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GOP senator TRANSCRIPT: 6/8/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Tim Alberta, Sheila Lee Jackson, Leon Panetta

  STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Floyd will be laid to rest next to his mother. If you recall, he was calling out her name during his last breathe.

That does it for me this evening, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. I will see you again at 9:00 A.M. tomorrow morning and be right back here in THE BEAT at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night. Keep it right here on MSNBC. I`ll see you tomorrow.

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

Tonight, protests continue in cities across America sparked by George Floyd`s death in Minneapolis police custody exactly two weeks ago. Tonight, following a weekend that brought massive crowds out in the streets and cities across the country and in fact all around the world, amid growing demands for action on police reform.

And there were large crowds today in Houston as well. That is George Floyd`s hometown. They were there to pay respects to the final public memorial ahead of his private funeral tomorrow.

Also in Houston today was the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden. He met with Floyd`s family and delivered condolences in person. Biden will provide a video address for the service tomorrow.

And meanwhile, Derrick Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, that put his knee on Floyd`s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds leading to his death, made his first court appearance on second-degree murder and man slaughter charges today. A judge set his bail at $1 million under certain conditions.

The outrage sparked by Floyd`s death has touched off a national debate over police reform in this country. And today in Washington, congressional Democratic leaders and members of the congressional black caucus held a moment of silence that lasted for nearly nine minutes before they unveiled a sweeping police reform bill. The proposed bill does not shrink or expand police budgets but it calls to defund or dramatically cut police funding or to get rid of police departments all together are now being voiced by activists and even some elected officials.

On Sunday, New York City`s mayor, Bill De Blasio, vowed to cut the city`s police funding for the first time, although he didn`t say by how much. Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed cutting up to $150 million from his city`s budget. Today, President Trump met with law enforcement officials at the White House after tweeting this morning that he wanted, quote, law and order. He lashed out at calls to defund the police.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: There won`t be defunding, there won`t be dismantling of our police and there`re not going to be disbanding of our police. Our police have been letting us live in peace. And we want to make sure we don`t have any bad actors in there and sometimes you`ll see some horrible things like we witnessed recently, but 99, I say 99.9, but let`s go with 99 percent of them are great, great people, and they`ve done jobs that are record-setting.


KORNACKI: The president`s remarks follow a major decision by the City of Minneapolis to address policing in the wake of Floyd`s death. On Sunday, Minneapolis` city council agreed in a veto proof majority to come up with a plan to dismantle the city`s police department in its current iteration.

And for more, I`m joined by NBC News Political Reporter Shaquille Brewster who is in Minneapolis. Shaq, thank you for joining us.

So let`s start on that, because the reason the president is talking about this, and the reason that a lot of folks are right now, this idea of defunding the police. Let me use the exact words here from city council. They say they envision, quote, a police-free future. Do we have a sense what exactly that means?

SHAQUILLE BREWSTER, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: They`re still trying to figure that out. I tell you, I spoke to the Congress -- or the council member who was hoping to lead the charge to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. I spoke to him yesterday. And he said that, it`s still being defined exactly what that looks like. They`re will be a yearlong process. And this is the time to engage with members of the community.

And that`s what you saw over the course of the weekend. The big splashy headline, was that you had a majority of council members supporting a move and committing to dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department. But now is where hard work begins trying and try to figure out exactly what that means and what the council will pass.

I`ll tell you, this is much different than what we heard last week when the council and Minneapolis Police Department agreed to ban chokeholds. They put that duty to intervene on officers. If officer sees another officer engaging in excessive use of force, they have a duty to report and intervene that officer. Those were immediate changes that you saw. This is not that immediate change, this is the beginning of a conversation, according to the council member.

But I tell you that it`s something that the mayor still says he opposes, the governor was asked about it, and he said it gets a little complex on whether or not you support dismantling or defunding, but he supports community changes. It`s one of those things that you can tell activists and people who have been coming out every day to protest. This is something that they have been calling for. And you`re not seeing the pressure build on the politicians that are leading them.

KORNACKI: Just to get a sense -- again, it sounds like, as you were saying, this is not clear. But when they say police-free future, that is defunding and dismantling. Is that in principle what they`re saying?

BREWSTER: That is, that is. And you hear different calls from different people. Ilhan Omar was one of the biggest -- most notable people to call weeks ago or about a week-and-a-half ago to call for dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department.

And let me just mention why you have the frustration around this police department. NBC News, our colleagues on the digital side, they went and looked at some of the police data, and they saw that in the past five years, 44 people have been rendered unconscious by Minneapolis Police Department officers. That`s something that police expert said was high a amount for that department. George Floyd was the 11th man in the past ten years to die at the hands of Minneapolis Police.

So there`s a frustration there. They feel like -- many people on the ground feel like there`s been an over policing and they want to shift those resources into the community, shift it from the police department to mental health, to education resources. That`s where that emotion is coming from. That`s where the passion is coming from.

But right now, what we have is commitment from city council to dismantle the police. The specifics of what that looks like, that`s still remains to be determined. I know there was a Zoom call that the council members had earlier today. They`re still figuring out exactly what that looks like specifically. Steve?

KORNACKI: Okay. Shaquille Brewster there on the ground in Minneapolis. Thank you for that.

And from Minneapolis to the nation`s capital, Washington D.C., we mention that legislation introduced this morning by congressional Democrats. It will try to push a number of police reforms. It includes a ban on chokeholds, and no-knock arrest warrants, which led to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, creates a national registry to track officers` misconduct, and lowers the legal standards for pursuing criminal and civil penalties against the police.

The bill has more than 200 Democratic co-sponsors in the House and Senate. And one of those co-sponsors, Congressman Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, joins us now. Congresswoman, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.

A number of things you putting on the table in this bill, it`s the George Floyd case obviously that`s captured so much attention the last week, that so many people are thinking about right now. When you look at what happened in that case, in that incident, and what you`re proposing now, what specifically do you have here in this bill that you think would prevent that or anything like it from happening in the future?

And I am not hearing the Congresswoman. I believe that is an issue for everybody right there. We are going to work on trying to restore the connection. I apologize for that. We will get back to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee shortly.

Meanwhile, a recent poll found that Americans largely support some police reforms. Nearly nine out of ten Americans support outfitting all police officers with body cameras. Two-thirds favor a ban on neck restraints. Only 16 percent, however, support the idea cutting funding to police departments.

We have with us now Tim Alberta, from Politico, and he`s written today about the Republican side of the aisle when it comes to police reform.

Tim, you have a provocative headline here. And I want to ask you this just to go into what you mean here. You asked, is this the last stand of the law and order Republicans. That is that phrase, law in order, the president has been tweeting a lot in the last few days, as a phrase that goes back 50 years, a lot of people associate it with Richard Nixon. What do you mean by that?

TIM ALBERTA, POLITICO CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Steve. You know, it is really interesting. Last week with everything happening across the country, people in the streets protesting, demonstrating, obviously politicians in Washington and around the country trying to make sense of it, and I was really struck having conversations with any number of prominent Republicans how there was sort of a clear and emerging rhetorical divide in quite how far they were willing to go in talking about things like institutional racism, systemic injustice.

Some of these phrases that you will typically hear from Democratic politicians, you very rarely will hear Republicans wade into those waters. And I think when you look at the statement made by former President George W. Bush last week, where he used the phrase, systemic racism, and adds how do we put an end too systemic racism. That in many ways, I think sort of crystallized this question for Republicans now and certainly moving forward, which is, traditionally, if you are the party of law and order, that carries with it a some text of being tough on crime, of not being terribly interested in issues of systemic inequality, or even believing that there is something foundationally wrong with the criminal justice system itself.

And those are, I think assumptions that are now going to be challenged, even if it`s just the periphery of the party, when someone like George W. Bush comes out and speaks that way, with someone like Tim Scott, who has came out and talked about being racially profiled himself, Congressman Will Hurd, sort of rising star in the party from Texas, who`s probably going to run for president in 2024, one day, these are the voices -- Nikki Haley, of course, the former Ambassador to the U.N.

These are voices who I think are beginning to push the envelope a little bit further and not only attempting to connect with the black community and connect with minority communities with the way that they talk about the issues, Steve, but really in so doing, attempting to shed that old law and order dogma that the party has practiced for the better part of a half century.

KORNACKI: Tim Alberta, I`d ask you to stand by for a second. I think we`ve reestablished that connection with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. I want to come back to you in a second on some specifics of what might be happening in Congress.

But, Congresswoman, I want to return to you now. I think we have the connection up and running. I apologize for those difficulties. We can start with the question that I laid out to you a minute ago. We look at the case of George Floyd, we look at cases like that, that have everybody`s attention right now. What specifically do you believe you`re presenting in this bill that you laid out today that would prevent that from happening in the future?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Steve, thank you. And might I just start by indicating that this is a home-going services of George Floyd here in Houston Texas, and today was a viewing with thousands of Americans coming to honor him. Tomorrow will be his home-going service, and I think what we should acknowledge is the combination of racism and sacrifice, outright murder on the streets of America created the continuing crisis that we find ourselves in.

What we wanted to do with this justice in policing act was to have a comprehensive look at the front end. We would have not had that officer on the force. He had at least 17 misconducts. He would have been reported to a national registry, and the -- particularly the police department would have been challenged in its accreditation with someone like that, and someone not reprimanded, if you will, on the force, the lack of training is evident in how the police force works in Minneapolis, and as well the inability to restrain from excessive force.

But outright is a ban on chokehold. The right to civil rights charges against police officers, the lowering of standard to file lawsuits against police officers, the outright requirement to have your cameras for police officers, the ability to ensure that the training includes diversity. And so I think what would have stopped this action is that this officer might not have even been on the force, might not have even had the credentials to be hired in the first place and certainly would have been on notice that it was a violation against policy and law to engage in the strangulation or the chokehold or the cutting off of air of an individual, and maybe the standard of recognizing officers who don`t have the temperament or demeanor or have an innate bias, which it seems that this officer had against people of color would not be on the police force.

So I think this bill is comprehensive in its front (ph), opportunities to improve policing, and the overall saying that we`re not warring with members of our society, we`re not a warrior mentality, we`re guardian mentality. When you see and call the police, you shouldn`t expect them, Steve, to bang out windows of two college students to taser a young man, and to drag them by their feet and hair out of a police car in Atlanta, Georgia. That`s what we`re going after. We can save lives this way. And, God, I wish that it was in place enough to be able to say that this sacrifice, this devastating killing on the streets of Minneapolis would have been stopped. I certainly think we`ll go a long way in doing that.

KORNACKI: Tim Alberta, let me just ask you to follow up on what you just heard from the Congresswoman there in this bill. She talks about banning choke holds, a national database to track police misconduct, no-knock warrants, getting rid of those, some no-knock warrants. This is what the Democrats are laying out there. This reporting you`ve done on the Republican side, what is the level of -- how receptive will the Republican side be to these ideas, do you think?

ALBERTA: In short, Steve, I don`t think they`ll be terribly receptive, at least not in a broad sense. You will probably have some conversations at the periphery. I used that word earlier about the Republican Party and its conversations around these things. I mean, it`s not happening at high levels, it`s not happening in the White House, does not happening in congressional leadership. But there are individual members of Congress.

I mentioned Tim Scott earlier. He, several years ago, introduced a bill called Walter Scott Notification Act, named for the black man who was killed in his hometown of North Charleston, South Carolina. And that act, that individual piece of legislation was meant to create a database where any police killings of minorities would be logged and people could track it nationally. He is now going to introduce another piece of legislation called the George Floyd Notification Act, which would broaden that out to flag any issues of police brutality whatsoever.

So there`re certain things that some Republicans would entertain but I would not expect to see any sort of widespread support for the legislation the Democrats put forth.

KORNACKI: Okay, Tim Alberta from Politico, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston Texas, Congresswoman, thank you as well, and, again, I appreciate your patience with our technical difficulties there.

Coming up, General Colin Powell becomes the fourth former Chairman of The Joint Chief of Staff to publicly condemn President Trump.


GEN. COLIN POWELL, FMR. JOINT CHIEF CHAIRMAN: He lies. he lies about things. And he gets get away with it because people will not hold him accountable.


KORNACKI: What impact, if any, will the words of the retired generals have on the president and public opinion? I`m going to ask a former defense secretary, Leon Panetta. That`s next. Stay with us.



COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a Constitution, and we have to follow that Constitution. And the president`s drifted away from it.

And the one word I have to use with respect to what he`s been doing for the last several years is a word I would never have used before, I never would have used with any of the four presidents I have worked for: He lies. He lies about things. And he gets away with it, because people will not hold him accountable.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

That was retired Army General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell criticizing President Trump`s leadership yesterday. Powell says he will be voting for Joe Biden this November. Powell, of course, is a Republican, although this is now the fourth consecutive election in which he has endorsed a Democrat for president, Barack Obama twice and Hillary Clinton in 2016 before this.

Powell is also now the fourth former chairman of the Joint Chiefs to publicly rebuke the president in the past week. All four have taken issue with Trump`s use of the military to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park last Monday.


ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN (RET.), FORMER JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We have a military to fight our enemies, not our own people. And our military should never be called to fight our own people as enemies of the state.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS (RET.), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: As I understand it, that was a peaceful protest disturbed by force, and that`s not right. That should not happen in America.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY (RET.), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: The idea that the president would overwhelm the situation, would take charge of the situation using the military was troubling to me.


KORNACKI: Amid that public criticism, Trump said yesterday that he ordered the withdrawal of the National Guard troops from Washington, D.C.. That`s where they had been a ubiquitous president around the White House.

Trump also responded to Powell`s criticisms in a series of tweets, describing him as -- quote -- "highly overrated" and -- quote -- "a real stiff" and bringing up Powell`s role in helping to launch the Iraq War as George W. Bush`s secretary of state.

And I am joined now by former Secretary of Defense under President Obama Leon Panetta.

Thank you for joining us.

Let me just start on the -- to have four former chairman of the Joint Chiefs all speaking out publicly, all taking issue with the president on the same topic, how unusual is that?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I have tremendous respect for these military leaders.

I think it`s important to remember that all of them have served this country, and a lot -- I think most of them put their lives on the line in order to fight for this country`s interest abroad. They have got tremendous experience. They know what the military is all about.

They understand the role of the U.S. military. And it`s for that reason that all of them spoke out to criticize the attempt by the president to use the military as a -- as an arm of the president, a political arm of the president.

This was a misuse of the role of the U.S. military. The U.S. military is trained for combat and for fighting our foreign enemies. And, as Mike Mullen said, our military was not trained to fight our own people. And that`s the point that needs to be stressed when this president says he`s going to deploy the U.S. military in a law enforcement role.

KORNACKI: Powell`s criticism of the president was fairly wide-ranging.

I wonder, though, in the case of the other three, more focused in terms of what they`re saying, bringing up the issue you`re talking about there.

Do you expect, do you think it`s possible, likely that we will hear from them throughout the campaign, or that this is a one-time sort of speaking up?

PANETTA: I think this is -- it`s unusual for these chairmen to be speaking out in criticism of the president. That`s something that I think they have all tried to refrain from doing.

Jim Mattis has tried to refrain from doing that. And I think Martin Dempsey has. Mike Mullen has. General Myers has as well. They generally do not want to criticize the commander in chief.

But when they saw the U.S. military being abused and the threat that the president was somehow going to deploy the U.S. military across the country to engage in law enforcement, they saw that as undermining the whole role of the U.S. military.

And the fact that many of them came out of Vietnam, saw the breakdown between the relationship between the military and the rest of our society, and the fact that they have spent a long time trying to repair that relationship between the U.S. military and the American people, and now to have that relationship jeopardized by the president of the United States, that`s why they came out and made their criticisms as public as they did.

But I don`t think it`s something you`re going to see a lot of from these distinguished military leaders.

KORNACKI: I noticed too -- we mentioned Powell. The president went after his record as secretary of state when he was George W. Bush`s secretary of state, the run-up to the Iraq War. I think we all remember that presentation to the United Nations.

I do wonder if there is -- when you see the president attack Powell that way, go after him that way, you see these issues he`s had with some retired military leaders going back to the 2016 campaign now, is there, do you think in the general public, because of the Iraq War, because of all the issues that arose there, do you think there is sort of a vein of public opinion when Trump brings things up like that he`s able to tap into?

PANETTA: You know, I -- I put a lot more credit in the American people and their understanding of the role that all of these military leaders played in helping to defend our country.

And I think, when the president tries to tear these people down in whatever way he uses -- he basically uses the same kind of approach that he uses against Democrats he doesn`t like. He basically says, they`re overrated, they`re not as great as people think they are -- I think that`s wearing thin on the American people.

They understand that these people stood up and said what they believe. And I think the president would have done a hell of a lot better if he had just basically acknowledged that the U.S. military should not be used for law enforcement purposes, but should be used for the primary purpose of defending our country abroad.

The president ought to -- should have made that clear, accepted the criticism that came from these military leaders, and moved on. He doesn`t know how to do that.

KORNACKI: All right, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

And up next: New polls show the president, his reelection campaign, entering dangerous territory. We`re going to go to the numbers right after that.

Stay with us.


KORNACKI: All right, folks, we are 148 days away from Election Day, 148 days. Maybe that sounds close. Maybe that sounds far off. I guess that depends on your vantage point.

But 148 days from now, we`re going to find out the winner -- well, we`re going to start to find out the winner. It could take a few days this time.

But take a look at this. We have a brand-new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" national poll here, Biden vs. Trump. And there is Joe Biden in our poll with a seven-point advantage over the president, mirrors what we have been showing for a while here and, in fact, what others are finding too.

This is the average of all the polls that are out there right now, Biden leading Trump, on average, by 7.8 points. At this exact same moment, 148 days out, in the past four presidential elections, this is what you had. You can notice here, not all these candidates won, but also nobody at this point had an advantage quite as large as Joe Biden`s.

We will continue to track that and see how that unfolds. But keep that in mind, Biden`s lead right now bigger than any we have seen in these recent elections.

Now, what is behind that lead? A couple questions here we asked in this poll. Who do you prefer, Biden or Trump, on bringing the country together? Very timely right now. Look at that advantage for Biden. It`s 2-1 over Trump.

On the question of dealing with the coronavirus, again, double-digit advantage, not quite as stark, but double-digit advantage for Biden. And on being competent and effective, they asked that question. Nine-point edge there for Biden.

Now, all three of these a significant advantage for Biden over Donald Trump. In terms of key groups here, where you have seen some movement, what this poll is saying, look at this. White voters, Trump leaves Biden by six. But in 2016, in the exit poll, Trump won by 20.

So, to go from 20 to six among white voters, that`s a significant drop for Trump. African-Americans, similar to what we saw in 2016, a bit of an increase for Trump, a bit among Hispanic voters here, again, offset by his losses in this poll among white voters.

And then there`s this. Is there hope for Donald Trump in this poll? What could you point to in a poll that looks this bad for you to be optimistic about?

If you`re Trump, you`re looking at this. On cutting the unemployment rate, we asked voters, who do you think is better, Trump actually with a 13-point advantage there. Dealing with the economy, Trump with an 11-point advantage. And in dealing with China, it`s slight. It`s three points.

These are the only three questions. We asked a bunch of them. These are the only three in the poll where Trump had an advantage over Biden.

Clearly, if Trump is down seven points overall, these are not getting it done for him right now. The question, I guess, will the sort of issues mix change in voters` minds between now and Election Day in a way that makes this more advantageous for him?

But, right now, overall, it`s Biden by seven in our poll.

Polling numbers like these, Trump`s own internal polls reportedly have his team worried about his reelection chances.

Plus, ahead: new fractures in the big red Republican wall around Trump. That`s next.



SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): We need a voice against racism. We need many voices against racism and against brutality. We need to stand up and say that black lives matter.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

That was Republican Senator Mitt Romney expressing his support for Black Lives Matter.

Romney is the only sitting Republican senator to march in the protests against police brutality in the Capitol over the weekend. President Trump responded to Romney with this tweet: "Tremendous sincerity. What a guy," a sarcastic tweet, it appeared.

Over the weekend, the president also retweeted criticism of Joe Biden that called him a -- quote -- "coward" for kneeling, as well as a tweet from Glenn Beck questioning whether George Floyd should be called a -- quote -- "hero."

Biden, as we mentioned earlier, flew to Houston today to meet with Floyd`s family. He is also recording a video message for tomorrow`s funeral service.

I am joined now by Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming for SiriusXM, and John Podhoretz, editor of "Commentary" magazine.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

We -- I was just talking there at the board about where Trump is trying to find some issues, advantages over Biden to try to get himself back in this, at least polling-wise. One thing that caught my attention today, John, and we played this at the beginning, the president bringing up the issue of defunding the police, trying to draw a line there, saying, I`m against it, it`s not going to happen.

Then I looked this afternoon. Joe Biden put out a statement and said, I don`t want to defund the police either.

Is this making it hard for Trump to run against Biden?


I mean, I think, in an interesting way, while the issue of radical leftists calling for the abolition of police departments and the like should play well for Trump, it gives Biden a very low bar to clear to seem like a moderate on this issue, because, as long as he says, I don`t want to defund the police, he pulls the rug out from under the attack, because he can`t be blamed for it if he disapproves it.

In fact, his position papers call for an increase in police funding in some areas. So I`m not sure this is a good line, this is -- this is going to be that profitable line of attack for Trump, though you would think that if the -- if his rivals, and particularly if the Democratic Party seems to be aligning itself with such views, that that should inhere to his advantage.

KORNACKI: Zerlina, when Biden makes that statement, says he`s against defunding the police, you have some activists that are calling for that.

We had this conversation about what exactly is happening in Minneapolis right now, no concrete plan at this point.

Does that cause Biden trouble on the left or is he fine on the left flank with that position?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that most people on the left are able to look at this issue with some amount of nuance, Steve. I think the phrase "defund the police" is actually a lot more complicated than the slogan, right? It means that currently we have defunded education, we defunded health services, we have defunded social services.

And I think that when we reframe where the funding streams are going in cities and municipalities, essentially what activists are asking for is reimagining how we do policing. Why are police with guns showing up at situations where maybe a social worker or health care professional would be more appropriate? That is where this conversation is headed. I think that`s very important because serious people can consider all of the pros and cons to whether or not the, quote/unquote, umbrella term of defunding the police can bring about policy ends that will make it safer for black people in their communities, because, again, that`s why this is happening.

This is happening because police departments had bloated budgets, where they buy tear gas during a pandemic that effects the respiratory system, and makes people cough, and they can buy tanks and other equipment that they frankly do not need. I think the reallocation is essentially where the conversation is headed, and I`m hoping that Biden would be open to speaking with people with different variations of plans that are going to be able to be applied to different places in the country.

KORNACKI: Meanwhile, there`s also this. Axios reporting this, quote: Trump`s more incendiary rhetoric and actions trouble some of his top aides who in private meetings last week said their boss needs to add hopeful, optimistic, and unifying messages to balance harsh law and order rhetoric.

This comes as "Associated Press" reports the president, West Wing advisers and campaign aides have grown increasingly concerned about his re-election chances as they watched his standing take a pummeling, first on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and now, during a nationwide wave of protests against racial injustice.

Internal campaign surveys and public polling show a steady erosion in support for Trump among older people and in battleground states once believed to be leaning decisively in the president`s direction.

John, that`s just what we talked about, looking at those numbers on the board there. I`m curious. I mean, there are -- there is that issue of the economy where the president still has an advantage in polling over Joe Biden. It is not translating into much in the overall horse race number at this point.

Can you see that dynamic changing or is there something bigger here that`s cutting against Trump?

JOHN PODHORETZ, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE EDITOR: I think what`s bigger cutting against Trump is the sense that the country is in chaos, that he is not doing very much to solve or resolve the chaos, and maybe contributing to it. That`s where you see slippage among independents and some Republicans who might actually want him to have done harder and tougher, and more serious, taken more serious actions during looting and rioting the past week, and look at him maybe as a paper tiger.

So, you have the attacks from the left that he is too harsh and fascistic, and, you know, using tear gas, and then you have people on the right who are like, well, you`re tweeting a lot of stuff on law and order but I don`t see very much in the way of law and order. So, that`s a kind of perfect storm where he`s getting it from all sides, and when you get to the economy question, obviously, Trump needs something to change the focus and turn things around so that the referendum on the incumbent, which is what a re- election usually is, has a good story to tell.

So, the economy has to get better for him to turn this around, and I think news about the virus needs to get a lot better. And I think neither of these cases is he actually much of a player. These are large things, large, big complicated things that are going to happen in the medical profession and in the macro economy, and he is basically now along for the ride until November.

And if they don`t materially improve, that thing you show in polling and Real Clear Politics average having him down by 8, you know, Biden can lose a lot of steps if he`s ahead by 8, he can lose three or four points of the lead and win comfortably.

KORNACKI: So, on that point, Zerlina, that "Politico" is reporting tonight that Donald Trump is going to begin holding these large rallies again in the next couple of weeks. I`m looking at those poll numbers and seeing, you know, Joe Biden hasn`t been active the last couple months for obvious reasons here. Not to his detriment. I mean, his polling has been good the last few months.

It seems that lack of large public events is helping Biden. Will Trump going out there put new pressure on Biden to be doing some kind of events of his own?

MAXWELL: Look, I don`t think that it was that Biden was at home, part of it was everybody being able to see Trump in action handling or mishandling the pandemic response.

And so, Joe Biden didn`t have to do a lot the first few months here. Now, I think there`s a moment to pivot. There needs to be a big push for surrogates, influencers, celebrities, I mean, put everybody on the field who can speak to different constituencies, because ultimately, as somebody who worked in 2016, Steve, I don`t rely upon polling.

I look at -- I feel like polling is a snapshot of the past, and Biden always needs to keep his eyes focused on the future, on making sure that people are safely able to cast their ballots, on making sure that as many people as possible can mail in their ballots, if that`s applicable in their particular state. And that is what Biden needs to focus on in order to be successful. It has less to do with Trump.

KORNACKI: All right. Zerlina Maxwell and John Podhoretz, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

And up next, New York City entering phase one of the reopening today. How many states are seeing a spike in new cases? Dr. John Torres joins me next.

Stay with us.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

New York City long the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak here is today beginning the first phase of its reopening. According to NBC News, quote, nearly 400,000 workers were expected to begin returning to retail stores, factories and dormant construction sites.

To mark the occasion, Governor Andrew Cuomo took a ride on the city subway but he also sounded a note of caution when it comes to the thousands of demonstrators who have taken to the streets to protest.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: If you were at a protest, I understand your point. I`m with you. We also have this situation with the coronavirus.

Act responsibly. Get a test. Get a test.


KORNACKI: Meanwhile, experts are still concerned that loosening restrictions may have contributed to a spike in cases across the country. And add to that, the new questions about whether the mass protests across the country for the last week could have an effect of their own.

According to "The New York Times", 20 states have had an increase in reported cases of virus over the past 14 days. Some of that increase can be attributed to more testing. But in some states, the positive rate, the percentage of test taken that comes back positive is also rising. In 10 states, that positive rate has been over 10 percent. That`s a key mark, that 10 percent figure.

The total number of people in the country who have tested positive is now approaching 2 million.

And I`m joined now by MSNBC medical correspondent, Dr. John Torres.

Doctor, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

We had been, before the last week, talking so much about states loosening restrictions, all 50 reopening in some way, the question of whether there would be a spike. Now, we`re adding into it the question of all these protests for the last week, all those folks outside, if that`s going to cause a spike of its own, what should we be looking for in the next two weeks?

DR. JOHN TORRES, MSNBC MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Steve, you`re exactly right. There`s a bit of confusion here as to what might be contributing to the spikes, because like I said, a lot of states starting up a couple of weeks ago, one to two weeks is the time frame we start seeing these spikes start occur. If they start getting ingrained, we`re talking about a three-week lead time before we see that.

Well, the protests were last week and the week, over the last seven to 10 days. And so, we`re going to start seeing that occur here over the next week or so as well. And the confusion is going to come in. What`s causing it? Is it the protests, is it the actual reopenings?

And it`s going to be really hard to differentiate those two things because that contact tracing is important in tracking down who has it, who might they have been around, who might be spreading it and we don`t have it in place as we`d like to right now.

And so, I think the answer is we know reopening is going to cause spikes to occur. We do think that protests -- the people that participate them when they go back to their communities, they`re going to cause a little bit of a spike as well. The one thing we want to make sure is those spikes don`t turn into outbreaks. And that`s the key, Steve.

KORNACKI: Are we learning anything? There was so much talk when this all begin about whether the warmer weather months would help curtail this in some way. The flu apparently doesn`t translate well in the summer.

Are we learning about that and how the heat is here?

TORRES: Steve, we are. A lot of people were hedging their bet thinking, if I wait until, you know, June, July, August gets here, this thing will get away and we just have to worry about it in the fall. It doesn`t look like that`s going to happen. And part of the reason that`s not going to happen is because it`s now spreading to the Southern Hemisphere, travel is still a little bit in here, and so, you`re starting to see that, and we`re seeing in some of the warmer states that these cases are starting to rise as well.

And so, this particular coronavirus, we`re not sure why, doesn`t respond to the heat and humidity like some of the other coronaviruses. So, I think what`s going to happen is, it`s not going to completely go away this summer. It`s going to get better under control, but there will always be that underlying wave of coronavirus that`s out there until come the fall. And once we start getting into cold weather, it`s going to start taking off again into higher numbers.

Of course, that means that everybody is going what they need to do to keep safe here in the summer, even throughout the reopenings, because without that, it`s going to spread even more so and again turn to outbreak, Steve.

KORNACKI: There was also some news today in this front that got a lot of attention from the World Health Organization. They say, quote, the coronavirus patients without symptoms aren`t driving the spread of the virus. They note that asymptomatic spread can occur, but that it`s not the main way it`s being transmitted.

This whole issue, Doctor, of asymptomatic transmission, the idea of silent spreaders who don`t know they have it and they`re giving it to all sorts of people, a lot of attention is explained. What exactly is the World Health Organization saying here?

TORRES: And that`s a huge concern, the asymptomatic, the people without symptoms spreading it because they go out and about. They don`t know they`re sick and they spread it to somebody else. And that`s what we think is driving a lot of the coronavirus.

What they said in their statement was in a press conference is that people without symptoms aren`t spreading coronavirus as much as we thought, but they also said that most people end up having symptoms. They`re more what we call pre-symptomatic, not asymptomatic. The difference there being asymptomatic means they never develop symptoms. Pre-symptomatic and what they said was, and what a lot of experts are saying is people start getting symptoms that they don`t think are coronavirus, so they still consider themselves asymptomatic when in fact they`re not. And those are the ones we`re concerned about that could be spreading it.

And that means, of course, face masks for everybody, social distancing. That`s the key, Steve.

KORNACKI: That`s what I`ve been finding with this, when you think there`s great news, there is always a catch. There it is.

Dr. John Torres, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it.

TORRES: You bet.

KORNACKI: All right. Coming up, some very big names coming together over the weekend to celebrate the class of 2020. That`s next.


KORNACKI: Welcome back.

The class of 2020 got a much deserved virtual celebration yesterday. Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Lizzo took part in the event that was headlined by Barack and Michelle Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear class of 2020, congratulations. You`ve accomplished something remarkable. But let`s be honest. It`s been a hard week.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, MUSICIAN: In the face of obstacles, we have the great ability to surprise ourselves with how our spirit fights back.

BEYONCE, MUSICIAN: We`ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, could start the wheels of change.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: Graduates, you all are exactly what we need right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now more than usual, we`re trying to talk to each other. Let`s talk. But just as you did in your classrooms almost every day, let`s also listen.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: America changed, has always changed because young people dared to hope.


KORNACKI: And that`s it for tonight. Thanks for being with us.

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