LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Austan Goolsbee, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, with coronavirus cases now north of 700 and with the virus now found in over half the states in this country, the President under fire for continuing to underplay the public health risk, tries to reassure a nation worried by a colossal drop in the financial markets and a collapse in the oil market.
Meantime a gallery of prominent Republicans under self-quarantine after exposure to the virus, including a guy who was on Air Force One today flying with the President. Same guy who was last photographed wearing a gas mask.
And in the 2020 race, six more states tomorrow, hundreds of delegates at stake and high stakes for the Sanders campaign battling ominous numbers out today in Michigan in trying to stop a Biden bounce that just picked up two more big names. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on this Monday night.
Well, good evening once again as we start a new week here at our NBC News headquarters in New York. Day 1,145 of the Trump administration, leaving 239 days to go until our 2020 presidential election. And our current President is facing what is easily his largest leadership crisis, serious business that involves the loss of human life.
He has also become a part of the story as of today when several people who have had contact with him, including one guy who flew with him on Air Force One today, have agreed to quarantine themselves because they have come in contact with the virus. And our vice President didn`t know this evening when asked if our President had been tested for the coronavirus. Turned out he has, and he has not been tested for the coronavirus.
The spread of it is changing life in America as it already has overseas. The U.S. has about 700 confirmed cases now. And here is what the surgeon general said about the government response today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We are shifting from a containment posture where we`re trying to keep the virus out of communities to one of mitigation. We expect the number of cases to go up rapidly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This was a terrible day on the financial markets. The Dow fell over 2,000 points. Most people live their whole lives without seeing something like that. Indeed, the largest single-day point drop in history. The sell-off was so intense that just after the opening bell, trading was halted as a precaution for the first time in more than two decades.
Oil is now at its lowest price in decades. Russia and the Saudis are fighting over price, which will crush some of the smaller players in the market no doubt.
And earlier tonight just a few hours after the markets closed, Trump appeared at the now daily White House coronavirus briefing to tell the nation that he`s focused on dealing with the economic fallout from the outbreak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just attended a very important task force meeting on the virus that everybody is talking about all over the world. No matter where you go, that`s what`s on people`s minds, and we are going to take care of.
We are going to be asking tomorrow -- we`re seeing the Senate. We`re going to be meeting with House republicans, Mitch McConnell, everybody, and discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief. That`s a big -- that`s a big number.
We`re going to be working with companies and small companies, large companies, a lot of companies so that they don`t get penalized for something that`s not their fault. This was something that we were thrown into, and we`re going to handle it, and we have been handling it very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And now as we mentioned, there are questions about the President`s own possible exposure to those who had been exposed to the virus.
Over the weekend we learned a person who attended the annual CPAC, Conservative Political Action Conference, a few weeks ago was in close contact with several Republican lawmakers including Senator Ted Cruz, Congressman Paul Gosar, Congressman Doug Collins, all three have announced they have chosen to self-quarantine. After his CPAC exposure, Collins was on hand to greet the President by shaking hands. That was just on Friday as he toured the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
Congressman Matt Gaetz, who last week showed up to vote on coronavirus funding wearing a gas mask, learned of the first fatality in his own Florida congressional district this weekend. He has since learned he also came into contact with that CPAC attendee. He is now under self-quarantine. But before he learned of his exposure, he boarded Air Force one today with the President after attending a party with the President at Mar-a-Lago.
Another Republican lawmaker, Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, a rapturous Trump supporter, said he too was warned he may have been exposed at CPAC, but he`s decided not to self-quarantine and return to Washington instead.
The incoming White House Chief of Staff, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, says he`s tested negative for coronavirus but says he`ll stay in quarantine until Wednesday because he`s learned he was also in contact with the infected person at CPAC.
Tonight White House reporters asked the Vice President if the President`s been tested.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the President been tested?
He`s been in contacted with penal people who were in proximity with somebody who had with the virus.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be sure and get you an answer to that. I honestly don`t know the answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Not long ago tonight, the White House did provide an answer. The press secretary issued a statement that reads in part, and we quote, "The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed patients, nor does he have any symptoms. President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him."
Former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, who also happens to have been a Secretary of Defense and CIA director, notes that this public health crisis is testing the President`s credibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR AND DEFENSE SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMIN.: This President has had a hard time with the truth since he entered the presidency and before that. And, you know, the American want to be able to trust what the President is saying to them. But in many ways, he`s forfeited that trust by the fact that he continues to shade the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Here with us for our leadoff discussion on a busy Monday night, two Pulitzer Prize winners, both of them with "The Washington Post," Ashley Parker, White House Reporter, Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief, who also happens to be co-author along with his "Post" colleague Carol Leonnig of the "New York Times" best-seller "A Very Stable Genius." And with us again from Washington, Nancy Cook, White House Reporter for POLITICO. Good evening gang, and welcome.
Ashley, I`d like to begin with you. You and Phil noted a change in tone and demeanor, I think it`s fair to say, on the part of the President as he approached and left the lectern in the West Wing briefing room. I guess there`s nothing like witnessing a 2,000-point drop to focus the mind. What else have you learned?
ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that`s right. The President pays incredibly close attention to the markets. That`s one thing that has been driving his response, and frankly a lot of the misinformation and half-truths he`s been putting out is because he hasn`t wanted to rattle markets.
And it was striking to see him in the briefing room today. For himself, he was quite disciplined. He came in. He generally got out a pretty accurate, serious, solemn message, and then he left without taking any questions. It didn`t evolve into one of these free for alls where he is parrying with reporters and something he says off the cuff overtakes his message. But we do know that the President is -- over the weekend he`s been incredibly unhappy and frustrated with the news coverage he`s received. A lot of which in "The Post" and elsewhere has chronicled, the squandered time by this administration, the missteps, the bungling of the initial response. He`s not happy with that.
And privately inside the White House, a lot of aides and advisers are not happy with the President. They will privately concede that him going out and saying things that aren`t true or him going out and saying something that seems quite callous, like he hopes the sick passengers stay on the ship because he doesn`t want the case numbers on his watch to tick up, doesn`t help them do their job of trying to handle this crisis in a streamlined, responsible, transparent manner.
WILLIAMS: Phil, Ashley alluded to this. Absolutely right. His own original material on this subject can`t carry the day. He`s in a bit of a rhetorical corner. You heard him say people are talking about this all over the world, encountering it no matter where you go, meaning of course it`s just not us. He has said more than once, it`s not our fault. Today he said of companies, it`s not their fault.
How is he processing word that what looks like the speaker`s roster at an RNC convention, big-name Republicans in his orbit, are now self- quarantining?
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Brian, it certainly has to be alarming, and the President has been rattled all day. We saw that when he woke up at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Florida, and took to Twitter. And before noon, he had pecked off about a dozen if not more tweets about all manner of grievances, including against the news media, against Democrats, vowing to root out and get rid of the enemies within the government, clearly rattled by the dip in the markets and by this coronavirus spreading out of control and without him being able to arrest it at all.
And now he has a new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, the congressman from North Carolina. And today Meadows learned that he may have been exposed and is self-quarantining. He`s tested negative for coronavirus, but he came into contact with that CPAC attendee. And so for Trump he`s not only not able to control this pandemic, but coronavirus is seeping closer and closer to him. Congressman Matt Gaetz aboard Air Force One today also came into contact with that CPAC attendee.
WILLIAMS: Nancy, it`s all pretty unbelievable. I know you have new reporting on the blame game going on behind the scenes.
NANCY COOK, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. A number of white house officials that I talked to today -- today was just a very rough day for them, not just the stock market being down but I think that the plunge in the oil price market really also hurt them. I was told by some White House officials that that was really what prompted the idea of the need for economic stimulus today.
But meanwhile behind the scenes, White House officials were really just starting to blame one another. There was frustration with the National Security Council for not being on top of this earlier when the coronavirus really came to light in China. People were blaming the Vice President`s office for the communications and messaging.
There was just a ton of people pointing fingers at different factions or different groups in the White House, and that really doesn`t help the strategy or messaging when the coronavirus is starting to spread throughout the U.S. very quickly. They still lack the testing capacity for a bunch of Americans.
And there`s still a lot of confusion about how the virus is actually transmitted. And meanwhile White House aides are falling back on what they typically do, which is a lot of infighting.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, is this universe alley being regarded inside, do you think, as an existential threat to his re-election effort? And when will we know we`re in an era of no more, at least for the time being, political rallies? Is it an existential threat to those?
RUCKER: I think the answer to both of those questions, Brian, is yes. And clearly the re-election is on the minds of not only the President but his aides. He`s got eight months until election day, and this is the clearest, most gravest threat to that re-election that we`ve seen, not only because of the turmoil in the economy but because it`s a management crisis, a leadership crisis on a matter of life and death, which, you know, by the accounts of most critics, the President as of now is failing. And he`s really flailing out there trying to figure out a way to get control of the situation.
As for the rallies, the President has been saying he won`t be canceling his rallies, that he will continue to do, in his words, tremendous rallies around the country. But you can`t help but go to his website and notice there are none scheduled. This is the first time really this year when we haven`t had one on the calendar. The President has been trying to follow the Democrats to all of the states where they`re doing primaries to stage counter-rallies. And by that pattern you would expect to see him tonight in Detroit or Grand Rapids or somewhere in Michigan, but he`s here in Washington with no rally on the schedule.
WILLIAMS: Nancy, another one for you, and then we`ll go back up to Ashley. When Democrats say they`re fearing, this crisis could be used as a policy Trojan horse, what kind of thing are they talking about?
COOK: Well, I think that what they`re probably talking about is that the President has long talked about wanting to do certain things like cut taxes or shut down the borders or bring manufacturing back from China to the U.S. and this is something that he has talked about since 2016 on the campaign, but it`s also something that he`s talked about within the context of coronavirus, particularly border security and the need to shut down the borders. And so I think democrats are fearful that he will use this opportunity or this crisis to push forward pet policy projects.
And I should note that other presidents have done this in the past. President Obama, for instance, used the year after the global financial recession in 2008 to pass the Affordable Care Act. President George W. Bush took a bunch of very big measures after 9/11. And so presidents typically use these crises to push forward their pet projects. And I think that there`s already a lot of talk behind the scenes of Trump trying to do some of the same things.
WILLIAMS: So, Ashley, the coronavirus briefing, which again is a very good use of the West Wing briefing room, is on the President`s schedule for tomorrow. Are we assuming that he is going to find the potential exposure too much to pass up but that maybe today`s model, get in, get out, and finite remarks, will carry the day?
PARKER: That`s a great question, and we just don`t know the answer yet. These briefings have traditionally been led by the Vice President. The President today was the one who signaled that he personally seemed to say would be back tomorrow. So there was a little bit of eagerness there.
The analogy that Phil and I often use with this President is sort of a teakettle that is boiling, and at some point he has to let off the steam. So he was quite disciplined today. I think there is a dawning realization that this is a real crisis that is not just bad for the country but bad for his re-election chances if he doesn`t get it under control. So there`s a chance he might demonstrate that same discipline tomorrow. Or there`s a chance that he will kind of reach that boiling point, and he will be so frustrated with the news media and the stories he thinks are unfair that he will want to go back and forth with them, or he will have something he wants to get off his chest.
And I just don`t think we know what sort of mood the President will be in. And when you ask his aides, they can`t quite plan for this either. So as much as we don`t know the answer, I don`t think they know either just yet.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I`m also certain they didn`t love the live coverage of the disembarking of the first passengers from the passenger ship out in the port of Oakland. To Ashley Parker, to Philip Rucker, to Nancy Cook, our thanks. A lot of moving parts on a Monday night. Appreciate you coming on.
Coming up, today`s huge sell-off on Wall Street continuing tonight on overseas market markets. Stephanie Ruhle spent the day on the trading floor without a helmet. She lived to tell us about it. She`ll be up next.
And later, with 352 more delegates up for grabs tomorrow, one of the candidates is hoping a good break can get him back in the lead as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Monday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have a great economy. We have a very strong economy, but this came -- this blindsided the world, and I think we`ve handled it very, very well. I think they`ve done a great job.
The people behind me have done a great job. So I will be here tomorrow afternoon to let you know about some of the economic steps we`re taking, which will be major.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This was an awful day, a downright scary one for financial markets worldwide, not just over the coronavirus but yet another turbulent day for the markets spurred by coronavirus fears and a price war over oil. The Dow saw its worst day since `08, falling over 2,000 points, a fall so precipitous, after trading was under way, the so-called circuit breakers kicked in to stop it and cool it off.
The President insisting his team has done a great job meeting with Senate Republicans tomorrow to talk about possible economic measures, including a cut in payroll taxes and help for hourly wage earners, though no other details were given.
Back again tonight is Stephanie Ruhle, veteran of the business world and host of the 9:00 a.m. hour here on MSNBC. Also happens to be our NBC News Senior Business Correspondent. I`ll cut right to the chase. How many days like today can you have before the fear of recession becomes very real?
STEPHANIE RUHLE, NBC NEWS SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The fear of recession is real, and today was a brutal day. But remember markets can go down. Markets can go up like that. So just because there`s going in one direction doesn`t mean it`s the only place they can go. But fears of a global recession are real because our economy doesn`t stand alone. We know the situation that China`s in, that Europe is in, and to say that the economy was in the best shape ever, which the President does like to say before this, that`s not the case.
Now, we are not in a financial crisis. I know people like to compare the two because what we`ve seen in terms of price action in the market is similar to what we saw in 2008. But underlying the economy is stronger. Things are much more stable. Banks, much better capitalized. We don`t have the systemic risk problems today that we did back in `08.
WILLIAMS: What happens when you idle certain sectors of your society, and what happens when the bottom falls out of the oil market around the world?
RUHLE: OK. Bottom falling out of the oil market, that`s serious business, that`s really what tanked the markets today. Corona was, you know, bubbling, it was sitting there. But on Saturday when we saw Saudi Arabia say, announcement, world, we`re about to jack up production and depress prices, that`s when we really saw things fall Sunday night.
And, remember, years ago you would say, oh, lower oil prices, that`s great for us at the pump. But now that we`re such big oil producers here in the U.S., watch out, Houston, that`s bad news.
WILLIAMS: And not only Houston but Points North. If you have a fracking, an oil shale operation, and you`re already not working on huge profit margins, when the big giants have a fight, you get hit.
RUHLE: Devastating. Absolutely devastating. That`s what`s really worrisome today. You could see bankruptcies. You could see restructurings. But as far as corona goes, you had said something before. You said what when parts of the economy sit idle.
We have to remember, the United States is a service based economy, not manufacturing like China. China can decide corona numbers are down. Let`s turn the machines back on, get to the factory. In the United States, everything that we`re telling people to do, don`t go to concerts, don`t go to the movies, don`t go to bars, go home, work from home, don`t go to school, think about all the businesses that hurts, all the people that aren`t out there making money. It`s consumer spending that has driven our economy in the last few years. That`s going to dry up. Look at cruises.
WILLIAMS: I don`t know nothing but a simple question. Is there a cut in payroll taxes that can benefit you when you`re not working, ergo you got no pay stub?
RUHLE: OK. Not when you`re not working. When you are not working, when your shifts have been canceled, there`s no payroll tax that could help you. But the fact that the President is addressing this, saying let`s think about a payroll tax, let`s think about loans for small businesses, those are big positives, because to just look at corporate America and say, you`ve got to offer paid leave to your hourly workers, that`s not enough.
If we can do something, the fact that the President is even talking about targeting those people, people living at or below the poverty line, they will be disproportionately hurt here, the 6 million people who are part of the gig economy, they don`t have health care. They don`t have sick days. If the President works with Congress to address this portion of the economy, that will be a positive, at least to keep people afloat, not necessarily to get them out there spending.
WILLIAMS: You got to be on television in a couple hours. Thank you very much --
RUHLE: Feels like in a minute.
WILLIAMS: -- for spending the waning minutes of today with us. Stephanie Ruhle, our guest.
Coming up, last week the President promised everyone who needed a coronavirus test could get one. What his administration is saying about testing now when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: We were able to confirm with them that testing is now available in all state labs in every state in the country. Over a million tests have been distributed. Before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed. But as I said before, with the deployment of the commercial labs, we literally are going to see a dramatic increase in the availability of testing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The CDC confirmed today that in fact 78 state and local public health labs across all 50 states now have the capacity to test up to 75,000 people for the coronavirus as of tonight. And the best available numbers, the grand total of Americans who have been tested is about 8,500, we believe.
If what the vice president said today holds true, that number would jump dramatically by the end of the week. But as the Washington Post points out, Trump administration has contradicted itself on coronavirus no fewer than 14 times in less than a month`s time.
Meanwhile, the situation in Italy has reached critical mass. The streets in the most popular travel destinations are deserted. The country is completely locked down as the number of cases now tops 9,000. At least 366 people have died thus far, 133 of those souls died just today.
Here with us again tonight, Dr. Celine Gounder, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine And Infectious Diseases at the NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital. Importantly, she`s also co-hosting a new podcast called "Epidemic" about the coronavirus along with Ron Klain, who ran the US response to the Ebola outbreak. She also happens to be the host of the podcast "American Diagnosis" on health and social justice. It`s a lot, but we need someone to do a lot, doctor, thank you very much for coming back.
When the President said, at the CDC on Friday, anyone who wants a test can get one, how far was he off the mark then -- and I know you don`t do politics. How far does he remain off the mark tonight?
CELINE GOUNDER, CLINICAL ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, there were certainly not enough testing to go around on Friday, and I`m not sure that we`re there quite yet. However, it is very promising that you had the big commercial labs like LabCorp and Quest getting into the game. And they`re used to doing volume. They`re used to working with big health care systems, private doctor`s offices and so on.
And then you have academic centers like the University of Washington, which are also scaling things up. They are collaborating with the Gates Foundation to offer home-based testing, at least in the Seattle Area at first, and we`ll see what happens later. So there are a lot of big new players in the game.
WILLIAMS: Do you think the American people are ready for how big the spike is going to be in known cases when these test results start coming back?
GOUNDER: That`s a great point, because we are going to see a spike. And that does not mean that there`s a spike in transmission to be very clear, right? There`s going to be a spike in people who are diagnosed because we haven`t been diagnosing them all along. There`s been transmission occurring, but we didn`t know what was happening.
So we saw a similar situation in China when they changed their case definitions. We saw numbers go up, and then sort of level off as they were adjusting case definitions. Just, you know, if you see the numbers spike up a lot in the next week or two, just realize that`s probably been there all along.
WILLIAMS: Does public health in this country have the ability to do everyone`s history? Will all positive cases be interviewed? Where have you been? Where did you just come back from? Tell us about any associations as you`ve been thinking about this where you might have picked this up.
GOUNDER: Well, this is where actually the Seattle Project between U-Dub and the Gates Foundation is kind of interesting because they have a web-based program that will be part of this, where people will submit that kind of data. Because frankly, the shoe, what we call the shoe leather epidemiologist, who literally walks around and goes door to door and gets that data, we just don`t have enough of them to do this kind of data collection. So we do need to have somewhat different, innovative approaches to do it.
WILLIAMS: Please explain for the record and for our audience the danger in comparing this with influenza. The President has again pointed out the annual death toll to the flu as if to indicate that anything less than that is great news.
GOUNDER: Well, you know, first of all, I`m not sure it`s going to be less than that once this fully plays out. You know, we`re still looking at probably a case fatality rate, best case scenario, in the 0.5 percent range, which is still several fold higher than the traditional flu.
But I do think this is different. This is something to which people have never had any chance to build up immunity. They`ve never been exposed. And when something is new and different, that is also scary in a different way because in part we as scientists don`t have all the answers. We don`t know for sure ...
WILLIAMS: We`re learning on the fly.
GOUNDER: Yes, exactly. We`re learning on the fly. And so, I do think that`s a little bit different of a situation.
WILLIAMS: And apparently, it`s so virulent that the points of contact you can infect as an active flu patient are just a small portion of your level of contact with this, correct?
GOUNDER: Yes. You know, it does seem to be quite an infectious virus. So that makes it that much more difficult to control, especially since some of the people who may be part of that problem are asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic. We do think that`s not the major driver but that certainly makes it more challenging if that`s, at least, a proportion of the transmission.
WILLIAMS: We know your days begin early and you are busy, and we thank you for the time you get to spend with us here at night, where it`s helping our understanding of this. Dr. Celine Gounder, our thanks.
Coming up, voters in six more states have the potential to change the 2020 Democratic race yet again and perhaps for good. Two political veterans with us next when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have something in common, everybody, because this morning I made it official. I have hereby endorsed Joe Biden for president of the United States.
KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m going to tell you, I am so proud to endorse Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want a nominee that`s going to beat Donald Trump, keep the House of the Representatives, win back the United States Senate, join us. You want a nominee who`s a Democrat, a lifelong Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama/Biden Democrat, join us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Say it with me. The old political bromide is, "Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line." Though, these days a lot of Democrats are falling in line, if not totally in love with Joe Biden. This weekend, Kamala Harris endorsed him. Today, as you saw, Cory Booker endorsed him. Both once had harsh words for him during the heat of the campaign.
Tomorrow night at this time, we`ll be talking about the results in these six states. Big prize among them, of course, is Michigan and look at the new numbers. New polling from Monmouth out of Michigan shows Biden with a 15-point lead over Bernie Sanders. New national polling from Quinnipiac shows Biden leading Sanders 19 points. New national poll from CNN has Biden leading Sanders by 16.
Keep in mind Bernie Sanders won Michigan last time, defeating Hillary Clinton there. With us again tonight, Karine Jean-Pierre, Chief Public Affairs Officer for MoveOn, and alum of both the Obama campaign and Obama White House. And AB Stoddard, Associate Editor and Columnist for RealClearPolitics. Friends, good evening to you.
Karine, I`d like to begin with you. Is this, forgive the cliche, is this make or break for Bernie and what if Bernie loses Michigan?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, CHIEF PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, MOVEON: So here`s the thing, Brian. Biden has the big mo, right? The momentum has been such a powerful force in this primary election. Momentum has beat out organization. It has beat out money. And now Bernie is in a place where he has to do well tomorrow in Michigan. He has to win Michigan, a state as you just said that he won in 2016.
And the reason why is, this is all about math and narrative, right? We have to get to that 1991 for these candidates in order to get the nomination, but the narrative matters as well. And if he can get a big win in Michigan, that will blunt the momentum that Biden has.
And so this -- after tomorrow or at the end of the day tomorrow, we will have a better, much better look as where we are, where we are with this election.
WILLIAMS: AB, you`re good at explaining stuff. Casual viewer watching tonight hears people correctly on television like us saying, he must win Michigan. Why is that?
AB STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, he must -- I mean, Karine`s right, it would blunt Joe Biden`s momentum. But I don`t think he has a path to the nomination anyway. Even if he has a good night in Michigan where last time Hillary was ahead in the polls, just like Biden is, so Bernie Sanders over performed and surprised.
He`s had an organization there for now and more than four years, so he could have a great night. But what does that mean? Does he have a path to the nomination? No, he doesn`t. If you look at the momentum and the polling, and the fact that the party is clearly, as you said, has fallen in line and has united behind one mission only, and that`s to defeat President Trump in November, you can see that in all the polling.
Across all groups in the coalition that nominates a Democratic presidential candidate, they have won goal, and it`s not to share policies or aspirational agendas. It`s all about defeating Trump and who they think is the most electable. So I don`t think Bernie Sanders can come back from this.
The party has decided, not the establishment, the voters have decided. They`re coming out in droves for Joe Biden. Yes, a win in Michigan would help Bernie say, wait, there`s a pause here. People are worried about his electability. A bad night for him means it`s just a faster path to the nomination for Joe Biden. But I don`t think Sanders can win this nomination anymore.
WILLIAMS: So remember the Sanders` argument that Biden is supported by whatever the figure is, 60 billionaires. Well, they must suck as billionaires because they didn`t give him a dime going into Super Tuesday, and he did that absent money.
STODDARD: Right. And that`s what`s so funny about the argument is that, he has this idea that there`s been a cabal that got together and took Joe Biden after he couldn`t win one contest in the first initial three. He was counted out for dead and was in fifth place, and brought him back from the endorsement of Jim Clyburn, who then got turnout among African-American voters to be so incredibly consequential that two people had to quit the race the next day, because they saw that they were not getting those voters and they never would.
And there`s a lot of kind of Trumpian talk from the Bernie Sanders camp about these, you know, people are cooking up things behind closed doors. It`s a way to fire up his supporters but he doesn`t have enough of them left to get the nomination.
WILLIAMS: Karine, your thoughts on Biden, should he prevail, potential vice presidential picks?
JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I think it`s definitely should be a woman. There are so many talented women to choose from. And, look, women have been such a pivotal -- played a pivotal role in this administration in the last three years. If you think about the women`s march that helped set how Democrats were going to play against Donald Trump, if you think about 2018, women came out and gave the House back to the Democrats.
So I think that both either Biden or Bernie, whoever it is, they need to. They must select a woman as their VP nominee.
WILLIAMS: Because we have confiscated their car keys, both Karine and AB have agreed to stick around during the break.
Coming up when we come back from the break, a review of Trump`s handling of this coronavirus crisis thus far.
WILLIAMS: As the number of coronavirus cases here, forgive me, in the United States now tops 700, here is a quick reminder of what our President has said about the outbreak just these past several days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: It`s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for, and we`ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner. It`s going to disappear one day. It`s like a miracle. It will disappear, and from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We`ll see what happens. Nobody really knows.
This is the new hoax. But, you know, we did something that`s been pretty amazing. We have 15 people in this massive country, and because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that.
And the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect, right? This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good. I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, how do you know so much about this? Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Back with us are our friends Karine Jean-Pierre and AB Stoddard. AB, I had the advantage, since you`re here in New York, of looking at you while that aired. You and I talk about the word stewardship because we`re two institutionalists at the end of the day. And I always ask you about the quality of stewardship that presidents observe over their country. What do you make of that?
STODDARD: Amazing that he was standing in the CDC where people are devoting their lives to fending off something like a global pandemic, and likely have been doing all they can to prepare. If the summer intern came in and lied about how tests are available for everybody and they are beautiful, they would get fired.
It was just a staggering moment, and it was very hard as your White House reporters told you tonight for the people in the White House, who know this sets back the White House`s efforts to calm the markets, to calm Americans, and to try to keep some kind of response apace with what`s coming. The testing has been drastically delayed. People are going to learn that.
We`re in early stages of the number of infections because the transmission is happening but we don`t know, you know, who is tested positive. As tests became available and the infection rate skyrockets -- and we hope that, you know, the hospitals are not overrun.
This is just really not something the President can use lies and defiance, and denial, and marketing, and showmanship to get around. And so, it`s just going to be very difficult for people around him who keep trying to run to the cameras like Dr. Fauci, our leading infectious disease expert in the country, to try to sort of, you know, give us some Morse code of good information to make sure that they do so in a way that`s effective to us and doesn`t offend him. And you can see a lot of officials bending over backwards.
WILLIAMS: When the surgeon general goes on TV on Sunday to talk about how much better shape the President, it`s gross to watch.
Hey, Karine, also the President has insisted his rallies will go on even though Phil Rucker at the top of the broadcast tonight pointedly noted there are none scheduled. Let`s say he`s wrong. Let`s say public health experts say, you know what, Mr. President, 10,000 people in a hot arena cheek by jowl is not a good idea right now. Are we going to enter a weird kind of front porch campaign, call back to the 1870s era of no live rallies really?
JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here`s the thing, Brian. We have a president from day one who cares more about the health of his re-election than the health of the nation. And that`s just where we are with this president right now.
Look, Donald Trump did not create the coronavirus, but he certainly has created a situation where we are less prepared to deal with this virus that is now here on our land. And the thing about it is he got rid of the HHS or cut the HHS budget, right? He also got rid of health expert who deal with this type of epidemic.
And here`s the thing. Biden was right when he said Donald Trump needs to be quiet because one of the biggest things, which is what you were saying is that, he gives misinformation. He gives -- he misleads the American public. And this is a president who has lied more than 16,000 times. What needs to be happening is, he needs to be quiet and let experts and scientists, and let those folks actually speak to the public and tell us exactly what`s going on and what we need to be doing.
WILLIAMS: AB, I watched you at 4:00 this afternoon with Nicolle Wallace. You said something surprising that runs counter to our narrative, which is, of course, to make fun of the four-day weekends our members of Congress take and award themselves so often.
You`ve been around so many of them for so many years. Tell the good folks what you think about Congress.
STODDARD: Well, contrary to popular belief, they are not in their mid-20s like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They work very hard. They meet with tons of people every day in DC, and then back at home in the districts. They keep funny hours. They don`t get to sleep evenly and well. They`re on airplanes all the time and cramped in the back of cars.
And they are, a lot of them in their 60s, 70s. Some of them are cancer patients right now, like Congressman John Lewis and some others. And they`re in a building where tourists are coming in and out. I actually don`t think it`s a bad idea if this reaches a point where people are taking pauses. It doesn`t mean they`re going to be actually quarantined, but that the Congress could try to work remotely for a while on this package of things that they`re going to come together on to mitigate damage to the economy.
I just think people saying, oh, Congress gets paid sick leave so, of course, they would want to just, you know, run out on their job and stay at home, and sit in the couch watching TV. That`s not what would happen. I think actually having them together at this time could be much more perilous than productive.
WILLIAMS: I thought it was brave and helpful when I first heard it. I agree again tonight. Karine Jean-Pierre, AB Stoddard, thank you, both of you so much for coming on tonight. Sorry the hour is late.
Coming up for us, the people and places deciding to do what the feds can`t seem to do.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is under the heading, "We take Care of Our Own." It`s about stepping up where there`s a need, and we`re about to see more of this type of behavior.
Two cases in particular came to our attention today, both of them born of frustration surrounding this coronavirus business. First, we learned that on top of a $100 million commitment for expedited research, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced they are funding test kits to be handed out in the Seattle Area, which sadly has become ground zero in terms of the death toll from this virus.
Gates has been frustrated by the slowness of the federal effort. Going into this past weekend, remember, fewer than 6,000 samples had been tested. No one right now can tell us exactly how many Americans have been tested. Of course as irony and Russian trolls would have it, Bill and Melinda Gates have been linked of late to a fake news story that they invented the virus as part of a diabolical scheme.
East we go to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Trump tormenter. He revealed a new product today, hand sanitizer being manufactured by prisoners incarcerated in New York State. The governor rhapsodized about its floral bouquet and further warned retailers against price gouging.
He says New York State could produce 100,000 gallons of this stuff a week if need be. There he is sampling the floral bouquet. The first batch is being sent to a New York City suburb, New Rochelle, that`s been hard-hit by the virus.
That for us is our broadcast for this Monday night as we start a new week. Thank you for being here with us. Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END