HHS Watchdog TRANSCRIPT: 5/4/20: The Last Word w/ Lawrence O. Donnell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. That is a great
Pulitzer story and a great journalism story.
Rachel, I have to thank you for basically booking a very important guest in
tonight`s show. Dr. Sharon Duclos who made an appearance on video from
Iowa. Doctor in that very, very emotional press conference. She`s going to
be with us tonight to discuss the situation there. But we know about her
exclusively thanks to you and running that powerful video last week.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: Well, thank – I`m really, really glad
you`ve got her. I mean, the situation that she`s in, she and her colleagues
are in Black Hawk County, Iowa is really illustrative, and the thing that
makes – I mean, there are a bunch – there are a bunch of counties in the
country right now who are dealing with huge numbers of cases without the
resources to deal with them.
But Black Hawk County, her and her fellow local officials and health
providers have been so eloquent and so outspoken in trying to explain the
gravity of what they`re in, that it has attracted national attention and
will change the course of how things go in Iowa because of it, just because
she and her colleagues are so eloquent.
O`DONNELL: And they certainly were living their lives where they didn`t
think they would be in front of a national microphone in their lives, and
suddenly, especially thanks to you bringing them to us, and not just the
doctors, but others, the officials there, they really have told the story
in a way that is invaluable and very hard to get from anyone else.
MADDOW: Yes. They are brave and competent and clear-hearted folks. I`m
really happy you got it. Well done, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And Congressman Adam Schiff is going to join us, too, Rachel,
with the latest on what the House of Representatives is trying to do.
Congressman Schiff will be later in the show.
Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Excellent. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, John Kenneth Galbraith, President Kennedy`s ambassador to India, was
the most famous economist in the world. By the time in the 1970s, he
created a BBC documentary series entitled “The Age of Uncertainty.”
Professor Galbraith published a companion volume with the same title, “The
Age of Uncertainty”.
And the uncertainty that John Kenneth Galbraith was describing was the
uncertainty created by science. The uncertainty created by knowledge. The
uncertainty we`re living with tonight – the uncertainty that surrounds the
world tonight as we wonder what`s next in the coronavirus pandemic.
The uncertainty John Kenneth Galbraith was describing was the dramatic
change in the previous 100 years or so in the relatively new body of
knowledge known as economics. In the 19th century, Galbraith pointed out
the economic theory was relatively simplistic and in the 20th century
economic theory became more and more complex as our economic experience and
our economic activities became more and more complex. And the increasing
complexity of economic theory created increasing uncertainty about the
effectiveness of economic policy. Which idea is better than the other?
Life was simpler centuries ago when the general consensus was that the
earth was flat and Christopher Columbus sailed westward in the
counterintuitive hope of reaching the east and suddenly the world was
round, which meant the world was more complex. Scientists and scientists
are attracted to the uncertainty. They venture off into the uncertainty to
try to find some valuable certainties like vaccines.
Many people if not most of us are at minimum uncomfortable with uncertainty
and in some cases utterly incapable of bearing any uncertainty at all. And
so, when there is no certainty, they install certainty to ease their
discomfort, some people turn to religion for such certainty.
The ever certain Pat Robertson said recently that God would end this
pandemic if the American people would, quote, turn from their wicked ways.
Robertson said, quote: You confess your sins and forsake them, and then he
heals the land.
That kind of thinking had dominance for centuries until science got in the
way, until science raised the uncertainty there might be something better
to do in the face of a pandemic than confess our sins. Maybe we have to do
more like wash our hands and not touch our faces and search for a vaccine
and hope, hope in the face of the uncertainty that we don`t know if we will
get the coronavirus even if we take every possible precaution that we can,
the uncertainty that we don`t know how long we will be locked down in our
homes, the uncertainty that we don`t know where we are tonight in the fight
against the coronavirus.
Has it peaked? Is it generally trending down overall in this country, or
are we just at a plateau? Is it going up? Is it going to go back up?
Dr. Anthony Fauci using his scientific knowledge and experience, has
guaranteed us a second wave of the coronavirus, guaranteed it, removed
uncertainty about a second wave. But is he right?
We can admire and respect Anthony Fauci and hope against hope that he is
wrong about that second wave. We can hope that.
And so, even Anthony Fauci`s guarantee carries the mandatory uncertainty
that all predictions must. No matter how authoritative because they are
still just predictions.
And so, tonight, we wade deeper into the uncertainty again with new
projections, reveal today showing dramatic increases in coronavirus cases
and coronavirus deaths just when some states are increasingly loosening
their restrictions on the belief that the worst is behind us. There is a
limit to how much uncertainty each of us can bear before the strain of it
just hurts. Ask any high school senior waiting for colleges to decide on
their applications. The agonizing months of uncertainty, now ask the same
high school seniors and their parents how it feels to be living with the
uncertainty that the colleges they were accepted to might not actually be
open to students in the fall.
We are all trapped in a maze of uncertainty, which has very little chance
of being invaded by certainty any time soon. We are uncertain about
everything in the coronavirus pandemic. We are uncertain about the number
of people who have been killed by the coronavirus in America because the
virus is killing people weeks before we knew it was in this country and
because people have been dying at home without being tested for coronavirus
either before or after death.
And so, I can report to you that the official reported number of
coronavirus cases as of tonight is 1,182,994, but we are uncertain just how
much that number understates the truth and I can report to you that we had
officially 68,934 official reported deaths from coronavirus but we are
uncertain as to how many more thousands of people have died from
coronavirus in this country. And we are profoundly uncertain about how many
more will die.
Professor Chris Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
at the University of Washington has been running a model of the coronavirus
and Professor Murray`s model which has in the past been used by the White
House has now been revised to project about 135,000 COVID-19 deaths in the
United States by early August.
Here is Professor Murray with Katy Tur today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS & EVALUATION: The big
increase in our numbers is coming from taking into account the trends in
mobility. People are out. They`re more active in the last week or 10 days
and we`re seeing that there`s taking off of social distancing that has a
direct impact how much contact and mobility that people will have. That
gets factored into the model and that`s driving up the numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Professor Murray`s model predicted that we would be roughly
exactly where we are today on the number of deaths and now, he`s predicting
a dramatic increase.
“The New York Times” is reporting that the Trump administration has a model
that it has not publicly released that projects that the death toll will
double by June. The White House issued a statement saying that that model
is a work in progress of sorts by some researchers and has not been used by
the White House coronavirus task force.
Donald Trump himself has constantly revised his own imaginary model of the
coronavirus death rate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you have 15 people, and
the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that`s
a pretty good job we`ve done.
We have to be calm. It will go away.
Looks like we`ll be at about a 60,000 mark, which is 40,000 less than the
lowest number thought of.
Look, we`re going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was last night. The Trump model is now projecting 100,000
deaths and the Trump model has never been right. The Trump model has always
under estimated what was coming.
The search for a coronavirus vaccine is filled with uncertainty. How long
will that search take? How can that vaccine once discovered be manufactured
and distributed to the world assuming we find a vaccine that really does
And in the meantime, we live with the uncertainty about antibodies, some
antibody testing that`s already in use has been flagrantly inaccurate and
proven inaccurate, and we are uncertain about how much protection
antibodies provide to the people who have them.
If you get coronavirus and you then recover from it, are the antibodies
there then going to make you immune from the coronavirus? We do not know.
Here is Dr. Najy Masri of Louisiana State University`s hospital. He has
been keeping a video diary for us of life and death in New Orleans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. NAJY MASRI, LSU DIRECTOR, HOSPITALIST SERVICES OCHSNER MEDICAL CENTER:
This is Dr. Masri. Videolog, May 2nd, 2020.
Currently at our hospital, we have two patients previously diagnosed and
treated with COVID-19 and tested negative prior to discharge. They are now
back testing positive. That`s scary.
Not only do we know that that virus is contagious, it`s deadly in a select
population, now we have proof that what we thought was true immunity may
not actually be protective. There`s a lot of people out there who subscribe
to the theory that everyone should get this virus and therefore be
protected from its effect. The so-called herd immunity theory which clearly
doesn`t hold water if patients like this can get re-infection.
There`s other people that believe in immunity passports. That if you`ve
been exposed to the virus, you should be getting a passport to roam around
society freely. Well, again, that has holes in that theory if patients like
these can be re-infected.
The only thing really that we know, the only thing that we are immune to
right now is the truth, the honest truth, which is the fact that we
actually don`t know enough about this virus to come up with a definitive
plan on how to move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What we hope to do in this hour, every night, is give you as
much guidance as we can to help you steady yourself in this age of
uncertainty and begin tomorrow with hope.
Leading off our discussion tonight it Dr. Margaret Hamburg. She`s a former
commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and former New York City
commissioner of health.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
And I want you to take us right into the new uncertainties over these new
projections that the death rate is going to keep going straight up.
DR. MARGARET HAMBURG, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Well, you`re absolutely
right. There is huge uncertainty that surrounds this unfolding pandemic and
how best to control it. These new models tell us information that we should
pay attention to.
Models, however, are simply that. They are models of different possible
futures that depend on the assumptions that went into the models, what
factors you choose to emphasize and how much weight you put on them, but it
certainly gives pause when you look at the escalation in numbers and
clearly, the escalation when you think about the relaxation of some of the
social distancing that`s going on.
To me, it reinforces the message that we should not only pay attention to
the models but we should look at the data that we have at hand, and we do
know that there are certain criteria that should create the frame work for
decision making about whether we`re ready to sort of begin to go back
towards whatever the new normal will be and that is very important.
What is the rate of new cases? Is it coming down in your area and the rate
of hospitalizations? Are your hospitals operating at full capacity or do
you have some play in the system so that if you have more cases, you can
manage them? Do you have adequate testing to be able to identify not only
those who are clearly showing symptoms, but also looking at what are the
rates in the community of as yet unrecognized spread of this virus, and
importantly, in certain congregate settings like nursing homes or
meatpacking plants where we know the risks of an intense explosion of new
cases can occur rapidly and very seriously?
And then, do you have the public health infrastructure to track and trace
those who are infected and make sure they are isolated and those who have
been exposed that need to be quarantined while you determine if they are,
in fact, going to get sick?
O`DONNELL: I want to go to a point we just heard from Dr. Masri, which is
this question of antibodies and there`s a lot of controversy around the
testing because we`re discovering some of the antibody tests that have been
rushed out don`t work, and I mean, in really big numbers, not a small
margin of error.
But there`s the question of what antibodies, what kind of immunity if any
do antibodies provide. When are we going to have certainty and how do we
get to certainty about antibodies?
HAMBURG: Well, it`s a critical question and it matters in our
understanding of individual behavior, and this notion if you have
antibodies you`ve been infected before and you`re somehow safe now to go
back into either high risk settings if you`re a health care worker or
frontline responder or, you know, a component of how we think about heading
back into workplaces and other situations where there is larger gatherings
It`s also very important as we think about what will make for a successful,
effective, protective vaccine and it is an area where we need to drill down
as deeply and as quickly as possible into the science. We need to look at
the experience about infection and then risks of re-infection in other
countries that have already been grappling with this coronavirus epidemic
and we need to do very specific studies to understand, you know, sort of
what does immune protection look like with this particular disease?
And important to both the research and our public health and medical care
management is having quality tests that actually work. And I`m glad that
today the FDA announced as I understand it that they`re going to be
requiring all companies to submit data about the validity and reliability
of these antibody tests. I think it was unfortunate that as we were in
earlier stages of this outbreak, that a decision was made to exercise
what`s called enforcement discretion and not require all companies to
submit data about these tests because if you don`t know if they work, it
doesn`t help you with managing patients. It doesn`t help you with actually
doing the research needed to understand what antibodies mean.
O`DONNELL: Let`s go to that uncertainty question about where we are in the
timeline of this, which includes the timeline of how long we`ll be locked
up at home, which can vary by region. And that`s the question of Dr.
Anthony Fauci`s guarantee, his removal of uncertainty about a second wave.
He has said unequivocally, there definitely is going to be a second wave.
Do you think we have certainty about a second wave?
HAMBURG: Well, I think you`re absolutely correct that there is uncertainty
about how all of this will unfold and a lot of it depends on what we do.
Some of it depends on the virus itself and it`s clearly a very formidable
foe. We might have the scenario where we have rising cases into the fall. I
hope that`s not the case and we`ll continue to exercise, you know, good
judgment and prudent public health practice in terms of managing social
distancing and reducing opportunities for spread.
We may be successful at reducing numbers quite significantly and have
another wave because that`s the nature of the virus, and it will come back
as people become more mobile and interactive and the restrictions are
loosened. We may have a series of waves. It may not be one large wave. It
could be a bunch of, you know, smaller but significant bursts of disease in
different places across the country.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Margaret Hamburg, as I thank you for joining us once again
tonight, I also want to thank you as a physician for using your medical
degree for public service. We all know there is ways your medical degree
could have been used in many, much more financially rewarding directions
and all of you physicians who have made this choice are very, very
important to our public health tonight. So, thank you for that.
HAMBURG: Well, thank you and thank you for the work you do.
O`DONNELL: Thank you very much, Doctor. Thank you.
When we come back, Dr. Sharon Duclos will join us. You first met her as I
told – as Rachel and I discussed on video last week on Rachel`s program
when she made a deeply moving statement in a press conference in Iowa about
what the coronavirus pandemic centered in the meat packing plants is doing
to her community. Dr. Sharon Duclos will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SHAON DUCLOS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, PEOPLE`S COMMUNITY HEALTH CLINIC:
I think about what would the person say to me who just died from this? How
would they advocate helping other people not go through what they just went
through? So that`s what I think about.
So, for the other businesses, churches, restaurants, think about your
community and think about your actions and think about how you can best
serve the greater good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was last Wednesday when Rachel first introduced us to Dr.
Sharon Duclos who will join us in a moment. She`s the medical director of a
local clinic in Waterloo, Iowa.
And since Dr. Duclos pleaded with Iowans to keep social distancing, there
have been 2,860 more confirmed cases of coronavirus and 40 more deaths from
coronavirus in the statement of Iowa.
Dr. Duclos` clinic is in Black Hawk County which has not reopened for
business as much as other areas but where at least 15 people have died of
coronavirus including two reported yesterday. Since early March, Black Hawk
County has seen a consistent increase in the number of cases. There are now
1,546 cases in a county of 130,000 people. In Black Hawk County, up to 90
percent of the cases have been tied to Tyson`s largest pork processing
plant, which is in Waterloo. That plant is just four miles from Dr. Duclos`
Today, Tyson said the Waterloo plant will remain closed for now.
And joining us now is Dr. Sharon Duclos. She`s a family physician and chief
medical officer of People`s Community Health Clinic in Waterloo.
Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate
And, first of all, to that concern you expressed last week, the worry about
your own staff, how are you and your staff at the clinic doing and is
DUCLOS: We`re actually doing really good. The majority of my staff are
healthy. We`ve been quite lucky that we have not had many positive COVID
But we continue to be diligent about wearing our PPE as we take care of
people, so that I gave – I gave an order to all my providers and my order
was you cannot get sick. That`s an order. So I`m your boss. You cannot get
O`DONNELL: Well, give me that order, too, doctor. I`ll take that order.
I`ll appreciate it.
Doctor, what was the impact of your statement locally that it was televised
locally, it was also televised nationally last week, and do you have a
sense of what you – that what you were trying to communicate to people in
Iowa got through to people in Iowa?
DUCLOS: So you hear a lot when you care for patients and you really feel
for everybody right now because there is so much uncertainty. So as I`m
working with one patient who has a family member who is struggling with the
COVID infection in the hospital, then I move on to my next patient who is
currently laid off and doesn`t understand why this has to happen.
So it`s either feast or famine for a lot of people. What we noticed was is
because you always doubt yourself, God, is this really helping? Is it
making a difference, this social distancing?
And then when, all of a sudden, we started to see our positives and we
realized it was positive the person works at Tyson`s, positive the person
works at Tyson`s, then you`re like, we have a problem, you know, 2,700
people. And our urgent care exploded just within the next, you know, week
to two weeks it just exploded with the number of sick people.
What was even more profound is when you got those positive test results
back, then you started to make the phone calls. So, tell me who all lives
in your home? Where does this person work? And so, you realize it is an
underserved population like we`re used to treating and then there is
several people that live in the home, eight to 15 people.
So, Joe goes to work at Tyson`s, he comes home. He`s married. He`s married
to somebody that works in a long-term care facility at another
And then that`s when the weight of what is going on that you realize, oh,
my, here it goes. Here goes this spread. And that`s exactly what happened.
And so, our plea was is that social distancing is working, and just that
one manufacturing plant – I just remember thinking, oh my gosh, this is
just one plant. We had people lined up outside. We were trying to do the
social distancing, getting them in rooms as quick as we can, making them
wait in their cars so they stay away from other people.
We didn`t want them to go to the pharmacy. We would run medicine to their
car so they didn`t have to walk through our building. But it was explosive,
And then again, the phone calls, and I think then to me the follow-up was -
- is here Joe, I`m using Joe as just a generic name, he goes home. He`s
trying to provide for his family. You know, he`s trying to make a living,
and then what happens is he gives it to his parents who he`s been taking
care of and now his elderly parents are in the hospital and they`re
struggling and not going to make it. And I think that`s just the whole - he
just feel that pressure and you feel for patients going through that.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Doctor, how do you handle it yourself when
you talk about you feel that pressure?
DR. DUCLOS: I eat, which is not the best way to handle pressure. I
exercise, which is better. What I`ve told my staff is doesn`t turn to
alcohol because it only makes matters worse and then talk about it. I think
it`s important for everybody to talk about it.
I think we can all talk about the numbers, the most important thing to
realize today is uncertain. We don`t know how long this is going to go on?
And we have to live with the uncertainty. So how can we live with the
uncertainty and take care of ourselves?
And it is about the best we can do in the social distancing, washing your
hands, wearing the mask out in public and not to protect yourself but to
decrease the spread of germs so you`re not passing that on to someone else.
So there are some things that we can do to help each other and right now I
think that`s what we need to focus on.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Sharon Duclos, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
You`re the hero in our lineup tonight and please come back from time to
time to let us know how things are going there and help guide us through
this uncertainty. We really appreciate it.
DR. DUCLOS: Thank you so much.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. When we come back, House Intelligence Committee
Chairman Adam Schiff will join us. We`ll get Adam Schiff`s reaction to the
White House forbidding Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying for Congress.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Anthony Fauci said today in an interview with National
Geographic, “Everything about the step wise evolution over time strongly
indicates that this virus evolved in nature and then jumped species”.
That hasn`t stopped the Trump Administration pulling the President and the
Secretary of State from trying to blame China for deliberately creating the
virus in a laboratory and then letting it loose on the world first by
killing China`s own people.
Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is
the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Schiff, thank
you very much for joining us tonight. Anthony Fauci in this interview today
has very little patience for any discussions about what might or might not
have happened in Chinese laboratory?
He`s saying look, this was transmitted from bats. We`ve seen this pattern
before. We know how to detect it. It`s not a mystery for him.
ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA): Well look, the President, as you know, a couple days
ago said that he has high confidence that this virus escaped the lab.
Secretary Pompeo said there is enormous evidence of that. If there is
anything to have high confidence about in that regard or enormous evidence
they have yet to share it with Congress.
And we are told that we are currently informed on the latest intelligence.
So I don`t know where they`re getting this apart from either expressing
their desire or they`re withholding information from Congress but I don`t
see what would be gained by doing so.
I think what they are clearly trying to do is deflect attention away from
the administration`s terrible mishandling of the virus and all of the false
narrative that the President was putting out early on about this going away
on its own, being no worse than the flu that we`re going to contain it down
to zero and so they have chosen to go after China.
Look, there is a lot to criticize China about it I don`t want to make any
mistakes about that. They should have been far more transparent about the
human to human transmission and they did conceal things. But whether they
can get the intelligence agencies to somehow search for the conclusion they
want to reach, that`s not how the agencies are supposed to work.
And there is a danger in the administration either putting out theories
that cannot be substantiated or deliberately provoking a fight during the
middle of a pandemic.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Fauci also said today about that point that President Trump
made that at a certain point, he said it was just going to disappear. Dr.
Fauci said I don`t think there is a chance that this virus is just going to
disappear. It`s going to be around and if given the opportunity, it will re
We`ll have a few months, May, June, July August to prepare. We need to not
only have tests but to make sure the people who need tests get tested so
that by the time we get to September, we don`t have this dialogue
continually fixated on testing.
Shame on us if we don`t have enough tests by the time this so-called return
might come in the fall or winter. These kinds of statements that Dr. Fauci
is making to National Geographic are clearly against what President Trump
is saying in the message President Trump is pointing out and it sounds like
the kind of testimony you would get if he was not banned from testifying to
SCHIFF: Well, I think that`s exactly right and the President does a
tremendous disservice to the American people when he precludes some of the
foremost experts from testifying before Congress and sharing what they
Now it is clear why the President doesn`t want Fauci to come to Congress
even though he`s allowing Dr. Fauci to speak at these White House
propaganda sessions for the President. And it`s because a part, you know,
and away from the glare of the President, he`s concerned that Dr. Fauci
will be even more candid with the country about the dangers of this virus
and feel more free to contradict the false claims that the President is
That`s a very poor reason to keep someone from Congress during a pandemic.
But look, it is consistent, completely consistent with his efforts to
replace Inspector General with his efforts to silence those who disagree
with him and now hiss effort to deflect responsibility on to China for many
of the administration`s own failings. So it`s part and parcel of the
President`s modus operandi but a real disservice to - continuing disservice
to the country.
O`DONNELL: Chairman Schiff, I would like to talk you about the President`s
moves against Inspector General and including the Inspector General who
started what became the impeachment process at effect by the Intelligence
Community`s Inspector General.
If you could stay with us over the commercial break, we`d like to do that
when we come back and including the Health and Human Services Inspector
General that the President has gotten rid off. If you could give us a
moment, we`ll be right back with Chairman Adam Schiff.
SCHIFF: Of course.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump continues to get rid of the Inspectors General who
tell truths that he doesn`t want to hear. The latest was Christi Gram who
was the Principal Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Health and
She assured a report saying that there was a severe shortage of testing and
testing supplies in this country in hospitals throughout this country and
that was enough for Donald Trump to get rid of her.
Congressman Adam Schiff is back with us and Chairman Schiff, we`ve seen
this before, Donald Trump`s attack on the Inspectors General and it
includes anyone who says the wrong thing of Donald Trump`s ear during this
SCHIFF: That`s all too true and of course, this is very dangerous. The
Inspector General system was a post Watergate Reform designed to deal with
the abuses of that era and now those abuses are back.
The President has systematically gone through and got rid of the Inspector
General for the Intelligence Community who reported to Congress that a
whistle blower complaint was being withheld in violation of law.
He got rid of the Inspector General that was going to oversee the release
of the pandemic relief funds that could hold the President accountable
whether the President was using favoritism or cronyism in the allocation of
relief funding or PPE to different states.
And now going after the Health and Human Services Inspector General who
reported all too accurately that she was hearing from hospitals all around
the country that they did not have the ventilators or the protective gear
or the testing capacity while the President was saying that all of that was
going perfectly well and because she contradicted because the facts
contradicted his preferred narrative.
He views that as the ultimate disloyalty. But the result is a lack of
accountability and one final point on this, Lawrence it doesn`t have to be
this way. The Congress could stand up to this President but we have the
confluence of a President who tramples on these norms and he is not guided
by ethics or anything else except self interest apparently.
And a GOP in Congress that is too weak or too unwilling to do anything
about it. If the Republicans would join us, we could put requirements into
law today that say the President cannot remove an Inspector General except
I think when he`s gone, we`ll be able to do it but Republicans will not
defend their own institutions right now and it means that there`s a real
lack of accountability during a pandemic and that is deadly dangerous.
O`DONNELL: And we can`t act even slightly surprised by this because you
told us this was going to happen in your argument in the Senate impeachment
SCHIFF: Well, we certainly told the Senators that he was not going to
change, and there was no way to constrain him that he is who he is and he
would continue to operate the way he had. And indeed, that`s exactly what
we`ve seen since.
The one thing I think we dramatically under stated is when we asked the
question if you found him guilty, do you really need to remove him given
that there is another election only nine months away how much damage could
he really do?
We said a lot but little did we know just how great the casualties would
be? Some days we lose the equivalent of the number of people we lost on
9/11 and, you know, I think that there is no way we could have foreseen
just how tragic his damage would be in his remaining months in the
O`DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff thank you for joining us tonight. We really
SCHIFF: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Well, we are racing past a recession toward a depression. The
likes of which we haven`t seen since the 1930s when Democratic President
Franklin Roosevelt crafted the new economic policies necessary to lift us
out of that depression.
This depression is very different. This depression pushes us into an
economic age of uncertainty unlike any other. Gene Sperling was an Economic
Adviser to President Clinton and President Obama. Gene Sperling will join
O`DONNELL: We now have the largest number of claims for unemployment
benefits in the history of the unemployment program. 30.3 million first-
time unemployment claims have been filed just in the last six weeks.
And those unemployment claims understate the real unemployment that has hit
America since so many people have been struggling to file and haven`t been
able to file within their state`s systems that are overburdened.
And so we are in an economic age of uncertainty tonight unlike any other we
have experienced. Joining us now is Gene Sperling. He is the Former
Director of the National Economic Council for Presidents Obama and Clinton.
He is also the author the new book “Economic Dignity” which will be
published tomorrow, which means it`s available online for purchase at
Gene Sperling, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And, gene, with
these unemployment numbers, we`re racing past anything that we ever
described as a recession before, and we are getting ever closer every day
to what FDR inherited as President in the 1930s, an all-out depression,
which is the ultimate robbery of economic dignity from a population.
GENE SPERLING, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISOR, PRESIDENTS CLINTON & OBAMA: Yes,
absolutely. You know, I mean I think that obviously we`re going to be
seeing shocking numbers this Friday on the number of jobs lost, on the
unemployment rate, over 20 million, maybe over 20 percent.
But, you know, as you say, this is that moment. This is a moment of truth
on economic dignity for our country. You know, Lawrence, you and I both -
we both have one thing in common. We both really like Martin Luther King`s
speech to the sanitation work - at the sanitation workers strike in 1968.
And what did he say? He said not only did all labor had dignity, but that
the sanitation worker and the physician were both essential to our health,
to our well-being, and that might have seemed kind of idealistic, but not
Right now it`s very real. And I think the recognition of what it means - of
the value of farm workers and deliverers and home health aides and domestic
workers has never been higher. But we are not having that FDR moment yet
where we say that we recognize that dignity, and we`re going to treat
people with that level of dignity.
And just take, for example, the discussion you were having earlier. You
know, people working in the meat processing and poultry, those are among
the most dangerous occupations. They`re poorly regulated. In the poultry
industry, some people have had to wear diapers because they couldn`t have
time for bathroom breaks.
And to have the President of the United States order you back to work as an
essential worker and then take away the responsibility of your employer to
ensure you are safe, that is an example of treating people without the kind
of basic level of dignity.
And the question for us is going to be not just do we have the kind of
essential workers bill of rights that Ro Khanna and Elizabeth Warren have
talked about which we should, but whether this is going to make us rethink
our economic compact, whether we`re going to have a greater economic
dignity compact and have a new, new deal.
And I think if this moment doesn`t push us towards that, I don`t know what
O`DONNELL: Well, Gene, what strikes me is it did - the depression did push
us toward our first major steps toward economic dignity through FDR`s new
deal urged on him by Elizabeth Perkins. And that was at a time when the
country was bankrupt and, you know, Republicans could argue Federal
Government cannot afford this.
We cannot afford these interventions. We`re going to hear those arguments
in this situation where we can - you know, we can afford to bail out
certain corporations, but we cannot afford the kind of support for workers
that you`re calling for.
SPERLING: Right. I mean, look, we can`t afford to spend any money that`s
wasted, that`s on people who don`t need it, on large corporations that are
going to give them unjust enrichment, where it`s not connected to them
helping workers, which is exactly what President Trump and his team are
But believe me, we can afford every penny that helps make people whole,
that gives them 100 percent replacement on unemployment, or that does the
type of things Congresswoman Jayapal and Bernie Sanders and Mark Warner
have been talking about to ensure that people who would be laid off through
their company are kept on the payroll.
We can afford to do universal paid sick leave and to deal with the tens of
millions who may be losing their health care not just because it`s the
right thing morally, but because if we do those things, we will have -
we`ll be safer.
We`ll have less community spread. And so I think we`ve seen some movements
towards that new, new deal. We`ve seen gig workers getting unemployment
insurance. We`ve seen some move towards universal paid sick leave and
perhaps a greater impetus to the idea that there should be at least a $15
minimum wage and universal health care.
But I think the real fight is going to be are we going to get this now and
then turn our heads, or is this going to - or are these temporary reforms
going to be part of our larger and longer-term social compact?
O`DONNELL: Gene, what`s the basic takeaway you want readers to get from
your book, “Economic Dignity”?
SPERLING: That our north star for economics shouldn`t be about a metric
like GDP or productivity. It should be about what our ultimate aspiration
is for lifting up human happiness, fulfillment. That`s what economics
should be about.
And I wanted to define economic dignity in a way that it could be that
North Star, that it means three things. It means the ability to care for
your family, to be able to pursue your potential and purpose, and to be
able to work without the type of domination and humiliation that we still
see today even before our eyes.
O`DONNELL: That is the single best definition of governing policy toward
economics that I have heard.
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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