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The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, Transcript 3/27/2020

Guests: Anne Rimoin, Ron Klain

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Empty streets again tonight in a city that`s in 

big trouble. Times Square, of course, normally the beating heart of New 

York City.


Good evening once again. Day 1,163 of this Trump administration. 221 days 

to go until our next Presidential election. And it`s been 16 days since the 

World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic.


If you didn`t see today`s White House briefing, mostly good news from the 

President. Just some random quotes here, and they are, "Ventilators are a 

big deal. We`re going to have plenty of ventilators. I think we`re very 

close on the vaccine thing. What we`ve done, nobody can even imagine. We`re 

very strong on quarantine. The federal government`s done a hell of a job. A 

lot of incredible things are happening." Finally these two quotes. "We`re 

beating it."  And "We`re winning the battle."


Now, back in the real world. It`s been a hell of a 24 hours. The U.S. went 

over 100,000 cases. We lead the world tonight and then some. Eight days ago 

we reported 18,000 at this time of night.


Today the President signed that $2 trillion rescue bill, and he is now 

officially using that defense production act allowing him to basically take 

over supply lines and force companies like General Motors to make 





TRUMP: Ventilators are a big deal.  And we`ve delivered thousands of them 

and oftentimes you don`t need ventilators very much. Hospitals don`t have 

very many, and now we`re turning out that we have to produce large numbers. 

We thought that we had a deal with, as an example, General Motors, and I 

guess they thought otherwise. They didn`t agree. And now they do. They do 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night you told Sean Hannity you didn`t think there 

was a need for 30,000 or 40,000 ventilators, yet today you basically 

federalized general motors to produce tens of thousands. What changed?


TRUMP: Well, I think there`s a very good chance we won`t need that many. I 

think frankly there`s a great chance we`re not going to need that many. But 

you know what? There are a lot of other people that are going to need them. 

We have countries all over the world that are friends of ours, and we will 

help those countries.




WILLIAMS: For days this President has resisted using that defense 

production act to mobilize private industry. This morning he attacked GM 

over a supposed deal to make ventilators and suggested he`d be taking 

action. There have been days of reporting from across the nation about 

growing and severe shortages of critical medical supplies.


Images like this, a New York neurologist wearing makeshift personal 

protective equipment while trying to save as many lives as possible. 

Governors have been begging Washington for help. We`re told by Trump, do 

what you can on your own. Here now a sampling of the problems they are 





GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): Yes, states are competing against one another when 

we`re purchasing things. There`s no question that`s happening.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): It would be better if we weren`t living at a time 

when we were competing with other states and in fact the federal 

government, which often buys it out from under us. But that`s our reality.


GOV. ANDREW COUMO (D-NY): But this is not the way to do it. This is ad hoc, 

I`m competing with other states, I`m bidding up other states on the prices.


GOV. J.B. PRITZER (D-IL): When I called these ventilator manufacturers, in 

one case, they told me I was competing with FEMA to acquire ventilators.


GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (D-MA): I stand here as someone who has had confirmed 

orders for millions of pieces of gear evaporate in front of us, and I can`t 

tell you how frustrating it is.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): That allotment of PPE didn`t cover one shift. 

We as Americans shouldn`t be bidding against one other. We should be able 

to harness the federal power to ensure that everyone`s got what they need.




WILLIAMS: It goes without saying these governors aren`t making stuff up. 

This afternoon the President complained about the governors who are not 

showing enough appreciation.




TRUMP: I want them to be appreciative. I don`t want them to say things that 

aren`t true. I want them to be appreciative. We have done a job the likes 

of which nobody`s seen. When they`re not appreciative to me, they`re not 

appreciative to the army corps, they`re not appreciative to FEMA. It`s not 

right. These people are -- they`re working 24 hours a day.




WILLIAMS: NBC News reporting Trump`s push to reopen our country by Easter 

Sunday getting resistance from within. Aides are worried that giving 

specific timelines or dates could backfire. There was some evidence 

watching that briefing today he might be dialing back a bit.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Monday will be the end of the 15 days to slow the 

spread of the virus. Do you expect that you will simply renew the 

guidelines, or do you expect that there could be some modifications?


TRUMP: We`ll be sitting down on Monday or maybe Tuesday, depending on which 

is the best for everybody, and we`ll be making that determination, OK? 

We`ll be making it. And by the way, obviously we`re not doing it for New 

York. We are talking about possibly other parts of the country which really 

aren`t affected to any major degree, or maybe we won`t do that because 

maybe at the advice of a lot of very talented people that do this for a 

living, they won`t want to do that. They won`t want to expose anything. 

They want to do it all at one time. These are the kind of things we`ll be 

talking about.




WILLIAMS: Today on the day House members had to rush back to Washington on 

virtually empty aircraft to vote on that emergency relief package in a 

socially distanced House chamber. We learned that a fourth House member has 

indeed tested positive. The reason for the House members` hasty return at a 

time when travel is strongly discouraged, one guy, one Republican member of 

Congress from Kentucky, Thomas Massie -- there he is -- he failed in his 

attempts to force a recorded, not voice vote, and the bill was passed. Most 

of his colleagues are furious at him. Some said so out loud on the house 



Tonight the White House released this photo from the President`s bill-

signing a few hours later. A couple things here. The lack of social 

distancing. The lack of even a single democrat. At least the President 

handed out pens to everybody standing behind him shoulder to shoulder, so 

now they have this keepsake. Let`s hope that`s all they have. Speaker 

Pelosi was not invited to the event, not even as a courtesy. It was a 

straight party-line gathering.




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We saw the President signed the bill, and he was 

a dangerous President. It was so sad to hear him say as he signed the bill, 

just think back 20 days. 20 days ago, everything was great. Everything was 

great. And now 20 days later, we have this challenge. No, 20 days ago, we 

had nearly 500 cases, 17 deaths. We had a threat that he chose to ignore.




WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, as New York remains the center of the outbreak with 

the most cases, New Orleans, Chicago, Philly, and Detroit are also seeing a 

surge in cases. The numbers are on the rise in Florida, where Governor Ron 

DeSantis has decided to issue a full stay-at-home order. He`s focusing on 

keeping visitors out of the state. There are now even checkpoints into the 

Florida Keys to keep tourists away.




GOV. RON DESANTIS (D-FL): I will be adding to my New York executive order. 

We will be requiring the same for travelers from New Orleans, Louisiana, 

and other parts of Louisiana, to self-isolate for 14 days. So the vacation 

rentals will be suspended for two weeks. If you`re in one now, then finish 

and go home.




WILLIAMS: Forgive me, I couldn`t read my own writing. I said DeSantis had 

decided to in force a stay-at-home order. The word was "declined." He is 

not telling Floridians to stay in their houses. A word about what you`re 

seeing right here. The cities of L.A. And New York are now getting help 

from the U.S. navy.


The hospital ship Mercy docked in the port of L.A. today. It`s there to 

relieve the pressure on hospitals by taking non-corona patients on deck. 

The hospital ship Comfort leaves Norfolk, Virginia tomorrow. It`s expected 

to dock in New York on Monday. President Trump says he wants to travel to 

Virginia to see it off.


Around the world tonight the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 

approaching 600,000. And among them, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

He has tested positive. He posted this on social media today.




BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I want to bring you up to speed with 

something that`s happening today, which is that I`ve developed mild 

symptoms of the coronavirus. That`s to say a temperature and a persistent 

cough. And on the advice of the chief medical officer, I`ve taken a test. 

That has come out positive.




WILLIAMS: Johnson, who acted late but finally acted, imposed strict stay-

at-home rules for the U.K. earlier this week, a move that emptied out much 

of the City of London, leaving iconic spaces strangely vacant. France also 

under a strict lockdown extended until at least April 15th. And starting 

tonight, Paris is paying tribute to all those who cannot stay at home 

during the crisis -- first responders, medical personnel -- with a message 

of thanks displayed in lights on the Eiffel Tower.


Here for our leadoff discussion on a Friday night after a full week, Susan 

Page, Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today, best-selling author now at work 

on a biography of one Nancy Pelosi. Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter 

for the Associated Press. And Dr. Anne Rimoin back with us, Professor of 

Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Infectious 

Disease Division of the Geffen School of Medicine. She runs the UCLA Center 

for Global and Immigrant Health where she specializes in emerging 

infectious diseases


But, Susan, I have to begin with you. Let`s talk about the norms being 

rewritten in real time. The standards of decorum and behavior. Tonight the 

President savaged the Governor of Michigan on Twitter. He admitted today in 

front of cameras he tells Mike Pence not to call back certain governors, 

but Mike`s too nice and does it anyway. Here we are at the end of this 

week. We have a pandemic. You and I are now part owners of a $2 trillion 

rescue bill, and the financial markets are upside down. If you could, sum 

it up for us.



remarkable. The biggest crisis our country has faced, certainly since 9/11, 

maybe well before that. And at a time where, you know, Americans I think 

want to come together, we see enormous acts of grace around the country. 

But they`re hungry for leadership too. I mean I think that`s one reason 

people tune in to the President`s news conference every day to hear what he 

has to say.


You know, it`s interesting the role of a President, right? He has 

submissive role to make sure there are enough masks for hospitals. He 

hasn`t -- This is kind of an emotional bully pulpit role here as well. And 

I think when we don`t hear that from the President, I think it leaves a 

kind of void in a time of great crisis for our nation.


WILLIAMS: Hey, Doctor, how far are we from the kind of national effort you 

would have us embarking on if you were in charge?



think we are very far from having a national strategy, from having a 

unified approach. And I think the thing that everybody has to remember is 

that government, businesses, communities, everybody is going to be judged 

by history, how they rose to the occasion to be able to fight this war 

against a virus. And I think that people are still trying to sort out what 

they think is the right thing to do. But we need to come together right 

now. We can`t be worrying about partisanship. We can`t be worrying about 

politics. We have to worry about a virus. And to be able to stop it, we 

need PPE. We need ventilators. We need all of these. We need a national 

strategy. We have none of these things right now.


WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, the President said today more than once, he 

talked about seeing the first signs of trouble 22 days ago. I`m going to 

play for you part of the problem with that. Here is the President 29 days 





TRUMP: We have done an incredible job. We`re going to continue. It`s going 

to disappear. One day, it`s like a miracle, it will disappear. And from our 

shores, we`ve -- you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It 

could maybe go away. We`ll see what happens. Nobody really knows.




WILLIAMS: Jonathan, again today he said the quiet part out loud. If you`re 

one of these governors facing a pandemic, needing help, you have to show 






he`s practicing some revisionist history with the time line here. The 

President in this situation was very slow to move on this virus. There were 

table top exercises that he largely ignored last year. There was reports 

early this winter about the outbreak in China. He chose not to upset China 

and President Xi Jinping, and the key trading partner, by publicly 

criticizing China`s lack of transparency.  And put the American response 

behind the eight ball in many ways.


And what we`ve seen now is, today was a very revealing moment because it 

sort of outlined where we are. There`s a real tension here because the 

federal government and the states. The governors who are on the front 

lines, and my colleagues and I at the A.P. have been writing about this all 

week before the President said it out loud today. The idea that they are 

trying to navigate this sort of unprecedented global health crisis while 

also navigating an unprecedented President, one who is consumed with the 

cable news coverage of how this is going.  And how the federal government`s 

response to the pandemic is being perceived. And he`s particularly watching 

how he`s appreciated or praised.


He has been very critical of Jay Inslee. Yesterday there was a conference 

call the President had with governors. Inslee pleaded with him to lead 

here, to be the Tom Brady, the soon to be hall of fame quarterback, Brian, 

of this response as opposed to being the backup, because that`s what the 

President has said, that he feels like the states should have the onus here 

and the federal government should sort of be backing them up.


We know Governor Cuomo and he has gone back and forth. Cuomo has praised 

him at times, criticized him at others and Trump has returned that in kind. 

And we are seeing here that there`s a real uncertainty in statehouses 

across the country like the if -- like what the upright approach is? Do any 

get on TV and criticize the President and get his attention. Maybe that 

will spur him to act. Or if they do that, will they engender his wrath and 

perhaps not get these vital pieces of medical equipment they so desperately 



WILLIAMS: And, Susan, I`m going to play you what the President said about 

Nancy Pelosi. The date on this is February 26.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your response to Speaker Pelosi, who said 

earlier today you don`t know what you`re talking about, about the 



TRUMP: I think Speaker Pelosi is incompetent. She`s trying to create a 

panic, and there`s no reason to panic because we have done so good.




WILLIAMS: Susan, what do you know about the relationship between these two? 

Is there one as we speak tonight?


PAGE: Well, the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House 

have not spoken to one another since last October on the day that he called 

her a third-rate politician and she stood up and walked out of a White 

House meeting. So I think it`s safe to say that they have either no 

relationship or a really hostile one.


And the fact that you could negotiate the largest relief package in 

American history, have it go through the House, the Senate, have the 

President sign it, and have the President not speak to the Speaker of the 

House and then not invite any Democrats to attend the signing ceremony for 

an historic bill that they had all voted for, I think, is really quite 

remarkable. And enormously alarming. We`ve just seen our government work in 

passing this relief package. Everyone agreed it needed to be done. On the 

other hand, we continue to see our government is dysfunctional and the fact 

that the President has not spoken to the Speaker of the House in months is 

a sign of that.


WILLIAMS: As our commercials are fond of saying, sadly in this case this is 

who we are. Hey, Doctor, New York Governor Cuomo says we`re looking at a 

peak in this area, 21 days perhaps from now. While I remind our viewers 

that just L.A. County alone is home to 10 million people, does this line up 

with your projections out there? And I guess if so, god help us.


RIMOIN: Absolutely. I think we are on the same path as New York, and it 

makes sense. We are late to the game. We do not have the PPE we need. We do 

not have the equipment we need, and the restrictions that we`ve had in 

place are late. But I think the thing is we have to think about is what we 

can do now. We are late to the game. But as we`ve learned, when every 

single epidemic that I`ve been a part of, all the Ebola outbreaks that I`ve 

seen, what it`s going to come down is what the communities can do right 

now. And what communities can do right now is to follow the social 

distancing orders that have been put in place and to make sure that 

everybody does their part. It is going to come down to that. We cannot be 

just waiting for the government to do something.


And that is my biggest concern is that everybody is just waiting for the 

government to do something. We have to do what we can now. PPE, keeping 

everybody in place, and supporting our health system so it doesn`t 



WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, those who cover this President paying very close 

attention to the wording he chooses on floating out Easter Sunday as 

getting sections of the nation back out there and back to work. He appeared 

today, if you take his words apart carefully, to be ready to attribute his 

decision to the experts and the data, which he reminded us today, we call 

it data.


LEMIRE: We do call it data. He did seem to ease up off of the Easter Sunday 

time line just a little. At the very least, gave himself a little more 

wiggle room. He did say today that he would be more deferential to the 

health experts, to the professionals around him when making a decision to 

allow parts of this country to reopen. Again, of course, some of these 

decisions were made by the states, not the federal government. But the 

White House has certainly set the tone.


There`s a tension inside the building on this. Very briefly, there are 

certainly some senior administration officials as well as some governors in 

states that have not been that impacted by the pandemic who want to see the 

country come back to life sooner than later, get the economy going again. 

Others, of course, in New York, California, other places, are saying very 

much no, we`re not ready. We`re not even close. It`s only going to get 

worse. And there`s a gamble here. The President knows it.


His re-election may hang in the balance. If he doesn`t open it and the 

economy really collapses, some aides think that could be the death knell 

for his re-election chances. Conversely if he reopens it too soon and the 

pandemic spreads to other states that are not equipped to deal with this 

that of course will also be devastating for the President, it`s politics, 

but of course more than anything, for the country itself.


WILLIAMS: I can`t thank the three of you enough. It`s been a long week for 

all of us. We appreciate you staying up with us. To Susan Page, to Dr. Anne 

Rimoin, and longtime Tampa Bay buccaneers fan Jonathan Lemire, our thanks.


Coming up for us after a break, perspective on this pandemic from a top 

adviser to the President`s democratic rival, who just happens to be an 

infectious disease expert.


And later, the harsh reality now gripping New York City beginning to emerge 

in other places. The 11th Hour just getting started on a Friday night.






ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: More than 1,000 families in the United States 

have had to plan funerals that almost no one can attend for the same 

reasons. I`m wondering what, as we close tonight, what your message is to 

those families.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My message is God love you. It is 

incredibly difficult to go through, and it`s harder to go through when you 

haven`t had an opportunity to be with the person while they`re dying.  My 

mom, my dad I was able to be with them and lie in bed with them as they 

took their last breaths. My son I was able to do that. My deceased wife, I 

was not able to do that. I was not able to -- I was not able to be there. 

And it makes a gigantic difference for people.




WILLIAMS: Today we learned that longtime Joe Biden Adviser Larry Rasky 

tested positive for coronavirus after he passed away this past Sunday at 

the age of 69. He had worked on a number of campaigns including Biden`s 

Presidential runs in `88 and `08.


Back with us tonight, Ron Klain, a political veteran, now informally 

advising the Biden campaign. But among his many roles in the White House 

over the years, most importantly he oversaw the response to the Ebola 

outbreak during the Obama presidency. Also important, he`s the co-host of a 

new must-listen-to podcast about this coronavirus called Epidemic.


And, Ron, I`ve got to ask you about Larry. Joe Biden is a guy who gets 

emotional hearing stories of strangers to him who have been lost, from 

people he just met. How is he taking this guy he`s hung out with and worked 

with for so long?



a devastating blow to vice President Biden, to all of us who know Larry, I 

actually worked with Larry on a campaign before, my first Biden campaign.  

So I`ve known Larry for 35 years. And here`s someone who was active and 

seemed healthy on a Friday and died in his sleep on a Saturday. And it`s 

just a reminder of how quickly this virus can take a very, very, very 

serious turn on people.


And I hope everyone listening tonight, if you think you are sick, if you 

have a little fever, if you have even some of the symptoms and you say, oh, 

I`m not really that sick, that`s what Larry Rasky thought. And very shortly 

after that, he passed away from it. And so I hope people will seek medical 

care quickly if they have any signs of this because we were all shocked by 

the news of Larry`s death, of course, and also shocked at how quickly this 

came to Larry.


WILLIAMS: Ron, I`m looking at my notes here. The President said today he 

took over an empty box. No one envisioned this. He found a mess and a 

broken country when he was elected. What`s the truth there?


KLAIN: Well, false, false, and false. I mean the President took over a 

country that has the most robust and well-staffed medical system in the 

world. Before he took office, the outgoing Obama administration ran an 

exercise, a planning exercise to lay out this scenario, this very scenario. 

As for no one seeing it coming, I wrote an article in 2016 that laid all 

this out, and many people who know much more about it than I have warned 

about a figures. Bill Gates gave a very famous Ted Talk in 2017 about it.


So there`s no surprise this was coming. We knew this was coming. And the 

problem is that when the word was given, that it was here, that in fact it 

was in China and likely to spread around the world, the President just 

downplayed it repeatedly. He didn`t activate testing, didn`t activate 

hospital beds, didn`t activate the gear. And he had a chance to prevent 

this. And look the evidence speaks for itself, Brian.


I understand people think I`m a political figure or whatever. The fact of 

the matter is that this country, the richest country in the world with the 

best health care system in the world is now the country that has the most 

coronavirus cases in the world. And that is not about medicine. It`s not 

about a virus. That`s about a failure of leadership.


WILLIAMS: Ron, tomorrow it`s going to be one month since Mick Mulvaney said 

the following.





seeing thing, so you`re seeing so much attention to it, today is that they 

think this is going to be what brings down the President. That`s what this 

is all about. I got a note today from a reporter saying, what are you going 

to do today to calm the markets? I`m like really what I do today to calm 

the markets is tell the people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours. 

You are going to see some schools shut down? Probably. May you see impacts 

on public transportation, sure but we do this. We know how to handle this.




WILLIAMS: Of course, Ron Klain, there`s no joy in saying this. We learned 

afterward that someone sick was at CPAC, that it was something of a 

potential petri dish of gatherings in Washington, D.C., and Mulvaney was 

later tested for it. I believe he`s been tested twice for it. Same question 

to you that I asked the doctor. What we`re doing now? How far short does it 

fall from what would be your national prescription?


KLAIN: It falls very short. And again, it`s one of the reason why the U.S. 

sadly is the country with the worst coronavirus problem. If at the time 

that Mick Mulvaney was standing at CPAC kind of saying this wasn`t a 

problem, and it was roughly the same day where the President said we only 

have 15 cases, we`re headed down to five. If then we had been accelerating 

testing, if then we had been accelerating the production of ventilators, if 

then we had been accelerating the production of protective gear, if we had 

been doing all the things we needed to do, then we would be in much better 

shape now.


We`d have this disease more isolated. We`d know who had it more and be able 

to identify where it was more and we`d be able to more successfully treat 

more people. The virus is a naturally occurring disaster. But our response 

to it was a series of choices made by the Trump administration. And no one 

want -- I mean, look, I want to beat Donald Trump in 2020. Of course, I do. 

Everyone knows that. But not because of this, not with my friends and my 

family and the people I know at risk of this virus. There`s no Democrat in 

America who wants to see people get sick and die and see our friends and 

family be at risk and see doctors and nurses who we love and care about be 

at risk. That`s a series of bad decisions Donald Trump made, and he needs 

to take accountability for that. 


WILLIAMS: Ron Klain, our thanks as always for coming on.


Coming up for us on this Friday night, New York and the surrounding area in 

the thick of it right now. And now the grim guessing game, armed with data, 

wondering what cities are next. One of the experts tracking it all is 

standing by to talk with us.






REP. DON YOUNG (R-AK): Weeks ago, I did not fully grasp the severity of 

this crisis, but clearly we are in the midst of an urgent public health 

emergency. This pandemic is dangerous, and it`s threatening -- especially 

threatening our senior citizens, which I am one, and those with underlying 

conditions. I very strongly urge you to follow the CDC`s recommendations. 

Avoid large groups and continue to practice social distancing and proper 

hygiene protocols.




WILLIAMS: That right there is a huge turnaround for Congressman Don Young 

of Alaska. Let me tell you about him. He came to Congress when Nixon was 

president. He`s the dean of the House, longest serving member, and at four 

years short of 90, he`s the oldest member. The problem is two weeks ago, he 

downplayed the crisis at a senior center, calling this highly contagious 

disease a beer virus, whatever that means. He then told the seniors in the 

room that Alaska should, quote, go forth with our everyday activities.


The realities of this crisis are now grim. According to Axios, a second 

wave of cities are on their way to becoming their own epicenters.


For more, we are happy to welcome to our broadcast Ashish Jha, Professor of 

Global Health at Harvard University and the Director of the Harvard Global 

Health Institute. Thank you so much for coming on. And my first question to 

you is, which mayors in which cities should be preparing the most tonight.



Brian, and thanks for having me on. You know, you`re absolutely right. 

Axios is right. There is a new wave that is about to come. There are a 

whole set of cities that we`re tracking that I think we`re worried about.


Obviously, everybody has paid in attention in New York, Los Angeles and 

Seattle or Washington State. But I think the next cities, New Orleans, 

Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit is one that I`m getting very concerned about. 

Miami, Dallas, this really is all parts of the country, cities in every 

corner of the country. This is a truly national problem that we have.


WILLIAMS: The President at his briefing posed kind of a backwards question, 

Doctor. I`m going to play it for us both. We`ll talk about it on the other 






it. You call it a germ, you can call it a flu, you can call it a virus. You 

know, you can call it many different names. I`m not sure anybody even knows 

what it is.




WILLIAMS: Doctor, what do you call it?


JHA: I call it a virus. It`s a coronavirus. Look, we do know what it is. 

It`s a coronavirus. And you can`t call it the flu, or if you did, you`d be 

wrong. But it`s all right.


Look, it doesn`t -- in some ways at the end of the day -- matter what you 

call it. It`s a virus. It`s an infection. It`s very serious, and it is 

hurting Americans tonight and will for the weeks and months ahead.


WILLIAMS: And the truth as I read it, Doctor, is we have no clue exactly 

how many Americans have it because we lost so much time on testing. People 

keep sending me items about Abbott Labs, a new five-minute test for 

coronavirus, Bosch in Germany, a new 90-minute test for coronavirus. Are 

you confident all of this will enter into our supply chain and we can start 

to get testing online?


JHA: Yes. Look, Brian, the good news here is we`re making progress. 

Obviously we wasted a lot of time, but we are making progress. And we`re up 

to about 100,000 tests today. Still not as many tests as we need to be 

doing for a country our size, but progress (ph). And I`m hopeful these new 

tests will become part of our tools, and I`m hopeful that in the weeks 

ahead, they will become regularly used. But, boy, we lost a lot of time 

getting ready for this pandemic, and we really are suffering for that lost 



WILLIAMS: Doctor, finally, a consumer question that`s probably beneath the 

pay grade of a Harvard physician. For Americans who need to go out this 

weekend, who need to be out with other people, who have got to go shopping 

for food because there`s no other way it`s going to get into the house, are 

they going to be OK if they follow what we`ve now learned are the social 

distancing rules and all shoppers give each other leeway?


JHA: Yes. So, Brian, look, I think they are. And I think if people just 

exercise caution, give people space, if you want to be extra cautious, wipe 

down the cart a bit with a disinfectant wipe. Wash your hands as soon as 

you get home, as soon as you put the food away. Those are, I think, good 

things that are going to keep people safe.


The stuff we worry more about is socializing in restaurants and bars, going 

out to large gatherings. Those are where people are going to get into a lot 

more trouble. So avoid those things. We have to get our groceries. We have 

to go to the pharmacy. Do those things because they`re part of living our 



WILLIAMS: Dr. Ashish Jha, I know it`s late on a Friday night after the week 

we`ve had. It`s an honor to have you on. Thank you very much for being free 

to talk with us and join us here tonight, Doctor.


JHA: Thank you, Brian.


WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, our next guest says we are witnessing a clash 

between politics and straight-up expertise.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would you describe the job President Trump is 

doing behind the scenes and in front of the cameras during these daily 

briefings that we`re seeing? What`s been your perspective, Dr. Birx?



attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data. And I 

think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long 

history in business is really been a real benefit during these discussions 

about medical issues.




WILLIAMS: That was translated from the original North Korean. Back in the 

real world, here`s a reminder. Over a month ago on February 25th, the CDC 

warned coronavirus spread was inevitable here in our country. Later that 

week, "The Washington Post" reported the President was furious over what he 

considered an alarmist response from his administration. And just two days 

after the CDC warning, here`s what he said.




TRUMP: It`s going to disappear one day. It`s like a miracle. It will 

disappear. And from our shores, we`ve -- you know, it could get worse 

before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We`ll see what happens.


Nobody really knows. The fact is the greatest experts -- I`ve spoken to 

them all. Nobody really knows.




WILLIAMS: Here for more is Tom Nichols, Professor of National Security 

Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, the Author of over half a dozen 

books, and the usual reminder when Tom joins us. Professor Nichols 

expresses opinions that are his own. So, Professor, when job one at that 

podium is to praise the dear leader, what do we as citizens and consumers 

do when we have even a whiff of doubt about anyone not named Fauci on that 




Well, I think we have to have a certain amount of sympathy for the experts 

on that stage because they`re trying to manage a pandemic and manage the 

President at the same time. This is a really difficult situation for an 

expert because the first job of an expert is to speak truth to power. It`s 

to tell the boss, it`s to tell society, it`s to tell your client the truth 

no matter what it is. But of course the President has a long history of 

firing people who tell him things he doesn`t want to hear. So I think the 

first thing we have to do is just kind of discount some of that ritualistic 

can`t (ph), and then listen to what they say in their professional 



WILLIAMS: Tom, I know there you are at the War College, my heart skipped a 

beat when I heard the first cases onboard, the big stick, the USS Theodore 

Roosevelt, a carrier which when you think about it, might as well be a 

virus carrier, a city -- a floating city of 5,000. And I note, of course, 

that the 1918 Spanish flu, the military sadly was a force multiplier for 

that illness.


NICHOLS: Yes. Although the 1918 flu was unique because it began where a 

group of people were being trained, and then they were sent all over the 

country and then to Europe to fight a war. I think this is a somewhat 

different situation. The hot spot is in New York in part because of all of 

the travel


And so, you know, the Defense Department, which of course as you said I 

don`t represent, but they`re definitely -- certainly here in Newport, we`ve 

been taking really stringent measures not being at the base, things like 

that. So, you know, I think that they`re facing the same problem that 

everybody else is. But I think the one difference with the 1918 flu is that 

it started here, and then we cast all of these men all over the country and 

then all over the European continent, which made it a lot worse.


WILLIAMS: Still I worry about on vessels, submarines, social distancing is 

not an option. I worry about barracks and the like. How far are we from 

leadership as taught at a place like your institution?


NICHOLS: Well, anybody who has ever been on a submarine can tell you social 

distancing, you know, is a matter of inches rather than feet. I think as a 

general rule about leadership, one of the things we`re seeing here is the 

President as a leader is simply incapable of putting the needs of others 

before himself. Whatever he may have -- whatever problems he may have with 

Gretchen Whitmer, the Governor of Michigan, or Andrew Cuomo, the Governor 

of New York, leadership is about doing the job and biting your tongue at 

moments like that to get things done.


I think what we`re seeing is a real-time laboratory in all of the wrong 

lessons of leadership. What we`re seeing is somebody who simply cannot put 

the people that he is sworn to protect ahead of himself and ahead of his 

feelings. And I think that that`s having an -- it`s having an effect on the 

way we`re able to respond to this.


WILLIAMS: Tom Nichols, thank you for having us into your home. Tom, by the 

way, is a dandy follow on social media, always a great guest. We appreciate 

your time.


And coming up for us, the good news, some Americans are finding in their 

mailboxes. Depends on where you live and thankfully has nothing to do with 

either House of Congress.




WILLIAMS: As we continue to look for interesting local news reporting from 

around our country, while we always endeavor to bring you good news when 

possible, it doesn`t always work out that way, but it does tonight. Here`s 

the story. Someone in Minnesota is sending money in the mail anonymously, 

and we get the story from reporter Boyd Huppert from our NBC station in the 

Twin Cities, K-A-R-E, KARE 11.




BOYD HUPPERT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, there`s nothing like a good 

surprise, and several people we spoke with today got one on their trips to 

the mailbox.


HUPPERT (voice-over): Drip, drip, drowning in bad news. Skyler Johnson 

opened her mailbox and found sunshine.




HUPPERT (voice-over): The envelope post marked Saint Paul contained a $50 



JOHNSON: It says, sorry things suck right now, and I`m sorry the government 

has terrible pandemic response plan. Here`s a little something to make up 

for your losses. Love, a friend.


HUPPERT (voice-over): Skyler`s life in Glencoe has turned upside down. Laid 

off from her nanny job, her in-home baking business dried up.


JOHNSON: All of my orders have canceled. Nobody is having birthday parties. 

Nobody is having weddings. It`s just $50, but next week it could be putting 

food on our table for my kids. Who did it? Who was kind enough to just do 

something like this?


No idea.


HUPPERT (voice-over): Arielle and Jeremy Brandenburg are wondering the same 

in Norwood-Young America.



bills, bills and then this.


HUPPERT (voice-over): Same card, same anonymous note, and $50.



definitely help with some groceries.


HUPPERT (voice-over): Jeremy`s tile setting business now dead in the water.


A. BRANDENBURG: When you hear about people at the grocery store are 

fighting over toilet paper and then you get a card like this in the mail.


HUPPERT (voice-over): The same card that arrived in Bloomington at the home 

of Rana Leonhardi.


RANA LEONHARDI, BLOOMINGTON: They actually sent us $100.


HUPPERT (voice-over): Rana, who doesn`t know the other women, is married to 

an executive chef just laid off from his job.


(on-camera): Who`s behind this?


LEONHARDI: I don`t know. A little miracle worker, I guess.


HUPPERT (voice-over): Just $50 or $100, but no mere drop in the bucket.


JOHNSON: It`s just fricking cool.




WILLIAMS: Boyd Huppert, KARE 11 in the Twin Cities. Let`s hope folks pay 

that thought forward.


Coming up for us, there`s a new curfew in Miami as Florida now gets serious 

about the virus. But during spring break, not so much. Tonight, a look at 

where all those spring breakers went when they made a break for it when we 

come back.




WILLIAMS: A few last things before we go off tonight. First off, some truly 

scary graphics compiled by the folks at Tectonics. They`re tracking, and 

they don`t gather. They visualize electronic evidence. Their tracking shows 

cell phones being used by spring breakers in Florida.


They chose to zero in on one beach in Lauderdale and they kept tracking all 

of those bright cell phone dots as all of those spring breakers broke up 

after vacation and then as they all went home. Look at that, bringing with 

them, of course, the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus.


Some more graphics here. The folks at flight aware -- Flightradar24 show us 

what this virus has done to travel. These are the air routes across the 

North Atlantic between the U.S. and Europe. March of 2019, contrast that 

with this. Same date and time, March of 2020. And you can see how the skies 

are clearing out of aircraft. These photos from Hartsfield, Atlanta, show 

portions of the Delta fleet parked on their way toward grounding two-thirds 

of all their aircraft.


And while it`s not quite the same as a great Italian tenor singing "Nessun 

Dorma" on a balcony in Italy, we are happy to report that especially for 

apartment dwellers in quarantine these days, from Europe to America, it`s 

become a thing to go outside and say something, sing something, do 

something to boost morale. And a social media movement to express our 

thanks outdoors to medical staff, first responders, grocers, all the 

absolutely essential people in our lives has now taken off.


The instructions are to go to a window or door, express your thanks at 7:00 

p.m. local time. We can already hear tonight`s results.








WILLIAMS: Petty incredible stuff. And on that note of great thanks, that is 

our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week. On behalf of all of 

my colleagues here at the networks of NBC News, good night. Have a good 

weekend. We`ll see you back here before long from our temporary field 








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