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Trump Admin. TRANSCRIPT: 4/29/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Dara Kass, Val Demings, Marc Perrone

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I hope you join us that is tomorrow and Friday if you want to see 50 here with on THE BEAT with Ari Melber, 6 p.m. Eastern week nights. And keep it right here on MSNBC.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in New York.

As states begin to lay out their plans to begin to reopen parts of their economies. There is more uncertainty about testing, specifically how much of it in the United States needs to be doing and how much the United States will have the capacity to do. At this hour, there are more than 1 million confirmed cases of the virus in this country. And more than 60,000 Americans have died.

At the White House today President Trump seemed to address the testing question differently than he did yesterday.


REPORTER: You are saying you are confident you can surpass 5 million tests per day? Is that --

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, we`re going to be there very soon. If you look at the numbers, it could be that we`re getting very close.

REPORTER: You were asked about it and you said we will be there.

TRUMP: And they said 5 million? Well, we will be there. But I didn`t say it. I mean, I didn`t say it. But somebody came out with a report saying 5 million. It sounds like a lot. And sure it would be nice. And we will be there. But, again, we didn`t say it. Who said it is a report.

Oh, I heard the 5 million is totally unnecessary. Now, that doesn`t mean we are not going to hit it pretty easily. But, again, I think it`s a media trap.


KORNACKI: And on Tuesday, Admiral Brett Giroir, who runs the task force testing program told the Time Magazine this, quote, there is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet or any other planet that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even five million tests a day.

Concern about the demand for testing comes amid one of the starkest pictures to emerge, the economic devastation from this pandemic. The commerce department announce today that the nation`s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced shrank 4.8 percent in the first quarter of this year. That is the worse contraction since the height of the 2008 financial crisis. And a much bigger drop is expected during the second quarter, which is underway now, in which lasts until the end of June.

Today, the White House announced plans to allow the federal 30-day social distancing guidelines to expire tomorrow, saying that the onus is now on individual states and their governors to craft their own guidelines. New York Times, Chief White House Correspondent, Peter Baker writes this, quote, with more and more states ready resume some semblance of normal life, the messages from Mr. Trump and his administration at Times have sounded contradictory and confusing. The president is anxious to get the stalled economy running again as the election grows nearer, and he has encouraged protests against restrictions in some states even as parts of his own government counsel caution for fear of rushing into a second wave of the disease.

The president and Anthony Fauci also spoke differently about the prospects for the next several months.


TRUMP: Now that our experts believe the worst days of the pandemic are behind us, Americans are looking forward to the safe and rapid reopening of our country.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If we are unsuccessful or prematurely try to open up and we have additional outbreaks that are out of control, it could be much more than that. It could be a rebound to get us right back in the same boat that we were in a few weeks ago.

TRUMP: And this is going to go away. And whether it comes back in a modified form in the fall, we`ll be able to handle it. We`ll be able to put out spurts.

FAUCI: It`s not going to peter out by itself because it`s all over the world.

So next fall or next winter, it`s not going to be a miracle where all of a sudden we wake up and it is gone.


KORNACKI: The president`s most recent statement on testing came just over an hour ago.


TRUMP: Over the next coming weeks, you will see some astonishing numbers. I don`t know that all of that`s even necessary. You have some governors that love the tests. You have others that like doing it in a different way, an old-fashioned way with some testing. But we`re going maximum testing.


KORNACKI: But what will ultimately make all the difference when it comes to controlling this virus and restoring American life to what it was is treatment, drugs to fight off the coronavirus or a vaccine to prevent it.

And on that critical front, there was an encouraging announcement today from Dr. Fauci. Results from a clinical trial show that the drug, remdesivir has a, quote, clear-cut effect and diminishing the time it takes to recover from coronavirus.


FAUCI: What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.

Looking forward, this is very optimistic.

We think it is really opening the door to the fact that we now have the capability of treating. And I can guarantee you, as more people, more companies, more investigators get involved, it`s going to get better and better.


KORNACKI: And for more, I`m joined by Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, Dr. Dara Kass, Yahoo News Medical Contributor and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times. Thank you for being with us.

Well, Doctor, let me start with you, because it`s not every day we hear truly encouraging news coming out of Dr. Fauci`s mouth. But we did today on the subject of a potential treatment for this, this drug, remdesivir. And this is something, I think, that`s a drug that`s new to a lot of folks. Tell us what this drug is, what it`s apparently doing and what this could mean.

DR. DARA KASS, MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR, YAHOO NEWS: So I think that there is a lot of drugs that we are trying to use to address the virus and how it affects the body. And a lot of the patients that are getting these experimental treatments are getting it when they are hospitalized and very, very sick.

What they showed today was that this medication, which affects how the virus replicates, actually can shorten the duration of time you`re in the hospital. And that was difference statistically significant as per the press release from the company.

What we really need to know is that these are critically ill and hospitalized patients who are seeing a shorter duration of hospitalization. But it`s still late in the course of disease. So I think that it`s encouraging that anything can shorten the course of hospitalization, there are real economic and human healthcare impacts for that. But I would say we are a far cry from declaring victory against this virus from a medication standpoint.

KORNACKI: And just to follow up on that, certainly no one is to declare victory here from this. But what Dr. Fauci seemed to say in that clip was basically this proves the possibility. This proves the possibility of tackling this with medicine. If you have established that you can come up with some kind of a treatment, it`s not universally effective on this but it can have some effect. What does that mean in terms of what the near term future might look like in developing treatments?

KASS: So, again, it`s still very early and this is not a double blind peer reviewed trial. This is a press release from the organization that developed the drug. But what it`s saying is that there are encouraging developments in treating the virus when it gets into somebody`s body and starts making them very, very sick. We need more of those treatments as we go towards a vaccine and we also need to continue to make sure that people don`t get infected in the first place, which is why continuing to do the social distancing and keeping sure that we have the testing is also critically important at this point as well.

KORNACKI: All right. So, remdesivir, the news today, is on the treatment front. There`s also this question of the vaccine on that front. Bloomberg reports that, quote, the Trump administration is organizing a Manhattan Project-style effort called Operation Warp Speed to drastically cut the time needed to develop a coronavirus vaccine with the goal of making enough doses for most Americans by year`s end.

There is no precedent for such a rapid development of a vaccine. This comes as various pharmaceutical groups have said this week that they are pushing for a vaccine to be available by the fall.

Congresswoman, let me ask you about that, about the potential federal role in developing a vaccine. What this Bloomberg report is saying about the Trump administration potentially prioritizing this, do you know anything about it? And what role should the federal government be doing when it comes to a potentially vaccine?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Well, Steve, it`s great to be with you. Let me say this. The news from Dr. Fauci is certainly exciting. We know that a vaccine is really the ultimate answer to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, our role is to make sure that whatever we roll out, that information is factual, that it has been tested, that it has been approved in terms of safety and other reasons. And we have to proceed with -- very cautiously and be, as they say, cautiously optimistic.

Our role is to also make sure that we continue to stay focused on developing additional testing, particularly in those areas that have been hit the hardest and those areas and those areas and that`s black and brown communities where we have seen an unbelievable number of those testing positive and make sure that we, from a federal level, have the resources and the coordination that we need to effectively deal with this crisis so we can reopen in a strategic, timely, but very safe way.

KORNACKI: Peter Baker, you wrote about the messages the White House, the messages the president has been sending when it comes to states and beginning the process of reopening. You have -- we said the administration is saying, the president is saying they are not going to extend those federal guidelines, putting the onus on the states.

You also, as you noted in your piece, had the president last week castigating the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, for Trump saying opening too soon though. Is there tonight a clear message coming from this White House to the states about how they should be proceeding?

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, not really, but you did hear today a president who was much more leaning in the, we`re over this, message, we are past this, or we are moving past this. He is talking about traveling again. He is talking about football games in the fall, perhaps. You know, the other day, he talked to governors about maybe reopening schools. Nobody actually seems to be following his lead at least this semester. The question is now the fall.

So to listen to him today, I think, was to hear a president who thinks they are past the worst and that the states, as they begin to reopen them, are going to move the economy back out, moving forward again, get people back into work even with precautions and conditions and so forth that the doctors and other health experts would like them to use.

You heard him say, for instance, he is going to travel himself next week. This would be basically the first time in more than six weeks I think other than a trip down to Norfolk that he would leave the White House. He is planning to go to Arizona and he is going to go to Ohio. He sounds like he`s got a little bit of cabin fever like a lot of Americans.

But the question is whether or not he and Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and some of these other public experts are on the same page. When you listen to them, you hear a lot more cautionary tales, as you played that clip from Dr. Fauci. Maybe they don`t see this as being over. They see this as being one step and making progress but with a lot of pain possibly still ahead.

We had 60,000 people today who reached that landmark of deaths. That tops the Vietnam War in just eight weeks. So it`s hard to be too positive in the midst of that, but the president is trying to put the best light on it.

KORNACKI: There`s also a new poll out from Politico and Morning Consult that shows that almost 3/4 of registered voter, 73 percent, say that Americans should social distance for as long as needed even if it means continued damage to the economy. Only 15 percent said Americans should stop social distancing in order to stimulate the economy even if that would mean increasing the spread of the coronavirus.

Another poll. This coming from NPR and PBS NewsHour/Marist shows that without testing, a large percentage of registered voters say it`s a bad idea to return to normal life. Two-thirds say it is a bad idea to return to work. More than 80 percent say it`s a bad idea to return to school, attend sporting events in large groups and eat in restaurants.

Congresswoman, we are talking about the conditions under which states could begin the reopening process. Your state, Florida, your governor, Governor DeSantis, today announced what he calls phase one of reopening will begin next week in all of Florida except for those three counties in Southeast Florida. This is Miami-Dade, Broward. and Palm Beach. We were talking about this a bit yesterday. 60 percent of the deaths in Florida are in those three counties.

So the governor says next week that phase one will start in every county except those three. Phase one means six feet of distance for outdoor dining, restaurants can operate at a maximum of 25 percent capacity for indoor seating, retail stores can reopen at 25 percent capacity, elective surgeries can begin again in all of the counties in the state except those three. Are you on board with that plan?

DEMINGS: Steve, let me tell you we are all anxious for our businesses to reopen. We know that everybody is hurting, not just here in Florida, but across the nation. But the governor`s primary responsibility is the safety and security of Floridians. And so we are not ready.

On March 1st, Florida`s surgeon general declared a public health emergency. Yet it wasn`t until April 3rd that Governor DeSantis issued a stay at home order, which put us behind the 8 ball, if you will, in terms of our response.

I`m sure you and others saw during spring break, our beaches were wide open and young people were partying as much as they wanted to when we should have been practicing social distancing. We`ve had 32,000 people in Florida to contract the virus. We`ve had over 1,000 people die in Florida yesterday, just yesterday. We had the most deadliest day in Florida.

So I just don`t see how the governor could possibly be talking about today, after the most deadliest day in Florida, rolling out a plan to reopen. We are just not ready yet.

KORNACKI: Congresswoman, I just want to follow up on that. We were tracking the statistics yesterday, you know, and a statistic yesterday about the deadliest day in Florida. The number was 83 for the day. Obviously, it`s a terrible number, but it appears that that number was a product of the data reporting system. They don`t report a lot of deaths over the weekend. They report more on Tuesday. I say that because today`s number came out and it was half of that number, it was half of 83.

And if you look at the seven-day averages on these things, currently for the most recent week, it`s 41 per day. A week ago, it was 45 per day. So it has, week-over-week, ticked down a bit. And so, again, just in light of that, outside of those three counties, 25 percent capacity. You say no to that though?

DEMINGS: I do, Steve. I do say no to that. And, you know, this is like nothing we have ever seen before. And it requires us to respond like we have never responded before. And so as I say, and I`ll say it again, the safety of Floridians is the governor`s number one concern. And what we`ve seen if we can learn anything from other states, we have seen those governors who basically defy what medical experts have had to say and what scientists have had to say and reopen.

But when you look at the response of the American people, they are still afraid. They are still worried about their health and the health of their families. I don`t believe we are there yet. I don`t believe we`re there as a nation. And we just have to be strategic. We have to be smart. And when we roll -- there is also talk about a possible resurgence, God forbid, in the fall. We just need to be smart in how we roll out reopening. And I don`t believe we are there yet in Florida. I don`t believe we are there yet in the nation.

KORNACKI: All right. Congresswoman Val Demings from Florida, Dr. Dara Kass and Peter Baker from The New York Times, thank you all for being with us.

And coming up, the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis is causing increasing uncertainty for some Republicans up for re-election this year, including President Trump`s prospects. That`s next. Stay with us.



JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: And we are on the other side of the medical aspect of this. And I think that we have achieved all the different milestones that are needed.

So, the -- the government, federal government, rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

That was the president`s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, today with his characterization of the administration`s response to the pandemic.

But Republican Senator Mitt Romney takes an opposing view. Speaking to students of Georgetown University last night, he offered this assessment:


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): When it came to PPE, when it came to testing, and just the speed of our response looked slow.

That first phase was not one that will stand out, I think, as being a great moment in American leadership.


KORNACKI: As the debate over the administration`s response continues, NBC News is reporting that -- quote -- "The White House has ordered intelligence agencies to establish whether China and the World Health Organization initially hid what they knew about the emerging coronavirus pandemic."

The story notes that -- quote -- "The move coincides with a public effort by the White House to focus on China`s inability to contain the virus."

Here`s the president on that investigation today:


QUESTION: Mr. President, what are you hoping to learn about China and the World Health Organization with this investigation you have commissioned with the intelligence agencies?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right. It is coming in, and I am getting pieces already. And we are not happy about it. And we are by far the largest contributor to WHO, World Health, and they misled us.

I don`t know. They must have known more than they knew. They seemed to work for China. And they should have been in there early. They should have known what was going on. And they should have been able to stop it at -- you talk about stopping the spread or stopping the embers. That could have been stopped there.


KORNACKI: And NBC News is also reporting tonight that the president -- quote -- "lashed out" at his campaign manager last Friday after advisers briefed him on internal polling showing him trailing Joe Biden in multiple key states.

I`m joined now by former Congressman Joe Walsh, Republican of Illinois, and Noah Rothman, associate editor at "Commentary" magazine.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Noah, let me just start on that last piece we have there, this NBC News reporting on the president being apprised of some internal polling there.

I`m curious, in that, this week, we have stopped seeing these nightly two- and-a-half-hour briefings. You did have that Rose Garden event the other day, but the president at this hour of the day has been a lot more quiet this week than last week.

Have you seen a shift in strategy at here at all from the White House?

NOAH ROTHMAN, "COMMENTARY": Almost certainly.

You saw the president sort of defer to his desire to saturate media outlets and present himself as a figure who is on top of events, because he was dictating the terms of news coverage. And that certainly seems to have backfired on him, at least in the most recent couple of weeks.

Scaling back these press briefings is something he has been disinclined to do. And he did so only after what we can fairly rationally assess as being a complete disaster, the notion when he began extemporaneously pondering the effects that disinfectants could have when injected.

That became a news cycle that ran away with him. And it certainly has had no great effect on his polls. We can talk about whether or not this president would have responded -- or a different president would have responded better to this crisis. I am skeptical of that. The entire Western world was taken off its back feet in this one.

But you can say, fairly certainly, that, in the absence of this president, we would not be having a news cycle about the efficacy of ingesting caustic chemicals. That`s going the cost him in the polls and it might cost him in November.

KORNACKI: Yes, Joe, I`m curious.

I know you have been a Trump critic here. And I know you have made it clear you have sort of limited expectations.

But with that in mind, and with the president apparently adjusting a little bit, at least for this week, what, realistically, would you like to see him do? What would you -- from a leadership standpoint, what would you like to see him do that you think he could do?

JOE WALSH (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Don`t tweet. Don`t speak. For the next seven months, just stay out of the news.

Steve, everybody but Donald Trump and Sean Hannity knows that, every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, he makes everything worse, and he makes the American people less safe. Trump shouldn`t speak anymore.

And he certainly, Steve, shouldn`t have his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, out there calling this a great success story, 60,000 Americans dead, millions and millions of Americans losing their jobs and their livelihoods. We are on the precipice of a looming Great Depression.

And this elitist punk Jared Kushner calls that a success story. We would all be better off if Jared didn`t speak and if Donald Trump didn`t speak between now and November.

KORNACKI: Well, the accusations that China didn`t disclose enough about the outbreak have been widely reported since January.

"The Washington Post" editorial board warned at the time. They said, China`s secrecy was putting everyone at risk. Likewise, a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations criticized the World Health Organization early response as weak, saying they -- quote -- "laundered China`s image, at the expense of their own credibility.

Joe Walsh, there is some blowback here on the president and his focus on China. I know the criticism is there that he is looking to shift the blame. He is looking to get this -- the focus off of him and what his administration has and hasn`t done.

Do you think looking into China and the origins of this and perhaps lack of information from them, do you think that`s an appropriate step for him to be taking right now?


We should look into what China did. We should look into, when this is all done, how the World Health Organization behaved.

But that`s not Donald Trump`s motivation. The one constant about Donald Trump, Steve, is, all he gives a damn about is Donald Trump. And he needs a boogeyman. He needs somebody upon which to put the blame for this.


KORNACKI: Can I ask just you? Can I ask you? I think this is interesting.

I`m curious. How do you balance that, then? If you believe his motives are wrong on this, his motives are selfish, his motives are shifting the blame, his motives are getting people to point the finger someplace else, and yet China`s record is not good on this, and it is worthy of having the investigation and perhaps -- how do you balance that? Should it happen or not?

WALSH: Yes, it should, and it should be a bipartisan effort that`s separate from this president.

Steve, the problem here is, nobody can believe the president of the United States. He cannot be trusted. So, when he says, we are going to investigate China, we are going to investigate the World Health Organization, the vast majority of the American people do not trust his motives at all.

So, that`s got to be taken out of his hands as well.

KORNACKI: Noah, I am just curious. I know this is a subject you have talked about.

The United States, the relationship with China, where should it go from here?

ROTHMAN: Well, it seems inevitable that, in 2021, whoever is president will be managing a much more conflictual relationship with the People`s Republic.

As you said in the outset, we do know that, for about three very crucial weeks, the centers were silenced, the people who were responsible for alerting the international community about this did not have the opportunity to do so. The WHO was privy to flawed and falsified data, which is why half the West was lulled into a false sense of security ahead of this pandemic and why we are suffering from it now.

That deserves to be adjudicated in the public. And the political sector is responsible for doing that. And the president is responsible for doing that. I share Joe`s concerns about the president`s capacity for being truthful with the American public and his motives.

Nevertheless, we have one president at a time, and the duty will fall upon him to investigate this very serious, catastrophic, world-shattering failure on the part this international body and this international organization.

But it is a two-way street. If we are going to talk about repatriating, for example, the manufacturing facilities that make PPE and make certain pharmaceuticals in China, China is very dependent on the United States for, for example, cancer therapies.

This is the sort of thing that an interconnected world has allowed to happen. It has been mutually beneficial, and you can`t simply unravel that. To do so would be to spark diplomatic and military conflicts, I think -- not all-out war, obviously, but something much more tense in the South China Sea, for example. That could spiral.

This is the sort of thing that needs to be managed by very cool heads with a firm understanding of how international relations functions. I am not sure this administration is capable of it. I am not sure the next administration will be capable of it. But somebody is going to have to do it, because the crisis will be upon us before we know it.

KORNACKI: All right, Noah Rothman from "Commentary" and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, thank you both for being with us.

And coming up: another candidate for president.


REP. JUSTIN AMASH (I-MI): There are millions of Americans who aren`t represented by either Donald Trump or Joe Biden, who aren`t represented by the Republicans or the Democrats. And those millions of Americans deserve a choice on the ballot.


KORNACKI: That is Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, a former Republican turned independent, explaining why he is running as a Libertarian candidate this -- trying to run as a Libertarian candidate this November.

Let`s -- he has got to get the nomination first. It might not just be Amash running third party this year too. How many will there be? Who will there be? What effect? What`s the third-party effect going to be on Trump vs. Biden?

That`s coming up next. Stay with us.


KORNACKI: All right, we have been talking about Trump vs. Biden.

We now got news that Justin Amash, congressman from Michigan, former Republican, broke with the party last year, now looks like going try to run as a Libertarian for president this year. Also a possibility -- here`s a blast from the past -- Jesse Ventura, remember him, the former independent governor of Minnesota. That goes back a ways. He`s still around. He may run as a third-party candidate.

Now, remember, we talk about the third-party effect. What could it be this fall? Remember, this is what the results looked like in 2016. And you did have third-party candidates here. Gary Johnson, he was the Libertarian, the former New Mexico governor, Jill Stein of the Green Party. There were others here.

They gobbled up a larger share of the vote than third-party candidates often doing. And one thing it did is, it allowed Donald Trump to win the presidency with only 46 percent of the popular vote. There have been folks out there saying, hey, if he had to get to 50, he wouldn`t have been able to do it.

But with some third-party vote there, he was able to bring that magic number down to something that was attainable for him.

So, question here of, could something like this happened again if we do get some third-party candidates in the mix? Here`s one way of looking at it.

The opening that existed in 2016 to get that kind of support for a Libertarian, for even a Green Party candidate was this. It was how incredibly unpopular both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were.

Look, both of them had double-digit underwater numbers. This is the exit poll 2016 favorable/unfavorable. These are historic bad numbers. Look, Trump was worse than Clinton. But neither one of these was good.

You had never seen two -- two general election nominees who were this unpopular. And I think one of the things that won this election for Trump in 2016, it was this. The voters here, 18 percent of voters on Election Day 2020 -- 2016 said they didn`t like Trump or Clinton. They didn`t like either major-party candidate. That`s almost one out of every five voters said they didn`t like either.

And here`s how they voted; 47 percent of them nationally voted for Donald Trump, the folks who didn`t like either candidate; 30 percent of them voted for Clinton, so they broke decidedly towards Trump.

And then here it is. Nearly a quarter of them voted for third-party candidates. This was the fuel for Gary Johnson, for Jill Stein, for the independent candidates, folks who didn`t like Trump and didn`t like Clinton. And this is what really did Clinton in. They broke decidedly against Trump, and then even the ones that didn`t want to vote for Trump, look at this, a fair amount of them still didn`t vote for Clinton.

So, seven out of eight 10 of the people who didn`t like either candidate stayed away from Hillary Clinton. And these numbers were even more dramatic and more pronounced in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. The folks who didn`t like either candidate heavily went for Trump or for third-party candidates, and that was something that really hurt Hillary Clinton.

So, the question for 2020 is, will the candidates be as unpopular? Will there be an opening for a third-party candidate to get a couple points? And will they break the same way?

So here`s what we can tell you on that front. Our most recent NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" national poll, Trump`s 10 points underwater on the positive/negative, basically favorable/unfavorable. Joe Biden`s 37/41, neither one of them overwhelmingly popular in this poll, although I should say some swing state polls are a little better for Biden right now.

So neither one`s that popular. But check this out. Of the folks who don`t like Trump or don`t like Biden, this is what our poll showed. How about that? That is a night-and-day difference from what I just showed you in 2016.

In 2016, if they didn`t like Trump, and they didn`t like Clinton, they stayed away from Clinton. Now, at least, they don`t like Biden, they don`t like Trump, they`re breaking to Biden.

If that keeps up, could make the difference. We will see.

Still ahead: President Trump is ordering meat processing plants to stay open. Unions are pushing back. They say the orders put workers at unnecessary risk.

And one of those union leaders joins us next.

Don`t go away.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

As some states push ahead with plans to begin reopening parts of their economies, others are still struggling to contain outbreaks tied to meat processing plants. Some counties within South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska, have become coronavirus hot spots with roughly 5,000 workers impacted and now at least 17 dead. Also two dozen plant closures to date.

All of this led the head of Tyson Food to declare earlier this week that the food supply chain was breaking. Now the president has signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act and declaring meat processing plants to be, quote, critical infrastructure. This ensures that they will remain open during the pandemic.

Critics have accused plant owners of failing to provide adequate protection and information to their workers while some governors in states that have been forced to close meat processing facilities have said they are trying to balance worker protection and the protection of the supply chain.


GOV. PETE RICKETTS (R), NEBRASKA: We are not going to tell food processing facilities to close, OK? That is not going to be something we in the state are going to be doing. We are working to keep them open because they are a critical part of our nation`s food supply.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: It really shows that they are a critical link in our food supply chain both from production to processing to in the retail shop.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: They are imperative to our food supply in this country. And so, I think that we need to keep them running. But we also need to protect people.


KORNACKI: And President Trump insisted that under his order, workers will be safe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to have good form of protection. And through quarantine when we find somebody that`s not -- we`re going to be very -- they are going to be very careful. They are, as to who is going into the plant, and the quarantine is going to be very strong. And we are going the make people better when they have a problem. We are going to get them better. Hopefully, they`re going to get better.


KORNACKI: And for more, I`m joined by Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International.

Thank you for joining us.

So the workers that you represent have now been declared part of this country`s critical infrastructure. What is their reaction? What have you been hearing from them about that?

MARC PERRONE, UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT: Well, I think that they are fine with being part of the critical infrastructure. I think they always knew that anyway, Steve. I think that the issue, however, is that on the front end of this pandemic, they were not given the PPE that they needed in order to keep them safe and protected. Nor were they allowed to be tested.

We all know the challenges that we saw in the health care industry and in our first responders. And this union moved very quickly to include both grocery store, pharmacy workers as well as packing house and food processing workers listed as first responders. I -- I can`t begin to tell you how significant that was. Our employers in many cases tried to get the equipment and couldn`t. And therefore, there is a problem.

Now I understand that the president says that what he is going do is he is going force the plants to remain open. I don`t think he understands how they actually work, though. Is that if you have 20 percent the workforce that are out sick and we saw some significant numbers on your chart just earlier -- if 20 percent of the work force is out sick, logistically, you can`t open the plant. That is the problem.

It is not that people don`t want to work. It is just that the way the layout of the plant is, it creates these obstacles.

So here`s what we are saying, can you keep plants open safely? Yes, you can, if you provide layered PPE in the plant and make sure that the employers have access to the federal supplies so that they can get in the supply chain like health care and emergency workers. We have to make sure that there`s enforceable safety standards inside the plant that are uniform regardless of what company is doing it.

We also need to make sure that workers get adequate sick leave so if in fact they are feeling sick they can take off, don`t have to worry about necessarily infecting those workers in that plant.

And the third thing -- or four thing they need is adequate, rapid testing both for the antibodies as well as the virus itself on a daily basis, so that we know exactly who has the virus and who doesn`t.

We can do that if in fact we get on top of this.

Now signing a decree is not going to change things if we don`t make sure that those workers are secure. You cannot have a secure food supply in this nation unless those workers have a secure location to go to work without the virus.


PERRONE: That`s it in a nutshell.

KORNACKI: So, I want to ask you. You laid out what exactly it is that you are looking for here, what exactly it is that your workers want to have in place to be working under this order. Let me just ask you, the order has been issued now.

If these things are not all in place and these companies say we are back in business, workers, report for duty, what`s going to happen?

PERRONE: You are going to end up with more people that are going to be sick because if you are not doing the testing, OK, what will happen is that is that something either from outside the plant that has had some contact with somebody that`s had the virus will go back into the plant being asymptomatic. They will ultimately come into contact with somebody else -- because these plants -- I hate the use this term but I am going to. They are like stationery cruise ships.

Everybody is close together. They are walking through the halls close together. They are on the lines close together. They are having lunch close together. It is a very tightly constructed work environment.

So you are going to end up with more people sick. We are going to have some additional outbreaks. It is inevitable. You are going to see some rolling closures.

It`s not because the manufacturer or the company doesn`t want to stay open. It`s not because the workers don`t want to work. It`s going to be how they ultimately have to deal with it because they don`t have enough workers at that location because they are in the middle of the countryside. Where are you going to come up with 5,000 people?

KORNACKI: All right. Mark Perrone of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union -- thank you, sir, for joining us. Appreciate that.

And still ahead, MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee takes us inside an Ohio prison with one of the largest known outbreak of the coronavirus.

We`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

NBC News has obtained exclusive new video from inside the Marion correction institution in Ohio. That prison has the largest number of known COVID-19 infections in the United States. Nearly 80 percent, 8-0 percent of inmates tested positive for the virus.

MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee reports on what we are learning from inside those prison walls -- Trymaine.


TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: What we know is what prisoner advocates, inmates and their families have been concerned about all along, their forewarning that if COVID-19 pushed into America`s prisons and jails where we currently hold more than 2.3 million people, there would be a serious problem.

We`re seeing that play out in the conditions at the Marion correctional facility in Marion, Ohio, where upward of 80 percent or nearly 80 percent of inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. That`s 1,976 inmates, but it`s not just those infected. There is a death toll. Five inmates have died and one corrections officer.

Now, inmates inside the prison say the conditions are really troubling. Now based on the reporting of Mohammed Syed and NBC News special gathering team, we did a phenomenal job. We`ve obtained some really exclusive video that gives us a peek inside the walls to give us a sense what the inmates are going through.

Let`s take a look.

JAMES ELLIS, MARION CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION INMATE: We cannot get away from each other. Look in the background. Do you see all of this? This is crazy.

We`re just waiting to die in here. We`re just sitting ducks in here waiting to die. We cannot get away from each other at all. It`s like this all day, every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know when Columbus is going to hold somebody accountable for a situation that is clearly mismanaged.

LEE: You hear that inmate say that it feels like they are sitting ducks waiting to die. In conversations and interviews and more of these videos, the inmates say they feel not only vulnerable but they`ve been left to die. Their allegations that when inmates say they do have symptoms, they are put in segregation or call it the hole.

Others say corrections officers haven`t been given proper protective gear and they engage in and interact with inmates. It`s a tough situation few people inside know how to get out of but the despair and fear and concern is great. Now, obviously, in a prison like this in Marion, which is a medium security prison, structurally, it`s hard to segregate and move folks around.

When you think about a jail, many people think there are few people in a cell. This is dorm style. With people who live within arm`s length of each other and they also complain that they said they`re not given proper hygiene products like soap.

Now, we talked to the state prison officials, they said, you know, we`re doing the absolute best we can. We segregate some inmates who have shown symptoms or are sick but limited in what we can and cannot do but we are absolutely trying our best.

Because again, that situation in Marion is concerning, especially those who advocate for prisoner rights, they say that the only reason we know so many people tested positive here is because of mass testing. But this might be the just the tip of the iceberg. What happen when you go state by state, facility to facility and start testing these inmates, what then?

So, his might be again the tip of the iceberg -- Steve.


KORNACKI: All right. MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee with that report. Thank you for that.

In response to the inmate complaints documented here, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has told NBC News that Marion has increased the amount of cleaning supplies and disinfectants that are being distributed to the housing areas, and that there is no shortage. They also say this, quote: Incarcerated individuals also have access to soap and other hygiene products and hand sanitizer. The facility also distributed additional hygiene packs last week.

Up next, some potential good news for baseball fans. Stay with us.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: I think there is a pathway there, Ryan. I hope that there is some form of baseball this summer, even if it`s just TV. And I do that for -- I feel that strongly, one, because I`m an avid baseball fan, but also -- I mean, it`s for the country`s mental health to have, you know, the great American pastime be seen.


KORNACKI: Well, that was Dr. Anthony Fauci today speaking with Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman about the prospects of baseball coming back this summer.

Major League Baseball is reportedly considering a plan that could bring back the national pastime starting sometime in late June or maybe early July.

Now, it would be a little different than a normal season. Teams might play about 100 games instead of 162 and fans would only be able to watch on television. There would be no one allowed in the stadiums during the games. And instead of the traditional American and national teams, teams would be split in three ten-team divisions based on geography.

So, you can decide if that`s better or worse than a split season of 1981 and, of course, no final decision is made or reported. That`s one reported possibility but if it all works out or if something like it works out, there is at least the possibility baseball fans could be able to watch a game again sometime in the near future, except they would have peanuts and cracker jacks from home.

Thank you for being with us, and don`t go anywhere.