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Republicans TRANSCRIPT: 8/5/20, All In w/ Chris Hayes

Guests: Cameron Joseph, David Plouffe, Kirsten Gillibrand, Valerie Strauss

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Yes, that’s what it seems to be. Shermichael  Singleton, Ben Jacob, thank you both very much. That’s tonight’s REIDOUT.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN. The dirty tricks of Donald  Trump. While the president goes to war on mail-in voting, Republican  operatives go to work to get Kanye West on the ballot to split Joe Biden  votes. Trump 2020 by any means necessary. 

Then a Chicago Public Schools announced they won’t be going back into the  classrooms. Why we’re heading for national chaos in the fall. Plus, at the  specter of depression era homelessness to the National Coronavirus crisis,  as evictions began across America. 

And the explosion in Beirut, how government failure played a role and why  there’s a lesson for America in Lebanon’s catastrophe when ALL IN starts  right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I’m Chris Hayes. There was a nine-second  video posted to Twitter yesterday. It was not really in the national news,  more of a local story, but it was a incredibly revealing moment about how  Republicans are going about trying to reelect Donald Trump. 

So here’s what happens. There’s a reporter, his name is Matt Smith. Matt is  with WISN-TV out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Channel 12. He camped out at the  Elections Commission building in Madison. And this is what he got.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT SMITH, REPORTER, WISN-TV: How many signatures Did you collect?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No comment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That video had the feel of a local reporter being somewhere in the  right place at the right time and catching someone in the act. That woman,  we asked the question of really did not seem to want to be on camera and  there’s a really good reason for that. The woman you see there right there,  giving the no comment. She is a Wisconsin lawyer. Her name is Lane Ruhland.  And as recently as last week, Lane Ruhland was representing Donald Trump’s  presidential campaign in court. She’s a republican elections lawyer who  worked for the Republican National Committee during the 2016 recount in  Wisconsin. OK. 

But she was not at the Elections Commission building doing business for the  President of the United States or for the Trump campaign. No. She was  dropping off valid signatures in an effort to get this man on the  presidential ballot in Wisconsin, Kanye West, one of the most famous people  in the country who is kind of sort of running for president. Though he has  no real platform and it’s unclear if this is like a real thing or not, but  there was a filing deadline yesterday in Wisconsin. 

And so, what do you have? You had this a Republican election lawyer who  works for Trump’s campaign, who worked on the 2016 election trying to get  him elected, trying to get Kanye West in the ballot. And it was not just  her, at least five Republicans are involved in trying to get West on the  ballot in various states, including a convention delegate for Donald Trump,  and a guy who is under consideration to be Trump’s campaign manager in  2015. 

Basically, most everyone involved in kind of Kanye West kind of sort of  presidential campaign, if you can even call that, they’re all just  Republican hacks. Now, I’m going to talk to a reporter who has been doing  great deep dives on who these people are and what they’re up to in just a  moment. But all of this makes something really clear, which is this.  Republicans know that Donald Trump cannot win with a majority of the  country. 

We all know that right. That ship has sailed. I mean, look at the polls.  Trump has not had a 50 percent approval rating, at any point in his entire  presidency. In the FiveThirtyEight polling average, he’s just a little  above 40 percent right now, down near like the bottom where his floor is,  around 40. He is just extremely and enduringly unpopular from when he was  elected to now. 

It’s also fair to say that big based on the data we have, that Trump’s  absolute ceiling in a popular vote is probably around the 46 percent of the  vote he got last time. Like that’s the top, OK. So, think about this. How  do you become president when you’re unpopular? How do you win the  presidency?

In order to win the presidency, Republicans basically need to do a bunch of  things. You need to stack up a bunch of things to pull out what they did  last time when Donald Trump won despite losing the popular vote by three  million votes. One thing they have to do is try to split the anti-Trump  vote, because remember, that’s a majority of the country. It has been since  the day it was elected. 

Remember, in 2016, there were a handful of third-party candidates. You had  Jill Stein, you had Gary Johnson, and there was Evan McMullin, among  others. Combined, they won nearly 8 million votes. And now in the absence  of any other notable spoiler candidates, Republicans are obviously pinning  their hopes on Kanye West to siphon off enough votes to squeeze Donald  Trump through.

But that’s just one part of the strategy, right? That alone is not enough.  You also needed to make -- to make it hard for people to vote, to try to  suppress the votes of Democratic voters which the Republican Party is  aggressively trying to do. And then they also have to hope in the next few  months, say, Russia delivers for some other foreign adversary. They give  them some big gift they can use, I don’t know, a big hack trove of Hunter  Biden e-mails, maybe just something you can use to try to destroy Joe  Biden. And then you’ve also got your Attorney General William Barr, the  Department of Justice, and maybe they can intervene as well.

And maybe when you stack all that up, all those sort of dirty tricks,  that’s enough to get your wildly unpopular candidate, overseeing a once in  a century catastrophe with 160,000 dead Americans elected president. It  feels like a totally different strategy for victory than we have ever seen.  But part of it is not completely new, right. I mean, back when Richard  Nixon’s henchmen, you know, the criminals who helped him who ended up going  to jail. 

When they were doing this kind of thing, they had a name for it. They  called it Rat Copulating, though they used a more obscene version of that  phrase. And one of the number one operative in the country who specializes  in doing that is a guy with a Nixon tattoo on his back, who lo and behold,  it’s a friend of the President and just got his sentence commuted so he’s  out of jail and free to roam, Roger stone. Here’s what he was up to back in  2000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger Stone comes up with a brilliant idea of getting  Pat Buchanan out of the Republican line, and they get him to run for the  Reform Party. 

ROGER STONE, FORMER ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Yes, I encourage him to run.  But I also -- yes, I have an interest in the Reform Party imploding at that  point. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But just when Buchanan hope to have the political stage  to himself, he was trumped. Businessman Donald Trump announcing today he  too will switch from the GOP into the Reform Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: You see what happened there? Buchanan is a threat to Republicans  because he’s going to split the Republican vote. Roger Stone gets him over  to the Reform Party and then gets Donald Trump to jump in as well. The  Republican Party has to do this kind of thing. It’s been doing it since  Nixon obviously and probably before, but particularly now. 

It is not a majoritarian party. It is not even close. And when you start  strategizing how to keep the presidency with a minority of voters, when you  accept you represent a minority, this is what it starts to look like. Lane  Ruhland scampering into that office, voter suppression, improper influence  from your cronies and government, and that cynical effort to use Kanye West  to your advantage.

Joining me now is Cameron Joseph. He is senior political reporter at Vice  News. He’s been doing incredible legwork uncovering the Republican vault in  trying to get Kanye West on the ballot. And Cameron, just you know, talk me  through how you sort of started looking into this and what you found.

CAMERON JOSEPH, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, VICE NEWS: Well, honestly, early  on, I wasn’t taking Kanye that seriously. He kind of had this random tweet.  I don’t really know the strategy. And I was keeping an eye on it but not  thinking that he was really engaged that much. And then we saw that rally a  couple of weeks ago in South Carolina where it was clear he wasn’t exactly  a focused presidential candidate, some start worrying about his mental  health, and his own wife put out an Instagram post talking about his  bipolar issues. And so I was a little skeptical, honestly.

And then we started seeing folks actually collecting signatures to get on  the ballot, which is the real challenge of running for president and either  acting as a spoiler or possibly getting on the debate stage, which I think  the former is a little more likely than the latter. And all of a sudden,  some of it started having success. And it looked pretty messy at first, but  things look like they are forming up. 

And I was keeping an eye on a few of these states and I just had a  republican source in Wisconsin who reached out to me yesterday and say,  hey, you want to know who the woman in this video is? And I said,  absolutely. And it was Lane Ruhland who is a senior Republican lawyer in  the state who you know, worked for Scott Walker, was a deputy in the DOJ in  Wisconsin, is pretty senior and worked on a lot of campaigns. 

And so it really got me wondering whether what she was doing in here. And  then I found that she was actually actively working for the Trump campaign  in their efforts to try and get a Super PAC ad off the air that they think  the Democrats are apparently attacking the president. So, it’s a pretty  close (INAUDIBLE). 

And then I started sniffing around and figuring out where else that they  had to actually submit signatures to and Colorado was next on the list. And  I had a source there who had been asked -- or you know, the e-mail was to a  source that had been asked, and I got this e-mail that was basically laying  out hey, I am looking to try and get Kanye on the ballot. They just asked  me to do this. And it just so happened to be from a Republican strategist  that was pretty well connected in Colorado who our communications director  Cory Gardner, who’s currently in a very tough uphill battle for reelection. 

And so it’s all of a sudden a lot of Republicans who are not jokes working  on this campaign that a lot of people kind of dismissed as a joke  initially.

HAYES: Yes. We just put up that e-mail the most random favor to ask you and  I’m not joking. Also, in the Journal Sentinel, there’s some more reporting  about just the number of Wisconsin Republicans that have been helping to  get him elected. Other journalists have tracked down the electors, right,  because you have to pledge to be an elector in the college -- the Electoral  College. They’re basically all Republicans. 

It does seem that this is essentially like a somewhere between a prank by  these Republican PACs and an actual effort to try to get them on the  ballot. I heard someone’s reporting today that some source Republican Party  was hoping that Kanye can get 100,000 votes, which is what Gary Johnson got  last time around.

JOSEPH: Yes. And look, this is a double bank shot. And Donald Trump, to  make a couple of metaphors, drew up inside straight last time, right. He  shouldn’t have won. Everything fell into place in the last week of the  election. And then he scraped through in the three states up over the top  Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin is looking like the best chance that he has to win again of those  three states right now. And he won by less than the margin -- his margin  was smaller than the number of votes (INAUDIBLE) Wisconsin last time, which  is around 30,000 votes. So, they’re hoping to recreate that magic, those  dark hearts and make this happen again. 

And here’s Kanye West who, honestly, I don’t know his motivation. I don’t  think anybody really know his motivation in the media right now. It’s  unclear whether he is actively helping Trump. It looks like he’s having  some mental health problems, which is really tragic. And you know, he’s a  guy who is a very talented creative thinker, who thinks outside the box,  and might have been convinced or convinced himself this is a good idea.

But frankly, it didn’t look like there was much really happening around him  pointing to actual success. It gotten really late. It didn’t look like he  was going to get on. It wasn’t clear anyone serious is working for him.  Frankly, the people who are actively involved trying to get him on the  campaign right now, it’s unclear to me how they got involved. I think  that’s the next big shoe to drop here is who put them in touch with Kanye,  who is coordinating this? And we don’t know right now. 

We know that in Colorado and Wisconsin, and Arkansas, which is very color - - you mentioned earlier as a major GOP operative, former head of the  American Conservative Union was very involved in CPAC over the years, has  some Trump ties. And then we saw in Ohio that he filed today too and  Republican lawyers were involved with that one as well. 

So, you know, Kanye has laid out some conservative positions. He obviously  has shown some friendliness with Donald Trump. But this is obviously their  hope that this is going to siphon off voters. And let’s be frank.  Specifically, they’re hoping that Kanye can siphon off black voters in  these states where we saw major black turnout -- you know, a drop in black  turnout last election because Obama wasn’t on the ballot and Hillary  Clinton struggled with turning out younger black voters. 

And so I don’t know if this is work. This seems like -- a lot of the things  we’re talking about that Trump is trying right now that with this, with the  actual function of (AUDIO GAP) things may not work. But if things get  tighter, this can make a difference. 

HAYES: Yes, it’s very well said. We don’t even know if he’s got enough  petitions once they get challenged, right? And there’s -- I saw someone  reporting that he had, you know, not that many over the minimum you need.  And often petitions get challenged. This is an age-old ritual you see in  New York all the time. I mean, dogged fights over line by line petition.  So, we will see if the signatures actually work, if he’s actually in the  ballot. It’s unclear how serious it is. 

The intent, though, of folks like Lane Ruhland who, by the way,  congratulations, you’re on national television, Lane Ruhland of Wisconsin  for your role in this. And I hope you’re proud of the work you’re doing.  Cameron Joseph, who is doing excellent work, thanks for being with me  tonight. 

For more on the Trump campaign strategy, I want to bring in David Plouffe  who was campaign manager for Barack Obama in his 2008 run for president.  Here’s how I thought of approaching this conversation with you, David. If  you had no scruples or morals whatsoever, if you were just a hired gun, and  you’re hired to run a national presidential campaign for someone, where you  and everyone around you knew there was essentially a 45 percent ceiling,  what -- how do you do that? Like, what are your options?

DAVID PLOUFFE, CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR BARACK OBAMA 2018: Well, Chris, I would  start off by saying all the campaign’s stuff is small. So, the big problem  is he’s been a terrible president, and is mishandled the issue that matters  most to the American people, which is the pandemic and resulting economic  crisis. So, yes, he won -- in ‘16, you mentioned 46.1 percent national, he  won Wisconsin with 47.2. He won Michigan with 47.5. 

So he’s not going to get 49.5 or 50. The third party looks like they’re not  going to get the significant vote they got last time. So yes, I think you  try and suppress Democratic vote, you definitely try and use your own  turnout which is something they’re working on. And I believe you also need  to find some way to get some third-party vote, which is what this desperate  Kanye thing is. 

And listen, this is why if you’re working on a campaign, if you’re the Joe  Biden campaign or any campaign you’re involved in, you know, you sweat  everything, because every vote counts. And while Biden has a huge lead now,  you know, it’s possible this race could tighten. And so that’s what you’re  trying to do. 

The most important thing though, would be to juice Trump turnout beyond  what people think is possible with new registration and turnout. That’s  where the big numbers come from. We obviously see all the things he’s  doing. We’ve got foreign interference. You know, he’s engaged in state  voter suppression, state-sponsored voter suppression from the White House  podium. So they’re also trying to make it harder to vote, dissuade people.  We’re going to have to organize through that. 

Things like Kanye is on the margins, but again, we just saw an election in  ‘16 decided on the margins. The two elections I was involved with Barack  Obama, we prepared for elections that would be on the margin. So, I think  it’s not surprising they’re going to turn over every CD rock they can. My  guess is we’re going to find out whether it’s Corey Lewandowski or Bossie  or you know, a Jared Kushner himself. Somebody in the close Trump circle is  involved in this Kanye thing. I’d be super shocked if that wasn’t fixed.

HAYES: Yes. And I think -- I want to say two things that you said that I  just want to emphasize. One, it is -- it is my position and it has been, I  think, the position of folks like yourself that I can’t -- I can think of  no election in recent lifetime that turn more on the fundamentals. And I  anticipate this election will.

I mean, the country is in the worst state it’s been in my lifetime and in  generations, and there’s just misery everywhere you look. And we’re all  morning, day by day -- I mean, 1,400 people died today. 1,400 people died.  10 times as many Americans died today as were killed in that Beirut  explosion today, just a Wednesday under Donald Trump. Like that’s what  we’re dealing with. And I totally agree that’s sort of above all else. 

It also strikes me though it’s it is coming out -- there is a sense of  desperation which is like they will do anything. And I do think there’s  something dangerous about that when you marry desperation and sort of an  impulse for dirty tricks to state power, which is what we have right now  with Donald Trump.

PLOUFFE: Well, Chris, listen, there’s an election to win, you know, if you  have my point of view, so that’s the most important thing, and understand  it could get close. But that is the fundamental question after this  election, you know, using the levers of government to suppress vote, openly  trying to, you know, recruit third-party candidates. You know, we see what  he’s doing. He may give his convention speech at the White House, which,  you know, with everything Trump’s done, that may seem minor.

These are norms that are being shattered all over the place. And the  question is, is just this politics going forward, and are there no  boundaries and are there no rules? But I think what you’re -- the other  thing you’ll see with this Kanye thing in every other message that Trump  and his campaign is sending, the foreign capitals around the world that  want to keep him in office, and why wouldn’t you, a weak American  president. You know, if you are in Turkey, if you’re in North Korea, if  you’re in Russia, if you’re in China, you couldn’t dream of a better  scenario. 

You know, they are sending clear signals. They’re not smoke signals. So, if  Kanye makes the ballot in a bunch of places, you’ll see a bunch of  advertising, probably on his behalf, a bunch of organic content. So that’s  the other thing is Trump is sending signals all over the world that he’s in  desperate shape. And you know, maybe a dozen signals. They may be on the  phone with people. I don’t know.

HAYES: Yes, no, that’s exactly right. And if you wanted to help Donald  Trump, if you were a foreign government, there’s all sorts of pathways that  he’s sort of highlighted for you like the guy who’s on the runway with the  two lipsticks. I don’t know what the person’s name is. David Plouffe,  always great to get your insight on campaigns. Thank you for your time  tonight.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Chris. 

HAYES: Next, Chicago joins the growing list of major school districts  starting the year with entirely remote learning as reopened districts are  already reporting cases of the virus. Those stories right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: One of the signature images of the Great Depression were people  being thrown out of their homes and living in homeless encampments that  grew up called Hoovervilles. And they were named after President Herbert  Hoover and encapsulate everything he did wrong leading up to and through  the Great Depression, not acting strongly enough to prevent those images. 

And it might seem like those images are from another era, but unless  something is done very quickly, we are about to see something very similar  right now. The Federal eviction moratorium in the Coronavirus Relief Act  expired last month along with many state moratoriums. Tomorrow 14,000  evictions can start being served in New York City alone, 14,000. 

In places like Houston, courts are "overloaded with eviction filings." In  New Orleans, Natasha Blunt, a grandmother who also lost her job in the  pandemic, and those thousands of dollars in back rent, told a reporter I  don’t have any money coming in. I don’t know what to do. 

One Maryland delegate posted this image of what an eviction looks like in  his district. People’s belongings piled up in front of their home. That’s  someone’s life you’re looking at. And beyond the cruelty, this is the  stupidest thing you can do public health-wise in the middle of a pandemic,  forcing people out of their homes to live either an increasingly crowded  shelter or into crowded houses with other family and friends. 

And it is something that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and  President Donald Trump and the rest of Republicans could end today by  passing the legislation that House Democrats passed months ago and signing  into law, and they’re not doing it. 

Joining me now, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She’s a Democrat from New York.  She’s backing legislation from Senator Elizabeth Warren which would extend  the eviction moratorium to March of 2021. Senator, you have 14,000  constituents just in New York City who are eligible for this tomorrow. This  seems like utterly unacceptable and depraved.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): It is. And it shows the sheer lack of  empathy that Mitch McConnell and President Trump have for American people  who are in deep need. I have constituents all across my state who are about  to be homeless, who don’t have enough money for food who aren’t eligible  for food stamps and have nowhere to go.

If we don’t do something by the end of September over 20 million people  will be evicted and will be homeless. That is a huge concern for anybody  who cares about the public. And so, we need to get to the table. And  unfortunately, Mitch McConnell, let Congress get the Senate go off on  vacation for two weeks, President Trump played golf, and people aren’t  doing the work that we were sent here to do, which is to help the American  people. And so, we need to pass the House -- the House-passed bill to  provide relief.

HAYES: Yes, there’s -- I mean, this is not rocket science. Like the problem  is people don’t have money. They don’t have money because the economy is  contracting at Great Depression levels. There was I think $175 billion if  I’m not mistaken in the House-passed bill, in the Heroes Act for  essentially rent support so that landlords also will get paid. You can’t  just like interrupt the chain of payments. It is that simple, right. I mean  that -- you just pass that and you can deal with it. 

GILLIBRAND: It is. What Democrats and what the House has done is provide  money for states and cities and localities to provide money so people  aren’t homeless, to provide food and food stamps so they don’t go hungry.  People need basic necessities. We need more money for health care. We need  money for schools. If you ever want the schools to reopen safely, you’re  going to need to give them resources so they can clean it nightly, so they  can get tested regularly, so they can offer overtime pay, so they can have  a school nurse. These are the kinds of things that would be necessary to  open our schools. 

So, unfortunately, Mitch McConnell and President Trump have been unwilling  to move these ideas forward even though they’ve been sitting there to be  voted on, for now, two months. 

HAYES: I just -- I guess I come on here every night and say the same thing,  but -- I mean, I guess I do. I can understand and believe this is happening  because I’ve lived through two decades of American governmental failure so  not that surprising. But I just like, what do you think American society  looks like if 15 million, 20 million people get evicted? Like, what -- do  you think it holds together? No.

GILLIBRAND: No, no. People are in the streets protesting now, protesting  injustice, protesting for Black Lives Matter, protesting for what this  administration has done to divide this country. And I can tell you that  what my state needs, what New York needs is they need help. They need  resources, they need money, they need to be able to provide for their kids. 

If they are able to go back to work, they need a place for their kids.  Daycare is unbelievably at risk right now. So many daycare centers have  already closed. For every one child that needs daycare, for every one slot  of daycare, there’s eight children that need that slot, and it was four  before the pandemic. 

So we are in a tough place, Chris. But we know what’s needed and we have a  comprehensive piece of legislation to do it. And it’s the simple things.  It’s you know, provide for our first responders, make sure our firefighters  and our EMTs don’t have to be laid off because states and cities have no  more money. Make sure the social services don’t have to be cut, things like  homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, food banks. All of these not  -- these discretionary funding that will be cut if we don’t give money to  states and cities, those are helping the most need most at risk. And again,  if you don’t help renters in their time of need, you’re just going to  amplify that need and it will metastasize.

HAYES: Final question for you about Postmaster General Louis DeJoy who has  become an incredibly controversial figure for the changes he’s instituted  in the Post Office that has slowed down mail. I just saw some reporting  from a publication that deals with veterans’ issues, about veterans  experiencing slowdowns in their prescription mail. Their pills are being  delayed. There was a reportedly heated meeting that he was present at along  with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and others, and I know you’re not at a  meeting but I wonder if you have any sense of -- if there’s any progress on  the postal situation?

GILLIBRAND: Well, the Post Office is about to run out of money. And  unfortunately, the current Postmaster General is an acolyte of Trump’s and  doesn’t seem to care. And so what we need to do is fund to the Post Office,  and then we need longer-term solutions. And one solution that I wrote about  is postal banking. 

We should be able to use our post office like we did after the Great  Depression, after World War One, after World War Two as banks. And that  would deal with two problems. One, it would raise about $9 billion a year  for the Post Office to sustain it, and two, it would provide basic banking  services for the third of Americans who are unbanked or underbanked,  meaning they have a checking account or a savings account or a micro loan  at the end of the month or a mortgage. That will help this country recover,  especially for those people who need help and need support as we begin to  get back on our feet. 

So that’s a solution along with just giving resources now. Certainly, the  House Bill has resources for the Post Office. I know they are debating what  that number should be, but hopefully, we will find the Post Office because  a lot of people are going to want to vote by mail. And we want to have our  elections work in November. We want to make sure the post office can do  their part by having mail-in ballots be counted successfully.

HAYES: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of the state of New York, thank you so  much for making time tonight.

GILLIBRAND: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up, Chicago Public Schools announced they won’t be going back  in the classrooms. A look at why we were headed for national chaos in the  fall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Of the 15 largest school districts in the country, 12 have already  announced they will only be using remote learning this fall. No kids in  school at all. That includes Los Angeles, the second-largest school  district, the country and now Chicago, the third-largest tech in the  country where they just announced they are also going to start to  completely remote learning. 

Now, this comes after initially saying they were going to have some in- person schooling. And that leaves New York City is the only one of the  largest systems in the country, the only one sending kids into school for  in-person learning at least some of the days. 

Increasingly, these big school districts are backing off of in-person  schooling, for a lot of reasons. Teachers’ unions aren’t psyched about them  because they’re worried about their members. There’s logistical  difficulties, and the risk generally to teachers, kids, and their families,  and everyone. 

It is no wonder why some schools do not want to open their doors when a  huge amount of kids will also probably not even come in, right. A lot of  parents just aren’t comfortable with sending their kids in. And then on the  other hand, you got some states where schools are being commanded to open.  Schools in states are some of the highest-level of ongoing community  transmission in the world right now. Our schools are being prohibited by  the state from preemptively closing out of safety and being threatened with  losing their state funding.

So you got these two categories, right? Schools that can get away with it  are opting to open remotely safely because that seems like the safest way  to start the year, and then there’s everyone else who’s basically just  going to see what happens. And what that means is this fall is going to be  total society-wide chaos in both categories. That’s baked-in at this point.  How on earth do we got here? 

Here with me now to talk about what is going on with schools and learning  this fall is Valerie Strauss. She’s education reporter at The Washington  Post who recently wrote about protesters taking the streets with fake  coffins, as some reopen schools are reporting coronavirus cases. 

Valerie we’ve been covering this for a while. I’m also a parent of school- aged children. I’m incredibly invested in this both personally and  professionally. And I feel like basically six weeks ago or so, when these  conversations started to happen, district start planning, we were in a  little bit of a different world and two things happened. An enormous second  outbreak in the U.S. with record cases being set every day and the  President coming down hard, you got to send your kids to school, open the  schools. And I feel like that changed the calculation for a lot of places.  It pushed them away essentially from in-person learning. Is that your sense  having been covering this?

VALERIE STRAUSS, EDUCATION REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Nice to be here  with you, Chris. Thanks for having me. When President Trump started to  politicize the idea of how and when schools should reopen, it did change  the calculus for a lot of school superintendents who were trying to do what  was best for the community in terms of COVID rates, what local health  officials were saying.

So in some places, the governors who are Trump supporters such as Texas and  Florida, came down and ordered schools to open fully five days a week for  everybody. They have since, however, even in Trump country backed off as  the COVID rates have gone up, and of course in Miami now is the epicenter  of the world for COVID. So, you have the biggest counties in Florida  backing down and saying we can’t do this, and the governor has have  actually no choice but to allow them to decide to open remotely.

HAYES: So that’s interesting. So that’s happening in Florida, because I  mean, what ends up happening is this has become this kind of, you know,  crazy demonstration of loyalty where, you know, the President says open the  schools and governors that are aligned with him politically, saying, OK,  we’re going to open the schools.

And DeSantis was saying, look -- he says something like, if we can have  Home Depot open, I think is what he said, then we can open the schools. And  a lot of school people saying, well, we have an enormous outbreak in  Florida. We can’t do it. So, you’re saying they’ve actually pushed back and  DeSantis has okayed that?

STRAUSS: Yes, he has. He’s had to. Dade County, Broward County,  Hillsborough County, Orange County, they’ve all said -- they were all  planning to open school buildings, as were pretty much most of the 13,000- plus school districts in the country. The default was to open. And as COVID  -- as the first wave never stopped or as the second wave started in other  places, school superintendents said we can’t do this, local health  officials said we can’t do this, and the governors started to realize that  it would be worse for them to overrule all of the local health officials  than to bench to stick with Trump.

HAYES: The President today said something along the lines this morning that  children are "basically immune" I think was what he said. In fact, just  moments ago, a tweet of that appearance in which he said that has been  taken down by Twitter as misinformation because they are not basically  immune. They have lower levels of transmission among young students, but  even today, a second-grade student I think in Georgia, testing positive for  Coronavirus for the first day of school. 

So even in these places that are open, we’re going to see cases and that’s  going to mean that, you know, the school is closed or the school is closed  for periods of time. I mean that that’s baked in at this point, right?

STRAUSS: Absolutely, it’s baked in. And nobody knows for how long these  schools are going to be -- have to stay closed. There is a lot of thought  that even schools that have opened for some students will wind up sending  them home. A lot of schools that have opened for students have given  parents options. So, a number of parents are still keeping their kids home  even -- while other kids are going to class.

In some districts, including Chicago, which is one of the reasons that they  decided to close, there was a survey of tens of thousands of parents in the  district, and very few of them said they were comfortable going back to  schools. Many of these schools have facilities issues that make it very  hard to socially distance. They don’t have air conditioning, heating, and  ventilation systems that work well. 

There’s a range of problems for school districts that they’re facing, that  the President and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seem not to have  considered when they’ve ordered the schools to reopen and then threatened  to withhold public funding from them if they don’t. 

Now, it should be noted that they don’t actually have the unilateral power  to do that. But they threatened it anyway. 

HAYES: And that has been hanging over their heads. We talked to a  superintendent Arizona who’s getting -- threatened by the governor,  essentially, and has to -- has to open. 

STRAUSS: Yes. 

HAYES: Just as a final note, it’s insane that we’re opening high schools,  which would -- like, what we know from a public health standpoint is that  like teenagers definitely are like carriers and transmit and can get sick.  And younger kids is a different story and like they have a hard time with  distance learning, but like 17-year-olds can distance learning, yet high  schools are open.

Valerie Strauss from Washington Post who has been doing great reporting on  this, and thank you for sharing it with us.

STRAUSS: Thank you for having me.

HAYES: Still ahead, over 130 people are dead, thousands more injured after  that explosion rocked Beirut. What we’re learning about the egregious  government failure that may have led to that blas, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: So, we started the week with revelation that the Manhattan District  Attorney has an ongoing criminal investigation into the president for  fraud. The New York Times reporting tonight, those same prosecutors already  subpoenaed Deutsche Bank like a year ago, that’s the President’s longtime  lender. 

So, you have a sprawling criminal investigation at the President and his  company, which would be the biggest news in the world in any campaign and  other circumstances, and we will certainly be paying attention to that  story. Then, in addition to all that, now, we also have news that the  Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating an enormous transaction  that the Trump administration put together for impropriety. 

The deal announced near the end of last month seem to kind of come out of  nowhere, a $765 million loan for Kodak to begin producing pharmaceuticals.  Now, Kodak is a venerable American brand. It’s headquartered in Rochester,  New York. It’s got lots of physical capacity. This was a huge amount of  money, though, and it was for somewhere around 300 jobs. 

And that’s not the half of it. The Chief Executive Officer of Kodak got  $1.75 million stock options the day before the deal with the government was  announced, options that the soaring stock price of course, made much, much  more valuable. And then even more suspiciously is this graph which really  tells a story. The trading volume for Kodak, the company, shot up right  before the deal as well. 

That’s weird. Kodak was barely holding on to life before this. There were  not a ton of investors rushing to buy them company stock for a company that  had made like physical cameras and film and things like that. So, the spike  in volume right before this deal gets announced looks pretty wild, which is  why you now have the SEC investigation, you have lawmakers like Elizabeth  Warren pointing out how strange all this looks. 

We don’t know the whole story here. I mean, it could turn out this is all  on the up and up, it’s all just accidents and coincidences, but Donald  Trump is involved. So, I’m going to go ahead and forgive you if you don’t  apply that assumption.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Harrowing footage started pouring out of Lebanon yesterday in the  wake of a massive explosion at the port of Beirut. And I’m sure you’ve  seen; we’ve all been seeing this just insane footage over and over shot  from dozens of angles because everyone has a camera on them on their phone  of a terrifying blast rising up in the sky and sending these sort of  Hollywood movies shockwaves through the city. 

This clip of a bride posing in her wedding dress went viral. The  videographer capturing the moment that the explosion occurs. There’s a  deafening blast blowing out windows at the side street. You can see the  destruction and debris left behind. Another stunning moment was caught by  this Beirut church’s live stream. The room appears to shake and the light  goes out as a priest is delivering a service, and the explosion hits,  breaking glass and sending the priest running. 

A lot of people understandably, saw these videos and leaped to the  conclusion it must have been some sort of attack. But as of now, it looks  like it was actually a result of just complete failure of government.  According to a report, seven years ago, a ship carrying over 2,700 tons of  explosive fertilizer known as ammonium nitrate docked at the port of  Beirut. And for a complicated set of legal reasons the crew had to get off  the chemicals were taken off the ship and they were put in storage on that  dock.

Customs officials warned authorities multiple times about the risks, but  nothing was done for seven years. Just think about that. And the ammonium  nitrate remained at the port until yesterday when welders working nearby  reportedly accidentally started a fire that ignited it. 

Now, the Lebanese people have been suffering from vast governmental failure  for years, most recently dealing with hyperinflation and food insecurity,  regular power outages, and of course, the Coronavirus crisis, which is  hitting that country on top of all that. And so this horrific explosion  that left at least 135 dead and 5,000 people injured is just the latest  example of an entire government failing its people for years. 

And here in the U.S. where we have 160,000 dead Americans, GDP is down over  30 percent annualized, you’re starting to see how failures of leadership  can be as destructive as any foreign attack. And leaders ignore warnings  about the simple, pressing dangers on the horizon. I’m joined now by  someone who has been reporting on the Middle East for many years, watching  this story closely Ayman Mohyeldin, soon to be the host of "MSNBC LIVE" at  3:00 p.m. which is very exciting and starts on August 17th. 

Ayman, it’s great to have you on. Congratulations on the new show. I want  to start with just a little context, which is Lebanese people seem cursed  here in so far as the just one problem and tragedy stacking atop itself in  terms of even before this moment yesterday.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that is the best  way to describe it. That’s actually sometimes exactly how the Lebanese  described themselves as being a curse population, not because of anything  that they have done, but because of the region that they have found  themselves in, and because of the government that has emerged in the wake  of subsequent national tragedies that go back to the 70 since that  country’s Civil War. 

Look, the Lebanese will be the first to tell you that their country is the  proxy theater for so many neighboring countries to carry out their wars.  That’s why as we -- as you mentioned there in that setup, many of the  people who thought this explosion initially was the result of some foreign  or nefarious actor operating in that country because that is the reality of  what Lebanon has seen over the years. 

But coupled with that, because the country is so divided, because the  country has no strong political cohesion, because the country has decades  of civil war in sectarian strife, it is essentially governed by sectarian  factions, by warlords that have enriched themselves, and corruption is  rampant. And so, as a result of this government negligence, as you  mentioned, this ammonium nitrate was sitting in this port. According to the  port director, they tried to raise warnings to the judiciary, and the  judiciary itself, just completely neglected it. 

Nobody followed up with it. Nobody tried to secure the material. Nobody  secured the facility or the port and nobody bothered to say, hey, we’re  sitting on a ticking time bomb if we can’t get this situation resolved and  this dangerous material out of this port, and here’s the result.

HAYES: Yes, we should note that two tons -- the 2,700 tons of ammonium  nitrate was what you seem exploding there. Two tons we’re using the  Oklahoma City truck bombing when Timothy McVeigh park that truck outside  the Federal Center in Oklahoma City those years ago, it killed 168 people,  so this is enormous.

And to me What’s so striking about this, and I think there’s a sort of  parallel here, you know, when you talk about Lebanon being the sort of site  of all these proxy wars has seen tremendous amounts of damage from war,  different forms of war, civil war outside military forces that have that  have been --you know, the U.S. is constantly the biggest military in the  world, we’re constantly thinking about terrorists and terrorist attacks.

And one of the lessons here is bad governing, government neglect of the  most basic functions, these sort of banal regulatory things like where do  you -- where do you store this ammonium nitrate and who’s looking after it?  Do you have enough tests for your Coronavirus? Are you listening to  pandemic experts? That stuff can be more destructive to a population than  even the most nefarious foreign actor.

MOHYELDIN: And that’s exactly what we saw in Lebanon, because there’s two  components to this. There is, as you mentioned, the situation with ammonium  nitrate, but there is also the problem with the government in the run-up to  it, and now in the wake of it. Because as we’ve seen, this is a country  that like every other country is dealing with a global pandemic, its  currency devalued, people are not able to access cash, hospitals are  already strapped for resources. 

And in the wake of this devastation on Tuesday, these hospitals are  completely overwhelmed. Two of the major hospitals in Beirut, and I’ve been  there many times, they’re not far away from that location. Those are the  two of the best hospitals, and they had to essentially shut down their  doors. People were knocked out of their beds; nurses were killed as a  result of this explosion. 

So, people who had to be treated -- we spoke to an eyewitness earlier  today, they had to be treated out of the capital Beirut. They had to go out  of the city. And that obviously just resonates with what we’re seeing here  in the U.S. in the constant debate about what whether or not our hospitals  and our medical infrastructure can withstand the numbers that we’re seeing  as a result of that pandemic. 

So imagine a country like Lebanon, already limited resources, already under  the pressure of economic collapse, coupled with the global pandemic that  they’re dealing with, and then on top of that, this catastrophic explosion  that has sent 300,000 people into the streets essentially homeless, and  then thousands of more into hospitals that they simply cannot cope.

I don’t say this lightly when I say this is a country literally on the  brink of governance collapse. The government is genuinely feeling the  pressure economically, from a health perspective, from a safety  perspective, and obviously, because law and order within that city, within  Beirut and the country is already weakened by decentralized government, it  is right now for more instability.

And we’ve seen that protests have been, you know, rocking Beirut for the  last several months. Ordinary young Lebanese completely disappointed,  completely frustrated and angry with their government and their  incompetence. It was a perfect recipe in a perfect storm of negligence,  incompetence, corruption, and this is the result.

HAYES:  Ayman Mohyeldin, whose new show starts August 17th right here on  MSNBC, you should definitely check that out, I know I will be. Thank you so  much. 

MOHYELDIN: Absolutely, Chris. 

HAYES:  That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. 

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