ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And we`re doing a special coverage. You can tune in tomorrow at 1:00 P.M. Eastern for all the highlights and a live discussion I`m doing with former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal. Got to YouTube.com/msnbc. In fact, you can go there, YouTube.com/msnbc and set a reminder. It will be like THE BEAT, live T.V., but on YoutTube.
Tune in and I`ll see you tomorrow night. Keep it right here on MSNBC.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki.
The outbreak inside the White House, perhaps the most secured space in America, is a reminder that until there`s a vaccine, the coronavirus has the potential ability to spread virtually anywhere. And as we face the prospect a long wait of a vaccine, it drives home agonizing questions about the level of risk that we`re willing to accept to resume some semblance, even a bare bone semblance of normal life.
The New York Times reporting that, quote, some senior officials believe that the disease is already spreading rapidly through the west wing after two staffers tested positive for the coronavirus, a personal valet for the president and Katie Miller, the press secretary for the vice president.
Now, three top members of the coronavirus task force are taking varying steps to self-isolate after their potential exposure. But according to The Times, quote, others who came into contact with Ms. Miller and the valet are continuing to report to work at the White House. When asked how the virus was allowed to get a foothold in the White House, Trump today said the outbreak was limited to just one person and he added that the virus has been, in his own words, well-contained.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Where did the system break down to allow that to happen?
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don`t think the system broke down at all. One person tested positive, surprisingly, because the previous day tested negative.
It can happen. It`s the hidden enemy. Remember that. It`s the hidden enemy. So things happen.
REPORTER: What can you say, Mr. President, to other companies who may look at this and say, I don`t know if we`re ready for all?
TRUMP: We have a lot of people in the White House, we had one. Basically, we had one person.
We`ve controlled it very well. We have hundreds and hundreds of people a day pouring into the White House.
So I think we`re really doing a very good job in watching it and I think it`s very well contained, actually.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: This comes after Trump`s economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, said yesterday that the White House has become a scary place under these circumstances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: It is scary to go to work. I was not part of the White House in March. I think that I`d be a lot safer if I was sitting at home than I would be going to the west wing.
But I think everybody knows that if they go into work, you`ve been in the west wing, it`s a small, crowded place, it`s a little bit risky. But you have to do it because you have to serve your country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: With the clear majority of states now in the process of easing at least some of their restrictions on business activity, the president also setting an ambitious goal when it comes to the access to the availability of testing for every American.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Your staff, your senior staff, as you just referenced, is able to get testing every day. When will it be that Americans across the country will be able to get tested every day as they go back to work?
TRUMP: Very soon. I mean, really very soon.
REPORTER: Why hasn`t testing gotten up to the point where every American who wants a test can get a test?
TRUMP: As far as Americans getting a test, they should all be able to get a test right now. And they should be able to get a test.
And if somebody wants to be tested right now, they`ll be able to be tested.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by Dr. David Shulkin, former Veterans Affairs Secretary in the Trump administration. Eli Stokols is a White House Reporter for the Los Angeles Times. And Yasmeen Abutaleb is a Health Reporter with The Washington Post. Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Eli, let me start with you, in terms of your best understanding right now about the scope of this outbreak inside the White House. Do you have a sense exactly how widespread this is? And when the president says he believes this is contained, is that accurate?
ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, he can say whatever he wants. But if you look around the rose garden today, you saw a lot of administration officials, senior administration officials, most of them were wearing face masks. And that`s a new development because most people around this president understood that he didn`t want people in masks and they behaved accordingly.
And so this is change. It`s a guidance that the White House, the president himself that he put in place but he has been really trying so hard to convince the country that it is safe, it is time to go back to normal life. And when this can happen inside the White House, he knows it cuts against that message. When Kevin Hassett goes on T.V. and describes the White House, where every gets a test on almost a daily basis, if they need one, is a scary place to work, that undercuts that message.
And so as much as they`re trying to ease people`s anxieties about returning to the workplace, what`s happening at the White House is obviously a concern for the messaging of the president, and that`s his prime concern. He may be worried about his staff but what everybody around him says, is that the most important thing for him is convincing the country that it`s safe.
KORNACKI: Yasmeen, the stated purpose of this press conference today that the president held, we were showing some clips from, was to celebrate what the administration says is progress, significant progress on the testing front. We`ve been talking so much about this. We`re now testing about 300,000 people a day in this country. I remember it was about 150,000 a few weeks ago.
The president today saying, that with this CARES Act funding that`s now going to be sent to the states, $11 billion, there`s going to be rapid and dramatic escalation in that testing over the next few weeks.
Take us through that claim. I know in the past, this administration, this president, have said some things that have been very bullish about testing. It hasn`t necessarily borne out in terms of the ability to meet what the president is saying today for where testing in the next few weeks. Are we in position for that?
YASMEEN ABUTALEB, HEALTHCARE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think it`s true that the testing capacity has greatly improved over the last several weeks. Just a few weeks ago, you had an average of about 140,000 tests a day. So it`s certainly improving.
I think the problem is, the U.S. has the worst outbreak in the world. So while the testing capacity is improving, it`s still nowhere where experts say you need to be to safely reopen the country. I think even some of the more conservative estimates that you need to be able to conduct about 2 to 3 million tests a day to safely reopen, get people back to work, sort of have the capacity you need to identify outbreaks quickly before they spread out of control in the workplace.
So, 300,000 is definitely an improvement from where the U.S. was several weeks ago. But if you`re talking about safely reopening, starting to phase people back into work, I think most outside experts would agree 300,000 tests a day is still not enough.
KORNACKI: The president also blasted Democrats for what he said is playing politics by not opening up blue states quickly enough. He tweeted this, the great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now and they are fully aware of what that entails. The Democrats are moving slowly all over USA for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them. Don`t play politics, be safe, move quickly.
Let me bring Dr. Shulkin. Let me bring you in on this, because this question of reopening, you`ve got this very politicized sort of partisan rhetoric we have with the president saying right there. They reality on the ground though is that red states and blue states right now, the clear majority of states, are moving towards easing these restrictions and reopening parts of their economy.
I want to ask you and pick up on what Yasmeen was just saying there about where testing capacity is while these states undertake this partial reopening of their economies. Because what I`m hearing from these states, again, red and blue, is they`re saying, look, the positivity rate, when you take tests in our states right now, the rate of those tests, the percentage of those tests that are coming back positive, is going down. And they say that`s a sign of progress that warrants easing some of these restrictions. Do you agree with that assessment from these governors?
DR. DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: There`s no doubt that we`re making progress. We`re seeing trends that are very positive. But we always seem to be getting the timing a little bit wrong. By opening up and not having enough diagnostic testing out there, we`re really repeating the mistakes that we saw in February and March of this year, where we were flying completely blind.
And remember, the goal of testing is to isolate those who have symptoms and those that have been in contact with symptoms. And that`s where these figures of about 150 tests for every 100,000 residents come from, as Yasmeen was saying, a couple million tests a day.
The only states today that actually have that type of numbers available are Rhode Island and North Dakota. Yet, we`re seeing a dramatic opening up of the country and, unfortunately, we are going to have to play a little bit of Russian roulette. We`re going to have to watch the numbers just like we did back in February and March, and hopefully this time, we won`t see the dramatic increases in growth.
But as you know, we have had projections that have been done that suggests that`s exactly what we`re going to see. So we`re playing a little bit of a gamble here with people`s lives.
KORNACKI: Let me ask you a little bit more about that. Because, again, we say there`s some form of reopening happening in these states. Every time I look at these -- the rules that are in place in a lot of these states, most of these states, the vast majority that are reopening, they`re capping capacity. A store that reopens maybe only 25 percent of the normal occupancy can go in there.
Same thing for a restaurant. A lot of these restaurants, outdoors only, I think, Connecticut is doing. Employees must have masks. Customers must have masks. I just wonder, when we have this conversation about reopening, is there an assumption that goes into some of the debate around it, that this means as flinging the doors open, people coming out of their houses and going in. Whereas the reality on the ground, with all of these restrictions that in place in these states, is there a chance that maybe it`s not quite risky as some of the debate around this suggest given the level of restrictions that are being put in place here?
SHULKIN: Well, I think the way that one should realistically go about a safe way of reopening is in the phase-in approach. Remember, about 40 percent of the economy right now is working largely with our first responders and essential workers. Then you begin to start phasing the same.
The question is how do you phase it in without understanding what happens when somebody has symptoms or what happens when you identify through contact tracing those that have been in touch with symptoms? So that`s where you have to have the testing available. Otherwise, you`re going to isolate a lot more people that need to be isolated and start shutting the economy down again.
So I think this is an example of where you really do want to be ready and you want to have a plan in place before you start just opening up indiscriminately.
KORNACKI: The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports the outbreak at White House, quote, has prompted renewed scrutiny of the safety measures around the commander in chief who has flouted social distancing policies. The report notes that, like Trump, most of his aides have not worn face masks.
As Eli was mentioning, that appeared to change today when the White House Management Office started requiring everyone who enters the west wing to wear a mask or facial covering. When asked why masks were not until now required, the president said it`s because he`s been able to stay far away from others.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why haven`t you required everyone at the White House to wear masks before now?
TRUMP: Well, if they`re a certain distance from me, or they are certain distance from each other, they do. In the case of me, I`m not close to anybody.
Obviously, in my case, I`m very far away from everyone. Just about everybody I have seen today has worn a mask.
Yes, please go ahead.
REPORTER: Are you the one who required that, sir?
TRUMP: Yes, I did. I did. I required it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Eli, on this subject, let me ask you not about the president but the vice president, because it`s his press secretary who has tested positive here. We`re getting news of Anthony Fauci, some other top officials going into self-isolation for 14 days here. It appears that the vice president is not doing that. President Trump at this press conference today said there would be statement a forthcoming on exactly what`s going on. What is your understanding of what`s going on with the vice president?
STOKOLS: Well, the vice president, at the end of day, he is going to do what the president requires him to do. Until today, that met showing up at the White House and attending, even though he may be trying to isolate a little bit, to wear mask a little bit more often, he`s in a tough spot because, obviously, he has his public health concerns, he has his -- the example to give to the country, but he has to please this president.
He cannot, you know, cross this president. If Trump wants him not wearing a mask, he`s not going to wear a mask. If he wants him to show up and not show weakness, he`s going to show up even if following the guidelines, he`d be at home in isolation. And so that`s where Mike Pence is. They may put out a statement on this.
But the president himself, and granted this is wishy-washy, which a lot of his comments are, but he was asked today if he might distance himself from Pence, and he said he was open to it. So he didn`t say that that was going to happen. But, you know, you`re getting this muddled message all the time from this administration about the importance of the guidelines and then, well, you know, it`s a personal choice. That`s still the message that you`re getting tonight.
KORNACKI: Yasmeen, I want to ask you too about a distinction between what the president was saying and how he was framing testing versus what Admiral Brett Giroir was saying, because the president has had this line, we`ve heard him say it before, that anybody who wants a test can get a test. And there`re 330 million people in the country. Obviously, three of the 30 million said right now want a test. There wouldn`t be the capacity for that.
But what Admiral Giroir said is that anybody who needs a test can get a test right now. Anybody who, for medically necessary reasons advised to get one, is able to get one. Is that an accurate statement?
ABUTALEB: I think for the most part, you know, it will depend on how quickly states want to reopen and, you know, how they do this phase reopening. If you`re talking about a total lockdown, the guidance from the government is that people who are showing symptoms and who are among the vulnerable groups are the ones who are supposed to get tested. So those among the elderly, those with the pre-existing conditions, for a while, the guidance was that if you think you might have it but you`re otherwise healthy, then just stay home, assume you have it and isolate for 14 to 28 days.
I think when you`re talking about reopening, the definition of who needs a test changes depending on how many people you`re trying to send back to work, how a state is doing their phase reopening. So I think when we`re talking about reopening, I think experts would argue anyone who wants to go into the office probably needs a test to make sure you don`t have people who are asymptomatic carriers or potentially positive for the virus, taking it into a workplace and then causing these big outbreaks.
So I think if you`re talking about in terms of reopening, the way that the White House has said they would like to see states begin reopen, you don`t have the testing capacity you need for that, not across the country.
KORNACKI: Dr. Shulkin, let me just ask you then again on this -- what the president is saying today about where testing is going in the next few weeks with this $11 billion going out to the states. You were talking about meeting testing thresholds to begin reopening. Are you optimistic that in the month of May with this money that we will be in that position in far more states this month?
SHULKIN: Yes. I`m mostly concerned that with some of the premature openings without having that testing structure in place that we may do a little bit of yo-yoing back and forth and that`s just going to create havoc with people and the economy. So I do believe that if we get the timing right, if there`s a little bit of patience, we are making such good progress in getting the diagnostic testing and the other components necessary for a comprehensive plan that we can do this, we can do this in phases. We can do it safely in the latter part of this month and through June and July in some parts of the country.
And in terms of, you know, what we`re seeing in the White House, you know, I spent a lot of time in the west wing. People may not realize how close those quarters are. When you go up the stairs from the first to second floor, two people can`t pass in the stairway. So I`m so glad that now we are seeing people wearing masks. I`m glad to see that that type of testing is available to people and we need that for the rest of the country. So the people can have that type of security when they go back to work and they go outside their homes back into normal social situations.
KORNACKI: All right. Dr. David Shulkin, Eli Stokols and Yasmeen Abutaleb, thank you all for joining us. I appreciate that.
And coming up, we are going to talk to a governor who has heard some of the experts say it is too soon to begin reopening, but he says he has a plan to do it safely. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE HAILEY, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: The people who have small businesses are not rich. We are not chain stores. We`re not big corporations. So us closing for a month can be the end of our business, can be the end of our dream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back.
More than half of the states in country have now begun the process of reopening certain segments of their economies. Now, the degree of reopening varies widely from state to state and even sometimes within states themselves.
And not all of the states that are starting to reopen have met guidelines laid out last month by the White House.
Connecticut remains closed right now, but after seeing a decline in positive tests and a downward trajectory in cases, that state`s governor, Ned Lamont, has decided to move forward with a plan to reopen some businesses on May 20. That is Wednesday of next week.
Now, last week, Governor Lamont announced his criteria to begin this process -- quote -- "including a 14 day decline in hospitalizations, increased testing, sufficient contact tracing, protection for those at highest risk, adequate protective equipment, and hospital capacity and sufficient social distancing protocols."
Today, the editorial board of "The Hartford Courant" cautioned the governor against moving too quickly, writing this -- quote -- "Connecticut has made good progress in fighting the coronavirus threat so far, but that doesn`t mean we should be announcing an arbitrary end date for all of this. Pandemics don`t come with deadlines. We have to keep the pressure on."
And for more, I am joined by the governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont.
Governor, thank you for joining us. I always appreciate it.
I want to start with a point that was made by one of our in the last segment. I`m not sure if you heard this. But Dr. David Shulkin was saying that, in his estimation, there are only two states in the country right now that have the testing capacity necessary to begin reopening. And that was Rhode Island and North Dakota.
I know you have seen a significant drop in cases here, but, from a testing standpoint, are you -- are you confident you`re at the capacity you need to be to begin the reopening process?
GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Yes, hi, Steve.
And I am confident. We have doubled the amount of testing in the last week. We`re going to double it again in the next week. We`re able to go after every single first responder, everybody in our nursing homes. We`re testing in the door to the electric Volt factory, so everybody going in and out knows that they`re been tested and safe.
So, this is all -- May 20 was oriented around making sure we have the protective gear in place, we have the testing in place, and the track and trace. We`re ready to go, I think.
KORNACKI: OK, so, May 20, you`re saying this is phase one of the reopening.
Let me ask it this way. On May 20, what still can`t open in Connecticut?
LAMONT: Bars. Bars. Look what happened in South Korea. Indoor dining, that`s closed in, a little tougher to get -- take care of.
Hospitality. We still don`t want a lot of people driving in and out of the state. Casinos. We have got some major casinos here in the state. Too early for that.
So, a lot of places where you`re indoors, a lot of social congregating, that`s too risky for now.
KORNACKI: Let me ask you what you have been seeing in some of these other states that have had more ambitious reopenings.
We have talked about Georgia, Florida, Colorado, some other states out there. Have you been taking lessons? Have you seen any lessons from these states so far that you can apply to your reopening plans in Connecticut?
LAMONT: Yes. No, that`s a really good question.
I mean, number one, I wanted to see whether the consumer went running back in, like the end of prohibition, running into that speakeasy. Found that was not the case in Oklahoma and Georgia, these other places. The consumer has generally been pretty cautious. That gave us some insights.
And, also, you look around at flare-ups and make sure that you don`t see flare-ups being endemic to some of the reopening too early.
KORNACKI: We mentioned Connecticut is among a handful of states to open COVID-19-only facilities that provide an environment specially designed to handle infected patients and help prevent outbreaks at other nursing homes.
In Connecticut, more than 50 percent -- this data is astounding -- more than half of the state`s known COVID-19 deaths are linked to nursing homes.
This is fascinating, because this nursing home issue, I think, is starting to get some attention. Explain what you`re doing here. You`re setting up facilities, nursing home facilities, that are just for those who have been infected?
LAMONT: That is right.
We find that they were infected, maybe they go to the ICU, they get tested, and then on their way back, we have a COVID-only facility, which is intermediate care, so they can get back on their feet. And we want to keep the rest of the nursing home COVID-free.
Look, this is the greatest tragedy. If we haven`t learned this from the COVID, we haven`t learned anything. These -- these nursing homes are like petri dishes, incredibly dangerous. We have inspected every single one of them.
The infection protocols have got to be really strict. We`re testing each and every one of these, and, still, we have over half of our fatalities related to nursing homes.
KORNACKI: You mentioned a minute ago I thought something interesting that I have been noticing, too, in the stories coming out of the -- some of the states that have done more aggressive reopenings, and that is the reluctance of people, the reluctance of consumers, even given the option, to go back out there and start frequenting these businesses.
What are you expecting in Connecticut?
LAMONT: I`m expecting it`s going to be baby steps. I`m expecting the consumer is going to maybe check out some outside restaurants, see if everybody`s wearing the masks, seeing if the tables are six feet apart, making sure those protocols are being strictly enforced, before they will go back.
And that`s not a bad thing. That means the restaurant owner, the store owner is going to be very careful about making sure these protocols are there, so that their employees want to come back, not to mention the customers.
KORNACKI: Schools in Connecticut -- and this is true basically everywhere - - are closed now for the rest of the year.
But an article in "Wired" magazine from David Zweig notes that -- quote -- "Governors from both parties throughout the United States have already mandated or recommended school closures for the remainder of the year. It`s an approach that is all the more illogical," he says, "given that many states are already starting to reopen workplaces, stores and other public areas frequented by those who are most at risk, adults."
Now, classes in Connecticut, we say, they are canceled the rest of the year. And officials met today to discuss when and how to reopen Connecticut schools.
The argument that`s being made in this piece, though, Governor, that I wanted to ask you about is, all of the data out there -- we mentioned more than half of the deaths in Connecticut coming in nursing homes. All of the data out there is suggesting the risk for school-aged children is exceedingly low on this.
You don`t know exactly what it is yet. But, in your mind, should that prioritize the discussion of reopening schools, above maybe some businesses, where adults or higher-risk populations might go?
LAMONT: Hey, Steve, it broke my heart.
I really wanted to have two or three weeks the end of the school year just to bring it to some sense of completion, the kids can hit the new school year running.
But parents didn`t want their kids to go to school. Teachers, especially older teachers, didn`t feel safe, janitors and administrators coming in from all over the region, bringing back and forth, a lot of things we wanted to avoid right now.
We have got great online learning. We`re going to get summer camps going with an educational component in about two months. What`s the difference? Summer camp is more likely to be outside, much easier to manage.
Schools are closed in. That is where -- places where kids congregate. And kids aren`t great at socially distancing, by the way.
KORNACKI: I want to ask you one more question at the end here.
I noticed, I saw in a few articles, your daughter is set to get married Labor Day weekend.
First of all, congratulations to you and your family on that.
But, second of all, I bring that up because, right now, under your orders in Connecticut, you can only have five people together in a gathering at once. And I saw you quoted, saying you`re still optimistic that your daughter will have that wedding at the end of the summer.
Does that mean you are optimistic that, by the end of the summer in Connecticut, the idea of a big wedding could be a reality again?
LAMONT: Yes, Steve, I got to tell you, Emily, my daughter, monitors the infection rate and hospitalization and capacity like a hawk right now, hoping that Connecticut and other governors take the lead in opening up a little bit.
These are the type of decisions we make. So, it just reminds me of what a responsibility we have. But, also, you know that weddings and religious services and the such are places where people congregate. So, you have got to be really careful.
KORNACKI: All right, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, thank you, as always, for the time. I appreciate it.
And still ahead: A congressional special election out in California tomorrow could provide a snapshot of Republicans` chances in November.
Is Trump`s backing -- he`s done it six times on Twitter right now -- going to help or hurt the Republican candidate?
I`m heading over to the Big Board next.
KORNACKI: Well, how about this? I`m back at the Big Board, and I`m not going over coronavirus statistics. I`m actually using the Big Board for its original purpose.
We`re here to talk about elections, because, guess what, amidst all of this, there is an election tomorrow, and it`s potentially a significant election tomorrow.
Let me tell you why. This looks familiar to you, right? This is 2018. This is the midterm election map for the House of Representatives. This is how it shook out. All the blue you -- here, all the blue tiles you see right here, these are the districts all around the country that Democrats flipped, they took from Republicans.
Remember, there were a couple that Republicans actually took from Democrats. And if you added it all together, the Democrats got that big 40- seat gain in 2018, the blue wave midterm election for Democrats. Remember, there were metropolitan areas all around the country, suburban areas where Democrats did particularly well.
So, that is the setup heading into 2020. Is the climate similar to 2018? Has it changed? Is it moving back to Republicans? Is there now in 2020 a new penalty for Republicans, like the one they faced in 2018, for being tied to Donald Trump? Is it all playing differently in 2020?
This is the setup for tomorrow`s election. Now, take a look here. This is the national map from 2018. This is a little more specific. This is California. This was the California -- these were seven Republican incumbents in California in 2018, seven Republican House incumbents.
They all represented districts that had not voted for Donald Trump in 2016. These districts had actually voted for Hillary Clinton. And a lot of these districts, especially down here, Orange County, California, were traditionally Republican districts.
And guess what? Every single one of these seven districts switched hands, became a Democratic district in 2018. And now, in one of them, there`s a special election.
You can see right here, Steve Knight was the Republican. He got unseated by Katie Hill, Democrat Katie Hill. Remember that name? She got into a big scandal. She left office. Seat is vacant. And guess what? There`s now a special election in the 25th District of California, north of Los Angeles.
And this is what I mean. Hillary Clinton won this district in 2016 by seven points. It made it a very ripe target for Democrats in 2018. And Katie Hill won it by eight points in 2018, flipped the seat. As we say, she is no longer representing this district. It is an open seat.
And so, tomorrow, these two candidates are going to square off Christy Smith, Mike Garcia, in this district, a district with a Republican heritage in it that has swung hard towards the Democrats in the age of Donald Trump. And here`s a test. Here`s an interesting test.
Republicans are very bullish on the chances of their candidate here. Remember, it`s a special election tomorrow. The turnout might be lower than normal. Might be an advantage for Republicans that their base is a little more motivated. The ballots that have been returned, mail-in election, the bounce that have been returned favors Republicans more than Democrats.
We will see if that holds up when everything is said and done in this race. But, for Republicans, it`s a chance to say, hey, that climate in 2018 not the same in 2020.
For Democrats, it`s a chance to say, hey, it is, because here`s a district Republicans are very bullish on, in the past they have been able to win. They like their candidate. Trump has been weighing in big time on behalf of Garcia. Democrats have been running ads tying Garcia to Trump.
If Democrats were able to win this thing tomorrow, they`re able to say, hey, look, there`s been real damage here to Trump because of the coronavirus and that climate in 2018 could carry over to 2020.
Keep an eye on this one tomorrow. By the way, mail-in election. Every ballot mailed by tomorrow, as long as it`s in by Friday, counts. We may not know the winner tomorrow. We will find out.
But guess what? Isn`t it fun to have an election again? We will see what happens.
Up next: the Trump campaign going negative against Joe Biden. It`s a risky strategy, considering Trump`s unfavorables in recent polls. Could it pay off?
We`re back after this.
KORNACKI: Welcome back.
President Trump is reported to be in increasingly concerned about the pandemic`s effect on his re-election chances. According to "The Washington Post", quote, some of Trump advisers described the president as glum and shell-shocked by his declining popularity. In private conversations, he has struggled to process how his fortune suddenly changed from believing he was on a glide path to reelection to realizing that he`s losing to the likely Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden in virtually every poll, including his own campaign`s internal surveys.
The president`s re-election campaign has rolled out two new ads in recent days attacking Biden, including one accusing him of defending China amid the pandemic. The president`s strategy also could bring risks.
NBC national political reporter Sahil Kapur notes, quote, in some cases, the strategy appears aimed at neutralizing weaknesses by muddying the waters. But it risks backfiring by drawing attention to Trump`s equal or larger vulnerabilities.
And Sahil Kapur, the author of that piece, joins me now, along with Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today".
Thanks to both of you for being with us.
The Trump campaign, Sahil, going negative. Certainly did that in 2016 as well. Seemed to pay off then.
What do you see as the risks this time around?
SAHIL KAPUR, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Steve, it`s an interesting strategy by the president. The important thing to note is that Trump cannot win re-election on the strength of his favorables or his approval rating. There are simply not enough people out there who are supportive of him. He`s stuck in the low 40s.
And the key thing in 2016 that he was able to do was to disqualify Hillary Clinton and win voters who disliked both Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Right now, the reverse is happening, voters who both dislike Donald Trump and Joe Biden are supporting Joe Biden. So, Trump is looking for new ways now that he can no longer win in the strength of the economy to disqualify Joe Biden, and this means in a lot of these cases, throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks -- going after him on China, going after him on nepotism, his campaign had been aggressively highlighting the sexual assault allegations from Tara Reade, even though the president has many more women who accusing him of similar things or worse things.
So, he`s in a bit of a bind at the moment, because the one big thing that he wanted to run on has been taken away from him.
KORNACKI: Well, Susan, let`s put up those numbers, first, that Sahil was talking about. This was -- go back to Election Day 2016, this is exit poll, 38 percent of voters in said that they favorable opinion of Trump, 60 percent had an unfavorable view. Hillary Clinton was 43 percent favorable, 55 percent unfavorable.
Here was the stat that made the difference. Of those who had an unfavorable view of both candidates, Trump won on Election Day, 47 to 30 percent.
Now, in a recent Monmouth poll, here`s the current favorable and unfavorables, 40 percent with a favorable opinion of Trump right now, 53 percent unfavorable opinion. Forty-one percent favorable for Biden, 44 percent unfavorable.
Susan, as Sahil was alluding to, it seems that it`s that second piece that mattered so much in 2016 to get those voters who said I don`t like Trump, I don`t like Clinton, and then they went lopsidedly for Trump. Trump has got to line that piece up again, it seems this year.
I`m not sure what goes into that, but as Sahil says, the polling right now is saying the ones who don`t like both are going Biden right now?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Yes. So, those are favorable ratings are not exactly too impressive for people who are trying to run for president. But they`re catastrophic for President Trump.
I mean, one problem that President Trump has is that people have decided what they think about him. People are not yet decided in nearly the same kind of firm way what they think about Joe Biden. That`s one reason they`re going on the attack.
But can you imagine the boldness of President Trump attacking Biden for sexual harassment against women or for nepotism with his children, or for attitudes toward China, it`s -- it`s something that relies on voters to forget some of the things they`ve learned about President Trump in the first -- in the last four years of his presidency.
KORNACKI: And, Susan, it seems that a second question here, too, when you look at Hillary Clinton in 2016, you look at those unfavorable numbers, they were very high, you look at the folks that say, who didn`t like either, went towards Trump, I guess -- there is existential question here almost, is that phenomena unique to Hillary Clinton that level of dislike, or could that also end up applying to Joe Biden as well?
PAGE: Well, we have seen campaigns successfully make their opponent unlikable, that happened with John Kerry in 2004. It happened -- it happened with Michael Dukakis back in 1988. So, it`s possible.
But, you know, Joe Biden is a pretty familiar figure. Americans know who he is. Eight years as a vice president to a popular Democratic president. So, I think it`s going to be hard -- not impossible -- but harder to do that.
Joe Biden is also someone who`s seen as pretty likable. They that gives him in a way, maybe Democrats hope, a little bit of Teflon when it comes to these attacks, Steve.
KORNACKI: And there`s this question of the veep stakes, Joe Biden saying he plans to pick a female to be his vice presidential running mate. According to "Politico" today, former rival Senator Kamala Harris has emerged as a top contender.
Quoting from the article, Harris is not only a top contention, but Biden aides, surrogates and major donors see her as the best fit at the onset of the process, at least on paper to join him atop the Democratic ticket. Now, reports that Biden`s campaign felt stung by Harris` pointed attacks during last year`s first Democratic debate over his record as a senator on school business.
Take a look back at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputation and careers on segregation on race in this country, and it was not only that but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, Sahil, some buzz here for Kamala Harris. We should note, he can go back to all the veep stakes in the past, and a lot of different prospects get their moment of buzz, it doesn`t always pan out. But if the Biden campaign is looking at Kamala Harris as a top prospect, what`s in it particular they`re seeing in.
KAPUR: Steve, just about every Biden ally says that Senator Harris is a serious contender for this job, she checks all of the boxes without raising many red flags. So, apart from being a women, she has racial diversity to the ticket. She`s a Gen-Xer, which represents kind of that generational transition that Biden has been talking about. She has the progressive credentials in terms of her voting record in the Senate, without being seen as overly ideological and someone who can potentially turn off voters.
What she doesn`t have this is clear, obvious -- this is a big thing that she brings, like Amy Klobuchar has in the Upper Midwest, looking down the important state of Minnesota which will be in play this time around. Elizabeth Warren, another contender for this, a very strong with progressives and young voters, certainly more so than anybody on that de debate stage not named Bernie Sanders.
So, Kamala Harris has a lot of strength, and she doesn`t have a whole lot of weaknesses, and there`s a familiarity between the Biden family and Kamala Harris.
KORNACKI: Susan, we mentioned that potential wildcard here of the debate moment back in June, a lot of people saw that as a very low moment for Joe Biden, it`s always an interesting question when you look at these veepstakes. I know you wrote about this in the Barbara Bush book, that union between Reagan and Bush. That was an awkward one, they had a history there in the primaries, and Reagan is willing to put that behind him.
But sometimes I have seen in the past, you have these moments in a primary that the losing candidate rubs the winning candidate or somebody around the winning candidate the wrong way with the way they behave and it gets them scratched from the ticket, from potentially being on the ticket.
What is your sense of how that moment lingers with the Biden folks, or does it linger with them?
PAGE: You know, I think Jack Kemp was the perfect candidate on paper to be the running mate of Bob Dole. Bob Dole didn`t like Jack Kemp and wouldn`t put him on the ticket.
I think with Joe Biden, the personal chemistry is going to matter a lot. I think he`s going to want somebody he`s comfortable with. I think that is one piece of advice that Barack Obama gave him in thinking about choosing a running mate.
So, Kamala Harris has lot of strengths. So does Amy Klobuchar. There could be some less obvious candidates, some other woman, who could end up on the ticket. It is hard -- I think it`s hard to know at this point all these months out.
KORNACKI: All right. Sahil Kapur and Susan Page, I mentioned Susan`s book on Barbara Bush. I was reading it this morning, go and got it today. It`s good quarantine reading for you.
Thank you both for being with us. Appreciate it.
Up next, NBC`s Blayne Alexander brings us the latest from Georgia as federal officials consider hate crime charges of the deadly shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: When you first saw the video, what was your reaction?
CHRISTOPHER CARR, GEORGIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was stunned and I was sickened by it and I think that`s why it`s important that we swiftly and thoroughly and transparency get to the bottom of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back.
That was Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr reacting to the video that shows the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. And this comes as the U.S. Department of Justice said today that it would consider Carr`s request for the DOJ to review the shooting and assess whether federal hate crime charges should be pursued in this high-profile case.
NBC`s Blayne Alexander has the latest.
BLAYNE ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Steve, two major developments here today. The first is that there`s now a fourth prosecutor that is leading this investigation, leading this case into the murder case of Ahmaud Arbery. It a prosecutor out of Cobb Judicial Circuit, that`s located in Metro Atlanta, about four hours away from Brunswick, Georgia, where this occurred.
So, I spoke with the attorney general to ask why he made this appointment. He talked about the fact that this office is much larger and has more resources to be able to handle a case of this magnitude but he also talked about the fact he has concerns with the way that this was done. That`s why he`s asking the federal government. He wants the DOJ to come in and investigate the way that this case has been handled so far by local authorities.
You know, I`ll just lay out a timeline for you that really has been getting a lot of attention. These shootings happened back in February, but it wasn`t until last week when state investigators got involved that we saw the arrest of Gregory and Travis McMichael. Those arrests happened within about 36 hour of the state getting involved.
So, that`s why so many people, big names including Tom Brady, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, so many people called and said, look, there need to be outside eyes to look to make sure this case is done fairly.
So, the DOJ is still considering the attorney general`s request but certainly, the attorney general told me that he believes that he has confidence in this newly appointed prosecutor to do the job correctly -- Steve.
KORNACKI: NBC`s Blayne Alexander reporting.
And we`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: We want to end tonight with a very special reunion of the cast of "The Office" to celebrate the wedding of two fans from Maryland. On his YouTube show called "Some Good News", actor John Krasinski officiated the couple`s wedding via Zoom, bringing in their family, friends, his co-star Janna Fischer and singer Zac Brown.
And if that wasn`t enough after the couple`s first case came this, recreation of the classic wedding dance from an episode of "The Office."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KRASINSKI, ACTOR: We can`t play this song unless you let me invite some of my family to the party. Ladies and gentlemen, the cast of "The Office."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my gosh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I miss that show. Thanks for being with us.
And don`t go anywhere because "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END