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Covid-19 toll TRANSCRIPT: 5/11/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Emily Landon, Jenny Durkan, Franklin Foer, Bill Kristol

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening. After this day 1208 of the Trump administration, 176 days to go until our next Presidential Election.

And while we were deep into the Trump presidency now, we are nonetheless covering a number of firsts tonight. For starters, the President of the United States stood in the Rose Garden today and accused his predecessor of committing a crime while offering no details or proof. And that wasn`t even the lead story from the press conference today.

If there was a bumper sticker quote to emerge from today`s session about the climbing U.S. death toll, it was this. "Don`t ask me, ask China." Because as others have theorized, unable to run for the election on economy or health care or leadership, the deflection to China already under way will be constant and a daily theme.

At the start of today`s event, the President declared we have met the moment, and we have prevailed. When called out on that later on, the President said he was talking about testing. And today he staked his word on testing. These are the quotes. Americans should be able to get a test right now. If somebody wants to get tested right now, they`ll be able to get tested.

While he stopped to add that not everybody should get a test in his estimation, he went back there again. "If people want to get tested, they get tested." And that, we know, is just not true.

About the economy, the President continues to bet on the third quarter of this year. He`s billing it as the transition to greatness. And he said today, "Greatness is going to be in the fourth quarter, but it`s really going to be next year."

Back in the real world tonight, we have lost 81,468 Americans to this virus with well north of 1.3 million cases that we know of. The President claims, "Numbers are looking much better, going down almost everywhere," which he then repeated this afternoon at the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Our country`s been incredible, and you see the numbers. They`re dropping very substantially. The numbers are coming down very rapidly all throughout the country.


WILLIAMS: However, The New York Times finds at least nine states, these nine, where cases are on the rise right now. NBC News reports an undisclosed White House task force report shows the virus spread in the heartland far from the nation`s coasts.

As we mentioned, Trump appeared in the Rose Garden today to announce that his administration will distribute $11 billion to states to help ramp up testing. The money comes from funds already approved by Congress for coronavirus relief.

As over 40 states are now in some stage of lifting restrictions, that will be 48 by next weekend. Just over 2% of Americans have now been tested for this. According to the COVID Tracking Project, today nearly 400,000 people were tested. But, again, in a nation of 330 million, give or take, experts up at Harvard have said the U.S. should be conducting at least 900,000 tests a day by May 15 to have a better idea of how this virus is spreading among us.

Today Trump repeated a claim he made two months ago about the availability of tests. It wasn`t true when he said it two months ago, still isn`t true today.


TRUMP: We`ve prevailed on testing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re now promising that everyone who needs a test will be able to get one at some point soon. When will that be a true statement exactly?

TRUMP: Well, it`s a true statement already. As far as Americans getting a test, they should all be able to get a test right now. They should be able to get a test. If somebody wants to be tested right now, they`ll be able to be tested. If people want to get tested, they get tested. We have the greatest capacity in the world, not even close. If people want to get tested, they get tested.


WILLIAMS: But there was this clarification from a member of the task force.


ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, M.D., ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: Everybody who needs a test can get a test. If you`re symptomatic with a respiratory illness, that is an indication for a test, and you can get a test. If you need to be contact traced, you can get a test.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the White House is battling its own coronavirus outbreak as you may know after the President`s valet and then the Vice President`s press secretary tested positive. Today a number of staff members were wearing masks. You may recall the CDC recommendation that face coverings should be used. That was back in early April. Even son-in-law, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner was sporting one today. Today Trump was asked about the decision.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why haven`t you required everyone at the White House to wear masks before now?

TRUMP: Well, if they`re a certain distance from me or if they`re a certain distance from each other, they do. In the case of me, I`m not close to anybody. Obviously in my case, I`m very far away from everyone. Just about everybody I`ve seen today has worn a mask, yeah. Please, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you the one who required that, sir?

TRUMP: Yeah, I did. I did. I required it.


TRUMP: Trump was also pressed on whether less stringent rules led to this White House outbreak.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did the system break down to allow that to happen?

TRUMP: I don`t think the system broke down at all. One person tested positive surprisingly because the previous day tested negative. It could happen. It`s the hidden enemy. Remember that. It`s the hidden enemy. So things happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say, Mr. President, to other companies who may look at this and say, I don`t know if we`re ready for all this?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I think we have a lot of people in the White House, and we had one. Basically we had one person. I think we`ve controlled it very well. We have hundreds and hundreds of people a day pouring into the White House. So I think we`re doing a very good job in watching it, and I think it`s very well contained actually.


WILLIAMS: This is the second time the President has expressed surprise that you can test negative before testing positive. In addition to the two confirmed infections within Trump`s circle, none of the medical experts were there today in part because three task force members, Fauci, the CDC Director Redfield, and the FDA Director Commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn are all in some form of self-quarantine after coming into contact with White House staff who tested positive for the virus. They all plan to testify at a Senate Health Committee hearing tomorrow. That`s being done by video conference. In fact, the Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, will also run the hearing remotely. He`s in self-isolation after exposure to one of his own staff members who tested positive.

Even with coronavirus now discovered in the West Wing, Trump`s attention has been focused on a number of other issues question sides the pandemic. Over the weekend he posted a barrage of messages and attacks on social media. There were 125 of them over a 16-hour span, averaging one every 17.5 minutes on Mother`s Day. Among them was this accusing former President Barack Obama of committing, "The biggest political crime in American history by far."

This afternoon, Phil Rucker of The Washington Post, who is standing by to join us in a moment, asked the President for an explanation.


PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: What crime exactly are you accusing President Obama of committing, and do you believe the Justice Department should prosecute him?

TRUMP: Obamagate. It`s been going on for a long time. It`s been going on from before I even got elected, and it`s a disgrace that it happened. And if you look at what`s gone on and if you look at now all of this information that`s being released and from what I understand, that`s only the beginning. Some terrible things happened, and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again. And you`ll be seeing what`s going on over the next -- over the coming weeks, and I wish you`d write honestly about it. But unfortunately, you choose not to do so. Yeah, Jon, please.

RUCKER: What is the crime exactly that you`re accusing him of?

TRUMP: You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody.


WILLIAMS: That`s all we got today. There was another contentious exchange, one which brought the news conference to an abrupt end.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said many times that the U.S. is doing far better than any other country when it comes to testing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why does that matter? Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives and we`re still seeing more cases every day?

TRUMP: Well, they`re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that`s a question you should ask China. Don`t ask me. Ask China that question, OK? When you ask them that question, you may get a very unusual answer. Yes, behind you, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, why are you saying that to me specifically?

TRUMP: I`m telling you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That I should ask China?

TRUMP: I`m not saying it specifically to anybody. I`m saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s not a nasty question.

TRUMP: Please go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why does it matter?

TRUMP: OK, anybody else? Please go ahead in the back, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have two questions.

TRUMP: No, that`s OK. We`re going here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you pointed to me. I have two questions, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Next, next please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you called on me.

TRUMP: I did, and you didn`t respond, and now I`m calling on --


TRUMP: The young lady in the back, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to let my colleague finish. We can ask - -

TRUMP: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.


WILLIAMS: So rather than take questions from Kaitlan Collins of CNN, the President called it off. On that note, let`s bring in our leadoff discussion on a Monday night. The aforementioned Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-Winning White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, Co-Author along with his Post colleague Carol Leonnig of the best-seller, A Very Stable Genius about said President, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for the Associated Press. And we are happy to welcome to our broadcast tonight Dr. Emily Landon, Executive Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Good evening and welcome to you all. Phil Rucker, let`s start at the start. Have circumstances forced this President to embrace masks for all but him the way circumstances forced him to embrace ventilators and then testing and the like?

RUCKER: That does appear to be the case, Brian. Remember, it`s been weeks now since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised all Americans to please wear face coverings, not a requirement but a recommendation to wear face covering when outside and certainly when in close proximity to other people. But that is a guideline that the White House has not followed until today. And a new memo came out from the White House directing all employees to wear those face coverings and to also be more mindful of social distancing in the workplace. That`s a pretty tight west Wing With narrow hallways and small offices. And we notice -- I was there today and saw the staff really trying to take it more seriously than they ordinarily would. And yet the President himself refuses to wear a mask. He toured a mask factory last week in Phoenix, Arizona, where he did not wear a mask. He was the only prominent person in the Rose Garden today not wearing a mask. He has said in the past that he doesn`t think it`s a good look for him as the President, so perhaps this is about vanity. Perhaps other reasons. I don`t know. But he continues to not follow that guideline himself.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, Mr. Hassett, the budget guy, said over the weekend it was scary to go into work in the West Wing, but he did so to do the work for the American people. Is it true that if procedures have been followed, if this had been taken seriously and more of a lockdown, airtight environment had been instituted around the West Wing, around the entire 18- acre complex, such gallantry about going to work wouldn`t be required?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Brian, despite the depictions of the West Wing on certain television shows, including the one that bore its name, it`s actually a very small, kind of cramped warren of offices. There aren`t many places to spread out. So when there is a positive case, it seems inevitable others there are going to be worried they could catch it. That`s what Kevin Hassett said in the interview this weekend.

The White House was slow to put into place some of the basics of how they could monitor this disease, temperature checks and the like. It was only a few weeks ago they began routinely testing those people who came into contact with the President. It was only today when people in the West Wing started wearing masks. Prior to today it was only a few now and then would. The President himself, as we`ve reported, just said indeed he felt like it was a bad look for him. He was afraid an image of him wearing a mask would end up in a negative campaign ad.

He was concerned that it would show he looked weak, that he was more concerned not only about his own personal health, but the health crisis, rather than what he wants to be talking about right now, which is restarting the nation`s economy.

And, Brian, that argument that the nation is ready to go back to work got a lot harder for the last couple of days for this White House. The White House, mind you, is the most tested and secure office building in the country. They have more access there, people are tested there far more often than anywhere else, and yet the virus still got in. And I think it`s a hard sell to American who`s are nervous about going back to work, who have nowhere near the access to the same sort of testing, that they will be safe to go back to work and not fall ill themselves. When it happened in the President`s offices, when it happened in the President`s own home.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, I`ll keep you clear from politics except let me establish this. The President today said cases are going down. They are not. Having established that, as a health care professional, is it possible to control spread while opening up communities, or do those two cancel each other out?

DR. EMILY LANDON, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER EXECUTIVE MEDICAL DIRECTOR: I think it`s going to be pretty tough to be pretty honest with you. In the hospital, though, we are able to take care of patients that have pretty bad COVID disease as long as we wear the appropriate personal protective equipment and keep distance. So we`ve shown that we can protect our health care workers that way. I think we can do the same thing in a very careful way as we strategically reopen parts of the country as long as we`re willing to have, you know, sort of all work together wearing masks, keeping our distance, and doing everything we can, taking turns, that sort of thing.

WILLIAMS: Is it to the point, Doctor, where you can look at gatherings, whether it is a picture on social media of a Mother`s Day brunch packed with people without masks or a protest movement or some other sort of gathering and almost predict or anticipate a localized, we hope it`s controllable, but a localized hot spot two weeks later?

LANDON: Well, I think the biggest problem is that not every one of those gatherings is going to result in a localized outbreak. If they did, people would probably be much quicker to learn that they`re not a great idea. However, if people aren`t wearing masks and they`re staying close together, it`s going to be just a matter of time before everyone in that group begins to contract the coronavirus.

WILLIAMS: Fair enough. Phil Rucker, listen along with us. This is Jared Kushner with Sean Hannity tonight. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We passed 9.3 million tests. We hit our best testing day yet. We had 394,711 tests. The ramp up continues to be extraordinary, and President Trump continues to put the full force of the federal government behind, to do everything we need to get all the resources. He`s doing swabs. He`s doing masks. He`s making all kinds of things here in America, which is really great, and that`s giving us the ability we need to make sure we can open the country up safely.


WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, I`m sure we missed the place where he said, we lost 1,156 souls in the last 24 hours. But from that snippet, it sounds like things are going great.

RUCKER: It sure does, Brian. And, you know, a lot of experts will congratulate the administration for increasing the pace of testing, and yet it is still so far off where they think this country needs to be in order for people to return to work and feel like they can do so safely and comfortably. And, you know, polling shows this, but also anecdotally, we hear our reporters out in the field here that Americans are afraid right now. They`re afraid to go back to work. They`re afraid to go into restaurants or into large gatherings. And whether it`s 9 million tests or 90 million tests, the number doesn`t count if you can`t affect the psychology and make people feel safe and comfortable going back.

And to Jonathan`s point a minute ago, the central tension here for the White House is that they cannot contain the coronavirus on their own campus, let alone convince all Americans who don`t have those resources and don`t have those testing capabilities that they too can be safe going into their offices.

WILLIAMS: Indeed. And, Jonathan Lemire, you`ve heard it already several times. The President defining the third quarter as if all Americans walk around with that definition easily at hand, as being the transition to greatness. Can one run for re-election by promising, yeah, but it`s really going to be great in 2021?

LEMIRE: Transition to greatness is a tough one to fit on a bumper sticker, Brian, but that is where the President is right now and his team. They are so desperate to change the conversation to make it about the economy. They are -- the numbers that came out on Friday, the historic great depression- era record levels of unemployment rate and jobs lost sent a real chill through this White House, which knew numbers were going to be bad. But to have them so starkly laid out there is a reminder of the historic headwinds this President faces.

Typically Presidents who have a bad economy at this mark in their fourth year, they don`t tend to win. Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, just two recent examples of that. They do believe they can restart things this summer that will show some signs of life indeed heading towards that third quarter the President is putting so much on. But that`s going to be a difficult sell, particularly if they can`t give Americans the assurance that there will be the widespread testing that experts believe is needed in order to truly safely restart the economy. But we`re just not seeing that.

New York City passed a really grim milestone just in the last few hours. 20,000 people in New York City have died from the coronavirus. But New York City is also one of the few places where the infection rate is going down. The rest of the country, it`s still going up, and this is going to be very difficult for the President and his team to try to push Americans back to work to restart the economy they feel they so desperately need if he`s going to have any chance to be re-elected this November.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, on this new toxic shock type of complication for children with the coronavirus, the President seemed to indicate two things today -- that it wasn`t fatal, that they all recover, and this is something they`ve been looking at for weeks. It seems to be something quite new and sadly, as you know, it has been fatal in some cases. Parents are going to be very concerned when they hear that schools in their locality are reopening. Is there one blanket piece of advice you as a health care professional can give parents of little kids?

LANDON: I think the most important thing is not to panic right now. There`s a lot more for us to learn about this particular illness, and it`s still extremely rare. We still have a lot to learn, a lot of studying to do, and need to get a better handle on which kids are higher risk, which are lower risk, what sorts of outcomes we can expect, and how often it really happens. There`s still a lot to learn, and so I guess it`s pretty good that schools -- many schools won`t be opening again until the fall.

WILLIAMS: We are told based on advance word there`s a report tonight that Dr. Fauci is going to give a stark warning during his testimony tomorrow about reopening too soon. So something tells me we`ll be talking about that at this time tomorrow night. With thanks to our guests tonight, to Phil Rucker, Jonathan Lemire, and Dr. Emily Landon, we appreciate you coming on.

Coming up for us after our first break, the President claims anyone who wants a test can get a test. The problem is the mayor of Seattle says it`s testing that`s keeping her city from reopening. She will join us live next.

And later, new reporting on how Russia plans to use the pandemic and already is to disrupt our Presidential election as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started as we start a new week on this Monday night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve said twice here today that every American who wants a test can get a test.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not the case, 1.9 million tests per day is far short of every American that wants a test to be able to get it.

TRUMP: Well, I don`t have the admiral but I will say just from listening and hearing like you do, we all do, not everybody should get a test because they have to have certain things, and they`re going to know when they`re not feeling right. Those are the people that will be getting the tests.


WILLIAMS: Most of us know enough stories from our lives, the people around us, just by paying attention, that it`s not true that all those who want a test can get a test. In fact, our next guest says the City of Seattle and the surrounding area do not have testing, contact tracing, or relief that they need.

Here to talk about, that the Democratic Mayor of the City of Seattle, Jenny Durkan. Mayor, what is the deal with testing, and what does Seattle need?

JENNY DURKAN, (D) MAYOR OF SEATTLE: So every city in America and every state in America needs enough testing to see how this virus grows when we come back together. We estimate that in opening up our community in King County, we would need about 5,000 tests a day. That`s five times what we`re doing now. But if you look on a scale, that`s 35,000 tests a week and over 100,000 tests a month. A million tests just for our county. And we`re not even close to that.

You hear the President talk about the hidden enemy, and if we want to put this in war terms, if it`s the hidden enemy, tests are our radar. It`s the only way we see how quickly it`s developing and where it is. And contact tracing is our intelligence forces so we can know how it`s spread. Without those two things, America will be flying blind in the fight of its life.

WILLIAMS: Mayor, I know you flooded the zone with about 70 park ambassadors this past weekend, and I know people were out and about in your community. For lack of a better term, how did they behave?

DURKAN: So it was a hard weekend for us here because of a beautiful mother`s day weekend. And people enjoyed our parks, which we want. But we did see people coming together and crowding too much. And all across America we have to continue with the message. We are in the very early innings of a very long game. And even though many of us have flattened the curve, if we don`t do what we have to do to break the back of this virus, we`ll be right back where we were. And we saw what happened in New York, in Italy, in other places. We don`t want that to happen in Seattle. So people did better, but still we have to be able to take more actions.

Today we put a mandatory mask policy in place in our whole county because we know as we open up and come together, we have to do those things that will add to the reduction of the transmission of this virus.

WILLIAMS: And, Mayor, finally your city has been such a prosperous metropolitan area. Are the unemployment numbers there, I hesitate to even ask, shadowing those that we`re seeing nationally?

DURKAN: They are, and it`s heartbreaking, Brian. We went from under 3% unemployment to two months later probably north of 15%. And so many people are out of work, so many small businesses closed. We have to get our community, our society, and our businesses going, but we have to be smart about it so we don`t end up shutting down again. I have every confidence Seattle will come back. Our state will come back. Our country will come back. But we`ll only do it if we stay together, follow the science, and do what is the right and smart thing to do and not be guided by politics.

WILLIAMS: Mayor, good luck with your challenges. Stay well. Stay healthy. Thank you very much for spending some time with us on the broadcast tonight. Jenny Durkan, Mayor of the City of Seattle, Washington.

Coming up for us as we continue, how a nation divided over a pandemic makes for a perfect laboratory for Russian election meddling. This is a call to action. Scary stuff when we come right back.


WILLIAMS: Russia is witnessing a surge in new coronavirus cases. Over 11,000 new cases were reported there today. Johns Hopkins University says globally among countries, Russia now ranks fourth with over 221,000 cases.

But here`s an asterisk as big as the red star atop Saint Basil`s Cathedral. Those cases that we know of. Despite having to deal with this pandemic and perhaps with an assist from the outbreak, the Atlantic reports Russia still intends to interfere in our 2020 election on manuscript fronts.

Franklin Foer writes, vulnerable on election security in the United States have only widened over these past four years, and we quote. Our politics are even more raw and fractured than in 2016. Our faith in government and perhaps democracy itself is further strained. The coronavirus may meaningfully exacerbate these problems, at a minimum, the pandemic is leaching attention and resources from election defense.

With us, the aforementioned Franklin Foer returning to our broadcast, staff writer and then some over at "The Atlantic."

Franklin, tell us about the Russian plans and designs and what about an illness makes us so fertile for this now?

FRANKLIN FOER, THE ATLANTIC STAFF WRITER: Well, we`re obsessed with 2016, and we`ve spent so much time studying the events of that campaign, yet that`s just one plot point. If we step back and we look at the full narrative of Russian interference in American democracy and western democracy, 2016 was just a moment. They never really stopped trying to spread disinformation in the United States. They never stopped trying to hack our voting system.

And given our president and given how he would react to anything that went wrong on election day, and if you go off any whiff of illegitimacy, he would exploit and make a great deal of hay of. And we`ve done a terrible job of protecting ourselves despite everything we know about 2016. And really we`re a feather push away from catastrophe, from the discrediting of our elections from a great deal of unrest emerging from this election.

WILLIAMS: Well, here`s the quote that really got through and got to me. "Having probed state voting systems far more extensively than is generally understood by the public, they are now -- the Russians -- are now more capable, surely more capable of hey mayhem on election day and possibly without leaving a detectible trace of their handiwork."

Franklin, are we all boiling frogs now? Is anyone raising their hand showing outrage or urgency, anyone with any importance to them or perhaps a title?

FOER: Well, one of the problems that we have right now is that our intelligence community is cowed. We now that anybody within the Trump administration who has raised the question of Russian interference in the last election has been slapped down, and some of them have been fired from their jobs.

And so within the intelligence community, all of our best analysts right now are reluctant to even take on the Russia brief. They would rather not have their work corrupted by the politics.

So this question hovers over this election. If the Russians interfered, would we know about it? Would the intelligence community faithfully report on that subject?

WILLIAMS: One of the topics the White House says the president discussed with Putin on the phone when last they spoke days ago was, quote, the Russia hoax. What happens, what service do we provide the Russians every time our president uses that phraseology?

FOER: Well, one of the incredible things about their interference in the 2016 election is how little consequence they have paid for it. So, while there have been some sanctions and there were over the course of the last couple years certain spies who were ejected from the country -- from our country, I don`t think Putin really feels like there`s been a tremendous price that he`s paid.

And one of his goals is to -- is to sow illegitimacy, to cause Americans to question authority and accepted narratives. And we have bipartisan committees in the U.S. Senate who have -- and an intelligence community that have all unambiguously declared Russian interference in 2016 to be a real thing. We`ve had reports about how the Trump campaign welcomed collusion.

And so when Trump denies it to Putin, he is essentially affirming everything Putin could hope for from us. It`s further sowing the discord, further sowing the distrust that he hopes to cultivate in our country.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers who don`t already know this to be true, here`s a byline to work for. When this gentleman writes something in "The Atlantic," it`s best to read it. Franklin Foer, a pleasure having you on as always. Thank you very much --

FOER: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: -- although it is indeed scary stuff.

Coming up for us, he contends it is the biggest political crime in American history. Yet even some Republicans seem reluctant to embrace the president`s new campaign tactic. More on that when we come back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obamagate. It`s been going on for a long time. It`s been going on from before I even got elected, and it`s a disgrace that it happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the crime exactly that you`re accusing him of?

TRUMP: You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody.


WILLIAMS: So while we wait for a definition of Obamagate from the president, this is from POLITICO today, quote, Trump`s aggressive campaign to encourage sweeping investigations of his predecessor, Barack Obama, met a unanimous response from Senate Republicans -- no thanks.

On that very point, back with us again is Bill Kristol, veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, editor-at-large over at "The Bulwark." And to that end, Bill, I`m going to read this from a guy you know. This is Tim Miller. It`s tiresome to say it at this point, but if any prior president had falsely accused their predecessor of a crime in the Rose Garden, it would be wall to wall news, and members of their own party would be speaking out. He`s corrupted the whole process, and everyone lets it happen.

Bill, just as a political calculation, it does strike me Obama has grown in public regard even since leaving office. Is it really a good call to run against him?

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, you know, I had the same thought. He won two elections with majorities and as you say is more popular today probably than when he left. But here`s what I think Trump is calculating. Think back a month. What was he doing? Having those coronavirus briefings every day, right, every late afternoon at the White House with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and everyone.

And that was helping him a little, he thought. Probably he was giving a little bit of rally around the flag effect, you know, being president in a crisis. Then he hit upon open up the country, liberate Michigan, all that stuff. He thought that would be popular.

What strikes me about the last two, three days with this ridiculous attempt to elevate Obamagate as an issue is he`s kind of -- I think he`s seeing in polling and he must know that his management of the crisis is not actually being well thought of by the American public. And so this is a desperate attempt to kind of go back to 2016.

In the clip you played, one of the most striking things was when he said, this began before I was president. So he wants to replay 2016. This is -- Obamagate is the 2020 version of "lock her up." And I suppose he thinks as a crude political calculation, maybe he could throw enough mud at the Democrats, and Joe Biden was Obama`s vice president, and I`m sure you will have Hunter Biden come back up, and just run a pure negative campaign against alleged democratic corruption and hope that people don`t judge him on the coronavirus.

But to me, that`s what`s interesting the political -- I think to the degree it`s more than just Trump being Trump, you know. To the degree there`s a political calculation, it feels to me like it`s bad for -- it`s a concession by him that he`s not winning the discussion on his management of the virus.

WILLIAMS: Bill Kristol, Biden says he`s receiving support from, quote, upper levels of the GOP. Can you open that door a crack and shed any light on that and offer some names?

KRISTOL: Well, I guess John Kasich, I wouldn`t be surprised if he supported Biden. Carly Fiorina who ran in 2016 has already said she won`t vote for Trump at least. I think it`s a little harder for some of these people to get to the positive statement they`ll vote for Biden.

But I actually think they will, and I think the Biden campaign is quietly talking to some of these people. They don`t want to go too far in the Republican direction. He`s got to make sure the Democrats stick together for now.

I guess -- I was thinking about this. I met people like I`ll vote for Joe Biden. I mean who would matter? The one who would matter the most is George W. Bush, don`t you think? I mean what would be -- I mean I wonder who George W. Bush will vote for in 2020, A, and B, I wonder if George W. Bush will tell us who he votes for?

Because for all the Trump can complain about Bush, he is the last Republican president to actually win, you know, the majority of the popular vote, majority I guess in 2004. And I don`t know. That would be -- that`s, to me, the biggest calculation.

But there are a lot of efforts among Republicans to try to help other Republicans cross the aisle to Biden, people who some of them voted for Trump in 2016 but are now disappointed. And again I think here the coronavirus is what`s hurting him. And that`s, again, come back to Obama. That`s why he`s got to try to discredit the Obama/Biden administration even though they left office 3 1/2 years ago. He`s going to be spending a lot of time trying to discredit them over the next six months, more time than defending his own record.

WILLIAMS: Yes, 43, I  think would get some attention. You`re right. Hey, I`ve got about 45 remaining seconds. Do you think Fauci is capable at this committee hearing tomorrow following through with what we`re told is going to be a stern warning, go back too early, it will cause suffering and death? Do you think he`s cape be of a profile in courage moment?

KRISTOL: I think he is. I think the fact he`s going to say this tomorrow apparently. I guess he still report that he will, is it so startling, so different than the message coming from the president. I really -- if you had told me two or three weeks ago that Trump really could fire Dr. Fauci, I would said, oh, come on, he needs Fauci. But he`s gone so far in this direction now telling himself he`s going to fight a war against the establishment and try to discredit the medical experts and so forth, blame Fauci indirectly in the sense for maybe mistakes that were made, I guess I really wonder whether he will fire Fauci or not.

WILLIAMS: Bill Kristol, it`s always a pleasure having you on. Thanks for having us in. Come back very soon. Bill Kristol, our guest tonight.

And coming up for us, as the nation begins to reopen, a closer look at the new risks associated with what was once routine life for all of us. We`ll have that story, an interesting one, when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Did you note when the Seattle mayor said it was a difficult weekend for her because the weather was beautiful and it was Mother`s Day weekend? That`s how mayors have to think now. With more people just heading out, heading back to restaurants and parks and salons and work, getting back into circulation with summer coming into view now, there are really big questions about the threat this virus poses.

And, remember, the decision by your local governor or mayor to let you back into your favorite tavern, that decision is not made in consultation with this virus, which has a funny way of making its own plans. NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk spoke to one doctor who said it`s way too soon to let your guard down.


(voice-over): Slowly but surely, the country is opening up.

DR. ERIN BROMAGE, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH IMMUNOLOGIST: Doesn`t matter if you want it to happen or not. It`s happening.

GOSK: Dr. Erin Bromage, an infectious disease expert at UMass wrote a blog -- the risks, know them, avoid them. And it struck a nerve. Viewed millions of time. Dr. Bromage writes, it seems many people are breathing some relief, and I`m not sure why.

(on camera): What do you think people right now aren`t worrying enough about?

BROMAGE: Just enclosed spaces and how quickly this can start back up again if we resume what was normal three months ago.

GOSK (voice-over): Based on how Mers and Sars behaved, Dr. Bromage says it takes 1,000 virus particles to be infected. A cough or a sneeze can carry 200 million. But he says just being around someone asymptomatic long enough, even if that person is more than six feet away, is dangerous as well. Infection equals exposure and time.

BROMAGE: The riskiest places to me are, you know, enclosed indoor environments that have poor air flow and lots of people.

GOSK: Offices, restaurants, and public transportation, he points out, have to be rethought.

BROMAGE: We haven`t thought about how to engineer a place to keep the air clean enough to be in there when you`re dealing with a respiratory pathogen.

GOSK: But there are places Dr. Bromage believes we don`t have to be as worried about, like supermarkets with fewer people being let inside. Masks are helping too. And there are very few known cases of people contracting covid outside.

(on camera): Runners without masks might get a lot of attention, especially here in New York City, but experts say the chances of getting the virus from them is likely very low because they move by so quickly, limiting exposure.

(voice-over): But modifying behavior remains key.

BROMAGE: This virus doesn`t have legs, so it relies on us to move it around. So by taking away its oxygen, its fuel, which is us, you get it under control.

GOSK: Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, New York.


WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, something to think about before you dust off the old Deacon Jones Or Dick Butkus throwback jersey to watch the big game on TV. We`ll have that when we come back.


WILLIAMS: There it is. Last thing before we go tonight, let`s talk about sports and all these plans to bring back all the sports we miss and the sports we love. Dr. Fauci was interviewed by Peter King of NBC Sports. And Peter asked the doc a hypothetical question about coronavirus and an NFL team.


PETER KING, NBC SPORTS: Suppose you test a team of 53 players on a Saturday night, and four of them test positive. Is there a level at which --

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: Well, you`ve got a problem there. You know why? Because it is likely that if four of them are positive and they`ve been hanging around together, that the other ones negative are really positive.

So I mean if you have one outlier, I think you might get away. Once you wind up having a situation where it looks like it`s spread within a team, you`ve got a real problem.

KING: Yes.

FAUCI: You`ve got to shut it down.


WILLIAMS: So listen to the doctor as the U.S. Senate is going to do tomorrow. You hear the message there? Extend out that thought. That could mean team quarantined, no game, season in jeopardy, sport in jeopardy. And as Dr. Fauci says, the virus gets to decide all of it.

Indeed, the temporarily unemployed BBC Sports Broadcaster Andrew Cotter has taken now to holding Zoom staff meetings with his two labs, Olive and Mabel.


ANDREW COTTER, BBC SPORTS BROADCASTER: Right. So basically an update as to where we are. I can see you both look worried, but the good news from head office is that neither of you is going to be furloughed. But we have to try and repay that loyalty with some of our own. I know that`s supposed to be a strength of yours.

So what we`re looking for, what management is looking for are ideas. Sorry, Mabel, this is one of the things that we have to address, the lack of focus at times because, well, it`s the interest appropriate stuff with Kevin the Doberman in accounts as well, but one thing at a time.

So The things we have to try to improve on. Well, I`m uncomfortable with chat as well. Mabel, you switched off the camera again. Can you switch is back on. You switch the video run -- there we are. Okay. The annual report. You`ve pretty much ruined the sofas, and 913 squirrels chased, none caught. It`s not a good return.

So again, thanks to -- sorry, Mabel, if you`re going to do that, could you switch off the video function again so we don`t have to see it. Right, while Mabel is away, Olive, good news, you will be receiving a small bonus for slightly better behavior.

OK, Mabel, I`m going to put you on mute so I can talk to Olive. Right, Olive, I`ve got a message from management which I have to read out. You`re a good dog. Yes you are. Who`s a good dog? You`re a good dog. I`m glad it makes you happy. OK, keep up the good work and thanks for joining us. I`ll see you on a walk.


WILLIAMS: The indispensable Andrew Cotter. Our thanks as well to Olive and Mabel, always good sports. They play us off the air again this Monday night as we together start a new week. Thanks for being here with us. 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