BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: A desolate scene in Chicago tonight just as it is in cities and towns across so much of our country. Well, good evening once again. Day 1,175 of this Trump administration, 209 days to go until the Presidential election.
Another record day across this country in all the bad ways. At today`s White House briefing in what may be a continuation of a rather perverse lesson in adjusting expectations the President wanting always to show he acted early and decisively against the virus and was never a denier, said today if the death toll in this country is substantially under 100,000 people, as he put it, we did a very good job.
He said today he considers the country ahead of schedule. He says he wants to reopen the country with a big bang. And right before leaving the stage he said we`re really in great shape. He left the briefing room. Mike Pence started the talk about the grim week we are witnessing here in these United States.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide now at a million and a half. In this country nearly 15,000 people have lost their lives thus far. At the epicenter of this crisis New York again reporting its highest single-day death toll with 779 souls lost in 24 hours. New Jersey also hit its own one-day record, 275 deaths.
New York has more confirmed cases than any other country in the world except the United States. Yet again today Governor Cuomo of New York said the latest data indicates the curve of infection is flattening.
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GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: The number of patients hospitalized is down. And again, we don`t look at just day-to-day data. You look at the three-day trends. No doubt that we can`t stop what we`re doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Politico reporting Vice President Pence and Dr. Tony Fauci told lawmakers they too were seeing signs of stabilization and that the administration is now actively exploring ways to return the shutdown nation back to normal. At this afternoon`s White House briefing Trump focused on those glimmers of progress.
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DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We`re hopefully heading toward a final stretch, the light at the end of the tunnel as I was saying. As we continue to wage all-out medical war to defeat the virus we`re also fighting an economic war to ensure we can quickly turn to full financial strength.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What specifically has to happen for you to feel that it`s safe to reopen the country and what is your plan to do that?
TRUMP: Well, I think we can say that we have to be on that down side of that slope and heading to a very strong direction that this thing is gone. We can do it in phases. We can go to some areas, which you know some areas are much less affected than others. But it would be nice to be able to open with a big bang.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you do that and tell the health experts tell you it`s safe to do it?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I would rely very heavily on them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think, is there a system for monitoring and testing that you`re looking at --
TRUMP: Yeah, we`re putting in very heavy testing systems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: He`s talked about that notion before of opening regionally. It`s still not clear how any of that would take place, especially given the current level of testing in this country. We`ve only tested 0.6% of the population. Yet the director of the CDC came to the briefing with new guidelines outlining how essential employees can return to their jobs even if they`ve been exposed.
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DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: These were individuals that have been within six feet of a confirmed case or a suspected case. So that they can under certain circumstances, they can go back to work if they`re asymptomatic. They can go back to work if they do several things. As we say here. Take their temperature before they go to work. Wear a face mask at all times and practice social distancing when they`re at work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It stands to reason if people go out too early the curve creates a bounce. The President is still talking about his goal of Easter Sunday to pack the churches in this country, you`ll recall, and get back to work. Well, of course Easter Sunday is four days away. He concedes that isn`t going to happen. But he wants credit for the idea while wanting to claim he wasn`t entirely serious.
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TRUMP: I had a date, and I thought it was a very aspirational date. It`s turning out to be very interesting because a lot of good things are happening by Easter. But I had a very aspirational date. I didn`t think we could make it. I didn`t say we would do it by Easter. But I said wouldn`t that be great to shoot for Easter, that would be a great day, beautiful day, very important day to a lot of people like me. And like some of you in the room. Maybe all of you in the room frankly. But Easter`s a very important day. So I had - inspirationally I said, let`s see if we can do it by Easter. You know, but I said it would be very tough.
And I was criticized for that. So I don`t like giving dates. And that wasn`t a date. That was just an aspiration. That would have been incredible. But I don`t think we`re going to be very far behind. And some of these models are looking like Easter`s going to be a very important date anyway because of the curve. I mean, it`s hitting the top and it`s starting to come down. And one person said Easter`s looking like a good time. So a good time for that, for heading down.
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WILLIAMS: In the real world on this Passover night the number of virus cases is now growing quickly in cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. There`s more reporting today on the rapid spread of the illness in less populated parts of our country. President Trump also promoting the use of that anti-malaria drug against the coronavirus even though many doctors and public health experts are not yet endorsing an unproven treatment.
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TRUMP: Our national stockpile is now equipped with nearly 30 million hydroxychloroquine pills. So we`re up to about 30 million. We`re distributing by the millions. In addition, the azithromycin and zinc. They say zinc. We should add zinc now. This all has to be recommended by doctors, physicians, but they say zinc. I want to throw that out there, because that`s where they seem to be having the best result. You add the zinc and the azithromycin, and it`s been -- we`ve had a lot of good stories.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We`ll talk about this with our guests in a bit. The Vice President did say there are at least four separate clinical trials under way studying this hydroxychloroquine. There`s also news concerning the White House original projection of as many as 200,000 virus fatalities even with social distancing. In effect, those numbers are now being reversed and revised downward. One model used by the administration`s task force puts the number at 60,000 and 400 COVID related U.S. deaths by August.
Today Dr. Deborah Birx said its evidence social distancing may be working.
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DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: That is modeled on what America is doing. That`s what`s happening. Americans are adapting to and following through on these behavioral changes. And that`s what`s changing the rate of new cases and that`s what will change the mortality going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President was asked again today about that January memo from his trade adviser Peter Navarro who warned about the risks and potential costs of a pandemic, a memo the President said yesterday he hadn`t read as of yesterday. Here`s what he had to say today.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever briefed on those memos? Did you ever discuss those memos with anybody?
TRUMP: I don`t remember that. I`ve now seen the memo. I saw it. It was -- Peter sends a lot of memos. I didn`t see the memo. As you know, world health was saying that was not correct because at the time they called it wrong. But I didn`t see the memo. But I acted as quickly as -- people were shocked I acted so quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This was also the day we saw Bernie Sanders exit from the Presidential race. In a live online announcement sanders referred to the ongoing pandemic as a factor in his decision to get out.
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SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: As I see the crisis gripping the nation, exacerbated by a President unwilling or unable to provide any kind of credible leadership and the work that needs to be done to protect people in this most desperate hour, I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign I cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We`ll have more on the Sanders departure coming up. James Carville among our guests tonight. And on the heels of what many are calling a disastrous Wisconsin primary saw hundreds waiting hours to cast their ballots, three more states have now postponed their primaries. New York, New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Virginia joining the growing list just today.
Here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR News Station, Donna Edwards, former Democratic Member of Congress from Maryland, now a Washington Post Columnist, and dr. Wayne Riley, President of the State University of New York`s Downstate Health Sciences University. Also a former clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt School of Medicine and the former President of the American College of Physicians
Good evening and welcome to you all. Kim, I`d like to begin with you on The Disconnect, the President again as he left the briefing room today, I wrote it down, "we`re in really great shape." Out in the country, having given up any hope for bounty, people are bartering for a roll of brawny. It is getting tough in the cities and towns across this country. Do you think the President has been counseled from inside the West Wing on message disconnect at all?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SENIOR NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It doesn`t appear that way. It`s clear the President wants to give good news. He wants to express this ideal -- his desire for things to be getting better. But it is coinciding at a time where as you mentioned this is the toughest week we`re going to see a lot of deaths and increases of the death rate by the thousands per day, as we`ve seen in the last 24 to 48 hours. This is the time where people are going to be losing their loved ones at an alarming rate. And so for the President to sort of say that Easter is a time where things will begin to get better isn`t really what is playing out on the ground as much as he wishes it to be that way.
What we`re looking at and what most local and state officials are saying is be prepared for this to go on for months, for schools to be closed and other social distancing measures to have to stay in place in order to reach those outcomes that Dr. Birx was talking about. By the end of summer it`s going to take a lot longer than just a matter of weeks for things to open up with a bang as the President said.
WILLIAMS: Dr. Riley, pick up right there. I`ll ask you the question you get asked all day long now. Where do you think we are in this?
DR. WAYNE RILEY, PRESIDENT OF THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK`S DOWNSTATE HEALTH SCIENCES UNIVERSITY: Well, again, I agree with Dr. Fauci when he says the virus will determine the timetable. As much as we have aspirations about doing things, this virus is very virulent. It`s very pathogenic. And if we relax the social mitigation strategies, we will regret it.
WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, your old bailiwick, what is the role as you walk about life these days, as you deal with friends and family, mostly electronically, what is and what should be the role of Congress right now is this.
DONNA EDWARDS, (D) MARYLAND FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I think Congress is going to again need to think about how it is that it can, you know, give some hope to the American people by creating additional resources for small businesses, for individuals who will still be challenged in this environment if indeed we are moving on a downswing. It`s still going to take a number of months to try to recover.
And Congress has a huge role to play in making sure that the American people know that they`re going to have the resources to begin to sustain not only just our overall economy but of course their personal economy. And frankly a big need here for overside. It is really clear, especially over these last several days, the need for congressional overside of the trillions of dollars that have already gone out. And the way the money`s being spent.
And then I think as we move toward the end it`s going to be really important for Congress to do a real debrief on what happened here, where were the system failures and how can we ensure that thousands and thousands of Americans don`t lose their lives in the event of a recurrence or of another pandemic in the future?
WILLIAMS: Kim, the Navarro memo lands in the West Wing. It`s the next day that these limited flight restrictions are put into effect on China. I believe The New York Times has reported there were 11 categories of exceptions. I believe the Times has reported an additional 40,000 people came after the restrictions still from China. The way they have pushed back on the President`s use of the phrase he closed the borders, which is not true. Do we think there is the possibility the President was verbally briefed, that he truly did not read this document until the last 24-hour period?
ATKINS: Well, there`s been reporting since before the President assumed office that he is not a big reader, even of his daily briefing materials that he`s often given them if he considers them at all, it is orally. And so having not been in the room I don`t know. But it seems clear from everything that the President has said and done since January with respect to the coronavirus, first dismissing it, saying it would just be a handful of people, would go from 15 to 0, to dismissing the idea that businesses would have to close down, schools that we would have to practice the social distancing, practice that we were doing from the beginning. That has been consistent.
He did take those limited actions in terms of stopping flights and those expanded over time. But he`s had to go essentially kicking and screaming the whole way. He says even as recently as yesterday that the country is not meant to be closed up. And so that is his position. He`s made that extremely clear. He has to be convinced convincingly otherwise by folks like the experts who he often shares the stage with at these briefings to say no, that`s the only way to stop this, the only way to stop really unbelievable numbers of casualties, and the complete collapse of the economy is to slow things down. So he has done that at times begrudgingly.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Doctor, let`s go to the other thing. I`m sure you were asked on a daily basis now. And that`s hydroxychloroquine. The President has said, "I say, take it." He has said several forms of what do you have to lose. He believes in taking it prophylactically absent any illness as a preventative. And now there is the added ingredient of zinc. Take it all on for us. Is this anything you would do for a patient under your care?
RILEY: Well, Brian, to paraphrase a famous line from a movie, show me the data. Physicians are data driven. We don`t want to do anything that could harm our patients. And in fact, three major cardiology organizations today put out a strong admonition that hydroxychloroquine is a drug that has significant cardiac potential side effects and it should not be used willy- nilly or without strong evidence or in the setting of a clinical trial. So my admonition to all is that we have to be careful, wait for the data, follow the clinical trials because we want to do what`s best and safe for patients and our first rule do no harm as I swore through the Hippocratic Oath.
WILLIAMS: Indeed. Donna Edwards, let`s talk about socioeconomics and the intersection with health these days. And something societal that a good many of us have known for years existed. Here`s Andrew Cuomo on this subject today. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
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CUOMO: It always seems that the poorest people pay the highest price. Why is that? Why is that? Whatever the situation is, natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, the people standing on those rooftops were not rich white people. Why? Why is it that the poorest people always pay the highest price?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Donna Edwards, talk about the cruelty, the death toll in this coronavirus pandemic.
EDWARDS: It is really staggering. I mean, when you look at some of the data coming out of cities like Milwaukee and Chicago, out of New York City, and you see that African-Americans, people of color, are dying at substantially higher rates than their percentage of the population, and I think that you can attribute that to things like the poor quality of health care, of the presence of chronic illnesses, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes among black people. And they are the ones who are the most vulnerable in this environment. And of course people`s economic status has a lot to do with their vulnerability when they have a pandemic or any kind of a natural disaster.
And I think it is not a surprise that you see that during this pandemic. And it`s a shameful rebuke on both our system and our country that we have failed to provide the kind of protections to the most vulnerable people not just now but throughout our country. And it really speaks to what we need to do to clear up health disparities and economic disparities that leave people vulnerable to something like coronavirus.
WILLIAMS: A journalist, a former Member of Congress, a physician helping us to start off our hour tonight. Our thanks to Kimberly Atkins, Donna Edwards, and Dr. Wayne Riley.
Coming up for us, the President is impatient for his post-pandemic world. We`ll ask two of our next guests about the risks and rewards and the push to get past this and get up and running again.
And later, from more than two dozen Democratic hopefuls down to one. A deeper look at the demise of the Bernie Sanders campaign as we are just getting started on a Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I spoke with the Governor of Louisiana a little while ago, and they`re doing really pretty well. Much better than they thought.
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WILLIAMS: Louisiana currently ranks fifth among states in total coronavirus cases. Today the Governor John Bel Edwards said there were 746 newly confirmed cases. That brings the total to more than 17,000. So far 652 people have died in Louisiana. The governor also said new cases reported today are lower than previous days, but he added no one can let their guard down or stop social distancing.
Back with us again tonight, James Carville, Veteran Democratic Strategist who rose to national fame with the Clinton Presidential campaign. He is co- host of the 2020 Politics War Room Podcast. And Michael Steele, Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Former Lieutenant Governor of the Great State of Maryland and the Host of the Michael Steele podcast.
Well, James, it occurred to me today the last time we spoke you had just walked over from Endymion, one of the parade crews in New Orleans. At that point it was late in the game for preparation. New Orleanians were doing what they do, which is the opposite of social distancing. It was crowded. It was humid. Looking back, did they go too late? Is that the price your beloved state and city are paying now?
JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, there was no warning from anything. And I remember that well. It was on a Saturday. Then I came to New York. And I think it was Mardi Gras Day, which would have been two, three days later. And I remarked post-debate that the coronavirus didn`t even come up to an hour and seven minutes in it. So I`d become aware in doing that. But there was no one that said anything about us calling off Mardi Gras. And you and I had a conversation about it Endymion and it just didn`t cross our minds at that time.
It should have and somebody should have rang the bell, but no one told, not Mayor Cantrell, not governor John Bel Edwards, not anybody, to consider doing that. And also, Brian, as you know, Mardi Gras goes for two weeks. So we were -- and Endymion is the eighth inning. I mean, it had been a ton of parades before that.
Now, subsequent to Mardi Gras, St. Patrick`s Day we had idiots everywhere. They had to send the NOPD in the French quarter to break up the crowds. Now, that was really bad. By March 17th we knew it was going up. But I`ll defend anybody on the Mardi Gras decision because no one was brought up to be considered. And this has been vetted pretty well in the press.
WILLIAMS: Well, that`s why I asked, Michael Steele, a nakedly political question to you. This virus doesn`t recognize red or blue. It doesn`t respect state lines. It doesn`t respect states that have stay-at-home orders versus those who don`t. How does this affect the Donald Trump base and is it going to be enough for his base to hear him say the World Health Organization made the wrong call?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Yeah, I think it will be. And I think it`s already showing itself to be. Those types of matters are the ones the President has consistently pushed up where he deflects the responsibilities of the down side of the preparation and response and the inadequate ability to get the needs met by the citizens across the state on someone else.
So now this week is the WHO, last week it was the governors. The week before that it was CDC. So every week there`s a new villain that can be propped up to go after, to castigate for the shortcomings and the problems and the failures that are in the narrative this particular week. And then of course as we saw today, you know, he`s Mr. Happy-go-lucky and you know, we`re all going to be fine and the world is great. And then literally when he leaves the Vice President gets up there and goes, well, people are still dying. And you know, yeah, the curve may flatten in New York but it`s increasing in Maryland and Louisiana and, you know -- so it becomes a bifurcated narrative that makes it hard for everyone other than his supporters to get behind and rally around what the President`s saying because every day it changes and someone else is at fault because of that.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I just heard terrible stories tonight about Camden, New Jersey, a place where I`ve spent a lot of time, and it`s heartbreaking. James, everyone I know, everyone I`ve spoken to knows someone who is sick or hopefully recently recovered or on a ventilator or has died of this. What -- as you look at this, what`s the short version of what this is doing to Donald Trump, to his presidency thus far?
CARVILLE: Well, first of all, he won with 46.1%. He`s literally lost 95% of the elections that have taken place between the time of his election and right now. His polling numbers are going down, and they`re awful. Usually in a crisis, I mean, Jimmy Carter was at 67% in the Iran-Contra crisis. The prime minister of Italy is over 70%. I`ll bet you 30 governors in the United States are over 70%.
I`m totally, totally unimpressed by President Trump`s political prowess. I have absolutely no fear. What I do fear is what you had in Wisconsin, where they ran amok with the election and stopped people from voting. But if we go to post-November with anything close to a level playing field, it`s going to be a Democratic wipeout. People are not going to vote for four more years of this. And I hope that this crisis abates. I totally -- you know, we have some encouraging numbers even in Louisiana, as the governor said. You know, I watch him every day. And there is some reason for encouragement.
But, if you look at even Singapore, they`re having a third wave. So we`ve got a long way to go. But I -- he wouldn`t have got elected if this would have never happened. But it did happen and it`s terrible and I think people are coming together. Social distancing is 90 percent of the people practice it.
WILLIAMS: By the way, I get to see a lot of kitchens these days. You have by far the coolest kitchen ceiling.
Both of these gentlemen are going to stay right where they are. We`re going to have a break. And then when we come back, we`re going to talk about the news a lot of us woke up to. It`s official, the end of the Sanders campaign pretty much when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): In this most desperate hour, I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was the live web announcement this morning. With that, the Sanders campaign is over. That means as of this morning, a Wednesday in April during a pandemic, former vice president Joe Biden became the apparent nominee of the Democratic Party.
Sanders said he would stay on the ballot in the remaining states and continue to gather delegates to impact the party platform, presumably to impact the convention, assuming it`s in Milwaukee and not on Zoom.
Back with us are James Carville and Michael Steele. So James, what changed today? What should happen in the Democratic Party starting tomorrow? And what`s this about staying on the ballot and continuing to roll up delegates?
CARVILLE: Well, as you`re pretty aware, I was not a fan of Senator Sanders` candidacy. I was not for him. However, every political professional, I mean, they have dreams. I mean, he -- Brian, he and his wife had a dream. And the people that worked on the campaign. And it looked good for him for a while. And I kind of feel sorry for him in a way. It`s like a soldier on the other side. You don`t feel good about it, to some extent. I mean, I`m really excited about Vice President Biden. And what has happened to them are -- is it -- and I think the vice president is very good about this, we`re going to have to do some bow-tie politicking and talk to Senator Sanders and talk to his supporters and talk about things that we can do to unify the party and get on with, I think, the single most important mission in modern American politics and that is extracting Donald Trump as quickly as we can from the White House.
And the way to do that is to unite the party, to be respectful of everybody, and understand that Senator Sanders, his wife, Jane, his campaign, his supporters, his donors, that they had real dreams, they had aspirations, and that happens a lot in politics. But there`s a decision that`s made. And by the way, it was Democratic voters that made the decision. And they made it overwhelmingly and they have to be respected. The establishment of all that stupidity is -- are -- it didn`t make this voting, it was the rank and file of the Democratic Party that came in and did this.
WILLIAMS: Michael Steele, you`ve run a political party. If you were running the Democratic Party, would it bother you to have a guy who`s out but kind of wants to see other people, is going to be on the ballot, wants to collect delegates if he can?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, it depends on how he moves in that space, Brian. If he -- if, you know, if he`s not creating any storms, if he`s being supportive of the, you know, eventual nominee, and doing all the things to, as they say in biblical terms, as John the Baptist said, of the coming of Christ, I shall diminish, he shall increase. Here we have a situation where Bernie Sanders has to diminish. And Joe Biden has to increase. And that`s the key thing right here that has to happen. He had the stage for a long time.
If you go back to 2016, it has been a long time where Bernie Sanders not only has had the stage but he`s changed the way actors play on that stage inside the Democratic Party, adopting a lot of what he wanted in the platform, making rules changes with respect to delegates and superdelegates. So he has been in that spotlight. But now the party, to James`s point, has made a very clear decision. The direction they want to go in and who they want to lead that direction. So, he has to diminish.
If he does not, then yes, as a chairman up and down the line, from county all the way up to the national chairman, you will have to be concerned about that because what that effectively does, Brian, is it doesn`t release your supporters to get behind and move with the increase of the nominee.
WILLIAMS: James, last question. I got 45 seconds for you to answer it. You said a while back if Biden does nothing, he wins. Is that still true?
CARVILLE: Yes. I mean, he`s going to do something, obviously. That`s a little poetic license. But I think he`s in a commanding position but we`ve got to be careful about is it mucking around with his voting. And that they`re going to try it because Trump -- all the Republicans admit it, we can`t win if everybody votes.
And so my kind of mission here in the short term is to sound the alarm to say Mitch McConnell and the Supreme Court, they`re going to do everything they can to hold on to power and Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, we got to dig in and make sure the states have funding to conduct these elections and to put pressure on them to make sure they`re done fairly. This thing in Wisconsin was one of the most awful things I`ve ever seen in my life. You know, just go -- you know, the extent that they will go to, to hold on to power. It was all about one Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin. They will kill people to stay in power, literally.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to two friends of this broadcast, Michael Steele and James Carville. Call kitchens by Carville for a free home estimate. Gentlemen, thank you.
CARVILLE: Mary will love that.
WILLIAMS: Coming up, our next guest says Donald Trump may be following in the footsteps of some of his predecessors but in this case not in a good way. More on that when we come back.
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STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: These briefings are profoundly confusing. They`re disorienting. They fuel panic. They fuel anxiety. He`s uncertain. He`s unsteady. He`s an unsteady captain of the ship. We`ve seen him exhibiting all of the qualities that you don`t want to see of a leader in a crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt with Nicolle Wallace this afternoon. You know, we`ve always been like this. During times of crisis, Americans look to their president for guidance. It`s natural to. Yet there are several instances in our history.
As my next guest points out, when a national crisis can elicit what he calls a collapse in presidential leadership, he warns that`s what we`re living in the midst of right now. So back again with us tonight, the veteran journalist and author Howell Raines, one of our MSNBC contributors, happens to be the former executive editor of the "New York Times."
Howell, please share with our viewers the thinking you`ve been doing on the presidency, the big word of incapacity and crisis.
HOWELL RAINES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Brian, this is a perfect day to review what history teaches us about crisis-driven presidential elections. And let`s go back briefly. We`ll look at the Civil War, James Buchanan, Donald, and led the nation into war. He`s remembered as our worst president. Andrew Johnson did badly with the reconstruction. Herbert Hoover, the depression, Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam, Jimmy Carter, Iran hostage, George W. Bush, Katrina, Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of these crises brought the nation to a crossroads having to do with their -- our belief in the confidence, capability, and capacity of the president. Five of those people I just named had to leave the presidency because of this collapse in their perceived capabilities. And George W. Bush was already past his reelection. He simply lost his standing in history to a large degree because of Katrina.
So, I think this is dangerous ground for Trump. And I`m not predicting what James Carville just did, that I know the outcome of the election. I leave predictions to James, which he`s always ready to make. But Trump is on extremely dangerous ground, 51 percent to 55 percent of the American people in the latest polls disapprove of his handling of this. Any political analyst looking at that has to wonder about the strategy that we`re seeing. I call it his reality TV strategy where he comes out every afternoon as the master of ceremonies on a national crisis. And I can`t believe that that -- I don`t want to use a harsh term but the words that came -- word that came to my mind today when I was listening was gibberish.
The American people cannot be expected to believe his report that he`s doing a great job and this is almost over when we see nurses on the streets of New York crying because they don`t have face masks. He comes out today and says 30 million masks are on the way by May or June, simply underlining in my thinking that he wasted January and February. So, we`re now at a point with no national strategy, inadequate data, fewer than 1 percent of our big states have been tested.
And if we are in a war, the definition of what you do in a war if you`re president, is you have a cohesive national strategy run out of Washington, D.C. And you don`t, when you`re asked how you`re taking responsibility, fume about your -- the federal government doesn`t stand on street corners, it`s the governors should be doing the testing, the World Health Organization, which tried to warn him, is evil in his view.
So I think we`re at a really fascinating point. I personally don`t see how his credibility can stand this daily performance. But we have to remember, he is the greatest propagandist who ever occupied the White House and the fundamental rule of propaganda is you keep repeating your facts until people are desensitized and start to accept them. But he is all in with this show business strategy.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Howell, I`ve got about 45 seconds. There`s no Eisenhower. There`s no Marshall. There`s no Honore (ph). I watch that same briefing too religiously every day and day to day I don`t know who`s running it. Does that increase the chance that it`s Trump that will own it as history looks back?
RAINES: Oh, I think so, yes. I think he`s got full ownership now. And the - - his view of the events are so skewed and so out of -- I`m thinking now, Brian, of LBJ. Every night on the national news we saw that the American army was losing the war in Vietnam even though our soldiers were fighting bravely. And every few months, LBJ would come on and say we`re winning the war. And of course, by 1968, he was driven out of office.
WILLIAMS: Let`s not forget Henry the K saying we believe peace is at hand. Howell Raines, this is why we wanted to hear from you tonight. Thank you so much to having us in your lovely home in lovely Fairhope, Alabama.
Coming up for us, we`ll hear from some of the unsung heroes in this struggle to survive the pandemic when we come back.
WILLIAMS: If you`ve been to the supermarket recently, then you`ve seen some of the most essential workers in our economy. Major supermarket chains are now sadly reporting that coronavirus-related deaths have been happening among employees.
The "Washington Post" reports many workers say they don`t have enough protective gear to deal with hundreds of customers a day. These traditionally low-paid but absolutely essential employees remain right there on the frontlines managing increasing anxiety while risking their lives, nothing less, to keep us fed as we go home and hunker down in our homes.
NBC News Correspondent Jo Ling Kent has their story tonight.
JO LING KENT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Marie Long (ph) works the register and stocks shelves at Dollar General in North Carolina.
MARIE LONG, DOLLAR GENERAL WORKER: I kind of feel like I`m going to get it because it`s inevitable.
KENT: The mother of three says she`s putting her life on the line for $10 an hour.
LONG: But the minute people start walking in, the anxiety starts.
KENT: Dollar General says it`s doing extra cleaning every night and giving bonuses to all workers. But Long still worries.
LONG: We didn`t sign up for this.
KENT: Several workers at other stores have died from coronavirus, including 27-year-old Leilani Jordan (ph), a supermarket greeter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She cared. She loved. She didn`t judge anybody. She says, mommy, nobody`s showing up at the store, mommy, I want to go help. They should have known.
KENT: Wendell Evans (ph) worked at Walmart for 15 years. His family now filing a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging the company failed to protect workers and didn`t notify them when other employees began showing symptoms. Walmart says it`s heartbroken and was sanitizing key areas and has since done more. It`s one of many companies who say they`re putting additional safety measures in place like sneeze guards, more personal protective gear, reducing the number of shoppers allowed inside, one-way aisles, and a six- foot distance between customers in line. Long hopes workers like her get better compensation.
LONG: I feel like essential lately just means exhausted and expendable. I don`t feel essential.
KENT: For the price they pay on the job. Jo Ling Kent, NBC News.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, some other unsung heroes in our society who are getting a little more sung these days.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, let`s hand it to American society and the good and grateful people everywhere. It took folks a little bit, but now it`s sinking in that fires don`t get fought without firefighters, EMS calls don`t get answered without healthy paramedics. We need police officers to keep us all safe. And we need and appreciate and look up to our doctors and nurses and P.A.s and orderlies and hospital staff like never before. They are doing the work. They are taking the risks. It`s said that people who are sick with this virus are forced to die alone. That`s not entirely true.
While we, family members, can`t be with them, doctors and nurses are. In the hard-hit New York area just about every night, elements of the FDNY, and that includes EMS, have gathered outside city hospitals to salute the doctors and nurses inside. In this case to the tune of "New York, New York" by the chairman of the board. Today at New York Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, the doctors and nurses turned the tables. They had a parade for the first responders, at least those who weren`t out on calls. They applauded them as they drove by. Then there are the cute as a bug second-graders in Mrs. Mayesfield`s (ph) class in nearby Paterson, New Jersey. No classroom these days, no problem. They all found art supplies. They all made posters of thanks for the people who really matter on this Passover night of 2020.
That is our broadcast for this Wednesday evening. On behalf of all of my colleagues at 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