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Trump accuses Twitter TRANSCRIPT: 5/27/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Leana Wen; Lanhee Chen; Jonathan Lemire; Elise Jordan, David Leebron, Wayne Frederick


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  That is it for the THE BEAT. keep it right here, on MSNBC.

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

The United States has reached a sobering milestone in its battle with the coronavirus pandemic. More than 100,000 Americans have now lost their lives to this virus, this in just four months, less than four months, in fact, since that first confirmed death back in February. And 1.7 million people now have confirmed as a positive case for this virus.

And today, a model frequently cited by doctors from the White House task force issued a new projection of the potential death toll from the virus. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that by early August, nearly 132,000 Americans will be dead from the virus.

While the death count is still climbing, the number of new cases nationally is now continuing along a slow and steady decline. Testing has also increased. And the rate of tests coming back positive has also declined.

All 50 states have now begun some form of phased reopening of their economies, some moving faster than others, all with some restrictions still in place. As these re-openings proceed and the warm weather months arrive, there are public health experts warning of a potential new spike in cases.

And a new study from China today also suggests that the number of asymptomatic cases could be much larger than previously thought, but also that those individuals may not spread the virus for as long as symptomatic patients do. This report was based on 78 people, all with the coronavirus in Wuhan where it all started.

Quoting from the report, a little more than half the patients, 58 percent, had symptoms. About 42 percent did not.

Meanwhile the Centers for Disease Control today warned that antibodies should not be relied upon for determining when to return to work, saying, quote, less than half of those testing positive will truly have antibodies.

Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci also said the United States could potentially avoid a second wave of the virus in the fall if states open correctly.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES:  We often talk about the possibility of a second wave or of an outbreak when you`re reopening. We don`t have to accept that as an inevitability, and particularly when people are starting to think about the fall. And I want people to really appreciate that. It could happen but it is not inevitable.


KORNACKI:  And for more, I`m joined by Dr. Leana Wen, Emergency Physician and Public Health Professor at George Washington University, and Lanhee Chen, Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Thank you to both for joining us, I appreciate it.

Well, let`s pick it up on what Dr. Fauci was saying today. The idea that this feared second wave coming in the fall, coming sooner possibly, could be avoided or could be limited in its severity if states reopen in a smart way. 50 states are now, as we said, in some form of reopening.

All of them have requirements about social distancing. Some are allowing more businesses than others to reopen. But all are beginning to go about this.

Let me just put the same question to both of you. I`ll start with you, Dr. Wen. Do you think the re-openings we are seeing right now, broadly speaking, are being done in a smart way?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN:  Broadly speaking, no. All we have to do is look at the pictures from this last Memorial Day to know that there is widespread misunderstanding about what reopening means. It does not mean that somehow the virus has changed, because it has not. We are still looking at a very contagious disease.

And, unfortunately, people are misunderstanding this. We actually should be even more on guard than before. People haven`t going back to work. If people are going to be interacting with each other more, then we need to be doing even more in our social lives to reduce physical distancing, to continue aggressive hand hygiene, wearing masks, so that we can bring in this virus as much as possible.

I do agree with Dr. Fauci that this is not inevitable, as in it`s not as if we`re looking at a hurricane that`s going to be coming to us anyway. There`s something that we can do. We need to be ramping up testing, tracing, isolation capacity. And at the same time individuals need to also see that our actions today will influence what happens to our country tomorrow.

KORNACKI:  Lanhee Chen, let me bring you in but with the same question. How do you think the reopening is going right now? Do you think this is being done in a smart way?

LANHEE CHEN, DIRECTOR OF THE DOMESTIC POLICY STUDIES, STANFORD UNIVERSITY:  I think the answer is it depends. I think in some states, you`re seeing the right measures being taken. I think you`re seeing a nice glide slope in some states where they`re trying to reopen judiciously while recognizing, Steve, that a lot of people have reached the level with the containment, with sort of staying in, that they don`t feel like they`re able to do so as effectively anymore.

So I think governors, and I think policymakers in all of these states are trying to figure out, you know, how do you balance between the need to continue to open judiciously, and smartly, and safely, while also recognizing that people have a service limit when it comes to staying indoors.

So I think, we have to make all of these decisions tempered by the reality that human behavior is going to influence a lot of what happens going forward.

And to Dr. Fauci`s point, I think, yes, it is entirely possible the United States could avoid an adverse outcome with a second wave. But a lot of that is going to depend on compliance. And you`ve got a regulation out there, that people are not complying with in any case, you have to ask, how do you create the policy levers, such the people are going to be responsive to the right kinds of regulatory input, so that people are responding to limit spread of the virus, while also recognizing, as I noted that in some cases people just want to get outside and they want to socialize again. So we`ve got to balance all those interests.

KORNACKI:  Yes, we talk about what is, what isn`t reopening, more and more leisure activities are starting to reopen, indoors and outdoors. Today, most casinos in Oklahoma have been allowed to reopen. Guests and employees must wear masks and have their temperatures checked at the door.

Meanwhile, MGM resorts announced today that they`ll be reopen four of their Las Vegas properties on June 4th with similar restrictions, although guests are only encouraged to wear masks there.

And in Florida, several theme parks said they will be open this summer. Today, Disney World said its plan to reopen its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11th. And the rest of the park will reopen on July 15th. Mask and temperature screenings will also be required.

Dr. Wen, let me ask you about this, because the question are already some of the questions that have been coming to me as I watch these re-openings play out in states, one thing that it always occurs to me when I say, is it indoors or is it outdoors?

And I see all these pictures of people gathering outside and I wonder, is that significantly safer than gathering in -- what do we know about the difference between an outdoor venue reopening and an indoor venue reopening when it comes to safety?

WEN:  So, we know a lot more about COVID-19 than we did a couple of months ago, including that we know about what makes it -- what are the higher risk settings than others, because nothing is no risk. I think people often will ask about, well, is it safe. Nothing is 100 percent safe. But there are ways for us to reduce that risk.

So outdoors definitely is safer than indoors. Actually, the highest risk is indoors, in a crowded place, with a lot of people who are shouting because that also propels droplets. And especially if people are also hugging, kissing, touching, sharing drinks, sharing utensils, and if they`re going to be in that indoor space for a long period of time, because that time to exposure also really matters.

So you can think about the reverse of that, you can also try to reduce your risk by being outdoors, stay at least six feet away from others. If you`re going to get together with your friends, with neighbors, stay that physical distance, six to ten feet apart, watch kids, because kids may not follow that social distancing. Don`t share utensils, don`t pass around food, everybody bring their own chairs, and don`t linger.

If you`re going to the beach, you can walk, and if you see a lot of people around, don`t stay there, keep walking. That also all of those types of things reduces your individual risks and should be guidance for employers and others looking to open their facilities too.

KORNACKI:  Lanhee, you mention, you say some states are doing this better than others. I`m just curious, what have you noticed, watching these re- openings? You know, we talk about some states allow indoor dining at restaurants, with limited capacity, but they allow it, other states aren`t. We`re talking about casinos here. What have you seen? Have you seen, based on the experiences in these states, there doing it, have you seen a few specific things that you think, hey, that looks like a good idea, that`s working well, and a few that you say, jeez, that`s not a good idea, let`s avoid that?

CHEN:  Yes. Look, I think Steve, it`s really important for states to think about coordinating their activities with neighboring states. I`ve talked about this before. But if you`ve got an area like the Washington, D.C. area, it`s simply unrealistic to expect D.C. to have a set of rules that are different from Maryland and Virginia. So you`ve got to have coordination between all of those authorities.

So where that coordination is happening, I think that`s a great thing, and I think those are going to be, openings that are more thoughtful and frankly it will avoid the possibility of a closure later this year.

  Where I think we run into a little bit of challenge is where the guidance is inconsistent within states. So, California is a good example of this. As a general matter, we`ve got statewide guidance that suggests certain things are permissible and then you`ve got certain parts of the state that are looking it variances from that. So the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County, they`re looking variances for various reasons.

That inconsistency within states can be a challenge because people aren`t sure what guidance to follow. Are they to follow the local public health guidance? Are they to follow the state guidance? So I think some additional clarity where you have situations within states, where there are different rules based on geographic areas, I think that would be a good step forward in this next round of reopening.

KORNACKI:  All right. And, by the way, for folks out there, we talk about this state is doing this, this state is doing that, it`s so hard to keep track of. A little while on the show tonight, we`re to going to go over to the board and we`re going to take a look. Hey, here is what the state did, here is what the numbers look like in terms of cases in the outlook of this in few weeks later. That`s a little bit later in the show.

But until then, Dr. Leana Wen and Lanhee Chen, I want to thank you both for joining us, I appreciate that.

And coming up, we all know that President Trump is a prolific user of Twitter. And now, he is threatening to punish social media platforms, this after Twitter slapped a fact check on some of his tweets. Where is this heading?

And four Minneapolis police officers were fired for their role in the death of George Floyd. But today, family members say that more needs to be done. Stay with us.


BRIDGETT FLOYD, SISTER OF GEORGE FLOYD:  I would like for those officers to be charged with murder, because that`s exactly what they did. They murdered my brother. He was crying for help.



KORNACKI:  Welcome back.

The president today threatened to use the power of the federal government to shut down social media companies, including Twitter, the platform that he uses virtually daily. This is because Twitter took steps yesterday to refute certain inaccuracies in the president`s tweets. The company included labels beneath two of Trump`s posts about voting by mail. Those labels, which read, quote, get the facts, linked to news stories intended to provide additional context about the president`s claims.

But the move prompted Trump to accuse Twitter of interfering in the election and, quote, stifling free speech. Today, he alleged that all social media companies are, quote, silencing conservative voices and threatened this, quote, we will strongly regulate or close them down before we can ever allow this to happen.

Now, the White House is telling NBC News late tonight that the president will sign an executive order relating to social media companies tomorrow. Twitter`s decision came after the president used tweets to falsely insinuate that MSNBC`s Joe Scarborough was responsible for the death of Lori Klausutis, who worked in his congressional office almost 20 years ago.

This has earned Trump some sharp rebukes from conservative editorial boards. There aren`t many republican lawmakers also speaking out about the president`s tweets, but there are a few, including Senator Mitt Romney, who said of Klausutis`s widower, quote, his heart is breaking, enough already. And Congresswoman Liz Cheney told The Hill Newspaper that, quote, I would urge Trump to stop it. But the president has not stopped, continuing to promote the baseless conspiracy theory today.

For more, I am joined now by Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for Associated Press, Elise Jordan as a former Aide in the George W. Bush White House, and Noah Rothman, he`s Associate Editor at Commentary Magazine. Thank you all for being with us, appreciated.

Jon Lemire, let me just start with you, the president making a very dramatic threat on Twitter today. Now, there`s this word of some kind of executive order potentially being in the works. Do you have a sense if there is going to be a real follow-up here from this administration and what form it could possibly take?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, Steve, the president is fond of the dramatic threat but it`s unclear what sort of follow-up there will be. He was in Florida today, trying to attend the scrubbed rocket launch. On his flight back, White House press secretary came back and told reporters on the plane that there would be an executive order on social media coming out either later tonight or tomorrow. A short time later it was clarified that it will be tomorrow. But there are no details yet as to what it will be.

And according to our reporting there`s been no such order circulated internally within the west wing just yet. So most advisers don`t know what it`s be, what will it say. It`s unclear what sort of teeth it will actually have. And let`s remember, it doesn`t seem like the president has any legal ability to shut down Twitter, or any of those social media companies.

But let`s take a half step back here. This is about obviously the event of yesterday, and it`s two-fold. First, the president was, again, offering erroneous information about mail-in voting. He has repeatedly done this now, said that it would be illegal in states that have consider doing it, trying to expand the power to vote during this pandemic, whether that be California, Michigan, and there have been others. And let`s, of course, recall that in 2016 he erroneously suggested that there was widespread voter fraud, when, of course, there`s no evidence, there was any whatsoever. He`s saying that could happen again now.

And to your point, there is a real sense here that Twitter finally was moved to act on the heels of the president`s tweets about our colleague and friend, Joe Scarborough, though Twitter has said they won`t take down those tweets, they are looking to have some sort of mechanism to perhaps to enforce offensive material, even from the president. But these fact checks, obviously enraged President Trump.

But as a final point, the president, he`s not going to go off Twitter. His favorite and, and he believes, most effective form of communication. He`s not going to turn down the ability to directly communicate with his supporters and drive the news cycle.

KORNACKI:  All right, so let me pick up on what you were talking about there with Noah and Elise, because it`s the question from Twitter standpoint. This has become an issue here. What should Twitter be doing? Should Twitter be doing anything in the face of tweets like this from the president? Should they delete the tweets? That`s what Klausutis`s widower has asked for here. Should they be a pending Trump`s tweet with some kind of fact check as they, at least, did in this one case? Should they be doing nothing, should they be saying, let the words speak for themselves and let the people make up their own mind?

Elise, let me start with that question to you. Should Twitter be doing something or not?

ELISE JORDAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AND STATE DEPARTMENT AID:  Personally, I think that Twitter has an obligation to have a forum that isn`t a cesspool of misinformation. And I support putting a disclaimer by factually inaccurate information that is being disseminated by powerful accounts.

This is not -- this has been a long time in the coming. You look at how Twitter banned Alex Jones a few years back, and it actually made a difference in slowing down Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and his dissemination of false information.

And so, you look at how Twitter will use their power as a private company, to keep their form clean, so to speak. But they don`t do it when it someone like Donald Trump. And so why is there a double standard when the more powerful you are, as Donald Trump, you seem to be immune to having any kind of check on your outright lies, as we have certainly seen over the past couple of days with just the utter lunacy that is coming from Donald Trump`s Twitter account.       KORNACKI:  So, Noah, Elise notes, this is a private company. We hear a lot of free speech arguments here. This is not the government doing this. This is Twitter, a private company, doing this and facing the possibility of doing more here.

What do you think about that, about what Twitter should or shouldn`t be doing?

ROTHMAN  Look, it`s a very tough call. I think it`s extremely fraught.

I have to disagree a little bit with my friend Elise. It`s a fraught course that Twitter has taken here which blurs the distinctions between what it is, which is a platform, to what it now aspires to be, which is a publisher.

It has argued very authoritatively that it does not publish content. In fact, there is a whole industry dedicated to fact-checking the president, which are publishers and are subject to publishers` regulations.

Twitter is immune from the kind of legal jeopardy that could be visited upon a publication that engages in behavior that`s libelous, for example. People like Senator Josh Hawley have been arguing that these provisions should not apply to Twitter. And by getting into the publishing business, they make his case for him.

Second, you`re not going to -- unless you were to simply deplatform the president from this thing, it`s not as though you`re going to rob him of his microphone. He has the biggest microphone in America. And it`s not going to be any different whether he`s on or off Twitter.

It will, however, give him a sense of grievance that will animate his supporters and rob the public, I think, more of the full picture of who this person is. Voters should be fully aware who the president is when he does things that are obscene and cruel, like what he`s done to the host of MSNBC`s "Morning Joe" over the last couple of days.

That`s the sort of thing that voters should be aware of going into the polls. So, no, I don`t think that Twitter`s course here has made anything better. I think it`s, frankly, made everything a little bit worse, on top of the fact that they got one aspect of the fact-check wrong, very minimal aspect, by confusing mail-in ballots with absentee ballots, small -- small matter.

But when you`re claiming the mantle of authority associated with fact- checking, you have got to get everything right. And by not doing that, they have confirmed the president`s supporters` suspicions.

KORNACKI:  Let`s take a look too at this from the angle of the politics of this.

The president has been using Twitter, has been using this platform with very inflammatory -- that is one way of putting it -- inflammatory tweets for a long time here.

Assuming he is not kicked off of it -- and, as Jon says, assuming he continues using it, there`s this. A majority of voters say they do not like how the president uses Twitter. This was a Morning Consult poll a couple months ago.

These numbers have been steady, though, throughout his term. It found that only 20 percent of all voters say Trump`s use of the social media platform is something they view positively. Sixty percent say they think it is a bad thing. Broken down by party, overwhelming majority of Democrats there, independents too say Trump`s Twitter habit is bad. Even 30 percent of Republicans agree with that sentiment.

Elise, we talk all the time about, this is the president who has never crossed 50 percent in his approval rating. This is the most polarized, from a public opinion standpoint, presidency we have ever seen.

How much is Twitter and his use of Twitter a part of that?

JORDAN:  Donald Trump reminds everyone on a daily, hourly basis of his cruelty with his Twitter use. It is not a positive.

You -- I have been in so many focus groups with strong Trump supporters who will not have anything to say remotely bad about the president. They can be 100 percent happy with him. What they do say, though, if they would change anything about Donald Trump, it would be his tweeting habits.

No one likes the tweeting. Yet Donald Trump can`t control it. It`s a habit that he isn`t going to break. And you look at how, throughout the course of his candidacy and his presidency, he has continued down the same no-holds- barred, disinformation, mean-spirited Twitter use. And that`s just is not going to change, even if its own supporters don`t like it.

KORNACKI:  So, Noah, in terms of the role of Twitter in Trump`s political brand, I hear two very different theories out there.

One goes along the lines of what Elise was just saying. Look at the polls. People say they don`t like it. If Trump didn`t tweet, if there wasn`t such a thing as Twitter, Trump would be a much more popular, much less unpopular president. It`s getting in his way.

I also hear it argued, if it weren`t for Twitter, Trump wouldn`t be president in the first place. How do you look at it?

ROTHMAN:  I mean, it`s sort of hard to argue the negative.

I`m not sure whether he would be the president at all in the absence of Twitter.

Nevertheless, there`s very little evidence to suggest that it helps him. There`s a lot of evidence to suggest that it hurts him. His job approval rating and his -- the general election polls, which are not predictive at this point, but are interesting, are so static, even despite the very dynamic events of the last several months, at which -- and he`s had one of the shortest-lived bumps, job approval bumps, in the post-pandemic era in the Western world.

And you have to think some of that has to do with his personal comportment, every -- that, even in the absence of economic calamity in a public health crisis, that his job approval rating has remained relatively static, until now, when you`re starting to see the president veer off the rails and indulge his worst impulses, and avoid the task ahead of him, which is to manage this crisis.

It is not appealing to voters. It is turning them off to a certain extent. And the outpouring of frustration you have seen from some Republicans and some conservative-leaning media outlets is very interesting.

If you were going to reverse-psychology this president into getting away from these platforms, you would probably not talk about this at all, but they`re planting a flag here on a hill that I think is very important, because if this contributes to the president`s undoing, you want to be on the record when it mattered.

KORNACKI:  Jon Lemire, one final question to you on what the president thinks he`s accomplishing with his use of Twitter, because I -- I was looking at a study that Pew did, I think it was about a year ago.

And they looked at who actually uses Twitter. It`s about one in five Americans who have a Twitter account. The rest don`t have. And of that one in five, a lot of them may just be inactive accounts. It`s really a very small group of folks who produce most of the tweets. They tend to be younger. They tend to have college degrees.

They tend to identify politically as Democrats. I think, anecdotally, a lot of them are in the media. Is Trump using Twitter, is your sense, strategically to provoke the media, to provoke a certain demographic? Or does he see it as a way around the media? Does he think he is sort of reaching the masses with this tool?

LEMIRE:  I think it`s twofold. The answer is, I think, both of those things.

He knows the people that are going to react to his tweets are his followers, who obviously are on Twitter, choose to follow him, and view Twitter as a means of getting around the media.

And he also knows that we`re all on Twitter, people like us. Assignment editors are on Twitter, people who are going to react in the echo chamber and amplify what he has to say. He knows he can drive the news cycle.

I talked to a former senior adviser of his within the -- within the first few months of his term, and he said to this person, the president did, that he loved the idea of being able to tweet, and within a minute or two, the cable Chyron would change to reflect that tweet.

He believes it`s a way of studying the news media, of keeping us off-guard, and also making news. We know that certainly lawmakers of both parties have those notifications on their phone and have grown very anxious when they realize the president is tweeting, because Republicans realize that if he - - they were to cross the president, and he were to tweet something negative about them, it might move the primary electorate against them.

Certainly, Democrats are used to him making policy pronouncements that they will have to react to also by Twitter. So he`s certainly not going to give it up. And it`s certainly not new also for conservatives to allege sort of bias among social media.

And, certainly, the president now has hit that harder than ever before. We will see what the executive order has tomorrow. It may be more bark than bite. But, certainly, this isn`t going to be the last we hear of the saga of Donald J. Trump and Twitter.

KORNACKI:  OK, yes, we will see what tomorrow brings on this front, if anything.

Jonathan Lemire, Elise Jordan, Noah Rothman, thank you all for being with us. Appreciate it.

And still ahead:  At this point, we do have a lot of data on the disease, on its spread. We mentioned this. A lot of states have begun reopening. What does the picture look like from a data standpoint? Where is it going well? Where is it not going well? What are we learning?

I`m going over to the Big Board next. We`re going to take a look.

Stay with us.


KORNACKI:  All right, welcome back.

We have been talking about, what is the state of the coronavirus here when it comes to the number of new cases, the number of new tests being performed, all of the important data? We said we would give you a big breakdown nationally and then in all of the key states right now where you`re seeing some of these reopenings.

How is it looking on the ground?

So -- whew -- it came up. I wasn`t sure it was going to. Here we go.

This is the number of new cases every day that we`re seeing here. And this is sort of -- this is the curve of the development. Back in March, back into early April there, you saw that number was dramatically rising.

And you see that, since then, it kind of leveled off. It`s going down, slightly, steadily, that number of new cases a day. You`re still up there at 20,000 or so a day, but it is down. and that curve, you can see, is heading in that downward direction.

So, that`s the overall big picture there when it comes to the new cases per day.

This, then, this is the number of tests that are being performed. Remember, we were talking for a long time there, we had a very slow start on testing, the number wasn`t as high as it should be. But that number has continued to rise. On average now, you`re getting close -- you have days now, you have had days when you have gotten over 400,000 a day. So that`s been encouraging.

You take a look here, and we`re going to add in one more here. This is the positive test percent. And I think this is a key stat, because this is all the tests that are taken. How many of them are coming back positive?

And you can see that has been heading in a downward direction as well now really since the middle of April, since late April. So, early on, there was a scarcity of tests. The most symptomatic people were getting tested for it. You had a lot of new cases every day. That positive rate was very high.

That positive rate, you can see now, is under 10 percent more recently. That`s the number, 10 percent. They want it to be under 10 percent. So, that`s a good sign on the positive rate.

So there`s some positive, some encouraging trends at least nationally.

What about in individual states? Let`s take you through some of them here. So, let`s see if -- here we go. OK, Georgia. It came up. I wasn`t sure there for a second there, but Georgia just came up.

I was going to take you through these one by one. But let`s look at the big picture here. The number of new cases, remember, Georgia, one of the earliest, one of the most aggressive with reopening, over the last two weeks, the number of new cases a day, it`s down, double digits there, 12 percent. Testing is up 28 percent.

The positive rate for those tests being taken 5 percent, that`s come down from before. The number that`s a little unnerving in Georgia, it`s this. It`s the hospitalization. That`s up 17 percent. That`s a number to keep an eye on. Does that keep climbing? Does that climb higher?

These stats are encouraging in Georgia. That one raises some questions, so keep an eye on the hospitalizations in Georgia.

Let`s see if -- here we go, Florida. Now, here`s one where Florida -- this is another state with a lot of reopening, double-digit rise in new cases. But look at the rise in testing, 62 percent. What does that mean?

The positive rate, even though there`s more cases, with more testing, positive rate is down, hospitalizations are down in Florida.

Let`s try to get through these quickly. Sorry. It`s Colorado. There we go, Colorado. Two more here. Colorado, another state here that`s all encouraging. There, you see all green in Colorado.

And we will land on -- we will land on Virginia. There you go, new cases in Virginia. This is a state, though, Northern Virginia, outside D.C., beginning to reopen later this week. Cases are on the rise. Testing is on the rise. But the positive rate in Virginia, it`s still double digits. It`s down, but it`s still double digits.

Hospitalizations are up. So, Virginia is a state, they`re in the process of reopening, Northern Virginia about to reopen more. That`s one to keep an eye on, certainly.

So, that is a look at it there, some of the states.

Up next:  About 20 million young people were attending college when the pandemic hit. Now colleges across the country are having to make some tough choices about how and if they`re going to reopen.

Two presidents going to join me next.


KORNACKI:  Welcome back.

As the country begins to reopen, colleges are actively planning what a return to campus this fall would look like, this, of course, amid fears of a possible second wave of the virus also this fall.

According to a survey of more than 800 schools by "The Chronicle For Higher Education," about two-thirds of colleges say they are planning for an in- person semester this fall. About 27 percent are still deciding what to do or are proposing a hybrid model.

Only 7 percent are planning for an entirely online semester.

Purdue president and former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels advocated for his school`s return in "The Washington Post," writing this -- quote -- "Forty-five thousand young people are telling us they want to be here this fall. To them, sorry, we are too incompetent or too fearful to figure out how to protect your elders, so you have to disrupt your education, would be a gross disservice to them and a default of our responsibility."

For more, I am joined by the president of Howard University, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, and the president of Rice University, David Leebron. And Howard in Washington, D.C., by the way, is weighing a mixed of face to face classes and virtual course. And Rice in Houston is planning to bring its full population on campus but with significant modifications to class operations. And classes will be available both in person and remotely.

Dr. Leebron, let me bring you in on that first. You say you`re going to offer both in-person and online classes. What`s your expectation? Do you think most students are going to want in-person? Do you think you`re going to have a lot saying no, I`d rather do online?

DAVID LEEBRON, RICE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT:  Yes, we really think most people will want in-person. I want to emphasize that we`re going to sort of be making this decision over the summer, a final decision based on all the circumstances. But the idea is to be, as we put it, flexible, agile and adaptable. We want to be able to respond to whatever the circumstances are.

KORNACKI:  Dr. Frederick, I wanted to read you something that another college president said who does not believe there should be reopenings of schools right now. This is Michael Sorrell. He`s the president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas.

He said, because of the manner in which most residential colleges are operated, these institutions cannot use traditional face-to-face instructional methods and expect anything other than an unacceptable rate of disease transmission. How do you think about that? What do you think of what he`s arguing there?

DR. WAYNE A.I. FREDERICK, HOWARD UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT:  Yeah, you know, I think the key is that we have to follow some of the public health guidelines. I think one of the things that is important is exactly what you just showed earlier on your show. We have to look at what hospitalizations, testing ability, and those types of things are in our specific area. And I think if we do that, and we have appropriate plans and follow social distancing, we have a hybrid, we have people wearing masks, I think we can where appropriate be able to come back to that.

The other thing I would point out is that there are 90 days between now and the start of school in the fall. If we look back 90 days from where we are today, what was taking place with respect to the pandemic was very different. I think the situation we will be in, 90 days from now, we hope will be very different, especially around testing and our ability to contact trace in particular.

KORNACKI:  I`m curious, you talk about the need for social distancing in any form of opening on campus. How do you -- it`s a college, there`s thousands of kids, there`s dorms. Certainly, there`s typically roommates.

Does that change? The cafeteria, kids gathering in the lounge in the dorm, how do you enforce social distancing on a college campus?

FREDERICK:  So, I think a lot of things will change. What we have to think of, yes, we will have our students and residents as roommates but we will talk to them about hygiene, hand washing, about wearing masks, more than five feet, you know, where they maybe outside of their room, gathering with other people. I think all of those things will change. I think our society has changed already.

And even when we do open back up, I think you will see a significant difference in how we all interact in many spheres. So, we`re all going to have to come out at some point and it will not be what it was like before, there will be a new reality. That`s what our university should be about. We should be about trying to innovate what that change looks like, and how we accommodate that change.

I think with the younger people we bring back, we`ll need to give them an opportunity to demonstrate responsibility.

One thing last thing I`ll say is, especially at Howard, some of the students that we bring here at Howard University, it`s their safe home and their safe place. And we have to consider that as well, that opening is not just about providing an education to them but in some circumstances, not very few but more than we would like, Howard is actually the safest place for them to be in the fall.

KORNACKI:  Well, "The New York Times" notes as colleges make plans to bring students back to campus alongside discussions of mask requirements and half-empty classrooms, one common strategy is emerging, forgoing fall break and getting students home before Thanksgiving in an attempt to avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections expected to emerge in the late fall. Built into their calculations are epidemiological assumptions that reducing travel will help students avoid contracting and spreading the virus and that any easing of the pandemic this summer will end with the return of flu season.

David Leebron, your school, Rice, is doing this. You`re starting, as I understand it, at your normal time, you`re shrinking out, you`re getting rid of the breaks and you`re trying to end by Thanksgiving. Talk a little bit about the thinking that goes into that, when you believe the second wave would be most likely to hit and how likely you are to avoid that.

LEEBRON:  Yes, so we looked very carefully both at a trajectory of the disease right now, both nationally and in Texas and in Houston, and that led us to conclude it was probable that we would be able to open the campus in mid-August when we begin.

And then we looked at what the experts were saying about a second wave, and typically those come in the early to mid-winter. And so that led us to think if we could complete the semester by Thanksgiving, that would give us a greater probability of avoiding a second wave. We, of course, don`t know exactly what it is, but based on the best expert advice, it is likely to be after Thanksgiving.

And as you said, that also kind of prevented the scenario in which we`re sending students home all across the country and having them come back to the university, potentially bringing transmission of the disease back to the university, depending on the environments they`re going home to.

So this seemed to be a strategy of maximizing the chance that our students could complete the semester on campus and minimizing the late spread of the disease if there should be a resurgence.

KORNACKI:  Let me ask you too, we talked about social distancing, also I hear contact tracing, this idea that somebody gets affected, you find the circle of contacts, you isolate. How does that work, David, on a college campus? If you`ve got a positive case, if one turns up, is everybody who`s been in a class with that person, are they then out for 14 days? Anybody who`s been -- how would that contact tracing work in a place of such close proximity?

LEEBRON:  Not necessarily. It may depend on where they were sitting in the class. We want to be cautious. The importance is both the contact tracing and the testing together, really maximizes the chance of prevention.

We actually had, early on, an employee who was diagnosed with COVID-19. And we had no spread of that on the campus, because we had identity quickly, we did the contact tracing. And we did self-quarantining.

So if you do all those, you minimize the spread. The contact tracing is both by interviewing and other techniques, and potentially using technology, making sure what we take into account with the privacy concerns.

KORNACKI:  Quick final question, Dr. Frederick, college sports, college football, sports that have fans in the stands, typically. Are you going to have those at all this fall?

FREDERICK:  You know, it`s funny that you ask that, tomorrow morning, one of the meetings that I do have is with the conference this year. It`s a tough question. I think that we will have some sports, and I think we`ll have the international soccer leagues that are back out, that will give us some indication.

And as the pro sports in America start opening back up, Major League Baseball and NBA basketball, I think that will also give us some indication. I`m hopeful. It will be without fans in the stands. But I do think, overall, we will have some opportunity I think to look at some of the sports. Some of the biggest sports, it will be difficult, especially college football, to be quite honest.

KORNACKI:  All right, Dr. Wayne Frederick of Howard University, the Bison, and Dr. Leebron of the Rice University, the Owls, good luck to you and maybe your sports teams as well if they do get to play.

Up next, more protests in Minneapolis tonight as the family of a black man who died in police custody pushed for murder charges.

Stay with us.


KORNACKI:  Demonstrations continued today as people took to the streets in Minneapolis to protest the death of George Floyd. The black man who died a short time after a white police officer was seen on video kneeling on Floyd`s neck for about eight minutes.

And today, Minneapolis Major Jacob Frey called for an arrest and charges against that officer. We have to warn you, the video is disturbing. In it, Floyd is heard pleading with police I can`t breathe. Crowds who gathered at the scene urged the officer to let Floyd go.

Moments later, he was taken from the scene unresponsive on a stretcher. He died nearly an hour and a half later.

Police say they were responding to the report of a forgery and that Floyd resisted officers. The FBI and the state of Minnesota launched investigations. The Minneapolis police department is cooperating with those probes. Four police officers have been fired, but today, Floyd`s family said that`s not enough.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I think for me, you know, the firing of the officers is a start. But justice for me would have them being arrested and charged with murder and ultimately a conviction. Because what we witnessed was these officers execute him publicly. We watched him take his last breath.


KORNACKI:  And for the latest, I`m joined by NBC News reporter Shaquille Brewster, who is in Minneapolis tonight.

Shaq, what can you tell us?

SHAQUILLE BREWSTER, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER:  Well, Steve, we`re starting to see some situations and a scene similar to last night. I know you heard the bang behind me. I let you take a look at what we`re seeing.

So far tonight we`ve seen flash bangs, rubber bullets used and tear gas as some police and protesters have clashed. You`re also seeing protesters who have thrown rocks, who have thrown water bottles. I think you might have seen a water bottle go behind the police line and that police line has been set up around the police precinct, which yesterday saw a lot of damage, saw vehicles being damaged, graffiti on the walls. So, you`re seeing clashes and interactions happen.

When you have conversations with the protesters who aren`t looking for a direct clash with police, you hear a much different story. You hear them focused and their main message they want justice. What does justice look like for them? Well, it looks like an arrest for the officers involved. Those four officers, Minneapolis Police Department officers who have since been fired, they want those officers to be arrested and charged with criminal prosecution and go through and face criminal prosecution, and that`s the same message that you`re hearing from the family of Mr. Floyd.

You`re also hearing that from the mayor of Minneapolis. People who are saying the video evidence out there is enough and now is the time to act.

Meanwhile, you have the police union. They`re saying that, hey, it`s still early. Let not have this rush to judgment. We still need to see body camera footage. We know investigators will be looking at that.

They say we still haven`t gotten statements from officers. They say that is something that could be revealing. Police union saying we need more time, let the investigation play out. If you listen to what the protesters are saying, the protesters who are using the chants, I can`t breathe, who are having interactions with the police, they`re saying that they want to see immediate action -- Steve.

KORNACKI:  All right. Shaquille Brewster there on the scene there in Minneapolis, thank you for that.

And up next, the long anticipated SpaceX shuttle launch still being anticipated, postponed due to weather today. More on that, next.



SPACEX LAUNCH DIRECTOR:  Dragon SpaceX unfortunately we are not going to launch today. You are go for 5.100 launch scrub.

DOUG HRULEY, ASTRONAUT:  Five-dot-one-zero-zero. It was a good effort by the team and we understand and we`ll meet you there.


KORNACKI:  Three more days. That is how long we`re going to wait for the next window to launch the first space flight from American soil in almost a decade.

The two astronauts Doug Hurly and Bob Behnken were ready to make the 19- hour journey to the International Space Station today, but with 16 minutes to go before take off, the NASA SpaceX mission was scrubbed because of bad weather. When the time does come, they will take off from the same spot where Americans rocketed to the moon almost 51 years ago. NASA officials say the long anticipated launch could usher in an era of human space flight. It is the first mission taking place on a spacecraft designed by a private company. This is Elon Musk`s SpaceX.

So, set your alarms, 3:22 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday afternoon. Hopefully, the weather will be in the astronauts` favor.

Thank you for being with us. Don`t go anywhere.