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Protective Gear TRANSCRIPT: 2/27/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Irwin Redlener, Tony Schwartz, Christine Todd Whitman


Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you so much.

The first human-to-human transmission of coronavirus hitting California, that is a big story tonight.

Also, later tonight, we have a special report on Senator Elizabeth Warren`s backstory, how the deep history of her populist ideas are actually still shaping this race in ways people may not always see. We`re going to get into that.

And we`re going to the famed Red Rooster in Harlem talking with voters about Bernie, Bloomberg and a whole lot more. That is on tonight`s show.

But our top story right now is the president facing growing concerns about the coronavirus, anxiety over how prepared he is to handle it, how he is leading this government, health officials today scrambling to learn how a California patient has now become America`s official first case.

Officials do not believe that this patient had enough exposure through travel or a known infected individual. The state monitoring more than 8,400 people for this virus. That includes all the medical personnel dealing with the patient.

California`s governor says everyone`s concerned. The patient was not tested initially for four days.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the Health and Human Services Department has more than a dozen workers -- this is in the Trump administration -- operating -- quote -- "without proper training for infection control or the appropriate protective gear," all of that greeting the first Americans evacuated from China after the outbreak.

This virus has hit at least 47 countries around the world. And the context more widely is the reaction in the markets, the economy. We`re seeing a deep dive today. That is a weeklong slide.

Many are noting the obvious. For a president who has openly disdained experience and science and government service, this is a test of how President Trump leads.

He is already under fire for what experts say -- this isn`t me, but what experts and doctors and scientists say were remarks in this famed press conference to first brief the nation about this that effectively downplayed the actual evidence, facts and science of the threat, including, according to experts, some misinformation from the president`s mouth himself, undermining credibility America needs.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Risk to the American people remains very low.

The level that we`ve had in our country is very low and those people are getting better.

We`re very, very ready for this, for anything, whether it`s going to be a breakout of larger proportions.


MELBER: Experts, though, disagreeing with President Trump.


DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Actually, I found most of what he said a little incoherent.

And he told you, he just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation. We don`t know how similar or dissimilar this is to the flu. We know one thing. It actually is more communicable than the flu. It passes between people very, very easily.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us data to make informed decisions. Otherwise, we`re flying blind. We`re just guessing. When somebody gets in front of a camera and offers reassurance, you should ask yourself, is this person focusing on the stock market or public health?


MELBER: A fair question.

And here are the facts about public health. The president had said there were 15 cases here in the U.S. That is false. The CDC, which is of course, part of the government, says the caseload is 60.

The president saying he doesn`t know whether or not the spread is inevitable. Well, that`s not what the experts say, the CDC. This is now at a point, according to the evidence they have gathered, that this is not a if it will happen, but a -- quote -- "exactly when it will happen."

The president also ventured the idea that a vaccine would come rapidly. Officials say you cannot rely on a vaccine for several months to a year. It all depends on how you define rapidly.

We`re joined now by several experts to cut through this. The former governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman led the EPA under President George W. Bush, is experienced with how government and science interact, particularly in crisis, and Dr. Irwin Redlener from Columbia University.

My thanks to both of you.

Doctor, what was your view of the president`s remarks? And what is the actual facts and science that Americans need to know?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY`S NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: It was essentially a surreal experience watching this, and reminiscent of, if you remember after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, when the president was bragging about the fact that his government had everything under control, there was only 64 fatalities, and turned out to be there was actually 3,000.

And yesterday, we retreated to the president with this irrational reassurance to the American people everything is under control. It is clearly not under control.

And within moments, his own professional public health experts were contradicting what he was saying.

MELBER: Well, let`s get right to that, because when I sat down at the news desk, you flagged that. And there is real-time evidence of that, which, again, sometimes, what`s most important is to fact-check and learn from these government experiences, not take them at face value.

To your point and for your fact-checking on the other side, let`s look at that.


TRUMP: Well, I don`t think it`s inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will.


ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly.

TRUMP: We`re rapidly developing a vaccine.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We can`t rely on a vaccine over the next several months to a year.

QUESTION: Do you trust your health officials to give you good information or do you trust own instincts more?

TRUMP: I don`t think I have. They`ve said it could be worse, and I have said it could be worse too.

I also think -- no I don`t think it`s inevitable.


REDLENER: You know, this is -- for him to say that in proximity to his public health officials actually contradicting that, things like that the vaccine will be ready rapidly, rapidly is not a year to 18 months, which is the reality.

And this disconnect from reality just undermines the president`s ability to make a credible case almost about anything at this point.


MELBER: Isn`t it counterproductive, from a medical leadership perspective, your expertise, to try to calm people by telling them there`s not much to do, when, in your view, is the whole point that if people get more prepared, that will help?


So, the fine line here, and what really defines a leader is the ability to find a situation at a time like this that right space between complacency and panic.

And I would expect more of a president generally. I guess that`s not something we should, I guess, expect all that often from this particular president. And it was very disappointing. And it undermines the public`s ability to have confidence in what their leaders are saying at -- just at the time where they need to have a lot of confidence, what`s being said.

MELBER: Stay with me.

Let me bring in Governor Todd, who, as mentioned, dealt with science in a federal administration.

Your view?

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Well, I think part of the problem is that this administration has been decimating the scientists. They have gotten rid of so many.

They`re not -- we don`t have the infrastructure still at the Department of Health of the CDC, that they`re lacking that institutional knowledge as to how to move forward, how to handle this.

I agree with the doctor. It`s not a time to panic, but it is a time to take precautions and to be serious about it. I mean, this is a disease -- and, Doctor, correct me if I`m wrong, but I understand that even from some of the worst influenza outbreaks that we have had, that the death rate is around 1.5 to 2, whereas -- I mean, excuse me -- 0.5 to 0.2, whereas, now, with this one, it`s 2, which is -- it means that not everybody`s going to die from it, of course not.

But it has a higher death rate proportionally to the number of people impacted. And we`re finding it now in a variety of different countries. But we seem to be acting like China or Iran in denying that it`s really happening or anything to worry about. And that`s not what a leader should be doing.

We have got to say, yes, this is real. It`s happening. We need to take precautions, and we have the experts to do it. I`m just worried that those who spoke out at that press conference will no longer be employed by the government.

MELBER: Well, that`s a chilling statement, when you say that. You talk about the gutting of science. You talk about denial.

The reporting on this is really striking. It won`t surprise people who follow this president`s approach to expertise, as mentioned, in government, but reading from reporting here, Trump disbanding the part of his national security team responsible for responding to infectious disease outbreak, in part because the administration scaled back its efforts to fight global health threats over the past few years, Governor.


Yes, I mean, that`s the problem. We have been scaling back, because he doesn`t understand it. He doesn`t understand the importance of science. A lot of these decisions, yes, all -- of course, there is always a political aspect, a policy aspect to decision-making.

But in cases like this, you base it on the best science that you can get. And if you don`t have the scientists there with the background and the ability to do the work, if they don`t have the money to be able to do the research, it`s undermining your ability to combat this.



WHITMAN: And that`s very troublesome.

MELBER: Yes. No, I think you put that clearly.

Doctor, for people watching right now who say, OK, got it, there`s a problem, got it, the president wasn`t accurate...


MELBER: ... what are the most important things people can do for themselves and their families in the days ahead on a short-term basis?


The first thing is to stay informed. And that means not relying on social media and the Internet to figure out what`s going on. And there`s some very legitimate and excellent sources of information, for example,, and people should go there for information.

MELBER: So, number one, go to to get the facts and prevention materials.


MELBER: Number two?

REDLENER: Number, ramp up our general hygiene habits, so a lot of handwashing. If you have a cold or a cough or sneezing, don`t go out in public. Stay home. Don`t go to work and don`t go to school right now. That`s not a bad idea either.


REDLENER: And the next thing is that, if you get sick with a respiratory infection, and especially if you have a fever and shortness of breath, check in with your doctor.

This is a good time to do that. Otherwise, I`m getting just...

MELBER: And my last question.


MELBER: What if you uninsured and worried about the cost of checking in?

REDLENER: Well, this is the horrible downside of having a system in the U.S. that does not have universal access to health care for everybody. And we`re going to pay a price for this, as we would in any major epidemic or pandemic.

And you have to go then to an emergency room or you have to go to a federally qualified health center, clinical setting, where you can get care at either free or some scaled-down fee.

But getting the attention early, before you are actually spreading it to other people, is very key here.

MELBER: Understood.

And this is part of why we want to do our coverage this way from the top, which is CDC, as your source, not social media, not rumor.


MELBER: Increase your hygiene, something anyone can do.


MELBER: And then, third, if you don`t have a medical professional doctor in your life, learn about your local clinics and low-cost options, so that you`re ready, because, as you say, it could get even worse, without panic.

I appreciate you being here and the governor, who has joined us before, Christine Todd Whitman.

Thanks to both of you.

We turn now to someone with another perspective on this.

"Art of the Deal" co-author Tony Schwartz runs a consulting firm, The Energy Project. He advises Fortune 500 CEOs. As co-author of "Art of the Deal, you have insights into the problem we just heard from experts, which is the limitations of Donald Trump`s mind-set and approach to facts, as they put it.

And you also, as mentioned, are in touch with CEOs and business leaders. We`re watching the market slump. That is a part of the public health crisis. What do you see here?

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL": Well, I see that there are these external strategies for managing this.

And those are the kind of apparent and obvious ones. And then there`s an internal challenge that`s going on. It`s going on first for Trump, which is that, let`s understand that chump Trump, the chump Trump, is the chief energy officer of this land.

So, in other words, his energy has a disproportionate impact on all of our energy. And he had already raised the anxiety of people over the last four years considerably.

Now, what he will do, in his fear, is, he will use fear -- he will exploit fear if he thinks that serves him, or he will deny fear if he thinks that serves him. That`s what he`s doing right now.

MELBER: That`s an important point. You`re arguing, as someone who worked with him, that, while we have just heard from experts about a public interest approach to leading and what you call the energy or the outlook of the nation, you are saying that you don`t see him using public interest?

SCHWARTZ: No, he has a -- as anybody who is in an activated kind of fight- or-flight state, which is where Trump lives, his vision narrows, and it narrows to the threat he feels.

And the threat he feels is not from a pandemic, even though it might likely happen. The threat he feels is to his reelection and to his power. So everything he does is going to be a response to that. And that`s not the public interest.


And the reporting on that is pretty striking. I want to be clear, and try to be fair. All presidents keep an eye on the economy the closer the election gets. I think that is demonstrated.

But there is reporting that is not normal, that should not be normalized. I`m reading from this.

"White House struggles to contain public alarm over coronavirus."

We were just discussing that -- quote -- "Donald Trump has become furious about the stock market slide," "The Post" reporting he believes the warnings that he uses -- quote -- "extreme" from the CDC and prevention have -- quote -- "spooked investors."

Is that the wrong frame for a president to be using?



MELBER: And I`m sorry for all the obvious questions, Tony.

SCHWARTZ: No, not at all.

It`s -- of course it spooked investors. By definition, it would. And so the real challenge and what a president who saw the public interest as his primary focus would do is to calm the waters.

Now, I do believe that you need to find a reasonable balance between attention to the very real threat and the recognition of what it is contextually. It`s not -- we`re not talking about sudden massive deaths. We had 60,000 people die of other kinds of flu in 2017 and `18. We had 30,000 die in 2018 and 2019.

So it`s quite clear that people need to be able to manage themselves. They need to be able to actually take care of themselves. So, yes, you take care of yourself by washing your hands, but you also take care of yourself by, for example, naming the fear, rather than trying to hold it off.

Name it to tame it, that, when you actually change your relationship to the fear and you acknowledge, OK, this is going on, but it`s not all that`s going on, I have that fear, what you`re doing is, you`re changing the relationship.

MELBER: Right.

And undergirding your points that connect with our experts is, there are actual facts that can`t be spun away, lied away or tweeted away. And that makes this a different kind of crisis for a president who`s often relied on the rest.

I`m being told, because of our experts, we are a little bit out of time.

Tony Schwartz, thank you. Thanks to everyone.

Coming up: How is the outbreak shaping 2020? Chris Hayes live from South Carolina.

And then, as mentioned, my special report on Elizabeth Warren`s policy.

And later tonight, we`re speaking to these Democratic primary voters in Harlem at the iconic Red Rooster, a special BEAT conversation on the top candidates, how to confront Trump, and an eye on diversity.

Stay with us.


MELBER: The Democratic candidates are out in South Carolina today, where several are aiming for strong finishes that might slow Bernie Sanders` momentum in the delegate lead.

Now, we all know elections are unpredictable. Today`s news is a reminder of why, with a new concern for voters obviously being the risk and trying to understand the coronavirus. It`s also plunging the stock market, with signs that that presidential press conference we were discussing last night, which tried to downplay the threat, well, it didn`t calm Wall Street.

Today`s massive sell-off is over 1,000 points, which is on pace to be the worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. Wow.

Trump`s Republican allies already discussing whether the problem could hamper his reelection.

And how`s this all playing out on the trail?

MSNBC`s Chris Hayes is in Charleston, South Carolina, reporting on ground.

Good to see you, Chris.

Let`s get right to how these candidates are tackling the issues and the president`s address.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a place where experience matters. This guy, this president of the United States, Trump, is going about it all wrong.

You have to have a plan.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump was briefed on the coronavirus two months ago. But he buried his head in the sand. And his failure to prepare is crippling our ability to respond now that it`s at our doorstep.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you`re watching the coronavirus, he has no clue what he`s doing about the coronavirus. He`s late. He literally is just getting around to like, whoa, there could be a problem here.


MELBER: Chris, how`s it playing out on the ground?

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES": I mean, look, I think that you can imagine a universe in which Democratic primary voters were focused on which candidate they thought would be best at steering them through a crisis like this.

But I think it plays in a different way, which is that it`s just intensifies the desire to get rid of Donald Trump, right, that candidates are so focused and voters are so focused on getting rid of him at a moment of maximum peril, that it only elevates what have sort of been the underlying fundamentals already.

MELBER: Yes, it`s something you have done in your reporting out of "ALL IN," but also out in the field, as we hear from people, is not to let it become just a normal part of American life that the person charged with the public safety of the citizenry doesn`t even make a pretense publicly of claiming to be motivated by the public interest.

Given that point you and others have made, take a look at this moment from that press conference.


TRUMP: I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves.

And they say, if we ever have a president like this. When they look at the statements made by the people standing behind those podiums, I think that has a huge effect.


MELBER: Chris?


And it`s almost been a kind of confession by the president that all of the panic-whipping that he did during Ebola in 2014 was explicitly just for political ends, right, because he now turns around, he and his allies on Trump TV and other places, accusing Democrats of doing that right now, their criticism, saying that they`re whipping up a frenzy, when, really, I actually think the press has been fairly responsible and restrained about trying to be a clear-eyed assessor of the risk.


HAYES: The thing that has been driving any sense of panic, such that there is one, are that the markets are not doing that, right?

This has not been something that`s been fomented by the 24-hour news cycle. It has been fomented by financial markets that are looking at the actual data emanating out of China as this pandemic spreads to dozens of countries, and really worrying about what that worst-case scenario might look like.

MELBER: And, finally, while we have you, big picture 2020 on the ground there, South Carolina, Bernie Sanders has been surging in certain ways.

Joe Biden has this well of support, reportedly, there. What are you seeing?

HAYES: I think there`s essentially two paths for Saturday in terms of what the polling shows us. And we actually have polls today that show each of those paths. So we have one polling -- poll today that shows Joe Biden up big, with Bernie Sanders 10 or more points behind in second place.

If that happens on Saturday, I think that could alter the trajectory into Super Tuesday, depending on what the coverage is like, depending what that margin is like.

The other possibility, I think, is a tighter race between Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, possibly a Sanders win, although I think that`s unlikely, but a close, two, three points. I think that would be -- that would make the stop-Sanders project, such as it exists in any cohesive form, much harder heading into Super Tuesday.


And, as you say, there`s ways to see both, and it`s a fluid race, and we have to wait for the voters.

There`s an old saying. There`s no "ALL IN" like a live "ALL IN."


MELBER: Chris Hayes, with a live in-person studio audience in Charleston, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. I wouldn`t miss it. We will be out there as well.

Good luck on the trail, Chris.

When we come back in 30 seconds, we have a new special report on the backstory of a 2020 candidate who has a solution for saving the economy and beating Donald Trump.


MELBER: There are seven top candidates remaining in the Democratic primary. They were showcased on that South Carolina debate stage.

and it`s worth noting that four of them -- so, most of them -- are largely defined by their economic positions, two billionaires who are only in the race because of their past business success, and two economic populists who Washington Democrats once considered both of them way too progressive to ever get close to a nomination.

Now, while Senator Sanders surges, he`s clearly not alone in pushing this party to the economic left, Elizabeth Warren arguing they actually share similar beliefs. And she is the one, she says, with the results.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie and I both wanted to help rein in Wall Street. In 2008, we both got our chance. But I dug in. I fought the big banks. I built the coalitions, and I won.


MELBER: And that brings us tonight to a new installment in "Backstory," our special series that goes deeper into candidates` records.

Our goal is to try to report beyond the daily headlines -- and there are many of those -- and examine a key backstory about a single person in the race in each installment.

So, tonight, right now, for Elizabeth Warren, let`s be clear. The cause that animated her career, shaped her political evolution, and it defines her campaign to this day, advocating for working people in legal and financial systems that are increasingly stacked for big banks.

And that`s not what most really young lawyers do. Even many law professors focus more on explaining legal history than trying to make history.

But dating back to 2007, then Harvard Professor Warren concluded, from her scholarship and her studies, that the financial laws weren`t really neutral. They didn`t simply patrol the playing field like a referee. They tilted it, that any individual American consumer would tend to be outmatched, wildly, by the organized power of Wall Street.

OK, that`s a diagnosis. Some would disagree with it. A lot of people agree with it.

But what do you do about it? Well, then, as now, Warren views problems as an opportunity.


WARREN: They`re ready for change. And I got a plan for that.

I got a plan for that.

In fact, I got a lot of plans.

And, yes, I got a plan for that.



MELBER: Back in 2007, Professor Warren`s plan was to create something that could pool the power of consumers, who aren`t in any way organized or united like a banking industry, and then protect them.

The idea was a dedicated federal agency to protect citizens against the banks, the same way other laws protect Americans` health and safety, against the product that a company might find they could sell for a profit, but which is otherwise really too dangerous that we would want it sold in the first place.

So to see why that is a logical policy, consider the toaster, which at first glance seems like an innocuous household appliance, until:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get the video of it.





MELBER: In the wrong circumstances, when there are certain extra factors, this toaster that we all know about -- this is real video we found -- the toaster can turn into a fireball.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There we go. Now she`s gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is toaster on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just what we needed.


MELBER: Fact-check true. That is toaster on fire.

Now, burning toasters are dangerous. That particular flaming toaster experiment went down outside, but a really cheap toaster can be more profitable to sell than a more expensive, safe one.

But the fact that the toaster is unsafe makes it more costly for everyone when it catches on fire. That very basic, call it flaming point is exactly the point Elizabeth Warren made when introducing her idea for the consumer agency, writing that: "Federal law makes it impossible to buy a toaster with a 20 percent chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house."

"But," she wrote, "the law does allow banks to sell mortgage plans with the same 20 percent chance of putting a family out on the street."

Quote: "The difference between those two markets is regulation."

And that`s how Warren explained her idea in a 2007 article in the journal "Democracy," advocating a stronger system to check the incentives for banks to seek profits when they force larger costs or bankruptcy on consumers, on you.

And that ranges from areas like toasters, sure -- that`s the non-financial example -- to mortgages, to student loans, to credit cards.

Now, that was 2007. Bush was president. Alan Greenspan finished a record run at the Federal Reserve, to bipartisan acclaim. Washington had been deregulating Wall Street. Few were talking about getting tougher on the banks or eying the potential risk of aggressive Wall Street deals and complicated financial instruments that the bank said made everybody richer, until things changed.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: On the broadcast tonight, meltdown. The American financial system is rocked to its foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Share prices continue to tumble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lehman Brothers was forced to declare itself bankrupt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stock markets crash.




ANNOUNCER: And the government bails.


MELBER: Everything changed like that.

Warren`s solutions started getting traction. Congress began that controversial bailout of the banks, who took those risks that got Americans into this mess.

Now, Warren allies might call it the risky toaster bailout. Some Democratic leaders, though, saw the Harvard professor as the voice of reason, Democrat Harry Reid putting her on the congressional panel to oversee that bailout.

And, rare for a regulatory expert, her work started to draw wider notice.


JON STEWART, FORMER HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Do the banks think they have done anything wrong?

WARREN: You should ask the banks.


STEWART: I think I know what the banks would say to me.



MELBER: Warren seizing the moment to go well beyond Harvard and publicly advocate her ideas.


WARREN: Because it`s going to go one way or the other. We`re going to decide, basically, hey, we don`t need regulation. It`s fine. Boom and bust, boom and bust, boom and bust. And good luck with your 401(k).

Or, alternatively, we`re going to say, we`re going to put in some smart regulation, it`s going to adapt to the fact that we have new products, and what we`re going to have going forward is, we`re going to have some stability and some real prosperity for ordinary folks.

STEWART: And that`s socialism.



MELBER: There`s that word socialism.

Congress didn`t tackle all the changes reformers wanted, and no major bankers went to jail, few were fined, for those financial acts that caused far more damage, remember, than individual citizen offenses in taxes or bankruptcy, which individual citizens sometimes have their lives ruined over, even ending up in jail.

But Congress did pass a Wall Street bill that Obama signed in 2010. And of the thousands of ideas that are pitched in op-eds or academic papers or books, it`s remarkable to remember that Warren`s plan became law, creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Democratic leaders thought, also, why not tap the person who thought this idea up to kick it off? And the president asked Warren to help get the party started.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have known Elizabeth Warren since law school. She`s a janitor`s daughter, who has become one of the country`s fiercest advocates for the middle class.

And three years ago, she came up with an idea for a new independent agency that would have one simple overriding mission, standing up for consumers and middle-class families.


MELBER: Even after the crash and the Wall Street bailout that was opposed by Americans of all ideologies, however, Mitch McConnell led Senate Republicans to try to block Warren and obstruct the lawful agency from doing its work.

Looking back on it now, it actually looks like a -- kind of a Republican banker`s dream idea of Merrick Garland-ing Obama`s Wall Street agenda, with most of McConnell`s Senate caucus vowing political extortion, threatening to oppose any permanent director of that new agency unless it were basically gutted, and also, along the way, slamming Warren.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We`re pretty unenthusiastic about the possibility of Elizabeth Warren. We`re pretty unenthusiastic, frankly, about this new agency.


MELBER: The White House tasked Warren to work on launching the agency without technically nominating her,a way to draw her out and have her work with her expertise, while sidestepping that Republican vow to block her.


WILLIAMS: The first question is, why not take that fight to the floor of the Senate?

WARREN: Well I have to say, I have never walked away from a fight in my life. You can ask my three older brothers about that.

But the point is, the time spent fighting is the time not spent doing the actual work of this agency.


MELBER: Warren did some of the work of getting the agency started.

Obama then nominated her deputy as the first official director. And the new agency went on to confront those very financial interests, along with the mission that she had outlined, cracking down on payday lenders who prey on low-income workers with their own brand of burning toaster short-term loans, forcing debt collectors to change some of the ways they do business.

And after all that money flowing from taxpayers to banks in that bailout, the agency turned some of it around and fined, for example, Wells Fargo $100 million for misleading people. Much of that money went back to consumers, back to you.

But, on the other hand, the agency`s work, we should note, was criticized by even some of Warren`s own fellow economic progressives for failing to do enough to protect, for example, students from predatory loans.

And apart from McConnell`s partisan stonewalling, there are other conservative economists who argue that basically the agency still doesn`t have enough oversight, which makes it a separate new problem, unanswerable to anyone and potentially hurting business growth by launching investigations without cause, imposing fines without any remedy.

They`re arguing there`s not enough due process.

So, those are debates about how this all works, debates worth having.

But under the Trump administration, there are efforts to just undercut the agency`s entire agenda of holding Wall Street accountable. There`s a fight over its very leadership now before the Supreme Court.

As for Warren, it`s kind of striking to observe that Mitch McConnell`s obstruction of her, in particular, backfired on him politically. Remember,, had she been confirmed, she would have been really busy with her new Obama administration dream job.

But blocked from that very long-term appointment by Mitch McConnell, Warren was suddenly free to entertain other ideas.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Elizabeth Warren, the very, very, very, very popular consumer advocate who is currently a key adviser and a high-profile adviser in the Obama administration.

Democrats are now reportedly wooing Elizabeth Warren to run against Scott Brown for Senate in 2012.


MELBER: Senator Scott Brown was a blue state Republican McConnell really needed. Warren turned to go run against him.

And she didn`t change her message about consumer protection. She just sort of basically unleashed it in a new venue.


WARREN: There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear, you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea, God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.



MELBER: Warren won that race, cutting down McConnell`s majority by at least one vote, and was soon at work confronting some of the very financial leaders her agency was battling.


WARREN: So you haven`t resigned. You haven`t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings. You haven`t fired a single senior executive.

Instead, evidently, your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees, who don`t have the money for a fancy P.R. firm to defend themselves. It`s gutless leadership.


MELBER: Warren`s plan for this agency to protect people from the banks, to protect them from credit cards designed to put them in debt, from risky mortgages that are worse than flaming toasters, it`s the foundation of everything she`s been doing in policy and politics since.

So, as we do in this series, it`s interesting to note that, whatever happens in these early states and onto more states voting in Super Tuesday, part of democracy is always an ideas primary.

And it`s notable that so many of the things Warren was pushing for, almost in an obscure or progressive set of journals, are now not only, some of them, law, but they`re getting more attention from more people in the Democratic primary, and maybe the kind of ideas that someday could take Democrats all the way back to the White House.


MELBER: An update on the coronavirus outbreak.

There is a new whistle-blower filing, a complaint against the Trump administration Health and Human Services Department, alleging the U.S. government sent HHS employees to deal with those first evacuated citizens from China without -- quote -- "proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear," putting them, of course, at further risk of the virus.

Now, just hours before this complaint when public, Secretary Azar was asked if that ever happened. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that breaking basic protocols and exposing and exposing untrained human service employees to the coronavirus before allowing them to be dispersed around the country could have endangered the employees and other Americans?

AZAR: I don`t believe that has taken place.


MELBER: We will stay on that story.

But don`t go anywhere.

Right after this break, we get to a segment I`m very excited about, talking to Democratic primary voters in Harlem at the iconic Red Rooster, a special BEAT conversation the top candidates, how to confront Trump, and an eye on diversity, as the race turns to South Carolina, and an unfiltered chance to hear directly from voters and have a real dialogue when we come back.


MELBER: All eyes are on the South Carolina primary.

And we are here at the Red Rooster in Harlem.


MELBER: With a lot of energy.

And we have convened a discussion here with people discussing the 2020 raise, Democratic primary, diversity and power.

So I`m going to go around and talk to some folks.

How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m doing good.

MELBER: What`s your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Chabaz Middleton (ph).

MELBER: And you live here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I live in the Bronx.

MELBER: All right. And have you made up your mind yet on who you`re voting for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking, so far, I like Bernie Sanders.

I just think that the young population sees what`s going on in the world right now. And they`re really trying to step up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I confess I am not 28, although in a good light, sometimes, I can pass.

But this gentleman and I were speaking before. And I said Bernie Sanders is like everybody`s crazy grandfather.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s just like handing the Republicans ammunition.

MELBER: I saw you -- can I sit?


MELBER: All right, look, I`m sitting down here.

I saw you nodding to several things before. If somebody said, you could beat Trump with Bernie, but Democrats would be set back in the Senate and House, would you take that deal?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we can beat Trump with Bernie? Yes.

I mean, if we can beat Trump? Yes, absolutely. We got to get Trump out -- I mean, we have to go step at a time.

MELBER: I`m going to lean here, because I see you freaking out, just popping up.


MELBER: You`re -- this is like a little bit of political creep. And you`re popping up.


MELBER: You disagree. But now you`re in the interview.

You dis -- I`m just playing. I`m not -- I mean that in a fun way.

You think that`s not a trade you would take?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two out of three. You need two out of three. You need the House, Senate, presidency, two out of three. That way, you control it one way or the other.

The point is, everyone in this room has to guarantee that they will vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s it. Nothing else...


MELBER: Well, let`s -- and you`re nodding here as well.

What are you thinking about all this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it`s funny. I`m an outlier. I was a Buttigieg supporter. I like Buttigieg.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like his policies, and I like the way he punches back at Trump.

I guess I`m waiting to see what happens in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday. If he has a resurgence, I might be inclined to support him.

However, like everybody else here, I`m going to support whoever it is.

MELBER: I`m going to move over here just to get one more part of the -- part of the place. Thank you very much over here.

I`m curious what you think. Elizabeth Warren was seen as a very economic populist liberal candidate. She did pull back from some of her positions on health care. What do you think of her and the rest of the field?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like Elizabeth, and I want to see a woman in the White House, for sure.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I also kind of like Bernie.

I want to make like a hybrid, like Berlizabeth.

MELBER: Berlizabeth.



There is a way that sometimes candidates can come together in a presidential campaign. I don`t if you ever heard about that. What do you think about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think Bernie also needs a running mate that is a person of color and a woman.



MELBER: People are stage whispering behind me Stacey Abrams.


MELBER: I can hear you guys.


MELBER: Who was whispering? Were you whispering?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I might have been.

MELBER: All right.


MELBER: Can I -- may I join you guys?

Do you think the Democratic Party is at a political disadvantage? Let`s -- we try to be factual and straightforward. If it`s just to white people on the ticket, is that a concern of yours?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen. Yes, I`m always concerned when it`s only white people in the room.

But what I want to say to Democratic voters is that I think that it is unfair that the burden of electability always falls on marginalized communities and that we can`t say, for instance, if I do not stand for Bloomberg, and I say to the Democratic Party, that I expect more than an apology, because it`s not -- stop and frisk, for instance, is not just a policy. It has bodies attached to it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you would like me to overlook that to vote blue, no matter who, which my people have historically done election after elections.

I think marginalized communities have been fighting injustice that preceded Trump for very many centuries.

MELBER: Do you think Trump is a cause or a symptom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen, I believe that Trump is a symptom.

However, it is also -- it can also be true that we have to stop him, right? These things are not incompatible. And so, for me, Trump brings a bluntness to some things that marginalized communities have always known.


MELBER: I`m going to come over to this side of the table, where I saw some of you reacting.

You were nodding your head. Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, personally, I think it`s a bunch of scare tactics with Bloomberg, right, with the whole idea that we can`t have a voice for ourselves, or Bernie isn`t electable, because Bloomberg can buy his way into the election.

MELBER: You`re saying scare tactics are against the Sanders candidacy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, completely.

I think it`s one of these things where we`re saying, OK, we can only have a millionaire fight a millionaire, or a billionaire fight a billionaire to win this thing.

This man`s a Republican decoy put it in here just to separate us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that is a complete waste of all of our time to push people like Bernie and Elizabeth out of the picture because of Democratic socialism.

That`s just, what?

MELBER: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I`m going to simplify things.

Let he or she who is without sin throw the first stones. And the second part of that is, teamwork makes the dream work.

MELBER: And you`re open to everyone, meaning you`re open and Sanders, Bloomberg, anyone in between?


Let the person without sin -- everybody`s talking about everybody who did what when. There`s nobody walking around that hasn`t done things. So let`s move on. What`s the real problem? The Senate is the problem, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Congress is the problem. Let`s not get caught up in this around-the-block kind of the fighting each other.

MELBER: Well, I`m going to let him battle back at you here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We good. We good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt about it.

Listen, I think it`s -- we do ourselves a disservice, right, to say that we can move on from the trauma that has been caused, right?

And if we are not going to hold people accountable, we`re only hiring another Trump. We`re putting another Trump in office that`s going to do a disservice to every marginalized community in this country.

MELBER: Now, that`s a strong case. But I have good news for you.

In court, it`s always better to go last.


MELBER: And you get the last word.


My people have traveled such a far, far distance from them cotton fields and stuff. So I don`t think there`s anything we can`t overcome, and that this is just another part of the process. I`m not overwhelmed by this.

I want young people like yourself -- we need a clean slate. Here, you design the ideas about the future. You got to. It`s on you all. We did it.

So -- but we came -- we have come a long way. And we have got a long way to go.

And so that`s sort of my mind-set.

MELBER: That`s a mind-set I think we can all reflect on.

Thanks to everyone here at the Red Rooster in Harlem, as we keep our eye on 2020.




MELBER: We are back here in the Red Rooster in Harlem, New York, with a whole crowd of people.

We have been talking about what voters have on their mind heading into South Carolina, 2020, power and diversity. It`s been an interesting conversation.

And I think this conversation will surely continue. It`s been great here with everyone.


MELBER: I do want to give a very special thanks to Ginny`s at the Red Rooster here in Harlem for hosting us.

And to all the voters and the grassroots leaders and other folks who came by today here to spend time with us and be on THE BEAT, we really appreciate that.

Let me tell you something else, because there`s a lot of electioneering and campaigning going on. Well, THE BEAT is live tomorrow 6:00 p.m. Eastern at Lizard`s Thicket. If you happen to be in Columbia, South Carolina, that is 818 Elmwood Avenue.

We will be joined by other voters for a discussion, like some of what we just heard. And we will also be joined by a state lawmaker, Justin Bamberg, Marq Claxton, and Jonathan Capehart, among others.

So, tune in. Or, if you`re in Columbia, come on by. Really appreciate it. Looking forward to it.

And I should also note, of course, our election coverage and a lot of other news coming up next on "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS."