Cuomo strike back TRANSCRIPT: 4/17/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That`s going to do it for us tonight. Now, it is
time for “The Last Word” with Ali Velshi, filling in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Have a great weekend. We will
see you on Monday. Just ahead, is the president trying to “incite division”
in the midst of a growing pandemic? That`s what a growing number of
Democrats believe after Trump supported anti-lockdown protests in
democratic-run states. I`m going to discuss that with Michigan
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. She is from one of the states that Trump is
calling on to liberate.
Plus, hospitals and state officials say they don`t have enough supplies or
funding to ramp up coronavirus testing, and the president has all but
refused to help. What Trump`s refusal is going to mean for fighting this
pandemic. And at the end of this hour is some potential good news to
report. We`re going to show you the promising data on a possible treatment
for coronavirus patients.
But let`s begin with tonight`s numbers. The numbers of deaths linked to
coronavirus worldwide has now passed 151,000. As of tonight, there are more
than 2.2 million reported cases of coronavirus around the globe. And here
in the United States, there are 698,366 known infections. Thirty-six
thousand and five hundred fifty-nine people have died from coronavirus in
the United States.
And as the numbers continue to climb, Trump is looking to blame anyone but
himself for the disastrous federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
And who better to blame than the officials who often stepped up when the
federal government let down its citizens? It`s the nation`s governors.
In a series of all caps tweets, the president tweeted, “Liberate Michigan,
liberate Minnesota, and liberate Virginia.” These are three states whose
democratic governors have issued stay-at-home orders. Forty-two states in
total have issued stay-at-home orders. And now, those governors are doing
their best to keep the coronavirus from spreading in their states. But
instead of supporting the governors, Trump sided with protesters, who have
been pushing back on those stay-at-home orders.
Governors are warning these protests could make the virus spread faster but
Trump has in effect given the green light for people to put their lives in
danger, go out, protest, and stand up to their governors, who are doing
things to try and keep them safe. Of course, the president is trying to
blame the governors for anything he thinks isn`t going his way during this
pandemic, like the testing issue.
Testing is one of the most important measurements for how quickly this
virus is spreading and how effective efforts to stop its spread are
working. But the president is almost nowhere to be found on the testing
issue. There is no national plan for testing Americans. Let`s make that
clear. There is no national testing plan in place.
The Washington Post reports “Trump`s buck-stops-with-the-state`s posture is
largely designed to shield himself from the blame should there be new
outbreaks after states reopen or for other problems.”
So far, about 3.5 million people have been tested in the United States.
That`s a significant improvement from early testing stumbles, but it`s
still far short of the millions of tests per day that experts say is needed
to begin safely reopening the economy.
And some leaders are now at their whit`s end, “a dereliction of duty.”
That`s how independent Senator Angus King of Maine described the lack of a
national testing plan on a phone call with Mike Pence and Democratic
leaders. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also went on the offensive on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Don`t ask the states to do this. It`s up to the
governors, up to the governors, up to the governors. OK. Is there any
funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No. That is
passing the buck without passing the bucks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Minutes later, Donald Trump hit back, tweeting, “Governor Cuomo
should spend more time doing and less time complaining. Get out there and
get the job done. Stop talking.”
Now, he tweeted this in the midst of Cuomo`s press conference and a
reporter read Trump`s tweets to governor Cuomo. And his response typifies
the frustration that many officials at the state and local level are
feeling with the federal government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: First of all, if he`s sitting home watching T.V., maybe he should
get up and go to work, right? I don`t know what am I supposed to do. Send a
bouquet of flowers? The only thing he is doing, let`s be honest, well, it`s
up to the states to do reopen. By the way, it was always up to the states.
What, are you going to grant me what the Constitution gave me before you
were born? It`s called the Tenth Amendment. I don`t need the president of
the United States to read the Constitution for me. Maybe he should have
read the Constitution before he said he had the power to open the states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. What`s maybe most remarkable about Cuomo sounding off is
what didn`t happen next. President Trump didn`t respond. He didn`t tweet,
like some of the governor`s remarks hit a little close to home. It`s hard
to say, but we couldn`t help notice how unusual that kind of response is
Of course, the back and forth between Cuomo and Trump isn`t just a war of
words, it`s a war of ideas, ideas about who is responsible for the lives of
Americans, when should states take charge, and when should the federal
government step in.
It`s critical that there is a unified plan of action right now. The less
cohesive a plan is, the greater the chance of a resurgence of the virus.
And we stand all the more likely to see a second surge of coronavirus in
the United States the longer the states and the federal governments are at
odds over how to combat this pandemic.
Maureen Biddenger-Grisius is a nurse at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan. She
has been keeping a video diary of her experiences in treating COVID-19
patients. In one entry, she described her fears of a second coronavirus
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAUREEN BIDDENGER-GRISIUS, NURSE, BEAUMONT HOSPITAL: I think my biggest
fear, of course, is another surge. Those first couple weeks were a war zone
and that`s not the case right now. I feel confident in our – you know,
that our health system is able to continue to accommodate patients at this
rate. But a second surge, I don`t know what that would look like, and it
would be devastating in so many ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right. Leading off our discussion tonight, Ron Klain, former
senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama, served as the
Ebola czar during the Obama administration, and Nicholas Kristof, a
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times. He has been
covering the coronavirus pandemic and recently went on the frontlines
inside two New York City hospitals that are treating COVID-19 patients.
And Nick, I want to start with you and I want to start there, because
that`s where this battle is being fought. Donald Trump thinks he`s in a
battle with governors and talking about liberating states. But the real
fight against coronavirus is going on in these hospitals where they
continue to be short in some cases of protective equipment, where people
are working multiple shifts. What did you see when you went to those
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, boy, I
should say that, you know, I would love to escort President Trump into some
of these hospitals, and I think he might have a somewhat different tone if
he did visit them.
So, the two hospitals that I visited were overrun. They were overwhelmed.
The staff is completely heroic. They don`t have good tools. They have been
trying things like hydroxychloroquine. They have not been terribly
effective. Intubation and ventilators likewise have not been terribly
And so the doctors and the nurses and the respiratory therapist, they go
around every day. They are scared. They are not sure if their PPE is
adequate. They`re reassuring patients. They`re assisting them. They`re
encouraging them. And one young doctor told me that she goes home at night
and then cries because she isn`t able to do what she was trained to do,
which is to save lives.
And to see that kind of heroism and their determination to do everything
they can to save lives, and then, you know, they describe being felt
feeling like they were let down by Washington, which wasn`t attacking the
problem with the same determination.
VELSHI: Ron, these even in Ebola, in any of these things, the nurses, the
doctors, the frontline workers, the EMTs are the heroes in Ebola. We
thought we had lost that nurse in Dallas and she was sent to the Washington
area on an airplane. I remember the whole nation watching that. We know
that they are the heroes. What we didn`t have during Ebola was this
nonsensical battle going on between Donald Trump and certain governors.
Donald Trump knew the other day when he said it`s his decision to reopen
the country. I mean, I don`t know if he`s read a pamphlet about the
Constitution, let alone the Constitution. But he would have known that
wasn`t within his power.
It does seem like every 48 hours or so, the president decides to embark on
a fully counterproductive endeavor rather than work with the people who are
fighting this disease.
RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, Ali, it is a
great point that President Trump the other day asserted power that he
doesn`t have, power to shut down and open the economy, but he`s not
exercising the powers that he does have. That`s the powers to get the
medical equipment to the kind of people Nick saw working in New York and at
hospitals all over this country right now.
They deserve face shields. They deserve the appropriate protective gear.
They deserve the gloves and gowns that will really work. That was something
we did during the Ebola response. We took control of the supply chain. We
got the equipment to where it needed to get to protect the people on the
frontlines. And the fact that we`re not doing that is a double tragedy,
The first tragedy is the human tragedy that Nick reported on, the horrible
impact on our doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians, all the health care
workers in the hospitals. The second is we`re going to see these health
care providers get sick at the moment we need them on the job. We should
protect them because it`s the right thing to do. We should protect them
because it`s the smart thing to do if we want them to take care of us when
we need medical care.
VELSHI: Nick, you know, we`re not mathematicians nor we`re scientists or
medical people, but one thing we know is that determining the rate of
infection and determining the mortality rate are based on a denominator and
that denominator involves understanding how many people have this
infection. And unless we test enough people, we don`t know that. If we`re
talking about reopening the economy, we have to be able to test to see if
people have the antibodies.
Dr. Fauci was asked about this at the White House briefing today. Fauci,
again, I don`t know how he stands there next to the president because he
always has something to say that seems to be at odds with the president.
Listen to what he said to us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS
DISEASES: I want to make sure people understand not to underestimate the
importance of testing. Testing is a part, an important part of a
multifaceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: But ultimately, Nick, this is weird, because from the beginning,
this has been the thing the president has been fighting about. He used to
say anybody who needs a test can get a test when we had evidence that
wasn`t actually the case.
We have doctors on our shows saying we don`t even have the materials for
the testing, we don`t have the swabs that you put in people`s nose to
undertake the testing, we don`t have the ability to meet the criteria to
have testing. Here in New York City, if you`re not sick enough to get
hospitalized, you wouldn`t be able to get a test even if you have the
symptoms of coronavirus.
Something this basic is holding us back. We`re not going to get a handle on
this thing and we`re not going to be able to get to the White House`s phase
one, two and three to reopen the economy unless we can ramp up testing and
it sort of – it`s befuddling that we can`t.
KRISTOF: Yeah. I mean, look, this is hard and I don`t think that many
people had anticipated the shortage of swabs, for example, or a reagent.
But the need for tests is one of the most basic things that people were
talking about in January.
And, you know, there is a legitimate debate now about how we reopen the
country, to what extent we can reopen schools in some places, but that
depends on our understanding of community transmission in those cases. And
that, as you suggest, is going to depend on a large amount of both
diagnostic testing and also serological testing to determine antibodies.
Right now, we don`t – we have virtually no capacity to do serological
testing in any way and we probably need five or ten times as much
diagnostic testing as we have. And so, you know, when the president talks
about liberating these states without giving people the tools to actually
figure out what they can do, you know, that`s not policy formation, that`s
VELSHI: Policy vandalism, indeed. Ron Klain, what, if anything, has to
happen now? Fauci and other people keep on saying reopening the country is
not a date certain thing. It depends on where the virus is and how it`s
going. The president has now capitulated to the Constitution and told
governors it`s in your hands now. It does become confusing in a matter of
this magnitude to not know who is in charge and when we are getting back to
KLAIN: Well, of course, there should be clearer science-based leadership in
Washington. I think the president made his intention very clear. He sent
the signal to his supporters. He sent a signal to allied governors in red
states. They should just reopen as soon as possible without regard to
testing and without regard to the state of the disease.
I mean, that`s essentially what he`s saying when he tweets out liberate
Minnesota, liberate Michigan, liberate Virginia. It is essentially what
he`s saying when he basically makes it clear that he`s not going to get the
testing in place. Without testing, we are opening line. The president needs
to fix that.
VELSHI: Worth noting that more Americans died from coronavirus yesterday
than during the entire Iraq War and we haven`t gotten a handle on this yet.
Thanks to both of you, Ron Klain and Nick Kristof.
Coming up, we`re going to dig a serious look at the state of coronavirus
testing with two doctors, how the Trump administration failed early on and
still failing states, and what needs to happen now for the United States to
VELSHI: One thing that experts agree is key to getting back to life as we
knew it and that is testing. Only about one percent of Americans have been
tested for COVID-19 and testing has plateaued at an average of about
150,000 tests daily. Take a look at this, countries with populations of
more than five million and where we stand.
But public health experts tell NBC News that testing “would have to at
least doubled or tripled from its current levels to allow for even a
partial reopening of America`s economy. Without diagnostic testing on a
massive scale, federal and state officials and private companies will lack
a clear picture of who has been infected, who can safely return to work,
how the virus is spreading and when stay-at-home orders can be eased.”
Now, hospitals and state officials say they don`t have enough supplies or
the funding needed to substantially ramp up their testing and Donald Trump
has refused to help. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo voiced frustration
about the lack of coordination from the Trump administration today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: He said 11 times, I don`t want to get involved in testing. It`s too
complicated. It`s too hard. I know it`s too complicated and it`s too hard.
That`s why we need you to help. I can`t do an international supply chain.
He wants to say, well, I did enough. Yeah, none of us have done enough. We
haven`t because it`s not over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining me now, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former Obama White House
health policy advisor and NBC News and MSNBC senior medical contributor,
and Dr. Richard Besser is the president of the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation. He was the acting director at the Centers for Disease Control
where he coordinated the response to the H1N1 virus. Dr. Besser was just
named by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to serve on the multi-state
council to reopen the region`s economies.
Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being with us. Dr. Zeke Emanuel, you
have been talking about testing. We have been talking about this on MSNBC
for several months now. You have been talking about testing because with
the testing, other things don`t fall into place.
You do not – you cannot understand rates have changed, you cannot
understand rates of infection, you cannot understand rates of mortality,
and you can`t understand what is working and what is not working if you
don`t know who has got this infection.
ZEKE EMANUEL, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC SENIOR MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER OBAMA
WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISOR: That`s absolutely right. We`re testing,
as you pointed out, 160,000 cases. The minimum, experts say, is 500,000
tests per day. I`ve estimated that we probably need around two million to
start with and we`ll need to expand as we open up more of the economy.
We`ll have to test more people going back to work and who are interacting
broadly with the public.
The problem is that the CDC recommendations for testing are still heavily
focused on people who have symptoms, trying to diagnose people who have
illness. What you need to open up the economy is to diagnose the spread of
the disease and that means you need to diagnose people who are intersecting
with lots of other people, frontline health workers, frontline transit
workers, bus drivers, people in grocery stores, police officers.
When you add all those people up, you quickly come to we need to test seven
or eight million tests per week just for that group. Forget patients,
forget people who are intersecting and you want to make sure that they are
not spreading the virus like that woman who had a 40th birthday party in
Connecticut and the Biogen meeting in Boston.
So, you need to test a lot more people. This idea that all we need is 4.5
million tests a month is ridiculous. That`s if you want to focus on
symptom, but we want to focus on limiting spread and that requires many,
many more millions of tests per day and per week than the government has
predicted. By the way, as you point out –
VELSHI: Now –
EMANUEL: That`s only step one. That`s not the whole chain of what you need
to do to open up the economy.
VELSHI: Right. It`s the basis, but it`s the basis unfortunately that we`ve
been arguing about or jostling about for a long time and is the thing we
needed to do right in the beginning.
Dr. Besser, there is some thinking that there are serological tests or test
that can determine whether you had the infection. Maybe you thought you had
it and you got past it or maybe you`re asymptomatic. But we should be able
to on a very, very large scale get tested to determine whether or not you
had that infection.
Now, non-scientists, non-medical people like me would think, OK, if I get
this and I get a relatively fast result and it shows that I have
antibodies, meaning I had the infection, I`m good to go back to work. Is
RICHARD BESSER, PRESIDENT OF ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION, FORMER ACTING
DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: Well, you know, a lot more work
needs to be done to determine what level of protective factors or
antibodies in your blood would indicate that you`re protected from future
infection and that you`ve had this and are safe to go back to work.
I want to get back to that issue of testing and why it`s so critically
important. What we`re talking about is moving from a strategy where
everyone is social distancing to one where public health system needs to
identify people very quickly who are infected and sick, isolate them so
they can`t spread it to other people, identify all the people they have in
That`s called contact tracing. It is one of the oldest methods in public
health. And then get those people into quarantine. That means isolated from
other people so they`re not able to infect people if they become sick.
That kind of strategy can prevent the big outbreaks from occurring when we
start to loosen some of the social distancing measures and it would mark a
dramatic shift in the approach to this, but the one that would have to come
for the next phase in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I`m not hearing you.
EMANUEL: We are not hearing you.
BESSER: We don`t hear you.
VELSHI: All right. We`re back. I hope everybody can hear me now. Dr.
Richard Bresser is there, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, and you guys are out there. As
you know, we`re in a new era right now. We are broadcasting from our homes.
Every now and then, we get some technical gremlins into the system. So, we
are back. Thanks, gentlemen, for your patience.
Zeke Emanuel, I want to ask you about this report that came out that
suggests that there was a test that was conducted at the University of
Chicago with an existing drug and that 133 people were tested. All but two
have recovered from serious coronavirus. Two people perished. What do you
know about this test and what should we make of it?
EMANUEL: So, remdesivir is an anti-viral agent that works to disrupt the
reproduction of the virus once it`s in the lung cells. It was developed, I
don`t know, about 18 – 17, 18 years ago by Gilead. It has never found a
home for use. It`s been tried in several different conditions. And there is
some - has been some early data that it`s promising and working.
Now, the big problem in all these trials where you don`t have a randomized
trial setting and you don`t randomize patients is what`s called patient
selection. Are you using this drug on some patients who are likely to do
better and not on patients who are likely to do worse, or what other
criteria suddenly play on you? And so until we have randomized control
data, it`s going to be very hard to know whether this drug works. And that,
I think, is the major problem where - with evaluating all these studies.
On the other hand, in this moment, we`re under - the government is under
huge pressure to get a treatment. And I might say we`ve been here before.
It was hydroxychloroquine just a few weeks ago. That is gone by the
wayside. For lots of reasons, it didn`t seem plausible. This may be more
Let me say one other thing, though, that I think the viewers need to keep
EMANUEL: In viral infections like HIV, like hepatitis C, one of the things
we`ve learned is that, you know, one drug isn`t going to work. You need
multiple drugs to work at different stages. And in the case of COVID-19,
maybe you need an anti-viral and maybe you need an immune modulating drug
or maybe you need two anti-viral drugs. So it may work. Remdesivir may
work, and it may be great.
EMANUEL: Your audience should remember it`s not that easy to give. It`s not
a pill. It`s an infusion. It takes five to 10 days, depending upon the
regimen that people are using. This is not something for mass production.
It may be good for people who are very, very sick to bring them back. But
remember, you don`t want to get a lot of people very, very sick. So it`s
not going to save us or open up - make it easier to open the economy with
lots of people getting sick and then going in to get this drug because
that`s a very poor way of operating.
VELSHI: And Dr. Besser, there is news out of France that Sanofi, the drug
maker, partnering with GlaxoSmithKline to produce what they say is 600
million doses of a vaccine by 2021. Now, vaccines are complicated things to
develop. So I don`t know if that`s an entirely aspirational statement or
that`s a statement that says if we get the vaccine, we have the capacity to
create 600 million doses by 2021. What`s your understanding about what our
timeline is to a vaccine?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ABC NEWS MEDICAL EDITOR: Well, I like to be
cautious when it comes to promising vaccines or drugs on a certain
timeline. It`s better to under-promise and over-deliver. There are many
viral infections for which we`ve been trying for decades to develop
vaccines without success.
I worry that a lot of the announcements about vaccines and where they are
in trials is more about stock price than it is about truly the likelihood
those vaccines will make it through. These are vaccines that haven`t been
tried in people.
One concern I have is that there`ll be such public pressure and
governmental pressure that vaccines will be given to people on a large
scale without adequate safety testing. And we have the FDA for important
reasons to ensure that all of the drugs and vaccines that are given to
people are safe and effective. And we don`t want to shortchange that
process. We want to make sure that we`re using public health measures to
control this until we have safe and effective therapy. But let`s not rush
to vaccinate before we know we have something that truly works.
VELSHI: Yes. I think you make a very interesting point, because yesterday
afternoon when the word of this Gilead treatment came out of University of
Chicago, was leaked out by a - to a newspaper, the shares of that company
shot through the roof, and it actually turned the stock market around. And
I was thinking to myself, might be an interesting drug, but, boy, did all
of us who own stock suddenly become brilliant about medicine and infectious
diseases. I think your caution is a wise one.
Thanks to both of you, gentlemen. Dr. Richard Besser and Dr. Zeke Emanuel,
thanks to both of you.
Zeke Emanuel and I are going to be back right here next Friday night for a
special “Life in the Time of Coronavirus.” We`re going to focus on the
science of this. We`re going to focus on the medicine of this, and we hope
you`re going to join us.
Coming up, Donald Trump isn`t just failing governors on testing. Today, he
was egging on protesters in some states to violate his own administration`s
guidelines on social distancing, putting everyone at risk. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): If it makes people feel better to take their
frustrations out on me, that`s fine. All I ask is let`s not get overly
political here. There is a price that`s paid, and I know that there are a
lot of businesses and people that are hurting right now. But the fact of
the matter is, it`s better to be six feet apart right now than six feet
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That was Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer this morning
with an arresting visual about social distancing. “Better to be six feet
apart than six feet under.” Her remarks were in response to protests in the
state capital on Wednesday. Shortly after Whitmer said that today, Donald
Trump tweeted - just two words in the tweet, all caps - “LIBERATE
Trump issued the same tweet scream about Minnesota and Virginia. During a
conference call with the White House today, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia,
one of the three states Donald Trump called to liberate today, challenged
Mike Pence about those tweets, asking why Trump was trying to incite
division in the midst of a global pandemic.
Of course, we all know why. All three states, Michigan, Minnesota and
Virginia have Democratic governors and all three states are swing states
that Donald Trump hopes to win in November. And even though the protesters
are clearly violating social distancing guidelines, putting themselves and
others at an already overburdened health care system at risk, Trump is
supporting them because–
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They seem to be protesters
that like me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Wow! There have been a series of protests popping up around the
country featuring Trump flags and paraphernalia and hats. Here is video
today from Orlando.
Today, Former Republican Governor of New Jersey and former Bush, 43,
cabinet minister, Christine Todd Whitman tweeted this. “This President is
now truly getting out of control. In talking about liberating the states,
he`s using language that could well lead to rioting. No one has done more
to undermine our Constitution and destroy our country`s values than Donald
Joining me now, the Former Republican Governor of New Jersey, Christine
Todd Whitman; and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She`s the
Senior Democratic Whip and a member of the House Democratic leadership.
Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being with us.
Governor, you were cabinet secretary, a governor of a state. We have spent
a week in which the President said he`s the one in charge, in violation of
the Constitution. He`s then backed down from that and told governors
they`re in charge. And now he is feeding this idea that people should
protest. There were people who went to the Michigan State House and
protested, next to each other, no social distancing involved in this whole
thing. What do you think is going on here?
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W.
BUSH: It`s all about reelection. And that`s the thing that is so
extraordinary. This man plays politics with every single issue. And these -
what we`re facing today is much too important. There seems to be this idea
that he is promoting. The governors somehow don`t want to reopen their
states. They like this, particularly Democrat governors. That`s the
furthest thing from the truth.
Governors, first of all, really feel the economic impact. So, in fact, many
of them have a constitutional requirement to balance their budgets. They`re
also much closer to their constituents than those who go to Washington and
never come out. They care about their people and their people`s lives, and
they care about their economies. They want to reopen, but they want to do
it in a reasonable way.
And that - for that, they need the help of the federal government to get
the tests and get the protocols that they`re required to be able to
understand when it`s safe and who can be next to whom. And to have a
President undermine his very own words when he says social distancing, and
then he encourages people to go out, and tweeted. Frankly, his one on
Virginia about free Virginia, protect the second amendment. What guns have
to do with the coronavirus, I have no idea.
VELSHI: Yes. I think you make a really, really, really important point
here. State governments cannot print their own money and, in many cases,
cannot assume debt at least for operations. So, for governors losing -
having their states shut down is a very, very expensive matter.
Congresswoman, your governor gets picked on by the President almost as much
as the Governor of New York does. Governor Cuomo seems to be his favorite
punching bag. But Gretchen Whitmer is a very close second. He seems to have
a beef with her in what she`s doing. But to what Governor Whitman just
said, she`s following federal guidelines that are outlined by Fauci and
Birx and the CDC and in the President`s 15 days to recovery plan, which
So what do you think is behind this and what are you worried about?
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): What I`m worried about is the politics and how
we`ve got to dial this down. I`m living in a state that`s still got high
death rate today. We`re - it`s still depending which day it is, it`s not a
contest you want to win. We`re the third or fourth highest state in the
country with the number of cases of COVID.
Right now, we`ve got to worry about keeping each other safe. I`ve been in
my house - OK, everybody knows me. I`m not exactly a stay-at-home person. I
have been in my condominium for 34 days. I have not physically been near
another human being, which isn`t - but I`m doing it because it`s what we
have to do.
I have had more than 20 family and friends die, die in the last six weeks.
I don`t want anybody else to die. And that`s why she is doing this. She`s
not doing it to make people feel like prisoners, which, quite frankly, many
of us probably do. And I think we`ve got to - both sides, we can go back to
campaigning in a few weeks, but let`s work together to save lives right
VELSHI: Governor, again, you have been someone who has been a governor and
you`ve been a cabinet secretary. You`ve worked in government. It is really
hard for us outside to understand what`s going on in the White House and in
the administration right now because it does seem to vacillate from day to
Once in awhile, the President comes out and gives a press conference, and
it`s got stats and it`s got data and it`s got plans, and the CDC and Fauci
and Birx seem to have a central role. And then other days, he goes
strangely political and attacks people.
For regular people out there who are watching TV, who are trying to get
past this, they are looking for leadership and they`re very confused when
their governors are fighting with their President.
WHITMAN: I don`t blame them. I mean, that`s the problem because the
President does have the bully pulpit, and he gets the most press. So when
he starts saying things that are contrary to what he said the day before,
that just sows confusion in everybody`s minds.
When the governors are trying to be reasonable, and that`s why it`s so good
that you have those six northeastern states that are banded together. You
have the Midwestern - some of the Midwestern states have come together, and
three of the western states have said we`re going to coordinate how we
reopen and how we do this because this coronavirus doesn`t care about
geopolitical boundaries. They could care less about one state or the other,
and people travel between them. So it really is critically important if we
want to get behind this, so we can get back to the politics of an election
But as the Congresswoman said, this should not be about politics and the
President`s reelection. And all these actions is pivot from “I`m in total
control” to “no, actually it`s the governors,” but then don`t pay attention
to the governors in certain states is all about politics. And that`s just
wrong right now.
VELSHI: And Congresswoman Dingell, you come from a state where not only
does the shutdown affects you directly but you have massive trade with
Canada and that border remains close to non-essential work as well.
Let me just ask you this, Congresswoman. We ran out of money for the $350
billion for small businesses yesterday. The President has dangled this idea
of Congress adjourning. We may need two to three times the money for small
businesses to keep their employees on payroll. What do you believe the next
step looks like in at least staunching some of the economic bleeding before
we get back to work?
DINGELL: We have to do two things. We should have last week - late last
week, have passed a bill to have gotten immediately more money into this
program. I cannot - Ali, in the last two days, I`ve had more businesses.
I`ve probably had 100 phone calls between yesterday morning and this
evening. I was still on the phone an hour ago with businesses and small
restaurants that are just scared to death about what`s going to happen.
Michigan didn`t even - we were 35th in the country in terms of the amount
of money that came to our state. There is a need.
We need to get more money into it and then we need to get busy on care two
package. Tweak what was not great in care or is not - the first care
package, help it work, and we need to make sure that Americans across the
country know that we know what`s happening to them right now.
They`re afraid about their job. They`re afraid if they have something to
return to. How are we going to get the American auto industry going again?
It`s still the backbone of the American economy. And we have to work to
stimulate this economy when it`s safe to go back to work. And how are we
going to make sure we`re safe to go back to work and workers are going to
feel safe back at work?
VELSHI: These are good questions, and we are craving the answers to them.
Thank you to the two of you for joining me tonight. Congresswoman Debbie
Dingell and Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, thank you
for joining us.
Coming up, black and Latino communities have been hit disproportionately
hard by the health crisis caused by coronavirus, but they also stand to be
very hard hit by the economic crisis.
Up next, we`re going to look at what`s happening in the Latino community
and how much of the federal aid is actually getting to them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARMANDO ELENES, SECRETARY TREASURER, UNITED FARM WORKERS: Right now, farm
workers are still working for the most part as usual. They live check-to-
check. They don`t have the safety net that others do. They don`t even have
access to unemployment insurance because a lot of them are undocumented.
They want to be treated with dignity. They`re just trying to do work, and
it`s dignified work that they`re doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Millions of Latinos are among the essential workers on the
frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. When I say frontlines, they work so
we can eat, we can function. And they`re in urgent need of protection.
Latino communities are set to suffer a massive economic blow as they face
wealth disparities that are rooted in generations of inequality.
A new national poll released today found that 65 percent of Latinos have
lost their job, seen their hours or wages reduced, lost substantial
business revenue, or have gone out of business altogether. NBC News Senior
Writer Suzanne Gamboa reports, quote, “Coronavirus could decimate Latino
wealth, which was hammered by the great recession. The crisis has either
erased or is threatening to erase Latinos` decade-long climb back to
Joining me now is Congressman Joaquin Castro. He`s a Democrat from Texas
and the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He represents San
Antonio where today thousands again lined up for miles at a food bank. That
image is unbelievable.
Congressman, I want to talk to you, and it`s a bigger conversation than we
can have right now about Latinos in general and wealth and challenges to
them. But I want to talk to you about agricultural workers because they
make up a massive proportion of our agricultural workers.
I`ve got a quote from a farm worker organizer named Lupe Gonzalo - he`s
with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida - in which he says
something quite poignant. “In non-coronavirus times, farm workers are
already silent; they are not able to ask for drinking water or other basic
human rights. Now, farm workers are not going to be able to demand that
their bosses have additional places for them to wash their hands or ask for
That`s even before we`re talking about $1,200 checks and extended
unemployment, Congressman. We have a whole bunch of people in this country
who are working under the radar, who are qualifying for nothing.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes - no, that`s right. And he`s absolutely
right. This pandemic has not only exposed, but it`s exacerbated a lot of
the inequities in American society. And you take farm workers as one
For many years, these were folks who were often ignored, not thought much
about. There was a reluctance to bring them into the fold of American
citizenship, for example, and yet they`re out there, during this pandemic,
working probably longer hours than even they have ever worked to make sure
that our grocery stores are well stocked.
And so I hope that not only will they get the protective gear that they
need and the workplace protections that they need right now, but they`ll
also get the economic relief that they deserve and, in the long term, that
we will take into account the fact that when we needed them most, they came
through for this country in a big way.
VELSHI: Yes. It`s kind of incredible, because if you didn`t think they were
essential workers, you`re learning now when you have to eat that they are.
You`re asking for some specific things. You and 36 other lawmakers have
asked for legal protections from deportation for essential agricultural
workers, direct financial assistance to agricultural employees to give them
some things they don`t qualify for, food assistance to them, expanded child
care for them.
And you`re asking for something Governor Murphy of New Jersey asked for the
same thing, for the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS to extend
work permits for immigrants, including those on DACA.
CASTRO: Yes, that`s absolutely right. There`s no reason that these folks -
some of that workforce is undocumented. And there are four or five major
American industries that would not exist the way that they do but for
immigrant labor and some of that undocumented immigrant labor.
And there`s no reason during this pandemic when these are essential workers
that we should even think about deporting them. They also deserve, as other
workers do, like health care workers, sanitation workers, truckers, I think
-they deserve some kind of hazard pay for making (inaudible) to be out
there and to continue to work and to put themselves at risk.
VELSHI: When I look out the window here in Manhattan every night at 7
o`clock, we applaud the frontline workers. We`re talking about EMTs and
police and doormen and delivery people. And some massive percentage of
those delivery people are Latino. They`re Hispanic. They`re out there. They
sometimes, in most cases, cannot make a choice not to be there, but they`re
dropping off our food. They`re delivering our food. They`re opening
people`s doors. They`re taking care of people on the street.
And there are a number of people in this country that are of mixed status
in their family. Some of them have social security numbers, some of them
have tax identification numbers because they actually pay tax, but they
don`t qualify for the rebate.
CASTRO: Yes, that`s right. And this was a big debate during the CARES
package. In the House version of that bill, the way that money was going to
be - financial assistance was going to be distributed was under what is
called individual tax identification numbers. Some people who are
undocumented or other workers don`t have Social Security numbers, but
they`re still out there either working hard or have been working hard. And
they`re getting nothing.
But more than that, if you have somebody who is undocumented, who is
married to a U.S. citizen and has U.S. citizen children, they are also
getting nothing. The whole family gets nothing just because you have one
person who may be undocumented. And that is also an incredible injustice.
VELSHI: Congressman, thank you for joining us. Thank you for your work on
this front. Congressman Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.
That is tonight`s Last Word. I`m going to see you tomorrow morning starting
at 8 a.m. right here on MSNBC for my normal weekend show.
And a big programming note for tomorrow. Watch Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney,
Elton John, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, Lizzo, Billie Eilish
and more join forces for “One World: Together At Home,” a global
entertainment special to support the World Health Organization and the
global fight to end COVID-19.
The event is going to be hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy
Kimmel. The pre-show starts tomorrow at 2 p.m. Eastern on NBC News NOW, and
watch the special broadcast at 8 p.m. Eastern on all the networks of NBC
“The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” begins now.
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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