Trump Intel briefing TRANSCRIPT: 4/27/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Lipi Roy, Jon Meacham

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Lights that tonight are saluting the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy over the shut-in city of New York from high atop the Empire State Building.

Good evening on this day 1,194 of the Trump administration. 190 days to go now until the presidential election. And perhaps you`re old enough to remember when this President swore off the daily format of coronavirus press conferences, saying they were no longer worth his time mostly because of the global reaction after he said this.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous -- whether it`s ultraviolet or just very powerful light? And I think you said that hasn`t been checked, but you`re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you`re going to test that too. Sounds interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll get to the right folks who could.

TRUMP: Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you`re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds -- it sounds interesting to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So that was Thursday. The President swore off the daily briefings for an entire weekend after the idea of injectable disinfectants failed to catch on.

Tonight in what Veteran White House Aide David Gergen called a form of addiction, the President was back at it, this time in the Rose Garden. Today with 56,000 dead and 26 million unemployed, the President faced the news media again. He said things are moving along and there`s a tremendous energy in this country right now. He also said he couldn`t imagine why people would ingest disinfectants.

Today a parade of CEOs came before the microphone, most of whom have learned the name of game by now and thanked the President for his leadership.

He`s going deep on blaming China, saying today, "We are not happy with China." He said one country is accountable for what happened, and it could have been stopped. And those who have died have, "sacrificed for incompetence."

He again mentioned, "I built the greatest economy in the history of the world." He again mentioned shutting down, "causes death also." And he again mentioned the 1917 flu pandemic, which is what he calls the 1918 flu pandemic, and issued his daily reminder of the death toll estimate had he done nothing. He said, "We`ve lost a lot of people while noting U.S. deaths may be headed now for 70,000."

Tonight we widen back out to the real world and find a U.S. death toll that has passed 56,000 with not yet 2% of our population tested. We know of nearly 1 million confirmed cases of this coronavirus. That`s against the backdrop of more than 3 million cases worldwide.

Tonight The Washington Post is reporting Trump`s intelligence briefing book cited the virus threat on multiple occasions as far back as January and February. One of the reporters on the story spoke to our colleague Chris Hayes earlier this evening.

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GREG MILLER, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL SECURITY REPORT: References to the coronavirus were included in at least a dozen of the Presidents` daily briefs. They were calling attention to the threat of the coronavirus in a way that amounts to a fairly steady drumbeat throughout January and February.

He doesn`t read the PDB unlike his predecessors. He relies almost exclusively on an oral briefing that he has curtailed to rough three two or three times a week. Across this stretch of time, of course, he is -- in January and February, the period of time we`re writing about, he is very dismissive of the threat of this virus.

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WILLIAMS: You may recall it was about a month ago that Donald Trump said this.

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TRUMP: -- ever seen something like this coming, but now we know, and we know it could happen and happen again. And if it does, somebody`s going to be very well prepared because of what we`ve learned and how we`ve done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, the President appeared in the Rose Garden today to announce a new plan for testing. Yet the upshot for all of it is the testing is still going to be the job of the states. The White House says it will be coordinating with governors to support testing plans. Today the administration was asked about its previous statements vowing to boost testing.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In early March, you said we`d be at 4 million tests by the following week. We just now got there in the last few days. So what have you learned about what went wrong, you know, a month and a half -- over the last month and a half or two months, and what`s going to go right now?

MIKE PENCE, (R) UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: Jon, I appreciate the question, but it represents a misunderstanding on your part and, frankly, a lot of people in the public`s part about the difference between having a test versus the ability to actually process the test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when you said 4 million tests, seven weeks ago, you were just talking about tests being sent out, not actually being completed? I`m a little confused.

PENCE: Jon, I think -- precisely correct. Those were tests that, frankly, but for the President`s leadership, we`d still be waiting on those tests to be done in many cases.

TRUMP: I think it`s very important to know -- and this you can get from any other country, I think, if they`re being honest. Not only do we have the most testing in the world by far, but we have by far the best testing.

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WILLIAMS: Except for percentage of the population. Meanwhile, more states and cities are moving ahead with plans to start reopening their economies and lifting those stay-at-home restrictions. After weeks of shutdown, about ten states have partially reopened. Texas, which let`s not forget is home to 29 million Americans, will lift its stay-at-home order on Thursday of this week.

Some businesses will be allowed to open back up Friday. Miami-Dade county down in Florida will reopen parks, voting facilities, waterways, golf courses starting Wednesday.

Illinois now facing a court challenge to its order to extend the restrictions. A judge has ruled against the governor there, Governor Pritzker, issuing a restraining over the extension of the state`s stay-at- home order through May 30. Pritzker says he`ll fight to keep his order in place. A number of school systems remain closed.

This afternoon, the President sure seemed to urge governors to consider reopening schools for the remainder of the year.

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TRUMP: I know that there are some governors that aren`t necessarily ready to open up their states, but they may be ready to open up their school systems. We`ll see, but that`s their choice. But the word is safety, OK? Rapid but safety.

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WILLIAMS: U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has alerted federal prosecutors to be on the lookout for state and local virus restrictions that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of his fellow citizens. At the White House, Trump offered this explanation of his AG`s thinking.

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TRUMP: He wants to see people get back and he wants to see people get back to work. He doesn`t want people to be held up when there`s no reason for doing it. In some cases, perhaps it`s too strict. He wants to make sure people have their rights and they maintain their rights. This has been a big study. You know, the fact that people aren`t allowed to have their freedom causes a tremendous amount of problems, including death. So that`s what he`s talking about.

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WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night, Shannon Pettypiece, Veteran Journalist, Senior White House Reporter for us at NBC News Digital. A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor and Columnist for Real Clear Politics, and Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff at both the CIA and Pentagon, Former Chief Counsel to House Intel.

Shannon, I`d like to begin with you and our friend Susan Glasser over at The New Yorker has the "to start us off." I guess the Trump pulling back from outrageous self-promotional inaccurate daily presser line was wrong.

And Shannon, it strikes me this is equal parts Groundhog Day and Charlie Brown. Groundhog Day in that you and I blindfolded could write a two-page story that senior Republicans and staffers have prevailed on the President that he`s overexposed and hurting the party politically, so he`s agreed to pull back. Charlie Brown comes in when the football gets pulled away from everyone in government and media, and we have what we witnessed today. How was that at all different from something branded a coronavirus press conference?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS.COM SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. Few surprises in life, I guess, if you`re really paying attention. On Friday, when he cut the briefing short and didn`t take questions, a lot of the administration officials were saying, see, now he`s listening to his advisers. We`ve been telling him for weeks you have to curtail these. These are not helping you in any way. They are, in fact, hurting you. But, you know, one pretty senior adviser told me on Friday they said, well, you know, it was Friday. He was tired. Things might calm down for the weekend. But this ain`t over until it`s over.

And, you know, they cautioned me again writing a story saying the daily briefing was done or he was going to be, you know, shelving things. And one of the big issues here has been all along, you know, when you have one bad habit, you have to replace it with a good one, they usually tell you. So for his advisers to have him stop these briefings, they have to find some outlet for him to express himself, get his message out there, and they don`t have an alternative to that. These press briefings have become a mini rally in many ways, and you could see over the weekend when the President didn`t have briefings, he was going out on Twitter and a real string of tweets that, you know, you could argue would be even -- hurt him even more potentially than these briefings.

So I don`t think it appears the strategy of getting him to, you know, pull back on these -- maybe we see a few more or some tweets if they don`t go on for two hours, but they seem to be here to stay, I think, until his aides can get him out on the road or get him some sort of alternative to these.

WEIR: Hey, A.B., what is the President doing to the party and all those Republicans who are going to be aligned on a ballot in November?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: You can look at the polling in the presidential campaign where Biden is ahead in almost every single poll nationally, and critically he is ahead in the swing states, even eking out slim leads in Ohio and Florida, and then just behind Trump by five points in Texas and Utah.

So that`s terrifying Republicans in terms of their hold on the Senate majority. They are now looking to lose Senate incumbents in likely Maine, probably Colorado, almost definitely Arizona, likely North Carolina, and at this point they`re going to have to start putting out fires in terms of the resources they spend in Iowa, in Kansas, in Montana, in Texas, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, every single incumbent Republican senator, has been outspent by their challengers.

This is really a nightmare scenario for them, which is why you saw a campaign memo from the Senate Committee telling Republican incumbents, do not defend President Trump`s coronavirus response. Just start talking about China, how much they lied to us, and basically fend for yourself. This has irritated the President, of course, but from the looks, the direct, you know, line from these really goofy briefings sometimes really disturbing, going off the rails, to the polling that resulted after like two months of them. It was clear that they were really politically destructive to the President and for everyone down-ballot.

WEIR: And we saw the results today. Hey, Jeremy Bash, a couple of things about The Washington Post reporting. Are you surprised the coronavirus was in as many presidential daily briefings, which I guess have to be performed as skits and can`t be handed over in the written version? Were you surprised it was in as many PDBs going back as far as it was? Were you further surprised to hear him express surprise when it got here?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER, CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: I wasn`t surprised at all, Brian, because there are major geopolitical implications to the coronavirus crisis, and the President received those briefings repeatedly according to this new reporting from The Washington Post in his presidential daily brief, which is of course the foundational document of the intelligence analysts, of the intelligence community. And at any moment leading up to a big security situation, there`s going to be a tremendous amount of intelligence flowing to the Oval Office, principally through the Presidents` daily briefs, and through other briefings. But the President has to be willing to hear it. And this is a President who has time and again denigrated the intelligence community, called them scum, called them Nazis, unleashed the Justice Department to investigate them. He has said he wanted to out publicly a whistle-blower from the intelligence community.

So this is a President who disdains intelligence. Principally, Brian, as we all know because early on, they said that Russia helped to support his election, and he`s never gotten over that. And you`re seeing the consequences now, Brian, where a President ignored the intelligence warnings, the repeated warnings from the intelligence community, and as a result the U.S. government got to a very late start dealing with this crisis when they could have been much more on their front foot in January.

WEIR: Shannon, on the economy and this looming possibility, God forbid for all of us that we have a false start and any kind of a second curve. How many different sets of economic advice is this President getting, and who`s winning this argument internally, do you think?

Well, we kind of thought two of those different cases play out publicly when we had Kevin Hassett, one of his economic advisers, talking about how this was going to be, you know, great depression-like numbers we were going to see. And then of course his treasury secretary talking about this huge rebound in the third and the fourth quarter, and the President, of course, echoing that saying that the third quarter is going to be great. The fourth quarter is going to be great. Of course the third quarter, you know, start into July, August, September.

You know, the way I`m hearing advisers and strategists talk about this, they know the economy is going to be really bad going into the election. Their hope is that they can see some upward trend so that the second quarter numbers are just catastrophic but the third quarter looks a little bit better. And they can spin this as the great American comeback story, as the President turning things around and just give him a little more time, and you`ll see, he`ll bring this economy back to life. That`s the scenario they`re hoping for. But if it goes -- and the fear is that if it stays closed too long, instead of having things kind of get better in the third quarter, we`re going to enter some kind of death spiral where the second quarter is horrible and the third quarter is even worse. And that`s the real nightmare scenario.

It might be 15% unemployment in the third quarter, but if it was 20% in the second quarter, they think they can at least have a selling point to that. They`re really banking on seeing some upward trend in the months before the election.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, a lot of folks just don`t know where that third quarter household spending is going to come from after what we`ve been through.

A.B., you have some reporting on something near and dear to your heart, and that is how cruel this virus has been to our veterans and military. And as a secondary question, I would ask you how are veterans and active duty military have fared under this commander in chief in the COVID-19 era.

STODDARD: Brian, the situation both in the V.A. health system for 9 million veterans, half of whom are over the age of 65 with underlying conditions for many of them either related to their age or their service, in these poorly run facilities, tight spaces, with cared for. We have learned finally from the V.A. they`ve admitted they`ve been rationing personal protective equipment, not enough masks and gowns, getting sick themselves. Ten have died among staff. Soldier`s home in Holyoke, Massachusetts has now lost 73. Another facility in New Orleans, 53.

Veterans are in real peril because of a lack of preparation. And then the same denial and dismissal of this virus that the general population has seen. We saw on the USS Theodore Roosevelt the beginning of how this virus is going to put in the same delayed response, our active duty troops in harm`s way from the spread of the virus.

Now, four aircraft carriers see positive cases, training recruits are in tight spaces trying to train up to be put into the pipeline, using social distancing and trying to avoid the spread. The navy submarines are very vulnerable. And now since my piece was published, the President is demanding 1,000 cadets return to West Point so that he can speak to them for a graduation that they really shouldn`t be gathering for or getting on airplanes for. It`s just been a remarkable betrayal of our troops and our military readiness and our veterans who have given everything for us and are losing their lives in great, great numbers.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, a number of us woke up Saturday morning to reports that Kim Jong-un had died. We still don`t have a definitive answer, but I`m going to play for you what the President said today about the leader of North Korea.

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TRUMP: Kim Jong-un? I can`t tell you exactly. Yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can`t talk about it now. I do know how he`s doing relatively speaking. We will see. You`ll probably be hearing in the not too distant future.

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WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, very typically there he wants us to know he knows, but in answering it, gave something of proof of life, but is that enough for the rest of the world to go on? And is that the type of answer you`d expect from a president?

BASH: Yeah, I was going to say, Brian, at least he`s confirmed that the leader of North Korea is alive. And of course the President has put a lot of stock in that leader, in that dictator, in their relationship. It was that bromance of sort with that elegant pageantry around the summit that President Trump and Kim Jong-un held. And so President Trump really wants Kim Jong-un to hang on, to stay in power, so that of course President Trump can showcase what he believes is a national security victory. But of course we haven`t achieved any of the key milestones that we`ve set out in those summits. So the President is being coy playing with the press corps, but we still don`t have a strategy for the long term with respect to North Korea. Should there be a transition there, Brian, the situation will get even more dangerous.

WILLIAMS: Indeed it will. Shannon Pettypiece, A.B. Stoddard, Jeremy Bash starting a new week on a Monday night with us. Thank you, the three of you, so much.

Coming up, testing, antibodies, a whole new set of symptoms. We`ll talk to a leading physician who says what you don`t know about this virus could indeed be fatal.

And later, Trump predicts a swift recovery. Steve Schmidt may beg to differ. THE 11TH HOUR just getting under way on this Monday night.

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TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: The San Francisco Bay area announced it will be extending its lockdown until the end of May. That`s five weeks from now. What is the scientific justification for doing that? They didn`t tell us because there is none. None. Back in February and March. They said, we have to take radical steps in order to, "flatten the curve." Well, six weeks later we`re happy to say that curve has been flattened, but it`s likely not because of the lockdown. The virus just isn`t nearly as deadly as we thought it was.

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WILLIAMS: Over 56,000 Americans are now confirmed dead from this, and with more and more of that kind of thinking out there, which dovetails nicely with the President`s campaign to reopen the country, let`s hear from a doctor on that. And with us once again is Dr. Lipi Roy, an internal medicine physician in New York, who is among our medical contributors.

Less deadly than they thought. Doctor, why don`t you respond to what we just heard there?

DR. LIPI ROY, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Good evening, Brian. I`m not sure what the basis of that statement is, but let`s just look at facts, and let`s look at the data. Since we had our first case in the United States in mid-January until today, near the end of April, so in the past 90 or so days, we`ve had over 55,000 men and women and some children lose their lives. That`s about 620 people a day.

And by the way, the case and death rate numbers are rising. They`re not going down in this country. And if you listen to the actual public health and medical professional who`s devoted their careers to understanding disease, particularly infectious diseases, people like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, and many others in this country and worldwide, they will tell you that this novel coronavirus is one of the most pathogenic, virulent organisms that we`ve seen in a very long time. You just have to look at the data, Brian. I wouldn`t listen to anyone else other than looking at the data and listening to the experts.

WILLIAMS: Now, you have just written something important about something important we keep hearing about anecdotally, and that is the other damage that this virus is leaving behind. We first heard sporadic reports of strokes in relatively young people. We`ll show the article you`ve written for Forbes. Tell our audience the findings it contains.

ROY: Yeah. So this is kind of hot off the press. I just finished writing that a few hours ago. The truth is, Brian, let me just take a step back. We are learning something every day about this virus. Again, this is a novel coronavirus. I mean I can`t even imagine the challenges that people like frontline -- people like Dr. Fauci and all these researchers around the world, they`re actively trying to accrue data. So what I wrote about that article was based on a study from Wuhan, China, looking at I think about 214 patient who`s were exhibiting neurologic symptoms associated with COVID-19. And they ranged from headache and dizziness to seizures and strokes and altered consciousness. These are not symptoms we typically saw with other viruses, certainly not influenza or other viruses. I think we saw that a little bit with SARS, but certainly not to the degree we`re seeing now with COVID-19.

We`re also seeing other like cardiac manifestations like myocarditis and clotting, and we suspect that clotting has something to do with the rise in strokes, it`s certainly chemotherapeutic strokes. So we`re learning something every day. So one of the messages I think we should take from that is if a patient is presenting to your clinic or to the hospital with neurologic symptoms like a headache, one-sided weakness, slurred speech, which are classic stroke symptoms, don`t brush that off and consider that that patient may have COVID-19.

WILLIAMS: It`s incredible how much we`re learning, how much physicians like you are learning and writing down for the benefit of the rest of us. And another way of looking at it is how early on in our knowledge of this virus we are. Dr. Lipi Roy, thank you very much for what you`ve written and for coming back on the broadcast with us tonight.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, Donald Trump told reporters today he`s looking forward to November 3rd. But should he be? We`ll ask Republican Strategist Steve Schmidt whether that optimism is warranted when we come back.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we`re going to have - - you`re going to see a big rise in the third, but you`re going to see an incredible fourth quarter, and you`re going to have an incredible next year. I think you`re going to have a recovery. Look, I built -- they were just telling me inside, and it`s fact, I built the greatest economy with the help of 325 million people. I built the greatest economy in the history of the world. And one day because of something that should have never been allowed to happen, we had to close our country. We had to close our economy.

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WILLIAMS: Get the China blame in that response. Some very optimistic talk amid all of it from the president in the Rose Garden today. Moments after the president`s comments, as part of our live coverage, I asked our senior business correspondent Steph Ruhle for an economic reality check.

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STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: When he talks about building the greatest economy ever and in the third or fourth quarter, it`s going to be better than ever, I ask you this, Brian. Even if we open everything up in this country, which you know we`re not, even if we do, once we adhere to social distancing rules and our restaurants, bars, movie theaters, stadiums and airplanes are only half full, which will be the rules, we will face a wave of bankruptcies again in this country. So the president simply isn`t telling the truth.

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WILLIAMS: Back with us again tonight, Steve Schmidt, veteran political strategist who led John McCain`s 2012 effort and has since left to the Republican Party. So, Steve, what did you make of the president`s comments and prognostications on our economy today?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Brian, good evening. It`s good to be with you. It`s more ludicrousness from the president. And of course, this is the same person who not long ago said that the COVID-19 virus would disappear by magic when 15 Americans had it. He said that soon none will have it.

And so what we`ve seen is a series of misleading comments from the president from the beginning of this, really engaging in wishful thinking, happy talk, trying to tell the American people how he wishes the world would be as opposed to the way it is. There`s 26 million unemployed Americans. That number is rising. We are in a terrible economic calamity in this country. We are in that calamity because of the ineptitude of the federal government`s response to COVID-19. And we`re going to see this get worse before it gets better. We`re seeing in parts of the country food lines forming hours and hours long, miles and miles long, people out of money, people out of food.

And the idea that everything`s going to open back up like you would turn a light switch on and the economy will be humming by the fourth quarter is just another delusional statement from a president who shatters his credibility literally every time he opens his mouth to make a pronouncement about anything with regard to this situation.

WILLIAMS: Speaking of which, his comments on insertion of a UV light inside the human body, his comments on the injection of disinfectants, was that a breaking point for any Republicans, especially those with their names on ballots in November, and how would we know?

SCHMIDT: Well, it may be a breaking point internally, Brian, but certainly not externally. The Republicans, with the exception of Mitt Romney, have lashed themselves to the mast of the (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump, and they`re either going to go down with the ship or be saved on it. And, look, I think that that was a defining moment. When you see the president of the United States up there at a briefing, more than 50,000 dead Americans, and he`s talking about the American people should inject Lysol or to treat themselves with ultraviolet rays, and of course, this is after standing up there when more than 40,000 Americans are dead talking about the size of his TV ratings.

Literally every day, he demonstrates an incapacity for leadership of anything, but particularly in a moment of crisis. And so, we are in a moment of crisis that is as profound as any the country has ever faced, and we have never had a president more unprepared to deal with it intellectually, mentally, morally. And what we see every night is at 6:00 is a national ritual now, the airing of the grievances. Every night he`s on TV blaming somebody for his incompetence, his ineptitude, I think the American people will be sick of it by November.

Look, at the end of the day, there`s two types of elections. There`s change elections or more of the same. And as we look at the conditions of the economy in the country, the constituency for more of the same, when we look at the polling out there, is declining literally by the day.

WILLIAMS: Are the Democrats in your view playing the right game as the president now goads him, Joe Biden is, in fact, running a campaign from his basement in Delaware?

SCHMIDT: He is. And this is going to be a very unique presidential election, Brian. We`re not going to likely see the national conventions. We`re unlikely to see the big rallies, and we`re going to see a very different campaign. The stakes are also enormously high. I think this election in November is probably the most important election since 1864, and the task of bringing recovery to the country after an event like this, where we`ve seen trillions of dollars of spending in the first quarter of the year, 26 million people unemployed literally over the course of a month, when we look at the waves of bankruptcies and mortgage defaults to come, when we look at the fact that this disproportionally will affect working-class people in this country, the recovery is going to take years, and it`s going to take a monumental act of good political leadership to get the country moving in the right direction.

And it`s going to take a policy agenda that looks very, very different from what we`ve been talking about in recent years as the policies of the political parties, of the campaigns, the candidates have become increasingly divorced from the actual reality economically that the country exists in. And so we now have a real crisis in this country. There will be a lot of death and a lot of suffering yet to come. And this president has demonstrated literally on a daily basis he has no aptitude for the work ahead to lead an American recovery.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks as always to Steve Schmidt for joining us tonight. Thanks for having us in.

And coming up for us, before this evening, the president had scarcely mentioned the tens of thousands of his fellow citizens that have been lost in this. Pulitzer Prize-winner Jon Meacham on the importance of empathy in our leadership.

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TRUMP: We continue to mourn with thousands of families across the country as loved ones have been stolen from us by the invisible enemy.

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WILLIAMS: That came after the president got scorched this weekend by both "The New York Times" and "Washington Post." Ashley Parker of "The Post" did the math. Trump has "spent two hours on the attack, 45 minutes praising himself, his team, nine minutes promoting hydroxychloroquine, and just 4.5 minutes offering sympathy for the victims". That`s out of 13 hours of talking.

Here again tonight, presidential historian, Pulitzer prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham. And to help you pass the time during quarantine, Jon craftily has a new podcast we know called "Hope Through History". It`s a five-part documentary series exploring other trying times in our history and how the nation successfully dealt with those crises before.

Jon, he actually said, we do grieve. How far short does that fall from empathy?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Utterly. Words matter obviously because he says so many, and so many are about him, he`s devalued the fundamental currency of leadership.

A quick three stories here. Our modern political era probably begins with a phone call. In 1960, Martin Luther King, in the first year of the big sit- in movement in the south, is arrested. Richard Nixon can`t quite figure out what to do. John Kennedy, urged by Harris Wofford, his civil rights adviser, picks up the phone and calls Coretta Scott King. In a razor-thin election, that phone call simply expressing sympathy, empathy, probably made the difference because it shifted a significant number of votes in an election where any number of votes changing what`s significant.

Lyndon Johnson, Hurricane Betsy. Remember it goes along the grounds of the Gulf Coast saying, this is your president. I`m here to help. George Herbert Walker Bush. The Berlin Wall falls down. It`s the most significant moment at the end of the Cold War. He won`t say anything. He finally has a gaggle come into the Oval Office, and Lesley Stahl and others are beating on him, and he says, I`m not an emotional kind of guy. He was the most emotional kind of guy you could possibly imagine. He wasn`t dancing on the wall as he put it because he was thinking about someone who was in a tough spot. He was thinking about Gorbachev, and he knew that if this had happened to him, he did not need Gorbachev dancing on his grave. And he therefore eliminated his own political interest in order to find a more peaceable end to the Cold War.

He didn`t do that out of calculation entirely. He did it out of empathy. If you -- the fundamental human impulse and certainly the fundamental political impulse is, are you able to put yourself in someone else`s shoes and convince that person that their cares and concerns are your cares and concerns?

WILLIAMS: Jon, because covering this White House is the frog-boiling experiment and because one can be lulled into thinking today was normal and CEOs are constantly called to the lectern to praise the president of the United States, please remind us how abnormal that is.

MEACHAM: You know, we used to not have infomercials from the Rose Garden. We used to actually have presidential communication. Franklin Roosevelt held background briefings with reporters. Publishers didn`t like FDR because they were rich. Reporters liked FDR because they weren`t. And he would spend a lot of time with the press. He -- FDR had stayed an extra year at Harvard actually to be president of the Crimson, to be the editor of the newspaper. He fancied himself a journalist, so he felt he knew that vernacular.

John Kennedy loved reporters. Eisenhower had taken press conferences onto television. Kennedy`s mastered the forum. President Reagan, obviously, was a genius at it. But it was not a third-world kind of cult of personality. This is not to overly romanticize the past. But at the same time, we can`t normalize what is fundamentally a dysfunctional, mad kingship. That`s what we`re living with right now. It`s dysfunctional. It`s mad in that it is not sane. And it is fundamentally a monarchical system that he`s trying to impose on us.

WILLIAMS: Those looking for hope, join me in downloading Jon Meacham`s podcast "Hope Through History". This is why we asked him to come on. Jon, thank you so much for joining us yet again tonight.

When we come back, Richard Engel has done something many of us can`t imagine doing right now. He got on a plane. We`ll hear from him when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: As our country grapples with when and how to reopen the country, which is still largely guesswork without testing, different countries around the world have approached reemergence differently. During this time when most of us cannot imagine getting on a plane unless we absolutely had to, our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who does not scare easily, just traveled within Europe from London to Stockholm and has a look at what`s happening there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.K. is still mostly locked down, but other countries are not. At London`s mostly empty Heathrow Airport, I managed to get on a flight to Sweden. Many passengers took major precautions. The hazmat suits were not required nor handed out by the airline. This was our layover in Finland.

(on camera): This is the new normal. I don`t much like it. It is very, very creepy.

(voice-over): In Stockholm, we landed in what felt like an earlier time. Sweden is adapting a very different approach to battling the virus. Stores open, restaurants and bars open, schools open. People are advised, not required, to avoid contact. The policy is the brainchild of Dr. Anders Tegnell. He`s Sweden`s Dr. Fauci.

(on camera): Is this strategy working, or is this some sort of ticking time bomb that is going to blow up?

DR. ANDERS TEGNELL, SWEDEN`S STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: No, we don`t think so. We realize that this virus is not going to go away. We need to deal with this virus in a sustainable way, and we can`t keep schools closed forever.

ENGEL (voice-over): So far, Sweden has seen over 2,000 COVID deaths in a population of 10 million, similar to the mortality rate per capita as the U.S. And polls suggest the softer policies are popular here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Businesses and things has to keep running. Otherwise, we`ll have nothing when we come out of this.

ENGEL: Sweden`s policy relies on herd immunity, protecting the elderly and sick who do face lockdowns and testing, while leaving everyone else more or less alone so they catch the virus and are in theory were better defended against it later.

(on camera): Sweden has more deaths than its neighbors but says it is a long-term solution, with little economic impact and its health care and education systems intact. Richard Engel, NBC News, Stockholm.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS: So there`s that we wanted to show you at least.

And coming up after this break, those who serve in this country during tough times forced to find victory wherever they can.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight. It`s about a young woman from Rhode Island, 27 years old, an ICU nurse who answered the call to go to New York and help.

Taylor Campbell stayed in a Times Square Hotel with 600 other healthcare workers. She worked exhausting shifts, sometimes wearing the same hospital mask for five days in a row. She first realized what she was doing was special when she discovered the NYPD had arrived at their hotel to escort them to work. Her hospital unit in Harlem treated only critical patients, and many people have now read and forwarded what she wrote this past Friday, and we quote.

"Today was a beautiful day. My intubated patient who has been squeezing my hand for the last several days finally was strong enough to get extubated. This morning, I gave her her morning medications and when I told her I was leaving the room, she shook her head no. I asked if she wanted me to stay longer and she shook her head yes. I stayed in the room for 15 minutes just holding her hand. When it was time to extubate her this afternoon, she squeezed my hand the entire time. A few short minutes later, she mouthed her first words to me, I love you. My heart exploded. I started to sob in the room. Tears were running into my N95 mask as I stood there and held her hand. It was a beautiful moment. She repeated the words again, this time stronger. She has been my patient from the day our unit opened. I`ve had her for 15 days, she`d been vented that entire time. I asked her if she had heard me talking to her for the last 15 days, and she said yes. She`s very fatigued but manages to give me a thumbs up and continues to try and mouth words. She wants me in the room constantly to hold her hand and I have been spending a lot of time in there with her today. My time at Metropolitan Hospital is complete. I am just thankful that on day 21, I had this experience with my patient. I feel my purpose of coming here was to save her life."

Well, then, Taylor went home to Rhode Island to what can only be called a proper hero`s welcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR CAMPBELL, ICU NURSE: Oh, my god.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Back home in the great state of Rhode Island where there are way fewer than six degrees of separation, Taylor is from a family of providence police officers. So there`s service in her family already, and now Taylor`s service has genuinely saved lives in New York.

With that, that is our broadcast for this Monday night as we start a new 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