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coronavirus death toll TRANSCRIPT: 4/21/20, MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Andy Slavitt, Mike DeWine, Bill Kristol, Craig James, Jelani Cobb

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But when Trump stands up there, for example, and he goes, this is going to be gone, it`s just going to disappear one day, epidemiologically, this is not true. That there is no scientist, there is no doctor who believes that is so. So it`s just another example of happy talk to the American people as opposed to the president talking about what`s required.

And lastly, Ari, and I don`t need to go on here, but Steve Mnuchin, all the programs he`s talking about, the money that he`s describing sounds great. But the truth is, the newspapers are filled, local news is filled, small businesses can`t access this money. They can`t get through the bureaucracy. They can`t manage it. It`s being scooped up by bigger businesses. We`ll see the level of waste, fraud and abuse in this program, I suspect, some day. But right now, we see devastation in the American economy with small businesses that won`t come back because these programs are not doing what they`re supposed to do doing.

And so as opposed to the self-congratulations that we see every night, there ought to be honest admissions about what`s working, what`s not working, what needs to be fixed. And we don`t see that. But that`s not the purpose of these. The purpose of these events isn`t to inform the public. It`s a political rally for the president who can`t go do the big MAGA rallies anymore. And the country is subjected to it. But it`s about his self-interest, not the national interest.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Strongly put. I want to play for you Governor Cuomo. Take a listen.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY):  The states are in desperate shape. And everything is being left to the states to do the reopening, reopening, reopening. And then they don`t provide any funding to the state government. So the president seemed very open and understanding of that.


MELBER:  What do you make of these two today, New York, the epicenter of the crisis? They have become, in a way, a contrast in how to lead.

SCHMIDT:  It`s interesting, when you watch Andrew Cuomo`s news conference today, and you really get a sense, when he`s asked a question, well, how are you going to deal with this guy, how are you going to walk in there and talk to him, like he`s trying to feed a tiger or something.

And you hear Andrew Cuomo then respond, saying, you know, everything is a fine edge in politics, with a rise smile on his face. And you really get a sense of how foreign leaders have to prepare to deal with Trump. And we`ve seen the flattery that is expected to be showered on the administration, whether he`s been in London, whether he`s been in France. We`ve seen Justin Trudeau try it.

So Andrew Cuomo, I think, is almost the president of New York in this circumstance. He`s the leader of the governors, somebody from Queens who may be the most able to and translate into something that Trump can understand about what the reality of circumstances is on the ground.

But, again, I think what Andrew Cuomo is pointing out in the states is the administration says, we`ve done more tests than everybody. Well, what does that mean? We`re country of 330 million people. How many tests does the country need to perform on a daily basis in order for the economy to reopen? That`s what matters.

When Donald Trump sits there tonight and he says, we`ve done better than all the other countries, at some point you would hope somebody in the room, in the White House press corps, will say, okay, I`ll take the bait. What do you mean by that, Mr. President? What exactly is it that we`ve done that hasn`t been done in other countries? What are the countries that we`ve done a fundamentally better job of, all of them put together? I mean, all of this --

MELBER:  Well, and to your point, Steve --

SCHMIDT:  -- series of nonsense talking and non sequiturs that doesn`t add up with any actual reality.

MELBER:  Well, to your point, Steve, it`s important that everyone understands the testing, not to settle some score but to make sure people have the facts, because that tells you where you want to go next. By many measurements per capita, the U.S. is dead last in controlling the virus.

We know that because we`re first in total deaths. It didn`t have to automatically be this way. It`s not holding the president to a standard of saying we should have had zero deaths. If saying, we were a place that got hit later, so we were on notice. WHO and others putting out warnings in January. And here we are leading the nation in deaths. New York, if it were a state, I remind viewers, would be -- for an independent state or country, it would be the second highest death toll anywhere in the world. So it`s not great.

Steve, before bringing in the medical experts that I mention as planned, I also want to play another political part which I think is relevant to you. Governor Hogan, who has crossed with the president here and there but is not a liberal, talking about what he had to do to go out and procure his own supplies for his state from South Korea. Take a look.


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD):  Every governor in American has been fighting to get a tests since the beginning of this crisis. And it`s probably been the number one problem in America throughout this entire crisis. The president said that the governors are on their own and they should really focus on getting their own tests. And that`s exactly what we did. His message changed yesterday. I`m not sure why.


MELBER:  Steve?

SCHMIDT:  Well, Republican governor of a Democratic state that I think was re-elected with nearly 70 percent of the vote, and you`re seeing really a flawless leadership performance from the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan. But the point that he`s making here, is that it should not be the responsibility of the state governments to respond to a national crisis on 50 different channels. This is why we have a national government, in the abdication of it.

And now the Trump administration, its allies saying, well, this is decentralization, this is federalism, is nonsense. This is the role of the federal government in a pandemic. The Bush administration was exquisitely prepared for it, as was the Obama administration.

And the truth of the matter is, Ari, as you said a moment ago, over the months in January, President Trump spent a great deal of time praising the Chinese, saying that they were completely on top of this, telling the American people where there were 15 cases that soon there would be none and this would all disappear, nothing that should have happened, when this could have been mitigated early happened, because the president was distracted. He`s indecisive. He`s unprepared. He doesn`t understand how government works.

And this is a reminder, again, when we look at these campaigns, it`s not a sporting event. It`s not a joke. It`s not a reality show. Life and death decisions get made in the high offices that we elect our leaders to serve in for a period of time in this country, life and death. And we`re dealing with the life and death consequences of the bad decision-making in the Trump White House and the Oval Office.

And as a result of that bad decision-making, we see vast human suffering in this country. We see someone who promised to make the country great again. What we see is death. We see suffering. And we see the attendant economic collapse that followed it. And now we see with some of the MAGA governors opening up their states against all the public health advice, will we see waves of disease, more death in those states? And it matters, because it will impede the ability for the national economy to get going again. And the longer we`re in this position, the more it hurts working class people who are being squeezed out of these programs, not in terms of how they`re intended to function but the reality of how they actually do.

MELBER:  Yes, strongly laid out. Stay with me, Steve. I want to bring in Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Dr. Lipi Roy, and Internal Medicine Physician in New York who is one of our Medical Contributors. Good to see you both. Dr. Roy, your views?

DR. LIPI ROY, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTORS:  Hey, Ari, it`s good to be with you again. So a few things that are still deeply concerning to medical and public health professionals, these outbreaks of protests that are happening all over the country, it`s deeply concerning. Because as I`ve stated many times before, this is an infectious pathogen that does not discriminate based on political affiliation or color of skin or age. This is going to affect all people from all walks of life. We`ve already been seeing that, right?

So the concern that we all have on the medical side is that one, two, three weeks from now, we`re going to see -- we anticipate we`re going to see a surge of patients going into the hospitals in these various communities, whether it be Michigan, Mississippi, Texas, wherever. And that`s really concerning. Until we have widespread testing and contact tracing, we just don`t know what the scope of the problem is in terms of who is infected, who is a carrier, who is possibly immune. So that`s what`s concerning.

MELBER:  Let me bring in Andy as well on the medical piece of this. Andy, we try to keep track of everything. One of the ways that this government has run under the president, I used to throw so much out there that people forget to fact check past falsehoods. We try to avoid that error. And so, Andy, I want to put up on the screen here, this malaria-style drug that the president had promoted, he famously said, what do you have to lose.

Well, here is how that`s going. A.P. reporting more deaths, no benefit from this Virginia study. 28 percent who were given it died. 11 percent of those with routine care, by contrast, a lower death rate. It didn`t make a difference in the need for a breathing machine. And, again, this is incremental evidence, this is why you do studies, but according to the readout of one study, it may have damaged other organs.

Andy, given your knowledge of both the way medicine works in the federal government and the reason that there are processes in place, I`m curious if you could walk us through something that some viewers will remember and others may not recall, which is the president went out during this briefing previously and told everyone, yes, try this thing, what have you got to lose.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES:  I`m about to say what you and your viewers might consider to be the most foolish thing you ever heard, which is now would be a wonderful time for the president to show some humility. This is a virus that nobody understands. This is a virus that we`ve never seen before, we have no immunity for. We had literally hundreds of hundreds of papers that are not peer-reviewed. We have no -- we have yet no double blind trial in place. So there`s a lot more that we don`t know than we do know.

In ten years we`ll know a lot about this virus. Maybe in six months, we`ll know a lot about this virus. But the worst thing we could do is have a non- scientific people clutching (ph) it straws, telling people things that they have absolutely no basis in doing. It would be perfectly fine for the president to come out and say, there`s a lot we don`t know, here is all the data we have, we`re going to get the greatest scientists and the greatest minds working on this problem, and I`m going to show my optimism by engaging our country in solving this problem, instead of trying to pass off something that I heard in the back of my head might be good news but I brought no skepticism to.

I don`t think we should let him get away with that. If he does get away with that, I don`t think the public, for their own health, ought to be listening to that.

MELBER:  Right. I mean, get away with it is a question of how this information continues to percolate, because I`m going to play a little more of this, for your reaction.

Steve, the question with any situation like this, whether it`s viral or whether it`s informational, does boil down to inoculation. And it is perhaps a sad observation that as part of the public health strategy of the United States, experts are telling us that people need to have information inoculation from what they hear from that podium, that what you hear from Dr. Fauci is something you can act on and what you hear at times from the president, you have to inoculate against. Steve, take a look at the president being pressed on this.


REPORTER:  I`m wondering if you`re concerned, this V.A. study showed that actually more people died that used the drug that didn`t. And I`m wondering if Governor Cuomo brought you back any results on --

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  No, we didn`t discuss it and I don`t know of the report. Obviously, there have been some very good reports and perhaps this one is not a good report. But we`ll be looking at it. We`ll have comment on this.

REPORTER:  A panel of experts at the NIH is actually now recommending against the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with Z-pack, which is something you`ve recommended.

TRUMP:  Okay. I`m always willing to take a look.


MELBER:  Steve?

SCHMIDT:  Well, exactly. I mean, the first issue is, why is the president of the United States standing behind a podium and giving opinions on what medication to take with regard to a virus that`s a novel coronavirus? It`s extraordinary. It`s the plot out of Contagion with Jude Law, at the Huckster, trying to sell a Forsythia to the people who are dealing with the disease in the fictionalized movie. It`s just outrageous that the president did that.

And now, we have some scientific findings that show that, again, he was trying to survive the moment, trying to deliver happy talk, trying to sustain, I guess, his sense of whether he`s winning or losing that day. We`ve read accounts that his view of the White House and the presidency is that it`s a reality show and each day is a new episode.

Now, Lil John and Meatloaf can be fighting one day and be enemies the next on The Apprentice, but it doesn`t work that way in real life. So there`s an accumulation of all of this that comes together. And so what we see is the most inept response in American history to a life and death crisis by an American leader.

And so every day, the president of the United States gets up there and he misinforms the public. He misinforms the public purposefully. He does it for politics, for finger pointing, the blame gaming, the campaign that`s ahead. We can look forward to a ceaseless string of race-baiting, nationalism, populism, finger-pointing, blame-gaming about all of this.

And this is the warm-up that we see playing out at 6:00 every night by a president who refuses to accept responsibility, to accept culpability at all on anything, in particular this.

But here is the reality. Everything that he said and he did, he did on videotape. And it`s going to be very difficult, I think, for him to walk away from all of the misleading things he said over time as the American people deal with the consequences of all of this.

MELBER:  Well, you know, Steve Schmidt, even bit standard of Steve Schmidt, you`re on a roll. Dr. Roy, you have Steve bringing in Jude Law`s character in Contagion, Meatloaf, and Lil John. To quote Lil John, I would say, I`m putting my hands up for Steve who ties it all together. If this weren`t such serious times, I would say even more about that, but we try to stay as grounded as possible. I`m about to bring in and turn to a governor in our broadcast, our special coverage.

So before I do that, Dr. Roy, what is important in your view for folks to understand about the next week or two-period, as we hear about on the one hand, some flattening, but on the other hand, so many states struggle.

ROY:  First of all, I can`t compete with Steve Schmidt`s knowledge of like a television and film all the way. I`m a big fan. But I just want to do just a quick follow up. Words really matter. So when a person without any medical or scientific training talks casually and recommends casually a medication, it has adverse consequences to people who really listen to him.

Nothing we do in medicine is 100 percent benign. Acetaminophen or commercially known as Tylenol, an over-the-counter medication that people usually take fairly safely, also happens to be the leading cause of acute liver failure in this country. Everything we do in medicine is a tradeoff. So I just want to add that point.

The other key point that we need to really recognized, and one of many lessons we need to learn from this pandemic, is that we need to really invest in public health. The United States, since 2010, has invested $180 billion a year on counterterrorism. In contrast, on pandemic response and infectious disease response, $2 billion. 185 or 180 versus $2 billion.

In contrast, since -- in 2019, Congress has appropriated $685 billion to the Pentagon. CDC got 7. 685 versus $7 billion. That`s telling you where your taxpayer dollars and my taxpayer dollars are going. So these are the questions we need to be asking.

MELBER:  My thanks to Dr. Roy, Andy Slavitt, and Steve Schmidt, each of you. This is our special coverage. We`ve been looking at the coronavirus task force briefing. I am Ari Melber, and we turn now to an interview with one of the governors on the frontlines, Mike DeWine of Ohio. Governor, thanks for joining me.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH):  Good to be with you, thank you.

MELBER:  You`ve outlined starting up parts of your state, life, economy, in early May. What does that look like, what are you getting Ohio ready for?

DEWINCE:  Well, we`re trying to get back. But we`re going to do it very slowly. We`re going to do it very carefully. I think, you know, the important thing is that we can`t go on forever with the economy down as low as it is. We`ve got to get people jobs. But we have to do it in a very rational way.

So one of the things we`ve observed in the last three to four weeks since we`ve only had essential businesses is that many of these essential businesses have done a really bang-up job, they`ve doing a very very good job, they`re taking people`s temperatures when they come in. But they`ve got the protective gear on. They`ve got masks on. They`re doing the right things.

So we`re learning from what they have done, consulting the best experts in regard to that. And so, you know, companies that can fit that criteria in a kind of a slow rollout, we`re going to allow them to come back.

But at the same time, we`re really gearing up. We`re doing something similar to what you`re seeing in Massachusetts. We`re working with the partners in health. And, really, in the tracing, and really being aggressive about this.

We`ve also -- I named a group today to help us continue to grow our testing. I asked two of our former governors to be directly involved in that. We have got good news today from the FDA as far as the reagents, reagent or lack thereof. It`s been something that slowed us down in our major health labs throughout the State of Ohio.

So we think all those things coming together, you know, will, in fact, where we`ve got to be very aggressive in regard to the testing, we`ve got to up that. And we`ve got to do the tracing and we`ve got to do the reaching out to people, and kind of blocking and tackling.

And, you know, we don`t want to be in a position where we`re sitting here just, you know, accepting this. We have got to be aggressive about it. And I`m much more comfortable being on the offense than on defense. So, we`re going to be doing that.

MELBER:  What are the types of businesses that, in your view, are the first to reopen?

And how does your plan compare to those federal guidelines, which were released in one of these task force briefings last week? They`re optional. There`s been a lot of talk about feds vs. states. Would you describe your plan as matching it, off the shelf, or you have got your own innovations?

DEWINE:  Well, it`s a little of each, I think.

One of the things the president said is that he recognized that the states are unique, they`re different. So, this is -- we`re describing this as an Ohio plan for Ohioans.

Every state is in a different position. I looked at our numbers today in regard to the hospital admissions, you know, and compared that to the five- day roll, five-day average. We`re up a little bit today.

But, basically, we have pretty much flattened the curve, and we`re almost at a -- looks to be at a plateau. So we`re not going down. That`s what we want. But we have reached that plateau.

So we`re designing -- you asked about what companies. We`re going to look at some companies to start off with, frankly, that are similar to the ones that we deemed essential. You know, their ability to protect their employees is pretty much the same and protect, in some cases, of their retail customers.

So, that`s the real key. How well can they protect their employees? How well can they protect, if they are retail, customers? We`re going to set the standards.


DEWINE:  We`re going to be good standards, tough standards, but things that they can do.

And we`re going to take one step at a time, and we`re going to watch our numbers.


And, Governor, I want to ask you about elections, not politics, but actual elections. It may seem like a long time ago to folks, but you led in your state basically what you called the delay of your state`s Ohio primary. That was March 17.

Whatever that looked like in the days leading into that -- and maybe you could tell us about it -- obviously, now, things are so much more severe. All sort of things have been pushed off.

But you can`t really delay a general election, can you? And that goes above any state`s head anyway. So, I`m curious, one, do you feel that history proved you right on that? And, two, how do you approach November, running such a key state?

I mean, we all know. Everyone who watches the news knows Ohio is one of those states, like Florida, that may decide everything. How do you look ahead to being responsibly able to conduct a November election that can`t be delayed?

DEWINE:  Well, good question.

As far as looking back, I think it was clearly the right decision for us to make. We are actually still in that election. People are voting absentee. They have got another week to go, and then it will be over with.

But Ohio`s had long experience in doing pretty extended absentee balloting, basically for four weeks. We always allow people to do that. And they can do it for any reason they want to, just because they want an absentee ballot.

So, we know how to do those things.

As far as November, I think it`s just too early to tell exactly where we`re going to be. I believe that we can conduct a fair election, no matter what the circumstances are. I think people in this country can do it state by state, and that will happen.

But I think it`s much too early to be, frankly, speculating, are we not going to be able to do in-person voting? In Ohio, what we will do is what we have been doing. And that is about a month of absentee balloting. Then you actually hold the election itself on a day when people can walk in and vote.

I mean, I made my decision about our primary because it was a question of safety; 35,000 poll workers, many of them older Ohioans, expose them for 13, 14 hours just made really no sense.

We also were seeing, frankly, that it just really had dawned on people a couple of days before that, that this was not safe. And we were -- I remember talking to a couple in their late 70s. And they said, look, we decided yesterday -- that was Sunday -- they said, we decided on Sunday we`re not going to vote, it`s just too dangerous.

And so that was not right. People should not have to choose between their safety and their constitutional rights. And so I think it was clearly the right thing for us to do.

I think it -- you know, I think it stopped a lot of the spread. I think it was clearly the right thing to do.

MELBER:  Governor Mike DeWine, I appreciate you making time for us during this busy period, sir.

DEWINE:  Good to be with you. Thank you very much.

MELBER:  Thank you.

We have been listening here in that interview to one of the governors of one of the largest states in the country.

Now we turn briefly to listen in to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is holding a live briefing right now.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY):  .. actually decide who does what.

And that`s what we did this afternoon. We agreed that a state government, this state government, should be responsible for managing the actual tests in their own laboratories. We have about 300 laboratories in the state of New York. We regulate those laboratories.

It`s up to a state to determine how many tests, where those tests should be done, New York City vs. Buffalo vs. Long Island, et cetera. The staff to do those tests, how often you do the tests, those should all be state decisions and state responsibilities.

The antibody test, which is one of the tests, how do you use those, when, that should all be up to the states. The tracing function, that is, the function after testing that actually traces people who are positive, who did they come in contact with to isolate them, that`s all the state`s responsibility.

The problem with testing and bringing tests up to scale has been the national manufacturers of the equipment who make the testing kits that they have to send to the state labs, so the state labs can actually perform them, those are done by national manufacturers.

And the national manufacturers have said they have a problem with the supply chain to quickly ramp up those tests. They need swabs, they need vials, and they need chemicals -- quote, unquote -- "reagents."

That is where the federal government can help. States cannot do international supply chains. I guess they could, but not in this time frame, and that`s not what we do. And you shouldn`t have 50 states competing to do international supply chains.

One of my colleagues, Governor Hogan, the chairman of the National Governors Association, who is the governor of Maryland, Republican, good man, he was bringing tests in from South Korea, very creative and proactive on his part. But that`s not what states normally do.

So let the federal government take responsibility for that federal supply chain, for the national manufacturers. And that`s what we agreed in this meeting.

That is an intelligent division of labor, in my opinion. Let each level of government do what it does best. And it ends this back and forth, what do the states do, what does Washington do, who`s responsible, et cetera.

To quantify that situation, in the state of New York, we now do on average of about 20,000 tests per day. Our goal, which is very aggressive and ambitious, but set it high and then try, our goal is to double the 20,000 to get to 40,000 tests per day.

We would need several weeks to ramp up to that, but it is a very aggressive goal. That is our current system at maximum. That`s our current laboratory system, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

The maximum our system as it exists can do is that number. So that`s our goal. And it was a very productive conversation. And, again, that is the biggest single task we have to do that is identifiable from today. And it ends the whole back and forth and the finger-pointing in a very fair and smart way.

It`s a smart resolution. So, I feel very good about that. And if we could double our tests, that would be a home run. I mean, that is a really, really big deal.

We also talked about funding to the states. The legislation that the Congress passed did not have funding for the states. It passed additional money for small business, and that`s great, and we need that. And that`s a positive, but it did not fund state governments, which, to me, is just a -- a mistake, frankly.

MELBER:  We have been listening in to a live briefing by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

We turn now to Dr. Natalie Azar, a rheumatologist and NBC medical analyst, and Bill Kristol, the founding director of Defending Democracy Together.

Good to see you both.

Doctor, when you see the back-and-forth between Governor Cuomo and President Trump today, and you see this sort of extended conversation about what states are doing, what do you think is important for everyone to keep in mind medically?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, yes, Ari, look, there`s the mechanics to having this done, and then there`s the science behind it.

So I think what Governor Cuomo is talking about, increasing testing from 20,000 to 40,000, is still referring to the diagnostic tests, which is important. This is -- you know, there was a report last week from Harvard researchers that said that, in order to be able to reopen the economy, we would need to increase testing by two- or three-fold.

So, right now, we`re doing about 150,000 tests per day. We need to ramp that up to 500,000 to 700,000 a day. So, I certainly like to hear that, that he thinks he`s able to do that.

And I also like the breakdown of the mechanics, the state is responsible for this, the federal government is responsible for the supply chain. All those moving pieces need to work, and they need to work well together.

The problem or the concern that I have still, medically speaking, is in regard to antibody tests.


AZAR:  Oh, my God, my dog. I`m sorry.



MELBER:  What kind of dog is it? Just factually, I need to know. Can we see it?

AZAR:  Literally, I have been doing this for weeks now. This is the first time this has happened.

MELBER:  Let`s see it.

AZAR:  A labradoodle.

MELBER:  Let`s see. Do we -- do you have her? Do you have the labra -- you have the...

AZAR:  He has a very active social media account. You can find him there.

MELBER:  Let me -- Doctor, Doctor, it`s a long way from plush toy to labradoodle. We don`t know.


MELBER:  I just want viewers to understand, journalistically, we don`t know whether it`s really a dog. It could be a robot sounding like a dog, until we see it.

AZAR:  Anyway, I`m not even going to go there. Yes, you are correct.


MELBER:  And you know what Bill Kristol is going to say, Doctor?

AZAR:  What?

BILL KRISTOL, FORMER EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD":  I`m not going there either, yes.


MELBER:  Bill Kristol, he`s going to say, who let the dogs out, because he`s always doing that.


MELBER:  He`s always trying to squeeze in some lyrical reference.

It`s -- it`s enough.

AZAR:  Some lyrical reference.

MELBER:  Go ahead, Doctor.




AZAR:  So, look, I -- the concern that I have here is again about the antibody testing.

And the reason is this. In January and February, there was a lot of criticism of the administration because we weren`t getting the diagnostic tests rolled out quickly enough. We were saying, they`re too slow, they`re too rigid.

Well, Dr. Hahn today did say that, in fact, they did loosen their regulation a little bit, gave manufacturers and developers a little bit more flexibility. And so now we have over a hundred different developers that have -- you know, that have developed an antibody test.

But only four have been FDA-approved. So my concern is that we are -- and, by the way, these faster point-of-care tests, the ones that are being done or being offered in a doctor`s office, are not thought to be nearly as reliable as the ones that are laboratory-based or hospital-based.

So the concern here is that we have sacrificed quality for this convenience, for having these quick tests. So, again, from Governor Cuomo and his conversation with the president today, great, I`m glad they worked that all out, but I`m still, you know, concerned about the quality and the validity of the antibody tests themselves.


MELBER:  Bill Kristol, we haven`t spoken recently, since a lot of stuff has happened. But you were someone who warned before President Trump`s election that this was a person who, among other things, wouldn`t really be able to deal well, competently, with a crisis, with keeping America safe, whether that was in foreign policy, or this kind of unpredictable crisis.

I`m just curious, big picture, because Steve Schmidt was discussing this at the top of the hour, what you think. Here we are weeks into this one. What do you think this reveals about the president and your warnings, your concern?

KRISTOL:  I think he`s done a very bad job, and I think it`s very bad for the country. And I think we`re paying a terrible price.

I mean, the sophisticated Trump defenders would always say, look, he will say some things you don`t like, he`s vulgar, he`s a bit of a demagogue, but, at the end of the day, he`s a kind of decisive guy. He will shake things up. He will make the government work.

You won`t always like it, Bill, but, on the big things, he will be going in the right direction.

Here was the big challenge. Right? And the government could have used some shaking up. The CDC didn`t cover itself with glory, to say the least, from late January through February. And the FDA made some mistakes too.

And we had a president who was utterly passive, did nothing, rhetorically led the country in the wrong direction, made it much harder for other people to do the right thing. I think we shouldn`t underestimate how much damage that did.

We had a whole lost month of February, which didn`t have to be lost. That - - there were plenty of warnings at the beginning of February, and a lost, basically, first two weeks of March.

And even now, Governor Cuomo has to go and plead and be nice and struggle to get even the most minimal kind of cooperation that should be just routine in a crisis like this.

So, forget about Trump`s -- all the stuff he says that people like me don`t like and think does damage. His actual performance has been a terrible failure. And now he`s encouraging governors to open up earlier than it seems prudent.

He`s generally making it very hard -- and I`ll make this final point. He`s making very hard to have an honest and candid conversation about where we are.

MELBER:  Right.

KRISTOL:  We have a tough year, at least, ahead.

MELBER:  Well, and on that...

KRISTOL:  Redfield, the CDC director, said this earlier, right?


KRISTOL:  We`re going to have a flu season. We`re going to -- the economy`s not going to come back in a month or two months. People shouldn`t kid themselves about that. We have a really tough, kind of bad stretch to get through here.

We need leaders who say, this is going to be tough, but we`re a tough country, we can make it.

Instead, Trump makes it extremely hard to say that.

MELBER:  Well, Bill, on that very point, I`m also curious what you think about Donald Trump`s illogical policy messaging this week that things are - - quote, unquote -- "so good," you need to expedite liberating states to reopen?

That`s how, allegedly, good things are getting. But things are so bad that now, out of the blue, all of a sudden, is the time to shut down all migration, regardless of any medical, diagnostic-type analysis of where it`s coming from.


I mean, he just dumbs everything down. I mean, leaving aside the distasteful parts of it -- and those are really damaging too, the demagoguery, the incitement of nativism and discrimination and so forth -- I mean, just as a -- he`s making our public discourse extremely stupid.

I mean, we`re not having a serious -- and it`s hard for even people who are trying to be serious. They spend so much their time correcting Trump and saying, well, don`t -- ignore that thing Trump said.

Poor Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx have to kind of dance around to try to convey a sensible message. Governors have to be nice to Trump. Joe Biden doesn`t want to look too political, but he also has to criticize Trump.

I mean, we just have no serious leadership. The immigration thing is a perfectly good instance of that, where he just pulled that out because I take it his own polls showed that he wasn`t doing very well, people weren`t really buying into his message that everything was going to be fine as soon as these recalcitrant public health types got overridden and we opened everything up again.

And so now let`s just blame immigration for a while. And so he will keep on doing this. It`s a test, in my view, really is a test of the American people, ultimately.

MELBER:  Right.

KRISTOL:  It doesn`t matter, all this talk about the media should be meaner to him or they shouldn`t show the press conferences.

The American -- the people who vote are grownups. By definition, they`re 18 and up. Do they have the seriousness, I mean, to judge his performance in a grownup way for what he has done and hasn`t done? Or are they going to get distracted by all these shiny objects that Trump is pretty good at throwing out?

And he`s certainly distracted people in the past. But it`s one thing to distract people when the economy`s pretty good, and unemployment is low, and there`s no obvious foreign policy disaster, and maybe people will just decide they can ignore a lot of stuff.

Here, I think you see why presidential leadership matters.

MELBER:  Yes, all really important points from someone who has been quite consistent in dealing with that aspect of this.

Our thanks to Bill Kristol.

Dr. Natalie, I`d like you to stick around, as we may come back to you when we have a special report coming up on Dr. Fauci in terms of rays of hope.

I want to tell everyone at home you`re watching Ari Melber here anchoring special coronavirus coverage.

We have a lot more, including, as well, the chief of police of Detroit and Jelani Cobb for a special discussion, when we come back.



GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN:  -- father who has spent 18 years on the front line as a Detroit firefighter, her mother was a Detroit police officer for 25 years, they`ve been on the front line and served with honor and integrity. And they did not deserve to lose their child to this virus. Nobody does.


MELBER:  That was the governor of Michigan discussing how this coronavirus has now claimed one of its youngest victims over this past weekend. Five- year-old Skylar Herbert, the first child in Michigan to die from COVID-19 complications. This tragedy affecting the entire community.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You miss everything, just everything about her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The 5-year-old who loved stuffed animals and one day wanted to be a pediatric dentist, spent nearly two weeks on a ventilator. She developed a rare form of meningitis, a complication of COVID, before dying on Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  At first we got the reading that this was strep throat, you know. We -- virus, you know, the COVID virus never entered our minds until she got tested.


MELBER:  Skylar`s mom is an officer with the Detroit police department and that is a place that had also been especially hard-hit.

Let me giving you the basics. Out of the personnel staff of 2,800, 273 members of the force testing positive. Over a thousand are quarantined at various points. In Michigan overall, African-Americans make up 40 percent of COVID deaths despite being 14 percent or so of the population.

We`re joined now by Detroit Police Chief James Craig. You should note, he also tested positive for the virus in March.

Chief, thanks for joining us. This is hitting you, your force, your community. How are you all doing, considering?

CHIEF JAMES CRAIG, DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT:  You know what, as relates to me, I`m doing much better, as you pointed out at the beginning of this segment, tragic loss of Skylar. Certainly her mom and dad, you know, Detroit`s finest, out serving and protecting. But you know, they were battling this vicious disease as well while caring for their daughter.

So, it`s a tragedy. I was just reflecting on how many members of this department I`ve had to call over the last 72 hours because they lost a loved one, parents, grandparents, to COVID. Not to mention the many officers who have been ill in the hospitals, or at home, fighting to recover from this deadly disease. So, it`s been a very challenging journey.

But we`re moving in the right direction. In fact one of the things that is some good news, I have to applaud Mayor Mike Duggan for really going out and getting the rapid testing here in Detroit initially for first responders. There was a point when we had in excess of 5, 600 people quarantined. Today, 892 have been restored because of that rapid testing.

I mean, even when I was cleared, I went in, got tested, and within 10, 15 minutes, I was negative. That`s the great news.

When I got tested with a positive finding, it took 24 hours. So it`s been a journey. But I`ve really got to take my hat off to these brave men and women who go out each and every day to fight this unknown enemy.


MELBER:  People are finding it -- sir, go ahead, sorry.

CRAIG:  No, no, go ahead. I`m good.

MELBER:  You know, where I come from, when someone says "believe me," you want to hear what they`re about to say.

CRAIG:  Believe me --

  MELBER:  Believe me, yes, sir.

CRAIG:  Believe me, when I think about my own career, now 43 years, lion`s share of my career was in Los Angeles, and it`s no secret, earthquakes, civil unrest following Rodney King, just to name a few, and then having served as police chief in the cities of Portland, Maine, and Cincinnati, Ohio, certainly tragedy is certainly not new to me.

I talked to my colleagues across the country, they`ll tell, none of us have ever dealt with this kind of enemy. In fact, an enemy who has attacked those on the front line -- very different kind of fight.

MELBER:  That makes a lot of sense. And you are in a business where you face down all kinds of danger but it`s a reminder to us of what we`re dealing with.

Stay with me, I want to also bring in as promised, Jelani Cobb, who`s a Columbia University professor. He writes for "The New Yorker" magazine and someone we call on often on issues of civil rights and race in America.

And there`s many aspects of this story as you both know, and we live in a country right now that has far more African-Americans in leadership positions, which, of course, includes Chief Craig, it includes the surgeon general, it includes the last president. And yet, whatever those strides may bring, we are dealing with a health care crisis that`s an economic crisis that is exacter exacerbating racial and economic disparities that exist and that both of you have worked on.

I want to play a little bit from the surgeon general on this and get your responses on that racial disparity. Take a listen.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL:  We know that blacks are more likely to have diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and I shared myself personally that I have high blood pressure, that I have heart disease and spent a week in the ICU due to a heart condition, that I actually had asthma and I`m pre-diabetic. And so, I represent that legacy of growing up poor in black America, and I and many other black Americans are at higher risk for COVID.


MELBER:  Jelani?

JELANI COBB, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR:  Yes, I mean, this is very difficult, Ari. It`s very difficult. It`s difficult to talk about this in a detached and analytical way, because when we had this conversation about race in this country, it`s so quickly going to grievances or, you know, personal perspectives or why don`t we spend more time at each other`s homes and that kind of very superficial analysis of what is a really deeply- rooted and entrenched problem in America.

So when we talk about race, the shorthand is that we`re talking about probabilities. What are the possibilities of you being unemployed? What are the probabilities of you living in substandard housing? What are the probabilities of you making a lower wage than someone of similar qualifications would be making.

Now, the cumulative effect is seen in the most fundamental disparity, which is our life expectancies, the most basic thing when you think about in society, how long we will be on this planet. And what the coronavirus did was reveal something we already knew. For those of White House were honest about this conversation, those who were actually looking at what`s going on in this country, it is nothing, coronavirus revealed nothing to us other than the kind of cruel, everyday frequency of the injust and unequal and discriminatory legacy, the policies and the histories in this country that we now see having a mathematical face put to them.


MELBER:  Jelani, let me jump in and say, let me put on the screen African- American COVID cases nationwide, for those watching and say, OK, what are we talking about here, basically almost triple for African-Americans as a percent of the population, Jelani. This goes to something you`ve written a lot about, the notion that this is discussing something that`s past and over, the question that some people ask, how long are we going to discuss what`s over?

This graph is now. The story we just told is now. This disparity is now, Jelani.

COBB:  Right. And the other thing to add to that, people say, what about heart disease and diabetes, maybe this is something genetic or something ancestral with African-Americans. No, it`s that people live in food deserts. They live in places where it`s difficult to get access to good, healthy food, or fresh vegetables, and those kind of things, but less likely to have gyms and fitness centers in their communities. Like access to the things we know make interventions in how people`s lives turn out.


COBB:  And so, it`s frustrating and heartbreaking. And it`s -- as a father, my heart goes out to Skylar`s -- little Skylar`s parents and to think that this is being replicated in families across this country is just soul- crushing.

MELBER:  Yes. Yes. It`s a lot. We wanted to put aside some time for this, I appreciate both of you making the time. We`re going to continue to cover these stories in addition to all the other urgent things as America and the world goes through this crisis together.

Jelani Cobb and Chief Craig, thanks to both of you.

CRAIG:  Thank you.

COBB:  Thank you.

MELBER:  We have one break. When we come back, something very special we`ve been working on and something hopeful. Why so many for so long have been counting on Dr. Fauci. We`ll show that when we come back.



CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN/TV HOST:  Dr. Anthony Fauci is our country`s top infectious disease doctor.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The one and only Dr. Anthony Fauci.

OLIVER:  He`s been a rare source of clarity in the Trump administration`s response.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Dr. Fauci is a truth teller. He`s science, knowledge, evidence, data, and that`s what we have to have if we`re going to have a cure.


MELBER:  Dr. Anthony Fauci has emerged as one doctor that just about everyone in America knows, a trusted scientific expert during this pandemic. Also, a glaring contrast to a president who has fomented misinformation at this serious time.

Look at the latest numbers that show 36 percent of Americans trust what the president says while almost double, a full 60 percent prefer to trust Fauci.

Now, this doctor is not the only medical expert on the task force, not only the veteran in public service in the picture. So it`s not exactly just automatic that any doctor could stand so tall above the administration that he serves in.

But Fauci has been at this a long time. Appointed in 1984 to run the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the same post he holds now. And he was accustomed to leadership roles before that. He was captain right here of his high school basketball team. And he was the academic leader of his peers when he finished first in his class, right there, at Cornell Medical School.

Fauci also stepped into the lead professionally when working at the NIH in the early `80s, taking on what was then a strange new disease called AIDS.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE:  I`m working directly on AIDS, both clinically and from a basic science standpoint. What I would like to do this evening is review for you some of the most recent advances in AIDS, as well as provide for you a background for understanding how we got to where we are today in our understanding of AIDS.


MELBER:  That`s old school Fauci right. And his empirical no-nonsense approach, he built trust across party outlines. He was an advisor to the presidents in both parties. He worked to combat virtually every big outbreak this country has faced for decades.

And right now, at a time when many are asking why weren`t we more prepared, why didn`t we save lives and money investing in detection and testing earlier, instead of getting hit like this and watching so many other people die? It`s worth noting that part of the answer resides in how the federal government handles science, how it handles empirical information, which is something Dr. Fauci has helped to provide in many administrations.

Here he was warning about SARS in 2003.


SARS:  When you have a respiratory illness that can be spread from person to person, and you have something that`s global, and you have jet travel, nowhere in the world is completely safe when there`s an epidemic raging in one part of the world. And since that`s going on in China, we need to continue to be very vigilant.


MELBER:  A risk in China means we have to be vigilant here. Sound familiar? And look, we went over the archive. Beyond the real time warnings of those emerging threats, Fauci is also part of a group of experts who publicly warned about the signs that specifically a flu-like pandemic could become the big one, which is similar to what coronavirus has become. Here he was in 2005.


FAUCI:  Right now, and we all admit that, right now, if we had an explosion of H5N1, we would not be prepared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you see this whole business with the H5N1 virus as an exercise to try and improve our capabilities of fighting off a pandemic?

FAUCI:  Well, I don`t see it as an exercise, because it could be the big one. It could be. And if it is, our rushing around, doing what we need to do, pushing the envelope is not for naught or in vain.


MELBER:  Fauci`s clarity, his honesty and his scientific expertise continue to fortify his reputation. In fact, in any evidence-based conversation, that kind of approach made him the authority to cite, which leads me to the next thing, how one Republican candidate cited Fauci in a presidential debate, while over the years, other presidents have touted him with tributes and even ultimately the Medical of Freedom.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Tony and his team stepped up and you were ready. Tony and I were fondly reminiscing about SARS and H1N1. That`s what these guys do for fun. And we were lucky with H1N1 that it did not prove to be more deadly.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT:  I think that Dr. Fauci, probably never heard of him, you did, Anne heard of him, he`s a very fine research, top doctor at the National Institute of Health, working hard, doing something about research on this disease of AIDS.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Those who know Tony do admit one flew, sometimes he forgets to stop working. He regularly puts in 80-hour weeks. And from time to time, he`s even found notes on his windshield left by co- workers that say things like, go home, you`re making me feel guilty.


MELBER:  There is value in celebrating hard work, hard work in public service, and empirical honesty. He`s been quite consistent over the decades in his scientific approach, as well as the last thing we want to show you, his faith in the human spirit.


FAUCI:  Hopefully, our recent advances of being able to isolate, identify, and characterize the agent, together with the advances and understanding the natural history and pathophysiology of this disease will allow us, over the next year, to come back to you and tell you that we now not only have hope and hypothesis, but we have a real prevention and indeed a real cure. Thank you.



MELBER: We now have hope. And hope for a cure. Those were Dr. Fauci`s words. They resonate today. They`re our last words in tonight`s broadcast.

Keep it right here for Chris Hayes.