Covid-19 surges TRANSCRIPT: 7/9/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Maya Wiley, Tom Goldstein, Pete Buttigieg

  LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Congressman Eric Swalwell gets tonight`s last word, the 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,267 of this Trump administration. That leaves 117 days to go until the Presidential Election.

Over 800 of our fellow citizens died of the coronavirus just today. The U.S. continues to lead the world by a large margin, at least on the coronavirus front.

Donald Trump today called his hometown, New York City, a hell hole. This may have something to do with that, the words Black Lives Matter in yellow paint on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower.

On the political front, the President`s push to get back into school is sinking in among families who are debating the safety of it depending on where they live, teachers as well.

On the judicial front, the President`s closely guarded finances were at the center of two Supreme Court rulings today, decisions that lay down firm markers on the scope and limits of executive power, and they do force Trump to extend his battle to keep that information private.

The rulings came on the last day of the court`s term. In one case, the justices cleared the way for the Manhattan D.A., Cyrus Vance, to see Trump`s financial documents himself, which had been subpoenaed by a grand jury as part of that investigation into the hush money payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. The President has denied those allegations still.

In the other case, House Democrats were blocked from getting their hands on many of the same records, including Trump`s tax returns. The Supreme Court sent that case back to lower courts for further review. The New York case will also return to lower federal jurisdictions, which means it`s unlikely that voters are going to see these records before the election.

The court voted 7-2 in both cases with Trump appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joining the seven-vote majority. The opinions for both cases were written by the Chief, John Roberts, who said, "No citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding."

The White House tried to portray the decisions as a victory for the President, but he felt otherwise. He made that clear, posting several responses on social media with the usual messages, including the words prosecutorial misconduct, and he later added this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the rulings were basically starting all over again, sending everything back down to the lower courts and to start all over again. This is a political witch hunt the likes of which nobody`s ever seen before. It`s a pure witch hunt. It`s a hoax just like the Mueller investigation was a hoax that I won. And this is another hoax. This is purely political.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Late tonight within the past few hours, the President continued to rail against the IRS and against the nation`s high court decision in an interview with Fox News Host Sean Hannity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`m under tax audit. I have been for a long period of time. We made a deal a long time ago, and once I ran for politics, that deal was like we didn`t make it. It`s a disgrace what`s happened. We had a deal done. In fact, it was -- I guess it was signed even. And once I ran or once I won or somewhere back a long time ago, everything was like, well, let`s start over again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Certainly, has been a lengthy tax audit. Trump`s Attorney General also weighed in with a response that revealed just how much he`s been keeping an eye on these cases as they`ve moved through the courts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S ATTORNEY GENERAL: We were disappointed in the decision to the extent it did not accept our argument, the government`s argument about the extent of the President`s immunity. There are protections and defenses that can be raised, so the case has now been remanded to the lower court where some of the issues will be addressed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the ruling was by no means a defeat for her side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have a path that the Supreme Court has laid out that we certainly will not ignore, and we will never stop our oversight. The victory is for the constitution of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: In the meantime, we remain in the midst of a pandemic. And as we mentioned, the number of coronavirus cases in our country continues to climb. Over 56,400 new cases diagnosed today. We`re now at over 3.1 million confirmed infections, well north of 133,000 American lives lost.

The New York Times reports that the surge in cases likely being fueled by states that moved to reopen too early, particularly Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Texas. Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke out again today about the situation, refuting what he`s been hearing from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don`t think you can say we`re doing great. I mean we`re just not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And tonight, just to keep things even, during his Fox News interview, the President took a swipe at Fauci.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Dr. Fauci`s a nice man, but he`s made a lot of mistakes, like you don`t have to ban them coming in from very infected China. I did it anyway, and we saved hundreds of thousands of lives. They`ve been wrong about a lot of things, including face masks. Maybe they`re wrong, maybe not. But a lot of them said don`t wear a mask, don`t wear a mask, and now they`re saying wear a mask. So a lot of -- a lot of mistakes were made.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: There is also still this question surrounding the question of when and how to reopen schools. Yesterday the Vice President indicated the CDC would be revising school guidelines after the President complained about them. Here`s the Vice President from his remarks yesterday, and we`ll follow it with the CDC Director Robert Redfield from today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President said today we just don`t want the guidance to be too tough. That`s the reason why next week the CDC`s going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.

ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I want to clarify really what we`re providing is different reference documents. So our guidelines are our guidelines. I think it`s really important. It`s not a revision of the guidelines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And on that note, here now for our leadoff discussion on a Thursday night, Maya Wiley. She`s a former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a veteran of the New York City Mayor`s Office, now with the new school in New York. Also with us, two of the very best from the New York Times, Peter baker, the paper`s Chief White House Correspondent, and Russell Buettner, Investigative Reporter for the Times, he was part of the Pulitzer-winning team that reported previously on the President`s finances.

Good evening and welcome to you all. Maya, I`d like to begin with you. I know our friend Neal Katyal held the view that this was a very bad day for President Trump. I know both cases went down 7-2 on the other side. But tell me why at the end of the day, considering the President gets to keep his finances private, it wouldn`t be viewed as a victory by this White House?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: That`s an excellent question, Brian, and the short answer is that the cases made clear that Donald Trump, A, is not above the law. That`s a critically important one. And, B, that Congress does have subpoena power for legislative function, including over the President`s private documents if appropriate.

You know, I think your point in your question that is extremely important is the American public wants to understand who Donald Trump -- just how culpable is he? And, you know, on one level the White House is very unhappy because this has made clear that they can`t ask for all kinds of special legal protections that place him above the law.

But on the other hand, you know, they can continue to tie this up in court. You know, one of the things that the Supreme Court said was, you know, in these kinds of cases with Congress, we`re really used to Congress trying to work it out and coming to agreement, and that is true. In the vast majority of cases, Congress and the White House works it out so that it doesn`t end up in court, litigating whether or not a President or an administration has to supply documents to Congress so it can do its constitutional duty.

In this case, we`ve had a White House complicit with the Department of Justice do everything in its power to make outrageous arguments about what they don`t have to provide for legitimate oversight. And I think, you know, on one hand they`re going to keep tying it up in court as long as they can. On the other hand, it is a victory for the rule of law because it`s clear that courts are likely to put Donald Trump in a position where he can`t keep hiding forever.

WILLIAMS: Russell, by way of welcoming you tonight, a dual question for you. Does this just mean as a practical matter that the President has to keep writing checks to lawyers to keep these cases going, keep these documents out of the hands of potentially nosy people, number one?

And, number two, in the most drive-by way possible, if you can reduce all of your writing for the New York Times, including what I think is still the longest ever single article published by the paper, which won you guys the Pulitzer, remind folks what he is so eager, we believe, to keep private?

RUSS BUETTNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, in answer to your first question, I do think they`re going to continue to fight this. They sort of went for broke on this last shot here. They just said we`re completely immune from any kind of examination. That was a long-odds play. And now they`ll go back to the lower courts and probably argue that -- try to argue the particulars of it, that the subpoenas are too broad, that it should be narrowed, and then stretch it out as long as possible.

In answer to your second question, the President has great exposure in these sorts of things. We in our investigation of his father`s wealth and how that moved to Donald Trump and his siblings, we had tax records from his father, give tax returns, financial statements, general ledgers, check balances, checking account records, credit card records. When you have that sort of stuff, you can really follow the money all the way down, figure out what`s going from one place to another.

We found tax games that were really beyond the pale in some circumstances. They set up, for instance, a shell corporation, so Fred Trump could add 20 percent to everything he bought for his apartment buildings and then give that 20 percent to his siblings free of the gift tax. That was something if it would have been caught, would most likely have resulted in a criminal prosecution. Those are the sorts of things that when you have, those kinds of records, that kind of detail, you can really drill down. And it`s the last thing that Donald Trump wants, I`m sure of that. That there`s going to be a very well heeled, well-staffed prosecutorial office with forensic auditors going through every possible transaction he`s made in the last eight to ten years.

WILLIAMS: And now to your colleague, Peter Baker, take us back to the scope of White House history in the modern era. Peter, where does today fall in the arc of cases before the court with presidents` names on them, specifically Nixon and Clinton before this one?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think we`re reminded today of the 1974 case, U.S. V. Nixon, in which a unanimous court ruling, 8-0, said that the president could not simply disregard the needs of criminal prosecutors at the federal level. That was followed up in 1997 by a unanimous court once again in the Clinton v. Jones case when the court said, no, the president of the united states isn`t immune while in office from a civil lawsuit.

Today seems to follow in those footsteps. It basically is making the same point, that the president`s claimed absolute immunity as Maya and Russ talked about, doesn`t have a constitutional leg to stand on. And while the cases were decided 7-2, there was a unanimous verdict on that. All nine justices agreed without even bothering to really consider it very seriously that the President`s position was out of hand. And that included the two justices he put on the court, justice Neil Gorsuch, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In fact, Justice Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion of his own, which is joined by Justice Gorsuch making that point.

Now, he`s saying the President is due some deference in terms of considering whether subpoenas ought to be enforced or not. But he ruled out the idea that the President could simply wipe it away just because he`s President. And that made the President pretty angry. He put these two people on the court expecting them to be more loyal to his position. He was angry behind closed doors today that they didn`t show that kind of loyalty. But they`re following the footsteps of their predecessors. All three of Nixon`s appointees on that court who participated in that case ruled against him. Both of President Clinton`s appointees on that court ruled against him. And now both of President Trump`s appointees in this case ruled against him.

WILLIAMS: Maya Wiley, back to a point you opened up in your first answer. I want to narrow it down a bit with something I swear should be a verb. If you look at House Democrats with a critical eye, you could argue they have been Charlie Browned time and time again by this President and his crowd. What is their ability to narrow their case, narrow their requests, speed up the clock, do anything that can leave a mark in the 118 or so days remaining between now and the election?

WILEY: They -- what Congress needs to do is be extremely aggressive at subpoenaing people and paper that will help shed light on whether or not Donald Trump continues to either violate statutes, violate the other criminal laws, which they can in the context of figuring out whether they need to change, to amend, to update criminal law, and also to understand what is motivating this President. We just had news reporting that demonstrated that he -- that the White House knew and that he had been briefed about bounties on American soldiers from his friend, Putin. And yet we hear that there`s no action that was taken. We haven`t heard anything that suggests anything other than maybe he didn`t -- either he was incompetent, or this very real question of did he have something that he worried about or something that he had to gain. Like, this is the kind of thing that many people in the American public are worried about.

This is a President who made outlandish arguments before the Supreme Court. And we should remember that his two appointees may not have gone along with the crazy argument that said, I don`t ever have to give anything to anybody in Congress if I don`t want to, but that doesn`t tell us how they`re going to rule in other cases related to executive power. And in this context, Congress has a lot of really questions that it absolutely should be aggressively pursuing on whether or not this President is doing some bad stuff for his own gain. That`s their job. That`s why we have a balance of powers. And that`s why we need them to act aggressively.

WILLIAMS: So, Russell, those of us with gray hair to put it bluntly remember the name Cy Vance because he was Jimmy Carter`s Secretary of State. Fast forward to current day, and Cy Vance Jr. is District Attorney in Manhattan. If this goes the way I believe it will, he will get to handle or view some of these documents. Where does this leave him now?

BUETTNER: Well, this is going to go into a grand jury proceeding, and I worked with that office and worked in that Court House before. I`ll tell you they take that incredibly seriously, the secrecy of grand jury material. And it will go into some sort of room or chamber where it will be reviewed by, again, forensic accountants and other people in that office. They will try to determine whether there`s a potential criminal charge there. They will string together whatever other records that are needed and most likely file for further subpoenas if they find something worth pursuing. They`ll bring in human sources.

But I don`t suspect that material itself would ever see the light of day in the public anyway unless there comes a time when there is an indictment. The person that`s indicted doesn`t take a plea agreement, and it goes to trial and then those records, some portion of them would be introduced into trial. That would generally be the only time that those records would become public. But it gives Cy Vance incredible power to look at the President`s finances in I think almost any way he sees fit, and that`s the first time that`s happened, I think, in a prosecutorial office over which the President has no real influence or power.

WILLIAMS: So, Peter Baker, by my count, the negatives for this president trying to ask the American people for re-election, you`ve got mass death. You`ve got a partial economic collapse and weakness around the globe. How much, if at all, did today make re-election any tougher?

BAKER: Well, you know, it doesn`t help obviously. It`s one more drip, drip, drip of bad news after weeks of it. You know, I think that he hasn`t really had a sustained period where he could build up the kind of momentum. He wants to have in order to change the direction of this campaign so far.

Whether it changes any votes, I don`t know. The voters knew in 2016 they didn`t see his tax returns. They`re not going to see them this year most likely before the race, whether or not they take into account the fact the Supreme Court said he overreached or not. I think they`re probably more of salient issues by the time November comes around. But it doesn`t help him obviously. It just reinforces the idea that he, you know, is throwing a lot of spaghetti against the wall and it`s not sticking.

And what he wants to do is turn to New Hampshire on Saturday. He`s going to have a rally then. He wants to sort of recapture the energy that he has had in the past, but it`s in a very different environment as you talked about at the beginning of this show. This virus right now has made those rallies seem like super-spreader events rather than, you know, political, you know, energizers. And so he`s looking for a way to turn there around but the options ahead of him aren`t great. He`s been written on before. Nobody can write him off now, and there`s a lot of time between now and November. But right now his staff is looking -- is feeling pretty grim about things.

WILLIAMS: Three terrific guests to start us off on a Thursday night, Maya Wiley, Peter Baker, Russell Buettner. Our thanks for joining us and start is us off.

Coming up, more on today`s Supreme Court rulings, not exactly what this President expected as was mentioned from his two appointees to the highest bench.

And later, remember the Democratic primary? A man we met got to know back then, Mayor Pete. He`s back. He`s out on the trail for Joe Biden, happens to be standing by to talk with us as the 11th Hour is just getting under way on this Thursday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: After today`s Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for New York prosecutors at least to see Trump`s financial records, the go-to website called SCOTUSblog offered this important analysis on what we heard from that man, the chief justice, in his majority opinion.

Amy Howe was the writer, and it goes like this. Roberts pushed back against the President`s contention that having to comply with a state criminal subpoena would distract him from his job as President. "Two centuries of experience," Roberts wrote, `confirmed that a properly tailored criminal subpoena will not normally hamper the performance of the president`s constitutional duties."

We`re happy to have with us for more tonight, Tom Goldstein, a veteran attorney who in addition to having taught at Harvard and Stanford Law Schools has himself argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court. He`s the publisher of SCOTUSblog and the recipient of the Peabody Award for his work there.

Tom, what are we missing from your reading of these back-to-back 7-2 cases? And you can talk legally or the personalities involved.

TOM GOLDSTEIN, ATTORNEY SPECIALIZING IN SUPREME COURT LITIGATION: Well, what I would say is that the President actually probably won in the short term and lost in the long term. Maybe what people are missing is the fact that the President`s lawyers decided, you know, to take a football analogy, they lined up on first down and threw a Hail Mary. They went for it all, and honestly I don`t think they even expected to win. But what they were doing was just slowing the process down so that by November of 2020, nothing would happen. And in that sense, in the short term, they won. They got the cases all the way up to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said your Hail Mary has failed, but line up for second down. And that`s what`s going to happen now in both the criminal case in New York and the case involving the congressional subpoenas. There`s a new test to be applied.

Now, in the medium term, he`s almost certain to lose as you just said when it comes to the fight with the district attorney in New York because the Supreme Court really did almost entirely shut the door on the idea that he could avoid that subpoena. But with the House of Representatives on the other hand, he has a much stronger argument that they`ve kind of got to go back to square one and ask for much less stuff and really give a better reason for it. So I think people are probably overstating the sense that the President lost, including because the President feels like he lost, and maybe he really shouldn`t.

WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about the chief. Tom, what have we learned about John Roberts this term? A lot of chiefs, of course, like to be signed on to the majority opinion. As your website has pointed out, this term he kind of brought that to an art form?

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, it`s startling. The Chief Justice with the departure of Anthony Kennedy is firmly the ideological center in addition to his authority as the chief justice. And he only dissented in two cases for the entire term. That`s basically unheard of because you`re dealing with all kinds of fraud issues that have a lot of political valence to them. They`re ideological and also technical things. And he managed to almost always be in the majority.

In addition, the cases really have his perspective about the institution of the Supreme Court. You see a number of instances where the court is trying not to be in the middle and being the divisive actor when it comes to big political fights. So this probably will go down as the term that established John Roberts maybe even as a historic figure but certainly the most person in the current Supreme Court by far.

WILLIAMS: This will be the test. Can you give our viewers the 60-second version of the case today where Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, a product of the Rocky Mountains, joined the liberals and re-awarded the eastern half of Oklahoma to the Native Americans who were there first anyway?

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. The basic rule when it comes to cases involving Native Americans in the Supreme Court is Native Americans lose. But Neil Gorsuch`s appointment threatens that doctrine and really provides great hope to the nation`s Native American tribes.

It was long the case that Congress had established the creek reservation in eastern Oklahoma, but kind of over time people had come to understand that it had been what is called disestablished. That essentially it was no longer a reservation and the tribe lost its authority.

But here we had a case where someone was prosecuted in Oklahoma State Court who was a tribal member. And he said, wait a second. The State of Oklahoma has no business prosecuting me for a crime here. It was a very, very vicious and horrible crime, because this -- I`m a member of the tribe and that`s the authority of the tribe or the federal government.

And the Supreme Court last year had divided 4-4 on that question. Neil Gorsuch was appointed, and 5-4 in a very startling development, the tribes won. So that reshapes the nature of the government essentially of eastern Oklahoma, particularly when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It is a big deal including for what it signals for Native American tribes in the country, which have been terribly mistreated, going forward for the next 10 years in the Supreme Court.

WILLIAMS: Tom Goldstein, the one man we wanted to talk to after this momentous final day of the Supreme Court term. Tom, always a pleasure, thank you very much for having us in tonight and staying up with us.

Coming up for us, Joe Biden says he wants to save our country from what he calls Trump`s incompetence. Pete Buttigieg joins us next to talk about how when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And when it comes to COVID-19, after months of doing nothing other than predicting the virus would disappear or maybe if you drank bleach you may be OK, Trump has simply given up. He`s waved the white flag. He`s walked away. And his failures come with a terrible human cost and deep economic toll. Time and again working families are paying the price for this administration`s incompetence. There`s no other way to say it than incompetence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: A speech at a factory in Pennsylvania today. The former vice president rolled out his $700 billion economic recovery plan today. He outlined his build back better plan near his hometown of Scranton, which also happens to be a battleground state. Biden`s pitch comes as another 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment just last week as the pandemic continues, as he said, to take its toll.

For more, we welcome to our broadcast Pete Buttigieg, author, veteran, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and of course former democratic presidential candidate. Thank you for coming on, Mr. Mayor. And when you think about it, infrastructure was always lying out there available to this president. It was a layup shot. It was an open net. All he had to do was name it. He could have put his name on all "your tax dollars at work" signs on the interstates. All he had to do was fund it. Joe Biden today gave it a name, pledged to fund it. With 50 million Americans out of work, it`s probably a good idea, no?

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely. You know, Joe Biden`s put forward a plan to make sure we`re investing in American competitiveness, investing in American manufacturing, which will do a lot of good in my part of the country, investing in workers and research and development. And you`re right. You know, infrastructure is one of those things that frankly I think mayors on both sides of the aisle expected this president might actually deliver since it`s very popular, good for the economy, and we need to do it.

But even this basic idea of upgrading our infrastructure that Donald Trump campaigned on, they didn`t bother to actually do it. Joe Biden will because I think he understands the importance of it to our economy. It`s been something that`s needed attention for some time. But now with our economy in shambles, it`s also an opportunity to get people back to work.

WILLIAMS: I want to play for you something. This is a telephone interview tonight, Sean Hannity, Donald Trump. This is how Donald Trump went after Joe Biden today.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: And he walks onto the stage wearing this massive mask. There`s nobody on the stage. And then he takes it off. He likes to have it hang off usually the left ear. I think it makes him feel good frankly if you want to know the truth. And I guess that`s OK.

But, you know, when there`s nobody around, you don`t really have to do that. But he feels it`s good, and I`m OK with it if he wants to do that. He`s got the largest mask I think I`ve ever seen. It covers up a good proportion of his face, and I think he feels he looks good that way.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So, Mr. Mayor, if he`s going to litigate mask-wearing, mask size, what ear he hangs it off of in the midst of a pandemic with 50 million out of work, I`m assuming your side will take that fight?

BUTTIGIEG: We will. Americans are dying. This is not a fight that we asked for. And, look, nothing about this should be political or partisan. Listening to doctors should not be a partisan issue. And if you look out among the American people, most Americans trust medical scientists way more than they trust Donald Trump. But unfortunately a lot of his political protectors are allowing this to turn into a culture war.

Joe Biden wore a mask because he`s setting an example about how to save lives, because that`s what president`s do. And, you know, in addition to the bad policies, in addition to the incompetent management, I think the thing that`s costing the American people the most right now is we don`t have a president who has any concept of the importance of setting an example, of calling the American people to our highest values.

I think that`s what Joe Biden was talking about from day one, even back when we were competing for the nomination, where his campaign was built on the idea of the soul of the nation, a battle now under way for the soul of the nation. I think the reason you see our party united and a lot of independents and an increasing number of what I like to call future former Republicans all coming together to say that we want to elect Joe Biden and defeat Donald Trump is that you don`t have to be a die-hard, rock ribbed Democrat to see that we need a better example set by the American presidency.

WILLIAMS: It must be an interesting time for you as a veteran. You`ve got Senator Duckworth getting called a coward who hates America by cable news hosts. You have Lieutenant Colonel Vindman putting in his paperwork. And you have this story of bounties being paid by Russia and Russia`s president on American lives of your brothers and sisters in uniform in Afghanistan. And the defense secretary for one is a voice we could probably use to hear right about now. You agree?

BUTTIGIEG: I do. And I think that we need answers quickly about exactly what the president knew, not only his shocking inaction in the time leading up to when the story came out, but his silence and inaction about the issue since. You know, ever since this story has broken, I`ve been hearing from friends that I served with.

And, look, this adds up to a pattern. Whether it`s the way they talk about Senator Duckworth, who gave more to this country than just about any of her critics, whether it`s the fact that another war hero, Colonel Vindman, had his career derailed by political interference, or the failure to protect American troops abroad, it`s clear this administration has no respect for the military. And it`s one of the reasons why members of the military are looking for different and better leadership. And I think that represents a historic opportunity for my party to keep reaching out.

Again, it shouldn`t be a partisan issue. This should be way beyond politics. But right now, we`ve got a very clear choice between somebody like Vice President Biden, whose family is a military family, who`s sons served, and somebody like Donald Trump whose, you know, origins include going out of his way to avoid serving, taking advantage of his millionaire connections to do it as a young man all the way through to today where he just clearly doesn`t care about protecting American troops from things like what we`ve learned that Russia`s been doing.

WILLIAMS: Pete Buttigieg, thank you very much for coming on. Great to have you on the broadcast tonight. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, one state where the coronavirus outbreak is at its worst. It`s also a state where the governor says children should go back to school the same way people would go to the hardware store.

Plus the one European nation that went their own way to deal with coronavirus. They are now the cautionary tale in Europe. More on both of those stories when we come right back.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that Florida and Arizona opened up too quickly?

FAUCI: You know, I think in some respects, in some cases, they did not always, but I think that that is certainly contributing to that. Certainly Florida, I know, I think jumped over a couple of checkpoints.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So with that in mind, Florida continues to record high numbers of new cases. Today reported a single-day high in coronavirus deaths. But the message from the governor there, an ardent, devoted Trump supporter, Ron DeSantis, remains firmly aligned with Donald Trump, and that`s pushing for schools to reopen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: If a parent wants to opt for virtual education, they should absolutely be able to do that. We shouldn`t be forcing them to do any types of decisions. But I`m confident if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: For more, we are joined once again by Dr. Vin Gupta. He is an ER doc specializing in just these types of illnesses. Also an affiliate assistant professor with the University of Washington`s Department of Health Metrics Sciences.

So, doc, does the governor have that about right stop into Home Depot for some conduit, some paint, some sheetrock. The risk there is approximate to sending your third grader to sit in a classroom all day or sending the teacher into that classroom of third graders?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, he`s dead wrong. That`s why he`s proceeding over the worst outbreak in the country, one of the worst in the world. He needs to be removed from office, Brian. What he`s saying and what he`s doing in terms of inaction, what he`s saying in terms of messaging, mixed information, it`s criminal. It`s public health malpractice, and it needs to stop once and for all.

Here`s the thing. When it comes to testing, when it comes to reopening schools, why aren`t the two linked? We`ve spent all this time, month after month, Brian, you and I have had this conversation month after month. We need to test to reopen anything.

If we want to reopen America, we have to test. Suddenly now we`re saying we don`t have to test to reopen schools for 56 million children and adolescents and high school students? Does that make any sense to you? It makes no sense to me. There is no coherent strategy, and ultimately what we`re going to do is put our children at risk for in-classroom transmission. We`re going to put parents at risk, and most importantly we`re going to put teachers also at risk. What teachers union is going to be in favor of a non-testing return to school strategy? I don`t know one.

WILLIAMS: Doc, I got something else for you. I got this from Mike Pence yesterday, answering questions that you`ve seen anecdotally, we`ve certain reported on as a network that we`re right back into that kind of mid-bounce in New York PEE shortages that we`re hearing from hospital ERs and ICUs around the country. Here`s the vice president on that front.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: PPE, we hear, remains very strong. But we`re encouraging health care workers to begin now to use some of the best practices that we learned in our parts of the country to preserve and to reuse the PPE supplies. Our focus is to make sure our states have everything they need when they need it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So, Doc, to distill that, we`re good, but it would be great if people can reuse those masks over one shift.

GUPTA: You nailed it, Brian. This is March and April happening all over again. And here`s the thing. We don`t have a plan. Back in March and April, they imported a bunch of KN95 masks from China. It turned out those masks were 30 percent effective as N95 mask built here in the United States. Where is the supply of N95 masks that we can rely upon? It`s nonexistent.

So basically what they`re saying is all frontline health care workers are going to go back into the ICU, going to into the ER. There`s going to be no contingency plan. And this is the idea of recycling. If you`re actually in there delivering care, it`s fancible (ph). I`m literally wiping down with the - the equivalent of Clorox white and then N95 mask were something rigorous like popperhood. It`s not efficient. It`s not effect. It`s the best we can do. I thought that there would be a better day ahead. I guess not.

WILLIAMS: Tales from the ER which we get regularly from Dr. Vin Gupta. Thank you very much for joining us once again tonight, doc.

Coming up for us, in the thick of this pandemic, one country in Europe decided to go its own way, to handle this differently without a lockdown. No problem, they thought, except now they`ve got a big problem. Our report on the situation in Sweden is coming up.

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WILLIAMS: Remember the bad old days in March as this pandemic started its gallop around the world. Prior to our lockdown, we watched much of Europe lock down. One major exception was Sweden. They sought to avoid large-scale closures. They allowed restaurants to stay open. They chose to protect seniors while allowing others out and about. But now Sweden is a big problem in terms of its death rate and its economy, it`s a red spot now on the map of Europe. We get our report tonight from NBC news correspondent Willem Marx.

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WILLEM MARX, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Sweden`s capital, cafes are open and restaurants unrestricted despite COVID-19 because the government here never clamped down. But several months on from Stockholm`s first case, fear of the virus and collapsing consumer confidence are clearing out entranceways and emptying tables.

ANNA LALLERSTEDT, RESTAURANT OWNER: People don`t go out and eat. People don`t go to restaurants.

MARX: Anna`s (INAUDIBLE) parents opened their first restaurant here more than four decades ago, but in the past five months, her family`s business has collapsed.

LALLERSTEDT: In March I had three restaurants with 110 employees, and now we`re in the middle of July. I have one restaurant, and I think I have 10 employees left. So I have lost like 90 percent of my company. So it`s been very, very tough.

MARX: And while lockdowns ease elsewhere in Europe, Swedish hesitation to spend could mean a financial illness takes hold much like the virus according to economist Erik Berglof.

ERIK BERGLOF, DIRECTOR OF THE LSE INSTITUTE OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS: That`s the problem with the Swedish approach. It may have helped Sweden a little bit in the beginning of this. There`s not a lot of evidence for this. But in the long term this can linger for Sweden for quite some time.

MARX: Berglof says the stay-open strategy to safeguard the economy has not worked.

It`s a false choice?

BERGLOF: It`s a false choice, exactly.

MARX: For emergency doctors like Katrin Hruska, the focus of the last few months has never been financial.

KATRIN HRUSKA, SWEDISH EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: It was always about, you know, public health. I never had the impression that we had the strategy to save money.

MARX: All Sweden`s hospitals stayed open and operational, but with the death toll now around 5,500, other metrics matter too.

MARTIN KOLK, DEMOGRAPHY PROFESSOR, STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY: I think it is likely that the more liberal policy in Sweden, where for example primary schools were open and more workplaces were open, in the early stages of the epidemic meant that Sweden had slightly higher deaths than --

MARX: While lockdown measures in neighboring countries Norway and Denmark saw their death counts flatten, Sweden`s deadly curve stayed steeper for longer. And it wasn`t just absolute numbers that marked the difference. Death rates per 100,000 people in nearby nations have been much, much, much lower than in Sweden.

STEFAN INGVES, SWEDEN CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR: People like to compare countries like it`s a soccer game or a football game or something.

MARX: Stefan Ingves is the governor of Sweden Central Bank. He questions comparisons but says his country has struggled to protect younger livelihoods and older lives.

INGVES: It`s about half of the people who have died were old people, many in care homes in different shapes and forms. That`s a failure, and that`s clearly recognized by now, that that did not work.

MARX: Grief still stalks Sweden, but the struggle to survive now is not simply emotional or medical. It`s economic too. Willem Marx, NBC News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS: Coming up here, lest we forget about our own fight against the pandemic, we have for you mask-wearing 101. Everything you`ve ever wanted to know about what works best and what works just OK.

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WILIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, music by Lizzo, Moves like Jagger. That`s Bill Nye, the science guy, regarded as a national treasure by millions. Dancer, scientist, bow tie enthusiast, and thanks to the latest videos he has posted, we now have a lesson in mask-wearing.

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BILL NYE, THE "SCIENCE GUY": Face masks like this one prevent particles from my respiratory system from getting into the air and then into your respiratory system. Blocking the movement of air is an old trick. Here`s a scarf. It blocks the movement of air around my throat, helps keep me warm. This scarf won awards in the Washington state fair for both design and workmanship. It can block the movement of air but only to a certain extent.

This is a homemade face mask. It has just two layers of cloth with a pipe cleaner sewn in to help it fit against the bridge of your nose. And it blocks the movement of air very effectively.

If you`re wearing one of these, you`re protecting yourself and those around you.

Here`s an N95. These are made to block particles in the medical environment and when you`re out mowing the lawn. This one`s not sterilized, but it`s pretty effective.

So the reason we want you to wear a mask is to protect you, sure. But the main reason we want you to wear a mask is to protect me from you. And the particles from your respiratory system from getting into my respiratory system. Everybody, this is a matter literally of life and death. When I use the word "literally," I mean literally a matter of life and death. So when you`re out in public, please wear a mask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: You heard the man. Bill Nye to take us off the air. And that is our broadcast on this Thursday night. Thank you very much for being here with us. On behalf of all 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