Lawrence, yes and no. It is true Governor Cuomo has New 

York. He can control closing and opening New York. But if the rest of the 

country or other states like Florida are not doing it and people are still 

transmitting the virus in Florida and then they come up to New York, 

Governor Cuomo`s efforts are going to be less - much less effective, and 

yet the economic pain is going to be experienced by people in New York. You 

need this uniformly across the country to really make a big impact. And 

that`s what Donald Trump has so far been inhibiting. 

 

O`DONNELL: Doctor, I want to continue this conversation, but I have to 

squeeze in a commercial break. When you come - if you could stay with us 

when we come back, I`d love to ask you about–

 

EMANUEL: Yes. 

 

O`DONNELL: –what the Affordable Care Act means in this situation and the 

fact that the President is trying to basically have the Supreme Court 

repeal the Affordable Care Act. If you could stay with us, I`d love to 

bring that up after the break. 

 

EMANUEL: Yes. 

 

O`DONNELL: OK. Great. We`ll be right back with Dr. Zeke Emanuel after this 

break. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded America that right 

now, tonight, and tomorrow, Donald Trump is trying to take health care 

coverage away from over 20 million people. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Now we find ourselves in the depths of one of the 

most serious health and economic emergencies our nation has ever faced. The 

protections of the Affordable Care Act are more important now than ever. 

But right now, in the middle of the coronavirus, the Trump administration 

is in court suing to tear down the entire Affordable Care Act, every last 

protection and benefit. 

 

Today, therefore, I`m calling on President Trump to abandon his lawsuit 

seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Instead, the President 

should urge the 14 states who have refused to expand Medicaid to do so. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL: Back with us, Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He helped write the Affordable 

Care Act in the Obama administration. Dr. Emanuel, your reaction to what 

Nancy Pelosi had to say, that here we are in the middle of this pandemic 

and Donald Trump is still, still trying to kill the Affordable Care Act. 

 

EMANUEL: Yes. There is this suit by attorney generals from a number of 

states led by Texas that has gone through the Appellate Court and that has 

said, you know, you can strike down the Affordable Care Act, it`s 

unconstitutional because the individual mandate has gone away, you can`t 

just strike down one little part of it, the whole bill. And Donald Trump 

and his Department of Justice have sided with Texas. 

 

First of all, let me tell you, everyone in the whole health care world, 

insurers, hospitals, doctors, whether they`re Republicans and Democrats, 

think this bill has really improved the health care system. It hasn`t made 

it perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There are many complications. 

There are many inadequacies. But it`s gotten 20 million more people 

coverage. It`s actually brought some costs down. It`s tried different ways 

to paying to improve the quality of care and decrease the costs of care. 

 

And we know also that it`s actually saved people`s lives that, in fact, 

giving them - giving people insurance has actually reduced the mortality in 

the country. And Donald Trump wants to take that away from people. It`s 

simply ideological and not about benefiting the American public. 

 

And in this moment, when we have huge threats of infectious disease with 

large costs potentially for being in the intensive care unit, maybe needing 

new drugs, and we have serious mental health stress, he wants to get rid of 

all that. It makes no sense if you really care about the American public. 

 

O`DONNELL: And it`s the Republican states led by Republican governors 

primarily, who did not accept the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care 

Act that is now - would now today be so important in their states, as it 

already was, but even more so now. 

 

EMANUEL: Absolutely. Led by Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, 14 

states have refused to expand Medicaid. We thought they all would expand 

because the bill is so generous in giving them money to expand Medicaid. 

And yet those states have millions of people who need coverage, who don`t 

make as much as a 100 percent of the poverty line and are typically working 

hard at jobs that just don`t provide health insurance. And they don`t want 

to expand coverage for them. 

 

Again, it`s despite these hard working, poor people that these states have 

not expanded Medicaid. And again, we know that expanding Medicaid has led 

to improvements in health, decrease in stress, better nutrition by people. 

There are just a myriad of benefits. Again, it`s not a perfect law, but it 

has been a huge step forward for the American health care system. With this 

law, we have - we`ve had 10 percent uninsured as opposed to 16 percent 

before the law was enacted. 

 

O`DONNELL: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you very much for sharing your expertise 

with us tonight. We really appreciate it. 

 

EMANUEL: Thank you, Lawrence, for having me. I really appreciate it. 

 

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, world renowned chef, Jose Andres, will 

join us because he is not just a great chef. He is more than that now. He 

is now one of the world`s most important and valuable crisis activists who 

always knows who needs food to survive the latest crisis and how to get 

that food to them. Chef Jose Andres will get tonight`s “Last Word.”

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL: “An army marches on its stomach.” Jose Andres wrote those words 

in a “New York Times” op-ed piece, advocating a new emergency food program 

during the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, an army needs ammunition and military 

equipment, but before all of that, an army needs food. 

 

And in a country where we are all now called to do our part as soldiers of 

sorts against the coronavirus, what happens to Americans who don`t have 

enough to eat, people who cannot afford to pay for food now that they have 

no income and their savings has been exhausted? What about elderly people 

who cannot leave their homes to buy food? 

 

Jose Andres is now much more than a great chef, although that was a great 

achievement enough. Famous chef. He is the world`s leading crisis activist 

whose mission is feeding people. When he sees a natural disaster, he sees 

people in need of food. And that`s why he brought food to Puerto Rico after 

Hurricane Maria. That`s why he delivered 400,000 meals in California during 

multiple wildfires. 

 

In a “New York Times” op-ed piece outlining the food crisis facing millions 

of Americans, Jose Andres wrote, “Today an army of American cooks stands 

ready to serve our most vulnerable citizens at a time when those cooks are 

themselves in desperate need of support. They are our food first-

responders. 

 

With the full support of the federal government, they can serve the many 

while saving so many jobs.” 

 

And it is an honor now to have Chef Jose Andres join us. 

 

Chef Andres, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Your program is 

being supported by Michelle Obama, who tweeted tonight. I just want to read 

this. She tweeted, “I am so grateful to Chef Jose Andres for his inspiring 

work to feed those in need in our communities. We are in this together. And 

we`ll get through it by stepping up and doing whatever we can to help each 

other out.” 

 

Chef Andres, what`s the basic outline of your plan? 

 

JOSE ANDRES, FOUNDER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Well, this is very simple. We 

call it “America eats now.” This comes inspired from the WBA times, which 

is probably is the last time America really ran through this amazing 

hardship, putting aside obviously everything, went through World War II. 

But this is simple. Every single restaurant in America pretty much is 

closed. Right here, the chefs of America, the food people of America, we 

are ready to be food first responders. 

 

We need to make sure that we understand that food is a national security 

issue. Food is not the problem. Food is the solution. And we need to make 

sure that we think that in the next few weeks, Americans going to have to 

eat, especially those people, the forgotten people, the people from low-

income areas, elderly, homeless. We need to make sure that as we go through 

this virus, as this crisis, we need to make sure that food gets to 

everybody in need. And that`s very much the plan. 

 

We need to take care of the elderly. We need to be taking care of all our 

health care that they`re going to go right now almost to war. We need to 

take care of the homeless. We need to take care of the children. We need to 

take care of those people who are (inaudible) sometimes, believe me, is 

(inaudible) everybody (inaudible) this moment. 

 

O`DONNELL: And everyone is trying to figure out - everyone in Washington - 

one of the industries, they`re trying to figure out how to help is the 

restaurant industry, which has been basically wiped out in the last couple 

of weeks by this pandemic. This is a way of putting those people to work, 

isn`t it? 

 

ANDRES: Well, it`s going to take a village. Obviously, the food people of 

America, more than 600,000 restaurants across, we should be the first food 

service responders. In every corner of America is restaurants, but we need 

to remember one thing. 

 

More than 90 percent of all the income that restaurants make goes into the 

economy. We pay our employees. We pay the farmers, the fishermen. We pay 

the distribution companies. We pay the wine companies, the architects, the 

pay the PR and the market, and we pay the health care workers. Every time 

you spend a dollar in a restaurant benefits entire local economy. 

 

So if Congress needs to invest in America today so we have a good future 

forward, restaurants is the right way for Congress to start looking at the 

future in a good way. Every dollar they are going to be putting into the 

restaurant industry is going to trickle down all around. We can make sure 

that America will keep running even as we are going through a crisis. 

 

O`DONNELL: And many restaurant workers, the people working, the dish-

washing part of it, and many restaurants, low-priced restaurants out there, 

these are very low wage workers, and many of them live on tips. Those tips 

have gone to zero. And so there`s a - there`s a whole world of help that 

you are addressing, a whole world of need that this idea of yours goes 

straight to help everyone involved. 

 

ANDRES: What I want to make sure is that if we really go through mayhem, 

that Congress is thinking about that, we are talking about this is a health 

crisis, this is an economic crisis. But we need to be talking that this is 

a humanitarian crisis, and we need to make sure that Congress is on top of 

this. 

 

Yes, as Congress is going to help the food industry to move forward, also 

the food industry can be a partner with the federal government to make sure 

that we take care of every single, every single person in America in need 

of a plate of hot food. 

 

Brillat Savarin, a Frenchman in 1826, he said, “The future of the nations 

will depend in how they feed themselves.” We need to make sure that 

Congress, through this idea that I`m putting forward, America, it`s now, we 

take care of feeding every American in need right now. 

 

O`DONNELL: Jose Andres, I admire your generosity and kindness so much. It`s 

really an honor to have you join us tonight. Really appreciate it. 

 

ANDRES: Thank you for having me. The first person I ever sent (ph) a meal 

in Washington, D.C., the first week and I was helping Sen. Patrick Moynihan 

on (inaudible). He told me, if you love America, America will always love 

you back. There`s many immigrants like me ready to keep loving America, the 

country that has given us so much. The good (ph) people of America, we`re 

going to be there for the American people. 

 

O`DONNELL: And as you know, I worked for Senator Moynihan and I know you 

have an item on one of your menus named after him. And I – we all 

appreciate that. Thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it. 

 

ANDRES: Thank you for having me. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, that is tonight`s LAST WORD and MSNBC`s coverage of the 

coronavirus pandemic continues. 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY 

BE UPDATED.

END

 

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