Cuomo rips into Trump TRANSCRIPT: 4/17/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Anne Rimoin, Lanhee Chen, Kevin Tabb, Jeremy Peters, Kelly Horan

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: A rainy night in an empty Times Square. No tourists, nothing to look at. These are hunkering-down times in New York and elsewhere.

Well, good evening on this day 1,184 of the Trump administration, which means effective tonight, there are now 200 days remaining until the presidential election.

As for our current President, after starting the day calling for the liberation of three states that are observing his government guidelines, he moved on to tonight`s briefing in the West Wing. In no particular order, he repeated all he has done for New York. He repeated what he has learned about the death toll in the Civil War, which he now regularly mentions. He talked again about restaurant seating, how we had the greatest economy just weeks ago. He criticized Obama. He repeated, as he does every day, the death toll projections if he had done nothing. He warned Virginians that their governor wants to take their guns away and bragged about the crowd size at his rallies. All of that at today`s pandemic briefing where he also said, "The federal government has a lot to say beyond what anybody understands."

About the illness tearing across our countryside, he said, nobody can be blamed. There is no blame, he said. And then throwing shade on what is likely some combination of China and the WHO as he sees it, he said, "It could easily have been solved, probably very easily." He closed by saying, "I`ve seen some very good things."

So with that, let`s check in on the real world where we find the nation`s death toll tonight has now passed 36,000. There are more than 698,000 confirmed cases across the U.S., now just over 1% of our population has been tested.

Now all 50 states and territories are under disaster declarations for the first time in our nation`s history. In the 24 hours since the President announced his three-phase plan to reopen the country, the question from governors across the nation has been, what is the federal government going to do to help us with widespread testing?

The first phase of Trump`s guidelines to reopen states depends on the ability to test for the virus and what`s called contact tracing. As we mentioned, at the moment, about 1% of the U.S. population has been tested.

Tonight Trump doubled down on what he told governors yesterday, in effect, testing is in your hands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have tremendous unused capability within those laboratories, and I hope the governors are going to be able to use them. The governors are responsible for testing, and I hope they`re going to be able to use this tremendous amount of available capacity that we have. It`s up to 1 million additional tests per week. When you think of that, in the next few weeks we`ll be sending out 5.5 million testing swabs to the state. Swabs can be easily done by the governors themselves. Mostly it`s cotton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: If you`re following the news, however, you know there is also a shortage of swabs. Trump`s task force also weighed in and seemed to imply that there are enough tests, that the system in place works, and that testing is not the most important factor in reopening the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Testing is a part, an important part, of a multifaceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this outbreak. The emphasis that we`ve been hearing is essentially testing is everything, and it isn`t. It`s the kinds of things that we`ve been doing, the mitigation strategies.

ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, M.D., U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE: We have and will continue to have enough tests to safely go into phase one. It is beyond the possibility to test everyone in this country every day. It`s just not possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Can`t remind everybody often enough what we heard today at the White House, very different from what Trump told our country back in early march.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Anybody right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They`re there. They have the tests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Wasn`t true then. Still not true tonight. Trump now also appears to be backing an effort to get governors to lift restrictions like social distancing and orders to stay at home, guidelines his administration suggested to all of us to try to contain this virus.

Protests have erupted in Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia. Most are self- identified Trump supporters. Trump posted these messages today. We mentioned them at the top of the broadcast, encouraging demonstrators to, "liberate those states," all of which coincidentally key to his 2020 re- election campaign with Democratic governors.

Today Trump was asked about those sentiments during the briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you talk about these states, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, do you think that they should lift their stay-at-home orders, or can you talk --

TRUMP: No, but I think elements of what they`ve done are too much. These are people expressing their views. I see where they are, and I see the way they`re working, and they seem to be very responsible people to me. But it`s, you know, they`ve been treated a little bit rough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: He said this week his people will listen to him.

Meanwhile, Texas, which has more than 17,000 cases now, already preparing to lift some of their restrictions just because it is. Today the Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced stores will be able to offer retail to go just like restaurants beginning next Friday, April 22nd, and that more businesses will be allowed to open up later in the month.

Also today the President opened up a new fight with the Governor at the very epicenter of the crisis in this country. That would be Andrew Cuomo of New York. He`s been grappling with the majority of our cases, well over 200,000, almost a third of the entire nation`s cases.

This morning Trump attacked Cuomo just as he was giving his daily update on the impact of the virus. "Governor Cuomo should spend more time doing and less time complaining. Get out there and get the job done. Stop talking! We built you thousands of hospital beds that you didn`t need or use, gave large numbers of ventilators that you should have had, and helped you with testing that you should be doing. We have given New York far more money, help, and equipment than any other state by far, and these great men and women who did the job never hear you say thanks. Your numbers are not good. Less talk and more action!"

Cuomo then responded to Trump in real time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): If he`s sitting home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work. The expression "don`t pass the buck without passing the bucks." He`s saying he doesn`t want to provide funding to the states, and he doesn`t want to help on testing. And I can tell you the states can`t do it otherwise. And if this testing doesn`t work, that`s a serious problem.

I have said a number of times -- I don`t know, what am I supposed to do? Send a bouquet of flowers? The only thing he`s doing, let`s be honest, well, it`s up to the states to do reopen. By the way, it was always up to the states. What are you going to grant me what the constitution gave me before you were born? It`s called the 10th amendment. I don`t need the President of the United States to read the constitution for me. Maybe he should have read the constitution before he said he had the power to open the states. How many times do you want me to say thank you? I`m saying thank you for doing your job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion late on a Friday night after another long week, Annie Karni, White House Reporter with The New York Times, Lanhee Chen, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, former Policy Director for the Romney/Ryan effort, notably a former senior official with the Department of Health and Human Services. And Dr. Anne Rimoin back with us as well, a Professor of Epidemiology at UCLA where she runs the Center for Global and Immigrant Health specializing in emerging infectious diseases, having started her life`s work in this area as a peace corps volunteer in Africa.

Annie Karni, I`d like to begin with you. Is it possible the President views during a pandemic two different constituencies, his people in quotes and the rest of the people in the United States?

ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We saw him thinking about politics first with those liberate Michigan, liberate Virginia tweets today. He saw an opportunity there. Conservative media has been talking a lot about these protests, especially in Michigan where the Governor Whitmer has been talked about as a running mate for Joe Biden. So he saw a political opportunity there.

But I think mostly what`s motivating him right now is not my people versus other people in terms of who gets sick or doesn`t get sick. I think it`s me versus the governors versus China or the WHO or whoever else about blame.

What`s consuming him, according to people I`ve talked to who have talked to him or are in the administration, is not so much feeling the weight of this crisis on his shoulders but real deep frustration about how he`s being covered, how the narrative that he wants to set about his own leadership is not what he sees on TV and reads in the newspapers. So it`s really about credit. He wants credit for the economy when the country reopens. He doesn`t want the blame on his shoulders for deaths that might happen after he reopens states if it was too early or if there`s not testing, and that`s why he`s putting this onto the states now. It`s really about credit and blame right now with him is the division.

WILLIAMS: Anne Rimoin, he stood there at the CDC in that red hat. What he said that day, as we often point out, was not true that day. It`s not true tonight. How close are we to it being true, that if you want a test you can get one?

DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR: Well, we are far behind still in testing. We do not have -- not only do we not have enough tests for optimal testing, meaning that every person who needs one should be able to get one, but we do not have a national testing strategy. In addition, as has been mentioned before, we`re having supply chain issues. We do not have swabs. We don`t have the reagents. And every person who needs one cannot get a test.

Right now as we`ve noted, people who are symptomatic can often fight to get a test. But because there is not enough capacity in place right now, we can`t do it. You know, this issue of testing really requires a national strategy, and we still don`t have a national strategy, and it doesn`t seem like -- it seems that now he wants to give all of the authority to the states because the national strategy just doesn`t exist.

WILLIAMS: Lanhee Chen, what do you make of the President`s "get America back to work" strategy, which apparently now features pitting states against one another?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, look, I think that at the end of the day, the President is always focused on this idea of getting folks back to work. I think the challenge is going to be this. You`re going to have different states now pursuing different strategies based on the timing that works for those states. The issue is when you`ve got two states next to each other, those two states should not be pursuing dramatically different strategies.

What happens in California will impact what happens in Nevada and vice versa, which is why some of the regional efforts of governors like California, Oregon, Washington coming together, that makes a lot of sense to me. So the challenge with a return to work strategy, I think the tiering of it, the idea of trying to phase in this return, that`s the right idea.

I think the question is going to be how different states interpret this? If Governor Abbott, for example, wants to get Texas back up and running next week but Louisiana, which is right next to it on one side or New Mexico on the other side, for example, if there`s an issue there in terms of those states having different levels of cases and being at different places, then I think it`s going to be a challenge because you`re going to see these cases moving back and forth between states and potentially creating outbreak hot spots. So we need to be very careful about how this is done.

WILLIAMS: We sure do. Annie Karni, earlier this week, the President read this laundry list of business executives. The tippy top name in all of their fields, in banking, in tech, in industry as the President calls it, some of them when contacted said, yeah, I saw we got a request to be on a phone call. I had no clue he was going to use my name. What do you know about that?

KARNI: From beginning to end, this attempt to have some sort of economic task force with the business leaders of the country was a bit of a debacle. People he read these names off, that was the first a lot of them heard of it. There was a hastily scheduled conference call the next day that a lot of chief executives would have agreed to be on it couldn`t be on it because they had already pre-scheduled meetings to attend.

And then on the call, what was interesting about it was that he encountered a lot of pushback from business leaders saying, we need testing before we feel comfortable coming back to work. And I don`t think this was the kind of backing he was expecting, that he`s used to seeing from Republican lawmakers, just a validation of what he already wanted to hear. If that`s what he was looking for from the business leaders of America, that`s not what he got on that call, and it was just another -- The governor is saying we need more testing. He brought in the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. He heard the same message from them too. And I heard a lot of questions from people involved in this effort that they doubted this group would ever meet again. They expected that was a one and done conference call, and this task force isn`t a real thing.

WILLIAMS: Anne Rimoin, the President said flatly yesterday the nation has passed its peak. Is that true?

RIMOIN: Because we still do not have appropriate amounts of testing in place, we have no idea where we are on the curve. We are still trying to understand where are we? How far into the woods are we? There`s no way to know until we have testing in place. And it`s not just testing for symptomatic people. It`s testing for everybody, in particular looking for asymptomatic infection. This is particularly important because we know that asymptomatic infection actually represents a very large part of people who are sick. And that means that we have to be able to not only test people who are symptomatic but in particular focus on testing people who are, for example, health care workers, first responders, essential workers, so that they know whether or not they are asymptomatic and we can isolate these people, quarantine contacts, all of these things.

You know, the problem that I worry about the most is if we do what the President is suggesting and we`re having states open up here and there, you know, we don`t have the testing. We don`t know who`s sick, who isn`t? We don`t know where we are on the curve for each of these places. Are we not the United States of America? We need to have collective wisdom to be able to come up with a strategy that makes sense for everybody and to have the entire nation be able to forgo present pleasure for future collective gain.

WILLIAMS: Lanhee Chen, I`m going to read you a quote from The Wall Street Journal. Trump has asked White House aides for economic response plans that would allow him to take credit for economic successes while providing enough flexibility to place the fault for any failures on others. Trump tries to give the impression that he`s running this responsible, yet he also wants to avoid being too tied to it. Is this his new campaign strategy? Does that sound about right to you, Lanhee?

CHEN: Well, you know, this campaign, it`s very interesting because I think that the President`s response is going to be the central question voters are going to grapple with when they go to the polls in November. So, you know, there may be plans to try and dissociate the President from the economic response. The reality is if the economic response goes well, the President will get credit for it. If it does not, he is going to get blamed for it. So regardless of the plans that are being put together, regardless of what the campaign`s strategy might be, at the end of the day, people -- the voters in November, this is going to be a referendum, I think, on the President`s performance during this crisis and the recovery from it.

WILLIAMS: Lanhee Chen, Annie Karni, Anne Rimoin, by the way, Anne, the sound out the window where you live could be used as part of a relaxation app. Thank you, all three of you, for showing up late on a Friday night after the week we`ve had.

Coming up for us, a promising sign about a possible treatment for this virus. We`re going to ask one of Boston`s top physicians about it.

And later, some good news to come out of this new normal. Being stuck at home for what seems like forever means a lot of little ones have found new forever homes. The 11th Hour is just getting under way on a Friday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): If we really want to get to the point where we`re testing as much as we would like and as most other governors in most other states would like, there needs to be more testing infrastructure, more test kits, more capacity to test.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts, a state that remains one of the biggest testers in our country. But as the Governor said, they still need more tests. The New York Times points out, commonwealth of Massachusetts is the first state to invest millions into the idea of contact tracing.

Our next guest says contact tracing and testing are part of a multi-prong approach to reopening his state, reopening this country we all share. And for more we want to welcome to the broadcast Dr. Kevin Tabb, Internal Medicine Physician and the President and CEO of Beth Israel Lahey Health in Massachusetts.

Doctor, I note you have a number of clinical trials under way. If there is good news to report, please do.

DR. KEVIN TABB, BETH ISRAEL LAHEY HEALTH PRESIDENT & CEO: Yeah. Well, good evening, Brian. Thanks very much. We are involved, as are a number of other academic medical centers around the country, in clinical trials looking at a variety of different options. But it is very premature right now to talk about good news. We just don`t know at this point, and it`s important to get this right. And so I think it`s going to take some time before we understand whether or not any of the things that we`re looking at, any of the therapies that we`re looking at will potentially pan out.

WILLIAMS: Let me localize this for you, and I think most folks have been to your fine city. If the Boston metropolitan area, if the hub received permission tomorrow morning, come on out. The weather`s fine. Go back to school and work. Go to Red Sox games. Go to Celtics games. Go to Bruins games. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine what would happen as a result? If you can`t imagine that, what needs to happen between now and that point?

TABB: Well, I can imagine that happening, and if that were to happen, it would be an unmitigated disaster. Luckily in this state at least, I think there`s broad consensus among the citizens of the state and the leaders in this state that that`s not something that we`re contemplating right now.

We`re still seeing an increase in the number of cases and the number of deaths. Today marked a pretty grim milestone for the highest number of deaths we`ve seen in this state, and so we`re nowhere near ready to open things up. I think we really need a multi-pronged approach.

Some of your earlier guests talked about the need for more testing. That`s absolutely true. I think it`s a combination of continued social distancing, more testing, robust contact tracing, which you just referred to, looking for new therapies, and ultimately a vaccine. And we`re going to need all of those things to really beat this disease.

WILLIAMS: I had an E.R. doc tell me on the broadcast this past week at the hospital where he works, ventilators bring with them an 86% mortality rate. In other words, they lose 86% of the patients intubated and placed on ventilators. Are you seeing that same rate, and can you speak to any of The New York Times reporting this week that some docs are turning against ventilators in all cases?

TABB: Well, I don`t think that it`s -- I don`t think that it`s the ventilators that are bringing the deaths. I think what we`re seeing are very, very sick patients and a high proportion of these patients that ultimately need ventilators but are not making it to the end. I think we`re trying a number of different things. Some of them are the clinical trials that we`re engaged in, and some of them are other things like placing patients on their stomach in a prone position and other things, which we`re finding may be very helpful here. So the truth is we just are not sure yet the best way to treat these patients, but we`re learning on the fly.

WILLIAMS: While I`m not a doctor or come to think of it a college graduate, we did see the first pictures of patients on their stomachs that I recall from the early days in Italy, and of course physically the lungs are in the back. As we learn more about this, it does make at least common sense, correct, Doc?

TABB: Well, yeah. It is something that has been tried before, and I think people are finding it increasingly helpful to try spells of having these patients on their stomach. And we`re seeing in many cases that that can prevent somebody from progressing to the point where they need to be intubated and on a ventilator. And then in some cases when they`re already on a ventilator, putting them in that position can help. But, you know, the truth is there`s not going to be one single silver bullet to this crisis. We`re going to need to try a number of different therapies. We`re going to need to try preventive actions and ultimately we`re going to need to get to treatment and a vaccine.

WILLIAMS: You may have lost Tom Brady, but the City of Boston, State of Massachusetts is blessed to have some of the best hospitals in the world, yours included. Thank you at the end of a busy week for finding time to take our questions, Dr. Kevin Tabb with us from Boston tonight.

And coming up for us, how the President`s supporters are rewriting the coronavirus narrative when The 11th Hour continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS All this week as you`ve heard, the president`s been pushing hard to get parts of our country regionally, parts of various states back open as soon as possible. He took the campaign a step further this morning, posting demands to liberate three states in his country where Democratic governors have imposed stay-at-home orders. Not surprisingly, he`s receiving heavy air support from the supportive cast of Fox News in prime time tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millions of Americans are fed up with their governors. Look at Michigan. Protests erupting against Governor Whitmer because, why? Issuing lockdown orders. You`re preventing residents from visiting their own family members, cutting their own grass, buying seeds, fishing. You can`t be any more socially distant than fishing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are far too many unanswered questions tonight. Too much about this doesn`t make sense. And insistence of mostly liberal governors to keep states closed that have had comparatively low rates of mortality and that never came close to swamping the healthcare system is just pushing people to the brink.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So that`s how that`s going, and it`s been going on night after night after night. And we`re happy to have back with us again Jeremy Peters, political reporter for "The New York Times".

Jeremy, let`s begin with the president, and we`ll back into Fox News as it were. Is it possible, same question I asked Annie Karni tonight, the president, during a pandemic, views two different constituencies, in quotes, his people, and in quotes, the rest of us?

JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. And I think primary to both of those, Brian, is Trump himself. He views this exclusively almost in terms of, what does this do for me, and what does this do for my chances of reelection in November. That`s exactly why you hear him talking about the economy so much.

And you can -- you know, you can almost hear the disappointment in his voice when he talks about how he had to shut down the most successful economy that the world has ever seen, and he uses these hyperbolic exaggerations to describe the way that his administration has worked harder and more effectively than any other administration and has provided all these tremendous tools to the states because he wants to cast himself in the role of the hero here.

He needs a hero and a villain in every political script that he ever writes. This is how he has run for office. It`s how he`s run his businesses. In this case, the villain is going to be the Democratic governors in these states, and Donald Trump will be the hero. That`s how he can write this.

WILLIAMS: Virtually, every prime time show goes after Gretchen Whitmer at some point. Tonight, Tucker Carlson went big on China and Gretchen Whitmer. Tonight, Sean Hannity talked about his so-called Hannity plan to open up New York City, the epicenter of this illness. It`ll be interesting to see if that gets rebranded under the president`s brand and we hear about it again. As you`ve reported on for years, it`s symbiotic and it goes back and forth. Sometimes talking points that start in Fox on prime end up at the White House, and sometimes it`s air support for points that begin on Pennsylvania Avenue.

PETERS: That`s exactly right. It really is a give and take. I think, though, in this case, Brian, what you saw the president tweet this morning with Liberate Minnesota, Liberate Michigan, Virginia, that started more in the conservative media. The Trump administration and Trump himself have been at the briefings and most of their approach in this -- in terms of public policy very cautious and guarded in terms of saying, when can we get states back up and running? Well, we need to see that infection rates are lower. We need to have more testing.

Well, all of that went out the window today because over the last week or so, you`ve had this confidence (ph) roar in the conservative media that people are having these authoritarian mandates, locking them down in their homes, preventing them from going to church, preventing them from fishing. And, you know, really, what -- if you`re looking at this from Donald Trump`s perspective, what better us versus them storyline is there than the Trump salt of the earth voter being told by the liberal Democratic governor that you can`t go hunting and fishing and go in your boat.

And that`s what they`re getting at here. They`re trying to create this division, and it really is, I think, a two Americas version of this pandemic playing out because the cities that Governor Gretchen Whitmer, for example, is looking at, Detroit, Detroit with very high rates of infection, a very stressed healthcare system, they`re experiencing it differently than the people are in the rural areas of Michigan. And so what you have are these really strikingly different experiences where people are saying in these rural areas, well, why can`t I go out and live my life as usual? There aren`t all that many infected people here.

And, the governors in these states looking out for the entire population, looking out for the cities where the infections are really spreading and saying, well, it`s just not safe to do that yet. And you have a conservative media apparatus and a president of the United States who`s willing to exploit those differences.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy Peters of "The New York Times" has been our guest. We commend to your attention his latest on the radio host Michael Savage currently on "The New York Times" website. Jeremy, thank you.

Coming up, one of our medical contributors today put it this way. It`s not the virus that`s still killing people. It`s poor leadership. Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss on presidential responsibility when we come right back.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Ultimate victory in this war will be made possible by America`s scientific brilliance. There is nothing like us. There is nobody like us. Not even close. I wish I could tell you stories what other countries, even powerful countries say to me, the leaders. They say it quietly and they say it off the record, but they have great respect for what we can do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Susan Glasser of "The New Yorker" has a different take on this president`s leadership abilities. Regarding this crisis, she writes the following. "It has been met by the same old, same old from America`s president, unhinged press conferences and unfounded conspiracy theories, lies, attacks and bizarre non-sequiturs and abrupt, seemingly incomprehensible policy shifts from a leader who has no problem changing course at the expense of his own credibility."

Back with us again tonight is our friend, the noted author and presidential historian, Michael Beschloss. And allow us to recommend for your quarantine book list any of his works, but certainly his latest, "Presidents of War, The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times".

Michael, after Sandy Hook, it will always be said to this president`s annoyance, Barack Obama acted and spoke on instinct to a shaken country. Talk about the leadership instinct, you can characterize it any way you wish, that you see in this president.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Oh, the opposite of that. You know, Brian, you`ll remember on election night when Donald Trump gave his victory speech, he said, it`s so important to me, means so much to me, he said, to unify this country and to be president of all the people. And that`s about the last we heard about it. He gave a very divisive inaugural address, and through this administration, and we`ve been seeing it today, you`ve seen this great tendency to pit one section of the country against another. And that`s almost totally out of keeping with the history of the presidency as you know.

The founders wanted the president to bind up this very divided nation at times when, you know, parts of the country were in disagreement, for instance, in the 1950s. The Supreme Court said integrate the schools. Dwight Eisenhower, who was president, didn`t even necessarily agree with all of that opinion, yet sent federal troops to Little Rock to integrate Little Rock High School. You and I have talked about how Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s walked on eggshells to make sure that enforcement of the Civil Rights Act and voting rights would not threaten a civil war in this country. You did not have a president, you know, doing the equivalent of tweeting, liberate, you know, various states held by -- governed by Democratic governors.

I would point out today is the anniversary of the day in 1861 that Virginia seceded from the union. Not a great day for our president to be talking about liberating Virginia and the Second Amendment.

WILLIAMS: And, Michael, we also have this new dynamic entering the conversation, admittedly on the right, as I mentioned, a lot of Fox News prime time is devoted to this. I`m going to play for you some audio that surfaced earlier this week. This is Republican Congressman named Hollingsworth of Indiana.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. TREY HOLLINGSWORTH (R-IN) ON WIBC RADIO: It is always the American government`s position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life of American lives, we have to always choose the latter. It is policymakers` decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say, this is the lesser of these two evils, and it is not zero evil, but it is the lesser of these evils, and we intend to move forward that direction.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So, Michael, this is the theory of, it`s a grotesque term, acceptable loss. Presidents have faced it like FDR going into the Second World War, post-Pearl Harbor, certainly on the eve of Normandy. But have you -- in your memory, have you heard this in this kind of context?

BESCHLOSS: I have never heard language like this, and I have never heard a president speak with so little sensitivity and empathy about the number of people who may lose their lives as the result of the policies we`re talking about. It`s the opposite of conservative. Conservatives talk about their reverence for life. The fundamental job of an American president is to keep the American people safe, not necessarily to sacrifice lives for the sake of the economy as that congressman was talking about.

WILLIAMS: You mentioned leadership. You have written so elegantly about something relatively minor that Lyndon Johnson did after a terrible hurricane flooding in Louisiana. He went up on a levee. He held a flashlight under his chin to illuminate his face. The power was out for the entire region. And he said, this is your president and went on to say he was there for them, and they were going to be OK. That, I think, is an example of what you`re talking about.

BESCHLOSS: That`s real leadership, and that`s what we really have not seen very much of. And you know what it is, Brian, is not just telegraphing to Americans that you understand what`s at stake and you feel bad about the tragedy that`s happening day after day after day. But it`s also you`re giving the American people a sense that they know your soul. 99 percent of the decisions that a president makes, none of us will hear about.

But if we feel that we understand a president`s values, that he is sensitive to the issues at stake, we will feel a little bit more complacent about the fact that when he makes decisions that affect all of our lives out of our sight, those will be decisions that we will approve of. And when we don`t have that sense, when we don`t feel that bond with the president, people go to bed at night, and they don`t sleep.

WILLIAMS: With our thanks for having us into your home, which I might add is a setting befitting of a great national historian, Michael Beschloss, thank you for staying up late with us on a Friday night.

BESCHLOSS: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Still ahead for our broadcast, the heartwarming trend making life under quarantine just a little bit easier.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Empty kennels.

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WILLIAMS: You want good news? We have good news. Those are the cheers of the shelter staff in Palm Beach County, Florida. For the first time in their history, their shelter has emptied one of its long dog kennels, and we have the quarantine to thank for all those new forever homes.

As our next guest reports, as inevitable as hoarded pantry staples, the puppy has emerged as the ultimate vector of comfort in this coronavirus time. With us tonight is Kelly Horan, correspondent for "The Boston Globe."

And Kelly, it strikes me this is a great time to be a puppy, so the puppy community is probably very happy. It`s a great time for the shelters who do the Lord`s work day in and day out. I hope everyone has thought through what`s going to happen when they someday do go back to work. But I understand there is a sweetie you have picked out who will be gracing your home. Tell us your own puppy journey.

KELLY HORAN, THE BOSTON GLOBE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this reporting grew out of -- oh, there she is now. This reporting grew out of my --

WILLIAMS: Oh, who`s a good dog?

HORAN: -- effort to get our nine-year-old son. She`s a good girl. Our son turned nine last week, and we were desperate for him to have a way to remember this moment as something other than just the pandemic that shut everything down. And I spent a couple of weeks trying to find a puppy at a shelter, any shelter, and I just couldn`t. And I gave up and did what any journalist would do and decided to write about it and to investigate and decide, is this a thing? And it turns out it is a thing.

And then the day after I submitted my piece to my editor, I got a call that there was a puppy, you just saw her, and she`ll be on her way to us next week.

WILLIAMS: Wow. The one thing I have read is that families have to try their best to socialize the puppy because when you`re out walking with a brand- new puppy, what everyone wants to do is get down and pet them. You can`t allow strangers to pet the puppy during a pandemic when the dog`s going to go back in your house with your family.

HORAN: Yes, it`s going to be a neat trick. I`ve heard about people setting up puppy obstacle courses in their living rooms so that the puppy will get used to the sounds of a car horn or a doorbell. I think that one of the biggest challenges with a new puppy right now will be to get strangers to meet it. There`s some figure like three people a day for the first 100 days of a dog`s life. I`m not sure we`re going to be able to do that. But I think that the chance that we might have a slightly undersocialized puppy outweighs the joy that we`ll have with the puppy. So, we`re going for it.

WILLIAMS: Do you have the following? A name? A sleeping compartment or a cage ---

HORAN: Yes.

WILLIAMS: -- bowls, dishes, perhaps two but maybe a backdrop, one for food, one for water, rope toys, chew toys, all of it?

HORAN: We`ve collected the whole set. We have all of the above, and the name. We were told that she was found in Tennessee, so we called her Tennessee, Tennessee Tulip. And then we spoke with her foster mama in Alabama tonight and learned that that was not correct, but we`re sticking with the name Tennessee.

WILLIAMS: Well, a very good dog is about to get a very good forever home. I couldn`t be happier for you. We are sheltering with a shelter dog ourselves. It`s everything they say it is. Kelly Horan, thank you very much for being on our broadcast and for writing what you did in the "Globe".

Coming up for us, another benchmark in this era of COVID-19 that we are all living.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, COVID-19 has claimed the life of a Medal of Honor recipient, a man no other enemy was able to take down. Bennie Adkins was a U.S. Army sergeant first class who served three tours in Vietnam, most of it as a green beret in the seventh, third, sixth, and fifth Special Forces group. But Bennie was his own special force. He earned the nation`s highest medal when his base came under attack after he repeatedly exposed himself to withering enemy fire, including machine guns, incoming mortars, at times trying to draw the fire away from his men while rescuing the wounded.

This went on from March 9th through March 12th of 1966. His Medal of Honor citation says it best. "During the 38-hour battle and 48 hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms and hand grenades, killing an estimated 135 to 175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds." He was originally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which the Pentagon decades later upgraded to the Medal of Honor after they reviewed the evidence of his actions on the battlefield.

President Obama presented Bennie with the medal in 2014 on behalf of our grateful nation. Bennie Adkins came home from Vietnam, went immediately to work. He earned a bachelor`s degree, then two master`s degrees, started an accounting firm, later taught at Auburn. He started a charitable foundation as well that gives scholarships to returning veterans. Bennie Adkins was 86 years old. His death leaves our nation with 71 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.

That is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week. 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