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J Crew files for bankruptcy TRANSCRIPT: 5/4/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Nahid Bhadelia, Francis Suarez, Keren Landman, David Plouffe, Walter Isaacson


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams, who will be back here tomorrow night.

Day 1,201 of the Trump administration. 183 days, just six months until the Presidential Election.

So tonight we begin the week with the latest sign of the coronavirus` relentless toll on Americans. And startling new warnings of a much higher toll in the months ahead.

The nation`s COVID-19 death toll is now close to 69,000.  And tonight the number of confirmed infections is well over a million. Yet much of the country is now starting a tentative process of reopening. 35 states now have begun lifting restrictions. The President eagerly encouraging governors to get their economies going.

The New York Times was first to report on the Trump administration`s projections based on data from several agencies including the CDC that predict, "The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1 according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double the current number of about 1,750. The projections forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases a day currently."

And today we researchers at the University of Washington, who have been cited by the White House, announced a major revision to their projected death toll. They`re now predicting that 135,000 Americans will have died of the coronavirus by early August. That is nearly double their previous estimate of about 72,000 fatalities.

Late today during an interview with The New York Post, the President was asked about the projections and said, "I know nothing about it. I don`t know anything about it. Nobody told me that. I think it`s -- I think it`s false. I think it`s fake news."

But last night on Fox News, Trump was revising his own earlier estimates.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We`re going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000, to 100,000 people. That`s a horrible thing. We shouldn`t lose one person over this.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: That number has changed, Mr. President.

TRUMP: It`s going up. I used to say 65,000, and now I`m saying 80,000 or 90,000, and it goes up, and it goes up rapidly. But it`s still going to be, no matter how you look at it, at the lower end of the plane if we did the shutdown.


VELSHI: This past weekend The Washington Post reported on Trump`s month- long effort to reopen the economy. According to the report, two key Trump aides tried to downplay the severity of the coronavirus crisis over concerns about the economy and the re-election campaign. One of the reporters on that story, Robert Costa, joins us in a moment.

The President travels to Arizona tomorrow, his first trip into the public outside of the Washington area since March 28th. He`s expected to visit a factory that`s now making N95 masks.

Meanwhile there are signs that the epicenter of this U.S. health crisis may be at a turning point. In New York, 226 people died from the virus over the past 24 hours. It`s the state`s lowest one-day figure since March 28th. 70% below the one-day tolls of early April.


GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: What we`ve done in this state has literally saved lives. We`ve done great work. We just have to remain vigilant and smart and competent going forward.


VELSHI:  New Jersey`s governor today confirmed that schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year. You may recall that last week President Trump was urging governors to open school.

The Senate is back at work on Capitol Hill. The House has yet to set a return date, and the Supreme Court was also back in session today. The justices made history by hearing arguments in a conference call.

As for the economic toll from this virus, J. Crew, which was already struggling, became the first big retail casualty, filing for bankruptcy today.

As all this is happening, the White House is continuing to focus on China`s role in the early days of the pandemic. The Associated Press was first to report on a Department of Homeland Security report also seen by NBC News that China intentionally concealed the severity of the virus while stockpiling supplies.

Trump also appears to be convinced that China hid information about the virus.


TRUMP: They tried to cover it. They tried to put it out. It`s like a fire. You know, it`s really like trying to put out a fire. They couldn`t put out the fire.


VELSHI: The President and the Secretary of State have also been talking up the theory that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. But tonight Dr. Anthony Fauci tells national geographic that, "This virus could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated."

He goes on to say, "Very qualified evolutionary biologists have said that everything strongly indicates that it evolved in nature and then jumped species."

Here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night, Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR News Station. The aforementioned Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for The Post. He`s also a moderator -- the moderator of Washington Week on PBS. And Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an Infectious Diseases Physician and the Medical Director of the Special Pathogens University at Boston University School of Medicine. She worked along with the World Health Organization during the West African Ebola epidemic and is also among our medical contributors.

Thank you to the three of you for joining me tonight. Robert, let`s start with you. Your reporting indicates that there is either some disagreement or sort of a lack of consensus in the White House about how to handle the coming days of the coronavirus. Tell me what that`s about.

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Working with my colleagues at The Washington Post in recent weeks, we`ve revealed a White House that`s riven with disagreement about how exactly to proceed. They know the health data is daunting. At the same time you have economic advisers like Kevin Hassett saying that it`s going to move in a better direction, that the White House should be optimistic. You see Jared Kushner, a top adviser to the President and his son-in-law, embracing the idea that the economy could be rocking, that the government has done anything.

What we`re seeing day by day, including all Monday, a much more complicated picture than the White House is portraying in their own statements. You see governors struggling with testing. You see hospitals in many hot spots still dealing with escalating number of cases and a White House that believes they can come into the third quarter and the economy will get better, but jobless numbers on the horizon are not looking good according to most economic analysts as you know.

VELSHI: Kimberly, the President is itching to get out in public. He`s going to Arizona tomorrow, and the messages continue to be conflicted from the White House because the White House has laid out a plan along with those doctors about the phases which you have to go through in order to reopen. Most states haven`t gone through that process. They haven`t reached that process, and yet the President almost going away from his own advice in signaling encouragement to reopen.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SENIOR NEWS CORRESPONDENT: He has. I mean the factors that underline the guidelines that were put out from the White House involve testing, very extensive testing, a decrease -- a sustained decrease in the number of new cases as well as contact tracing. And you can`t get that sustained decrease without the level of testing that you need.

And in many states, including in Arizona where he`s going, despite efforts to ramp up testing, they have not reached that two-week decline in new cases that the White House itself said is necessary before proceeding to the steps to reopen. And so the White House officials have said, you know, their guidelines, that it`s up to the governors to do this themselves. But there`s tremendous pressure on these governors in order to do this given the signaling from the White House about the President`s desire to open up, to move forward.

The President -- now, we don`t see these daily coronavirus briefings that we saw before. What we hear is the President in interviews and now in his first trip touting the need to open up the country in order to boost the economy. But you can`t do that if it poses a great risk of a resurgence, which is what Dr. Fauci and other experts within the administration warn it just might.

VELSHI: Dr. Bhadelia, the issue is social distancing, probably a term you`re familiar with. It`s May 4th. I would bet that three months ago on February 4th, most Americans had never used that term or knew much about it. A little while ago on Fox, the Host Laura Ingraham brought this up about social distancing, and I`d like to get your evaluation of it. Let`s listen to it together.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: I think it probably seemed like social distancing would be necessary. There was no real scientific basis for believing that since it had never been studied. And it`s one infectious disease doc told me last week, trying to stop this virus with social distancing is like trying to drive a nail through jell-o. Viruses spread. That`s what they do. They often weaken as they go, and if it`s like SARS- we hope it is -- it will eventually burn out as SARS did.

VELSHI: Dr. Bhadelia, what`s your take on that, that description of how viruses evolve and they spread and social distancing is like putting a nail through jell-o? Do we know enough about social distancing to know how effective it is or isn`t?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN: I`ll start with one point. There`s actually a lot that`s been studied not just about viruses and the impact of social distancing, but this particular virus and how far it travels when someone is sick and can spread this disease. And even in chances when they`re not symptomatic, when they`re asymptomatic, how far they can spread this disease.

And so I think the social distancing we have evidence on. And do viruses evolve? Sure, they can, but there`s no evidence that it`s going to do it at a timeline in which is convenient for us to open the economy. I think one of the big travesties for me is, you know, part of what models are as you talked about the increase in cases, they`re a result of inputs. And inputs here are us, our behaviors, when states open before they`re ready, when we don`t follow, you know, the public doesn`t adhere to public health measures, and particularly when they`re not getting -- they`re getting mixed messages about what that public health emergency should be. And America`s public health agency is nowhere to be found. The CDC is nowhere to be found to help the country move through this safely, more openly, more available to answer those questions, more visible on every venue as it should be in a disaster like this.

VELSHI: Robert, talk to me about this China stuff that`s going on in the White House. The reason I call it the China stuff is because there are various things that the White House talks about with respect to China. The President always talks about how the travel -- stopping travel from China saved us from greater catastrophe. They talk about the possibility that this virus was invented or created or manipulated in a lab in China. There`s discussions about China having stockpiled information. The President told Bret Baier on Fox that China wasn`t forthcoming with information. Who`s invested in China getting the blame? Is this a campaign thing? Is this a base thing, or is it based in science and evidence?

COSTA: It`s at the moment a political rally cry. You see the Trump campaign and many Republican campaigns are looking to China as a foil as November approaches just six months away. But it`s a much different discussion behind the scenes at the White House because as much as the President is pushing for an investigation on all these different fronts of China`s handling of the pandemic, you don`t see sweeping action against China, at least at the moment, because it`s a sensitive relationship. The U.S./China relationship, the President still wants to do a trade deal at another moment with China. And you see him still wanting to have a relationship with President Xi. And this is contrasting in many ways with the Republican approach to China, which is just attack, attack, attack, attack.

And when it comes to the details, we do have to wait to see more reporting. Part of the problem is reporters have been kicked out of China, so we don`t have an ability to have a full scope and portrait of what actually is happening inside.

VELSHI: Kimberly, I want to talk about these numbers and the projections. We had heard some time ago from the CDC that if zero action were taken, which by the way nobody was advocating for nothing to be done, we may have seen deaths in the millions in the United States. But that with the actions, if we took them, the numbers would be in the 100,000 to 240,000 range roughly. That`s what the evidence indicated if we do the right things. The President then started touting much lower numbers, and now there appear to be some reports indicating that we`re back at looking at maybe 120,000 or 130,000 people dying as a result of this. What`s going on with this? Again, I guess I have to ask what`s the benefit of not working with the data on the numbers, because that does seem to be informing some of the decision-making about opening up?

ATKINS: Yeah, you have to work with the data. I mean recall when those numbers were initially downward adjusted. It was because experts including Dr. Birx during one of those coronavirus briefings, that it was based on the actions being taken. It was based on the social distancing policies. It was based on the stay-at-home orders. It was based on what we saw, a ramp- up of testing. If all of those things don`t take place, and certainly now that we`re seeing localities and states begin to reopen, those things get modified. And so it`s sort of a -- you can see a direct correlation between those two. And there`s also a lag, remember. We`re going to be seeing in the next couple of weeks a lot of increase in the number of morbidity, in the number of deaths even as you see the new cases start to level off and drop.

So all of this data, you know, it all relates, which is why you hear from experts who say, look, we really need to wait until we see some real movement in the numbers before taking action to reopen. You hear that from some governors, governors in New York and Massachusetts are being very careful not to reopen until they see -- even if they`ve seen they`ve plateaued in those places. But until they see a drop, the fear is that by dropping some of these procedures, you are going to see a rise that will be more difficult to stop the next time around. You know, this is a novel virus. Nobody`s seen it before. We don`t know exactly how it would react, and we see different approaches. And we`ll soon have that data to see who was right.

VELSHI: And Nahid, let me ask you about this because you are in Boston, and I was speaking to Dr. Jim Kim, former head of the World Bank and President of Dartmouth, who said that the way Massachusetts is handling this might be the example the rest of us should look at in the rest of the United States. What is Massachusetts doing that so many public health officials think is the right thing to do?

BHADELIA: Well, you know, one of the best things I think Massachusetts did is actually put into place the social distancing and public health lockdown around the same time that New York was having its upswing, before we had as many cases. So this quick action that they did in terms of, you know, putting that blunt instrument into place was what helped us not peak at as high a number.

The second thing that they`ve done, and Governor Charlie Baker has been very open in holding public, you know, press conferences, talking about the reasoning for each of the introductions of interventions, including early closing of stores, of putting into place this Wednesday an edict that says people have to wear face coverings when they`re in public.

And then following all the gating criteria, which is following the numbers. As Kimberly said, following the data to talk about when does it look like it`s actually safe to move forward. And when will we have enough space in our hospitals, our ICUS that if we do open up again, we`ll be able to potentially take care of a new sort of patient that might come in from that reopening.

VELSHI: Thank you to the three of you for helping me out tonight. Kimberly Atkins, Robert Costa, and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia.

Coming up, with parts of southern Florida reopening, we`re going to ask the Mayor of Miami, who is a COVID-19 survivor himself, how he will know when it is the right time to open up.

And a President who says what he thinks despite what experts tell him. What`s the price for ignoring science? THE 11TH HOUR just getting starts on a Monday night.



TRUMP: Certain states are going to have to take a little more time in getting open, and they`re doing that. Some states, I think, frankly aren`t going fast enough. I mean you have some states that -- Virginia, they want to close down till the middle of June, and a lot of things that they`re doing. I really believe you can go to parks. You can go to beaches. You keep it -- you know, you keep the spread. You stay away a certain amount. And I really think the public has been incredible with what they -- that`s one of the reasons we`re successful.


VELSHI: A growing number of states are loosening their stay-at-home restrictions. Dozens have now partially reopened and more are planning to join them soon.

In Florida, beaches across the state are back open with the exception of the three biggest counties in the southern part of the state. That was a decision made by the mayors after the governor announced the start of the first phase of reopening.

For more on this, I`m joined by one of those Mayors, Miami`s Republican Mayor, Francis Suarez. Mayor Suarez, good to see you again. Thank you for joining us. You know, there`s some states that said local municipalities and jurisdictions can`t do anything that`s more or less restrictive than what the state says. Obviously in Florida you didn`t have a problem making a decision to stay more restrictive than the other states -- than the rest of the state?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ, (R) MIAMI, FL: No, we didn`t, and that`s because, you know, south Florida has by far the most number of cases in the entire State of Florida. The city of Miami and Miami-Dade County have essentially one- third of all the cases in the state of Florida even though -- and it`s the most densely populated areas in the State of Florida. So for us, we`re looking at the data every single day. It`s actually refreshed twice a day. And we are having epidemiologists look at it to determine whether the gating criteria has been met. We`re also having a biostatistician look at the data to see when it is that we can safely conclude that the 14-day reduction in new COVID-19 cases has occurred.

VELSHI: These three major counties, yours, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County, did you coordinate on this because there`s a lot of interchange between your counties. One of the things you and I keep discussing is that sadly for Miami, you don`t have boundaries around where you are, and you have a major airport. So to you, it`s like New York or L.A. You got people coming in and out of your counties all the time.

SUAREZ: Yeah. A lot of people think that all of south Florida is Miami, but certainly the county mayors of the three counties have been talking and coordinating, and they`ve been coordinating with the governor. And I think the governor did the right thing in allowing the three counties to make their own decision. Certainly nobody enjoyed watching the pictures at the beginning of this pandemic of, you know, spring breakers, not observing social distancing. And we saw some rather, you know, some rather interesting statistics and graphics that showed where just one stretch of beach, which was very small for spring breakers that were there for a two- week period, what that could -- how that could impact the rest of the United States. And so, you know, I think, you know, we`ve taken the prudent step of closing our beaches, and I think we saw unfortunately one of the cities, Miami beach, decided to open up their parks this weekend and then unfortunately today decided that they had to close the park back up because people were not respecting social distancing norms. And that`s -- you know, I think they gave out about 7,000 citations in one weekend.

VELSHI: Mayor, you are -- you made an announcement that on May 4th, which is today, city residents in Miami are going to be able to apply for small business and rent relief that will help Miami recover. Can you tell me a bit about what you`re doing?

SUAREZ: Today we`re trying to build a bridge between the circumstances that people are under right now and the eventual, you know, phased reopening of our economy. So what we did today was we had a rental assistance program for up to $1,500 that pays for rent and pays for expenses like electricity, water, phone.

And then we also had a small business forgivable loan and a micro enterprise grant which would help people that either, a, weren`t eligible for the PPP loan, or received PPP funding but needed addition help to pay for things that weren`t paid through PPP funding such as rent and other expenses. We had basically 4,500 applications in the first hour completed, and we`ll most likely have the -- you know, the total amount of applications by tomorrow completed that we have available in terms of funds.

VELSHI: Mayor, I have to ask you, these three counties that we`re talking about that are still having restrictions, Palm Beach has a domestic airport. Ft. Lauderdale has some international flights. But, boy, your airport in Miami is one of the biggest and busiest in terms of international travel and domestic travel in the United States. Are you concerned about the impact of the number of people who come through your area?

SUAREZ: Extremely concerned, Ali. You know, our airport normally has 50 million passengers a year. That`s twice the population of the State of Florida. Even now when it`s operating at probably 10% capacity, that`s still 5 million people. That`s almost twice the population of Miami-Dade County, which is a population of about 3 million, 2.8 million people.

And so, you know, I asked the President a few weeks ago to consider suspending flights from COVID-19 hot spots. I know that the governor when he met with the President also talked about the fact that there was, you know, that Brazil had converted itself into a COVID-19 hot spot and there was concerns about flights coming from Brazil. I actually got infected from a delegation likely from Brazil.

So certainly if we`re disciplining ourselves at home through stay-at-home orders and observing social distancing, the main concern of course is that an outside threat could create a new wave or a second wave in the city when -- and I understand it very acutely because I was patient number two. And we went from 2 to 13,000 in about a month and three weeks.

VELSHI: Well, I`m glad that you`ve made a full recovery, Mayor. Good to see you as always. Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, thank you, sir.

Coming up, what happens when you do open up too early? One doctor who says a place just to the north of Florida got it massively wrong when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



KESHA LANCE BOTTOMS, MAYOR, (D) ATLANTA: I am still encouraging people to stay home. And listen, I get it. I have an 18-year-old in my house who is going stir crazy. It`s beautiful in Georgia right now, but the reality is that this is still a highly contagious virus, and especially in the African-American community it is often deadly.


VELSHI: Georgia governor, Brian Kemp has been largely at odds with local lead easy after abruptly deciding to open his state. In "New York Times" op-ed that titled Georgia Went First. And It Screwed Up, epidemiologist and Georgia doctor, Keren Landman writes, quote, no one should have to choose between financial annihilation and helping to spread a deadly disease. But thanks to unforgivable failures of political leadership, business owners in Georgia are bearing the burden of that choice, and the same will happen in every state that follows our lead, end quote.

For more, we welcome to the broadcast Dr. Landman. She`s a practicing physician with a specialty in infectious disease and a journalist covering medicine and public health. Dr. Landman, thank you for joining us.

This has been an unusual situation to watch Georgia, particularly when Brian Kemp decided to invoke the social distancing rules saying that he had only learned 24 hours earlier that asymptomatic people can carry and spread the infection. Georgia sort of became the example of where are you getting your news from because the rest of us knew that probably two months earlier.

KEREN LANDMAN, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Yes, indeed. I think that`s one of the big problems that we have here is sort of a failure to really understand and be transparent about what the data really means. There`s an enormous data lag built into the way data are reported and collected, and some of that is related to just the fact that we usually report data by the date of onset of illness. If I get sick today, it might take me a few days to get to the doctor. It might take a little while for the tests to be processed and resulted and then a little while longer for that result to be communicated to the state.

So that`s an automatic multiple-day built-in data lag. But it turns out to actually take longer to backfill the data. So generally, you know, looking at the way our state -- data, you can`t really make a decision on the basis of anything we`ve collected in the past two weeks or so. We`re seeing now the data from the date he actually made the announcement about reopening, that it looks like on that day, the data -- the cases in our state had actually just plateaued. They were not really coming down. So there`s a great danger in making a decision based on very recent data.

VELSHI: You know, somebody told me that the one thing about this virus is it`s made people who don`t understand exponential understand it. That this is one of those things that if you get it wrong by a few days or a couple of weeks, it could be quite serious. But you heard what the mayor of Atlanta was saying, Kesha Lance Bottoms, that look, they feel like they tried to lock down a little more securely in Atlanta, but it does go against what the state has decided to do.

LANDMAN: Yes. You know, and that`s difficult. She`s done a wonderful job of using her voice to communicate what she thinks is the right thing for people to do. But it`s very confusing for folks to get one message from one side and another message from another side.


LANDMAN: You know. And honestly when people are so stir crazy, you want to do the thing that you -- you want to get permission to do the thing that you want to do, and if somebody gives you permission to do it, you`ll do it even if it`s really not the best thing for you. And so -- you know, it was a big problem that the order to lift the shelter in place -- I`m sorry -- the lifting of the shelter in place really did not allow for a lot of heterogeneity out of enforcing that and then sort of pulling back on that on a local level.

VELSHI: Yes. Well, for the rest of us who are not trained in medicine or infectious diseases, that`s very confusing when a mayor says one thing and a governor says another, that the President says yet another. But you have said that the governor in your state made Georgia the nation`s canary in this particularly terrifying coal mine. What do you mean by that?

LANDMAN: We`re the first to lift our shelter in place, to allow our shelter in place to expire on such a grand level, the first to reopen super high- touch businesses. I know other states are doing the same thing with just a few days of difference, but we did it first. And so, you know, we`re going to see the outcomes of that first. It will probably take a few weeks. It will definitely take a few weeks for us to see the outcomes of that, but we will probably see that earlier than states who made that decision to go -- to lift their shelter in place a little bit later.

VELSHI: Dr. Keren Landman, a little bit of fun here. You are an epidemiologist, a physician, a specialty in infectious diseases. But in your resume, you were a disease detective. You were contact-tracing mumps at the Centers for Disease Control. I have never in my career interviewed a disease detective, so tonight, may 4th, 2020 will go down as a first.

LANDMAN: Really?

VELSHI: Thank you for joining me, Dr. Landman. Dr. Keren Landman.

Coming up, six months from tomorrow, voters are scheduled to go to the polls to choose who will lead the country for the next four years. Why the Democratic hopeful is being told to get digital in a hurry, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


VELSHI: The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the nature of the 2020 presidential race. Instead of being out on the road talking to voters, Joe Biden has been running his campaign from his Delaware home. In a new op-ed, former top Obama campaign staffers David Axelrod and David Plouffe list several things Biden needs to do to beat Trump. And they write that the Biden campaign needs to ramp up its digital operation. Quote, online speeches from his basement won`t cut it. While television remains a potent force, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok are all essential in a COVID-19 world in which candidate travel and voter contact will be severely limited. In many respects, they are the campaign, not an important part of it, end quote.

Back with us again tonight, David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager and senior adviser to President Obama. His latest book is called, A Citizen`s Guide to Beating Donald Trump. David, do you even have a Tiktok account? You know Tiktok what is? You`d given advice about using Tiktok? I`m having trouble seeing Joe Biden on Tiktok.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I know what it is, and I`ve certainly spent time on it, so I understand it. But, yes, I`m the last person who knows how to master those platforms. That`s a thing you need distinction strategies for each of these platforms. And listen, the Biden campaign knows this, his campaign manager Jen O`Malley Dillion is one of great talents in our party. But the reason we wrote this op-ed is rarely in human history have so many people around the world been counting on an organization like the Biden campaign. The election is in six months, but people start voting in about five. And you`re running against an incumbent who has enormous advantages.

So, you know, time is of the essence here, but I have confidence the Biden campaign understands that. But listen, social media and the digital world was already going to be the central battle field. If we`re in the world were door knocking is not happening at all, rallies of any size aren`t happening at all, it is the only battle field, and this election will be won or lost on our phones or tablets.

VELSHI: How much of this is because of coronavirus and how much of it is because the Trump operation was remarkably effective on the digital side?

PLOUFFE: Well, it`s a great question, Ali. David and I wrote this in the piece, that this has forced, I think, every campaign really but particularly the Biden campaign to make sure they strengthen their muscles on the digital side because for a while here, that`s the only way to communicate with people and organize. And if we do end up in a world where you can go back to online or offline organizing, candidate travel, surrogate travel, they`ll be better for it. But, yes, Trump and his campaign are digital first. That`s in their DNA, and that`s how people get information today.

So, again, the Biden campaign knows this. I have a lot of confidence they`re going to do what`s required. But, again, this is always my -- you know, we faced off as an incumbent in 2012 against Mitt Romney. The advantages we have as an incumbent of time, of planning, of resources, of data, of personnel, is enormous. That`s where challengers generally against incumbents have less time to pull together the operation you need to win the presidency.

VELSHI: Does it hurt Joe Biden more because Joe Biden comes to life in person, in crowds, in tight quarters, more than a lot of candidates do, certainly more than Donald Trump does. Donald Trump likes the big rally, the big event. Joe Biden is much more a guy who can work his way through a very crowded room and take his time doing it. And that`s likely not going to happen in the next six months.

PLOUFFE: Well, I think Trump misses it too. Maybe that`s why he`s been so erratic in handling this crisis is he feels chained. So I think he gets energy from it. But Joe Biden, listen, he`s empathy right now really matches the moment we`re in. people are looking for empathy, experience. He really led the execution of the last economic recovery this country went through. So the truth is this campaign, I think, sets up well for Joe Biden. And Donald Trump right now is flailing. He`s in political difficulty. We see that in all the polling.

And what I`ve learned in politics and really in any competition is when your opponent is flopping around and not having a good period, you got to make them pay the full price for it because who knows, you know, they could be that Donald Trump has a comeback. But I think Joe Biden can and will find other ways to display that empathy. They`re going to have to because even if we do get back to the point where these candidates are flying around the country, there`s still going to be people who don`t want to go to rallies. Even if you can go knock on doors in the fall, there`s still going to be people who won`t want to do that. So the digital side of this couldn`t be more important.

VELSHI: David, does the crisis that we are in now and the crisis that will surely follow, probably the economic crisis, change your view? Has it evolved in any way on who you think Joe Biden should choose as his running mate?

PLOUFFE: Not really because, you know, I`ve helped lead this process before. It resulted in the selection of Joe Biden, which is, you know, Barack Obama says was his best decision. So I think this is not about the campaign. I think everyone wants to look at it through the prism of the campaign. Joe Biden needs to pick the person if he wins, he thinks, a, could do the job if something happens to him, but who`s going to be his partner in now which is going to be a crisis recovery. His entire first term, if he wins, is going to be defined by digging out of this economic hole.

So he needs to find somebody who has got the ability to work with governors and mayors, be a sort of good counsel, run projects for him. So again, I think the campaign, I know that`s less exciting for people, is secondary. and also the chemistry that they have, to somebody who he says day in and day out, this is not a job that was once described as a warm bucket of spit, the vice presidency. It is not anymore. This is a critical job. And so I think he`s going to get that right by thinking who do I have the chemistry with and who do I trust can do this job either, if something happens to be or just to be my partner through eight years.

VELSHI: David, good to talk to you. Thank you for joining me. I`m going to have to work on getting a Tiktok account up. You`ve inspired me. David Plouffe, thank you for being with us.

All right, coming up, over the weekend, Donald Trump continued contradicting his medical experts. Why our next guest says, presidents need to not only respect science but understand it. When THE 11TH HOUR continues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re putting your real chips on the vaccine being fast.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Well, I think we`re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year. Now, the doctors would say, well, you shouldn`t say that. I`ll say what I think.


VELSHI: The President hasn`t been afraid to say exactly what he`s thinking even if it goes against what we`re hearing from experts. The President has, of course, promoted an unproven malaria drug to treat coronavirus. He has suggested disinfectants could be used to kill the virus in humans and other things.

Back with us tonight, Walter Isaacson, distinguished fellow with the Aspen Institute, former editor of "Time" magazine, veteran journalist and author, biographer of Franklin, Einstein, Kissinger, Jobs, and Da Vinci. He`s also professor of history at the Jewel of New Orleans, Tulane University.

Walter, it is excellent to see you again. Thank you for being with us. And because you are a student of history, I have to ask you about something that Donald Trump said about himself in comparing himself to former presidents. Let`s play it and listen together.


TRUMP: I am greeted with a hostile press the likes of which no president has ever seen. The closest would be that gentleman right up there. They always said Lincoln, nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse. You`re there. You see those press conferences. They come at me with questions that are disgraceful.


VELSHI: He may be missing a key part of Lincoln`s legacy including a fateful visit to a theater one night in saying that he`s been treated worse than Lincoln. What do you think about Donald Trump`s view of why he is treated the way he is?

WALTER ISAACSON, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, TULANE UNIVERSITY: Well, let`s start with Lincoln. Lincoln really cared about science. In the middle of the civil war, he starts the National Academy Of Sciences, and it`s part of a tradition of our president, which is they love the scientific maverick whether it`s Thomas Jefferson who was, you know, a great biologist and anatomist, or all the way through to Dwight Eisenhower, who kept referring to "my scientists." It helped them look at facts, build theories based on facts, and then test those theories and see if they get more evidence and if the evidence turned out to be different, they`d change. That was the method that`s sort of at the core of what America`s all about.

And the fact that Donald Trump is so contemptuous of science, I think, doesn`t put him in the best tradition of American presidents or in the best tradition of American pragmatism and America`s can-do spirit and America, hey, you know, just tell me the facts, give me the facts. I`ll figure this out.

VELSHI: But of all the books you`ve written, the books you`ve read, we have a history in this country of admiring the people who can discover the science, who can innovate, who can find new and better ways to do things, which can follow the evidence and then add some entrepreneurship to it. When did this become en vogue to, when reporters ask Donald Trump why -- or you know, on what he`s basing his position, he points to his head and says, right here. Why is it en vogue for him? It works for a certain portion of the population that Donald Trump feels that these experts, these scientists, these epidemiologists, these infectious disease specialists, they don`t really know what they`re talking about.

ISAACSON: You know, our friend Kurt Anderson wrote a wonderful book called "Fantasy Land," and there is a strand in the American character to answer your question that goes way back to the Salem witch trials or whatever, where we had this strand in America. People were conspiratorial, who hated experts, who didn`t believe in vaccines, and I`m not talking about the anti-vaxxers now. I`m talking about those in Ben Franklin`s time. And that`s always been a strand in America, but the stronger strand has always been the, let`s get the facts. Let`s be empirical. Let`s figure it out based on the evidence.

You see this anti-scientific thing bubbling up quite a few times. I mean the scopes trial on evolution. I think that was back in 1925. But you`ve seen it more recently with climate change where science becomes partisan and political, and people who don`t want to believe in climate change suddenly don`t believe in the science.

VELSHI: Walter, I -- you know, certainly when I was a kid, I remember sitting around asking why I was dissecting this pig, and you actually worry that our dismissal of life sciences is something we all learn may be costing us.

ISAACSON: You know, we should all want our kids to understand the digital revolution so they can be successful. And if that`s going to be the case, we have to understand it. Likewise, the 21st century to me is going to be a life sciences revolution, and this coronavirus pandemic makes that even more clear. So understanding not just digital code but the genetic code, the code of life, is going to be important. But another reason to do it is because it`s beautiful. Nature is gorgeous.

And understanding and appreciating nature gives us some sensibility, and it also gives us some humility. You would think if you were the president or even just an ordinary citizen, it would be useful to know the difference between a virus and a bacteria, which he clearly messes up or something, or the difference between even DNA and RNA. And you`ll say, well, why do we need to know that? We need to know it because we`re humans, we`re curious, and because science helps inform the way we make judgments.

VELSHI: Walter, you`re living -- you`ve left me with hope on a night when we`ve had a lot of grim news to give to people. Good to see you again, sir. Thank you for being with us. Walter Isaacson. Have a good night.

More on 11TH HOUR after a quick break.


VELSHI: Last thing before we go tonight, a few quick programming reminders. You can watch THE 11TH HOUR anytime you please by downloading the MSNBC app on your mobile device. You can also listen live each night on SiriusXM satellite radio, channel 118, or listen to the program anytime as a podcast available wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

And you can find me every Saturday and Sunday 8:00 a.m. eastern right here on MSNBC. And you can get all the very latest headlines about the COVID-19 pandemic online at

That is our broadcast for tonight. Brian will be back tomorrow. Good night and thank you for being with us.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END