STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, we can talk about it a lot between now and Election Day, but we won`t know until Election Day. It`s probably an obvious statement, but maybe worth saying.
Anyway, thank you both for joining us, and thank you for joining us at home as well. That does it for us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes up next.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: As the world moves on without America to work on a global coronavirus response, Trump`s plan for us, get back out there. New dangerous messages coming from the White House with Laurie Garrett and Dr. Mary Bassett.
Then, the political price of Trump`s coronavirus failures, will his job performance matter November? Plus, Howard president who brags he learned a lot from Richard Nixon is systematically dismantling the safeguards put in place after Watergate.
And the stealth bailout, how big oil is benefiting from the Treasury`s massive corporate rescue fund and what is being done about oversight, when ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. The coronavirus pandemic is along with climate change and inescapably global challenge, right? I mean, we`ve already seen in the months of this how little the virus cares about things like borders, how it`s altered daily life around the globe developed and developing countries alike, the global south, the global north.
Any solution to the virus or problems caused by the virus will also have to be global, vaccination, treatment, best practices, all that. Yet today, we learned President Donald Trump declined an invitation to address the World Health Organization while China`s President Xi Jinping accepted joining other world leaders like Germany`s Angela Merkel and Francis Emmanuel Macron.
I mean, every world leader is facing some variation of the same challenge. And there`s probably a lot to learn from the exchange between countries, particularly from countries like Germany to name just one example, that has successfully contained the virus and minimize fatalities.
But here`s the thing, the president refuses the counsel and advice of his own government, nevermind other ones. Back on April 16, the Trump administration released guidelines produced by the CDC to reopen the economy in three phases. We keep going back to this document because it`s the most orphaned document in America.
The President unveiled it, they posted them in the White House Web site. They`re still there. You can go read them, and they`re sensible. But President Trump got so impatient and could not wait for states to meet his own guidelines, the one that he introduced from his CDC, he started beating up on governors and breeding them and urging states to ignore them the very first day tweeting about liberating this state in that.
And so, on April 20th, Georgia governor Brian Kemp announced he was opening up the states starting with essential services, which also happened to include massage studios and bowling alleys. Governor Kemp was out front. He kind of branded himself as a first reopener not abiding by the CDC guidelines. But things have not gone great for him. I mean, they haven`t been catastrophic either, so we should explain.
First, Kemp got hung out to dry because he thought he was listening to the president by opening early, right. The President is tweeting liberate Michigan, liberate Virginia, and Brian Kemp is like, I`m with you, MAGA, MAGA. And then the president cuts him off the knees a few days later saying, he disagrees with Kemp`s decision.
Since then, Georgia appears to be well, cooking the books to show the data was better than it really is. Or at least making a bunch of errors that have that cumulative effect. Here`s the chart they released, OK. Now, I look at how the new confirmed cases appear to go down in a nice smooth slope, right. If you look at that chart, you think OK, getting better. But then when you look closely, you realize the dates are not in the right order.
Here is May 7th, right before April 26. That`s not the way that chart should work. That type of screw up that has been an error in that direction has happened at least three times. The governor`s office says they were not trying to be misleading, but I don`t know. Now, maybe as a result of these over-optimistic messages, some Georgians seem to be embracing reopening and sort of thinking that the risk isn`t there anymore. It`s gone, basically.
The Washington Post has a great piece about people shopping in a mall in suburban Atlanta, "outside Urban Outfitters, Jennifer Kiernan was having a glass of wine as our daughter shopped inside. Oh my God, this feels great. I love it, she said, explained that she assumed that she never run around her was healthy. I think people would not be out if they had been exposed to anyone with Corona."
Now, I am sympathetic to the feeling of greatness. I am sympathetic to the temptation of just like having a normal day and having a glass of wine at a place. That does sound awesome. But there`s no relationship between how good that feels and what the risk is. And it`s not this individual`s job to assess the risk. That`s the government`s job.
Now, there are other states like Georgia that have been quick to reopen their state again, at the kind of president`s behest even if his own guidelines say not to. Starting today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis allowed restaurants and retail stores in gyms to reach 50 percent capacity which again, not you know, fully back but they`re starting to open. That`s even as Palm Beach County is identified as a coronavirus hotspot in a Homeland Security document.
And then there`s Texas Governor Greg Abbott who announced today that daycares can open immediately, which again, that`s a vital thing for getting people back to work. But it happens just days after the state reported a record number of coronavirus deaths in one day.
So, here`s where things kind of stand right now as we look to this, as we think about our own future, all of us across the country across the world. We do know some very clear things about the virus at this point, right? If you change absolutely nothing in your society and your behavior and the way things happen, you just continue life as usual, the virus will ravage you and it will run rampant.
We know that. We saw this and we saw outbreaks around the world. We`ve been seeing it here in meatpacking plants across the country. We`ve seen it in veteran`s homes and nursing homes, right? That much we do know. But what we legitimate just don`t really know, though is what happens now with the virus? Like, what does it do with some modified version of normal?
And the big question is with modified physical distancing, and mask-wearing and some policies in place, that can we keep the virus suppressed even if we do not implement some kind of aggressive program of testing and tracing and contact tracing and quarantine and all that stuff. Most virologists I have talked to, and I`ve talked to a number of them, most public health officials think no, probably not. That we`re going to see the virus come back. We`ll see outbreaks in places.
What`s unnerving about Georgia, Texas, and Florida, and man that does look appealing, I have to say, like, normal life in the sunshine in spring, is that they are taking on a very high level of risk with a very uncertain future. And here`s the other thing. It may work out. I mean, we honestly don`t know. I hope -- I literally hope it does.
But if there are two things that we have learned in this era, two lessons we cannot unlearn or forget, one, you can elevate the risk of highly unlikely event, highly unlikely catastrophes, tail risks, and you can get away with it for a while until you don`t.
All these actions to reopen aggressively, right, in violation often of what the CDC says, they`re high risk. But not only are Republicans in the White House and in state capitals ignoring the CDC guidelines, they`re even openly going out and attacking the CDC. Here`s White House trade advisor Peter Navarro yesterday on "MEET THE PRESS."
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PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Early on in this crisis, the CDC which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space really what let the country down with the testing because not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test, and that did set us back.
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HAYES: That is a fascinating clip because he is correct. The CDC screwed up enormously, Donald Trump`s CDC. The Trump admit like, it`s not some foreign, you know, satellite that landed and like took over the response, it`s in the Trump administration.
We do not know exactly what the new normal looks like, but then there is a chance of something bad happening. Let`s say it`s one in 100, and you increase it to one in 10, that`s really dangerous. But there`s still a likelihood you can avoid a one in 10 chance. And that`s basically the risk of society-wide collapse during the Trump era.
From the day that he was inaugurated, right, we have managed to get by almost four years without something catastrophic at this scale, right, this intelligible scale. There have been catastrophes in Hurricane Maria and other places at the border, but something of this scale, we escaped for three and a half years, but it doesn`t mean the risk was not there the whole time. And look where we are now.
So the other thing we`ve learned, right, which we absolutely cannot forget is that when the head of a government sends a signal that they "like the numbers where they are, that they think they`re going down" when they peg their own political fortune and what they perceive as economic fortune to the virus not being that bad, to being on the precipice of going away, right? That has tangible effects for the way that actors within the government behave.
The real risk right now that maybe showed up in that good faith error in Georgia, right -- we don`t know, was it intentional or not -- is that when you Governor sending the message throughout the governance that people in their bureaucracies that we`re open for business governors who do not want to hear about another outbreak, right, that`s contrary to the message. That is dangerous. That is a dangerous message to send to people.
I`m joined now by Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist and health policy analyst Laurie Garrett. And Laurie, I wanted to start on that point, because it`s something you`ve written about and thought about, about the sort of ways in which governments heads of states send messages formally and informally about the virus, and the danger of sending a message like we`re open for business, this is behind us now, let`s sort of look on the bright side, I don`t want to hear any Debbie downers about this and what that could do to actual policy.
LAURIE GARRETT, HEALTH POLICY ANALYST: Yes. Well, you know, this weekend I had the rude awakening of riding my bike around Brooklyn. I, of course, wearing my mask and gloves, and seeing a city that was starting to really say, we don`t want to go in lockdown anymore.
It was like Mardi Gras. Kids out in the streets in huge numbers, no masks, getting drunk, and it was a giant party scene. And I had the opposite reaction as you were just describing about seeing opening. I felt fearful. And I think that one of the things we`re seeing is that the talk about opening up seems to negate even mentioning masks. Do you open up but still wear a mask? Do you throw the mask away? Similarly, do you keep washing your hands all the time, or you just say the heck with it, it`s all over.
The virus is not all over. In fact, if you look at national data right now, and you take out of the data set, New York City, the immediate tri state area, Detroit, and New Orleans, what you`re left with is a graph that looks like this, straight up, skyrocketing, no slowdown whatsoever. This downward curve they keep showing is really the downward curve of New York. And since New York is such a huge percentage of the total number of national cases, it skews the data.
HAYES: So there`s -- I mean, I guess the response to that when we think about places like Texas, Florida, and Georgia, right, I mean, the big question is what -- where`s that curve going, is that there has been a lot more testing, right? So even in places where cases are going up, we are seeing percentage positive, the sort of driven down even in places like Texas and Florida which are the cause of some concern.
I wonder if -- but you`re skeptical of that maybe as a metric. I mean, you sound concerned about the trajectory of this virus outside the places that have been hotspots and in places like Texas, Georgia, Florida, etcetera.
GARRETT: I am concerned. There`s some new cell phone data that shows that demonstrators that went to protest against lockdowns, in some cases, cross state lines went as much as 200 miles in order to attend without masks in tight conditions, these protests. And now we`re starting to see the ability to actually track which viral subtypes individuals are infected with and do the epidemiological tracing.
If, if John was in, say, Dallas protesting, and then drove back to Lafayette, Louisiana, we can tell if John becomes infected. Did he get a strain that`s now in circulation in Lafayette, or did he get a strain he picked up in Dallas and brought home with him? And all this kind of work can now be done if there`s a will to do it, if there`s a will to pay for the science and fund this kind of research. And I think it`s fundamental. This is what we call contact tracing.
And it`s another way of doing contact tracing by tracking the genomic sequences around. It`s like a fingerprint of the virus itself. And what fingerprint is in me, may not reflect what`s in Brooklyn. Maybe this is the fingerprint of Miami and I just got off a plane from Florida.
HAYES: So one of the -- one of the things that strikes me about this moment when you were talking about Brooklyn, and the scenes that people sort of out in the street is that, A, I think it`s, you know, maintaining this sort of social sense that we`re all engaged in this struggle for a long term is a hard thing to do. But the danger of that binary thing that you`re identifying, and I think that came through in the Georgia article too. And I don`t think this is a specific thing that`s specific to people with some kind of politics or in some region of the country. I think this is fairly universal, which is like, oh, that`s over, like we`re out of lockdown. And if we do that, then we`re screwed.
I mean, that`s the dangerous thing, right? Like, we can get some version of normal if we carry with us all these behavioral things. But if we sort of say like, that was a long 10 weeks or that was a long two months, like we`re back, that`s the most dangerous thing.
GARRETT: Well, look at China. I mean, they`ve done -- they did the most extensive lockdown on the planet. They declared victory and now they`ve got three outbreaks, and they put another, you know, 11 million people in testing and many millions more in back in lockdown.
And I think every single country is starting to realize this is coming in waves. You got to build up a system and an infrastructure that can see each wave is arriving to the proper contact tracing, to figure out who needs to be in quarantine are locked down, so you don`t have to do the entire society.
You target it. You do smart testing, smart targeting, and you wait it out. And then when that ceases spreading, you can all go back to normal for a while. But you got to know there`s going to be another round and another round and another round. We are in for a very long haul.
And just last week, the chief scientist in charge of the whole epidemic response at World Health Organization said something that I`ve been saying for now three months, which is that there`s a very high probability that this virus is going to end up going endemic. Meaning, it will be a permanent feature in the human landscape just like HIV.
And if we get to that stage, then we must adapt all our behavior accordingly. We can`t -- I don`t think follow the Swedish model. What Sweden did was say we`re never going to go to full scale lockdown. We`re going to do a kind of wimpy, small scale, voluntary, you decide for yourself what locked down you perceived -- you`re prepared to carry out, and then you know, we`ll keep our economy going.
GARRETT: Well, they have the highest death rate per capita in the world. I mean, it was second only to Belgium. And they`re the highest in Scandinavia, they`re the shame of Northern Europe. And I guess they`ve decided that those dead people were not important.
HAYES: This is the sort of awful -- the awful message, right, about the value of life by these decisions that get made at a policy level, and also the awful consequences of it. Although the idea of becoming endemic is really bumming me out on this Monday, but that`s why you have a Pulitzer Laurie Garrett for reporting on the actual dangers the world faces. Thank you so much.
GARRETT: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: All right, for more on where we are in this crisis, I`m joined by Dr. Mary Bassett, former New York City Health Commissioner, now the director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.
And you ran -- Doctor, you ran a large, one of the most august and important public health organizations in the country in the New York City`s Department of Health. And I wonder how you`re looking at these risk assessments and how policymakers send messages to people about this, about risk, about being clear-eyed about it so that it gets through.
MARY BASSETT, DIRECTOR, FXB CENTER FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, one of the basic messages is, of course, to give consistent messaging and that`s been a catastrophe in the United States. There just are so many people saying different things and now we`re seeing the same thing happen with the conversation about reopening.
HAYES: There was a quote from a Georgia resident that really stuck with me. We have covered and you have written about it. You had an op-ed on this on the sort of inequities and sort of disparate effects of this disease, particularly among African-Americans, among people who are who have comorbidities, in particular among the poor, and among the elderly.
And I saw this quote, it`s really haunted me, right, because it was always a worry that if you highlighted these disparities which are real and important to highlight and talk about that some people get the message that it`s not -- it`s not coming from me.
This is a Georgia resident in The Washington Post. "When you start seeing where the cases are coming from and the demographics, I`m not worried." What do you think about that quote? What does it say about what message people are receiving?
BASSETT: Well, that speaks to the long legacy of racializing risk, rather than talking about the people circumstances that place them at risk. We talked about who they are, how they`re classified, so you`ll have the same thing happening with the meatpacking catastrophe with escalating rates of coded infections and many big packing settings. And it`s plane on the fact that the people who work there are Latino, not on the conditions of their work, or the conditions of their homes, or the ways in which they have to commute to work.
So this is -- there`s a long legacy of this and it`s very dangerous, because this it is really true that our society is segregated, but this virus doesn`t recognize race, it recognizes opportunity. And in our society, those opportunities for infection are unequally distributed.
HAYES: I guess the thing that always sticks with me about this, as we think about sort of going forward is that the nursing home situation just stands out to me so much as something that I didn`t -- I didn`t think our society would abide. I mean, I understand like the disparate power and the legacy of sort of racialize risk and people thinking, well, that thing happens to those people over there and over there. But, you know, nursing homes have been just hammered by this. I mean tens of thousands of deaths in nursing homes. And there doesn`t seem to be a kind of collective national outcry that says like, this is fundamentally unacceptable.
BASSETT: You`re right. The risk of nursing homes for people who work in them as well as the people who are residents in them has been very high. And some estimates are that 25 to 50 percent of deaths are occurring in that sector. And the issue is how poorly regulated the nursing homes have been, how understaffed and underpaid the workers are.
So when you have a situation where, for example, one of the aides who`s having -- has an intimate relationship with the residents in terms of assisting them with their daily activities, you know, has to work two jobs in order to -- in order to pay her bills. Then you have a situation where there`s risk.
Now, I can`t explain the fact that death of the elderly is has been considered sort of inevitable. These were preventable deaths and it says something terrible about our society if we think it`s OK that people die preventable deaths just because they`re old.
HAYES: I could not agree more. Dr. Mary Bassett who has a wealth of knowledge on this topic, and we spoke back during the Ebola situation in New York City on the street outside the hospital. Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate it.
BASSETT: Thank you. Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Ahead, does political gravity exists during a cataclysmic pandemic? And can the Biden strategy to stay relatively quiet be effective? Cornell Belcher on what the data is telling us after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nearly 10,000 more Americans will die, 90,000 deaths and growing. Millions more will file for unemployment. Small businesses are dying. We`re not testing enough. It`s still spreading.
Here`s what else is coming this week. He will lie to you over and over. He will tweet instead of lead. He will blame others for his failures. Welcome to this week and the next and the next and the next until you do something about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s the latest ad from a Republican anti-Trump super PAC, which literally just recites what is expected to happen in America as the pandemic continues. And the reality of the current situation where we find ourselves right now, it`s the most brutal argument against Donald Trump politically.
There have been a ton of articles in the last few weeks about how desperate Trump and the White House are to change that bedrock reality with just increasingly insane attacks and wild gambits to get attention. But the political gravity right now in the country is that the incumbent president is running for re-election in the midst of the worst cataclysms to befall the country in the next generations.
The question of the election is a referendum on the president. And more than that, a referendum on whether reality in the end, the circumstances of the country, are what matter. Here with me now to dig into that question, Cornell Belcher, Democratic strategist and pollster.
And you and I have had this conversation a few times, Cornell. And I think we have -- we have slightly different takes, although I think we agree on some things. So, I think the thing that we agree on is there is a high floor for the President`s support. You`re not going to ever see a world in which he`s at 25 percent approval, which I agree with.
But I also do think -- I tend to think that the reality really does matter for an incumbent president, and this reality will matter. And I think you`re more in the camp that like it`s essentially entirely detached from his political versions. Do you still feel that way?
CONELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, Chris. I think for any ordinary president be it Bush or Obama, is not detached. But you know, if you look at some of the latest polling that`s out last week at CNN, I think that poll came out last in the last week, you know, Donald Trump is at 46 percent. You had 46 percent which looks familiar with a lot of Americans.
And then I look back and OK, you know where he was last spring in 2019, April 2019 in CNN`s polling, he was at 45 percent, Chris. So it is detached from reality. You know, his base is locked in. And that`s why I think there`s been a somewhat, you know, battle back and forth inside the Democratic Party about sort of, do you go after Trump supporters or do you not go after Trump supporters?
I think it`s -- I think it`s you know, wasting time trying to go after Trump supporters is just a waste of time. That 46, 45, 47 percent is locked in. He`s going to get that. No matter what happens, he`s going to get that.
HAYES: So here`s -- so here`s some, I think -- I mean, I don`t -- I don`t quite agree at 45, 46. But I will say this, that a huge part of that is locked in, right? But there`s one place that I thought this data was interesting. So it seems to me that it`s a little reckless politically to go around saying to senior citizens who are most at risk from this virus in terms of mortality, like your warriors, get out there, suck it up.
That seems to be like a message that would be not a great political message. If you were like advising a candidate, I don`t think you would tell them. And there does seem to be some data suggesting this is having an effect. If you look at his -- FiveThirtyEight sort of ran the numbers on older voters. His margin in 2016 was like about 65-plus was plus 13 percent. He`s down to like -- he`s underwater with those groups now in a bunch of polls. Do you think that`s -- basically, do you think that`s real?
BELCHER: Well, is it a bump or is it long term? You know, the dynamics of this race have yet to unfold? We are really to a certain extent still in the early stages. I mean, heck, the candidates aren`t even out and about campaigning. And what you -- what I do know is that -- is that Donald Trump and the Republicans will throw everything they can at Joe Biden. I think if you -- if you had the Republicans` hand right now, you know the way you win this is if you make Biden not a soft place for these voters to land.
And, look, Hillary in 2016 had the problem that her unfavorables were just as high as Donald Trump`s unfavorables. And if you look at some of the polling right now, Biden is just barely above water in his favorable to unfavorable, but is beginning to shrink, so look for them to come at -- I mean, all the stuff we think is crazy throwing at Biden, look for them to throw more of that at Biden because they understand they got to make him not an acceptable place for these voters, for some of the voters to land.
HAYES: So there is -- this thing I go back and forth on from a pure sort of political tactics question which is like is it better -- basically, if you are running against Donald Trump, is it better that he`s the lead story that night on the news or that you are? And I`ve gone back and forth on this, right, this idea that he sort of dominates attention and that`s like a sort of super power and that`s been a huge part of the politics of this era, but then the other is that like a lot of times he dominating attention, it`s not like the majority of people don`t like it, that`s why he`s like a 45 percent approval rating guy, because there`s 55 percent are like I don`t like that, you know, you`re a jerk.
And so this question about Biden, like, if you are advising the Biden campaign is your advice like it`s a good day if Joe Biden isn`t the news and Donald Trump is, or is it a bad day that you need to get out there and be more present?
BELCHER: Look, Chris, I think this is tough because one of the things in politics that goes back a long time is if your opponent is shooting themselves in the foot don`t get in the way of your opponent shooting themselves in the foot, you just step back.
The problem is Donald Trump has been shooting himself in the foot for a couple years now, and his numbers don`t move. And I think part of the problem with 2016 was he did suck up all the air. He did suck up all the air and all the time and all the attention.
And I think ultimately, if you`re the Democrat you have to make a case for yourself. I don`t think we`re going to win this, again, by just being against Donald Trump, I think we are going to have to be for something. You are going to have to make that case for yourself.
And if we have time, I want to make one quick point about the Obama thing, if we have time, is -- he`s crazy like a fox, right? If racial aversion and angst about a changing America is in fact the predicate and sort of driving that racial aversion and driving that division and angst, in that case Barack Obama although he did win back to back majorities, if that`s your predicate, in fact running against Barack Obama is a better antagonist for you than running against Joe Biden.
HAYES: That`s very interesting.
Cornell Belcher, thank you, as always. We`ll talk again soon.
BELCHER: Thank you.
HAYES: Ahead, why did the president fire a State Department inspector general while no one was watching? The president`s methodical purge of oversight officials and what Mike Pompeo wanted this man fired after this.
HAYES: On Saturday, October 20, 1973 President Richard Nixon notoriously ordered his Attorney General Eric Elliot Richardson to fire the special prosecutor who was then investigating the Watergate break in, a man by the name of Archibald Cox. Richardson refused to do so and he resigned in protest so then did his deputy attorney general who also resigned.
That episode, known as the Saturday Night Massacre, resulted in a public outcry that ultimately helped led to Nixon`s resignation the following year.
Four years later, President Jimmy Carter signed a bill putting in place inspectors general across the federal government as an important check on fraud and corruption.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HOROWITZ, INSPECTOR GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: In the beginning in 1978 when the IG Act was passed, it was an experiment. There were 12 IGs at the outset, but the idea was four years after Watergate was to help restore confidence for the public in government because confidence in the government was at an all-time low.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Those post-Watergate reforms were put in place to restrain a lawless and corrupt executive branch to kind of re-find some trust in the government and integrity and accountability. And now, earlier this month, Donald Trump actually bragged about what he learned from Nixon back then, one of those moments where he kind of said the quiet part out loud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I learned a lot from Richard Nixon, don`t fire people. I learned a lot. I study history.
And of course, there was one difference, one big difference. Number one, he may have been guilty, and number two he had tapes all over the place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: All right, he was definitely guilty.
Trump did not actually learn from Richard Nixon don`t fire people, no, no, he learned something more important, he learned to make sure to space out the firing of people.
So starting the beginning of April, Trump has been firing the very people meant to hold his administration accountable, these inspectors general. Its his own attenuated Saturday Night Massacre, only the firings usually come on Friday nights after everyone has kind of checked out for the weekend.
On Friday, April 3, Trump fired the inspector general of the intelligence community. That guy was important. His name is Michael Atkinson, because he is the one who handled the Ukraine whistleblower complaint and found it to have merit.
A few days later, he got rid of the Defense Department`s IG, known for his independence, who was overseeing Coronavirus relief spending investigations.
On Friday, May 1, he said he was replacing the Health and Human Services inspector general who had just exposed shortages of testing and personal protective equipment at hospitals.
then this past Friday night, Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick at the urging of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Now, according to the House Foreign Affairs committee chair Eliot Engel, the office of the inspector general had opened an investigation into Pompeo before Pompeo asked that Linick be fired.
Here`s the thing, firing inspector general is not some side show, Trump is going at one of the foundational post-Watergate reforms that was erected with bipartisan support over decades precisely to restrain a Nixon 2.0.
The State Department firing may be the most provocative, and perhaps the most clearly lawless yet. We`re going to talk about that right after this.
HAYES: The president informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter on Friday that he was firing State Department inspector general Steve Linick. Then today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is saying that he was the one who asked Trump to fire Linick because, quote, "Inspector General Linick wasn`t performing a function in a way we had tried to get him to," which is an interesting thing to say about an inspector general who is supposed to be independent.
NBC News first reported Linick was looking into allegations the Pompeo directed a political appointee to run errands for him and his wife. And then Congressman Eliot Engel, chair of the foreign affairs committee, told The Washington Post that the Inspector General`s Office was investigating at my request, Trump`s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia. This as a way of getting around congressional obstacles.
The president today acted like he didn`t know why Linick was fired. He said Pompeo told him to get rid of him so he did.
Democrats are not buying it. They have an open investigation into what they say may be an illegal act of retaliation.
Joining me now to talk about this, David Graham, staff writer at The Atlantic who has a piece out today on this topic entitled "Trump is Attacking the Final Safeguard Against Executive Abuses."
You make the case, David, that the IG is a really important institution, and this is extremely grave what`s going on here. What`s your case?
DAVID GRAHAM, THE ATLANTIC: Yeah, and we`ve already seen the erosion of judicial controls and of legislative controls. The administration has stonewalled congress. They`ve said congress doesn`t have the right to do things, request documents. They famously obstructed the impeachment investigation. They`ve also said that the courts cannot adjudicate these things, because it`s properly congress`s case.
So, the last line of defense here is the inspectors general, who are within the executive branch, but make reports to the legislature. And now you see sort of firing with impunity as well, leaving pretty no controls beyond the voter.
HAYES: So, what is the -- I was sort of looking through some of the statutory language here and trying to like get right with the law here.
What is the law here say? Like can you just say like I don`t like this inspector general because he`s investigating stuff that I would like to remain secret ergo I am firing him? Like does the law let you do that?
GRAHAM: It`s a little bit unclear. You have to under a law -- sort of an amendment that was passed in 2008, the president has to inform congress within 30 days -- 30 days prior of the reason, but that doesn`t mean congress can simply no and vote it down, it means they have a chance to object and raise a fuss.
We`ve seen occasional inspector general firings in the past, but nothing like this. And we don`t know whether congress might respond more aggressively or what that would look like, although the record of Senate Republicans does not imply a lot of action.
HAYES: Yeah, there`s like, you know, sort of everyone playing a type and Romney came out with a strong statement sort of appearing to condemn it, Susan Collins musing about her concern as Susan Collins is want to do.
Notably absent, I haven`t seen any comments from Chuck Grassley who has been sort of his brand in Washington for years has been the kind of defender of inspectors general and of whistleblowers and sort of government accountability. And I know he`s looked -- he`s been looked at by sort of people on the left and right who were in that space as a real, like, defender of that and he really seems to have completely just abdicated on this.
GRAHAM: Well, so Grassley did say that the president`s explanation was insufficient, but he stopped short of any criticism or threatening any sort of action if the administration doesn`t offer a fuller explanation. So, you see him pulling a punch there.
HAYES: This was the president giving his explanation today for why he did this, why he got rid of Linick, which I thought was a weirdly honest moment of him. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t know him, never heard of him, but they asked me to terminate him. I have the absolute right as president to terminate. I`ve said who appointed him? They said President Obama. I said look, I`ll terminate him. I don`t know what`s going on other than that, but you`d have to ask Mike Pompeo, but they asked me to do it and I did it. I have the right to terminate the inspector generals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I mean, it`s just amazing. He saying the secretary of state asked me to fire the guy that`s investigating him, so I did.
GRAHAM: Right. Well, this is classic. You know, the law says that the heads of the agencies can`t fire the inspectors general, only the president can, and Trump is saying he wanted him out. He`s admitting no interest in it, of course.
And it`s naked partisanship. He knows this is an Obama guy, that`s good enough for him, he`s happy to fire them.
HAYES: Yeah, the point about the law being that like they can`t fire them directly for precisely that reason. If you just outsource it so that the guy says the president can you fire him for me, the president says sure, whatever, I don`t know who this guy is, but OK, then you have run around the spirit, if not the letter, of the law which is that you don`t want people to have firing power over the people that are going to independently hold them to account.
GRAHAM: Right. And I think the law is written that way with the assumption that a president is going to have different prerogatives than a cabinet secretary who is being investigated. He`s going to prefer to have a clean administration.
But of course this president doesn`t operate in that way at all, he welcomes the scandal.
HAYES: That`s so true. That`s exactly it, right. The idea is that like the IG is there and he starts some investigation into some corrupt scandal that the cabinet head done. The president is like, OK, great, good for that. I can cauterize this wound and get rid of this person. But, of course, that`s not the way it works in this administration.
David Graham, thank you for making time for us tonight.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
HAYES: Up next, businesses are in dire need of financial relief. Congress approved the use of $500 billion in aid money. So here is the thing, why is it that two months later, hardly any of that money has been used? I don`t get it. That story next.
HAYES: OK, so it`s been two months since congress voted on that big Coronavirus relief bill, which had a whole bunch of different parts to it. Almost none of the $500 billion in that bill that was allocated for large businesses has been spent, OK? Just under $38 billion have actually been distributed, according to a report out today from the Congressional Oversight Commission, which is tasked with overseeing the CARES act.
That is just 7.5 percent of the funds allocated.
And back in March, there were industries that we were told would collapse without this money, so how is it possible that 7 percent has been spent? Joining me now is one of the oversight commissioners who released that report today.
So first, describe this pool of money, this is different, we`ve got a lot of attention that has been paid to the Payroll Protection Program, which was for small businesses. And the idea was they would get money from the federal government to retain their employees at 80 percent pay and then the loan would be forgiven if they kept them and they hired them back, right.
This pool of money, the $500 billion we`re talking about here, what was that for? What`s that pool of money?
BHARAT RAMAMURTI, CARES ACT OVERSIGHT COMMISSION MEMBER: The purpose was to stabilize the economy. And so obviously that is not a very clear explanation of what the Treasury and Fed should do with the money. But as you noted, none of -- or very little of the money has been sent so far, but critically the mere announcement back on April 9 that the Treasury and the Fed planned to spend about $200 billion of those dollars had an enormous effect on the markets.
So if you look at the data since that date, the stock market is up significantly, it`s now back to where it was in early March, and the cost of borrowing for big corporations has gone way down, so it is easier for them to finance themselves.
So in that sense, as the report notes, the program is working for big corporations. Who it is not working for so far, is medium-sized corporations and state and city governments that were supposed to be able to borrow from the Fed.
HAYES: OK, this is such a fascinating thing. So, there was a moment in March where you start to see these reverberations through various parts of the financial system that starts to get very scary, right. So, you have got the stock market going down and then you start moving into credit markets. The credit markets start going wobbly. You start seeing all sorts of indicators of financial distress. And you`ve got the CARES Act and the Fed basically saying like we will backstop you. We`re not going to let this thing go down. And that really does change the psychology of these markets and does seem to stabilize them, right?
RAMAMURTI: Yeah, exactly right. But what we now is a situation, if you look at the data, where it seems like we`re setting up for a recovery that is going to be as fast and painless as possible for the rich and big corporations, and as slow and painful as possible for everyone else.
You talked about the PPP. Contrast the Fed`s actions with the PPP. If you`re a small business owner, you have to hope and pray that you that get your PPP loan, the money may run out. After you get the money, you have to follow all sorts of directions about what you can do with the money in order for it to stay a grant instead of a loan.
And look at the folks who have been fired. If you`re requiring unemployment insurance, you got to go file a claim, you may take weeks and months to get that money. Meanwhile, the Fed and the Treasury can just announce that they`re prepared to spend trillions of dollars to put that money into the financial markets, and it immediately creates a safety net for big corporations and the holders of financial assets.
HAYES: So is the idea here that the largest corporation that were going to use the money, because credit markets, which is how they borrow money, because they stabilized and because the cost of credit is low, you can borrow quite cheaply, that basically like they`re all doing it right, they can borrow what they need, and the entire universe of small businesses is now left to sort of like struggle through this period and hope for PPP and jump through a bunch of hoops and that is sort of where we are in the rescue effort.
RAMAMURTI: That`s basically right. And so you can obviously see what the implications of that are. You can see after we emerge from this crisis, that big businesses, that have access to the capital markets, are going to emerge in very good shape. And small and medium-sized businesses are going to be in wreckage. And that creates an enormous opportunity for these big businesses to expand, to scoop up more market share. That`s not a good outcome for a competitive economy, that`s not a good outcome for consumers in terms of presenting them with choices.
And so I`m deeply concerned about this disparity, between the fast and generous and no strings attached relief that we provide to big corporations, with the slow and spotty and stingy support that we`re providing to everybody else.
HAYES: Another question for you, I saw this piece in Bloomberg, and I`ve been hearing about the fed using these facilities, and using authority under the CARES Act to sort of help oil companies, oil and fossil fuel companies, this is a stealth bailout.
This is Diamond Offshore Drilling: as it headed to towards bankruptcy, Diamond Offshore Drilling took advantage of a little known provision in the stimulus bill to get $9.7 million tax refund -- pretty change -- and then it asked a bankruptcy judge to authorize the same amount of bonuses to nine executives. That is a pretty sweet deal. They got 9.7 in relief money and then turned around and said, can we give a mil each to nine executives as we go out the door in bankruptcy?
RAMAMURTI: Yeah, it`s crazy. And on top of that, one of the things that the fed did is between April 9 when it first announced what it called the Main Street lending facility, it then announced some changes to that facility on April 30. And all of the major changes that they made on that date just so happened to line up with the top requests of the oil and gas industry.
And if it doesn`t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happened, because the energy secretary went on TV right after that and said we told the Fed to make these changes, and they agreed to go along with them. And if you look at the data from that day, some of the biggest movers in the corporate fund index were oil and gas companies that stood to benefit from the changes that the Fed had made.
So I think they`re getting support from basically every different angle.
HAYES: All right, Bharat Ramamurti, one of the few people sort of on the case on this. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise tonight.
RAMAMURTI: Thank you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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