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health crisis TRANSCRIPT: 3/24/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Natalie Azar, Phil Murphy, Anne Rimoin, Andrew Desiderio, Tamara Keith

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Times Square in New York at its most desolate  in modern times, including after 9/11. A lone bus making its way toward the  intersection.

Well, good evening once again. Day 1,160 of the Trump administration, 224  days now until our presidential election. It`s been 12 days since the World  Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

Again tonight, if you saw the White House briefing earlier this evening,  then you know the news is basically good. The President sees a light at the  end of the tunnel. He`s thinking we can start making our way back to work,  start circulating again round about Easter Sunday. He says he`d like to see  churches packed on Easter Sunday. In fact, he`s been thinking even sooner  than Easter.

At minimum, he`d like to be able to clear large sections of our country  that it`s safe to get back out here. Mike Pence reported today McDonald`s  is doing curbside pickup at select locations. And it turns out Apple had 9  million masks, more than the U.S. strategic reserve. Apple has now decided  to donate those masks for use by our medical workers.

And this caveat, again tonight back in the real world, the coronavirus news  is grim. We are now north of 53,000 cases in this country. The U.S. has  found a way to lead the world yet again. Sadly, that`s us at the top in  red. The highest trend line of new cases as the financial times put it  today, we continue to set the pace.

It`s still true that we have no idea how many Americans have this virus  because not enough Americans can get tested. It`s also true that testing  depends most on where you live and how much money you have.

New York is now at the center of this outbreak in this country with more  than 25,000 cases. Today Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed the case count is  now doubling every three days. He laid out in stark terms exactly what that  means.


GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: We haven`t flattened the curve, and  the curve is actually increasing. The apex is higher than we thought, and  the apex is sooner than we thought. That is a bad combination of facts. New  York is the canary in the coal mine. New York is going first. We have the  highest and the fastest rate of infection. What happens to New York is  going to wind up happening to California and Washington State and Illinois.  It`s just a matter of time. We are just a test case, and that`s how the  nation should look at it. Look at us today. Where we are today, you will be  in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks or six weeks. We are your  future.


WILLIAMS: The Governor of New York, and this afternoon the President and  the Vice President offered up their own warnings about America`s largest  city.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: It certainly is by far the -- if  you call it hot, if you call it any word you want to use. It`s a level that  no place else is close.

MIKE PENCE, (R) UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: The reality is the New York  metro area was 60% of the new cases. If you`re in the New York City,  metropolitan area or elsewhere, take the guidelines that we issued and  avoid nonessential travel.


WILLIAMS: Now, the advice from the two leading health officials on the  White House Task Force was even more blunt, including this request to  anyone who recently left New York City because of the coronavirus.


DR. DEBORAH BRIX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Everybody  who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to  ensure that the virus doesn`t spread to others no matter where they have  gone whether it`s Florida, North Carolina, or out to far reaches of long  island. We are starting to see new cases across Long Island that suggests  people have left the city.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND  INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we`re seeing now is that understandably, people  want to get out of New York. If you look at the statistics, it`s  disturbing. About one per thousand of these individuals are infected.  That`s about eight to ten times more than in other areas, which means when  they go to another place, for their own safety, they`ve got to be careful,  monitor themselves.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, as you well know, as we`ve been covering medical  supplies are getting scarce all across our country. New York`s mayor  predicts the city of New York could run out of ventilators in just weeks.  The shortages prompted a fresh round of claims and counterclaims today  between the President and the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.


CUOMO: FEMA is sending us 400 ventilators. That was on the news this  morning. We are sending 400 ventilators to New York. 400 ventilators? I  need 30,000 ventilators. You wanted a pat on the back for sending 400  ventilators? What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need  30,000 ventilators? You`re missing the magnitude of the problem, and the  problem is defined by the magnitude.

TRUMP: We`re there to help them. They have to get that gear themselves.  We`re there to help them. If they don`t have like with Governor Cuomo, he  had a chance to order 16,000 ventilators two years ago, and he turned it  down. He turned down the chance. Now, he can`t be blaming us. But we`re  there to help them.


WILLIAMS: Quit fact check here from our own Ken Dilanian. The purchase of  15,000 ventilators mentioned there was not a recommendation. In fact, the  so-called shortfall the President`s talking about was based on a state task  force report based on a model that used the 1918 so-called Spanish flu as  its basis.

This afternoon the White House announced 4,000 ventilators are now on their  way to New York and other emergency supplies are being shipped as they  continue to say every day around the country.

Federal and state officials are also monitoring spikes in cases across the  country. New Orleans is seeing a rapid rise of infections. Indeed,  according to the Governor, the State of Louisiana is the leading hot spot  right now in the world. With all that happening, the President is ramping  up his effort to, "reopen the country." He is eager to remove restrictions  shutting down much of the U.S. in an effort to contain this virus so the  country can get back to work, as he puts it. He has even set a date, which  he announced today on Fox News.


TRUMP: I`d love to have it open by Easter, OK? I would love -- 


TRUMP: I would love to have it open from Easter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s 19 days from now.

TRUMP: That`s OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that true. Is that possible or is that false.

TRUMP: I think it`s possible. Why isn`t it? We have to get our country back  to work. Our country wants to be back at work. This cure is worse than the  problem. Again, people -- many people, in my opinion, more people are going  to die if we allow this to continue.

Easter is a very special day for me, and I see it sort of in that time line  that I`m thinking about. And I say wouldn`t it be great to have all of the  churches full? I`m not sure that`s going to be the day, but I would love to  aim it right at Easter Sunday so we`re open for church service and services  generally on Easter Sunday. That would be a beautiful thing.


WILLIAMS: Most medical experts say we are nowhere near being ready for  that. Even some Republicans beg to differ on this one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to get people to work. When people are dying,  when people don`t feel safe, this economy is not going to come back.

GOVERNOR MIKE DEWINE, (R) OHIO: The primary obligation we all have is  public health and safety. If the goal is to get the economy going, the best  thing we can do to get the economy going is to get COVID-19 behind us. We  must bend the curve on the growth of the coronavirus in Texas. As soon as  we do that, the economy will come roaring back.


WILLIAMS: Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming posted this.  "There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are  overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors  and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what`s necessary to stop  the virus." This morning, Trump`s former Homeland Security Adviser was  asked about easing restrictions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump is saying he wants to reopen the  country. But he`s talking about weeks, not months. So everyone is wondering  how -- is that realistic?

TOM BOSSERT, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: Yeah, Michael. So I think  everybody shares his frustration and his hope. But what he needs to do is  avoid second waves and reinfections. You know, at this stage we`ve paid a  very heavy cost in our economy and in our lives. To lose the benefit of it  at this point by not sticking to our guns would be a really devastating  decision.


WILLIAMS: And late this afternoon, after this Easter story became a thing,  Trump added this caveat during his briefing.


TRUMP: We`ll also be looking again at very large portions of our country,  and I will be guided very much by Dr. Fauci and by Deborah and by some of  the other professionals that work with both of you. And we`re going to see  what will be.


WILLIAMS: And up on Capitol Hill in Washington, the Senate remains in  session at this late hour as negotiations over a $2 trillion stimulus  package to rescue the economy drag on. At least Americans can rest assured  while they are suffering, at least their senators are busy bickering.

Sources tell NBC News a deal is on the horizon as it was last night and the  night before that. And the holdup is over funding for states and how the  money is distributed. Rumors that a deal is close were enough today to  cause a history-making jump in the stock market. It surged more than 2,100  points today as the President pointed out in the briefing room.

Tonight here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday evening, two Pulitzer  Prize recipients, both from The Washington Post. Ashley Parker, White House  Reporter. Phil Rucker, White House Bureau Chief. Also happens to be the co- author along with his Post colleague Carol Leonnig of the best-selling  book, A Very Stable Genius. Also joining us again tonight, Dr. Natalie  Azar, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine and Rheumatology at the  NYU Langone Center who has been in private practice for over two decades.

Ashley Parker, I`d like to begin with you because I`d like to begin with  the Trump White House. Has someone over there reached their social  distancing attention span in effect?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. In effect,  the President has. He`s grown incredibly frustrated with the economy  basically being shut down. He`s hearing from people like Steve Mnuchin and  Larry Kudlow, and outside sort of Wall Street voices, business community  people that he needs to jump start the economy, and that`s what he wants to  do. You saw this start Sunday night with his tweet that the cure cannot be  worse than the virus itself. That`s something he`s repeated. And you are  seeing a real eagerness by this President to jump start the economy, and  that is being tempered by just about every medical professional, public  health official, and scientist inside and outside the White House.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, it`s the end of the day. You`re the president.  You`re in the Oval Office. You`re in the residence perhaps. You need your  go-to advisers to get advice. Who does this President turn to according to  your reporting?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Brian,  there`s an array of people that the President has been talking to as is  normally the case in crises like this. Certainly Vice President Pence and  Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, are leading the effort  inside the administration. But the President is seeking advice far outside  the administration and beyond the experts like Dr. Fauci. He`s talking to a  lot of business leaders. He`s talking to buddies in the hospitality  industry and other sectors. He`s talking to allied congressmen and women,  hardline conservatives who are loyal to him. And he`s seeking input  anywhere he can turn.

And part of the problem according to many public health officials and  experts and scientists is that he`s not necessarily taking what Dr. Fauci  and Dr. Brix are telling him about the consequences here. In fact, he`s  much more motivated to fix the economy, to get the stock market back up, to  stave off devastating unemployment that the administration is bracing for  in April. And in so doing, try to rescue his own chances for re-election.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Azar, here we are talking about setting a date certain for  the reopening of our country. We lead the global trend line of new cases.  They`re doubling on an average of every 60 hours. One of our 50 states,  Louisiana, now leads everywhere in the world for new cases. What do you  make of this discussion?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER ASSISTANT CLINICAL PROFESSOR:  I know, Brian. So the U.S. is in a very unique position. We can look ahead  with the models that all the experts are giving us, and we can see that the  trajectory continues to go steeply up. And we also have the ability to look  into hindsight in 2020, and see what`s happened in Italy and Spain, who  just used or repurposed an arena to house all of their deceased people.

So, you know, when he speaks of this, you know, 19 days, there`s no sound  reasoning there. There`s no scientific explanation for that. There`s no  rationale for that, and that`s really not a logical kind of reasoning. He  has medical experts who are advising him, but he needs to be listening to  them.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, how is this daily White House briefing able to  continue to take place when most Americans even casually following on their  phones any given day`s developments find themselves fact-checking the  briefing to themselves on the fly?

PARKER: That`s a real challenge about the briefings is to make sure, of  course, that if the President says something that is not accurate, is  misinformation, that news outlets do fact-check this. The challenge with  something like a global pandemic is the President makes a lot of  misstatements and falsehoods that aren`t true. But it can range from  inflating the size of his crowds at rallies to putting out information that  goes against what his own health experts are advising, and that`s where it  becomes quite dangerous.

And so you`re seeing in these briefings someone like Dr. Fauci coming up to  the podium or even Dr. Brix, but especially Dr. Fauci coming up to the  podium after the President and trying to gently correct him, say, well, the  President is offering the perspective of hope, and I`m here to represent  the scientific perspective, the perspective driven by data and evidence.  And so you see that tension in those daily briefings every single day.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, I want to play for you one exchange that aired live  on Fox News earlier today. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP: We are doing very well with I think almost all of the governors.  It`s a two-way street. They have to treat us well also. They can`t say, oh,  gee, we should get this, we should get that.


WILLIAMS: So, Phil Rucker, it`s a two-way street. Does that little bit of  conversation right there upend the traditional relationship and view we`ve  had of our federal government in our life?

RUCKER: It does, Brian, because we`re in a pandemic right now, a national  emergency, which the President declared a couple of weeks ago. And the  governors are exasperated. You saw that from New York`s Andrew Cuomo, but  other governors as well. I talked to Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island today,  who told me that she`s really having to rely on her own state, her own  local leaders, her own organizations in Rhode Island to deal with this  response in part because it`s up to the governors to lead, and President  Trump has told the governors as much.

He had an acrimonious call with them late last week where he said it`s up  to you guys. We`re going to try to help at the federal government level,  but it`s up to you in the states to use private markets to do anything you  can to get the medical equipment and the ventilators that you need. That is  a deep source of frustration and real urgency and alarm in New York right  now. But I would expect that to be replicated in a number of other states.  We`re already seen, for example, the governor of Illinois, Pritzker, a  Democrat, speaking out very aggressively against the President because he  feels like they`re not getting in Chicago and other areas of Illinois the  kind of support they need from the Fed.

WILLIAMS: And, Doctor, final question to you. If we`re going to ration  ventilators, if we`re going to jerry-rig them so two patients can run on  them at once even though they`re supposed to be specific to each patient  that is truly going to make for life and death triage in ERS (ph) across  the country for your fellow professionals.

AZAR: It will. Yeah, Brian. The dissonance here can`t be overestimated. The  rosy picture that the President is painting with the regular town halls  that we have every day with our hospital where we have different waves --  wave one, two, three, and four of basically reassigning faculty because all  of our hospitalists and intensivists are taking care of our COVID patients.  So we have people -- we are pulling people out of outpatient practices just  to fill the need to take care of the regular general medical floors. We  have neurointensivists and surgical intensivists lending their assistance  to our pulmonary critical care and our ICU doctors as I speak.

So what`s happening in reality in hospitals, and we`re not short on vents  right now, which is fantastic. But that`s this week, and that may not be  the same next week. So, again, so disparate from the picture at the podium  that he is, you know, painting and what`s actually happening in his  hometown of New York.

WILLIAMS: A physician and two Pulitzer Prize recipients starting us off on  a Tuesday night, to Ashley Parker, Phil Rucker, dr. Natalie Azar, our  thanks.

Coming up, governors in hard-hit states have been leading the fight against  coronavirus. In many cases they can`t wait for the feds to act. The  governor of New Jersey is standing by to talk with us.

And later, fact-checking the President, who tonight said he sees light at  the end of the tunnel. Plenty of medical authorities, as we`ve noted, do  not share that as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way on a Tuesday  night.



GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY, (D) NEW JERSEY: There is a special place in hell for  the people who take advantage of this health crisis. Whether you`re price  gouging or you view this as an excuse to pursue racist behavior or bullying  behavior, there literally is no time for that in a normal time, and there  sure as heck is no time for it in the midst of a war that we`re under.


WILLIAMS: In the state with what is now the second highest number of  positive cases in our country, earlier today New Jersey reported its  largest single-day death toll recorded so far. And with us to talk about it  and more, the democratic governor of the State of New Jersey, Phil Murphy.

Governor, thank you for being with us. Let`s start here. The U.S. case rate  is doubling roughly every 60 hours. How can you as governor of what is the  nation`s most densely populated state, my home state, avoid that same fate  and, most urgently, what is it you still need?

MURPHY: Good to be with you, Brian. We started meeting on this in January.  I formed a whole of government task force on February 2nd. So we`ve been  trying to stay out in front of this thing for now going on months, and it`s  hard. So we`ve got among the most aggressive social distancing policies in  place. We basically want you to stay at home. Only if you`re essential do  we want you out.

So we`re trying to break the back of the curve on the one hand, and we`re  going to see over the next week or two whether or not we`re succeeding. And  on the other hand, we`re adding capacity to the health care system, more  beds, more equipment, more health care workers. We need the federal  government in a big way on the beds and the equipment to their credit, we  got another slug of personal protective equipment yesterday. Still a  fraction of what we need. The army corps and FEMA are helping us set up  four field hospitals, but we are -- it`s an all-in moment both in what  we`re doing, our hospital systems, the federal government, and we`re doing  everything we can to stay out in front of this thing.

WILLIAMS: A talking point, Governor, is emerging on the right at the White  House, at Fox News, and some friendly media that maybe we`ve overdone it.  Maybe after a fashion, we can just start loosening these restrictions  perhaps by region of the country, that we should maybe accept a certain  death toll while trying to save the U.S. Economy. I want you to listen with  us to Glenn Beck from his radio show today. We`ll talk about his point on  the other side.


GLENN BECK, RADIO SHOW HOST: I would rather have my children stay home and  all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working  even if we all get sick. I`d rather die than kill the country because it`s  not the economy that`s dying. It`s the country.


WILLIAMS: Governor, who do we see about that point of view?

MURPHY: I want to say as a point of personal privilege, that`s the first  time I`ve ever heard Glenn Beck on the radio and I hope the last. Listen,  he`s not looking at the facts. We got to make decisions based on science,  medicine, the facts. I`m all for reopening up parts of the economy on a  responsible -- in a responsible way, and God willing we`ll get there sooner  than later. But everything we look at tells us that this is going to  continue. We`ve predicted this, by the way, from day one, that this is  going to continue to go up in terms of the positive testing results.

We`re as aggressive a testing state in the nation, so in fairness our  numbers are going up partly because of aggressive testing. But we`ve lost  44 precious souls in New Jersey. That`s 44 too many. I don`t know how you  can get into a discussion of it`s worth x number of fatalities in exchange  for the economy.

We ought to be able to rip the bandage of now on the economy, take pain  now, crack the back of this, save as many lives as we can, and then with  the help, I hope, of the federal government and Congress acting in a big  way, get the economy back on its feet at the right moment. But I think it`s  in that order -- break the back of the virus and then get the economy back  on its feet. And I don`t think we can afford to get the cart before the  horse and get that order wrong.

WILLIAMS: You want people indoors. No one disputes that. But how hard is it  for you to determine that the e word, essential, when home health aides are  essential, pharmacists, grocers, everyone who works at ShopRite, power  company workers, and on and on?

MURPHY: Yeah, and first responders of which you are one. I mean, there`s a  list that we`ve established. I think it`s a coherent list, and I don`t  think it`s a list that we can live without in this state. Our health care  workers and first responders are incredible heroes. The folks in the  grocery stores who I hear from all the time are putting themselves right at  the point of attack.

So it`s a stay at home, only go out if it`s essential, only go out if you  need to go out. Otherwise, we want you working from home. We`ve mandated  that every business in the state have a work-at-home policy, and we`re  enforcing that. We have to enforce it. So we are trying to get this as  right as we can, but the big message is stay at home, social distancing. Do  the basic stuff like washing your hands with soap and water and together  we`ll get through this.

WILLIAMS: Governor Phil Murphy, governor of the State of New Jersey, thank  you very much for making the time and joining us from home tonight after  what I know was another long day.

Coming up for us, what the President`s push to get this nation back out and  back to work by, say, Easter Sunday would mean to those on the front line,  nurses, doctors, medical professionals, first responders.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, all of a sudden, he is being  tough on China. He`s making sure and now he`s being soft on his xenophobia  in the past. So, I just can`t figure the guy. It`s like -- I don`t know,  it`s like watching a yo-yo.


WILLIAMS: The Democratic front-runner, Joe Biden, says he wants the  president to "stop" talking and leave the medical advice to the experts.  Here`s more of what the president had to say about his push to get our  country back to work.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you talk about areas  that you could open up, what specifically are you looking at? What states?  Are you talking about out west?

Well, you can talk about the Farm Belt. You can take a look at the Farm  Belt. Take a look at the areas out west. Look at big sections of Texas. I  was talking to the great governor of Texas. They have done a fantastic job  out there, but they have very big sections of Texas where, you know, it`s  like numerous states, frankly. But we can have large sections of -- if we  want to do it that way, we can have large sections of the country open.


WILLIAMS: Well, let`s talk about it with -- let`s talk about it with a  professional, Dr. Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA  Fielding School of Public Health and Infectious Disease Division of the  Geffen School of Medicine. Also happens to be director of the UCLA Center  for Global and Immigrant Health, who specializes in emerging infectious  diseases.

Doc, thanks for coming back on. I need to get your read on this. Do you  really see us clearing, giving the move-around permission to large sections  of our country? Do you really see us trying to get back on our feet as  early as Easter Sunday morning? And what`s the better chance? Are we going  to have packed churches or packed hospitals on Easter Sunday?

DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR: I  think this is a very dangerous strategy, and that we`re going to be losing  any ground that we will have gained at a critical moment by keeping people  in place. You know, any country that has had any measure of success in  being able to slow the spread of this virus has taken very strong measures  of restricting social -- of having social distancing and restricting  movement of people. We here in the United States have no idea how many  cases we have right now because the testing has failed so -- has been so  far behind, and we are most likely at the worst part of the curve.

So this is a very dangerous idea, and I think that anybody that is  suggesting that we`re going to be able to relax when we should be  tightening restrictions is not thinking about what the impact will be on  hospitals, on healthcare workers who are already beleaguered, and frankly  going to be reaching a breaking point if we do not continue to socially --  to keep social distance measures in place and more.

WILLIAMS: I`ve never asked our doctors who are contributors on the air to  delve into politics, and I won`t ask you, but I am going to play a little  bit of what the president said in the Rose Garden this morning to Fox News.  And I`m going to ask you to fact-check it after we hear it.


TRUMP: We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We  don`t turn the country off. We lose much more than that to automobile  accidents. We didn`t call up the automobile companies and say stop making  cars. We don`t want any cars anymore. We have to get back to work.


WILLIAMS: Doc, what is the counterargument to that where COVID-19 is  concerned?

RIMOIN: Well, I think it is -- it`s foolish to compare this to influenza or  to car accidents. This is a once-in-our-lifetime in a generation, a multi- generation event, catastrophic event that is unprecedented even in  comparison to the 1918 influenza given the fact that it has a higher case  fatality rate. It is more contagious. And the population density that we  have now makes it much worse.

I think that this whole idea of opening up the country again is very, very  dangerous and will only cost lives. And when we think about opening up the  country, you know, you have to think about what toll that will have on the  health system. If the health system is overwhelmed, which it will be with a  strategy like this, which it will be even with the measures that are in  place now, healthcare workers are going to break under the pressure. They  cannot be sacrificial lambs. And what will happen, as has happened in Ebola  outbreaks and other large epidemic situations, healthcare workers will  start to refuse to go to work. They are scared, as they should be.

They are like sending a soldier into a battle without a gun. It is just a  very, very difficult situation to be able to manage, and by opening things  up, all we are going to do is crash our health system. We either are paying  now, or we`re paying a lot more later.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, thank you so much for rejoining us on the broadcast. This  is exactly why we invited you back to be a part of our discussion. From Los  Angeles, Dr. Anne Rimoin, our thanks.

Coming up for us, where things stand on the issue of help tonight in the  U.S. Senate as millions of Americans await some kind of economic relief.



LARRY KUDLOW, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR: We`re gaining great  progress on this phase three legislation. Negotiations continue. We`ve had  continued reports. I`ve been up there with Secretary Mnuchin. Secretary  Mnuchin continues today with the chief of staff, Mark Meadows, checking in  with the president.


WILLIAMS: That was Larry Kudlow, but one point there just slipped by. Mark  Meadows, his staff put out word last night, Mark Meadows is not the chief  of staff at the White House. He`s still in Congress representing his  district in North Carolina. They took pains to point out Mick Mulvaney is  the acting chief of staff at the White House even though Mark Meadows was,  again, today functioning as White House chief of staff in this crisis.

Back with us tonight to talk about all things government, Andrew Desiderio,  congressional reporter for Politico, who is with us just outside the Senate  Chamber by phone. We`ll get to him in a moment.

Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR, is back with us, which  looks a lot like her home. So, Tamara, let`s begin with you.


WILLIAMS: What is Mark Meadows` deal, and would it be a big deal if a  member of the legislature had, let`s argue, the chief ranking civilian job  in the executive branch?

KEITH: There would be a constitutional problem, and Mark Meadows today,  asked by reporters in the hallway in the Capitol as he was walking around  clearly with the executive branch, going into negotiations with senators  and coming back out. He said, no, I am just a congressman. I am a united --  you know, I am still a congressman. His top aide in his congressional  office tells me that he plans to resign from Congress by the end of the  month and will start officially as chief of staff, that White House  officials tell me that he is in the transition process.

Hey, Mick Mulvaney, the outgoing acting chief of staff, it turns out he`s  still coming to work at the White House, too. So this has been a three-week  transition in what is arguably one of the most critical moments in the  nation`s history in the last several generations at least. And during this  transition from the time President Trump tweeted that Meadows would be his  chief of staff until now, the number of cases of coronavirus in the U.S.  has grown from about 250 to 50,000, at least diagnosed cases.

WILLIAMS: All right. Mr. Desiderio, it has fallen upon you to tell us just  what in good heavens the U.S. Senate is doing while Americans suffer and  while Larry Kudlow, et al. talk about the size and strength and robustness  of this incentive package that`s about to pass the U.S. Senate. What are  they doing right now?

ANDREW DESIDERIO, POLITICO CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, unfortunately,  Brian, that`s an evergreen question these days. I`m standing outside the  Senate Chamber right now where basically we`ve been getting the runaround  from all sides of the negotiations all day long. You`ll recall this morning  they told us they were in the red zone and then the five-yard line and then  the two-yard line.

But the problem is they`ve been at the two-yard line for about 12 hours  now. And, you know, Secretary Mnuchin has been going back and forth between  Senator McConnell`s office and Senator Schumer`s office, and each time,  they tell us the same message, which is we`re close, we`re close, we`re  close. And in reality, what they`re doing, Brian, is they`re drafting  legislation in real time. And what they`re trying to do is make sure that  the legislation they draft matches what they agreed to verbally with  Senator Schumer in particular as they`re negotiating with the Democrats.  And the reality is this process takes a very long time. This bill is  probably going to be at least 1,000 pages long.

Of course, the price tag is going to be in excess of a couple trillion  dollars, so they want to get this right. But in the meantime, they are  still at this very late hour here on Capitol Hill drafting the legislation.

WILLIAMS: I think I may have fellow New York Giants fans in the Senate  because being at the two-yard line without result is what we do. That`s how  we live.

Hey, Tamara, who is driving this on the Republican side? The White House or  McConnell or a loose confederation of both?

KEITH: It looks to be a loose confederation of both. And, you know, the  thing is President Trump wants something to sign. It`s very clear that  President Trump wants a deal. He has traditionally not been particularly  involved in negotiations with Congress. In the times when he`s gotten too  involved, things have gone south in past deals.

This is a very big piece of legislation and a big element here is there are  members of the House of Representatives who have been diagnosed with having  coronavirus. The House is not in session right now. They would like to find  a way to come up with a bill that somehow the House could vote on without  everyone having to come back, that they could pass through some sort of  unanimous consent. So, this is a careful balance that they`re working out.

WILLIAMS: Wait until 50 states have to design remote voting along with  Congress.

Andrew, I want to play for you real quick Lindsey Graham and get your  reaction to it on the other side.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): I am encouraging the president, begging the  president to end negotiations now. Write what we have done, and let`s vote.  And if it`s not perfect, we`ll try to fix it later, but it is damn good.


WILLIAMS: OK, Andrew, 30 seconds. What`s the difference between damn good,  what lays between that and Trump`s signature?

DESIDERIO: Well, look, I`ll tell you what, Brian. Here at the Senate,  senators are getting very antsy about this. They`re getting impatient. Of  course, one senator, Rand Paul, has already tested positive for  coronavirus. Two-thirds of the Senate is above the age of 60, which is of  course that more vulnerable age bracket for this virus. They just want to  get this done. They want to be able to go home to their districts and feel  like they`re safe, and that is part of what`s driving this.

WILLIAMS: The voice of Politico, the voice of NPR, Andrew Desiderio, Tamara  Keith, two friends of the broadcast. Thank you both for coming on and  staying up late with us.

Coming up, how Americans are adapting to upheaval in their once normal way  of life.


WILLIAMS: In just a few days` time, roughly half of our country will be  under some sort of stay-at-home order. To use the president`s preferred  phraseology, no one would have believed it just a month ago. Nevertheless,  for millions of us, this is our life now. We work at home. We stay at home.  We don`t see anybody from the outside. For kids especially, it`s a huge  disruption in routine.

And we have a report tonight on a mom who is quarantining with her kids in  their home in the state of Maryland. We get the story from Megan Pringle of  our NBC station in Baltimore, WBAL.


MEGAN PRINGLE, WBAL REPORTER (voice-over): On a cul-de-sac in a quiet  Annapolis neighborhood, something has become a new morning routine.

DANIELLE LAWRENCE (ph), RESIDENT: I needed a routine. I needed these kids  to have a sense of normalcy, and I needed it.

PRINGLE: Danielle Lawrence and her daughters, Olivia and Amelia, walk to  the end of their driveway to meet their neighbors and say some familiar  words.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): I pledge allegiance to the flag -- 

PRINGLE: Reciting the pledge of allegiance may have started as a way to  keep a little familiarity for the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): For which it stands.

PRINGLE: But it didn`t take long for the whole cul-de-sac to join in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just warms our heart. And we`re a military family, and  we consider these people our shipmates, which is a very endearing term that  we use in the Navy.

PRINGLE: Danielle started this for her daughters but it turns out she needs  it, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy, are you crying?

LAWRENCE: Yes, sometimes you just -- sorry. Emotional morning. You don`t  know when this is going to end and how it`s going to affect family and  friends that don`t live near you and you can`t check in on everyone in  person.

PRINGLE: Her neighbors say it`s turned into a way to check in on one  another.

DONNA JOHNSON, RESIDENT: Start out with a conversation every day, and then  we do the pledge of allegiance, and then we continue the conversation for a  few moments and then just let everybody know if anybody needs anything,  just to contact each other.

PRINGLE (on camera): Which is great for the adults but even the kids on  this cul-de-sac say it is a great way to start their day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s kind of earlier, so like then we can get like all  of our work done and then like, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it`s a good way to start the day, like saying  something for our country especially.

PRINGLE: They`ll continue this morning routine and pledge allegiance to the  flag while also pledging to look after one another to get through this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we`re more than just a neighborhood. We`re all  very, very good friends with each other.


WILLIAMS: How great was that. Our thanks to Megan Pringle with our NBC  station WBAL in Baltimore.

Coming up for us after one last break, the news that arrived today that so  many people found so hard to take on top of everything else.


WILLIAMS: There are the rings. Last thing before we go tonight, as you may  have heard, those of us here at the network of the Olympics are getting  used to the same news our viewers heard along with us today. No summer  Olympics this year.

Here is how our friend, sports writer and author, Mike Lupica, explained it  today on the air to Nicolle Wallace.


MIKE LUPICA, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS SPORTS COLUMNIST: I talked to Bob Costas  about this. He did 11 primetime Olympics for NBC and did another one in  late night. And he said, people keep saying that things are going to be  back to normal, and he said, tell me what normal is. And it`s amazing that  it took this long to cancel the Olympics because as Costas said, oh, 10,000  athletes, delegations, media, throw them together for like wrestling,  basketball, have them live together in the Olympic Village, and then send  them back home to where every single country has a varying healthcare  process, and what bad could come out of that? Everything.


WILLIAMS: The man makes a good point. That was Mike Lupica from earlier  today. And now here is NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk on what we`re  going to be missing and how the athletes are reacting.


STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There really is no  other event that brings the world together like the Olympics, and that is  of course why the world has to wait.

CHRISTIAN TAYLOR, OLYMPIC TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE: It is bigger than the  sport. It is actually about the well-being of society as a whole.

GOSK: Today, U.S. Athletes handled the difficult news with impressive  grace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It allows everyone to kind of envision the path  forward and, you know, now we know what we`re working with.

GOSK: And good humor. Runner Lolo Jones` new take on the breakfast of  champions. When this U.S. team does get its chance, it will be well worth  the wait. Simone Biles ready to turn four gold medals into many more. Katie  Ledecky dominating. The women`s soccer team out for revenge after a tough  time in Rio. And then there are the runners, Christian Coleman and Noah  Lyles chasing Usain Bolt`s records.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dream is still here. It`s been delayed but it hasn`t  been denied.

GOSK: Tonight, they are all likely disappointed, but by no means defeated.  Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, New York.


WILLIAMS: That`s where we are right about now. That`s our broadcast for  this Tuesday evening as well. Thank you so much for being here with us. On  behalf of all of my colleagues at all the networks of NBC News, good night  from our temporary field headquarters.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY  BE UPDATED.                                                                           END