Wisconsin voters TRANSCRIPT: 4/8/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, they just gave me the signal we`re
together. I didn`t have that a second ago.
So one of the things you and I are missing by not being in New York right
now is this 7:00 p.m. tradition where basically pretty much the whole city
on rooftops, out their windows clap and applaud, cheer the doctors, the
nurses, the people in the hospitals saving lives. And we got a video sent
in from a LAST WORD viewer that we`re going to show.
I hope we can collect these because it`s happening all over the city in
different places, some with larger sounds than others, but it`s such a
perfectly New York thing, and one of the things I really wish I could be
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I will tell you that I have been looking at just
on social media – looking at clips of that every day because it`s been
happening every day and it`s like, you know, instead of starting the
baseball game with the national anthem, I start my news reading of the day
weeping looking at those videos, so I know exactly what you mean.
O`DONNELL: So Rachel –
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Can you give me an idea how long I was sitting here ignoring you
because I really don`t know.
MADDOW: Oh, no, I actually have great news for you. Because wherever I`m at
work and I don`t know that a television camera is on me, I could be doing
any number of completely horrifying and career ending things. You
O`DONNELL: Yes, what was I doing?
MADDOW: You had a totally normal look on your face, working communicating
with producers and looked serious in command. It was the best possible way
to accidently be on camera.
O`DONNELL: Whoa. OK. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You`re great at this, Lawrence, even when you don`t know you are.
You`re great at this.
O`DONNELL: Oh, boy. Scary. Thank you very much, Rachel. See you.
Well, Senator Amy Klobuchar will join us tonight now that her husband has
recovered from the coronavirus.
And later in the hour, we`ll be joined by two people who if they feel like,
it could just seize control of the rest of the show because each in her own
right is an overpowering force when she gets going, and you`ve seen each of
them get going on this program before. Congresswoman Katie Porter will join
us and when she does, she will be teaming up with Sara Nelson, the head of
the Flight Attendants Union. And they have now teamed up to force the Trump
administration to support workers instead of corporate executives in the
recent bailout legislation. And their challenge has become even more
difficult now that Donald Trump has fired the inspector general, one of the
inspector generals who is supposed to be able to investigate how Donald
Trump is handing out that money.
We`ll also find a minute, I hope, to talk politics with Katie Porter who
appeared on a vice presidential short list today. Loyal Bernie Sanders
supporter Sarah Silverman tweeted her short list for Joe Biden`s running
mate now that Bernie Sanders dropped out. And there it is, Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez, Stacey Abrams, and Katie Porter.
Katie Porter endorsed Elizabeth Warren early in the campaign. I`ll ask if
she`s ready to change the endorsement tonight.
But we begin tonight as we must with the numbers. The United States now has
427,824 reported cases of coronavirus and as of tonight, the United States
has suffered 14,721 reported deaths from coronavirus. Every day in this
country and around the world, we are seeing awe-inspiring human courage in
the fight against this virus but that does not include this person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUM, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re the federal government.
We`re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Testing has never been part of Donald Trump`s approach to this
pandemic because in testing, there is a truth that Donald Trump does not
want to know and does not want you to know how many people are infected in
the United States. We have no idea. At the rate we`re going, we will
probably never know.
Donald Trump tried to prevent a cruise ship from docking in California
because he was afraid that the number of infected Americans would go up
when people on that cruise ship were counted. That was last month. And he
was afraid that the cruise ship would increase the total number of
Americans infected by about 20 and we are now closing in tonight on half a
million reported cases.
The richest state in the Union with the largest population of any state,
California, has tested less than one half of 1 percent of the California
population because California is on its own when it comes to testing
because Donald Trump is president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: States can do their own testing. States are supposed to be doing
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A recent poll shows that most Americans by a wide margin believe
that Barack Obama would do a better job at confronting this pandemic than
Donald Trump and this morning, President Obama had this to say about the
Trump administration`s failure on testing.
Social distancing bends the curve and relieves some pressure on our heroic
medical professionals. But in order to shift off current policies, the key
will be a robust system of testing and monitoring, something we have yet to
put in place nationwide.
“The Washington Post” reports today three months into the coronavirus
epidemic, the Trump administration has yet to division a strategy to test
Americans for the deadly disease, something experts say is key to blunting
the outbreak and resuming daily life, even the most aggressive states have
tested just a small fraction of their residents.
Once again today, Donald Trump said that he is eager for everyone to go
back to work but he absolutely refuses to provide the testing that would
allow people to begin to think about how and when people might be able to
return to work.
In a tweet today, Donald Trump envisioned a magical moment which he said
would be sooner rather than later, and in which he said that moment would
open up our country, open up our great country. That`s what he envisioned.
And in that tweet, he said that when that happens, the horror – and he
called it a horror, the horror that we have been through, quote, must be
And it surely will be quickly forgotten if you`re Donald Trump and if
you`re not infected with coronavirus. In that tweet, Donald Trump
acknowledged that it will not be quickly forgotten by quote those that
sadly lost a family member or friend. But everyone else Donald Trump
expects will forget this horror quickly, but if you don`t lose a family
member or friend.
Because Donald Trump thinks that you are just like him. Donald Trump thinks
there`s no such thing as tragedy if it doesn`t happen to him. Here is
someone who is not like Donald Trump at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. AJIT RAI, ANESTHESIOLOGIST: My name is Ajit Rai. I`m an
anesthesiologist in California. I did my medical training in Los Angeles
and New York, which is why New York City has a special place in my heart,
and it`s also why it was so difficult for me in California just waiting for
the coronavirus tsunami to hit us because it felt like New York City was on
fire, and I was just watching my friends and colleagues burn. So I felt
this sense of calling and I abruptly packed my bags, booked a one-way
ticket to New York and received emergency credentials at my hospital in
Manhattan and requested time off back home. I also didn`t tell my parents
that I was flying into the inferno, so that was a fun conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is the kind of conversation that has never ever occurred in
the Trump family, in any generation of the Trump family. No member of the
Trump family has ever gone off to war, any war, not Donald Trump, not
Donald Trump`s father, not Donald Trump`s children, no Trump has ever gone
as Dr. Rai just put it, flying into the inferno.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAI: And what has been so surprising to me is that the resource depletion
I`m seeing in one of the wealthiest cities in the world reminds me about
the limitations I experienced when I was providing medical care for war
wounded refugees in the Middle East working for Doctors Without Borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As Rachel and I were just discussing, at 7:00 p.m. every night
in New York City, the city stops to cheer and clap for the heroes like Dr.
Rai who are flying into the inferno every day and here is what it sounded
like tonight from just one rooftop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Ashish Jha. He is the
director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.
And Ron Klain is with us. He`s the former aide to Vice President Joe Biden
and President Obama. He served as the so-called Ebola czar during the Obama
presidency. He`s now co-host of the podcast “Epidemic.”
Dr. Jha, there is interesting statistical developments in New York today.
Governor Cuomo had to report the largest number of deaths on a single day
yet, 779. But the total number of hospitalizations seems to be moving in a
How many days of consistent downward movement do you need to know where you
are in relation to the peak?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, so good
evening, Lawrence. Thanks for having me on.
It was a hard day. A lot of Americans died today and we are still at a
phase where many more Americans will be dying over the upcoming days and
weeks. So, it`s going to be a difficult period. In terms of the peak and
have we hit it in New York, I think as your question sort of insinuates,
you can`t look at any one day. My sense is several days of consistent drops
and I think we will feel more confident that we have plateaued and started
heading in the right direction.
All of the hard work that social distancing has been happening across the
country, I think we`re starting to early signs that it`s beginning to pay
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, what do – what do – what do you think the
government is looking at in these statistics? What do you look for when
you`re working on this within the government, and how do you know where the
peak is at different places around the country?
RON KLAIN, EBOLA CZAR OBAMA PRESIDENCY: Yes, I think, Lawrence, it`s
important to know the peak is really important for making sure health care
resources match the number of cases. But it`s not where we should be
looking in terms of relaxation of social distancing or talking about going
back to work or anything like that.
Half the cases, half the deaths occur after the peak. The day after the
peak is the second worst day of the epidemic and so, we`ve got a long way
to go. Even if we were at the peak, we have a long way to go before this
can be said to be under control or really down to a low level of cases. So
I think we have to be patient here and not let our hands off of the key
thing that Dr. Jha was talking about, which is the rule in which is social
distancing, stay at home, these measures keeping play in keeping this thing
Once we`re past the peak, we know that the health care system probably
won`t break but that means – it doesn`t mean we`re out of the woods in
terms of number of cases, people dying and the impact on Americans.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Dr. Fauci said today on a podcast about
what we have to keep doing.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS
DISEASES: When you gradually come back, you don`t jump into it with both
feet. You say, you know, what are the things you can still do and still
approach normal? One of them is absolute compulsive hand washing. The other
one is you don`t ever shake anybody`s hands, that`s clear.
The other thing, depending on your status, the possibility that when you
are in a group of people that you can`t avoid the six-foot limit, and you
can`t stay out of ten feet, that you might want to wear a cloth face
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: So, Dr. Jha, even when we go back to work, whenever that happen,
however many months down the road that is, it`s not going to look and feel
like the workplace you left. People are going to be behaving differently.
People will probably be wearing masks.
JHA: That`s right. Dr. Fauci is absolutely right. Dr. Fauci is pretty much
almost always completely right.
But in this case, what we have to understand is that this is not an opening
where you open the doors and go back to life as normal. Beyond the things
that he mentioned, we`re going to have to do things a bit differently.
We`re not going to have crowded restaurants and bars. I don`t think we`re
going to have baseball games this summer where people pack into a stadium.
So, life will look different. If we do our job right, if we have a fabulous
testing infrastructure, if we are doing things smartly, we can stay open
but open is not the same as what life was like before. People just have to
understand things are going to be different until we have a vaccine and we
can bring this pandemic to a close.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, California which seems statistically to be doing
relatively well so far, but it`s only been able to test less than half of 1
percent of the population in California, let`s suppose a miracle occurs and
you`re able to test 20 percent of Californians, which seems even at this
stage unlikely, how could you make decisions at the governmental level
about resuming activities if you`ve only tested 20 percent of your
KLAIN: No, Lawrence, I think that`s a great paradox of president Trump`s
position. I mean, on the one hand, as you`ve said in your introduction, he
seems unwilling to embrace the idea of testing and willing to do much to
promote testing. In fact today, the federal government announced they`re
going to withdraw support for the testing that states are doing that
federal government`s helped do.
So, on one hand, he`s been kind of no testing president. On the other hand,
the surest path to being able to safely go back to work and safely reopen
businesses is to have the ubiquitous system of testing where we can sort
out the sick and well and where professionals like Dr. Jha and his
colleagues can identify cases and then track those cases down. See who is
sick and who is spreading the disease by testing people.
So testing, I understand President Trump doesn`t want to test because he
doesn`t want to see the numbers go up, but only by having widespread
testing can we send people back to work, can we send people back on the job
without – with some confidence that those people are not spreading the
disease and, by the way, only that way will customers come back to business
with confidence when they patronize the business, that people – they
aren`t giving them the disease.
So, if you want a robust economy, you should want robust testing.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Jha, how much testing is enough testing? What percent of the
population do you think needs to be tested?
JHA: So, we don`t have. There is no exact number. Our estimates are that
right now, we should be testing about a half a million Americans every day,
500,000. That number could come down a little as the disease wanes, as we
continue social distancing.
But that`s 3.5 million Americans a week. That`s about 1 percent of the
population every week. I think that`s kind of a minimum of what we need if
we really want to open our economy open again.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Ashish Jha, Ron Klain, thank you both for starting us off
tonight. We really appreciate it.
JHA: Thank you.
KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, Senator Amy Klobuchar will join us. Her husband has
just recovered from the coronavirus after being hospitalized and you will
hear from a nurse who when she finished work yesterday in Wisconsin rushed
to vote and was denied her right to vote at her polling place in Wisconsin
because they said that that nurse was three minutes late.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAI: For doctors and nurses around the country who are just waiting, the
time is now and we need you. Some clinicians believe because of their
specialty, they may not be able to contribute to the care of critically ill
patients but the truth is at a time like this, anyone and everyone with
medical training has value. We`re seeing a disproportionate amount of
disease and death in one region. So, for me, it just didn`t feel right to
sit back and watch it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In Wisconsin yesterday, some of the heroes on the front line of
the coronavirus war had to take time, time out of that crucial work to line
up to vote because the Trump majority on the Supreme Court supported
Republicans` argument that the Democratic governor of Wisconsin, Tony
Evers, should not be allowed to postpone yesterday`s primary election just
because voters might get killed if they went to vote.
In Milwaukee, nurse Rene Bacon (ph) rushed to vote after work and was
turned away because they said she was three minutes late.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m upset. I really am upset because they`ve been
saying so many different things how we supposed to vote, can`t do it now
and they should keep the polls open later. I wish I had did an absentee
ballot or something but I didn`t know it would be all this chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi included a national vote by mail in
the last relief bill that was passed, but Republicans removed that in
negotiations in the Senate. Speaker Pelosi has indicated Democrats will
seek funding for mail in voting in the economic relief package being
negotiated right now.
One of the strong experienced Senate voices in that negotiation is the
senior senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar.
And joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight –
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I want to begin with your husband who I know now is out of the
hospital and one of the good stories about recovering from the coronavirus.
KLOBUCHAR: He is. He`s doing so much better. And I will say after going
through that myself and our family and not being able to be by his side and
waiting six days for the test, like so many Americans right now, and you
think about those that are in the hospital, can`t be with their loved ones,
some of them tragically dying alone, or with just the nurses and doctors
And then you think about that nurse in Wisconsin who`s there on the front
line and simply wanted to go and vote, exercise a right to vote and she
couldn`t because she was being the hero.
And so I think all of this is tied in, Lawrence, because this
administration didn`t plan for this pandemic when they could have. And your
last guests, Dr. Jha and Ron Klain, just explained that. They didn`t plan.
They didn`t get the testing underway.
And now, we are not going to let them take this democracy away from us.
And that`s why we`re leading the way in the Senate and working with
Republican and Democratic secretary of states across the country to make
sure that we extend vote at home, vote by mail to every American, and also
make sure that these polls are open early, 20 days early in November in
states across the country so people have more of a chance to go to the
polls without congregating in the same place.
There is so much we can do, and all I can think of when I heard that nurse
is the president sitting in the White House. You know what he did? He just
ordered his vote by mail ballot, an absentee ballot, from Palm Beach,
So he and his wife get to vote that way, while she`s doing her work on the
front line and is then not allowed to vote. No one in America is going to
O`DONNELL: Yes. It`s nurse Rene Bacon and I just want to say her name one
more time because she put in a heroic day`s work, and then, she then
volunteered for what was another heroic act yesterday in Wisconsin, which
was voting, which was trying to get in the line to vote.
O`DONNELL: And she was denied that opportunity.
Senator, what do you think are the possibilities with Republicans,
President Trump saying today, hey, mail in voting, getting an accurate vote
from people, that`s not helpful to Republicans. Basically said, we can`t
win if you make it easy for people to vote.
KLOBUCHAR: First of all, when you look, Lawrence, at the states that have
the mail in ballots, they are blue states, they are red states, they`re
purple states. Utah has a high percentage of people voting by mail.
Arizona, Nevada and then states like Colorado, Oregon.
Then you have states that make it really hard to do that and you have to
have two witnesses or a notary signed something so it really runs the
That`s why Senator Wyden and I and our bill that we`re leading the Senate,
which was the one taken up by the House and Speaker Pelosi, what that does
is say, let`s remove those barriers, let`s make it so people can vote early
if they want to vote in person at the polls, let`s make it so we train a
new generation of poll workers. And then also, let`s extend with postage,
with envelopes this mail in ballot possibility to everyone.
And I will say as far as the funding of this, we got $400 million in the
first major bill, but we have to do a lot more. And as the Republican
secretary of state in Iowa said, we need this funding yesterday.
So unlike what the president is telling the country, there are Republican
elected officials and Republican secretary of states who believe that we
should have a right to vote. And the president can explain why senior
citizens, veterans of war, why we should say to them – sorry, you can`t
vote because you`d be risking your life because you`re in a vulnerable
No one is going to tolerate that.
O`DONNELL: And he got up at the White House briefing today and lied about
this. He lied about some kind of rampant fraudulent voting by mail. We`ve
seen exactly –
KLOBUCHAR: No evidence.
O`DONNELL: – one, we`ve seen one criminal case of voting by mail. It was
Republicans who were running a conspiracy to obtain absentee ballots from
people and use them to vote for a Republican congressional candidate, and
that election was then invalidated because of that criminality.
We`ve only seen the one Republican case in one congressional district, and
so, Donald Trump just gets up there and lies about it as if it`s this huge
How do you counter that when he has that microphone of lying about it every
day, which he is going to do?
KLOBUCHAR: We counter it with Republican secretary of states who are duly
elected in states in this country, as well as Democratic secretary of
states, who are the ones in charge of the elections. We counter it with the
facts. We counter with the fact that we have not seen this fraud, with the
fact that these are actual paper ballots people send in because, of course,
remember, they were trying to deny us paper ballots before when they
wouldn`t pass my bill, a bipartisan bill with Senator Lankford to allow for
make backup paper ballots in every state in the country, and that was
something that Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump stopped.
So, once again, you see them doing it again.
And I think we have to make this patriotic plea to the people of this
country to call their elected officials. We have time to fix this. It was
Donald Trump at the Republican convention who stood up and said, I alone
can fix this.
That`s what he said, Lawrence, about our government. And now look where we
O`DONNELL: I remember so well –
O`DONNELL: Yes, Senator, I want to get reaction –
KLOBUCHAR: Not the testing we need. Go ahead.
O`DONNELL: I want to get your reaction to your colleague Senator Bernie
Sanders dropping out of the presidential race today.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, Bernie and I –
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: – see the crisis gripping the nation,
exacerbated by a president unwilling or unable to provide any kind of
credible leadership and the work that needs to be done to protect people in
this most desperate hour, I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a
campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work
required of all of us in this difficult hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Senator, Bernie just wanted to get a word in there before you
responded. Go ahead.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I was so proud of Bernie today. As I said, we`re friends.
We came into the Senate together. I talked to him today and, by the way, he
was back on calls with senators today, talking about what he thinks needs
to be done on coronavirus. He got right back to work immediately.
And what he did was an act of patriotism today. He could have dragged this
out. He didn`t do it.
He knew it was right for the country. He saw all those people in lines as
he said today to me that it was an outrage. It was heartbreaking.
And when you see that and he picked this good moment to do this, to
basically say, you know, we`re not going to play into your games anymore.
We`re going to unite behind a candidate and we`re going to go forward and
take on Donald Trump. And he`s going to play a pivotal role in this
election in November.
O`DONNELL: Well, getting back to work in the Senate was exactly what he
said he was going to do right after that statement today.
KLOBUCHAR: He already did it.
O`DONNELL: And it`s good to have the confirmation that he did. Of course,
Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We
really appreciate it.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, we first reported the disproportionate impact that
coronavirus is having on African-Americans on Monday night because that was
the very first time we had any statistical information on that problem.
Tonight, we finally have more data. This time, from the CDC, and this time,
covering 14 states, not just a few cities. And it remains deeply
Dr. James Hildreth of Meharry Medical College in Tennessee will share his
lifetime of experience studying infectious diseases with us next.
O`DONNELL: Here is Dr. Stefan Flores, a New York City emergency room
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. STEFAN FLORES, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR: These communities where people
come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, who are black and brown, these
migrant communities, these are the people that are disproportionately
affected. They can`t afford to miss a paycheck. They can`t socially
distance. They can`t Uber or Lyft to work nor can they actually take work
from home or Skype in or use a Zoom meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, the CDC finally released some data on how COVID-19
affects African-Americans. The CDC data showed that in 14 states, one-third
of all coronavirus cases are African-American, while African-Americans make
up only 18 percent of the population of those 14 states.
Here is Nashville`s Coronavirus Task Force Director, Dr. Alex Jahangir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ALEX JAHANGIR, NASHVILLE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE DIRECTOR: The people
this virus impacts the most are those individuals who are the most
vulnerable medically. This happens to be disproportionately minorities and
those have limited access to health care.
I think it is important to know this information within our communities. As
Chair of the Metropolitan Board of Health, I have directed Dr. Caldwell and
his team to gather information on race and ethnicity as best they can for
all Nashvilleans who test positive for this virus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now from Nashville is Dr. James Hildreth. He is the
President and CEO of Meharry Medical College. Dr. Hildreth is a magna cum
laude graduate of Harvard College with a PhD in Immunology from Oxford
University in England. And he obtained his medical degree at Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine.
Dr. Hildreth, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What is your
reading of the racial impact, the racial distribution of this virus so far?
DR. JAMES HILDRETH, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MEHARRY MEDICAL COLLEGE & INFECTIOUS
DISEASE EXPERT: Well, Lawrence, it doesn`t come as a surprise that this is
happening because we have data from China that indicated that individuals
with underlying conditions, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthma,
they`re going to be more prone to severe disease and death.
And it`s been true in the United States for a long time that minority
communities (inaudible) a burden of all of those things. So it`s really not
a surprise that minority communities are being disproportionately affected
And the other thing as was mentioned by the young physician you just had
on, minority communities are not able to social distance and do some other
things that are required to keep the virus out of those communities. So
there is a double impact that they have, a double thing having (inaudible)
in terms of being able to social distance and keeping the virus out of
On top of that, having the underlying conditions that make them more prone
to severe disease. So I think that`s what`s accounting for what we`re
seeing right now.
O`DONNELL: And on the social distancing challenge, I mean, we certainly see
that in New York City where everyone has more of a challenge social
distancing in New York City, but the lower you go on the economic ladder in
New York City, the more crowded the housing is, the more crowded everything
is about life, including subway travel and all of that. And so there seems
to be an economic component that`s interacting with this.
HILDRETH: I think that that reflects, again, the fact that these
individuals are not able to work from home as others are. They have to be
on the job, on the factory floor, or serving others in various capacities.
So - and the economic challenge is the fact that these individuals have to
go to work. They have no choice but to go to work. And some of those
working conditions are not conducive to social distancing and protecting
oneself against the virus. So minority communities have a lot of things
working against them, and that`s just another thing added to the challenges
they have to face to be protected from the virus.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Hildreth, this is not the first mysterious infectious
disease that you`ve tracked. You did pioneering work on HIV research back
at a period when people knew very, very little about it. What do you see in
what`s happening now that is familiar, and what do you see in what`s
happening now that might be mysterious to you?
HILDRETH: Well, the first thing that`s happening is quite familiar. Now it
is the fact that African-Americans are 13 percent of the population, but
they are 43 percent of all the HIV cases in the United States. So in the
current pandemic and in the pandemic we`ve been dealing with since 1981, we
see the same pattern that minorities are disproportionately represented
among those who are infected by the virus.
And until last December, no one had ever experienced this virus before. So
we`re learning a lot. And again, we`ve been studying HIV for 39 years, and
there are still things that we`re learning about the virus. For example,
there are reports that there might be unique presentations of COVID-19
unlike those that are so familiar. People might present with cardiac issues
and that would be mistaken for something else.
So there`s so much that we`re learning as we go, and that was the same for
HIV that there are so many things to learn about a new pathogen that will
impact our ability to control it. And I`m very excited that all over the
world, scientists are collaborating to find answers, and that`s very
exciting and very encouraging from my perspective.
O`DONNELL: Dr. James Hildreth, really an honor to have you join us tonight,
and we hope you can join us frequently in the days to come. Really
HILDRETH: Thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, the dream team, the dynamic duo - every one of those
terms applies here. Katie Porter and Sara Nelson - Congresswoman Katie
Porter has teamed up with labor leader Sara Nelson, and they have a plan to
save your paycheck. Katie Porter and Sara Nelson live together for the
first time right here on THE LAST WORD next. I can`t wait.
O`DONNELL: Airline companies and airline executives did not get the bailout
that they wanted from the American taxpayer in the historic $2 trillion
relief legislation that Congress just passed. The airlines got the version
of assistance that Sara Nelson wanted them to get.
Sara Nelson is the head of the flight attendants` union, and she may be the
most effective labor leader working the halls of Congress today because
Sara Nelson helped guide Democrats and the House representatives and the
Senate to deliver aid to the airlines so that the airlines could continue
to keep their personnel on the payroll. Pass the money straight through the
airlines to the workers.
And so the flood of applications for unemployment benefits does not now
include the airline personnel who Sara Nelson represents. Congressman Katie
Porter saw Sara Nelson in action and decided the Nelson plan should be the
plan to cover workers in other fields. And so Sara Nelson and Katie Porter
have teamed up and are now trying to save the paychecks for millions more
And joining us now is that dynamic duo, the most formidable pair of guests
I have ever introduced on this program at the same time. Congresswoman
Katie Porter who represents the 45th Congressional District in California,
a former Republican district that Katie Porter turned blue in the last
election, and Sara Nelson is the President of the Association of Flight
Congresswoman Porter, what drew you to the Nelson plan?
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): I love that you`re calling it the Nelson plan
because this really is a plan that comes from Sara`s advocacy for airline
workers. And so, having survived and watched what happened with the TARP
bailout of Wall Street in - after the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, I
knew how angry Americans were going to be when they got the short end of
the stick and big corporations got sweetheart deals.
And what I saw in the CARES Act is that legislation was written very, very
quickly. It was not good. It was a sweetheart deal for corporations. And
then all of a sudden, these amazing workers centered provisions came into
the CARES Act for the airline industry, and that was the result of Sara
amplifying those voices and House Democrats and Senate Democrats standing
up for workers and putting them first in this coronavirus relief package.
O`DONNELL: Well, as Washington tradition has it, when you come up with a
plan, it gets named after you, and that`s why I`ve been calling it the
Nelson plan. And as any veteran of legislative process in Washington knows,
when it`s a big bill and it`s last minute and it`s rushed, all sorts of bad
And Sara, I have to tell you when I was working there in the Senate Finance
Committee, I saw labor leaders, including President of the AFL-CIO rush in
there at the last minute, and it was too late. The corporate America just
steamrolled them. And so I am kind of in awe of what you`re able to
accomplish there. How do you think it can be translated out into other
SARA NELSON, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: Well, Lawrence, I want to be
really clear that what we did here was revolutionary, but it`s also really
simple. And we need simple plans in the middle of a crisis. And so these
payroll grants are intended to go out. They were intended to go out on
Monday. Secretary Mnuchin still has not put them out.
And actually Reuters released a list of questions that the airlines are
getting today in order to apply for these grants. 15 questions long, one of
them is about payroll. Four of them are about their frequent flier miles,
the people who are the investment bankers and they`re helping Secretary
And so that`s why we need the Congressional Oversight Commission
established right away to make sure that Secretary Mnuchin is implementing
this the way Congress intended and also that this can be applied as a plan
to all Americans so that we can keep the paychecks going, keep people in
their jobs, connected to their health care, and ready to lift our economy
off again on the other side of this threat.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Porter, we have some bad news so far with
President Trump basically firing one of the inspectors general who`s
supposed to be overseeing this kind of - basically the benefits of this
legislation. He`s not the only person involved in that oversight, but it
certainly is a setback at the very beginning for that process.
PORTER: I think it`s an opportunity. It`s an opportunity for the
Congressional Oversight Commission to step up quickly. And it makes the
work that that commission has been tasked with doing in the CARES Act all
the more important.
So what the Trump administration basically said is, because the Inspector
General is an administration official and is part of the executive branch,
we can ignore that person, we can fire that person. Well, those arguments
do not apply to Congressional Oversight. And so that`s why I`m so
interested in the Congressional Oversight Commission and making sure that
it gets stood up quickly.
As Sara said, we need to get these paycheck protections out to these
aviation sector workers immediately, and then we need to be taking that
model and applying it to every single industry that`s looking for help.
It`s a replicable model that will put workers first and make sure that
these dollars are being used to help our overall Main Street economy.
O`DONNELL: Sara, what does it feel like to have Katie Porter on your side?
Katie-Nelson, it might just blur into that at some point with the two of
you. What does it feel like to have Katie Porter on your side? Because I
remember the first time I saw Congresswoman Porter asking questions in one
of her first Congressional hearings, and I was just stunned by what I was
watching, just kind of a brilliant approach to it that I had never seen
before. And so she`s a pretty unique ally to have in the halls of Congress
NELSON: I do have to tell you that I feel like I`m at the justice league
right now. And when Katie called - when Katie called, out of the blue, by
the way, no warning at all, just called and said, we`ve got to get going on
this, and I love your plan, let`s apply it to the rest of America, so let`s
work on this together.
What I think that the rest of the American public needs to know is that
this is a simple plan to keep people in their jobs. And never before has it
been focused on individual Americans when we bail out in the middle of a
crisis. This is for the workers first.
And through the Congressional Oversight Committee that I hope Katie Porter
is going to be on, we can make sure that we are holding Secretary Mnuchin
accountable to these principles that are in the aviation portion of the
bill and can be applied in the 450 -almost a half trillion dollars
allocated to the rest of America to get people help right away. And so the
American public should know that that help is coming. All you have to do is
call for it.
O`DONNELL: All right. I`m watching my clock here. Here`s what I`d love to
do. I`d like to squeeze in one more commercial break.
Sara Nelson, I would like to just let you go off into your evening because
I have some politics I`d like to talk with Congresswoman Porter after this
break. She`s endorsed Elizabeth Warren in the Presidential campaign. I want
to find out if she`s ready to make a change in that endorsement and maybe
some little question or two about the vice presidential nomination.
Congresswoman Porter, can you stay for that now that you know what`s
O`DONNELL: OK. Great.
Sara, thank - thank you very much for joining us, Sara. We really
NELSON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: And we`re back with Congresswoman Katie Porter.
Congresswoman, I hope you follow Sarah Silverman on Twitter because she
issued a very important tweet today. Sarah Silverman, of course, endorsed
Bernie Sanders four years ago, endorsed Bernie Sanders again this year,
loyal Bernie Sanders supporter. But now that Bernie Sanders has dropped
out, she tweeted her shortlist for Joe Biden`s possible choice of vice
presidential nominee. There it is, up on the screen. Alexandria Ocasio-
Cortez, Stacey Abrams, and Katie Porter.
So, now that you`re on the shortlist for vice president and you were an
endorser of Senator Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders dropped out today, are
you ready to make an endorsement or change your endorsement?
PORTER: Oh, I`m absolutely ready to endorse Joe Biden today and delighted
to do so and really honored that he`s embraced a lot of what Elizabeth
Warren made as key platforms of her campaign, particularly his commitment
to fighting money in politics. This is someone who, as early as 1973, was
calling to get private money and dark money out of politics.
And so I`m honored to endorse him tonight on your show and really looking
forward to continuing to hear his voice during this very scary time for our
country. I think it`s incredibly important for the American people to have
examples of what leadership looks like right now, what effective, honest,
trusted leadership looks like. And that`s what Joe Biden is.
O`DONNELL: And do your kids have the right outfits ready to go when they
have to go out on the stage of the Democratic convention when you`re
announced as the vice presidential nominee if there`s a convention?
PORTER: That is the farthest thing from my mind. Honestly, I get up every
day with so many projects and so many ideas. I`ve been really focusing on
the pandemic, obviously, pushing hard to make sure that we have testing and
treatment that`s available to people regardless of insurance, working on
all of the accountability issues with Secretary Mnuchin, very concerned to
make sure this is not a bailout to big corporations.
And then I`ve been doing so much important listening to the voices of my
community. I`ve been doing calls with constituents, hearing about their
challenges and their successes in navigating things like distance learning
in our public schools, SBA assistance programs. So I have been incredibly
busy. I get out of bed every day with a million things on my mind, but I`ve
got to confess, that has not been one of them.
O`DONNELL: Now - and you`ve issued a report about what you found the
administration is doing in terms of misallocating medical resources.
PORTER: Absolutely. So I think I - one of the things I really pride myself
on as a teacher was never walking into a classroom without being prepared.
I try to approach this job serving the American public in the same way,
doing my homework.
And with my terrific staff, we located public data that shows that during
those critical months of January and February when our country needed to be
increasing its supply of masks, of ventilators, of gowns, in fact, our
exports went up by over 1,000 percent of masks during that period, and our
imports of things like hand sanitizer and masks and ventilators fell by 11
And we also looked at the government contracting data. So we had an awful
lot of questions about where is the supply, where is this equipment. And
what we learned is that the government`s contracts for this PPE will not
arrive until September or October, long after we`re hopefully through the
worst of this.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thank you
very much for joining us again tonight.
PORTER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And that is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN
WILLIAMS” starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the