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Florida teachers concerned TRANSCRIPT: 7/8/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Mercedes Carnethon, Fedrick Ingram, James Carville, Paul Rieckhoff


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very for joining us tonight. And please thank Mary Trump for telling this story, for having the bravery to write this book. And we appreciate her allowing you to come and speak with us tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. That is tonight`s Last Word, the 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 1266 of the Trump administration, 118 days to go until our Presidential Election.

The rift between Donald Trump and his top infectious disease expert is growing it appears, even as coronavirus cases are growing substantially with another 58,238 new infections just in the course of today. Over 1,000 people died just today. Trump is publicly dismissing the warnings and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Anthony Fauci who has been seen and heard everywhere except behind the official podium at the White House and was notably missing from today`s rare on camera task force briefing.

This afternoon, the White House Press Secretary was asked directly about Dr. Fauci`s status.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the President still have confidence in Dr. Fauci?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President has confidence in the conclusions of our medical experts but it`s up to him to determine what to do with that information and to take what we hear from Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx and others and take what he values in their opinion and come to the ultimate consensus that`s best for this country.


WILLIAMS: What Donald Trump is hearing from Dr. Fauci and others are regular warnings about the current explosion of COVID-19 cases in our country largely in the Sun Belt States, and what we are in for if we can`t get this under control. Here is Dr. Fauci earlier today.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we were seeing is exponential growth. It went from an average have about 20,000 to 40,000 and 50,000. That`s doubling. I think any state that is having a serious problem that states should seriously look at shutting down. We`ve got to get our arms around this. We`ve got to be stringent. We`ve got to really look at what`s going on.


WILLIAMS: That goes against Trump`s assertion that the U.S. is "in a good place" when it comes to handling this virus with November and clear view. Donald Trump is flatly saying there will be no more shutdowns. He says the country is open for good at staying open. His latest push is to reopen our schools.

This morning Trump issued a threat and attacked the CDC`s guidance for resuming classes. "In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and many other countries schools are open with no problems. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November election may cut off funding if not open. I disagree with The CDC on their very tough and expensive guidelines for opening schools. I will be meeting with them."

The recommendations are aimed at social distancing. They include keeping class windows open, keeping desk six feet apart, lunch in classrooms, staggering arrivals, wearing masks.

Hours later, the Vice President along with members of the Coronavirus Task Force, Secretary of Education and again, notably without Dr. Fauci, we`re left to make Trump`s case to the nation.


MIKE PENCE, (R) UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: We`re actually seeing early indications of the percent of positive testing flattening in Arizona, in Florida and Texas. It`s absolutely essential that we get our kids back into classroom for in-person learning. We can`t let our kids fall behind academically.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can you explain why the President is threatening to cut funding from schools at a time when educators are saying they need more so they can safely reopen?

PENCE: Kaitlan, first and foremost, it`s -- what you heard from the President is just a determination to provide the kind of leadership from the federal level that says that we`re going to get our kids back school.

The President said today we just don`t want the guidance to be too tough.  And that`s the reason why, next week, CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.


WILLIAMS: The reporter you heard there Kaitlan Collins at CNN confirmed tonight the last time the President was at a meeting of the Coronavirus Task Force was in April.

No one knew what the Vice President was talking about there, what data he was going by as Arizona, Florida and Texas are struggling to get anywhere near flattening their curves.

Mike Pence also got back up from the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who controls relief funding for school districts.


BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: It`s not a matter of "if" schools should reopen, it`s simply a matter of "how." They must fully open, and they must be fully operational. And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders.


WILLIAMS: Late this afternoon, the White House had its turn to weigh in on the President`s rejection of the CDC reopening guidelines.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President and the CDC clearly don`t seem to be on the same page about what the guidance is.

MCENANY: The CDC is very much on the same page as the President. They`re on the same page. The President`s routinely briefed about the coronavirus each and every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the White House pressure the CDC to change public health guidelines that were reached in accordance with medical professionals because the President doesn`t like them?

MCENANY: No, not at all. What is it that the President thinks is too strict and too expensive and too impractical. One specific example I`ll give you is on food services have children bring their own meals as feasible. Well, there are 22 million children in this country who depend on these meals at schools, who depend on access to nutrition in schools, that`s one example.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that`s just one thing that the President doesn`t like, is there anything else?

MCENANY: There are several --


WILLIAMS: New York City School System, the nation`s largest has already announced its classes will be limited to only one to three days a week. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says next month he`ll announce New York`s plan to reopen the schools. And he slammed the President for threatening to withhold funding.


GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: It doesn`t work that way. It`s not legal, it`s not constitutional. And you`re not going to bully New Yorkers. That`s not going to happen, right? Threatened me, threatened me, threatened me. How many times have we been through this? I`m still here, right? Do you think the threat is going to work?


WILLIAMS: As all this unfolds, the administration`s Task Force Coordinator is now advising people living in those regions where the coronavirus is spiking to return to the White House original phase one recommendations.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Asking the American people in those counties and in those states to not only use the face coverings, not going to bar, not going to indoor dining, but really not gathering in homes either and decreasing those gatherings back down to our phase one recommendation, which was 10 or less.


WILLIAMS: So that by any other name is a form of reopening walk back and then New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy just today ordered masks to be worn wherever people are gathered outside and where socially distancing is impossible.

The governor of -- I`m sorry, the mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has COVID-19 tonight signed a similar order for her city`s residents.

Meanwhile, the Tulsa City County Health Department Director now says that Tulsa campaign rally the President held in late June, while poorly attended, "likely contributed to an increase a spike they`re having in coronavirus cases." Tulsa County in Oklahoma reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday. That`s a one day record high, another 206 cases on Tuesday.

You`ll recall several members of the President`s advanced staff also tested positive after that rally. The campaign insists and encourages masks and the use of hand sanitizer. Trump as you may know plans to hold his next rally on Saturday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

It`s a lot to get to, let`s get to it with our leadoff discussion group on a Wednesday night, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for The Associated Press, Mara Gay, former New York City Hall Bureau Chief at the Wall Street Journal, these days a member of the New York Times Editorial Board and Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, Vice Chair of Prevented Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

Doctor, I`d like to begin with you because this topic of reopening schools is red hot right now. New York at the bottom of the curve, a city that really locked down and really did flatten its curve is going to go very easy and part time at best at first. What`s your view of what the standard should be and what the danger is right now?

DR. MERCEDES CARNETHON, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Absolutely, thank you for asking me to comment on that topic. We`ve been thinking a lot about that here in our city as well, which does have a community burden that is at a controllable level, you know, as states and cities consider what to do with their schools. I think New York is taking an approach that aligns with recommendations coming from scientists at the CDC. You need to not only have our relatively low baseline level of disease in the community, but you need to have the facilities to support a safe learning environment.

And as I read about New York`s decision making, they wanted to ensure that they had adequate spacing, and the number of students that they serve wouldn`t allow for full class sizes to be present. So this is a clear case where recommendations based on science are being put into place to protect our children. Nobody disagrees that we need children to return to school. And without children in school or children in daycare settings, our economy is going to be further critical. However, if we continue forward with these rapid rises and disease by discounting the science, we`re going to face financial problems and loss of life that`s far greater than we`re seeing now.

WILLIAMS: Mara, I want to play for you some of the roller coaster relationship between Trump and Dr. Fauci, a sampling of some of the utterances we have heard from Donald Trump, about the nation`s premier infectious disease specialist. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Every time he`s not here, sometimes I`ll ask him to come because that`s the first question. Where`s Dr. Fauci? We`re doing great together. In fact, I told Tony Fauci, I said, why don`t you move to New York run against AOC, you will win easily. Today I walk in here, I`m going to fire him. I`m not firing. I think he`s a wonderful guy.

And Dr. Fauci has been absolutely terrific. He`s been doing a very good job. We`re very happy with Dr. Fauci. I listened to them. I have a lot of respect for them, Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci. I disagree with him, you know, Dr. Fauci said don`t wear a mask. So now he says wear a mask.


WILLIAMS: So a bit of a turn there at the end, Mara. The President reads polls and he no doubt knows that Fauci out pulls him by about a three to one margin on COVID credibility when people are asked who they believe during this crisis. What do you think is going on here? And is this the President just not able to help himself?

MARA GAY, THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, that`s absolutely what it is Brian, but I do think that it`s possible a little bit of the political reality for the President. That consistent polling data for weeks now, that showing him underwater, not only on this issue, but in general with the electorate may be starting to seep in.

The problem, though, is if the President really had respect for Dr. Fauci for public health officials, and far more importantly, for the American public, he was elected to serve, he would lead a national effort at testing and tracing to contain this virus which is the fastest, safest way to preserve life, health, and to get the economy and schools back up and running.

But instead, it`s been this piecemeal approach. And because we don`t have a wide scale testing effort, we cannot safely reopen. We`re going to continue to see these waves of infection until we have a vaccine. It`s a tragedy. And it really is avoidable. And I think those who are frustrated as all of us are, no matter where you sit on the political spectrum, what state you live in, we`re all frustrated. People are suffering. People are dying. People are sick. Yeah, you have to understand that the place to look is at the White House, and the lack of leadership on this is literally killing Americans right now.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, you cover the guy every day. I think there`s no debate the President has politicized mask wearing in this country. Is he politicizing school reopening, is that what we`re watching here?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It sure seems that way Brian. Masks became such a cultural hot button divisive issue in recent weeks. The President of course refuses to wear one in public. It seems that he is on the verge of making schools the next in line. We heard him today suggests without evidence that Democrats, Democratic governors and mayors were trying to keep schools closed in order to hurt him politically. He threatened to withhold funding, if that was to -- if that were to happen.

And look, we all want schools to reopen, speaking with young kids very much want schools to reopen, but it needs to be done safely. That`s what medical experts agree. And the President seems to push forward for two ways one, as a sign of return to normalcy the -- as further evidence in his mind that he and his administration are beating this virus. But secondly, he knows the economy can`t really come back until working parents have place to put their children that they can`t fully re engage in the workforce unless their kids are at school. So he is trying to really push this forward. And some school districts are reopening in a matter of weeks.

And we`re seeing here he`s pushing the CDC to change their guidelines. The White House, according to our reporting is working up their own guidelines, the CDC is reevaluating theirs. And this is all part of a task as much as Dr. Fauci has sort of moved, and moved off stage. The President is has cast doubt on the credibility of his own medical health experts, and certainly is at the moment lacking his own credibility on this issue. But he wants to forge forward with an eye solely towards them ever and he`s doing this through a political lens.

WILLIAMS: And Doctor, put your citizenship hat on and just think of the math here we`ve all learned about contact tracing and the math is mind expanding. Let`s take a class of 25, third graders, all coming together in that room with the teacher, someone is COVID positive, one or more of those kids takes a positive case home to, let`s say, a three generation family that`s been quarantining together with some limited contact outside the house, suddenly your numbers have just grown. There has to be a protocol. What to do in the case of discoveries of multiple positive cases. Doctor, really does boggle the mind?

CARNETHON: You know, it really does, and these are the many factors that we have to keep in mind when we consider opening schools. The argument for closing schools this past spring is that even though the rates of coronavirus at that time were relatively low in children, when you have schools together, you bring adults together, you`ve got the teachers and administrators at that school, you`ve got parents coming for drop off and pick up so that one positive child has a potential contact with multiple children in their classroom. And if this is a state where mask wearing is not going to be mandated, then the likelihood of transmission within that class is high.

Let`s say that child has a sibling and another grade. And you know, even if the outcomes to date haven`t been as severe in children, the loss of even one child or even one sick child was too many. And this doesn`t even keep in mind the teachers who have now become essential workers who are risking their lives to provide an education to our children. I`m the daughter of a teacher. My husband works in higher education -- in K through 12 education as well. These are adults who are also at risk along with their social circles. So we need to take the utmost caution with our most precious resources.

WILLIAMS: Mara Gay, I should also note for our viewers who don`t know, this is personal for you of the four of us here talking. You are the only COVID- 19 survivor that I know of in this conversation group. And I also as a New Yorker yourself, I want to show you the graphic of the United States superimposed over what New York did that was New York`s curve. Those were the bad old days, March, April, refrigerated trucks pulling up behind hospitals because they couldn`t handle the bodies and the morgues. Look where the rest of your country is, Mara, that almost follows your personal journey with this illness. What do you worry about for the folks in the areas where this thing is still chewing up territory and people and climbing?

GAY: Yeah, I mean, Brian, I think the sad part for me it`s heartbreaking is Americans are on their own, because our government has betrayed and abandoned us, failed us. And I continue to believe that a majority of Americans who are still going to bars, restaurants, beaches, in hotspots right now, don`t really understand what this virus is, what it can do, what it looks like. You know, I`ve shared my personal story before but I will shout it from the rooftops, 33 healthy, no asthma, no problems. And I -- it will be three months on Friday and I am still struggling to recover from this virus.

I am expected to make a full recovery eventually, but you just don`t know how your body is going to react. You don`t know how the body is of those you love and your neighbors are going to react. This is not a flu. It is very serious. It can be very serious. And even if it doesn`t feel you, there are actually a very large number of Americans who are sick for months and weeks with very serious symptoms from this virus, so please take it seriously. Please wear a mask if you go out. And, and just keep in mind that you really need to take care of one another and see others as your neighbor, even if they may not look like you worship the way you do. We are all one country and one hot spot. Just because it`s not in your state doesn`t mean that you`re not going to be affected by this virus. So I think some neutrality and some mutual respect can go a long way.

Also, some special attention needs to be brought to those who are living in poverty, especially minority communities that are suffering disproportionately from this virus. Those folks especially need primary care to monitor the symptoms of this virus before it`s too late. So they get a little supplemental oxygen. And don`t and don`t succumb.

WILLIAMS: I don`t know much but I know an ending quote that we should end our conversation on with our great thanks to Jonathan Lemire, Mara Gay, and Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, thank you for joining us, all of you.

Coming up, it may not matter that the President wants schools open because as we`re about to hear from the head of a State Teachers Union, a powerful one. This is a matter of life and death for teachers and students and their families as we just heard the doctor say.

And later James Carville is here to talk about what it is the Cook Political Report just posted about our upcoming election and that man you see there. Here`s a preview. Good for Biden, bad for Trump we`ll discuss as The 11th Hour is just now getting underway on a Wednesday night.


WILLIAMS: So while the President pressure states to quickly reopen schools, local leaders are struggling to figure out how to safely do that, especially in areas where cases are spiking. Despite a state order to reopen schools next month, South Florida officials have already said they will not do so.

Wall Street Journal reports, "Some Florida teachers are upset with the mandate. They also say funding is needed to keep everyone safe."

For more we welcome to the broadcast, Fedrick Ingram. He is President of the Florida Education Association, which is comprised of no fewer than 100 different teachers unions and is focused on bettering public school education.

Fed, thank you very much for joining us. First, let`s point out once and for all schools are locally funded and governed. When the President talks about funding, he could hurt PPE funding, he could hurt some funding for poor kids supplied by the feds but schools have traditionally been a local deal. What do you and your folks need? What are you demanding between now and your determination that it`s safe to bring kids back into the classroom?

FEDRICK INGRAM, FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: So Brian, listen, thank you for having me tonight. And it`s so important that we talk about Florida tonight simply because we are the epicenter of what`s going on in our country. We are ground zero as it relates to the coronavirus, frankly in the world. We have 9000 cases that were reported today almost 10,000 cases 223,000 total. We have 48 deaths that were reported from this virus today. And we have 3,889 deaths that have been reported. And so we are not a state that is moving forward as it relates to bending the curve. We are with a state that is actually regressive.

And in a state where we have beaches where you cannot go, you have restaurants where you cannot congregate. And we have some serious issues. Our governor is saying that we have schools that are ready to go. Our schools are not ready to go because we know it`s going to cost more money for us to go to these schools and not less. And shame on the President of United States who invokes a threat that they -- he will extract money from the federal government to our most vulnerable students, the title one funds, free and reduced lunch for our most challenged students. These are IDA fund where he`s talking about, he`s going to take the money out of our schools and out of our teachers hands to give to these kids the proper resources, the proper assistance and accommodations that some of our kids need.

And so we`re not seeing any level of leadership that we have any confidence in right now. And so we`re not ready to open schools in four weeks. And this approach that is going to give us how hot water we`re going to open schools, this approach is telling us full speed ahead, we need to slow down and take a pause and get this right around the state first.

WILLIAMS: Let me let me ask you this. What about the scenario I just asked the doctor about third grade class 25 third graders. Let`s say there`s one positive case, a kid, not symptomatic, who`s going to be fine takes it home to a three generation household. Someone gets very ill. Is there a protocol for that kind of thing in the state of Florida? And is that something you`d like to see put in place before your folks go back to work and the kids are welcomed back?

INGRAM: Absolutely. We need a national strategy. In fact, we take a statewide strategy, but we don`t have that because our governor has tied himself to the federal administration who is not giving any level of leadership to our kids. Listen, there are a lot of protocols that we need, what`s going to happen with assemblies? What`s going to happen with concerts, what`s going to happen with visitors to our classrooms?

You know, what are our teachers going to be? Issue PPE that they need? We need more funding for these schools. Are we going to build plexiglas around desks? Are we going to practice social distancing? You know, if we have to get students to our public schools, how are we going to do social distancing on buses?

Listen, our school bus drivers, our educational support professionals have become the heroes in the last six months, they fed kids and communities that that would not have. But we need to ensure that if we`re going from two kids in one seat to one kid in the seat or 25% capacity on the bus, that gives you three options, you either going to have to buy new buses, you`re going to have to increase the bus routes, or you`re going to have to increase the employees that you have to drive buses. And we`re not prepared to do that, because we don`t have the money. We`re putting the pressure on our state government to put the pressure on our national government to pass the HEROES Act. It has been passed in the House already. And we need to, frankly, put the pressure on Mitch McConnell to say, listen, we need this money in our public schools or we will not be able to open our public schools in a way that is going to be safe. And we`re going to take care of all of our teachers and all of our students.

WILLIAMS: Well, again, I don`t know much, but I know we best figure this out before the first child enters the first classroom. Fed Ingram, thank you very much for making time for us tonight, we`ll check back in with you.

Coming up for us, Democrats should perhaps prepare for some post traumatic feelings when they hear what a leading election prognosticator has to say about the coming election. That`s when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Here`s the item I was alluding to earlier, the Cook Political Report updated their Electoral College outlook for the upcoming election today, in a way that doesn`t look good for the incumbent president. They say it`s starting to look more like a Democratic tsunami than a blue wave. That`s their wording not ours.

They add this, "President Trump mired in some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency, is trailing Biden by significant margins in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, 8, Michigan, 9, Wisconsin, 9. He`s even running behind Biden and his firewall states of Florida and North Carolina.

So back with us tonight, the occasionally raging but always entertaining Cajun, James Carville, a Veteran Democratic Strategist, rose to national prominence with the Clinton presidential campaign years ago, these days he`s a co-host of the 2020 Politics War Room podcast.

So James, a dual question, do you believe what Charlie Cook says, and he`s been around as long as you are, I have? And should Democrats use some of that black bunting they bought after 2016, wrap their phones in it and ignore everything said about the election and continue to work hard until the election?

JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First, I want to share with your viewers exactly what the Cook report is. First of all, Charlie is a three-point guy. Charlie Cook is a Louisiana guy. Academic journals have been just the most accurate election prognosticators they are. They`re very good at what they do. They really studied before they make this decision.

And Amy Walter, who wrote the piece, I know very well. She`s very thorough. And if you just look across the whole breadth of polls, you can see this as evident. I`ve been saying this for a long, long time. And right now, this race is going to look like it`s going to be a route.

And I don`t know what Trump is doing. He`s out there and the thing in South Dakota was that, like the nerdiest thing I`ve ever seen done with a Confederacy. The Confederacy of Dunces, that`s about the only thing they got. I mean, if -- the thing is just going very poorly for them.

And Charlie and those people just take off, they talked to posters, they talk to everybody. They have a reputation to sustain and they don`t make very many mistakes.

WILLIAMS: James, this group, Republican Voters Against Trump, is out with a really, really powerful ad that features the Ronald Reagan`s shining city on a hill speech while showing pictures of present day, some would say Donald Trump`s America. I want to roll it. We`ll listen to it. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Are you convinced that we have earned the respect of the world and our allies. Let us resolve tonight that young Americans will always find a city of hope in a country that is free, and let us resolve. They will save of our day, and of our generation that we did keep faith with our God, that we did act worthy of ourselves, that we did protect them pass on lovingly, that shining city on a hill.


WILLIAMS: James, I presume you guys are really thankful for the assist. I also further presume you never could have dreamed that in your adult lifetime, the most effective ads against the Republican incumbent -- against the Republican incumbent president would come from Republican political types like you.

CARVILLE: Yes, I would not. But I think these people are patriots. And I get so many of these ads on my cell phone, people just text them to me, you know, left and right. But these are important because they remind independence and weak Republicans exactly what`s at stake here. So this is an important part of the coalition, and that`s an important part of why the Cook Political Report is talking about a tsunami.

You know in 2018, we had a really good election. But we didn`t do as well as we should have in Florida and Ohio. And what I`m seeing and what people are telling me is, well, considerably ahead in Florida and ahead by a little bit, more than a little bit in Ohio. So there were a couple of structures left standing after the 2018 way, they will come down in 2020. It will come down.

WILLIAMS: On that note, James has agreed to stay with us. We`ll fit in a break here. When we come back, at some point in the next 118 days, between now and this election, it stands to reason we will see some presidential debates. We`ll talk about the chances and the state of play with James when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back. Thom Friedman of the New York Times says, Biden should not debate the President unless he meets two conditions. First, Friedman says, Biden should demand Trump released his tax returns from 2016 through 2018 for starters. Second, he says, Biden should insist that a real time fact checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. And then, 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate, this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered.

James Carville remains with us. James, no one is going to agree to that. Well, let`s establish that. I`ll ask you this, who needs debates more this season?

CARVILLE: Look, Thom Friedman is a very nice guy. He writes very well about climate. I like to read his column. Tom stay away from right about politics. Of course by monster debate Trump.

Trump is a doofus dog (ph), right? Biden debated Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, is the most owned message politician I`ve seen in my life. Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, I saw him the night before -- the night right before South Carolina. He did very well. He should debate him without condition anywhere that he wants to.

Joe Biden will trounce Donald Trump in any debate. What he needs to do is be sure to get a picture side by side so they can see how fit and how trim Vice President Biden is, and what a slob Trump is.

Now Thom Friedman is dead wrong on this. The Biden -- and I`m sure that the Biden people are very well-briefed. They will have the debates. I don`t think Trump will show up. Trump don`t come in anywhere around a debate with Joe Biden.

Joe Biden has debated some of the most articulate, bright, messy, different people I`ve ever seen in my life. So I`m sorry, I like you, Thom, you`re a nice guy that doesn`t waste the ink.

WILLIAMS: Unambiguous, James, let me ask you about second quarter fundraising. We`re looking at some of the challengers of some of the truly vulnerable Republicans. And it`s been a real open question how, as I asked somebody last night, how is Susan Collins going to run for re-election on Confederate statues and sports teams named Redskins and Indians? But some of these numbers that some of these challengers have raised for second quarter or Q2 in the business are off the charts, do you believe the Senate is really within reach?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, to use a pun here with Senator Collins, it`s a lost cause to get over it. The confederacy has gone. Of course, you see on these numbers and you`re going to see these kind of numbers ever. First of all, the question is not if the Senate gone, the Senate is gone. The democrats will control the Senate.

The question that we`re looking at, do we have 54 Democratic senators or do we have 58? And in order to have 58, if Trump stays in the race, which I still think is somewhat doubtful, then you got to have these debates because that`ll get you there. And what I`m saying now, Brian, if you look at 538 and RealClearPolitics, he`s clocking in at 41%, that`s it in.

And this is where this is going. I`ve been saying this for a long time. And we just got to keep the pressure on these numbers. Trump is doing a great job. The Biden campaign is doing a great job. We just got to keep pushing forward and keep our eye on the ball. But no, he should debate. He absolutely should debate.

WILLIAMS: James Carville, with thanks for whatever you did to stop the dog barking. We appreciate it, always appreciated chance to talk to you. Thank you very much for joining us. Thanks for having us in again.


WILLIAMS: Coming up, an Iraq War veteran joins us, joins us to talk about the Iraq War veterans who have been in the news these days when we continue.


WILLIAMS: The VA is dealing with 5,000 coronavirus cases in its hospitals that we know of, with spikes right now in Florida, Arizona and Texas, same as the general population. But this stat of 5,000 follows an alarming report out of Pennsylvania.

Washington Post saying for two weeks in April, residents out of veterans nursing home were given what the staff called a COVID cocktail. Many of them had not been tested for COVID-19, but a nurse told the Post, they started using hydroxychloroquine on anyone who had symptoms. It was in the news. It was like the next great thing. I feel like it was, let`s use this on our elderly patients and see what happens. Maybe they thought they were going to die anyway.

With us tonight is Paul Rieckhoff, Founder of IAVA, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. To his credit, he`s been focusing public attention on the VA and its hospitals during this pandemic. He`s also host to the podcast, "Angry Americans." In his previous life, Paul was the US Army First Lieutenant and Platoon Leader in Iraq.

Paul, there`s a lot to discuss involving veterans especially the war you fought in. Let`s start with Tammy Duckworth, whose forebears in this country, fought alongside George Washington in the US Army before it had a name. She left both legs on a battlefield in Iraq. This week, Tucker Carlson called her a moron, said she hates America and said she was a coward. Your turn.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER, IRAQ & AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Well, good to be with you, Brian, always a pleasure to follow Marine Corps vet and Carville, and his barking dogs. But I think when it comes to Tucker Carlson, he is an annoying, ridiculous, shameful barking dog.

I think it`s beneath us to even acknowledge it on some level, but Tammy Duckworth I`ve known for almost two decades. She`s a decorated war hero. She`s an inspiration to people of all parties. Her patriotism should be beyond reproach

And, frankly, I don`t know what the angle is here. I don`t know why Tucker Carlson thinks this could benefit his politics or Trump`s politics. It`s a despicable low. Maybe there is an upside that it elevates Tammy Duckworth story, more people understand her heroism, and it puts veterans issues in the spotlight, which Tammy has been doing her entire career. So it`s just a latest weird and shameful week that`s full of them impacting veterans in a lot of different ways.

WILLIAMS: Paul talked about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who was obviously a decorated veteran overseas. I believe he`s got Combat Infantry Badge, and a Purple Heart, and a Ranger Tab to his credit. I believe he was also up for promotion to full bird colonel. He has decided to leave the Armed Forces, your reaction.

RIECKHOFF: It`s a shameful end to a shameful story. Donald Trump disrespected Vindman. He disrespected a whistle-blowing hero who was also a decorated combat veteran. And in effect, he disrespected the entire military.

I mean, he wasn`t just attacking Vindman, he was attacking any honorable member of the military who came forward to tell the truth. If there is an upside here, Brian, it`s that Vindman is now out of the military. He`s free to talk. He`s free to write a book. He`s free to go on "60 Minutes," and I hope he lets it fly.

I think many Americans, again, of all political parties, respect Vindman, appreciate his courage and his candor, and we need it now more than ever. But this is an amazing time, Brian. I mean, if we would have said a couple years ago that the Republican Party and the President would be leading their political attacks by attacking decorated combat veterans, it would have been unthinkable. But three-and-a-half years ago, a long time ago, now, they attack John McCain, they attack Gold Star families.

I mean, the attacks go on and on, but it also extends to policy where they take money away from the Pentagon, down to the wall. They`re removing troops from Germany, and that only benefits Russia. So it`s a continuing trend.

And I got to tell you, it`s bad politics for Trump. If he thinks this is a winning hand, it`s going to only exacerbate the problems that Carville talked about in the segment prior.

WILLIAMS: And finally, the topic we were looking for you to talk about days ago, the story of the bounties, the blood money allegedly paid by Putin and Russia to kill your brothers and sisters on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

RIECKHOFF: Shameful. We need to know who knew what-when. I want to see the president pulled in front of Congress and immediately asked hard questions, the Secretary of Defense Esper that everybody inside the Pentagon now calls "Yesper," because all he does is say yes to Trump. He needs to be dragged before Congress. We need to find out who knew what-when. We can`t wait till November. If there`s an election or in next year, maybe there`s a new president.

And on the coronavirus issue. You know, Trump has been pushing hydroxychloroquine, Secretary of VA Wilkie has been pushing hydroxychloroquine even though we know it doesn`t work, and it may have dangerous effects. If they knew that this was hurting veterans and was still being pushed, experimenting on veterans, that also needs to prompt congressional investigations.

Trump lied and vets died. That`s what people need to understand. Trump lied, vets die. We need immediate congressional investigations, all the way up to the top, and if need be impeachable articles, push it forward. We`ve tried to impeach him on plenty of other things. If he knew vets were being used as guinea pigs and died, is that not impeachable?

I`m looking for people to step up, Brian. This is the time for both parties to really answer the call.

WILLIAMS: Decorated veteran Paul Rieckhoff, on brand from his garage, with an American muscle car, the US flag, couple bottles of booze for good measure. Paul, thank you very much, my friend for coming on.

Coming up for us, a brutal new attack ad, not so much about Donald Trump, but the men and women who some believe have sold him their very souls.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is about our current politics. The Trump presidency is one thing, Trumpism. His total takeover and ownership of the Republican Party is quite another.

Republican members of this US Senate with few exceptions, no matter what they say, no matter how much they seem to be bearing the weight of the world, no matter how troubled they are by his words, they are dependable votes for this president. In many cases, he outright owns these otherwise grown adults.

The folks over at the Lincoln Project, the former Republican campaign veterans, are focused on beating Trump while they`re out with a devastating new TV ad demanding that viewers learn their names.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someday soon, the time of Trump will pass. This circus of incompetence, corruption and cruelty will end. When it does, the men and women and Trump`s Republican Party will come to you, telling you they can repair the damage he`s done. They`ll beg you to forget their votes to exonerate Trump from his crimes, asked you to forgive their silence, their cowardice, and their betrayals, as Trump wrecked this nation.

Every time they had a choice between America and Trump, they chose Trump. Every time they were called to the service of this nation and their sacred oath, they chose Trump. Every time, learn their names, remember their actions, and never, ever trust them again.


WILLIAMS: And that ad was taken, was put together by the Republicans, the Lincoln Project, to take us off the air this evening. That is our broadcast for a Wednesday night on behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News. Good night.

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