Cuomo strike back TRANSCRIPT: 4/17/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell

Nicholas Kristof, Ron Klain, Richard Besser, Zeke Emanuel, Richard Besser, Christine Todd Whitman, Debbie Dingell, Joaquin Castro




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

testing issue.




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.




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.




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.




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

for Trump.


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






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.




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




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.



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.





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





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

policy vandalism.


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.




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.




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.



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 –




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

that naive?



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

contact with.


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

in mind.




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?



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.






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





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–





that like me.




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?



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

we`re past.


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.







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.




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

financial stability.”


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

protective gear.”


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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