coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 4/16/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Lipi Roy, Irwin Redlener, Michael Steele

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Our iconic home in normal times, the place where we keep the rink out back, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, mostly vacant, bathed in blue tonight in honor of first responders in New York.

And with that, good evening once again. Day 1,183 of this Trump administration. 201 days to go now until our presidential election.

And at today`s White House briefing about the coronavirus, our President said today, "People should have told us about this. Be that as it may." Today he said, our country has passed the peak of the illness. And by his thinking, as he put it today about our nation`s population, still upwards of 80 percent of us indoors, America wants to be open, he said. Americans want to be open.

The President and his people unveiled today their grand reopening strategy which we will detail in a moment. After claiming total authority earlier this week, Trump now says it`s up to the governors. It should be noted here we have no idea how those poised to go back to work are going to be tested prior to going back to work. But as the President put it today, "You have states with few cases, and those cases have healed. You have states without any problem and states with very little death." He says, in places that reopen, "As we see a hot spot developing, we`ll be able to suppress it, whack it. Outbreaks will be put out quickly."

Mike Pence got up and said with a Pencian straight face, we`ve protected the most vulnerable. We have saved lives and every American should be comforted by that.

Trump later added, some states have gotten too much credit for what they`ve done. That brings us to today in reality. Our death toll as a nation tonight stands somewhat north of 34,000 with more than 667,000 confirmed infections. Out of the 1 percent of our total population that`s been tested. And new data revealing COVID-19 is becoming America`s leading cause of death.

The White House new guidelines outline a three-phase plan for reopening the country as the President puts it. Tonight he deferred to the governors in terms of how to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own states. If they need to remain closed, we will allow them to do that. And if they believe it is time to reopen, we will provide them the freedom and guidance to accomplish that task.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Just days ago the President insisted he would be the one to tell governors when they would reopen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have the ultimate authority. The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do. The president of the United States calls the shots. They can`t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States. When somebody`s the president of the United States, the authority is total.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The President hasn`t laid out a specific timeline for relaxing restrictions. The White House suggests states should reopen only after states see a decline in confirmed cases over a 14-day period before taking the first steps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Phase one begins with all vulnerable individuals, including those with comorbidities, continuing to shelter in place. We continue to do six feet maximum physical distancing in public spaces, continuing to avoid large gatherings and all nonessential travel.

Phase two, again, we`re asking for the public to continue to maximize physical distance. However, we increased social settings to be able to now have 50 individuals and nonessential travel can resume.

Phase three is essentially returning to our new normal with all of the, what we talked about through all phases, continuing the good hygiene practices, continuing the respect for spaces between individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: During the briefing, Trump indicated some states could start reopening as soon as tomorrow while he conceded states like New York and New Jersey are going to be at this for a good, long time.

In fact, just today New York Governor Mario -- Andrew Cuomo, forgive me, extends hi shutdown out for another month until May 15th. Trump`s plan also says states need to wrap up testing for the coronavirus, but it doesn`t include a national testing strategy. The government will help with access to tests but states will be responsible for developing their own testing programs.

The Washington Post puts it this way during Trump`s call with governors today, "both Democrats and Republicans alike pressed him on the need for more broad testing availability." The White House was asked about its approach to testing at today`s briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What about the experts have said this would be better done if there were comprehensive surveillance testing?

BIRX: What is key in this is the early alerts and getting in there before they even know they have a problem. We do have enough testing capacity to do both that surveillance piece as well as the diagnostic piece and contact tracing.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There`s two types of things. Antibody tests and tests for the diagnosis of who has the disease. One you need for contact tracing. The other you want to need for finding out what`s in society. We`re going to have both of those much, much better as we go in the next weeks and months. And by the time we get into the fall, I think we`re going to be in pretty good shape.

TRUMP: If we see a hot spot developing, we`ve learned a lot. We`ll be able to suppress it, whack it. We`ll be able to do things that people weren`t even thinking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Apart from this, yet because of this, this is all happening on the same day we learned another 5 million Americans have filed unemployment claims. For last week, 22 million people have lost their jobs in the past month, at least those who have filed, underscoring the economic toll of the pandemic.

Also today one of the key coronavirus relief fund sources for small businesses reached its $350 billion limit Thursday and is no longer accepting any more lenders or applications. And one more note here tonight. There is one family celebrating amid the coronavirus pandemic in the city of New York.

Michael Cohen is getting out of the federal pen early. The President`s former personal lawyer serving out an original three-year sentence in upstate New York, but with 14 confirmed cases of the coronavirus where he`s being housed, he`s being released May 1 once he passes quarantine, presumably to spend the rest of his federal time under house arrest.

Here for our leadoff discussion on a Thursday night, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for The Washington Post, Moderator of Washington Week on PBS. Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, last seen in the briefing room today at the White House. And Dr. Lipi Roy, an Internal Medicine Physician in New York who is among our medical contributors.

So, Peter Baker, the President wanted to order this under his total authority earlier in this week. What happened between then and now, leaving this up to the governors where the power resided all along?

BAKER: Yeah, it`s a great question. The wording today on his call with the governors was very telling. You played the clip of him on Monday saying the President of the United States calls the shots. On his phone call with the governors today, according to an audiotape that we got, I`m sure others did as well, he said to the governors, you call the shots. The fact he used the exact same wording indicates what a big climb-down it was just over three days.

And I think what happened of course is he got a lot of pushback, bipartisan pushback, not just from Democrats but also from Republicans, a number of prominent conservatives like Liz Cheney, the Congresswoman, like other constitutional scholars including those who have defended him in the past said, look, the President doesn`t actually have this authority, doesn`t have the power to order a state to reopen when the state feels like it`s not ready to do so.

And the public health experts on his team clearly shaped this set of guidelines they put out tonight because it didn`t try to mandate one size fits all for the states. It didn`t even use any dates. It simply laid out a series of conditions, and they are of course nonbinding, meant to guide the states and the cities as they make their own decisions. Many of the criteria that they used are similar to what the states were already looking at.

So it`s a pretty big shift from Monday to Thursday and one I think left a lot of governors feeling a little relieve that they didn`t have to have a further confrontation with the President.

WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, I could be convinced the cleft going on behind the scenes is a familiar one. Think of what we`ve seen over the years, experts and then the President on the other side. Career bureaucrats, the President -- scientists and the President, and now likely doctors and the President.

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Talking to my sources tonight around the President, it`s clear that the President wanted to flex his executive power earlier in the week by making these statements about total authority. But when he was having private conversations with his advisers, they were telling him, you don`t want to be out on a limb, all the decisions about reopening. The onus on the governors so you have some political cover into this re-election campaign in the summer and the fall. It`s fine, they say, if you want to go out there and be dramatic and talk about executive power. He has people in his cabinet like Attorney General Bill Barr who talk about the importance of the executive, who encourage the President`s belief in having all of this power. But his political aides are much more cautious than the rhetoric you`re hearing from that lectern.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, as I said, sitting here tonight we don`t know how all these tests are going to get done. Try as he might, Peter Baker couldn`t get a clear answer on that in the briefing room. We do know we have over 500 cases at one meat processing plant in South Dakota. So perhaps you can tell us how are employers, how are states going to get their hands on enough of the system of testing to allow, in areas that allow it, people to start heading back to work and their lives?

DR. LIPI ROY, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Good evening, Brian. It`s going to be with you again. Look, you`ve heard me and my fellow medical and public health professionals say this time and time again for the past several weeks. We really do need widespread testing of all people frankly at this point because we already know that asymptomatic transmission of this virus occurs. So, yeah, it`s not at all surprising that we`re seeing outbreaks, like these mini outbreaks in places like factories, in churches, in nursing homes, anywhere where people congregate. And why? Because we know that infectious pathogens, whether it be a virus, a parasite, or bacteria, they do not respect or adhere to these human-placed travel restrictions and borders. They just don`t do that.

So, you know, and we already know that this particular virus impacts, affects all people. So, yeah, we need widespread testing, and we absolutely need to practice the physical distancing, the stay at home. It doesn`t matter what city or state you live in. I understand that the President feels that there`s only certain states or counties that are affected mildly, but how do we really know without actual accurate data? And we can only get that from both widespread testing hand in hand with contact tracing.

WILLIAMS: Also, Doctor, let`s talk about the power of words. When you deal with the loved ones, the family of a patient, they listen. You`re the doctor. You`re the authority figure in that conversation. Well, the words of our Presidents still matter. His quote from today was, we`re past the peak as a nation. Can you assure our viewers tonight that every urban and rural area is past their peak in this virus?

ROY: No, you can`t. That`s all based on data, right? So, again, every decision that the public health professionals, the leaders like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx are making are based on real-time data. Again, I go back to a statement that Dr. Fauci now made, I think last week, which is that the model is hypothetical, but the data is real. And the data is constantly evolving as we insert more numbers. So, look, here in New York state where, yes, the curve is flattening and maybe even going down, as Governor Cuomo points out, it`s happening at a critically high level, which means that the health care workers, the frontline nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists, the patient transporters, they`re seeing a high level of patients still coming in.

And so, yeah, you`re absolutely right. Words matter. And when it`s the leader of the western world saying certain words that there is, the certain segment of the population are listening to, those individuals are going to be thinking and trivializing and not really taking this as seriously as this should be taken. This is a global pandemic of a virulent pathogen that`s killing people all over the world, including my fellow health care professionals. So I really hope that people in all cities in all states and counties irrespective of political affiliation are taking this seriously because this virus doesn`t care what political affiliation you have.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, I`ve heard Democrats. I`ve heard cynics, not always the same people, saying the same thing this week, and that is, this is a plan for the red states. Can you shed any light on that?

BAKER: Well, I mean that`s certainly the way it comes across, right? The President in effect is giving a green light to a lot of states in the south and the west that have not seen large spikes of infections, that have not had the kind of death toll that New York and Detroit and New Orleans have had, for instance, and saying to them, fine. You`re not really affected. You can go ahead and open up. And it matters in a way because although he doesn`t have the power to override governors, and if Governor Cuomo in New York for instance or Governor Newsom in California doesn`t want to do what he says, they`re not going to do what he says. But there`s a lot of these red-state governors who follow the President`s lead. They`re going to take his advice on this, and they are going to begin reopening parts of the economy as they see fit.

So I think it was in fact intended for that swath of the country. I asked the President today how many states he was thinking that that might include in the near term, in the next, you know, few days to couple weeks until May 1st. He wouldn`t say. But just yesterday he had used the number 29 countries, sorry, states that he thought were doing really well. If it was anything like that, that would be a big swath of the country even though they`re probably the lower population states.

WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, final question for you. About the members of Congress you speak to during the course of an average reporting day. Some of them have been bystanders during the Trump presidency, some of them critics, but a large some of them enablers. They can`t make health care policy from state to state. What they can do is try to put people back to work and make those out of work whole or try to. Have they been overwhelmed thus far by these unemployment and economic numbers?

COSTA: They have been overwhelmed, but it`s important to note that throughout the course of my reporting, that so many of these members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, they feel like bystanders at this time. They see what`s happening with the economy, but they`re back in their states, in their districts, and the governors in their states are really at the forefront of American politics along with President Trump, and this current impasse about small business loans and whether it`s going to be $250 billion or $500 billion -- a fight between Leader McConnell and Pelosi. And you don`t see a lot of side players coming to the foreground. And even the Presidential campaign taking a back seat along with Congress in many respects to what`s happening. But at the same time, it`s Speaker Pelosi. She is the key figure here, the person who on phase three was able to work in phase one and two with Secretary Mnuchin. And as a reporter, always pay attention to Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin because President Trump doesn`t have that kind of bond with the speaker to get a deal done, at least at this time.

WILLIAMS: Three terrific guests to start us off tonight. Our thanks to Robert Costa, to Peter Baker, to Dr. LIPI ROY. We greatly appreciate it. I`ll get it out.

Coming up for us, coverage of the national overreaction. On the President`s cable network of choice, the rising debate on the right over what an acceptable loss of life might look like. We`ll ask an actual pandemic expert what he thinks.

And later, walk up to someone at a crowded food bank these days. There`s a good chance they will say they never thought they`d need a food bank. Our report from an overwhelmed location in Texas tonight as The 11th Hour is just getting started on this Thursday evening.

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TRUMP: We must have a working economy, and we want to get it back very, very quickly. And that`s what`s going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The President has repeatedly made clear he is eager to kick start the economy, get at least parts of the country, perhaps regions of the country open soon. And this week many on Fox News are echoing that sentiment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Given how off the models were from the outset by a factor of 10 at the upside, why are states like California even in shutdown anymore?

JOHN KENNEDY, (R) LOUISIANA SENATOR: Every politician, myself included sometimes, is just dancing around the issue. The American people get it. We got to reopen, and when we do, the coronavirus is going to spread faster, and we got to be ready for it.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Yep.

BILL BENNETT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: If you look at those numbers and see the comparable, we`re going to have fewer fatalities from this than from the flu. For this we scared the hell out of the American people. We lost 17 million jobs. We put a major dent in the economy. We closed down the schools. You heard Dr. Oz say we probably didn`t have to do that. Shut down the churches and so on. You know, this was not and is not a pandemic.

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, HOST OF "DR. PHIL": 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools, but we don`t shut the country down for that. But yet we`re doing it for this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Back with us again tonight is Dr. Irwin Redlener, a Pediatrics Physician and a Clinical Professor with the School of Public Health at Columbia University. Also happens to be the Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness with an expertise in pandemic influenza.

Doctor, before we start our discussion, you might have heard Dr. Oz`s name invoked there. His comment got the most return comments today. We`ll play that, talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEHMET OZ, MD "THE DR. OZ SHOW" HOST: I tell you, schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in the lancer arguing that the opening of schools may only cost us 2 percent to 3 percent in terms of total mortality. And, you know, any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they`re safely being educated, being fed, and making the most out of their lives with a theoretical risk on the backside might be a tradeoff some folks would consider.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So I won`t ask a physician to criticize a fellow physician. Dr. Oz, we should note, apologized for the 2 percent to 3 percent mortality rate mention. But, Doctor, it occurs to me that sometimes in hushed tents on the eve of an invasion, generals will talk with each other about anticipated casualties. It`s a grisly business. We seem to be taking part in a grisly business as part of the public discussion, which would feel a lot better if it weren`t fueled by very personal politics.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Yeah. You know, Brian, I listened in really amazement, I`d say, slash shock to what Dr. Oz had to say and also Bill Bennett and the other commentators that you showed those clips of. And they need to read a little history starting with the Spanish flu of 1918 and really understanding just how dangerous this is. And they also ought to maybe make a couple of visits to some of New York city`s or Atlanta`s or New Orleans` hospitals where there`s absolute calamitous problems going on. I think it`s completely disconnect from reality to minimize what we`re going through.

And I think, you know, 9,000 plus doctors and nurses and hospital workers have been admitted to the hospital in critical condition. Some have died. This is a massive problem. It`s a global problem, and it`s not over. And I fully expect we`ll get at least a second wave of this sometime in the fall and into the winter. It`s going to be a very long haul. I`ve called this -- you know, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, but it`s a very long tunnel. And the light there is a vaccine, and until we get that vaccine, we`re going to be continuing to face a major public health global calamity, Brian.

WILLIAMS: The President talks about the vast stretches of our country that are wide open spaces, and he`s right. There are. Would you ever see your way clear to advocating a kind of flexible back-to-work strategy? Take a state like Kansas where I once worked. Portions of the west are wide-open spaces. Farmer often are alone in the cab of a combine or farm vehicle doing their work. Ditto back at the barn, Olathe Kansas, on the other hand, in the eastern part of the state, is the ark typical American sprawling suburb with a lot of people in a tight area. So what do you do about a state like Kansas?

REDLENER: Well, there`s a lot of states that are extremely rural, and they all have capitals. They all have urban centers and suburban centers. And the other thing, Brian, that is the President is not aware of apparently is that even before COVID struck, there are approximately 65 million Americans who live in our rural areas that are considered by the federal government as health care manpower shortage areas. So these are places with lousy pre- existing medical access who are already starting to get cases of COVID. I`ve spoken to people in southern Arizona, in rural Mississippi and other places around the United States over the last couple of weeks, and they`re all getting cases of COVID. I think those are disasters waiting to happen. I don`t think we should presume in any way that these places are going to be somehow protected from being struck by this outbreak. It will happen in waves. It will happen over time. That`s just here in the U.S. not to mention hot spots around the world that have yet to see the worst of this, Brian.

WILLIAMS: I have 60 seconds remaining. What`s your response to hearing the President say, if hot spots flare up, we`ll whack them?

REDLENER: Well, we`re not whacking anything without having enough testing to go around. We have no idea how short we are actually in the amount of testing being done. We don`t have enough personnel power to do contact tracing if cases do appear, and we don`t have really defined new rules for what the new workplaces are going to look like. In any case, we`re way behind, and without the testing, committee simply cannot begin to safely reopen the economy. I wish we could, but we face a pretty great peril still, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Irwin Redlener, thank you for always being generous with your time and for joining us again tonight.

Coming up for us after another break, with Biden appearing on television from his basement in Wilmington, the President today said he doesn`t care about campaigning. He just wants to make the country better. More on the growing political implications of what it is we`re living through right now.

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REP. MAX ROSE (D-NY): If the president asserted his full power as commander in chief and we beat this virus and then he wins re-election, you know what, so be it. So be it, because we have emerged beating this virus. That is all we are asking. People`s lives are on the line. Their lives are on the line right now, and the federal government can do things that the city cannot do and the state cannot do.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Some powerful words today from freshman Democratic Congressman Max Rose. He`s a military veteran, represents Staten Island. He spoke with Nicolle Wallace today.

And there were moments during today`s briefing when the president seemed to be trying to strike something of a more bipartisan tone himself. More on that in a bit.

Back with us, Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, former lieutenant governor of the Great State of Maryland and these days the host of "The Michael Steele Podcast".

Michael, I`ve asked you this before but I`m kind of obsessing about it. Do you see two full old-school party conventions in the heat of summer inside arenas this summer?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: You know, I think at this point, that`s still a little bit doubtful. The metrics just aren`t there yet. You know, just go back to the segment you just had, the testing. Where is the testing? We don`t know fully, do we have an -- nor do we have an appreciation of just how much this virus has moved into the community. It`s not just about the people we know to be sick. It is the people who are asymptomatic who may be infecting others, and the testing is a big part of that.

So until you get that on the front end, this back-end stuff becomes a little bit more problematic. Yes, it`s summer and it`s August and it`s July and it`s hot, and the virus may or may not survive. But if I have it, it doesn`t matter. It`s in me and I can still transmit it. And that`s going to be something the parties are going to be concerned about. I know the Democratic Party has already started to think in those terms. Republicans are kind of locked between Trump`s desire to put on the show and the reality that that may be difficult to do because people still may be getting sick.

WILLIAMS: People who say these briefing room appearances are in lieu of his rallies aren`t kidding. I know you read history --

STEELE: No.

WILLIAMS: -- so you remember the stories of the so-called front porch presidential campaigns in the 1800s. Well, these days we`ve got Joe Biden in his basement in Delaware, but we have Donald Trump with virtually unlimited, part of a larger debate, air time from the briefing room and for the time being, for the foreseeable future, Michael, this is our campaign.

STEELE: This is the campaign, and Trump realized that very early on. Remember, the vice president is in charge of this thing, not the president. But every day, the president is the one giving us the briefing, not the vice president. Why? Because this has become a substitute for the thing he can`t do and loves to do the most, and that is to be in a room of 25,000, 30,000 people screaming and cheering and patting him on the back. And he can throw the bromides, and he can riff and he can do all these things because that`s his element. That`s what the showman does. The showman doesn`t have to govern. He just has to do the show.

But this now is where he gets to do a little bit of both. So you have those moments where people say, oh, yes, he sounded pretty presidential. And then other moments, it was like, oh my god, hair on fire. So the reality of it is Trump gets to flip back and forth depending on where he wants to take the narrative that day. Joe Biden is in his basement talking to America on camera like everyone, you know, else is doing these days in secluded, sometimes unidentified locations.

But that`s the nature of the campaign right now. Will it break out and get back on the street? It probably will to some degree. But right now, the president has a little bit more of the upper hand because he has the bully pulpit of the presidency, and he`s got that showmanship mentality where he can take the most serious moment and make it political, make it entertainment, and still score the points he wants with his base.

WILLIAMS: How about the fact that the White House in inviting all Republican senators to serve on the congressional task force portion of this left off one guy, the guy who voted for impeachment, Mitt Romney, who happens to be the only member of the Senate who comes from a turnaround artist, private equity background, ran one Olympic games, rescued another, that Mitt Romney?

STEELE: Yes. And the word was, oh, no, there`s no retribution. There will be no retribution. It was retribution like five minutes after Mitt Romney, you know, raised his hand and voted against the president. Look, it`s -- does Romney care about this? No. Do other Republicans care about this? No. At the end of the day, you know, they`ll nod their head and bob along with Trump. But it doesn`t mean anything.

What is this supposed to do? What is this group supposed to do? All these senators are going to do what? And so the reality of it is, again, this is all part of the racking and stacking by the president, sort of moving pieces on the chess board but without really having to play chess because we don`t know what the end game is here other than to win. But there`s got to be a way to do that, and it`s not very clear what that is. And on the other side, you have Joe Biden, who I think strategically will be able to play the counter game of chess with the president rather effectively if this is the mode the president stays in, coronavirus notwithstanding.

WILLIAMS: Michael, thank you. Best to the family. Thank you for your honesty as always. Michael Steele, our guest tonight.

Another break for us. Our next guest, a Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran journalist, calls the president a master of retrenchment. We`ll explain why when we come back.

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TRUMP: I want to heal this country. This is a war. We`ve been through a war. We have an invisible as opposed to a visible enemy. I think in many ways the invisible enemy is much more dangerous, is much tougher.

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WILLIAMS: Our friend "The Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson was with us last night. He writes the following. "We will win this war because we must. But victory won`t come because of Trump, it will come in spite of him."

Back with us again tonight, the veteran journalist and author Howell Raines, an MSNBC contributor, happens to be the former executive editor of "The New York Times". And, Howell, explain your definition of this president, please.

HOWELL RAINES, FORMER NEW YORK TIMES EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, I was trying to think today what term I would use if I were writing on deadline, and master of retrenchment came to mind. I`m having a little audio trouble here, Brian, so forgive me if I stumble. And what I think it`s important for us to remember on a day like this is that the -- what is being covered up here. We`re seeing a massive failure of presidential responsibility. The country cannot reopen without an extraordinary, thorough-going testing program, and we don`t have that.

And Vice President Pence, I think, provided a useful metric today. And I hope it doesn`t cost him his job, but he said that three months after the president was notified that this crisis was coming, as of March the 18th, only 83,000 Americans had been tested. And then Vice President Pence went on to say that 5 million will have been tested by the end of April. That is a drop in the bucket. Earlier today on this network, we heard Dr. Zeke Emanuel say that we need, as of this moment, 3 million to 7 million tests per week dedicated only to covering our medical workers, our police, and our grocery store clerks. So that shortfall is directly laid at the feet of the president.

And I had to write down something he said today. We built the most robust and advanced testing anywhere in the world. We don`t have any effective testing, and I think if you listened closely today to Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, they were trying once again without embarrassing their boss with facts, but they were saying that because we don`t have this testing, Dr. Fauci said it would be at least the fall before we were coming to approach anything near normality. And then I think any number of people expect it`ll be 2021 before anything approaching the normality that was being teased today.

So this is a really extraordinary moment, and I think it`s introducing American citizens to a new civic experience. And that experience is having as a parent or grandparent to think about whether the policies and pronouncements of this president are a danger to your children.

WILLIAMS: That`s saying a lot. Howell, I got about 45 seconds left. As our only Alabama-based correspondent and the head of your one-man bureau, what are your friends and family in Alabama saying about the possibility that we`re all going to go outside, have a false start and a second curve?

RAINES: I said on the -- your show, I think, a few days ago, Brian, that I was worried about local compliance. It`s quite extraordinary given what we saw in Detroit today that Alabamans who tend to be pretty individualistic are on the whole really altering their lifestyles and I think they`re feeling lucky right now. I don`t think that the public awareness has gotten around to talking about the renewed curve, but I must say we`re doing a better job than I expected both at the citizen level and at the state government leadership level of sheltering in place and hoping for a better leadership.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks to our Fairhope, Alabama, bureau chief, Howell Raines. Howell, thank you always for your time.

RAINES: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: We appreciate it greatly.

Another break is in our future. And coming up, the people who never dreamed they would depend on a food bank are flooding into America`s food banks. When we come back, the struggle to keep up with their needs.

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GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Is this the first time you`ve come out to this food bank?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. My son is the only one working, so he`s got my wife -- his wife and the grandkids are at home. It`s a worry for sure because you don`t know when it`s going to get back to what it used to be.

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WILLIAMS: There`s the story in a nutshell. It is a troubling visual as well being seen throughout our country. Hundreds of cars lined up at food banks as the ripple effects of this pandemic run up demand. Our own Garrett Haake, who you saw there, a Texas native reported today from a mobile food bank in Dallas where just today -- look at that line of cars on the left- hand side -- just today 2,230 families were served. Garrett`s been kind enough to join us once again tonight.

Garrett, you could say that a ton of American families are, what, two paychecks away from needing a food bank. But I`m curious the percentage of people you approached and talked to today who never, ever dreamed they`d be in that line of cars going to a food bank.

HAAKE: Just about everybody, Brian. I mean, these are our neighbors. These are our friends. The CEO of the North Texas Food Bank told me she thinks it`s about 70 percent of the people, at least that`s what it was last week, coming to their food banks who never came to a food bank before and didn`t think they would ever need to. And I was struck by the number of people who told me whether they were working, or laid off, or on furlough who said, you know, they`re trying to figure out the math here. They`re trying to figure out exactly how long they can stretch the savings they have left. It`s the uncertainty about when they might get rehired or when they might get another paycheck that`s drawing people to these food banks.

And you have to think, you know, lining up for three hours, and that`s about how long it took, to get free food at a food bank is not the first cut you make when you`re feeling financially insecure. These are people who have cut back everywhere else they can, and the people I talked to today were really frightened, Brian.

WILLIAMS: You`re so right. For many American families, having a loaf of bread in the freezer, having a couple of half gallons of milk is the definition of doing well in this. And everyone watching your reports who has that luxury is feeling the same way. So for the folks who are still employed, the folks who have enough money to be charitable, the folks watching and feeling completely helpless, I know you asked about this today. How can we help?

HAAKE: Yes, and it really does come down to money, Brian. These food banks don`t need the can of soup from the back of your pantry. They would like volunteers, but what they desperately do need is money. They can stretch it farther than you can in terms of buying food for people who need it.

And here`s a screwed up situation, Brian. A lot of these food bank CEOs are now in the same position in a certain way that governors and big city mayors were a few weeks ago, where they are competing against each other to try to make sure there`s enough food to go around. They`re competing at auctions. They`re competing for dollars from donors who are already experiencing donor fatigue, so many people are trying to help out their friends and neighbors. So they`re in a bit of precarious financial situation as well. But Google your local food bank, you have one. They have need, and they could use even a few bucks if people can spare it.

WILLIAMS: Great advice. Thank you for that, buddy. Our friend Garrett Haake reporting tonight from his home state of Texas after all day spent reporting from there.

Another break for us. When we come back, Indianapolis did its very best today to repay a young woman who gave them her very best in life.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, if there is a police officer among your friends or family, they will likely tell you domestic violence calls are way up during this time of quarantine. Most officers dread them. Walking into a heated situation, often involving drinking, drugs, weapons, and far too often children. Back on April 9th, Indianapolis police officer Breann Leath, responded to a domestic with three other officers, when shots came through an apartment door and killed her.

Officer Leath was 24. She leaves behind a three-year-old son. She was the daughter of a police officer. She was a veteran of the Army National Guard, who always wanted to be a police officer. The young woman, her friends and family describe was smart, dedicated, motivated, and beautiful. And today as best they could, the city of Indianapolis remembered her and paid tribute to her service. A long funeral procession through downtown. A funeral held inside the massive Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which would normally be just weeks away from hosting the 500.

They filled the place with police cars and police officers all trying to observe the correct spacing. The rifle corps, the pallbearers all wore black masks in keeping with our times, and it seems to sum up the sadness as well.

That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. On behalf of all our 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