BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Lit up tonight in blue for the workers of the MTA who keep the buses and rails moving through the mostly stay-at-home city of New York.
Well, good evening once again. Day 1,196 of this Trump administration. 188 days now until our presidential election. And on this day spoken out loud to reporters in the White House, the President said this. "This is going away. I think we`re going to come up with vaccines and all, but this is going away. It`s going to go. It`s going to leave. It`s going to be gone. It`s going to be eradicated."
Indeed the President`s son-in-law, as you`ll see here in just a moment, today called what we are living through a great success story. For that today his proud father-in-law called him a genius.
The President said we`ll soon see some astonishing testing numbers, and he quickly followed that up with, "I don`t know if that is even necessary." But as we start off by diving back into the real world tonight, we find the U.S. death toll stands at over 60,000 Americans.
Last night here we reported the number of dead now exceeded the total number of American losses in 19 years of fighting in the Vietnam War. And if it helps, the number of dead also equals the population of these American cities. Grand Junction, Colorado. Terre Haute, Indiana. Cupertino, California, Pontiac, Michigan, Casper, Wyoming, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Picture all the people gone from any one of those cities. That`s our death toll so far.
We`re also learning that new CDC data is indicating the virus could be responsible for far more infections, far more deaths than first thought. And yet there is also a sign of progress in the battle to find a treatment as I know you`ve seen during the coverage today. There`s new evidence that an anti-viral drug actually helps patients recover from the virus. Today the nation`s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci, was cautiously optimistic about this development.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery. The FDA literally as we speak is working with Gilead to figure out mechanisms to make this this easily available to those who need it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And late today Trump said he wants to see the food and drug administration put this medication on fast track to approval.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I want them to go as quickly as they can. Stephen Hahn, Dr. Hahn has been incredible at the FDA. He`s getting things done at record. There`s never been anything like it. And yes, we want everything to be safe. But we do -- we would like to see very quick approvals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump`s effort to contain the growing toll on our nation comes as he also attempts to secure a second term in office. Tonight the Washington Post has new reporting on the challenges for the President and on the impact of weeks of marathon briefings on the polls.
The paper says recent internal polling shows him slipping behind Joe Biden in some key swing states and that he erupted during a call with his 2020 campaign manager after hearing that news. "At one point in that call Trump said he might sue Brad Parscale. Trump told Parscale he did not believe the polling that had been presented to him even though it came from the campaign and the RNC."
NBC News now has confirmed Trump`s blowup. The A.P. has new details on this story as well. We will have those for you from the reporter later on in this broadcast.
Today Trump revealed he`s planning to visit two swing states soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think I`m going to Arizona next week. And we look forward to that. And I`m going to -- I hope Ohio very soon. And we`re going to start to move around. And hopefully in the not too distant future we`ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other. I can`t imagine a rally where you have every fourth seat full, every six seats are empty for every one that you have full. That wouldn`t look too good. No, I hope that we`re going to be able to do some good old-fashioned 25,000-person rallies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect to be able to hold rallies before the election?
TRUMP: I hope so. I hope so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: One other key battleground state, Florida, announced it would begin lifting stay-at-home orders on Monday. However, that won`t be the case for Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach counties where the pandemic has hit hardest.
Worth noting here, and this is important, none of the states that have reopened have come anywhere close to the federally recommended decline in cases over a 14-day period. Perhaps you remember that big rollout.
Also the White House has no plan to extend its 30 days to stop the spread social distancing guidelines once they expire tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, (R) UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: The current guidelines I think you can say are very much incorporated in the guidance that we`re giving states to open up America again.
TRUMP: They`ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it. They`re getting it going. And we`re opening our country again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Even amid the patchwork of approaches to reopening, most experts agree we are far short of where we need ton on testing. Trump yesterday said we`d be able to scale up testing to a level many believe is necessary to reopen the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some health experts say the U.S. needs 5 million tests per day by June in order to safely reopen. You unveiled a plan yesterday that will increase testing but not by that much. Why not and can you get to that benchmark?
TRUMP: We are way ahead on testing. We are the best in the world on testing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re confident you can surpass 5 million tests per day? Is that --
TRUMP: Well, we`re going to be there very soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We have done close to 6 million tests period as of today. But officials overseeing testing on the White House task force quickly told Time magazine, "There is absolutely no way on earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 5 million tests a day." Then today the President tried to insist he didn`t say what we just in that clip heard him say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday, you said that we will very soon be testing 5 million people --
TRUMP: Well, I don`t know where it --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- doing 5 million. Well, you said that.
TRUMP: Everyone kept saying you said there would be 5. That was a study that came out. Somebody came out with a study of 5 million people. Do I think we will? I think we will. But I never said that. I never said 5 million.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Today we also learned that the economic implosion caused by the coronavirus pandemic triggered the biggest drop in gross domestic product in the first quarter since `08. Consider that as you listen to this just this morning on Fox News from Jared Kushner.
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JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re on the other side of the medical aspect of this, and I think that we`ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed. So the government, federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story. I think what you`ll see in May as the states are reopening now is May will be a transition month. I think you`ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal and the hope is by July the country`s really rocking again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: There was also this. Two very different versions of what`s in store for our nation`s economy and the 26 million people that we know of that have filed after losing their jobs.
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LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I think the economy is going to suffer through very bad numbers. It`s going to sink further. The contraction in the second quarter`s going to be much deeper than the first quarter. The unemployment rate`s going to go up quite a bit.
TRUMP: I think there`s a tremendous feeling of optimism in this country. But it`s a very transitional period. I think it`s going to do good. But I think the fourth quarter`s going to be fantastic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press. Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for the New York Times. And Stephanie Ruhle, Senior Business Correspondent for NBC News. She happens to be a veteran of the investment banking and business world as the host of the 9:00 a.m. hour on this network.
Hey, Jill, is Jared`s success story, "going to be to 45?" What mission accomplished was to 43?
JILL COLVIN, AP ASSOCIATE PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I mean, it`s very certainly difficult not to make that connection as you have Jared standing up there telling them it that this has been a grand success, that the economy`s going to be rocking come July and you`ve got that in a split screen with the fact that the night before this country hit more deaths from the coronavirus than the number of individuals that were killed during the Vietnam War.
You`ve got a million people in this country who have been infected. 30,000 people in this country have been infected by this virus. And the reality that you`re seeing on the ground is just very different from the information that you`re hearing from this White House as you hear both Jared as well as the President really taking a victory lap here, talking about states that are reopening, celebrating what`s happening, where the reality is that, you know, people are still locked inside their house, they`re still in lockdown wondering when it`s going to be safe to go out.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Stephanie, what`s your evidence that our country`s economy`s going to be rocking by July?
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST, "MSNBC LIVE": Absolutely none. Rocking is a gross overstatement. I`ll give you a tiny example. I live in a beach community in New Jersey. Let`s say we`re open by July. We`re going to be open with social distancing rules. And the only way beach communities make any money is if they pack it in for the three months they`re open. We`re not going to see that here or most other coastal communities, and that could wipe the entire community out.
At best if we open things up, think about what the world is going to look like with social distancing rules. We`re talking about the malls opening up in states like South Carolina and Georgia and Texas. At 25% capacity they can`t afford to keep the lights on. So just because you are opening certainly doesn`t mean you`ll be profitable. So Jared Kushner saying the economy rocking, I challenge that to any -- I look for any credited economist who`d agree with that assessment.
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, talk about the contradictory messages we hear coming out of this White House. Just today, just this week.
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that`s right. Look, we`ve heard this White House talk about the need to maintain the social distancing guidelines as long as possible and we`ve heard the President cheerlead lifting them. We`ve heard just last week the President chastise Georgia for going too fast. Now he`s telling Texas and Florida and these other states that they`re doing it just right.
And you heard the President yesterday talk about how this is not going to come back in the fall and if it does it will be quickly squelched out, it will just be embers whereas Dr. Fauci says it is absolutely coming back in the fall and depending on how things work could be quite difficult.
So, you know, this is a message that has continued to be conflicting from this White House. A mix of caution and encouraged at the same time. A desire by our President clearly to project a positive optimistic message but against the reality around them that is pretty grim, 5% contraction in the economy, 26 million out of work and now 60,000 who have been killed by this virus just in a matter of eight weeks.
WILLIAMS: Jill Colvin, getting past the fact that when the President travels that pushes people together by necessity for their jobs, we can start with the journey on the airplane, we can continue through the motorcade and the events, just the people in his circle, people in the news media, tell us what you know about his travel plans. And you heard him say he wants to get back to 25,000-person rallies. What`s it going to look like a week from now when he goes out on the road?
COLVIN: It`s more than just the bubble that travels with the President as well. You have to remember there are secret service agents and people who have to go and do advance work before any presidential trip. I mean, it is a huge number of people that do that kind of leg work. The President now has a trip planned for next week. He`s going to be visiting Arizona, which will be an important state for him come November. He`s talked about wanting to go to Ohio soon. And he said today that he expects in the coming months to be able to hold his signature rallies.
He talked about wanting 25,000 people in those stadiums, saying it would look bad if there were empty seats in those stadiums, something he is always very concerned about. And the reality is that even in states that have seen lower infection rates the idea of packing stadiums is something that is so far off in the distance. The President`s aides have talked privately about this not being a realistic idea, about the President potentially not being able to hold any rallies before the next election.
But the President has been so frustrated by what`s happened over the last two months. This is a President who expected to be riding on a great economy, who thought he would have an easy challenge against Vice President Joe Biden and has just been furious, lashing out at his campaign manager last week, at the fact that even his internal polls show that things are not going well, especially in battleground states.
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, in this morning`s polling 91% of Americans in sports-crazy America don`t think it`s a good idea for large gatherings at sporting events for starters. When you look at the disconnect with this President, just the words we heard him say today, is it something fancy like cognitive dissonance? Is it something more basic like this just isn`t setting in?
BAKER: Look, you know, the President doesn`t want to accept that this year is over when it comes to large-scale events like his rallies and like professional baseball games and basketball games and so forth. But that`s what the experts are telling us.
Dr. Zeke Emanuel, of course one of the prominent physicians you had on your air, has said there`s no way we`re going to have large arena gatherings of the sort that we`d like. Obviously in sports-crazed America as you put it. Until next year fall 2021 even. It`s hard to imagine that even if the states allowed it`s commissioners of these sporting leagues would want to take the risk of 25,000 people crammed together in an arena or that the fans would necessarily come out in that kind of a circumstance.
The poll you cited shows a great deal of concern on the part of most Americans about events like that at this point. And maybe that we get to a point where treatments and vaccines do change that dynamic but it`s hard to see it, the moment the kind of 25,000-person arena rally the President would like to have before November.
WILLIAMS: Stephanie Ruhle, as a fellow jersey shore person, I mourn for the businesses and boardwalks we love, exactly why we love New Jersey in the summertime. Last time I spoke to you, you indicated you have no idea where this third quarter spending is going to come from. What are the families who are going to get out there -- get on aircraft, take trips, do their spending in the third quarter? Is there any hope you can leave us with that is recovery-related? Let`s harken back to FDR and a couple more letters, the WPA, the CCC, anything along those lines?
RUHLE: Yes. There are positive elements. Remember, when we look at the unemployment number or we look at GDP, these weren`t natural moves. Right? The U.S. government said we need everybody to stay home to get healthy. So the President isn`t incorrect when he says there`s pent-up demand. There`s absolutely pent-up demand. I want to go out to a restaurant. I want to go to the gym. Maybe not the gym. I want to get my hair cut. But we can`t right now. We want to do those things. So the President`s not wrong, but where he`s completely overstating things, Brian, people aren`t rushing back out and neither are businesses. You know, when Peter was mentioning the leagues, yes, sports leagues would love to have their games on but nobody`s mentioned the word liability.
Do you realize if you run any sort of business and you currently have to carry that liability, if your employees, if your customers get sick that could wipe you out forever. These issues haven`t been solved for yet. Just like if we`re rushing back to work who`s going to care for working families, kids while there`s no daycare centers or schools open? So to say this is a black or white issue, we`re going to run back out there and we`re going to be rocking and rolling, guess again. These are really complicated issues.
WILLIAMS: And as we keep pointing out it`s not as if the virus stops at the state line and inquires whether or not the state is open or closed before entering. To Jill Colvin, to Peter Baker, to Stephanie Ruhle, our thanks for starting off our broadcast tonight.
Coming up for us, the news from Dr. Fauci that left millions of us with some hope tonight. We`ll ask two of our veteran medical experts if this new treatment is as promising as advertised.
And later, the breaking news from the White House. A President not happy with his political team. We`ll have the latest reporting on what`s going on behind the scenes, which may explain some of his words and actions of late. As THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way for a Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery. If you look at the time to recovery being shorter in the remdesivir arm, it was 11 days compared to 15 days. Although a 31% improvement doesn`t seem like a knockout 100%, it is a very important proof of concept. Because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Optimism in the Oval Office with the President present, we should hasten to point out, from Dr. Fauci there today about this new study on the drug remdesivir. The Washington Post reporting it this way. "The drug must be given intravenously over 5 to 10 days and the trial results only apply to hospitalized patients." Those are two very important details for everybody to remember.
Today Dr. Fauci compared this new treatment to an early drug in the fight he was a big part of against aids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: When I was looking at this data with our team the other night, it was reminiscent of 34 years ago, in 1986, when we were struggling for drugs for HIV. And we did the first randomized placebo control trial with AZT, which turned out to give an effect that was modest. But that was not the endgame because building on that every year after we did better and better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Back with us again tonight, Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatric physician, clinical professor with the School of Public Health at Columbia University, also happened to be the Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness with an expertise in pandemic influenza. And Dr. Anne Rimoin, back with us, Professor of Epidemiology at UCLA where she runs the Center for Global and Immigrant Health specializing in emerging infectious diseases.
Good evening and welcome to you both. Dr. Redlener, I`ll begin with you. Remdesivir, which we hasten to point out has not been approved for this use, we also hasten to point out those comments were in the vicinity of the President. So these days no matter who the expert is it can often color the wording used. And I wish we didn`t have to point that out. But we do. With that what do you make of this development?
DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Yeah, hi, Brian. So I`m a big fan of Dr. Fauci`s. I never have envied his position, having to make his statements in front of the President of the United States, I mean this President of the United States. And he`s right to be optimistic and hopeful. But we`re far from being convinced. And the conditions that you mentioned, or he mentioned, that this is going to have to be -- it`s being given to patience intravenously who are very, very sick. We`re seeing some improvement in symptoms that may be a shortening of their hospital stays.
But the fact of the matter is we have a long way to go before this gets fully approved and it`s more widely available to be used. That said, I don`t think we should distract from -- or detract from the point it is positive news, but there`s a lot more that needs to come about before we can say we found anything resembling a cure, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Anne Rimoin, I want to play for you something from your mayor, Mayor Garcetti in Los Angeles, just tonight. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI, (D) LOS ANGELES: We all know this is a silent killer. It moves quietly through the population. And why it`s so important for people who don`t show symptoms to get tested is because oftentimes they`re the super spreaders. We believe together that now we can offer it to everybody living in the county of Los Angeles starting tomorrow with or without symptoms. We can offer you a test, get you those results back in a day, two, maximum these days is three.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Anne Rimoin, that is huge news. A huge population of people living within L.A. County. Is this do you hope a model for the rest of the country?
DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR: Absolutely, Brian. This is terrific news. What we really need is to have widespread testing. And this has been the thing we have been looking for and hoping for, for a long time. And it`s important to test not just those individuals who are symptomatic but those who are asymptomatic.
As you know, this is a big issue that I spend a lot of time thinking about, asymptomatic infection. And you know, we know that there is a large proportion of the population who is asymptomatically infected and we need to be able to catch these people as we can early. Given the opportunity to isolate from others and to be able to ensure that they`re not spreading. So this is a really big development. Great news.
WILLIAMS: Dr. Redlener week, talking about L.A. County. That`s a population of 10 million people. And against this news we have the news at the top of our broadcast, you and I have talked about it so many times, the states that are opening up and the point I just made, this is not a virus that stops at the state or county line, asks if there`s effective testing, asks if there`s indoor dining or outdoor if the state is open, if restaurants and hair salons are open. This virus doesn`t discriminate.
REDLENER: Exactly, Brian. The big thing now, something dramatic has changed about testing. First of all, we`re just worried we weren`t doing enough testing, and we certainly were not. There`s talk about whether we`re going to do a million or 5 million tests a day or more. When in fact, we`ve never done more than about 350,000 tests a day.
But all that aside, now we`re opening states. Georgia opened on Monday. And the problem now is not just test on this macro scale. This is the question of now is it safe to go to your barber? Can you take your family safely to a restaurant down the street? But if you don`t know if your barber is positive or not for COVID-19 and he doesn`t know if you are and you don`t know if you take your family to the restaurant whether the kitchen staff and the servers and so on are themselves negative, how is it that we`re going to motivate ourselves to go into those businesses?
I think it was an extremely dangerous move to push up the time to reopen until we had a really significant increase in the amount of rapid tests that we could do at the point of contact. We don`t have that yet, and it`s going to be a long time before we do. But I think we`re playing a dangerous game, Brian, in encouraging opening of businesses until we can know for sure who is positive and who is not. Brian.
WILLIAMS: As we keep pointing out, if your barber says they`re negative, they were tested at 3:00 p.m. on a Wednesday that means they were negative at 3:00 p.m. on a Wednesday. It doesn`t speak to exposures they might have had at 4:00 p.m. And 5:00 p.m. and so on. It`s a snapshot in time.
WILLIAMS: We`ve asked both of our guests to stick around. So both doctors have agreed to an extended consultation, if you will.
Coming up, it`s called Operation Warp Speed, a federal effort to get a new coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year 2020. We`ll get a medical reality check on that after this.
WILLIAMS: So there are these reports today, the Trump administration is working on a very ambitious project to drastically cut the time needed to develop a coronavirus vaccine. As Bloomberg was first to report, it`s called "Operation Warp Speed." The program will pull together private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military to try to cut the development time for a vaccine by as much as eight months, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Still with us are Dr. Irwin Redlener and Anne Rimoin. Dr. Redlener, two questions. Can this be done? Don`t you have to have trials? And that extends out the wait time for a vaccine. And not to be flip but to eradicate an illness, don`t you need something closer to 8 billion doses of vaccine?
DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Well, you need a lot more and a lot more time than the president is proposing right now. I think the quickest vaccine, and Anne can verify this, ever developed is the mumps vaccine. That took about four years. And the problem is that there`s new technologies to try but they`re basically untested.
And the other thing is we need to test the vaccine in lots and lots of people over a period of time to make sure the vaccines are, of course, effective but also that they`re safe. And both of those processes just take time. There`s a very serious limit to how quickly you can make that happen no matter how much you`d like to rush it. There`s limits that are imposed by the nature of creating a safe vaccine.
And by the way, we`re going to need billions and billions of doses because this is a vaccine that needs to go to every human being on earth basically. So, I think we do have a ways to go and I think it`s foolish to think that we`re going to see a vaccine before, you know, the summer of 2021 in my view. Something may hit. And maybe it will be sooner. But not likely, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Anne Rimoin, a batch of Jonas Salk`s polio vaccine, a bad batch killed people. And yet we went ahead with it. But it took so long as a lead up to be able to get to the point of having a vaccine for polio. What do you make of this kind of fast track by the end of the year?
DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR: Well, I agree with Dr. Redlener. I think that we need to be very careful and follow the steps that are normally in place to be able to get a vaccine that is going to be effective and also be safe in a population. That is why we have such a careful system to be able to evaluate vaccines, going through phase one, phase two, phase three, phase four trials.
And so we`re going to need to have the time to be able to evaluate effectiveness and efficacy in populations and safety. And I agree with Dr. Redlener that this will take time and the realistic timeline that we`re looking at is exactly as he said. We`re looking at probably another year.
WILLIAMS: Dr. Redlener, we have this just in to us from the "Tampa Bay Times" in Florida. I`ll just read the lead paragraph. State officials have stopped releasing the list of coronavirus deaths being compiled by Florida`s medical examiners which has at times shown a higher death toll than the state`s published count.
Now, this is Governor DeSantis. He kept the beaches open late. He was in the Oval Office for a meeting yesterday. He`s got a storyline for reopening. He is sticking to that storyline for reopening as many counties as they can. Dr. Redlener, has it been your suspicion that there are a greater number of COVID-19 deaths than are being reported generally?
REDLENER: Yes, well, my thought, Brian, is that we`re probably undercounting by at least 20, 25 percent to begin with. I don`t quite know what to say about Governor DeSantis`s decision to stop releasing more fatality data and to keep opening the beaches and doing things that are particularly unsafe. I think this governor, the governor of Georgia, and others are going to have a lot of responsibility to bear with an increased number of deaths from this horrible pandemic. It is beyond foolhardy and perilous for them to pursue such a course.
And the idea of non-transparency of deaths, I barely know how to react to that. That`s so out of the ordinary, let`s say, and unacceptable that, you know, you can only shake your head. I wish I had something more erudite to say about that, but it`s really pretty unbelievable, Brian.
WILLIAMS: It`s remarkable we`re having this conversation in the year 2020. Our sincere thanks to Dr. Anne Rimoin, Dr. Irwin Redlener. Thank you both for coming on as always.
Coming up for this, more on these reports of a presidential eruption over his own internal poll numbers and what they might say about reelection.
WILLIAMS: As we reported, the president reportedly lashing out over his reelection prospects amid this pandemic because right now the math looks bad. Multiple reports now saying Trump erupted at his top political advisers after they presented polling data showing him trailing Joe Biden in key battleground states. According to the Associated Press, aides highlighted the growing political cost of the coronavirus and the unforced errors by Trump in his freewheeling press briefings. Trump reacted with defiance, incredulous that he could be losing to someone he viewed as a weak candidate. And he repeated in a series of profanity-laced conference calls, I am not blanking losing to Joe Biden.
Back with us tonight, the co-author of this report for the Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the A.P. Jonathan, it was put on television today that this man without an organic empathy generator within him has no choice but to view a death toll through the prism of a poll number.
JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Brian, that`s right. And that`s how he`s always done it. He has not in any moment in his presidency been able to connect much in the way with empathy for those who have suffered due to a natural disaster like a hurricane or a wildfire or a manmade one like a mass shooting. And the pandemic has been no different.
In the early days of this crisis, he was really focused on its economic toll. And now he is being to really view it through the lens of his reelection. And this was a -- as we reported and others, you know, last week, he had a series of meetings, conference calls with his top advisers, that includes Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, Ronna McDaniel, the head of the RNC, as well as Jared Kushner who was there in the White House. And they -- those meetings, the aides tried to get a part -- in part two things to him.
First, that he should curtail the coronavirus briefings, which he -- they thought were very damaging to him and his standing in the polls particularly with senior citizens. The president initially pushed back at that, pointing to their ratings. But after the comment about injecting disinfectants, he has at least for now suspended those. But then as you`ve said, yes, they also showed him an array of battleground state poll numbers that show him losing and in some states like Michigan losing rather significantly. And if the election was held today, Brian, Trump`s own campaign says he would lose to Joe Biden.
WILLIAMS: And interestingly, his use of words. This Reuters piece tonight, I don`t believe the polls, Trump said. It`s early in the game to reach into the toolbox for that one, by the way, Jonathan. I believe the people of this country are smart, and I don`t think they will put a man in who`s incompetent. That was immediately labeled as a possible act of gaslighting. Of all the things you can say about Joe Biden, that`s how Trump is going to label him.
LEMIRE: Well, this president has always had the I don`t believe the polls card ready to play at any time no matter how early we are in the game. But what he said in that interview to Reuters today is similar to what he has been saying privately as well, that he believes he`s winning. He believes - - he`s trusting his gut. He points to the polls that were wrong in 2016 that had him behind Hillary Clinton most of the way. He thinks he`ll be fine in Florida. He thinks it`ll be -- he thinks he can still win in the upper Midwest. He really snapped at Parscale, even threatened to sue him at one point during these calls last week. Although later it was sort of -- that was portrayed as a joke.
He did indeed go on a profanity-laced tirade, saying that he would beat Joe Biden. And what he said in that Reuters interview is a theme that we`re hearing from that campaign over and over now. They do believe that Biden is potentially running a weak campaign, up until recently, it had struggled with its fundraising, but then also that the candidate himself was not up for the job. We`re seeing those videos on Twitter and other places where they show Biden, you know, stumbling over words or having trouble remembering names or dates. Leading to putting out there not particularly subtly that the former vice president had lost a step and wouldn`t be up for the rigors of the campaign or the presidency.
WILLIAMS: Also, where are the votes going to come from that they need? Beyond the base, beyond all the comments at the briefings for the base. In effect, everything`s going to be fine, there`s nothing to see here, it`s a flu, we`ve got it under control, it`ll disappear, it`ll go away. None of that true. Where are the suburban parents who have kids at home right now, perhaps they`re out of work, they are scared to go out and be part of public gatherings? Where is he going to get their votes from with his public comments?
LEMIRE: Well, my colleague, Jill Colvin, who I know was on this broadcast tonight as well, she and I teamed up for a story earlier this week looking at exactly that issue. That Trump has -- to this point during the crisis, has exclusively played to his base, which is what he has done basically since day one of his presidency, and stands in stark contrast to what his predecessors have done in times of crisis.
After September 11th, George W. Bush made a real point of reaching across the aisle and was rewarded with high approval ratings for a time from both parties. We saw President Obama do the same when he faced certain crises. Bill Clinton when he dealt with the Oklahoma City bombing. This president hasn`t done that. And he needs to reverse that course, his advisers do believe, he need to win back some suburban voters, to win back some independents or disaffected Democrats. And they believe the only way to do it is to turn the economy around, which is why he`s forging forward so forcefully on reopening the nation, even to public health risks.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, whose work is out front tonight for the Associated Press, thank you as always for coming on.
Coming up for us, a preview of what might be headed our way. We`ll show you where this pandemic is turning into something of a legal tidal wave.
WILLIAMS: No matter how the White House may be trying to rewrite the story, remember just a few months back when we knew the coronavirus was headed here in a big way and we watched helplessly at what Italy was going through, including the strict quarantine, the staggering death toll. While the government there is now slowly starting to reopen their country, but now a lot of Italians want someone held accountable for the more than 27,000 deaths.
NBC News foreign correspondent Matt Bradley is in Italy tonight with more on what might be in store next for the United States.
MATT BRADLEY, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: You know, well, Brian, I mean, everyone in Italy is talking about the phase two of this crisis. That`s living with the virus and lifting this nationwide lockdown. That`s supposed to start in very small steps this coming Monday. But they`re also talking about phase three. And that`s going to look something like justice or retribution, maybe even a hint of revenge. And it`s not entirely clear what that`s going to look like.
There`s so much anger in this country, which has lost 27,000 people, especially up in the north, the region of Lombardy was carrying almost all of the weight for the entire country. And that`s where a lot of this anger is. A lot of it is directed at the political class. They want to hold politicians to account, especially those who might have delayed the decision to truly lockdown and to quarantine the northern part of the country. There`s a lot of anger against those politicians. But also against individual hospitals and even healthcare workers and doctors who some people say made the wrong decisions, weren`t acting entirely in the best interests of patients or maybe, you know, withdrew care from elderly people in order to give it to younger patients. There`s a lot of anger but it`s, again, not entirely clear in which direction it`s pointed.
I spoke with one young man who is the leader of a Facebook group. He`s the founder of a Facebook group that`s called "We Will Denounce You". And he created it with his father back in March, back last month, right after his grandfather died, and he was describing how angry he and his father both felt. So they created this Facebook page to try to talk about justice, talk about retribution. And in the month -- a little more than a month since they started it, it`s attracted nearly 50,000 members, all of them baying for some kind of justice. But he told me not revenge and he was very clear on that. It`s not revenge they`re looking for. It`s some kind of accountability and justice. Here`s what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEFANO FUSCO, CO-FOUNDER OF NOIDENUNCEREMO, GRANDFATHER DIED OF COVID-19: The system is hard to beat. And we`re speaking about the very high level of the system here. I`m not sure, I can`t assure you we`ll have justice but I promised that to my grandpa when he died, when he died alone. I wasn`t -- nobody was there with him. So I look at this guy and I told him, I promise I will do everything that`s in my power to give you justice. So I can`t disappoint him. And I can`t disappoint all the 50,000 people who are following us right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRADLEY: Yes, so Brian, you can see how much anger there is. But again, it`s not entirely clear who they want to sue, who they want to hold accountable, whether it`s an institution, whether it`s an individual, whether it`s a politician, a hospital or a healthcare worker. None of that is entirely clear. But he did tell me that he doesn`t want money and none of the people in this group want any money. They just want to see people held to account.
And, you know, Brian, the important thing to remember as Americans is that this is something that could easily wash up onto American shores and sooner than you may think because, you know, America is a much more litigious society than here in Italy and that need for justice, that desire to even present a lawsuit, and there are prosecutors in northern Italy who are already investigating regions and governments and -- regional governments and individual hospitals and institutions. They`re already advertising two victims` families, asking them if they want help in these investigations or to bring lawsuits.
You`re almost certainly going to start to see that in the states. Brian.
WILLIAMS: Matt, you are so right to raise that. Matt Bradley, our thanks for that report from Italy and projecting forward in this country, it almost boggles the mind.
Coming up, something that might look close to what we`re used to during this strange time we`re living through.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, baseball. The lack of it is still shocking every day. The following may be the closest we get to a 2020 baseball season. It`s in the form of a "USA TODAY" report that after three weeks of modified spring training right around the July 4th holiday, teams would start theoretically playing a modified 100-game season with no fans at first, then maybe a few hundred people or a few thousand people eventually.
Importantly, to make travel easier, there would be three divisions, truly regional divisions of 10 teams each. And baseball fans, let`s just take a moment here to ponder this. For starters, the Mets and Yankees in the same eastern division. Cubs and White Sox, same division. How about the Dodgers, Giants, A`s and Padres in the same division?
Now, could a delayed baseball season push into Thanksgiving? Potentially. And there will need to be constant testing and teams may become de facto traveling quarantine groups on a rolling basis. However, much they want to go home to loved ones. And our friend Bob Costas suggested today all these suggested reforms to baseball from electronic home plate umpiring to play clocks to speed up the pace of play, let`s try all of that this year at the same time. Why not?
The bad news may be for the minor leagues. There was a report out there today, their season might be canceled. But MLB is pushing back saying no decision has been made.
Then there is basketball, NBA, NCAA, the NHL, the NFL, NASCAR. All these places we like to go, sit, eat, drink, sit next to a complete stranger and scream our heads off as opposed to doing that these days at home. It`s all TBD, just like everything else.
So, another uncertain note to end our broadcast for this Wednesday night, marking another hump day in captivity. 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