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deadliest day TRANSCRIPT: 4/8/20, MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: Craig Spencer; Ami Bera, Leon Panetta, Tammy Baldwin, Sherrilyn Ifill, Anand Parekh, Patrice Harris


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Joy Reid continuing our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House task force briefing is ongoing. We will break in if any news warrants.

As of this hour there are over 425,000 confirmed cases in this country, including more than 14,000 Americans who have lost their lives to the virus.

The one clear takeaway tonight, and, frankly, every night that we have listened to this briefing is that this president has been behind the curve in fighting this pandemic from the start, which we are learning from now, from new reporting, could have been as far back as November of 2019.

ABC News is reporting that a U.S. intelligence report warned of the outbreak as early as that month. One official said that the analyst concluded it could be a cataclysmic event. It`s the earliest known warning among several that the White House appeared to miss or ignore, which may explain why Donald Trump is trying so hard to deflect the blame.

Trump, again, today alleged remarkably that the World Health Organization, whose gold standard approved coronavirus test, Trump ordered the Centers for Disease Control to reject, he`s now accusing that World Health Organization of minimizing the threat.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they have to get their priorities right. And their priorities are that everybody has to be treated properly, every country. And it does not seem that way. The world - - WHO, World Health, got it wrong. I mean, they got it very wrong. In many ways, they were wrong. They also minimized the threat very strongly and not good.


REID: It is one of the almost uncountable number of unsubstantiated claims this president has made in his coronavirus briefings, which have put Donald Trump back into his comfort zone, starring in a nightly T.V. show. Trump`s nightly reality show has it all, a rotating cast of supporting characters like the My Pillow founder, Mike Lindell, who is also a Republican donor, and, of course, reporters for Trump to beat up on. Trump himself admitted that his briefings are intended to promote his counter-narrative that he is doing an amazing job, despite the endless amount of reporting that suggests the exact opposite.


TRUMP: Everybody is amazed at the job we are doing, and the public is starting to find out. They are starting -- you know, one of the reasons I do these news conferences because if I did not, they would believe fake news. And we can`t let them believe fake news.


REID: The truth is that the public is not amazed by the job that he is doing. A new CNN poll finds that a majority of Americans, 55 percent, say the president could be doing more to fight the virus.

Meanwhile, the president yesterday ousted the federal watchdog who was set to oversee the distribution of $2.2 trillion in coronavirus relief funds, raising fresh alarms about potential corruption. It comes as The Root today highlighted some of the ways that Trump`s allies are enriching themselves amid the outbreak.

I am joined now by Congressman Ami Bera, of California, the former Chief Medical Operator Officer for Sacramento County, and Dr. Craig Spencer, the Director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

I want to play for the audience one of the things that happened in this briefing, just to underscore the point or the extent to which this is a show in a lot of ways in which, you know, there is a lot of sort of errant information that has nothing to do with the public health. Here is Donald Trump being asked about another reality show.


REPORTER: He is asking you for a pardon, saying he was unfairly convicted. Your son yesterday jokingly said that he was going to advocate for it. And I was wondering if you had seen the show and if you have any thoughts on pardoning --

TRUMP: Which son? It must be Don. I had a feeling it was Don. Is that what he said? I don`t know. I know nothing about it. He is 22 years for what? What did he do?

REPORTER: He allegedly hired someone to murder an animal rights activist, but he said that he did not do that.

TRUMP: Did you think he did not do it? Are you on his side? Are you recommending a pardon?

REPORTER: No, I am not advocating into that.

TRUMP: As a reporter, you are not allowed to do that. You would be criticized by this. Would you recommend a pardon?

REPORTER: I am not weighing it on Tiger King.

TRUMP: I don`t think you would. Go ahead, do you have a question? I will take a look.


REID: Yes, ha, ha, ha. We are going to take a moment just to go to somebody who takes this whole thing seriously. We are going to go just for a moment, Dr. Anthony Fauci is speaking so we will take a listen to that before I come back for our guest.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is very painful to see, and I have seen it throughout my entire medical career, that the health disparities in the minority community, but particularly the African-American community, puts them at risk, apart from coronavirus issues, puts them at risk for diseases much more so than the general population.

The double whammy that you suffer now is when you have this terrible virus, which essentially preys in its ultimate deleterious effects on people with those underlying conditions. And since that is more predominant in the African-American population, we want to double down and say to the young people, to the elderly people in that community to please try as best as you can to protect yourself if you are a younger person and to please protect the people who are susceptible, your grandmother, your grandfather, your elder uncle, the people who have these underlying conditions, because we are not going to solve the issues of health disparities this month or next month. This is something we should commit ourselves for years to do.

But what we can do now today is to prevent people who are put at higher risk because of their demographic group from getting into a situation which is much, much more deleterious than the general population. So I plead with all of us in the population, but particularly for those of us brothers and sisters in the African-American community, because we know that mitigation does work.

The reason we know it works is the question that was asked about the numbers, that why they came down or the projections. Because, remember, what you do with data will always outstrip a model. You redo your models depending upon your data, and our data telling us that mitigation is working.

So, again, as Dr. Birx said, keep your foot on the accelerator because that is what`s going to get us through this.

REID: Audience can hear me? All right. That was Dr. Anthony Fauci giving some actual information. so we listened to that for a moment. Let us bring in Representative Ami Bera, as well as Dr. Craig Spencer. And I will start with you. Well, actually let me start with Dr. Spencer. Normally, I would go with a member of congress first.

But, Dr. Spencer, it is very difficult for me to understand how you even decide when you have beat the curve and when the country can start to get back to normal if we are not mass testing, and we are still not mass testing. Is it possible for a country that is not conducting massive amounts of tests for coronavirus to safely go back to opening businesses and schools, et cetera?

DR. CRAIG SPENCER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH: That is an important question because we don`t really have -- as you pointed out, we don`t have the testing, we don`t have the denominator, we don`t understand how many people in our communities have been infected, how many people have survived and have antibodies. This was a huge failure from the beginning not having testing or having incorrect testing.

And what it did is set us up for the catastrophe that we are seeing in our emergency departments right now, set us up to have, you know, E.R.s that are turned into ICUs, that set us up to have, you know, not enough ventilators or concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment. This is really just a snowballing impact of our failures, not only with testing, but over the past couple of years in tearing apart the pandemic preparedness infrastructure here in the U.S., which we have been doing by underfunding the CDC, by underfunding the World Health Organization.

This isn`t the first time that this administration has threatened to take away funding from the World Health Organization, and unfortunately, it probably won`t be the last. If we do that, that could potentially be the biggest risk, not only to people all over the world but Americans here, ourselves.

REID: Yes. And do to speak -- go back to the World Health Organization, Congressman Bera. And, luckily, you also have a medical background as well, which is also very helpful. The director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, I think I am pronouncing that wrong, has condemned the politics that he is seeing being played, and I assume that means by the president of the United States. Let us listen to him.


DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION DIRECTOR: The focus of all political parties should be to save their people. Please don`t politicize this virus.

If you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don`t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.


REID: And, you know, Congressman, Donald Trump tonight had to try to respond to the fact that ABC is now reporting that the intelligence community warned this president as early as November that there was a crisis in terms of the coronavirus that could affect the United States.

He was asked, you know, would he have acted earlier had he understood that warning. He claims he did not know about it. He did not know. Just he found out about it just before closing the country to China. He says -- and then he goes back into his thing about closing the country to China.

In your mind, was the refusal of the United States to act on what the World Health Organization was telling us and to take that German-created test and use it in this country, that feels like along with ignoring the early warnings to be the original sin. Your thoughts?

REP. AMI BERA (D-CA): Joy, this is an abject failure of leadership. If I as a member of Congress who does pay attention to a pandemic and preparedness and global security knew that something was going on in the end of 2019 in December, how can the president of the United States sit there and say he didn`t know that this was going on?

We started to sound the alarm bells in early January when China was shutting down a province in a city of 15 million people. So, again, how could the president say, well, I did not know what was going on? We directly approached the administration, January 23rd and said, this is going to be a problem that a travel ban is not going to solve. I had the first hearing in Congress in early February, and we were sounding the alarm saying this virus is coming to the United States.

So for the president to sit there and say, well, I didn`t know what was going on, that is an abject failure of leadership and that is not what we should expect out of the president of the United States. He`s got to take responsibility, course correct and get the politics out of this.

WHO is not a perfect organization but we are all doing the best that we can to protect our country, our community and the world right now. And we have got to get ahead of this. And it is just disappointing to hear the president every day.

REID: And Congressman, just to stay with you for just a moment, we are hearing these alarming stories. A Los Angeles Times reports that hospitals say that the feds, the federal government is seizing masks and supplies. Here is a little bit of that L.A. Times report. Although the president has directed states and hospitals to secure what supplies they can on their own, the federal government is quietly seizing orders, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need.

Is there a way that Congress can intervene and try to find out why would the feds be seizing these supplies that are so badly needed by states and, ostensibly, states are still having to essentially bid for them on a kind of eBay to get them, for their hospitals?

BERA: You know, it is again, another failure of federal leadership and the president has taken control of something. He told the governors that they were on their own. Jared Kushner told the governors that they were on their own. So governors in every state are unfortunately having to do what the federal government should be doing by procuring this protective equipment that folks need, the ventilators, and getting them to the places that they need.

I certainly hope that`s not happening. We raised that particular issue with the vice president today when we were having a call with the coronavirus task force. They said that that was not happening, that they were not taking supplies away states were ordering their own supplies.

Unfortunately, we have heard that rumor several times. So we will continue to raise the issue. But this, again, is a profound failure of leadership from the president of the United States. We are left on our own, unfortunately.

REID: Yes, indeed. And, Dr. Spencer, what would actually have to happen? If this were being done right, what would have to happen in order for the country, in order for states like New York, states that are having more mitigation like Washington State, what would have to be happening for us to be able to get this country sort of back on a normal track?

SPENCER: Well, the first thing that would have had to happen is that we should have been prepared for this, and, unfortunately, we were not. We also have been, unfortunately, making missteps at every single step (ph) here. But we are spending more time talking about purported treatments and magic bullets.

And Dr. Fauci was just talking about the impact this is having on communities of color. Just today, we got death data disaggregated by ethnic background here in New York, and it wasn`t surprising. What we are finding is that black New Yorkers are dying at twice the rate of white New Yorkers. And it is even higher for Latino and Hispanics here in New York City.

What we need to do is focus on how this is impacting all communities, not just New York City, but all over the country with a special focus on how it is impacting the most vulnerable and already marginalized communities.

What we are seeing from coronavirus, it is amplifying so much of the structural inequality that has been present in this country since before we were founded. We are seeing the deadly consequences of that right now.

REID: Yes, indeed. We are going to be talking about that more later on in this hour.

Congressman Ami Bera of California, thank you so much. Dr. Craig Spencer, thank you both. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now is Leon Panetta, former CIA Director and former Secretary of Defense.

And, Director Panetta, I want to talk to you about something that is alarming to a lot of people who are watching Donald Trump pitching once again today his medical advice, talking about trying to get people to use his pet treatment that he claims is what will help treat people for kind COVID-19, that it turns out he is got a small share in the company that makes it, the French company that makes it.

I want to read a little bit of a couple of these stories, from The Root, from Michael Harriot`s reporting there. A South Carolina pharmaceutical executive and GOP donor has seen orders more than doubled since the coronavirus outbreak. Now, she is asked federal regulators for permission to open up six new lines of product to help treat COVID-19. The only problem is doctors don`t really use these medicines to treat COVID-19.

From The New York Times, Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drug maker that makes Plaquenil, the brand- name version of hydroxychloroquine. Wall Street Journal, Senator Burr, Senate colleagues sold stock after coronavirus briefings.

We are seeing people who are using this tragedy, this horrific tragedy across the country to make money. Your thoughts on that, Sir?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, one of the tragedies of being in the middle of a pandemic is that there are unprincipled people that will try to take advantage of every opportunity. And these people that are pitching various snake oil remedies that can somehow solve the problem are people who are simply taking advantage of a terrible situation in which people are struggling to try to stay alive against this virus.

And the president obviously is not helping at all by supporting some of these remedies, that his own scientists, Dr. Fauci and others, have basically said are not trustworthy because we simply don`t have the evidence that, in fact, they do what they promise to do.

And for that reason alone I think the president of the United States, who should be guiding the American people at this time of crisis, instead, is one of those misleading the American people.

REID: But, you know, Director Panetta, one of the people who is pitching, as you said, you know, remedies as a sort of at the carnival is the president. Donald Trump is one of the people doing it. So I am not sure how you account for the fact that if people are pushing snake oil, one of the people pushing it is the president and the president is invested in one of the companies that makes the thing he is pushing. I don`t know what remedy there is for that, something that we`ve declared that the Constitution does not apply to Donald Trump, at least during impeachment.

PANETTA: Well, I think the remedy is the November election. Because in the end, this is who Donald Trump is. We have seen that time and time again. As president, we have seen it over the last three years of his presidency, the way he has behaved, what he said and the lies that he is stated to the American people. And the fact that he is now as president of the United States during a major crisis like this, advocating remedies that simply are not trustworthy, is just another indication that we are not receiving the kind of leadership that we should, particularly in dealing with this war against this virus.

And the only remedy is not to just hope that this guy can change because he won`t, I think the ultimate remedy is to hope that ultimately a new president can lead this nation.

REID: And, sir, what do you make of Donald Trump going after the World Health Organization, which, you know, a lot of countries have criticized some of the things that they have done, have not been perfectly happy with them, but they are the ones who signed off on this rapid test out of Germany that is helping dozens and dozens and dozens of other countries, and this president rejected it and we are now left with a dearth of testing around the country. What do you make of the fact that Trump is now threatening to defund and is attacking the World Health Organization?

PANETTA: Well, there is a long list of those that this president blames for what`s happening as a result of failed leadership in this country, to pay attention to the warnings that were out there, and to properly prepare for this pandemic. And so there`s a long list. And the World Health Organization is one of those. The impeachment process is another. President Obama is still another. The various governors are also on his list.

And so this is a president who he, himself, has said will not accept responsibility at all for any of the mistakes that have been made in dealing with this -- with this virus.

And so I don`t --

REID: Yes.

PANETTA: I`m not surprised.

But,, again, at a time when the world ought to be coming together to deal with the pandemic, when there`s 182 nations out there that are confronting this disaster, this is a time to unify the world behind the World Health Organization and behind countries working together to try to unify in dealing with this pandemic, not taking the time to basically try to pick out villains who are to be blamed for the failures that ultimately will rest with the person who`s casting the blame.

REID: Yes, indeed.

The buck, at least in theory, stops with the president. And one of the people he also didn`t listen to, of course, is the intelligence community, part of which you used to run, sir.


REID: Secretary Leon Panetta, thank you very much. Really appreciate your time. Stay safe.

PANETTA: Good to be with you, Joy.

And coming up: Bernie Sanders -- thank you. Cheers.

REID: Bernie Sanders exits the race.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour.


REID: Sanders` announcement comes a day after this disturbing spectacle from Wisconsin, voters forced to wait in long lines, trying to social distance in the middle of a pandemic, as Donald Trump urges Republicans to fight efforts to make it easier for people to vote by mail.

We have got much more to get to.

Stay with us.


REID: Welcome back.

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination effectively ended today. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced he`s suspending his campaign, clearing the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to become the apparent Democratic nominee.

Sanders told his supporters he couldn`t in good conscience continue his campaign amid the coronavirus pandemic.


SANDERS: I wish I could get you better news, but I think you know the truth.

And that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden, and the path toward victory is virtually impossible.

I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful.


REID: Senator Sanders offered praise, but not an official endorsement of Vice President Biden. And he said he`s staying on the ballot to collect delegates to influence the Democratic Party platform.

I`m joined now by Steve Kornacki, NBC News national political correspondent.

All right, Steve, what does it mean that Sanders is out, but still on the ballots going forward?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we will see what the primary season ends up looking like from here on in.

You have seen a lot of states that have switched to mail-in primary votes and that sort of thing. But his name will still be on the ballot. It was probably too late to take it off a lot of those ballots anyway. He can still collect votes.

If you break 15 percent in any state or any congressional district, you can still collect delegates. He could wield, potentially, some influence with those delegates at the convention, maybe with the party platform and that sort of thing.

But I think it`s largely a formality at this point. I think the bigger story with the Sanders campaign here in 2020, it was an amazing thing to see. Whatever side of this you were on, we had never seen anything quite like this before, where the candidate who was winning early just hit a wall completely.

And I think that wall that Sanders ran into in this race was because of that early success. You know, he got the most votes. He won the popular vote in Iowa. He won the New Hampshire primary outright. And then he got a landslide win in Nevada.

And in the past, when a candidate has got going like that early on, it`s triggered a bandwagon effect, and folks like to be with the winner, generally. And there was certainly an expectation at that point that they would be with Bernie Sanders.

And, instead, it seemed like that was a gut-check moment. I think, in hindsight, that`s what we can see right now, that Sanders winning Nevada, becoming the clear front-runner, being as close as he`d ever been to winning the Democratic nomination, that became a gut-check moment for the Democratic Party, for Democratic leaders, for Democratic voters.

And they basically had to confront the question of, do we want to go down that road? Do we want to nominate Bernie Bernie Sanders? And the answer there from that point forward was emphatically no.

REID: Yes, particularly from African-American voters in those Southern states, who said, absolutely not. And that was pretty much the end of that from South Carolina on.

Steve Kornacki, brilliant always following this. So, thank you very much.


REID: Really appreciate your time tonight. Be safe out there.

KORNACKI: You too.

REID: Thank you.

And Sanders` departure from the race comes one day after thousands of voters in Wisconsin were forced to risk their health to vote in yesterday`s primary.

Milwaukee residents endured hours-long lines and the rain to vote after the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court blocked Democratic Governor Tony Evers` order to postpone in-person voting and to extend the deadline to get absentee ballots in.

Just five polling places remained open in Milwaukee, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, meaning even more crowding.

One voter held a sign saying it all: "This is ridiculous." She waited two hours to vote after an absentee ballot requested three weeks earlier never came.

Wisconsin`s debacle has reinforced concerns about what the polls could look like in November in multiple states, amid mounting calls from Democrats to expand voting by mail.

Yesterday, Donald Trump railed against that, calling mail-in ballots corrupt, despite the fact that voting by mail is exactly how he voted in his new state of residence, Florida.

In a tweet today, Trump went ahead and said the quiet part out loud, arguing that: "Republicans should fight against the statewide mail-in voting because it doesn`t work out well for Republicans."

I`m joined now by Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Thank you both for being here.

I want to start with the senator.

I want to play a nurse from Milwaukee who was turned away after getting in line three minutes after the 8:00 deadline. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on. I`m upset. I`m -- really, I`m upset, because they have been doing and saying so many different things about how we`re supposed to vote, when to vote. And you can`t do it now.

And they should keep the polls open later. I wish I had did an absentee ballot or something, but I didn`t know it was going to be all this chaos.


REID: Senator Baldwin, can you explain? Is there some explanation that makes sense to you why Republicans in your state insisted that voters needed to line up for that primary, that they could not vote absentee, that they could not have had more time to vote absentee, when I do believe the majority of Republicans tend to vote -- or Republicans tend to heavily vote absentee themselves?

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-WI): That`s right.

There`s no excuse. There`s no explanation. The Republicans who dominate our state legislature made a choice. They made a choice that ended up disenfranchising many, many Wisconsinites, and made others choose between keeping themselves healthy and safe or exercising their right to vote.

And I would add, as you know, Joy, Wisconsin has a long pattern of this under former Governor Walker, Scott Walker, and our Republican dominated legislature. Time after time, they have acted to disenfranchise people, to make it tougher and tougher to vote.

But this is just beyond the pale, the idea that, during a pandemic, there would be not one move to allow people to vote at a later date. And then, of course, our very partisan state Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court sided the same way, basically party-line votes there too.

REID: Yes, absolutely. That`s -- I wish that was surprising.

Let me play Donald Trump, the president of the United States, his thoughts. He sort of being very open about the things that he -- about stating that making it easier to vote would hurt Republicans. He`s been pretty clear about that. Here he is answering a question about why it was OK for him to vote by mail, but not other people.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you have a position like me, where it`s registered, you`re here, and we`re voting someplace where I`m not, I haven`t left the White House in, I guess, months.

If you`re a senior citizen, and if you`re somebody that needs it, I`m all for it. But they have to be very careful, because you know the things, with bundling and all of the things that are happening with votes with by mail.


REID: Sherrilyn, this is a common refrain among Republicans, that anything that makes it easier to vote brings fraud.

There`s no actual evidence of that. There`s no data that supports that. And so, since that is not the reason why, can you help us to explain why the Supreme Court majority, John Roberts, who has been no friend of voting rights throughout his career, sided with the other four conservatives to essentially force mostly Democratic-leaning voters of color, younger voters, to line up and risk their health, rather than making it easier for them to vote mail-in?

Can you -- is there some explanation? And can you break down for us and explain what the Supreme Court decision, what each of the two sides argued?

SHERRILYN IFILL, PRESIDENT, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND: Well, I think, Joy, if you look at the opinion by the majority of the Supreme Court, there are some clues.

When I first started reading the opinion, the first thing I looked for was where they were going to begin to talk about the way in which this pandemic really wreaked havoc with the system in Wisconsin, resulting in this backlog in absentee ballots being sent out and the ability of people to get the ballots and to return them.

When were they going to talk about the health crisis that really forced this choice, the dilemma that the district court identified as voters having to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting their life and health?

And when you read the majority opinion, what you find is, they never talk about that. In fact, they only mention the pandemic, COVID-19, in the penultimate paragraph of the majority opinion, and then only to try and insist that this opinion was really not about what it really is about.

So you had to ignore the very egregious facts. You showed those people standing on line with masks on. This is a level of grotesqueness that our democracy really has not seen in the modern era. We have completely gone off the rails.

And it`s one thing. I think, sometimes, when people call these things partisan, it almost is a way of minimizing how truly grotesque it is. It is a rejection of democracy to suggest that voters should have to do what voters in Wisconsin did yesterday.

And for the president then today to rail against mail-in voters, you have not once heard him talk about the threat to the health of Wisconsin`s -- that those voters took their lives in their hands yesterday to come out and stand and vote.

And, instead, what you`re seeing, Joy, is a shell game. It`s a shell game in which there`s -- there`s a denigration of any method of voting that they think will not help them win.

So it used to be that it was in-person voter fraud. Now President Trump is talking about voting absentee. You will remember, when he was first elected, he created a whole election fraud commission, claiming that buses of illegal people were brought into California, and people were brought across the lines in New Hampshire and Massachusetts to vote.

It is a confusing shell game. And that`s why we have to be steady at the till if we`re to have a real and legitimate election in November. And that means really focusing on ensuring that there are multiple ways for people to vote, that there`s extended early voting, that there are more polling places, that there`s mail-in ballots, and that people can protect themselves, protect their health, should this pandemic resurge in the fall by voting mail-in.

We need all of those options available to voters, because the shell game that`s being played, the cynical shell game with our democracy, with those extraordinary Americans you saw standing in that line yesterday, we have to honor that by ensuring that we provide all of the ways possible for Americans who are citizens to be able to cast their ballots in November.

This is about as serious as it gets. These voters were failed by the Wisconsin state legislature, failed by the United States Supreme Court.

REID: Yes.

IFILL: And it`s up to those of us who believe in democracy and civil rights and who fight on this front line every day to make sure that we honor that desire of people to be true citizens.

REID: Indeed.

Sherrilyn Ifill, thank you very much. I really appreciate you being here.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, I want to commend you and other -- 16 other Democrats who are pushing to get race-specific data, as we try to understand how this coronavirus pandemic is hitting different communities in the country.


REID: I want to commend you for that. We`re going to talk about that a little later -- thank you -- in the show.

And up next, where do we stand in the fight against this virus? And when, if ever, will America return to some semblance of normal?

We are right back after this.


REID: Welcome back.

Even after pulling back from his back in business by Easter gambit, Donald Trump has not given up boosting the idea of Americans returning to work in the near future.

Sources tell Bloomberg that the shift in tone comes as White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner have been encouraged by the president to get Americans back to work as quickly as possible, with an eye toward the possible fallout from a coronavirus recession on the president`s re-election prospects.

So it`s basically about him, not about you. While recent data shows some encouraging trends, the certified medical experts are trying to temper public expectations.


DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA FIELDING SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR: It`s too soon to tell at this point, and that`s because we still don`t have good testing in place. We still do not -- are missing the widespread testing that`s needed for us to understand exactly where we are on this curve.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: What`s really important is that people don`t turn these early signs hope into releasing from the 30 days to stop the spread. It`s really critical, and you can see the delay. So, if people start going out again and socially interacting, we could see a very acute second wave very early.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Now`s not the time to pull back at all. It`s the time to intensify.


REID: I -- I`m joined now -- for more, I`m joined now by Dr. Anand Parekh, chief medical officer at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former deputy assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sir, let me start with you, Dr. Parekh, let me start, Dr. Parekh, with this question of what it would take to get the country back to normal. It feels like testing, testing, testing, testing, like that`s what -- that`s what we need, but specifically antibody testing. I want to ask you about that.

A Harvard professor has written the following. A professor at Harvard has written the following. Being able to identify those who were previously infected have recovered and are adequately immune requires development, validation and deployment of antibody-based tests. This would be a game- changer in restarting parts of the economy more quickly and safely.

This is Dr. Harvey Feinberg who is a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Do you agree with that? That it`s not just testing, it`s antibody testing?

DR. ANAND PAREKH, FORMER HHS DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH: Yes, yes, Joy. It`s really all three really prongs of testing. You need a quick point of care test so you can quickly isolate cases and quarantine contacts. You need testing in the form of surveillance so you can quickly identify outbreaks, and then you need the serology tests because that will help you determine who has previously been infected and who is potentially immune.

So, it`s really all three of those, I think, that are critical. You know, we`re not going to be going back to normal any time soon. It`s going to be a new normal, but that testing infrastructure, Joy, is absolutely one part of the puzzle in terms of what we need.

REID: So let me play you the question because the other question -- in addition to testing -- is critical -- is the question of Donald Trump really pushing this preferred treatment that he is very much invested in, and I mean, literally invested in financially as well, hydroxychloroquine.

First, let me play Donald Trump not letting Dr. Anthony Fauci answer a question about it at one of his briefings. Take a listen.


REPORTER: Can you also weigh in on this issue of hydroxychloroquine? What do you think about this and what --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do you know how many times he`s answered that question? Maybe 15, 15 times.

REPORTER: I`m consulting the doctor.

TRUMP: You don`t have to answer.

REPORTER: He`s your medical expert, correct?

TRUMP: He`s answered that question 15 times.

FAUCI: We don`t operate on what you feel, we operate on what evidence and data is. I think we`ve got to be careful that we don`t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug. We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitively prove whether any intervention, not just this one, any intervention is truly safe and effective.


REID: I`m going to mention three -- and, you know, today Donald Trump reiterated it again. He added another thing he wants you to add to the hydroxychloroquine. He said, I`m not a doctor, but I have common sense, this is what he is telling people they should take.

Meanwhile, there`s a report in "The Daily Beast," a study that touted this anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, as an effective treatment for the novel coronavirus has drawn new concern from the group that publishes the journal in which the first work appeared. In a statement last week, the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy said the drug in question did not meet its standard but did not go into any details as to why. The American Heart Association has issued warnings about it.

What is the -- would people be endangering themselves by listening to the president and trying this treatment out?

PAREKH: You know, I think hope is good. False hope is something that we can`t really have. And we really need data and evidence and not anecdotes really driving these treatment decisions. I`ve talked to a lot of colleagues on the front line and many health care professionals are giving this drug, but they really don`t know whether it is helping at all and that`s why we need randomized control, clinical trials.

We need to better understand who exactly could be helped with this drug and what phase of their illness, mild, moderate or severe, as well as for what purpose, for treatment, or prevention, what`s called post-exposure prophylaxis. So, there are so many clinical questions that we need to answer here. Hope is fine. We just can`t afford to give the American public false hope.

REID: Yes, absolutely. What needs to be normal is everything about the way this is being responded to by the federal government at the federal level.

Dr. Anand Parekh, thank you so much. Really appreciate you being here tonight. Be safe.

And coming up, a disturbing development in the coronavirus crisis -- thank you -- as early numbers show a disproportionate impact on African-American communities.

Stay right there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These communities where people come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, who are black and brown, these migrant communities, these are the people that are disproportionately affected. They can`t afford to miss a paycheck. They can`t socially distance.



REID: Welcome back.

New data shows that black Americans are dying from coronavirus or COVID-19 in disproportionate numbers. In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, for instance, black Americans make up just 28 percent of the population but account for 73 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.

In Louisiana, black Americans are 32 percent of the state population but account for 70 percent of total deaths. In Illinois and Michigan, black Americans encompass less than 15 percent of their states` population but account for more than 40 percent of COVID-19 related deaths.

And I`m joining now -- joined now by Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association.

And thanks so much for being here, Dr. Harris.

I want to play for you what Dr. Anthony Fauci said about these health disparities as regards to the black community. Take a listen.


FAUCI: We have a particularly difficult problem of the health disparity. We`ve known literally forever that diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma are disproportionately afflicting the minority populations, particularly the African Americans.

Unfortunately, when you look at the predisposing conditions that led to a bad outcome with coronavirus, the things that get people into ICUs and require intubation and death they are those morbidities that are, unfortunately, disproportionately prevalent in the African-American population.


REID: And, Dr. Harris, how much of this is the fact that African Americans tend to come in to this crisis with more preexisting conditions, less access to health care and how much of it is the fact that more African- Americans than white Americans work in jobs where they can`t take a day off or they can`t stay home or they don`t have the option to do the things that help socially distance?

DR. PATRICE HARRIS, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: Joy, it`s good to be with you and actually, it`s both of those. Both of those contribute to the current and troubling numbers that you noted before and there`s one more issue here and that is misinformation.

So, those three -- of course, the already, sort of, baseline health inequities that we`ve seen.

We know that African Americans are disproportionately impacted when it comes to diabetes and high blood pressure.

We know that not everyone has the privilege of working from home, and many of those essential workers are from communities of color. And those still have to go to work and still have to take public transportation and still are exposed.

And finally, misinformation. I`ve said that I had to spend the first two weeks of this pandemic actually not in my role as president of the AMA but as a physician but a family and friend dispelling a myth that African- Americans could not be impacted.

So, I think it`s all three of those factors.

REID: Yes, absolutely. I think until Idris Elba announced that he had tested positive for coronavirus, I was also facing a lot of it people saying, wait, but black people don`t seem to be able to get it. That`s exactly the opposite of true.

You`ve written, the American Medical Association under your leadership has written to the Department of Health and Human Services, and I`ll read a little for the audience. We urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to collect, analyze and make available to the public explicit comprehensive standardized data on race, ethnicity and patients` preferred spoken and written language related to the testing status, hospitalization and mortality associated to the pandemic novel coronavirus.

It`s inconsistent, right? We`re not getting raced-based data from every state. How important would it be and how would it change if we could get that data across the country?

HARRIS: That is -- we are fortunate that we have the data that we have from just a few states that you mentioned and, certainly, that`s not standardized collection.

And it`s not just about collecting the data. It`s also about disseminating the data. For example, I live here in Atlanta. If we know that a certain zip code has a higher percentage of cases, we could make sure that testing -- and again, your previous guest mentioned testing. We have to make sure all types of testing from tests for active disease to the antibody tests and rapid tests are equitably available.

I think that`s something that folks don`t think about, because if you have just one or two testing sites which require a lot of folks to need transportation to get there, lack of access to transportation is one of those social determinants of health.

So we need the data. We need it to be standardized. We need for every state to collect it. We need it to be disseminated and then we can be strategic and target groups or areas, rural versus urban that we need make sure they have the testing and also, access to services, access to health services.

REID: Well, and to that very point, a lot of African Americans and people are surprised half live in the South. What would you say to somebody that lives in one of these states that did not expand Medicaid, does not have insurance and wonders how do I find out if I have it? How do I get tested?

HARRIS: Well, certainly, the testing is free and we need to do a better job of making sure that everyone knows that.

The other issue around Medicaid, we have urged that the AMA that every state should expand Medicaid. We know that so many of our citizens have been able to receive health care due to the expansion of Medicaid. I can tell you as a psychiatrist, I know that so many folks are able to receive mental health services because of the expansion of Medicaid to include substance abuse disorder services.

So, we need to address this on all fronts from testing to care to messaging to support for those essential workers who have to be out there working, delivering food, cooking food for us who have the privilege of staying home.

REID: Indeed. Dr. Patrice Harris, so great to talk to you. I`ve been wanting to talk to you for quite awhile. So, thank you very much for being here tonight. I really appreciate it.

And up next -- thank you -- up next, our moment of grace. We`ll be right back.


REID: Nurse Lorie Mari Kay at St. Mary Hospital in Michigan did something special for colleagues during a shift change. Listen to this.


LORIE MARI KAY, NURSE (singing): I once was lost but now I`m found, was blind but now I see --


REID: Absolutely beautiful.