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President Trump TRANSCRIPT: 5/19/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Noah Rothman, Ben Rhodes, Ben White


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That`s our show. Keep it right here on MSNBC.

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

The president is going after the World Health Organization as he also continues to defend his decision to take the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine. Trump does say that he has repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus. But, now, he says he is taking the drug as a preventative measure. The Food and Drug Administration says that hydroxychloroquine, quote, has not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19, and the agency specifically cites, quote, a risk of heart rhythm problems in coronavirus patients.

Now, the president is suggesting that the available evidence of the drug`s negative effects is flawed. Here is how he answered a question about the FDA`s guidance earlier today.


REPORTER: The FDA warned that hydroxychloroquine could cause serious side effects, especially with heart, with the heart.


REPORTER: Why is it okay for you to promote the use of this drug when you`re not a doctor? And health experts are --

TRUMP: Well, I`ve work with doctors. And if you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old, almost dead. It was a Trump enemy statement.


KORNACKI: A few hours later, the president confirmed that he is disputing a study of hydroxychloroquine that was conducted at a veteran`s hospital last month.


REPORTER: The FDA has said hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of a hospital setting.

TRUMP: No, that`s not what I was told. No. That was a false study done, where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people that were ready to die. It was given by, obviously, not friends of the administration.

So, immediately, when it came out, they gave a lot of false information. But that study was a phony study put out by the V.A. You may want to talk about that.

People should want to help people, not to make political points. It`s really sad when they do that.


KORNACKI: Trump`s announcement that he is taking the drug as generated surprise and some criticism, including from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last night.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He`s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, what is morbidly obese, they say. So I think it`s not a good idea.


KORNACKI: Meanwhile, today, President Trump also escalated his war with the World Health Organization, threatening to make a pause in funding permanent, unless, he says, the WHO commits, quote, to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days. In a letter last night, the president alleged that the WHO delayed an emergency declaration at China`s behest, and he criticized the organization for repeating Chinese claims that the virus could not be transmitted between humans, and for a statement praising China`s transparency in the early days of the pandemic.

For more now, I am joined by Dr. Kavita Patel. Physician Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Peter Baker, New York Times, Chief White House Correspondent. Ben Rhodes, former Deputy Nation Security Adviser under President Obama, and Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine Associate Editor. Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Peter, let me start with you on the news coming out of the White House. When it comes to the president and this drug, hydroxychloroquine, you heard those comments that he`s making today. Have we learned anything more in the past 24 hours since he first made this announcement about the circumstances under which he began taking this? We had those reports a week or two ago people in his circle who had this, who had this coronavirus. Have we learned anything more about the circumstances under which he started taking it and the reaction of folks around him in the White House to this news?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It`s clear he started taking it around the time his personal valet, first, tested positive, within a couple days, within a day or two, the vice president`s press secretary also tested positive. And the White House began to start new protocols at that time.

One of the things that the president didn`t tell, at least some members of his staff, was that he began to take this hydroxychloroquine. A number of them were surprised yesterday to hear the president say that. That was something that they themselves had not been told, that there has been some curiosity as to whether he really is, in fact, taking it or not.

But assuming he is, and that`s what his doctor said, Dr. Conley, the White House physician, put out a statement saying that, in fact, he had consulted with the president. And he sort of suggest that he agrees with the decision. He doesn`t directly say that he prescribed it or that he`s, you know, recommended it, but said that he will be monitoring carefully and that -- you know, that the president has, in fact, continued to test negative in these daily tests he`s been taking and that he`s asymptomatic.

But I thought it was a very revealing clip that you just showed, where he says basically that the one study he`s citing from the V.A. must have been made by Trump enemies. I think that`s very revealing about his mindset. If anybody puts forward information that contrasts with what he believes or what he thinks is right, automatically, they`re consigned to the Trump enemy list. It must be that they have something against him as opposed to doctors who are trying to get the best information that they can get.

KORNACKI: Yes. So, Dr. Patel, take us through what we know and if there are still outstanding questions, if there are any still outstanding question about this drug and its potential use when it comes to hydroxychloroquine. The president is saying this study, the study on veterans, he seems to be saying they were in bad shape, health-wise, otherwise, therefore, that discounts the value of this study. What exactly is the sort of body of knowledge when it comes to this drug and this condition?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, Steven. And here`s what we know. There`s actually been more than just that V.A. study. The V.A. study that the president is citing certainly showed excess mortality even with people who used hydroxychloroquine. And it wasn`t just frail, elderly veterans, but it was, generally, severely COVID-affected veterans.

So we took from that science, at least, that we should not be using this drug, particularly in people with COVID infections that are of a severe nature.

But there was an even larger observational study, Steve, that showed, it was neither of any benefit, and there was question about its harm. So it did open the door to say, we need to study this drug more. And, in fact, there are ongoing trials, including some trials to look at whether or not healthcare workers, who are highly exposed to coronavirus, could actually take this drug as part of a prophylaxis.

So there are ongoing clinical trials that have, in its place, controls and ways to protect patients, and that`s really the limitation.

Another concerning point that we know, Steve, that is not getting enough discussion is that there are legitimate reasons to take this drug. The FDA did approve this drug, not just for malaria but, but for lupus, for arthritis. And, unfortunately, you can actually track this. The numbers of prescriptions and internet searches. Once the president started talking about this drug, there was a run for prescriptions even in people who didn`t have coronavirus. And it created a shortage for the people who actually need it, and for which it`s prescribed.

KORNACKI: Yes, let me just ask you too. We know the president apparently got his physician in the White House to prescribe this. Is this something that would commonly happen? If a patient out there, somewhere in the country, went to their doctor and said, look, I don`t have coronavirus, I was around folks who did, though, I`m worried, I would like to take this thing preventatively, will you prescribe it? Would it be common for a doctor to say, yes, I`ll write the prescription?

PATEL: No. And I mentioned that there was an uptick in prescriptions because, obviously, we do have some doctors prescribing them. And I will just say, there is no evidence that you should do that. And, no, that is not the answer. And a good analogy, just that people can relate to, is that we know that a lot of viruses cause colds and we shouldn`t take antibiotics for them, but we still see unintentional antibiotic use.

In that same regard though, the answer should be, no. And, in this case, Steve, the consequences are truly fatal. A fatal arrhythmia is not a trivial thing and, thus, all the more reason to really look at the science.

KORNACKI: I want to get to this issue we mentioned too, the president going after the World Health Organization today, saying that this pause on funding that he instituted would be made permanent if he does not get reforms from the World Health Organization.

And Noah and Ben, I want to both bring you in on this because there seem to be two different questions here. Number one is whether the World Health Organization does have something to answer for when it comes to its conduct in the early days of this pandemic, its relationship with the Chinese government, these sorts of issues, the president making reference to them. And then, if so, is the penalty that the president is talking about here, losing funding, is that the appropriate response to this?

Noah, let me bring you in there on the first question of the World Health Organization, the president making lots of charges here. But does the World Health Organization, in your view, have something to answer for when it comes to its conduct?

NOAH ROTHMAN, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE, ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Yes, I believe they do. I think the case against the WHO as relatively straightforward. The president`s approach here is fraught, not to say that it`s bad policy but that it`s probably relatively superficial debate. Congress appropriate this money. A lot of this is funneled through grants. So a lot of institutions get a say as to whether or not this institution gets the cash that it deserves.

And the president making no distinction between the political leadership and medical mission of this organization, probably undermines his case because it martyrs an organization that really does do good work. But this organization was responsible for funneling and lending (ph) authority to flawed and falsified data that was coming out of China, resulting in every western government being caught on the backfoot, on the heel of this pandemic, and resulting in the crisis that we currently experience.

It misled the world about the nature of transmission, the extent to which being now which was under question at the time but led authority to the notion that transmission is much more harder than it is than we understand it to be (INAUDIBLE). So the WHO`s leadership criticized the travel bans that the president implemented suggesting it will contribute to xenophobia all while being relatively deferential to Beijing.

This is the sort of thing that I think contributed to the crisis that we face, not responsible for it, but certainly contributed to it. And while the president may be scapegoating this organization to an extent, that doesn`t mean that they`re entirely blameless.

KORNACKI: Yes. So, Ben, let me bring you in the topic. Because I think underlining of this, and Noah is getting at there, is the accusation that the World Health Organization is too close to the Chinese government, is too deferential. Noah is making some of the points there that are brought up.

I`m curious what is your sense of that? Is that a fair criticism of the World Health Organization? If so, what would account for that? What would explain that closeness? And how should the United States handle that?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, first of all, any international institution represents both the good things and the bad things about its members. And we had problems with the WHO with Ebola. Early in the Ebola outbreak, the WHO was resistant to make a determination about the scale of that outbreak in part, because West African countries, like Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone did not want to shine a spotlight on the fact that there was an Ebola outbreak in their countries.

What the Obama administration did is, we essentially came in and kind of took charge. But then we used the WHO`s vast infrastructure to help the flow of healthcare workers into West Africa to stand out (ph) that outbreak. We couldn`t have done it without the WHO. It took U.S. leadership plus the WHO and its capacity to marshal health resources to deal with that outbreak.

And what is so self-defeating about this, Steve, is that there are going to be massive international dimensions to the COVID-19 response. How do you scale up and disseminate a vaccine globally? How do you deal with issues around resuming travel and supply chains as countries are beginning to come out of this in different kinds of shape? And the U.S. absenting itself from that process is quite dangerous, in my view.

And ironically, Steve, the U.S. walking away from the table will only make China that much more influential in the WHO. If our concern is Chinese influence in WHO, United States, the biggest funder trying to take its ball and go home, is only going to compound that problem. As we used to say in the Obama administration, you know, if you`re not at the table, you`re on the menu here. And this is not the time to be walking away from the single best mechanism for coordinating international response for a pandemic, even if they`ve (INAUDIBLE) and we shouldn`t just walk away.

KORNACKI: Yes. We mention again, there have been independent criticisms of the World Health Organization here and its relationship with China. But the president himself is the one who initiated this conversation today and some of his indictment of the World Health Organization has come under scrutiny. For instance, he criticized the organization for praising China`s transparency in January, but Trump, himself, at that same time, was saying this same thing. Four days earlier, he tweeted that the United States greatly appreciates China`s efforts and transparency. And, in February, Trump dismissed concerns that China was leading a cover-up.


REPORTER: Are you concerned that China is covering up the full extent of coronavirus?

TRUMP: No, China is working very hard.


KORNACKI: Also, The Lancet, which is a scientific journal, is disputing Trump`s claim that World Health Organization, quote, ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from The Lancet medical journal. Lancet today called that claim factually incorrect, noting at the first time they reported on this virus was in late January of this year.

Peter, let me bring you back in. The president and certainly the president`s campaign have made clear their intent to make China an issue in this campaign. But as we just show there, and folks will remember, the president`s rhetoric on China has been a bit all over the place when it comes to this. The likelihood of following through on this threat to permanently withhold funding from the World Health Organization, what is your sense of that?

BAKER: Well, I think he might follow through on it. I think that he`s shown his distaste for international organizations from the beginning of his presidency. whether it be NATO, whether it be the World Trade Organization, whether it be, you know, the various international corps that Ben`s administration negotiated that the president pulled out of. So it`s not outside that the realm of possibility that he would, in fact, permanently pull out that funding.

On the other hand, you know, look, he uses a hammer to try to sheath through negotiations, what other presidents have done, you know, with quieter diplomacy. And sometimes that has, you know, achieved goals that he wants.

I think the question here to whether he actually wants the WHO to reform or they care very much of whether the United States (INAUDIBLE) or whether they`re looking for something to talk about that`s different than his own administration`s handling of this, of course. It`s much easier and much more advantageous for him to focus on the mishandling, if there was any by the WHO mishandling, if there was any by his administration.

And I think that giving the reporters something to focus on other than continued questions about testing or the delays in the initial response is a political -- you know, obviously, a politically advantageous strategy for him. The question is whether it will sell. Because, as you say, you know, there are plenty examples of his own comments about China that undercut his own message right now.

KORNACKI: And, Dr. Patel, just quickly here, if the president does follow through on this and withdraws funding for the World Health Organization, the U.S., the biggest-single donor to the WHO, from a public-health standpoint, is there an impact folks are going to feel in this country, do you think?

PATEL: Not just from a public health standpoint but also from a research standpoint. The WHO is a material partner in actually facilitating a lot of the research on treatments and vaccine developments. So it will have an impact globally, as well as in the United States, where the CDC, again, there have been flaws in this relationship. But the CDC has been a valuable partner, along with the NIH and others, to conduct this research.

KORNACKI: And, Ben, just your sense. You laid out your case in this. Do you think this is something the president will follow through on?

RHODES: Well, I think he`ll certainly try. And as has been said, there are other forms of funding here. There are grants that are already pending. Congress appropriates this money. But we have seen President Trump try to interfere in that process before.

And what`s so crazy is we`re taking a tool of the international community that can help develop treatments and vaccines, disseminate them, harmonize guidelines and we`re essentially throwing wrenches into those gears.

And just think of the segment, Steve. We`re dealing with the pandemic. We`re dealing with the depression and needing to reopen the economy. And we`re talking about a drug that doesn`t cure the disease, and an organization that could be part of the solution that Trump has intended on making part of the problem here. None of the things that he`s talking about and doing are relevant to the public health and economic crisis in the country. They`re just relevant to his desire to have something to talk about through a 24-hour news cycle.

KORNACKI: All right, Ben Rhodes, Noah Rothman, Peter Baker, Dr. Kavita Patel, thank you all for being with us. Appreciate the time.

And coming up, the treasury secretary and the federal reserve chair both grilled by senators on the economic relief programs. Plus, what help, if any, could be coming next?

And later, a portrait of political division. The normal civility, between current and former presidents giving way to deep animosity between the current one and his predecessor.

We have got much more to get to. Stay with us.



QUESTION: Mr. President, why haven`t you announced a plan to get 36 million unemployed Americans back to work?

You`re overseeing historic economic despair.

What is the delay? Where is the plan?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I think -- I think we have announced a plan. We`re opening up our country.

Just a rude person, you are.

We`re opening up our country.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

That was President Trump earlier today reacting to a question about his plans on unemployment.

Deep pain and apprehension have very quickly become the new normal for millions of us. Roughly 36 million have now lost their jobs in the past two months alone, and over a third of the people who were laid off couldn`t pay their bills in April. And, according to census data, about half of small businesses are going to run out of cash within a month.

In the early months of the pandemic, Congress passed aid packages, but it`s unclear if Congress will move forward with another one.

And amid that dismal backdrop, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell made their first virtual appearance before the Senate Banking Committee today.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: As we listen to experts, we are optimistic about the progress being made on vaccines, antiviral therapies, and testing.

Working closely with the governors, we are beginning to open the economy in a way that minimizes risk to workers and customers. We expect economic conditions to improve in the third and fourth quarter and into next year.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: As I said earlier, this is the biggest response by Congress ever and the fastest and the biggest from us.

And, still, this is the biggest shock we have seen in living memory. And the question looms in the air of, is it enough?


KORNACKI: Senator Sherrod Brown, meanwhile, tried to make a point in his exchange with Mnuchin.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or Dow Jones by 1,000 points?

MNUCHIN: No worker should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair.


KORNACKI: And for more, I`m joined by Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News senior business correspondent, and Ben White, Politico chief economic correspondent and host of the "Politico Money" podcast.

Thanks to both of you for being with us, exactly the two people I want to talk this all over with.

Ben, let me start with you.

Two sort of main characters today. I want to start with you.

Mnuchin, we just heard a little of what he had to say there. But his message, it seemed the message he wanted to deliver here had to do with reopening the economy. Obviously, that`s the president`s preferred message on this, him talking about -- Mnuchin talking about the risk of permanent damage if reopening is not undertaken.

I`m curious, because I know you have written about this.


KORNACKI: We see reopening under way in most of the states right now.

It`s limited in terms of scope. It`s limited in terms of who is willing to go out. The type of reopening that we`re seeing right now, what is your sense of what the economic impact of that would be?

WHITE: Well, I mean, it`s limited, Steve.

We`re not opening the economy in the way that we would like to, obviously, which is expansive and getting businesses back open, and everybody back to work, and going back to, you know, business as usual.

But that`s not happening, because people don`t feel comfortable doing that. And there`s a good reason for that. And that is that they don`t feel safe. They don`t feel that they`re going to be healthy. They don`t feel that they are going to be tested and get the vaccines or the, you know, treatments that they need.

So, obviously, Treasury secretary Mnuchin would love to reopen this economy. Everybody would. You would. I would. Everybody would like to. I`m sure Stephanie would.

But we can`t do it unless there is a solid plan in place for testing and tracing and all of the rest of it. And we don`t have it at this moment. So you can`t open the economy that way.

KORNACKI: So, that was the reopening piece of it.

Now, Stephanie, I want to bring you in on the other part of this.

Today`s hearing, also, Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz asked Chairman Jerome Powell whether or not he thought Congress should pass another economic relief package.

Take a look at that.


SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): I know you are loath to way in on specific policy recommendations.

But I want you to talk, in terms of the overall economy, about the impact on quarters three and four, should we decide to say that the bills that we have passed are enough?

POWELL: I think it really depends on the path of the economy, honestly.

As I said, my concern has been that the risk and possibility of longer-run damage to the economy through unnecessary insolvencies on the part of households and businesses and long-term unemployment, and that if we find ourselves in that place, we may have to do more, and it could also be something that Congress wouldn`t want to do.


KORNACKI: Stephanie, he is a politician there trying to be tactful, but it sounds like he`s for more stimulus? Is that your read on that?


But I would say that, first, to Ben White`s point, I absolutely want things to reopen, number one, because Ben White really needs a haircut. His hair barely fits in the shot at this point.


RUHLE: That`s my number one reason why I want things to reopen.

WHITE: That is true. That is true.


RUHLE: But, number two, Fed Chair Powell is obviously -- he wants things to reopen. He wants to regain strength.

But what`s really important to remember, he can`t control that. The Fed may have more ammo, but the Fed can`t print jobs. The Fed can`t create earnings. So, Ben made the point earlier, things are reopening in an abbreviated way, but it doesn`t necessarily mean there is this massive pent-up demand and people are going to race out and be shopping and buying.

We`re a consumer-based economy, right? You have got to be spending. For me, the biggest thing that stood out today, though, I realize these are politicians, and they ask political questions. We didn`t get the questions asked or answered that we need about oversight.

And that`s why you call these guys to come testify, right? We know that the small business program, PPP, has already put out over $600 billion, and we do not know who got the money. We only know some publicly traded companies because they had to disclose that.

The SBA and the Treasury Department has still not disclosed any of that information. And, on Thursday, the Treasury Department said any loans that we put out that were for $2 million or less, we`re going to assume the banks did it right and they`re good enough.

That is an open door for fraud. Nobody asked about that. And what was really frustrating where they didn`t push for oversight, there`s a complaint that they haven`t spent more of that $500 billion in discretionary money for big business.

Well, guess what? If Mnuchin had spent that money, then we`d be arguing, oh, my goodness, they gave all the money to big business, and now, there`s none left. The question to ask is, if you are giving money to these big businesses, what are the requirements and stipulations that will ensure that money will go to help workers and productivity, not just help optimize profitability, which is obviously what has the stock market doing so well?

Because, look, Fed pumps liquidity into the system. Big companies know they`re going to get a backstop. They`re doing A-OK. But look at the underbelly of our economy that is suffering.

KORNACKI: So, Ben, let`s pick up what Stephanie was just talking about there.

WHITE: Right.

KORNACKI: She mentions that Treasury fund. There is a lot of money there that hasn`t gone out yet.


KORNACKI: And what you hear on Republicans on this topic of stimulus is, they may be for another round, they say, in the future, but they want to see the effect of all the money that has been allocated so far.

That Treasury fund raises the question, how much of the money that Congress passed and said we would like to spend here, is there still a big chunk that hasn`t gone out the door? Is it possible what the Republicans are saying here has merit in terms of needing to see the effect of this money?

WHITE: Well, it`s a good question, Steve.

And there is, I think, some question to the extent to which this money has filtered its way through all of these businesses and now into small businesses and the economy more broadly.

We have not seen the PPP sell out like we thought it would and that fund kind of run out of money. So I think Republicans have a point there. But, I mean, we should back it up a little bit and just talk about the extent to which this economy, our economy has been damaged, which is fundamentally.

We`re talking about unemployment numbers that we haven`t seen since the Great Depression. We`re talking about a lack of spending power on the part of the American public that we haven`t seen in decades.

So, eventually, the government is going to have to spend more money. It`s going to have to send money to state and local governments to stay open and make sure they don`t lay off people. It`s going to be required that small businesses are kept whole and are allowed to keep their employees there, Steve.

So, I mean, there is fundamental, like, a break in this economy that has to be fixed. And it`s not been fixed by the American government at this point.

KORNACKI: Stephanie, let me just get one more -- you know the stock market so well.

And this is the thing I`m curious about. I know that the market was down a little bit today. It had been up yesterday, but, overall, the market has not been collapsing like the rest of the economy is here.

Explain the psychology of Wall Street. Does this indicate that they feel they know something about where this is going, that they are more optimistic than other folks out there? Can you explain that disconnect a little bit?

RUHLE: Well, it`s always important to remember that the stock market and the economy are two different things.

And what is hurting the most right now? Small businesses out there that can`t stay open. They can`t just pivot to e-commerce and go digital. They don`t have super strong supply chains. Who does? Big, massive, publicly traded companies.

And, remember, the stock market is forward-looking. So we will have somewhat of a recovery in the third and fourth quarter and definitely next year. We`re not necessarily going to get there tomorrow. And that`s where people are hurting, today and tomorrow.

And just remember this. We were already moving to the digitization of everything before COVID happened. And now that we`re living COVID, that`s only happening faster. And who benefits from that the most? Technology companies, massive retailers.

Let me just give you one example. Let`s say you run Walmart. Walmart earnings were out today, and they meet a huge -- right? Think about all the business they have done, how strong their supply chain is.

And those big companies, when they need to pivot, and have more social distancing rules, have temperature takers, do all those additional measures, they have got the money to do it.

If I run a teeny-tiny retailer in that same town, most likely, I`m not open today. I don`t have any commerce platform. And I might not have the money to create all those new rules. So, that market share is only getting bigger for those big companies. And that`s a positive in the market, because they`re publicly traded.

KORNACKI: All right, Stephanie Ruhle, Ben White, thank you to both of you. Really enjoyed the conversation.

WHITE: Thank you, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right.

And up next: We have been talking about the reopenings under way, some states more expansive than others. How about the dozen or so that have opened restaurants for the last few weeks? What`s happening in those states? Are they seeing a rise in cases?

We`re going to take you through all the numbers on the states that have been the most expansive with reopening.

That`s right after this.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

A minute ago, I said we were going to come right back and show you some numbers from the states that are most aggressively reopening.

Well, guess what, folks? This is what they call a deep tease, because those numbers are coming, but not this segment. You`re going to have to wait a little bit longer, but you`re going to want to see those.

So, stick around.

Meanwhile, though, despite their political differences, the living former occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from President Jimmy Carter through President Barack Obama, they appear to have formed friendly relationships with each other.

They have been bound by shared experiences that only another first family could possibly relate to. That`s the kind of friendliness that was evident a couple years ago, in 2018, when former President George H. -- George W. Bush passed candy to former first lady Michelle Obama at Senator John McCain`s funeral.

This was as well at the funeral of his own father, President George H.W. Bush, later that year.

The relationships between presidents have particularly been on display during another American tradition. That`s when the sitting president invites his predecessors to an unveiling of his official White House portrait.

That is an event that started when Democrat Jimmy Carter invited Republican Gerald Ford back to the White House in 1978.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s a man who is beloved and appreciated. And no one appreciates you more than I do.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Perhaps the most important thing I can say to President and Mrs. Bush today is, welcome home. We`re glad to have you back.

As Americans look for ways to come together to deal with the challenges we face today, they can do well in looking at the lives of President and Mrs. Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bill Clinton could always see a better day ahead. And Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To president and Mrs. Bush, welcome back to the house that you called home for eight years.

We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences. We all love this country. We all want America to succeed.


KORNACKI: A generosity of spirit there in the post-presidency years for these folks.

But the current president and his immediate predecessor, that may be a different story. In all likelihood, they will not be following the tradition we just showed you.

And that`s up next.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

NBC`s Carol Lee reports that the tradition of a first-term president hosting a ceremony in the East Room of the White House for the unveiling of the official portrait of his immediate predecessor will not be taking place when it comes to Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Trump is unconcerned about shunning yet another presidential custom and Obama, for his part, has no interest in taking part in a post-presidency rite of package so long as Trump is in office.

And I`m joined now by Carol Lee, who wrote that report for NBC News, NBC news correspondent, and Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.

Thank you to both of you for being with us.

Carol, let me start with you, just on your reporting here. I think it`s no secret to anybody who`s observed American politics for the past four years, that Donald Trump and Barack Obama have some differences. But -- but what has been -- what has, or maybe the question is, has not been going on behind the scenes when it comes to this kind of presidential custom.

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So, basically, the process is that the former president, either, close to when he is leaving office for shortly after he`s left office, commissions an artist to do a portrait. There is a contract that`s drawn up. It`s all kept very secret. And a couple years from then, when it`s completed, the president and first lady are hosted by the current president and first lady, usually in the East Room. This has been going on, essentially since Jimmy Carter hosted Gerald Ford, for this portrait unveiling.

And it`s really a warm, light lighthearted event where presidents set aside politics and whatever criticisms they`ve had each of other, and come together to kind of celebrate the institution of the presidency. And, based on my reporting, the Obamas have found an artist, in early 2017, a contract was signed, and the process stalled, from there. But neither of these presidents wants to go through with this event, particularly in this climate, as you mentioned. It`s been a very contentious relationship.

Even though there were some signs, early on, or some glimmers of a potential relationship between the two men, after President Trump was elected. And he met with President Obama in the Oval Office. He called him a good man. He said he would seek his counsel. President Obama said he was going to do everything he could to make sure his presidency is successful.

But, as you well know, that really devolved from there, and it never came to fruition.

KORNACKI: Yes. Those days feel like a long time ago now.

LEE: Yes.

KORNACKI: Michael, let me bring you in on that. This relationship or lack of a relationship between former President Obama and President Trump, just recently, in the last few days, certainly, taking center stage with President Obama`s comments over the weekend and the reaction from Donald Trump. Obviously, it takes us back beyond Carter and Ford when this tradition started.

I`m wondering, is this taking us back to a time in American history when there was animosity between a president and his predecessor? Have we seen this before? Or is this just unprecedented?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Presidents in history and you know this, as a historian, Steve, oftentimes, they do not get along with former presidents. Roosevelt insisted that the name of the Hoover Dam be changed so that his predecessor be taken down a peg. Ike and Truman didn`t talk for 11 years.

But you never had a situation over two centuries of American history where you had an incumbent president and people around him talking about the possibility of putting his predecessor on trial. This takes this to a horrible new level that we never saw before.

KORNACKI: There`s also a new book out today from Kate Anderson Brower, "Team of Five", talks about these relationships between presidents and former presidents. And she wrote in "The New York Times," quote, about a year ago in an interview in the oval office, I asked president Trump if his years behind the storied Resolute Desk had made him empathize with his predecessors. He answered my question, without hesitation, no, no.

And she notes that he has stripped them of one of their traditional jobs in retirement, their unique ability to unify the country in a crisis. His decision to jettison his predecessors is highly unusual in modern times and he knows it. His administration, he told me, has bested them all and he was not worried about how he would eventually be received in the president`s club. I don`t think I fit very well because I am a different kind of president. That`s what Donald Trump said.

Carol, it`s an interesting comment there, maybe showing a bit of self- awareness that he has conducted himself differently here.

LEE: Yes.


KORNACKI: It strikes me, though, that this is, in a way, how Donald Trump presented himself as a candidate. I mean, he bashed Obama. He bashed the Clintons. He bashed the Bushes. He bashed president of his own party.

He did kind of present himself as somebody who was separate, if you will, from the president`s club.

LEE: Yeah. I thought that interview with Kate that he gave was really revealing because he does say, you know, I don`t fit in. I`m not that kind of president.

And he`s not. He hasn`t shown himself to be a president who, you know, kind of goes through the motions of the traditions or the decorum. He -- he doesn`t really have any time for that. He`s not interested in that. And the result has been that he`s really taken the gloves off, in ways that we haven`t seen recent presidents do when it comes to criticizing their predecessors.

I mean, he was criticizing George W. Bush just a few weeks ago, for a video that George Bush had -- had made about coronavirus. So it`s not -- you know, Trump is, as he`s told, Kate, just a very different type of president.

KORNACKI: Yes. I`m curious, Michael, too. When you think back to past presidents, we didn`t have past presidents who had their finger on Twitter all day. Maybe that -- that sort of has magnified a bit of this.

BESCHLOSS: No, thank God.

KORNACKI: Is there a comparison there at all between him and a past president? Or is he just, for better or worse, one of a kind?

BESCHLOSS: He dislikes them -- he dislikes them. He thinks that this adds to his brand, running as a so-called outsider, even though he`s running for re-election as an incumbent president. And my guess is that some of his campaign people have told him that a big calling card, a big help to Joe Biden is the fact that Barack Obama is so power -- popular. And if Donald Trump can take down Barack Obama`s popularity a few points, that might hurt Biden.

But the problem is if he is essentially going to try to run against Obama this fall, rather than -- than just Biden, you know, it reminds me of the 1984 commercial of Ronald Reagan. "Morning in America", where Reagan was basically saying re-elect me because you don`t want to go back to Jimmy Carter. And the key line in that commercial was why would we ever go back to where we were, just four short years ago? What if someone asked that question tonight? My guess is it would not be in Donald Trump`s favor.

KORNACKI: All right. Michael Beschloss and Carol Lee, thank you so much. Appreciate having you both here.

LEE: Thank you.

KORACKI: To talk about this. And up next, we teased it a few minutes ago and here it is, the states that have been most aggressive with reopening. Been a few weeks. How are they doing? All the numbers at the big board, right after this.


KORNACK: All right. So different states are taking different steps when it comes to reopening. But what about the states that are taking the step of reopening restaurants? There`s about a dozen that are doing that. We can put them up on the screen.

These are the states that have begun allowing in-person dining at restaurants. Now, keep in mind, a lot of these, there are restrictions here. A quarter capacity, a half capacity, social distancing, folks wearing masks, these sorts of things. Varying rules and restrictions in these different states. But these are steps that have taken that step that other steps haven`t taken, and it`s been a few weeks in these states right now.

So, you know, a lot of talk about what happens when you start easing these restrictions. So, let`s take a look at the numbers in these states and what the trend is. So, we`re going to see on the screen for all these states that have begun reopening in-person dining over the last two weeks, what is the trend compared to the previous, is it a positive or negative trend here?

So, take a look here. Put some of these 13 states up on the screen here. If it`s green, heading in the right direction, cases are going down. If it`s green here, testing is going up. And if it`s this positive rate, it`s the percentage of tests that are taken that come back positive. And you want that number to be going down as well here.

So, again, what you see here is that states like Florida, look at Georgia, South Carolina, these states have gotten some attention. So far, after -- in the last two weeks, the case counts are going down here. Testing is up. The positive rate has been moving in the right direction.

I would note, when you look at the Florida data in the last week, it has started to move in an upward direction, both in terms of the cases and in terms of the positive test rate. So let`s keep an eye on Florida. Does that change in the next week or two?

But so far, you`re not seeing disasters here in terms of spikes here in these states and it`s true basically in the other states. Texas, for instance, cases are up in Texas, but look, testing is way up in Texas, too. And the positive rate of tests is actually down in Texas.

So keep an eye on these. These can change in a couple of days` time. That`s what we`ve been doing. But so far, you`re seeing a lot of green on the screen. So, so far, initially, a couple of weeks in, you`re not seeing big spikes in these states that are taking these steps. Let`s see if that continues.

We`ll keep an eye on it. Up next, the Triple Crown. Some good news. Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Well, right now in any other year, we must be smack many the middle of Triple Crown season. On the first Saturday this month, we would have had the Kentucky derby, the top 3-year-old horses in America converging on Churchill Downs for the mile and a quarter run for the roses. There probably would have been a lot of mint juleps sold too.

And then this past Saturday, the action would have moved north to Baltimore for the Preakness, at the venerable Pimlico Race Course. If by some chance the same horse won both of those races, and right now, the anticipation would be sky high, because that horse would have a chance to gallop into history by winning the third and final leg of Belmont takes, and become just the 14th Triple Crown winner of all-time.

That`s how it usually goes. That`s how it could be going right now, that`s how it certainly was supposed to go, until this pandemic took hold. And among the countless other ways our lives have changed, we haven`t known if there would be a Triple Crown series this year, but now we do.

The New York Racing Association today announced that the Belmont Stakes will take place in just a few weeks. It had originally been scheduled for June 6th. Now, it will occur June 20th. It will still be at Belmont Park on Long Island, but there will be no fans in attendance. On big days in the past, they`ve drawn more than 100,000.

The race will be a mile and a eighth instead of a mile and a half, the usual distance for the test of champions. This time, the Belmont Stakes will be the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby will be September 5th, meaning that the Preakness, a race that often gets lost in the shuffle, will this year be the last race to go on October 3rd.

This will not be a normal triple crown at all, but at least we`re going to have one. That`s the good news dose for today. Thank you for being with us.

And don`t go anywhere. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.