COVID-19 TRANSCRIPT: 7/13/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Lloyd Minor, Bill Peduto, Tim O`Brien

 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,271 of the Trump administration, 113 days to go until our Presidential Election.

The pandemic`s grip on our country has been merciless, yet the White House is now enmeshed in what looks like an effort to try to sink Dr. Anthony Fauci, the scientist and doctor who has guided the country through pandemic threats under six presidents and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Over 3.3 million people are infected that we know of. Over 136,000 lives have been lost. New cases are rising steadily. Above 61,000 new cases just today. Dozens of states now reporting outbreaks, 19 states set new benchmarks this weekend. And it was in the midst of that that these first reports started to emerge that the White House was not just trying to sideline Dr. Fauci -- that`s been going on for a while -- but was now treating him like something of a political opponent.

A document was sent around to reporters from anonymous White House officials laying out comments that Fauci made in the early days of the outbreak when little was known even by the experts, which those officials have tried to paint as inaccurate.

The A.P. reports tonight, "Fauci`s public contradictions of Trump have been viewed by the President as a personal affront and have caused some in the West Wing to sour on the doctor. The effort is part of a White House effort to counterpunch on behalf of Trump. Fauci has not commented on these reports, but he did continue to warn about this virus in an interview today with Stanford University.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: And here it is. It`s happened, you know, your worst nightmare, the perfect storm. This is a really serious problem. It is truly historic. We haven`t even begun to see the end of it yet. Until you get it completely under control, it`s still going to be a threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Of course wording like "worst nightmare" and "perfect storm," happens to contradict Trump`s messaging today and nearly every day that, "we are doing a great job." Fauci also talked about these latest outbreaks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: We did not shut down entirely, and that`s the reason why when we went up, we started to come down, and then we plateaued at a level that was really quite high, about 20,000 infections a day. Then as we started to reopen, we`re seeing the surges that we`re seeing today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This morning the President of the United States re-tweeted a conspiracy theory written by the noted infectious disease specialist Chuck Woolery. Actually he`s the former host of The Dating Game and Love Connection and is a celebrity spokesman for Blue-Emu arthritis cream. Woolery wrote, and the President later distributed to the free world, "The most outrageous lies are the ones about COVID-19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, media, Democrats, our doctors, not all but most that we are told to trust, it`s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election."

This afternoon, both Trump and the White House seemed to signal their support for Dr. Fauci.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci. I`ve had for a long time, right from the beginning. I find him to be a very nice person. I don`t always agree with him. I closed the border, as you know, to China. I closed -- I did the ban on China, heavily infected, and we saved tens of thousands of lives, and Dr. Fauci will admit that it was a good decision. It was very early. That was in January, long before it was thought of as the right thing to do. I get along with him very well. I like him personally.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There`s no opposition research being dumped to reporters. We were asked a very specific question by The Washington Post, and that question was President Trump noted that Dr. Fauci had made some mistakes, and we provided a direct answer to what was a direct question. Dr. Fauci and the President have always had a very good working relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The New York Times reports and NBC News has confirmed that Fauci was back at the White House today meeting with Trump`s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Pre-scheduled meeting we`re told. One topic that may have been under discussion, however, California`s major rollback of its reopening efforts just today, including ordering all bars in the state closed. California`s been averaging over 8,000 new cases a day as of Sunday.

Florida reported over 12,000 new cases today. Yesterday, as you may know, Florida set a national pandemic record with more than 15,000 cases, the highest one-day total of any state. That goes to Florida. Today the Florida governor was greeted with open anger as he started his daily briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: We came to Jackson in, I think, early March when this pandemic was really starting to pick up steam. At that point I don`t even know if Miami-Dade had a case, a positive test. Maybe a couple, but it was obviously much different than what we`re finding here. So I think the --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you! You are an embarrassment. You`re an embarrassment! We have record-breaking cases every day, and you are doing nothing. You are falsifying information, and you are misleading the public. Over 4,000 people have died, and you are blaming the protesters. You guys have no plans, and you`re doing nothing. Shame on you!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Ron DeSantis, an ardent Trump supporter, went on to say things had stabilized in Florida, stressed the need for faster COVID test results.

The Washington Post is reporting on nationwide delays with some test sites struggling to provide results in five to seven days as they promised.

In an op-ed for CNBC, former Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney complained, "I know it isn`t popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country. My son was tested recently. We had to wait five to seven days for results. My daughter wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents but was told she didn`t qualify. This is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic."

At this point it is fair to quickly note Mulvaney once called the coronavirus a hoax. Now it`s suddenly very real for him and his family. Yet both the President and his press secretary are still insisting the nation is far ahead on testing. Trump also repeated the false theory that testing is driving up the number of cases while seeming to try to blame his predecessor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ve said many times that the number of coronavirus cases is going up because testing is increasing.

TRUMP: That`s right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you acknowledge that it`s going up for other reasons too? For example, that it`s actually spreading?

TRUMP: You know, Biden and Obama stopped their testing. They just stopped it. They stopped testing right in the middle. They just went, no more testing. We test more than anybody by far, and when you test, you create cases. So we`ve created cases.

MCENANY: As we`ve always said that there would be embers. There would be fires. So when you`re testing more than any country in the world, you`re going to identify more cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: A tiny fact check here, the coronavirus did not exist during the Obama administration. There was no test for it.

Meanwhile today came a significant setback to Trump`s push to reopen our schools. The L.A. Unified and San Diego Public School Districts announced the school year will start remote only in August. The President, of course, is blaming politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have to open the schools. We have to get them open, and I think there`s a lot of politics going along. I think they think they`ll do better if they can keep the schools closed in the election. I don`t think it`s going to help them frankly, but I think they feel that by keeping schools closed, that`s a bad thing for the country, and therefore that`s a good thing for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This afternoon, I asked the Secretary of Education under President Obama about the wisdom of reopening schools in a pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: There is no body count high enough for the President to actually pay attention to science. We could lose another 10,000. We could lose another 50,000. We could lose another 100,000. Nothing would compel him to listen to Dr. Fauci and others. We`re actually fighting to save lives. And schools are not going to put teachers, principals, their children, or their children`s families in a position of risk that`s far too high. Do not pay attention to Trump. Don`t be scared of his bluffs. He does not care whether you live or die. Pay attention to local people who live in your community. Please listen to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night, Shannon Pettypiece, Veteran Journalist, Senior White House Reporter for us at NBC News Digital. Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR News Station, she has been named to the editorial board of the Boston Globe. And Dr. Lloyd Minor, Dean of Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Minor has expertise in predictive medicine, diagnostic research. He is by training a head and neck surgeon, a member of the National Academy of Medicine, and he interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci today about this coronavirus pandemic.

Doctor, that interview earned you our starting part tonight. I`m going to play for you -- this is Tony Fauci from February. This is important because it`s one of the quotes the White House, in attacking him, circulated this weekend, but they just used the first portion as you`ll see Dr. Fauci goes on. We`ll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: At this moment, there is no need to change anything that you`re doing on a day by day basis. Right now the risk is still low, but this could change. I`ve said that many times even on this program. You`ve got to watch out because although the risk is low now, you don`t need to change anything you`re doing. When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So you see, Doctor, all the warnings and caveats came after that first sentence saying there`s no need for people to change their behavior. February 29th was decades ago in terms of this pandemic. At a basic level, Doctor, can you believe there is a hit job out from inside the White House on the premier infectious disease specialist our country has in the middle of a pandemic with 136,000 Americans dead?

DR. LLOYD MINOR, DEAN, STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, thank you, Brian. First we know that this is a very serious virus. It`s a very serious infection, and as you have pointed out, it`s caused a lot of illness and death in our country and around the world. We also know that we still don`t know enough about the virus, about its transmission. We`re learning by the day.

And Dr. Fauci, every medical expert continues to refine their opinions, their recommendations based upon the evidence coming in. And that evidence is coming in, but none of us has a crystal ball about the future. And we act, we make recommendations based upon the best evidence that we have at the time. And I think that is exactly what Dr. Fauci has done throughout this pandemic.

Have we learned a lot since February 29th? Yes, we have. Do we now see this to be a much more serious problem than we did in late February, early march? Yes, we do. And that`s the nature of learning in the course of a pandemic.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, what about the wisdom of going after our lead guy as a country?

MINOR: Well, it`s very important that all scientists, physician leaders have the opportunity to speak what their expertise leads them to conclude, to explain why they`re concluding what they are at the time and explain the evidence to the public. That`s extremely important for all of us who are leaders in biomedicine. And we do that as accurately and in as timely of a fashion as we can. I believe that`s what Dr. Fauci has done. I believe that`s what all of us who are involved in leadership positions in biomedicine today are trying to do.

WILLIAMS: Shannon, as you know, in Trump-friendly media and in Trump nation, the discrediting of Tony Fauci has been going on for months. Most people take it as an article of faith that he`s been discredited, part of kind of the anti-medicine, anti-science movement that we`re fighting in the midst of a pandemic. What`s your reporting on who or what may be behind this latest tranche? Somebody had to really set out to do this. Somebody went to work on this, and someone distributed it to us and others in the business.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS.COM SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I`m glad you mentioned that this, you know, smear campaign, this discrediting effort has been effective because when I talk to Trump voters, they -- I mean, echo a whole range of conspiracy theories out there about Dr. Fauci, conspiracy theories linking him to China, questions about the data, a general distrust among Trump supporters and his base about the data and the numbers and where they are coming from. So for Trump`s base, these efforts have been successful, and some people don`t trust him just because it appears the president doesn`t trust him.

Of course on a wider, more general population, Dr. Fauci still has a lot of popularity. I think it`s 60-something percent, 67% of Americans still trust what he has to say about this virus, and that is what has bothered the President and his top aides and advisers for months now, is the idea that Dr. Fauci is giving his opinion, not the White House line, which is unlike other spokespeople they have out there like the head of health and human services or the surgeon general, who for the most part are in lockstep messaging-wise with the White House. Dr. Fauci has been out there on his own messaging-wise. And the President and his aides say, listen, the White House is the one who is going to make the call here. The President is the one making the decisions, and they don`t like the idea that Fauci seems to have more influence than the President of the United States.

Well, there`s a lot of reasons why we`re in that position. But this has certainly been something going on for months. It goes to the very top level of the administration. The President`s closest advisers have been criticizing Fauci. So when you ask where these talking points come from, I can`t reveal our reporting to that extent, but I can say that the very closest level criticism of the President is this concern about Fauci`s ability to carry a message to the public that is not the message that the White House wants out there.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Kim, Education Secretary DeVos made the mistake of running headlong into Dana Bash this weekend on CNN, where she may have made history becoming the first education secretary not to have students or their teachers and their safety as a top of mind, number one concern. After that somewhat disastrous outing, where does the campaign stand to reopen this nation`s schools, especially after those two big markets in California today?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SENIOR NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think those two big districts in California are a big indication of how local and state leaders have lost faith that they will get any sort of guidance, any sort of instruction from the federal government besides open up or else.

Secretary DeVos has threatened stripping fundings from schools that do not have -- that do not reopen when school leaders are saying what they want is to reopen, but to do that, they need more funds. They need more guidance. They need more support so that they can put in place safety measures, finding the right -- enough room to space children apart, ramping up testing for students and teachers and administrators, figuring exactly what to do if numbers spike or continue to grow once schools are reopening because closing them down again would be devastating. And without any of that support from the federal government, you are seeing districts like in Los Angeles and San Diego saying, we cannot do this. You are seeing parents who want nothing more than to be able to send their kids to school so that they can learn and so that the parents can find a way to go back to work, saying that they don`t want to send their children back to school even in some districts in the D.C. area and other places that are planning on moving ahead with at least a partial reopening.

So it`s a big mess. The Secretary is certainly out of step with the people who are on the ground, and the Democrats are using that as a campaign message for one more reason why they say Donald Trump must be voted out of office.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Minor, I saw an interview on television tonight with an internist from the Washington, D.C. metro area reports he`s got a patient who has had this twice. Seeing more mentions of this in literature and contemporaneous news reporting. What can you add to this?

MINOR: We`re still learning about immunity following infection with COVID- 19 and also we`re learning about how to lessen the effects, lower the severity of an infection with COVID-19. Whether or not there is or how many cases of patients who recover from COVID-19 who can then become re- infected, that`s a matter of intense investigation.

We do know that many people following an infection do mount an immune response, and that immune response does seem to be protective for at least a period of time in many people. But the true instance of the protection, the length, those are all things that are being investigated today, and it`s important because as we bring new therapies online, therapies that should be beneficial before a vaccine is available, it`s important that those new therapies either reduce the viral load because they prevent the virus from replicating or actually block, as monoclonal antibodies do, the attachment of the virus to its receptor. So those are things that are being actively investigated today.

WILLIAMS: It`s certainly going to be big news to survivors walking around with what they believe to be antibodies.

Shannon Pettypiece, the presidential campaign is now, of course, so thoroughly intertwined with this. The politics of the pandemic, the mechanics of health and the pandemic, is it being ad-libbed, do you think, on a daily basis?

PETTYPIECE: Well, I`ve been told that the President is intentionally staying away from talking about coronavirus, that that strategy having him be the daily voice of the response, going out there doing the press conferences obviously did him no favors.

So as we see this second wave or continuation of the first wave, however you want to characterize it, we are not hearing from the President talk about this. It is the Vice President who is out there doing the traveling, and that by his advisers is intentional and they feel like it`s best for him politically to stay away from this.

From a campaign perspective, the number one issue in the country, the thing that is on every American`s mind, the President is not touching. So he is running a risk here of looking alienated from where the rest of the country is or out of touch. And on the campaign front, when it comes to these rallies, we`ve now seen two events, an Alabama rally and this New Hampshire rally canceled really as a result of concerns about the coronavirus.

The campaign was so built around these rallies, you know, they weren`t just part of the strategy. They were the strategy. That was the campaign, the rallies. So now you have those. So you don`t have the rallies, and you have the President who is not addressing the number one issue in the country. So that puts him in a very difficult spot, and it is certainly a transition point in the campaign. It has been a reboot after reboot after reboot for the past few weeks. And, you know, there is going to have to be some strategy going forward. But right now, my reporting indicates they have not found what that strategy is going to be at this moment.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Kim, two things are true. Number one, the toughest ads of this cycle are being made by Republicans, some of them disaffected Republicans. Number two, Joe Biden is saving a fortune in television ads and things like jet fuel by campaigning from Delaware. What do you hear from the Biden campaign these days?

ATKINS: Yeah, they are feeling confident that right now it`s not a bad strategy to let President Trump beat himself, which if you believe recent polling, he is doing. Although Shannon`s absolutely right, he`s trying to stay away from the coronavirus, based on recent polls, voters are holding him responsible for the fact that the coronavirus is not under control. And the Former Vice President is benefiting from that, and so that campaign is really hunkering down, focusing on the swing states, and letting the Lincoln Project ads and other ads do the work elsewhere, including here in D.C. where those ads play a lot because the intended target is the President.

But at the same time, they`re facing some concerns from Democrats outside of their circle who want to see Joe Biden go big, to campaign and try to get voters in places like Texas and Arizona, thinking that a resounding victory would not only prevent President Trump from claiming fraud or some other kind of shenanigans with the election results but also help down- ballot candidates across the country if Biden campaigns in a broader way. They believe that the winds are at his back. So he`s facing that, but right now they`re playing it cool with some time left before the election.

WILLIAMS: Doc Minor, Shannon Pettypiece, thanks as well. Kim Atkins, we hope you`ll still talk to us little folk when you get to the editorial board of the Boston Globe. Congratulations. That`s great news.

Coming up for us, a few weeks ago one great American city could count coronavirus cases on one hand. Not anymore. We`ll talk about what happened. We`ll talk about whether or not it`s a warning light to the rest of the country. The mayor will join us next.

  Also he wrote the book on Trump, at least one of them. When he says the President is in survivor mode, we`re going to get him to tell us what that means for all the rest of us, the 11th Hour just getting under way as we start a new week here on a Monday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: It was just three weeks ago the great city of Pittsburgh hit an important milestone, a day with zero new reported coronavirus cases. That has all changed. Because the state widely re-opened cases are climbing with Western PA seeing some of the largest increases.

New York Times reporting today the city had been both diligent and lucky and now, "Over two weeks in June and early July, Allegheny County recorded more new cases than in the previous two months combined and on some recent days has accounted for nearly half of all new known cases in Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh`s in Allegheny County. The spike in the Pittsburgh area offers a cautionary tale. Even after months of vigilance, an outbreak can flare up all of a sudden."

For more, we welcome to the broadcast, Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Mayor, we want to note first off you are in suddenly a dangerous neighborhood. You`ve got Ruby Red West Virginia, not talking politically but in terms of the virus, to your south, and you`ve got Ohio to your west dealing with its own spikes. How is your city doing tonight? What worries you?

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO, (D) PITTSBURGH, PA: As you stated, this is something that is happening regionally across western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, and eastern Ohio, three areas that were basically spared heavy impact during the early months, March and April and even May. What ended up happening is we let our guard down. We decided as a state to support the governor and to work together to allow businesses to reopen, and then people who were being safe and keeping social distance forgot all of that and stopped wearing masks and stopped doing the things that kept our numbers down to begin with.

What worries me is that we`re still in the first phase, and this is just a flare-up in the first phase. And the coronavirus is a virus that`s been around for a while. And, you know, it has a season, and that season really comes into play on October, November, December. What we`re seeing with COVID-19 is a resistance to go away during the summer, and if we go into those seasons with high numbers, what we`re most likely to see is something that will make what we saw earlier this year look like just the common cold.

WILLIAMS: You`re making an announcement tomorrow, I understand, about return to schools. Anything you care to preview tonight?

PEDUTO: There is no announcement that we`ll be making. Pittsburgh public schools will be tomorrow, and then our universities, we have seven universities within the city, will have announcements, I believe, either this week or next week.

WILLIAMS: Full disclosure, the first jersey I had as a kid was number 58 for Jack Lambert, and I`m still hoping he will sign my throwback helmet someday. So having established that, do you think we will see home games, Steelers home games this season?

PEDUTO: I try to remain optimistic on what we`ll be able to see when it comes to entertainment or just the way that we would socialize before March, but I`m also a realist and a pragmatist. We have to keep a North Star as we do policy and decision-making, and that North Star has to be based around public health. What comes first is making sure that we have a safe community. Anything other than that is an add-on that we will try to work towards, but we will not jeopardize it.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Mayor, we`re thinking of you and your great city. Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, PA, thank you very much for making time and coming on the broadcast tonight.

Coming up for us, the President claims he`s received rave reviews for commuting the sentence of his friend of several decades, Roger Stone. We`ll play you what Stone had to say just tonight when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, LONGTIME ALLY OF DONALD TRUMP: The most important thing here is the courageousness of the President`s act. I know there were many, many, many people who told him in an election year, don`t do this. Let Roger Stone wait maybe for a pardon after the election. Sean, I don`t think I would have lived that long, not with my asthmatic condition, not with now 60 COVID-19 cases in that prison.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And so with this, Donald Trump apparently saves a life. The President said today he`s getting rave reviews for commuting his longtime friend Roger Stone`s 40-month federal prison sentence. We learned today the President`s clemency grant doesn`t just keep his friend Roger out of the slammer, it voids all parts of Stone`s sentence, including a period of supervised release and a $20,000 fine. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

Meanwhile, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller broke his silence this weekend about Stone`s commutation. It was in "The Washington Post" where he wrote, quote, Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon and rightly so. We made every decision in Stone`s case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law. The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false.

Back with us tonight, Tim O`Brien, executive editor over at Bloomberg Opinion. He is back from his role with the Bloomberg presidential campaign, which seems like a couple decades ago by now, and he happens to be the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald."

So, Tim, we are led to believe that A.G. Barr spoke up against this, though A.G. Barr happens to be the hero of many a leaked story about A.G. Barr, as subservient an A.G. as we have had, certainly in the modern era. Do you think it`s possible that Trump cast aside any integrity and rigor of the DOJ vetting process for commutations and chose to bail out a buddy of his?

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Brian, that`s so cynical of you to think that this President would cast aside the rule of law, process, and good advice to do what served his own self-interest. Of course, I think that`s what happened. You know, this President never leaves much room for critics to end up being wrong. You know, a year ago in 2019, a day after Robert Mueller concluded his Russia investigation, Donald Trump picked up the phone and tried to strong-arm the leader of Ukraine into digging up dirt on Joe Biden.

Last week, last Thursday, Chief Justice Roberts issues, I think, a landmark Supreme Court decision saying that the President of the United States does not exist beyond the reach of the law. And then a day later, on a Friday evening, he proceeds to commute Roger Stone`s sentence because Donald Trump doesn`t care about the rule of law. And I don`t think that Bill Barr is merely subservient. I think Bill Barr enables this behavior, and he empowers it.

Bill Barr had meddled in the sentencing of Michael Flynn. He has long let it be known that he favors an imperial presidency with a President who operates at will and to a large extent beyond the rule of law. So I think they`re very much aligned here, and I think, you know, if we`re to take a cue from what`s happened on recent Friday evenings from the U.S. attorney being pushed out in the Southern District of New York to Roger Stone seeing his sentence commuted, Brian, I think you`re going to have a lot of news dropping on Friday evenings on your show between now and election day.

WILLIAMS: It certainly --

O`BRIEN: Unfortunately.

WILLIAMS: It certainly has changed the complexion of summertime Friday nights in our business. Tim, you are a human trigger for Donald Trump. We have long since established that. You`ve spent enough time around him and written enough words about him, so I want you to get to your theory that he`s in survival mode, which I also note will be triggered anew starting tomorrow when his niece`s book tour starts for her book.

O`BRIEN: Right on both counts, Brian. You know, a -- an experienced politician and I think an adept politician at this point would be trying to expand his or her reach to the electorate, but Donald Trump`s doing none of that. He`s continuing to pander to his base.

I think, you know, he`s been overtly racist. He`s been overtly divisive. He has used the Bible as a prop to appeal to his evangelical supporters. I think he`s race-baiting and reveling in racism to appeal to another part of his electorate, all of which solidifies where he is with those who support him the most but is not going to extend his reach to the places he needs to if he`s going to win in November.

You know, our mutual friend James Carville predicts Trump is going to face a landslide in November, and all indications suggest that. But what I think he`s doing is tying up loose ends and trying to beat back any critics because first and foremost, he`s channelling this through the lens of his own needs, and I think the Mary Trump book arrives right in the middle of a moment like this as this catalog of bad dreams and really horrible realities in the household in which Donald Trump grew up in.

Mary Trump refers to the Trumps` mansion in Queens as the house, and it`s essentially a hothouse full of pathologies and emotional abandonment that shaped Trump. It`s a very seminal and important book, I think.

WILLIAMS: Tim O`Brien, thanks for having us in to among the nicer houses we get invited into these days in the COVID/Zoom/Skype era. We appreciate it. It`s great to see you again.

O`BRIEN: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, one of the darkest moments in recent years. Remember when we first heard the story that children were being separated from their parents at the border. Our own Jacob Soboroff has reported on this from the start. He`ll tell us how an already precarious situation is now impacted by the coronavirus when we come right back.

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WILLIAMS: Two years after the public outcry following the President`s child separation policy, the controversy over children in detainment in our country continues. Today, a federal judge in D.C. delayed a ruling until next week on whether migrant parents held in family detention centers should be released along with their children. That means as many as 335 additional children and parents could be separated beginning this Friday.

Covering this story is our own Jacob Soboroff. He has written a book about the experience called, "Separated: Inside an American Tragedy." Jacob, it`s very good to have you on. If I asked you for a benchmark number of the children we have separated in the confines of our country from their parents, including the first wave at the start, could you give me such a number from our government?

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: We know the number is over 5,400, Brian, and those 5,400 children were systematically traumatized, abused, and tortured in the words of doctors and physicians for human rights. And that trauma, abuse, and torture, in the words of those experts, continues to this day, will last a lifetime for those children. And the separations, the act of separations, as you just mentioned, is still going on. That`s exactly why I wanted to write this book. This is not over.

WILLIAMS: Has this been the deterrent that Donald Trump and his allies thought and hoped it would be, or could you argue these days that folks aren`t exactly rushing across the border to get coronavirus where we make it fresh daily?

SOBOROFF: Well, they`re not allowed. The Trump administration simply will not let migrants cross the border at this point. So, no, it wasn`t the deterrent they wanted it to be. It was effective insofar as they knew and they were warned and I document extensively in the book exactly how they were warned, what this policy would do to these children and how it would affect them for the rest of their lives.

But today, why activists and lawyers and people who deal with these children all the time say this is arguably worse is people who want to get into this country today cannot. And under the guise of coronavirus, many migrants including migrant children are being immediately turned around and sent back to their home countries by the Trump administration. They`re not able to make it into the country and the small amount who are and who are detained with their families in ICE detention are now subject to potential separation. A deadline is looming this Friday for that.

WILLIAMS: You and Julia Ainsley reported that nearly half of the employees at just one detention center in Arizona tested positive for coronavirus. What has this done to something you have already called an American tragedy?

SOBOROFF: They call it a war zone. We talked to one employee who is currently an active employee in the Eloy Detention Center, one of the detention centers in Arizona with the worst rate of coronavirus. Staff is sick. Detainees are sick. And that`s also what`s happening in these family detention centers. And they knew that this would happen. This is not a surprise to them.

And this type of situation, this type of crisis that we`re seeing inside the border patrol detention facilities, the ICE detention facilities, was easily predictable. But, frankly -- and again, while I write (ph) the book is I didn`t see it coming. You see me right there in that border patrol detention center. I`ll never forget that day seeing those children under the Mylar blankets on the concrete floors, supervised by security contractors in a watch tower.

And people said to me then this is going to get worse. I didn`t believe it. I couldn`t believe what I saw with my own eyes then, yet here we are today.

WILLIAMS: Jacob Soboroff, who was witness to it then and is here for us tonight, as author of his new book "Separated: Inside an American Tragedy." Best of luck with it, and thank you very much for coming on our broadcast, Jacob.

SOBOROFF: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, after waiting in COVID test lines for hours, many Americans are told not to expect results for days. Five to seven days, maybe longer. A closer look at a problem that remains critical after five months of this now.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody that needs a test gets a test. They`re there. They have the tests, and the tests are beautiful.

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WILLIAMS: The President at CDC headquarters. That was over four months ago. It wasn`t true then. It`s not true tonight. If you can get tested, then you likely know the wait in many cases is a week or longer. The Atlanta Mayor said tonight her wait for her family`s results is eight days. She and her husband already have it, which brings us to this guy, Trump`s former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

As we said at the top of the broadcast, he went from calling this virus a hoax to declaring we have a testing problem because his family members were forced to wait. And that testing problem is affecting our ability to contain the virus, and so we`re losing. Our report tonight from NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez.

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GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Florida to California, Texas to Arizona, testing troubles are increasingly bogging down the nation`s coronavirus response.

DR. ASHISH JHA, INSTITUTE DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH: Delays in testing and inadequate testing are making people sicker, are making the outbreaks bigger, and are leading to more deaths.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): The Trump administration has blamed some testing problems on mismanagement at the state level and says the U.S. did more than 800,000 tests on Friday.

TRUMP: We test more than anybody by far, and when you test, you create cases.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): But today, the President`s former chief of staff wrote an op-ed for CNBC. "I know it isn`t popular to talk about in Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country. My son was tested recently. We have to wait five to seven days for results. That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic."

In North Carolina, Hugh Huffstetler (ph) was tested, then isolated in his bedroom in limbo.

HUGH HUFFSTETLER, COVID PATIENT: It`s insane to me that it still takes up to two weeks, seven days, who knows, in order for these results to come back.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Public health officials say skyrocketing demand is creating a shortage of testing supplies such as swabs and reagents, the chemicals needed to conduct the tests. The delays, critics say, are making an army of contact tracers paid for by taxpayers essentially useless.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY: Frankly when you have a state like Florida that`s on fire like this, contact tracing almost becomes irrelevant. It can`t be done. It`s kind of like trying to plant your petunias in the middle of a hurricane.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): And in Florida, there`s mounting frustration that while ordinary patients wait in long lines, athletes are getting tested frequently. One NBA player posting on social media that he`s been tested 20 times since arriving in Orlando for the season. Now the race is on to develop quicker methods, and Arizona State University researchers are aiming to conduct 16,000 tests a day up from 2,000 by analyzing saliva.

(on-camera): Here in New York City, some patients are waiting more than a week for their test results. The Mayor here is urging the federal government to invoke the Defense Production Act to expand lab capacity.

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WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Gabe Gutierrez for that report.

Coming up for us, a leading voice of authority endorsed by the Governor of New York on the efficacy of wearing a mask.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, someone we saw on social media, the Governor of New York, also apparently saw her and promptly sent out her message to his followers. We haven`t heard the President urge Americans to wear a mask. We have heard a lot of grown-ups. Now we have her.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody in the whole entire world, not everyone knows this so we are just saying that there is this horrible virus called the coronavirus, which can make people not be able to breathe very well and some -- and if a grown up gets it, and if they can`t breathe, that means they die. So that`s why we need everyone to wear a mask so that they don`t get the coronavirus. We don`t want anyone getting it because it`s super horrible.

So we want everyone to know this. So wear a mask. We`re just saying this because not everyone knows. Bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Little girl from New York, the onetime epicenter in all of this, a city that recorded zero deaths from coronavirus just today.

That`s our effort for this Monday evening as we start a new week together. Thank you so very much for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, goodnight.

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