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Florida reopening TRANSCRIPT: 5/18/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Matt Schlapp, Francis Suarez, Chuck Schumer, Anand Parekh, Donna Edwards, Bret Stephens


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Yes, we are out of time and if you come back next time and focus on the question and don`t attack the press, we`re going to have more time.

SCHLAPP: I can be very (INAUDIBLE) focusing on your questions.

MELBER: I appreciate you`re being here. Matt Schlapp, ACU, thank you. We`re out of time. That does it for THE BEAT. Bye-bye, I`ll see you. Bye-bye to everyone. I`ll see you tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, but keep it right here right now on MSNBC.

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

President Trump disclosed today that he is currently taking an unproven drug as preventative measure against the coronavirus. Meeting with restaurant industry executives at the White House today, the president told reporters that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for more than a week now. This is the anti-malaria drug that Trump has touted as a potential game-changer in treating COVID-19.


REPORTER: Did the White House doctor recommend that you take that? Is that why you`re taking it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, White House doctor, but didn`t recommend, I ask them. What do you think he said, well if you`d like it, and I said, yes, I`d like it. I`d like to take. A lot of people are taking it. A lot of frontline workers are taking hydroxychloroquine. A lot of -- I don`t take it because, hey, people said, oh, maybe he owns the company. No, I don`t own the company. You know what, I want the people of this nation to feel good. I don`t want them being sick. And there`s a very good chance that this has an impact, especially early on.


KORNACKI: Now, last month, the Food and Drug Administration warned about the dangers of taking this drug outside of hospital settings or in clinical trials. Today, the president downplayed those warnings.


TRUMP: I get a lot of tremendously positive news on the hydroxy, and I say hey, you know the expression I`ve used, John, what do you have to lose, okay? What do you have to lose. I have been taking it for about a week-and- a-half.

REPORTER: Every day?

TRUMP: At some point -- yes, every day. I take a pill every day. At some point, I`ll stop. What I`d like to do is I`d like to have the cure and/or the vaccine, and that will happen I think very soon.


KORNACKI: Yes, the president`s comments come as he continues to push full speed ahead to reopen the country. With most states now in some form of reopening and with the weather warming up over the weekend, crowds began to flock to some beaches and parks after a number of governors eased stay-at- home mandates. And pictures have been making around showing crowds not always following social distancing in some places.

Moves towards reopening come after several weeks of encouraging new numbers as well, showing a curve that is flattened in many states and even begun to decline significantly in some others. Nationally, the number of new cases is slowly but steadily dropping.

For the current 14-day period, the number of new cases is down 19 percent. Testing is up 40 percent with all-time high of 411,000 tests conducted on Sunday. Right now, there are more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the United States, and more than 90,000 have now died.

Today, the governor of Massachusetts announced phase one of his state`s reopening plan, manufacturing, construction, and places of worship can reopen with social distancing restrictions in place.

And underscoring concerns about the economic toll of all of this, in a 60 Minutes interview, Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, suggested it could take the United States economy more than a year to recover.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: It`s going to take a while for us to get back. But I would just say this, in the long run, and even in the medium run, you wouldn`t want to bet against the American economy. This economy will recover. It may take a while. It may take a period of time. It could stretch through the end of next year. We really don`t know.


KORNACKI: Meanwhile, The Washington Post writes that as the country moves into a new phase of the pandemic, quote, Trump appears poised to preside over the eventual transition more as a salesman and marketer than a decider.

And for more, I am joined by Ashley Parker, White House Reporter for The Washington Post, and Dr. John Torres, MSNBC Medical Correspondent. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Ashley, let me just find out from you first what exactly we know about that announcement from the president today that obviously took folks in that room by surprise? He alluded to that as well. He said he`s been taking it for about a week-and-a-half. What do we know about the circumstances under which this decision was made?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you`re right, it did surprise everyone. I mean, the president as you said was sort of gleeful. he said, I`ve been waiting to watch your eyes light up. He knows that this is a controversial drug.

I think there is some speculation. I want to be clear, we don`t know this for certain. But if you look at the timeframe, he said that he has been taking it for -- it tracks back right until about a week-and-a-half ago when both his personal valet and Vice President Pence`s press secretary both tested positive for the virus. And we do know that during that time, it was a time of sort of great anxiety and fear inside the west wing, that despite all their precautions, coronavirus had come there. People were incredibly nervous. The president was in a bad mood.

So it does kind of track back to that period, but we don`t know specifically if that`s what finally prompted him to take. What he had long been pitching to the American people, but had actually for a while, stopped talking about until the surprise announcement today.

KORNACKI: Yes, and, Dr. John, let me bring you in on that, because it is interesting that the timeline on this, there was a lot of talk certainly from the president, but there was a lot of talk from others at the beginning of all of this, about the potential for hydroxychloroquine, potentially to play a role in all of this.

But just as the president had really stopped talking about it publicly until today, there hadn`t been much discussion from anybody about this until today. What is the current state in terms of doctors prescribing this, using this? I understand they can use it in a compassionate use setting, can used it experimentally. Is this being used at all right now anymore?

DR. JOHN TORRES, MSNBC MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And Steve, I don`t think it is being used nearly as much as the president alluded to the fact that a lot of frontline doctors are using it. I know the doctors I have talked to, my friends and colleagues that I know, none of them are taking it.

And I think what happened is, about a couple weeks ago, month-and a half ago or so, we saw these results start to come out from these observational studies and other issues where they were saying there is some problem with this.

Number one, it`s not showing any benefit. There`s a couple of studies, observational studies out of New York City about 3,000 patients that found it didn`t cut immortality, it didn`t cut down the fact you might need to be put on a ventilator. And then the V.A. study actually showed that it might increase your mortality rate. And there`s been no good study showing that it does anything for prevention.

And I think that`s when you start hearing people stop talking about this and doctors in particular stopped using it because they`re saying it doesn`t seem to work that well, and it does have these issues with heart arrhythmia, it`s a big concern. So let`s wait and find out what the data shows. we`re not there yet, Steve.

KORNACKI: Yes, and just again, I`m curious. Just given what the FDA has said about this, and layman here, I`m trying to understand this too, but that it`s allowed under a compassionate use standpoint. For the average patient out there, what would it take to get this? Is this something that is unusual for a patient, especially preventatively just be able to get?

TORRES: And that compassionate use, that`s really on the hospital. And that`s what the FDA is saying, it should be used only for serious, critical cases, in hospital cases, not for people that are not in the hospital. But this is an FDA-approved drug. It`s been used to treat malaria for 60 plus years. Since its FDA-approved, it can be used off label. This could be considered off label use. So if a doctor prescribed it, a patient could get the prescription filled and use it for that, that is theoretically possible.

But right now, I think you`re hearing this tide across the country of doctors saying, I`m not really prescribing it. I think there are some, but the vast majority are saying it doesn`t seem to work. It has its issues and the side effects that we`re worried about. So let`s just wait and see what happens.

And so, again, it is approved for malaria, so it can be used for other things. But the FDA has come down with a warning, saying, only reserved for compassionate use and for in hospital used. Don`t use it outside the hospital, Steve.

KORNACKI: And, Ashley, you mentioned, again, this is just the connection, I think, everybody who hears this makes to all of the news in the last week or two about the virus making its way into the White House, a little bit into Trump`s circle, basically. What is your sense over the last week of the level of concern that`s existed in the White House, about the reports of cases within the last couple of weeks?

PARKER: Well, initially there was tremendous amount of concern for the health of the people who worked in the White House, especially that, you know, it`s the west wing, it`s not as large as it looks on television, it`s cramped more, and so there was a sense that it could spread very easily throughout.

And there also emerged this sort of cast (ph) system of the haves and the have nots, and the people who are more senior, and therefore opted in (ph) closer contact with the president were receiving more frequent tests, and it felt like other people who maybe weren`t around the president as much but we`re still be asked to come to work were not getting the same level of precaution. So there was real health anxiety.

There was also a more political messaging psychological anxiety, which came up in briefings, where it made it harder for the White House to possibly say to the American public, it`s safe to go out and reopen if the virus had invaded what should be the most sacred, protected space of all, those 18 acres of the White House.

That said, someone today, a senior White House official is making a point to me that it might be hard to message it, but there was a sense that the White House ecosystem had worked as it should, which is that there were cases, the White House was able to do what the country is not necessarily able to do yet, which is test everybody, do contact tracing, isolate the infected person, isolate the people who came in contact with the effected person, give maximum flexibility for work from home. And they noted that, as far as we know, there haven`t been any more cases yet. So it has gone from real anxiety to trying to spin it a bit as a success story.

KORNACKI: All right, Ashley Parker, from The Washington Post, Dr. John Torres, thank you both for joining us. I appreciate it.

PARKER: Thank you.

KORNACKI: In Florida, it`s another state that has been taking additional steps toward reopening today. It moved to full Phase 1 of reopening. This allows restaurants and retail shops to operate at 50 percent capacity. It had been 25 percent capacity. Gyms are also allowed to begin operating with similar restrictions. The state actually has not seen the spike in cases so far that many had warned about at the outset for the current two-week period compared to the previous two weeks. New cases in Florida are down 3 percent. Testing is also up 30 percent.

I`m joined now by the Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez. Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.

Look, let me ask you about the big picture in Florida, because I know your city and your part of the state are the last in Florida to begin this reopening process. You`re beginning it this Wednesday. We can talk about that in a minute.

But big picture here, when your state`s governor, Ron DeSantis, announced he was moving to Phase 1 of the reopening, there were certainly lots of dire predictions there about what this would mean. When you look at the statistics, we just put out there, so far, you have not seeing any of this spike, would you say it has been a success so far?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-MIAMI, FL): I think it has. And I think the reason it has been successful is because he has done it in phases. He has enforced local municipalities or counties to go at his pace. He`s allowed them to go at their pace. So we saw in the first phase one opening, he eliminated Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County. He just recently authorized the opening of Broward and Miami-Dade, which opens on Monday.

We as a city, as you mentioned, are going slightly slower than Miami-Dade country, because we are the densest part of the county. And we have the most cases in the State of Florida, so we`re taking it in a very cautious manner.

KORNACKI: Right. So talk about what`s going to happen in Miami on Wednesday, in terms of what`s going to be open? And as the mayor, what in particular are you looking at as sort of a first alert system on whether there`s a problem here with how this is working in terms of an increase?

SUAREZ: The first things that are opening on Monday -- I`m sorry, on Wednesday, is businesses up to a capacity load of 25 percent. A week from this Wednesday, we`re opening our restaurants up to capacity load of 50 percent.

We`re looking at the data every single day. Two critical pieces of data we`re looking at is new cases and we`re also looking at hospitalization. Obviously, the gating criteria requires new cases be diminishing for a 14- day consecutive period. And we thought that we met that, in entering to phase one, that we`re entering to on Wednesday. But we`re still monitoring that. And there`s always countertrends that we have to worry about. And we`re looking at the data every day, and we`re dealing with biostatisticians and experts at the health department that we -- and mayors from surrounding cities that we discuss these issues with on a daily basis.

KORNACKI: I`m curious what your experts are telling you and what your senses, when you start talking about warm weather, people getting outside, South Florida, people going to the beaches. There were pictures from around the country over the weekend, of folks getting out there going to beaches. In some cases, on the beach, they don`t have masks on. What are your experts telling you and what is your sense about the safety of folks being on the beach where you`re open air, sunlight, got some breeze? Are they telling you that there`s a difference in safety as opposed to, say, being inside a restaurant?

SUAREZ: Well, the mayor of Miami Beach decided not to reopen Miami Beaches, a decision I agree with, at least not for now. It`s probably not going to be open until early June. You know, I think we`ve seen images throughout the United States of people flocking to the beaches.

I think, obviously beaches as you mention are warm weather, they`re outdoors. I think the concern is that the images that you`re displaying right now show that people, for whatever reason, have a hard time socially distancing. And I think that`s the big issue. The issue is policing the social distancing.

And I think we`ve seen that, unfortunately, in some parks as well. We didn`t line up completely on park openings and we saw a rush of people going one of the city`s parks and had to be closed down. So what we`re doing is that major cities, Miami, Hialeah, Miami Beach and Miami (INAUDIBLE) are coalescing around the opening to make sure that we don`t create rushes on any state (ph).

KORNACKI: What do you sense the economic impact of this is going to be? We`ve seen all the statistics here around the country of unemployment claims going up, businesses not being able to -- basically being threatened to going out of business, losing everything they`ve had. Having a partial reopening with restrictions, with folks at least ideally being a lot more cautious, what do you think that does to the economy? How far back do you think that gets it?

SUAREZ: Well, I think the economy has been devastated. I mean, this is unprecedented, what we had to experience not just in the United States but throughout the world. And I think what we`re trying to do is we`re trying to make the best of two things that don`t necessarily interact with each other.

The epidemiologists say the virus doesn`t necessarily care about the economy, and the economy doesn`t necessarily work in the context of a pandemic. So we`re trying to do the very best that we can, working with business owners, working with experts and epidemiologists to make sure that, as we open, we do it safely, so that we don`t have to go backwards. I think that the fear is that we open, and if people don`t take the responsible path, that we would unfortunately be forced to have to go in the opposite direction. That`s something that we want to avoid at all cost.

KORNACKI: All right, Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, thank you for joining us. I appreciate that.

SUAREZ: Thank you, Steve.

KORNACKI: And coming up, some hopeful, but very preliminary developments when it comes to a potential vaccine. The latest on where things stand and what the summer could bring.

And Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is going to joins me on the Trump administration purge of inspectors general, including new reporting on what the fire State Department I.G. was pursuing. Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

Earlier today, U.S.-based pharmaceutical company, Moderna, announced that an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus has produced encouraging results during an early phase of the trial. According to Moderna, 45 people received one or two shots of the vaccine, and eight healthy middle-aged volunteers produced protective antibodies. Though it is important to caution that the vaccine is in very early testing here, these results are only from the first of three stages of testing their vaccines and drugs normally undergo. There are currently more than 100 vaccines under development.

In April, Moderna, received a $483 million grant from the U.S. government that allow the company to supply millions of doses per month in 2020 to Americans if this vaccine proves successful. Now, today`s news sent Moderna`s market value soaring and contributed to a big rise in stock prices.

And for more on this drug, for more on the future of the quest for a vaccine, I am joined by Dr. Anand Parekh, chief medical adviser for the Bipartisan Policy Center and the former deputy assistant secretary for health at HHS.

Thank you, sir, for joining us. Appreciate it.

Well, let me just start on the news.

Every time I see one of the headlines, every time I read about one of these, I get a little bit encouraged. I think we`re all looking at these. We`re all looking for some sort of hope here.

So, tell us. That news that eight folks in this initial test developed antibodies, how significant is that? What does it mean to you?

DR. ANAND PAREKH, BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER: Well, Steve, it`s a proof concept.

It`s eight people. It looks like the vaccine was safe. It elicited immune response. I think we`re going to want to see the full data on all 45. But I think we`re really looking now at future studies. We, of course, want to see this -- how this vaccine does in more people.

The more people who get the vaccine, the more clearly we can assess for adverse effects. We also want to see not just healthy and young people getting this, but, in fact, those who are vulnerable, the elderly as well.

So I think there are a lot of open-ended questions here still. Also, the dosing is going to be critical as well. Again, so this is a first step of a multiphase process assessing safety and efficacy.


So, whether it`s this case or whether we read another headline like this in a couple of weeks, if this is the first step, if it goes well, what is the next step? Where do they go now?

PAREKH: Yes, so the next phase would be not just eight or 45 individuals, but it`d be hundreds of individuals.

And it would also assess, again, a variety of different doses. If that goes well, then, over the summer, I guess you -- they probably want to see how this does in thousands of individuals, again, to assess for adverse events.

So it`s really about the number of people who get this, for how long they get this, making sure it`s a generalizable population. That gives you them confidence, in fact, that this is a vaccine that can work well for the broader population.

KORNACKI: So, this is the Moderna vaccine. That got Wall Street all excited today.

There`s another one, a potential vaccine, that made some news over the weekend. This one`s been getting attention for a few weeks now. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health here say they are seeing positive signs in trials from that proposed Oxford vaccine. It`s currently being conducted on monkeys, the NIH study.

CBS reports that, when they were exposed to the coronavirus, "The monkeys that weren`t vaccinated developed pneumonia, but those that got the vaccine and developed the protective antibodies had no pneumonia and no virus in their lungs."

So, this Oxford study, Doctor -- and, again, there have been a lot of headlines about this. The folks who are running the Oxford study here have been very bullish in their public comments. You have got this example now the NIH says it sees in monkeys.

You have got human trials, I know, under way here, preliminary human trials. Are they a little further along? Is this one encouraging as well?

PAREKH: Well, I think all of these are promising, but you have to be cautious. Again, the vaccine development process is always sort of fraught with complications, sometimes, many of which are on it unexpected.

So, again, it`s all about safety, efficacy. Even, Steve, after you get through all that, it`s all about manufacturing, scaling, and distribution.

So, I think it`s positive that we`re seeing so many different vaccine trials under way across the country and around the world as well. And, again, the hope is that at least several of these candidates can be -- can demonstrate both safety and efficacy, and they can be scaled up.

So, I think this is exactly what you want to see. I think you want to see activity all around the world. We`re going to keep on hearing headlines like this. I think these are positive developments. But, again, we have to understand that it`s important to be cautious, take this one step at a time, and follow this process as it moves forward.


Dr. Anand Parekh, great information there. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

PAREKH: Thank you.

KORNACKI: All right.

And up next, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, is going to join me to discuss the Trump administration going after inspectors general.

Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

Well, sports fans going through withdrawal finally had something live to watch this weekend. After two months of empty racetracks, NASCAR returned on Sunday with a 400-mile race at the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

Now, the stands were empty. This was held without any fans in the seats. But the cars were out there on the track. And the race followed guidelines from the CDC, with mandatory protective equipment, social distancing, and screening of all individuals who did enter the track.

Professional golf also made a return this weekend, with a competition at Seminole Golf Club in Florida that raised millions of dollars for coronavirus relief charities. It featured to two-man teams, also following CDC guidelines.

I guess golf is one of those sports where it`s pretty easy to do that.

Also, Germany -- Germany`s soccer team became the first to return in their league. It was a match played to an empty arena, but it got record television ratings here in the United States.

And there may be hope -- more hope on the horizon here for televised sports. Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he asked professional sports leagues to start planning for a season, a season without fans, albeit.

And speaking of New York, we`re going to be back in a moment with the Senate minority leader, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

President Trump late on Friday abruptly fired the inspector general of the State Department. Steve Linick is his name.

And the firing, which came at the urging of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has prompted alarm from Democrats, who say -- quote -- "It may be an act of illegal retaliation."

And now NBC News is reporting that, before Linick was removed from his post, he was investigating Secretary Pompeo`s decision to green-light arms sales to Saudi Arabia against the will of Congress.

Linick was also reportedly probing whether Pompeo used his staff to run personal errands, at taxpayer expense, chores like walking his dog, retrieving his dry cleaning, and making his dinner reservations.

In an interview with "The Washington Post," Pompeo said he did not know that he was being investigated when he recommended the firing, saying that -- quote -- "Linick wasn`t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to."

And here`s what President Trump said of Linick`s firing today:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we have been treated very unfairly by inspector generals. I can go into instances, but I`m not going to do it now.

But the inspector generals, when they`re put in by Obama, just like it could be that, if they were put in by me, and it was somebody else`s administration, especially the other party, it could very well be that you would be treated unfairly.

QUESTION: What was he doing that was treating you unfairly?

TRUMP: I don`t know. I don`t know anything about him. I don`t know.

I don`t know anything about him, other than the State Department and Mike, in particular, I guess they weren`t happy with the job he`s doing or something. So, because it`s my right to do it, I said, sure, I will do it.


KORNACKI: Linick is now the fourth inspector general that the president has fired in less than two months.

And I`m joined now by the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, of New York.

Senator, good evening. Thank you for joining us.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Good evening, Steve. Good evening.

KORNACKI: We have got the reporting, first coming out over the weekend, that Linick had been looking into Pompeo having staff do personal errands for him.

Now, this morning, there`s reporting as well that this involved getting aid over to Saudi Arabia.

What is your understanding? Do you have a clear sense here of what Linick was looking into?

SCHUMER: No, I don`t. I don`t think many people do.

But I will tell you one thing we know for sure. This president just simply has an aversion to truth. Inspectors general were put into agencies to be independent truth-seekers, to find things that went wrong, bring them to the president and the public`s attention, so they could be corrected.

But when the president hears truth from someone, particularly a truth he doesn`t like, he fires them.

As you said, this is the fourth inspector general in the last few months. And it`s happened over and over again. It happened just with the head of BARDA.

When you have a presidency that is founded on running away from the truth whenever you don`t like to hear it, you know it`s going to be a failure.

It`s one of the reasons that they have been such a failure in fighting the COVID-19 crisis. Again, they ran away from the truth. Oh, this is a hoax. Oh, this will go away when the weather gets warm. Oh, we don`t have to worry about it.

You cannot hide from the truth. You cannot run away from the truth. This is another rather glaring example of the president`s aversion to truth, which hurts the American people.

KORNACKI: Let me ask you about the effort here under way from one of your colleagues, Republican colleagues, just trying to get more information this.

The president earlier today saying that he doesn`t know exactly how Linick had been unfair to administration. But in a letter that was sent today by Chuck Grassley, Republican from Iowa, Grassley has asked the president for -- quote -- "a detailed reasoning" for Linick`s removal by June 1.

And this follows a similar letter after Michael Atkinson`s firing last month, another inspector general. According to Grassley, he hasn`t received a response there.

Again, the way this works, there`s 30 days here until the firing would take effect. Do you expect Senator Grassley, do you expect all of you in the Senate to get a response from the president here? And, if not, is there any step you can take?

SCHUMER: Well, the president always stonewalls.

But the greatest pressure can be exerted by Senator Grassley, who has always stood up for these inspectors general. He`s been a -- that`s been part of his career. So, let him put public pressure on the president. Let him rally some of the other Republican senators, most of whom seem to just bow down whenever the president wants them to, and get something done.

That`s our hope.

KORNACKI: We mentioned there are Democrats, I think Nancy Pelosi out there, saying there could be an illegal aspect to this.

Let me ask you about the argument you do hear from some Republicans, and it essentially says, well, the president, any president, shouldn`t be getting rid of an inspector general if he`s looking into somebody in his administration, but the president can get rid of any inspector general for any reason.

SCHUMER: That`s -- that`s -- Steve, I don`t -- I don`t know the answer to that. The lawyers will have to look at it.

KORNACKI: Well, what do -- what would you look for here in terms of the Senate, in terms of your role in the Senate?

I know you`re not the majority party there. What actions would you like the Senate to take?

SCHUMER: Well, our role is -- our role is to -- is to put pressure on the president, to respect the truth, to keep the truth-tellers in office, and to let the public know when he`s doing -- when he`s doing what he always does.

I mean, even what he said about hydro -- hydro -- hydroxychloroquine, who knows if it`s true? He may not have been taking it, for all we know. He just likes to make a splash.

And I want to make a comment on that, Steve. What the president did with hydro -- hydroxychloroquine was reckless, simply reckless. The experts say -- every expert who has looked at it says it doesn`t help you against COVID.

So, he`s giving people false hope. He may have -- people may take it instead of going to the doctor. But it`s worse than that. His own FDA has said it has bad side effects, whether it affects -- it affects the rhythm of the heart in many bad ways.

So, for him to say this is reckless. It shows no regard for the public. And then you have to ask yourself, Steve, why did he say it? Does he have a friend or a member of the family who might be benefiting? Is he trying to divert attention from his failure at COVID?

Maybe he just likes to make a splash, regardless of the consequences. But, as I mentioned, one thing you don`t know, maybe he`s really not taking it, because the president lies about things characteristically, like -- and when he hears the truth, like in -- with the inspector general, he runs away from it, he fires it, he pushes it aside.

That`s happened throughout COVID, most recently with the head of BARDA.

KORNACKI: When you`re saying maybe the president`s not taking it, do you have any information, or have you heard something?

SCHUMER: No, I don`t.

KORNACKI: Or is that just speculation?

SCHUMER: I don`t.

I just know that he seems at these press conferences oftentimes to go into flights of fancy and make things up. I don`t know whether he`s taking it or not. I know him saying he`s taking, whether he is or not, is reckless, reckless, reckless, gives people false hope, makes -- has people avoid real medical attention, and can actually cause them trouble.

It is just one of the -- it is dangerous, what he did.

KORNACKI: Want to get your reaction too to some news that came out today.

There`s this congressional oversight commission that was set up to oversee this funding, this CARES Act funding that`s starting to go out the door here. There`s a $500 billion Treasury fund that`s been set up to get loans, to get loan guarantees out there to Main Street.

A report today saying about $37 billion of the $500 billion, a very small share, has gone out the door.

What is your reaction to that?

SCHUMER: Well, we need a great deal of oversight.

And the person that I appointed, Bharat Ramamurti, has been leading the charge. And they have asked a whole lot of questions now about these $37 billion.

You know, when Trump proposed this, and the Republicans put it on the floor, there was no accountability. You would not know who got the loans and what the loan terms are until months and months later.

We require that, within 14 -- we required in the legislation -- we had to fight them, but we won -- that, within 14 days, every contract that`s issued must be published in full, with all the codicils, and every contract that`s rejected should be shown as well.

So, we will get some real insight from our oversight panel as to what`s going on here and if it`s being done in a -- with a straight and narrow or some things going amiss. It should be the merits of the case, not who you know.

KORNACKI: This does get to another question here surrounding this debate that`s playing out there where you are now about another round of stimulus, and certainly, the House, Democratic controlled House has moved on that front. I know you want the Senate to move on that front.

One thing you`re hearing from Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, the majority leader there, they`re saying they want all money from the stimulus that`s already been enacted, including presumably the rest of the $500 billion to be out the door, to be disbursed, to measure impact of that before moving to another round.

What do you say to that argument?

SCHUMER: Well, it`s absurd. It all won`t be disbursed for months and months and months. Some of these things take a long time to be disbursed. The unemployment insurance goes until July 31st.

As we speak, there are miles -- distressing miles of cars lined up at food banks, families who can`t feed their children. People are being kicked out of their houses. People are losing their jobs. Small businesses are going out of business.

And even if you listen to Secretary -- I mean, to Chairman Powell, he says, do something now or we`ll create a much worse problem.

The Republicans` idea of waiting, of sitting on their hands as we have the greatest crisis since the Great Depression is outrageous, it`s outrageous. And we are pushing them hard. And if they`re interested in where the money is being spent, why aren`t we having ten hearings about where the money is being spent right now.

We had to push them to do a few hearings. They`re not doing them. They`re not interested in it. They just -- their hard right people say don`t spend money, and they are hurting America dramatically.

Don`t ask me, ask the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Chairman Powell. And I look forward to his being finally coming before us, three or four weeks after we Democrats asked tomorrow before the Banking Committee.

KORNACKI: All right. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer -- Senator, thank you for joining us.

SCHUMER: Thanks, Steve. Thank you.

KORNACKI: All right. Still ahead, the politics of COVID-19, including Eric Trump sounding off, and President Obama`s take on his successor`s response to the pandemic.

Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

Over the weekend, former President Barack Obama gave his most public critique of the Trump administration`s handling of the pandemic. Obama delivered two virtual commencement addresses Saturday, though he did not refer to Trump by name, his comments appear directed at his successor.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Doing what feels good, what`s convenient, what`s easy, that`s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so- called grownups, including some with fancy titles, and important jobs still think that way, which is why things are so screwed up. More than anything, this pandemic has fully finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they`re doing. A lot of them aren`t even pretending to be in charge.


KORNACKI: And earlier this month, in a leaked private call with alumni from his administration, Obama referred to Trump`s response as, quote, an absolute chaotic disaster. On his return from Camp David yesterday, Trump told reporters he did not hear those graduation comments from his predecessor, but had this to say.


REPORTER: What about Obama`s comment? Obama`s comment at the graduation ceremony --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn`t hear it. Look, he was an incompetent president. That`s all I can say. Grossly incompetent.


KORNACKI: And following those comments, the president sent numerous tweets, retweets attacking Obama.

Back in February, Trump accused Democrats of politicizing the coronavirus, claiming the outbreak is, quote, their new hoax. Over the weekend, the president`s son Eric attempted to push that claim further during an appearance on Fox News.


ERIC TRUMP, EVP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: The Democrats are trying to milk this for everything they can and it`s sad. Milk it every single day between now and November 3rd, and guess what, after November 3rd, coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away, and disappear, and everybody will be able to reopen.


KORNACKI: And as we begin to get closer to this year`s presidential election, some Republicans are growing very concerned about the president`s standing right now, of what it could mean for him and for them in November. Does that sound familiar at all? Maybe it should.

That`s coming up next.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

We are less than six months away from the presidential election. Several recent polls show Donald Trump trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee. This is true nationally and it`s true in the most important swing states. And even with polls showing high unfavorable ratings for Trump, his penchant for erratic, inflammatory and polarizing outbursts show no signs of slowing down. And behind the scenes, his party is reportedly getting nervous.

Take a look at these articles. According to "The Washington Post" privately, Republican members of Congress are bracing for defeat, even acknowledge that the election, quote, could be a landslide victory for the Democratic nominee.

And from "Politico", party insiders, quote, believe that Trump`s path to 270 electoral votes is basically shut off.

Those headlines we just showed you are not from the current campaign, they are from the last one and surely, you remember it well. Almost nothing in 2016 seemed to go right for Donald Trump until he won.

And right now, the setup for the current race feels a little similar and once again as "Politico" reports there is wide spread apprehension about Trump`s standing six months out from the election.

For more, I`m joined by former Democratic congresswoman from Maryland, Donna Edwards, also a contributing columnist for "The Washington Post", and Bret Stephens, columnist for "The New York Post".

Thank you both for joining us. And I`m looking forward to this discussion because I think this question of how and 2016 and our memories of it impacts how we think about 2020 is interesting one.

So, Donna, let me start with you on that question. I could give you a long list and I`m sure you could, too, of all the big ways that 2020 is different than 2016. Trump is an incumbent now. He is running against Joe Biden, not Hillary Clinton. We`re in the middle of a pandemic.

There are some pretty big differences now but I`m wondering as somebody that wants to see him out of office and somebody who lived through 2016, what gives you pause? Is there anything that gives you pause when you look at the polls that now show Joe Biden ahead as Hillary Clinton was four years ago?

DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I think one of the things that`s very clear is the level of disinformation there is out there in the social media and surrounds. I mean, I think that`s a concern because it`s something that we didn`t learn how to combat in 2016 and we`ve got to really learn that lesson to fight for 2020.

We had a problem with, you know, sort of generating the kind of turnout that we needed in some very key states and I think Democrats have learned that lesson but they can`t get complacent. And, of course, we have a different candidate in this election and that obviously makes a difference, too, especially the way that Donald Trump responds to Joe Biden. Joe Biden seems to really get under Donald Trump`s skin, and he doesn`t really know how to fight him, and I think, you know, Donald Trump was used to running against this system. Well, he is the system because he`s the incumbent president.

KORNACKI: So, that -- your point there about Biden is an interesting one to pick up on because the president and his allies do appear to be dusting off their old playbook when it comes to how to try to handle the opponent. "The A.P." notes this. Their strategies include, quote, accusations of a deep state conspiracy, allegations of personal and family corruption, painting an opponent as a Washington insider not to be trusted but the "A.P." does note that big difference from tour year four years ago. This time, however, the so-called outsider is the sitting president of the United States.

There is that difference, Bret, and there`s also this -- the attacks in 2016 were against Hillary and Bill Clinton. The attacks in 2020 will be against Joe Biden. Is the outcome going to be different given the target is different?

BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, I think it`s obviously impossible to say and one has to weigh the polling data that we`ve seen with some of the betting odds that we`ve also seen, which has Trump up nine points.

I just point out just -- I think we need to be very cautious but also acknowledge that Trump for all of his weaknesses and for all of his catastrophic failures in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has a number of advantages that Joe Biden simply doesn`t. He has the powers and the perquisites of incumbency. He has huge social media outreach that at this point the Democrats haven`t begun to match and he has considerable advantages in fundraising.

Now, of course, it`s true that Hillary Clinton had great fundraising advantages four years ago and that didn`t help her in the end. But those advantages are serious and Democrats would be foolish to think this election is theirs to lose. This election is theirs to win.

KORNACKI: Donna, let me ask you about what Bret is saying and another advantage the Trump folks think they have in this throughout the pandemic, the president`s approval rating has remained stable. It`s in the mid 40s, according to Real Clear Politics and its average, his approval is very slightly higher than when he first came into office. You see it right there, and despite depression-level unemployment, here it is. Trump still has a net positive approval rating on the economy. That`s on your screen right now.

And according to the latest CNN poll, which was last week, the president also leads Biden on the question, who would handle the economy better? In their poll, it was a double digit margin.

Donna, that`s what you hear from Trump folks, from a lot Republicans on this, that as this country is looking to dig out from this economic catastrophe that`s come with this pandemic, those numbers, Trump and the economy, Trump versus Biden on the economy will work to his benefit. What do you say when you see those numbers?

EDWARDS: Well, I mean, look, I think it`s always troubling when you have, you know, sort of greater support among people around Trump`s handling of the economy, but the fact is there are 36 million people unemployed today. It`s not really clear to me that there`s going to be a recovery in those 36 million jobs between now and November, and really, the president`s incompetence is what is challenging him right now, and I think that anything that the Biden campaign and that Democrats can do to get out of the way of demonstrating -- the president demonstrating on a daily basis how incompetent he is, that the American people are looking for something different. They want a leader. They want somebody who can handle a crisis and they want somebody whose word they can trust and find that in Joe Biden.

And I -- look, I agree that this isn`t just about getting out there and running against Donald -- against Donald Trump. We`ve got to do that. But we also have to, you know, build up our support among Democrats to encourage Democrats to get out to the polls and to make sure that people can safely cast their vote in November and confidently cast those votes in November and I think that Joe Biden has an advantage there, and especially when it comes to competency.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Bret, let me ask you the flip side of what you were saying a minute ago. You laid out what you see are the advantages Trump brings this -- brings to this versus Biden and the possibility that that could put him in a good position.

But there`s the argument, too, I`d like you to respond to this that if you look back at 2016, it was just this confluence of sort of dramatic once in a lifetime circumstances. A net margin of 75,000 votes across three states while losing the national popular vote by millions in an election where his opponent was historically unpopular and at the center of the political stage for a generation and now, you put Joe Biden and incumbency, and it just -- maybe he`s in the game, but he can`t stitch it together quite like that.

How do you look at that?

STEPHENS: Well, I hope -- I hope Donna is right. But let`s remember Donald Trump`s stock and trade is the politics of resentment and you can expect that`s what he`s rooting on now and it could work for him again.

KORNACKI: All right. Bret Stephens and former Congresswoman Donna Edwards from Maryland, appreciate you both being part of this conversation and I have a feeling this is one of those conversations we`ll probably be returning to quite a bit over the next six months because I was thinking how to set this up today. And I mean, we can make all the cases why 2020 is different than 2016, and yet, we still don`t know. That`s the one thing I think 2016 taught us. We can go into an election thinking we know and we can find there are currents we just weren`t aware of.

So, we can talk about it a lot but won`t know until election day. It`s probably an obvious statement, but maybe worth saying.

Anyway, thank you both for joining us and thank you for joining us at home, as well. That does it for us.