Pres. Trump visits hotspot TRANSCRIPT: 6/23/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Yamiche Alcindor, Lanhee Chen, Joel Payne, Henry Olsen

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: What is justice? When you look at these protests across the country, they`re having an impact. New survey shows 94 percent of Americans now want some kind of change to criminal justice. That is big and that`s our final thought tonight.

Thanks for watching THE BEAT. We`ll be back tomorrow night at 6:00 P.M. Eastern. Keep it right here on MSNBC.

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

Events in Washington and Arizona presented a discordant split screen today. At the same time that Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health officials testified about the ongoing danger of the global pandemic, President Trump ventured to a coronavirus hot spot.

At this hour, the president is delivering remarks at a Students For Trump event in Phoenix, Arizona. It was organized by the conservative advocacy group, Turning Point Action. And it is being hosted at a mega church that accommodates up to 3,000 people. But this comes amid a sharp spike in coronavirus cases in the State of Arizona, which today announced a record high number of new infections.

Now, Arizona has become a must-win state for the president this fall in his battle for re-election. The recent Fox News poll found Joe Biden leading there though by four percentage points, 46 percent to 42 percent. Trump won Arizona by just over three points in 2016. But in 2018, the state elected a Democratic senator who benefitted from strong support in suburban Phoenix, part of a national trend we have seen in the Trump era.

After advising against the Democratic Mayor of Phoenix Arizona, Kate Gallego, advised against Trump visit, and she called on the president to wear a mask, saying this, quote, everyone attending the event, particularly any elected official, should set an example to residents by wearing a mask. This includes the president. Needless to say, Trump is not wearing a mask tonight.

And I`m joined now by Vaughn Hillyard, Political Reporter for NBC News in Phoenix, Yamiche Alcindor, is White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, and Jacob Soboroff, an NBC News Correspondent in Yuma, Arizona. Thank you all for being with us.

Well, Vaughn, let me start with you, right behind you or around you, trying to figure out where you are in relation to that facility. The president apparently is speaking right now, so this another major indoor public event for the president a couple of days after that rally in Tulsa. I think one of the questions that was raised coming out of Tulsa is what would the level of interest be? And as we saw a lot of seats there, maybe a lot of apprehension on the part of the folks in Oklahoma, what has it been like there in Arizona in advance of this event?

VAUGHN HILLYARD, MSNBC POLITICAL REPORTER: I was just talking, Steve, with our photographer, our very photographer inside, Ray Farmer (ph), and he said the place is packed inside. And there, you can see from some of those images, there is no social distancing. Every seat is in use. There`s hardly a mask in sight, maybe one out of 30, one out of 40 folks.

And earlier today, you had folks packed in by the hundreds inside of a pen waiting since 6:00 A.M. to get inside. We`re outside of the church, which is just up here off the hill to my left. Several hundred protesters have since gathered outside.

I should note its 109 degrees out here. There`s a brush fire literally about five miles down the road. If the president wanted to pick a place to come, and there was a hot spot in the United States, he chose it.

And you know what, I`ve spent most of my life in Arizona, Steve. I`ve been around protests, protests against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and immigration orders from the state. But what is different this time here in 2020 is that there is a real sense of opportunity to change the political landscape in this country.

You have BLM activists, you still see anti-Sheriff Joe signs, you see anti- Trump signs and you also hear about folks registering to vote, and there`s a reason the president is here today. You know, there is the most hospitalizations to date here in Arizona today, the most ICU beds in use, the most ventilators in use. And just this morning, the state announced in the last 24 hours it reported its most COVID cases than any day yet.

But despite all that the president decided to come here because he needs to win Arizona in November. We are four months away. We are neck and neck, Joe Biden is neck and neck with Donald Trump, and that is why you see the president inside of this venue here this afternoon. Steve?

KORNACKI: And, Vaughn, yes, as you were speaking there we were showing some pictures from inside that facility right where you are. You mentioned, it does look like a packed house there. We say it fits up to about 3,000 people. I think the crowd in Oklahoma over the weekend at that arena, a larger venue, was bout 6,000.

But, Vaughn, those stats you`re putting out there, the developments when it comes to the spread of coronavirus in Arizona, it`s not just cases rising, it`s all those other indicators we`re talking about. You mention hospitalizations, positive rate, all of these concerning things.

Talking to the folks lined up to go into that Trump event today, what were they telling you about that? Was it on their minds at all?

HILLYARD: It`s a defiance of reality. I don`t think there`s any way other to put it than that. God bless these individuals. But they`ve heard from a president of the United States just told them that masks are not necessary.

You know, I talked to multiple individuals who said, one particular man named Jimmy who told me that he didn`t believe the death count. You know, these are vulnerable population folks, a lot of younger folks as well that just don`t believe the basic facts.

And when you have the president of United States who was joined by Republican Senator Martha McSally and Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey inside, it`s hard to push back. You know, the governor here has spent the last week telling folks to #mask up A.Z., because the state is not in a downward trajectory. But then the governor is appearing here alongside of Donald Trump.

I also want to note, he was down in Yuma earlier, Yuma County, more of a rural area there along the border. It`s also a hot spot. In fact, two of the construction workers on that very wall, Steve, have tested positive for COVID themselves. A Pima County health department official told me.

And so the president decided to come here. I asked a good number of folks why are you here today, the answer was consistently President Trump. You wouldn`t see thousands congregated inside that church and you wouldn`t see the hundreds or thousands outside in these streets if it were not for the decision of the president of the United States to be here in the middle of Phoenix here. Steve?

KORNACKI: And you mentioned, Vaughn, the political imperative the president faces there in Arizona, again a state he carried by a couple of points. The New York Times points out, quote, there is reason Trump is fighting hard for Arizona, for frustrated and anxious voters, the dual crises of police brutality and a pandemic point to an opportunity for Democrats who are confident they can win both the presidential and Senate races in the state.

Democrats are not only counting on younger new voters, they are also focused on convincing suburban moderates that they should abandon the Republican Party. And as NBC News report, quote, longtime Republican in the state are a growing pessimistic, not only about President Donald Trump`s chances for winning Arizona in November but also the future prospects for the state party.

Yamiche, the story of Arizona`s politics is part of this national story we`ve been telling in the Trump era, the suburbs of this country, the metropolitan areas in this country in particular. You`ve seen the most dramatic movement away from Trump and his Republican Party toward the Democrats. It was the story in 2018. It`s certainly what Democrats are hoping will happen in 2020.

What is the message the president is trying to bring to Arizona to combat that trend?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The message the president is trying to bring to Arizona is really twofold, having just listened to him a couple of minutes ago while he was on stage. The first is that he`s trying to use these scare tactics to say that Democrats are socialists, that they want America not to be America anymore, but they`re really anarchists who are all about kind of dismantling the entire legacy of America despite the fact that, of course, there are protesters who are saying actually America should be getting better rather than thinking about the confederate soldiers that fought to break this country up. We should be thinking about how to better treat every man and every woman equally.

The second thing that the president is doing is really making the case that this virus, that he has it under control. Talking about the fact that the economy is just going to be, it`s just going to get better, it`s just around the corner. He`s talking about the fact that, if given four more years, he will be able to bring economic prosperity to the country.

But there`s an issue there. And the issue there is that Dr. Anthony Fauci and so many other health officials are saying that America does not have the virus under control. Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congressman Schiff today people should be bracing for a second wave of this coronavirus and that we`re seeing historic surges in places like Arizona but in other states as well.

So I think while the president is trying to make this case that he is not only having everything under control but he`s the best person for the job, you have Joe Biden as well as health officials saying, look, President Trump is not taking this seriously enough and he`s really talking about things in a way that just is not conforming with what the reality of the situation is.

KORNACKI: Let me bring Jacob Soboroff in, because the president has that event that`s going on right now. He was where you were earlier touring the border. Of course, 2016, it was the idea of building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the entirety of it. That was a major part of his campaign. Tell us what was happening there today. What was he trying to showcase, what was he trying to say, what`s the reality on the ground there?

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, as a former advance guy, I can tell you, the ceremonial event that the president came here to participate in today was the announcement that he and his administration have completed 200 miles of this 34-foot tall steel slat bollard fencing along the southwest border.

And while that is indeed accurate, I think the president wanted just about anything to distract from the situation on the ground here in Arizona, which is the explosion of coronavirus cases that we have been talking about. But if it`s up to my judgment, I don`t think he was particularly successful.

He did his best though when he went back to his greatest hits since time and again today, Steve, at the Yuma Border Patrol Station, where Julia Ainsley and I reported last year, allegations at least of 30 abuse allegations from child migrants against the border patrol. He didn`t bring that up at all but instead went back to his familiar refrain that President Obama is to blame for the cages inside the McAllen Border Patrol Facility where he separated and this is President Trump, 5,000 children along the southwest border.

And while it is accurate that President Obama built that facility, he certainly did not separate systematically all of those children. There was a deflection attempts by President Trump to try to go back, as you said, to the messages of the 2016 campaign.

And then when he came out to the border itself looking at it with Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, we heard the president talking about how the border wall itself was effective in stopping the coronavirus, which is just truly preposterous. It is a preposterous idea. We know that the coronavirus that is in Mexico today and coming back and forth freely between the border because of legitimate trade and travel started here in the United States and went south of the border, and where in Mexico they do not have the health care facilities and infrastructure that we have here in the United States.

So he went back to a familiar opponent too, as a matter of fact, President Obama and any immigrants coming into the United States. But it is a hard sell to tell the people of Arizona to not focus on the coronavirus when, as Vaughn Hillyard said, two of the workers that worked on this very wall that the president came to see today, fell ill from that virus that the president seems to think the wall is itself stopping, Steve.

KORNACKI: Yamiche, again, it looks like that event is going on right now. The president does have a full house there. That`s something that he certainly made a big deal about having didn`t have that in Tulsa the other day, it`s a smaller venue here in Phoenix. What I`ve been wondering the last few days, again, just given the reality of the coronavirus for the foreseeable future, we can talk more about the vaccine prospects, that will be later of the show.

But for the foreseeable future in this campaign, the coronavirus is here, certainly seems to be on people`s minds. Is this affecting -- when you talk to folks in the president`s inner circle there, is this affecting after going through Tulsa now today how they think about sort of the practical aspects of this campaign going forward, major indoor events?

ALCINDOR: Well, what we know is that the president was absolutely furious at the idea that he was giving a speech to 6,200 people when there was a 1,900-seat auditorium. And the idea that he had to cancel an outdoor event where he and Vice President Pence were supposed to speak really did not sit well with him.

So there was a lot of, really I think, deep thinking about how was the president going to go forward with these thousands and thousands of venues that he wants to speak at and speak before without actually having the people that are willing to put their lives on the line to go see the president.

I think that the president is saying still -- the Trump campaign is saying they`re going to be moving forward with these rallies. But I think it`s going to be very interesting to see where they hold these rallies. And I doubt that they`re going to be these big, boisterous rallies that the president really want to have, because Americans still, whether you`re Republican or Democrat, they`re very, very scared.

Another really quick thing. The president is also -- as he`s kind of pushing forward with all these messages, he`s saying things like I have 200 miles of wall being built. And what we know is that, for a fact, only three miles of new wall where there was no barrier at all existing there, that was only three miles that the president built wall taking office. So it`s one of those things where we see $15 billion going into this border fencing for only three new miles.

And I think that we have to continue to watch the president as he tours the country saying these things because he`s very desperate and very excited in some ways to try to make the case that he`s the best man for the job and to keep his job while also still, in some ways, spreading this information.

KORNACKI: It was also an action the president took and he signed an executive order that freezes new visas for foreign workers through the end of the year. The policy is a win for immigration hard liners in the administration. It is likely to meet some backlash from the business community.

Jacob, tell us a little bit about what the president did here. The argument here with the coronavirus and the surging we always say depression level unemployment. The argument here is this would create more job opportunities for American workers. What is the attempt here? What`s being done policy- wise?

SOBOROFF: Again, the idea that he`s doing this for the coronavirus and to solve the coronavirus, Steve, is very hard to believe. And the president and his administration, including advisers like Stephen Miller, have long pushed forward with a chance for restricted immigration policies, be it with separating families at the border or deporting young children.

Another example is, and while those people will not be able to come in and get visas in the way that they normally would under the president`s new proposal, the president has told tens of thousands of asylum-seeking migrants to wait in Mexico, on the other side of this border wall for the duration of their asylum claims. Under the cover of coronavirus, he`s expelled thousands of children back to their countries of origin.

These are all policies that the Trump administration has wanted to put into effect throughout the duration of the administration, during family separations, like Katie Waldman, now Katie Miller, who is the Vice President`s Communications Director but at the time at the Homeland Security Department, had told me very clearly that family separations was an attempt to get into place policies that would allow them to turn back unaccompanied, undocumented migrant children immediately.

So the idea that they`re doing this now, because of the coronavirus, as I said, is hard to believe base said on the track record and the history of this administration when it comes to restrictive immigration policies.

KORNACKI: All right, Jacob Soboroff, Vaughn Hillyard, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you all for being with us. Vaughn actually had to leave early, not in the shot right here but we appreciate his contribution too. Thank you all.

And Jacob`s forthcoming book by the way, it is titled, Separated, Inside an American Tragedy. It`s about the separation of migrant families by the Trump administration, and check that out.

And coming up, President Trump says he wasn`t kidding when he said he wanted a slowdown in COVID testing. Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci responded during a congressional hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: None of us have had ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Plus, what Fauci had to say about when a vaccine could be ready.

And the polls just closed in Kentucky in what has become a hotly contested Democratic Primary for the right to take on Mitch McConnell. We are getting some numbers out of Kentucky. We`re going to bring you a live returns too this hour.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back.

Earlier today, White House coronavirus task force members testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing was held as the country faces an uptick in cases. 26 states have seen an increased number of cases over the past two weeks, and seven have seen a spike of 100 percent or more.

As we mentioned earlier, Arizona, where President Trump is speaking right now, reported a record single-day increase. It also set records for the number of people hospitalized in intensive care and on ventilators because of the disease.

Texas also reported a record high with over 5,000 new cases. And just a few hours ago the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, urged Texans to stay home and help fight the rampant -- his word there -- rampant spread of the disease.

In his testimony today, Dr. Anthony Fauci called the recent uptick disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: If you look at how we have been hit, we have been hit badly. I mean, anybody who looks at the numbers, we have had now over 120,000 deaths, and we have had 2.5 million infections, so it`s a serious situation.

In some respects, we have done very well. However, in other areas of the country, we`re now seeing a disturbing surge of infections that looks like it`s a combination, but one of the things is an increase in community spread.

And that`s something that I`m really quite concerned about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And while that hearing was going on, President Trump contradicted Fauci.

He tweeted this -- quote -- "Cases up only because of our big number testing. Mortality rate way down."

Health experts have said that a large share of the new infections are among people in their 20s and 30s. Fauci urged young people to remain vigilant and cautioned against a false sense of security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: What you can`t forget is that, if you get infected, and spread the infection, even though you do not get sick, you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak.

And what you might be propagating, inadvertently, perhaps innocently, is infecting someone, who then infects someone, who then is someone who`s vulnerable. That could be your grandmother, your grandfather, your sick uncle, whom have you, who winds up dying.

So it`s a very difficult messaging when people say, I`m young, I`m healthy, who cares? You should care, not only for yourself, but for the impact you might have on the dynamics of the outbreak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And for more, I`m joined by Dr. Lipi Roy, internal medicine physician and an MSNBC medical contributor.

Doctor, thank you for joining us.

So, give us a sense. I mean, we always -- we focus so much on the raw case numbers, and those are up in a lot of places. But it looks like there`s particular concern. I was looking through it today. Arizona, Texas, Florida, California, these seem to have the biggest spikes in multiple categories.

What`s your sense exactly of what`s going on here?

DR. LIPI ROY, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Good evening, Steve.

It`s multiple reasons, right? For some places, they opened up prematurely, or they, frankly, never closed down. They`re not really implementing widespread testing or contact tracing.

Remember, Memorial Day -- there are a lot of factors that are really taking place here. But a couple of points I want to point out from the congressional hearing. We absolutely need more testing.

And to Dr. Fauci`s point, the testing doesn`t really cause more cases, right? It`s simply picking up or detecting what`s already out there. And, as you pointed out, Steve, Arizona, Texas, various place -- Florida -- we`re seeing this, to quote again Dr. Fauci, disturbing rise in cases.

And we know again that these are real numbers because of the percent positivity in the cases -- or the tests, rather, and the late indicator, but very accurate one, is the fact that hospitalizations and ICU bed admissions are all going up. Those are really accurate indicators that this is -- this is real.

KORNACKI: Let me bring in as well Lanhee Chen. He`s a fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Lanhee, you were originally scheduled to join us at the top of this segment. I guess we were having some technical difficulties, but welcome, because I was -- I was hoping to have a discussion between the two of you. I`m glad we got that up and running.

And, Lanhee, we were just talking about the rise in new cases we`re seeing, a particular spike in some states. Arizona, Florida, Texas come to mind. I wanted to talk to you about another piece of this, because I know this is something you have written about.

It looks like the new cases, a lot of the new cases, at least, we`re seeing, younger people, 20s and 30s. I know you have written about trying to relate in the economy, by taking into account that risk varies by age.

Can you talk a little bit about how you think of the new increases right now, the fact you have got a lot of young people, and how you think that should be factored in policy-wise?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Well, it is a factor.

I would just say that I think one of the things, fortunately, that we`re seeing is that, because it is a younger population, thus far at least, we aren`t seeing a steep increase in deaths or even hospitalizations in some parts of the country. So I think that`s a good thing.

But I do think, ultimately, this is going to be a story of risk assessment. People are going to have to figure out, what is their risk tolerance? What is the amount that they are willing to take on, the people around them are willing to take on?

And that calculus is going to differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, perhaps even on a family-by-family level.

But what is the case is that, as this goes on, as we learn more about this virus, hopefully, we can deploy and use that information, so we can help people make educated decisions about whether they want to go back into the workplace, whether they want to resume a more normal situation or not, because, in the absence of that information -- that`s why, by the way, testing is important. Contact tracing is important.

Once we have all that information, people can make a more educated decision.

KORNACKI: Well, Dr. Roy, right now, in all 50 states, we have got some form of reopening going on. So people can make a lot of those decisions that Lanhee is talking about.

So, in terms of risk assessment, what would your practical advice be to folks grappling with those kinds of decisions?

ROY: Yes, these are realistic concerns.

The public -- from the public health standpoint, we have been seeing quite for -- all along that opening up the economy and public health are not two mutually exclusive phenomena. We can do both safely, systematically, making sure that the businesses have proper preventive health measures in place.

I just got my haircut today. It was phase two New York reopening. But you know what? They were -- they kept distancing, almost, I think, every single person there, including myself, wearing masks. So this can be done safely and appropriately.

And the other key though, is messaging, Steve. If you saw from the hearing, every single health official there, the news was pretty serious. It was firm, sometimes grim, but it was consistent. They all said the same message again and again about testing, about preventive health measures, about vaccines.

All these things are going to be really important, but the message has to be consistent. And, to Dr. Fauci`s point, he said: We -- I wear a mask for myself, for others, and to set an example.

That`s what`s key.

KORNACKI: Yes.

And, Lanhee, I`m curious. I don`t know if you heard it. We played that clip from Dr. Fauci, though, talking about, if you`re young, and if you`re healthy, and maybe you`re not at great risk for this, he`s basically making the point that you could come into contact with someone who is.

And I think that`s the piece of this. And I`m trying to figure out, from a policy standpoint, is there a way, is there a realistic way to keep the folks who are vulnerable protected and insulated from this reasonably, not to have that risk of exposure from younger and healthier people?

Can you have two things going on at once?

CHEN: Well, yes.

I mean, certainly with respect to those individuals who are, for example, in long-term care facilities, so skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, we need to be engaging in extra precautions to make sure that those facilities are especially safe.

That means restrictions on visitations, ensuring that staffing is consistent, and we don`t have staff necessarily maybe going from one facility to another, taking the coronavirus with them from one place to another.

That is one thing that was really unfortunate in the early part of this outbreak in particular, is that we didn`t do nearly enough to protect our most vulnerable seniors. So, that`s one thing.

With respect to the workplace, people are going to have to make educated decisions about, for example, if they have a high-risk member of their household, if they have an older member of their household, they will not be able to go back to work, go back to situations that -- as they were before the coronavirus.

And people are going to have to recognize, if they have members of their household that are at higher risk, they`re going to have to take extra precautions. That is simply the new normal we live in now.

KORNACKI: And, Doctor, there also was that issue today that came up, Doctor Fauci saying, a vaccine perhaps by the end of the year, early next year.

What`s your sense of that, that potential timetable?

ROY: Yes, Dr. Fauci said that.

There are many vaccines that are being investigated globally, but there`s one in particular that`s going to be entering phase three clinical trials in July. That`s next month, really promising. Again, it`s not going to be ready for prime time, so to speak, until next year, 2021.

The other key, though, to remember, speaking of vaccines, though, Steve, is that, remember, Dr. Redfield reminded us all about flu season coming in September and the flu vaccine will be available September, October.

He said -- he urged us all to get the flu vaccine and -- quote -- "This will be the single" -- in fact, his quote was, "This single act will save lives."

KORNACKI: I think people might be a little bit more diligent about that flu vaccine this year.

Dr. Lipi Roy, Lanhee Chen, thank you both for being with us. I appreciate that.

And still ahead: Joe Biden is enjoying a solid lead in national polls. Of course, Hillary Clinton was also leading Donald Trump at this point in 2016. Is it different this time? What does it mean?

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back.

And, as we have been saying, right now, President Trump is speaking to thousands of young supporters at a megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona, this while his opponent in the presidential race, Joe Biden, is holding a fund- raiser with a VIP guest.

That would be his former boss Barack Obama. And this is the first time the two have appeared together, at least virtually, since Obama formally endorsed Biden more than two months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we have seen over the last couple of years is a White House enabled by Republicans in Congress and a media structure that supports them that has not just differed in terms of policy, but has gone at the very foundations of who we are and who we should be.

I am here to say that help is on the way if we do the work, because there`s nobody that I trust more to be able to heal this country and get it back on track than my dear friend Joe Biden.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KORNACKI: Now, the Biden campaign says this fund-raiser brought in $7.6 million. That would be the campaign`s highest-grossing event to date.

And as Obama makes his entry into the general election campaign, President Trump is accusing him of a serious crime.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: On Obama and the spying situation, this idea that they were spying on your campaign, you have been asked before about what crime he would have potentially committed.

But I remember you talking...

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Treason. Treason.

QUESTION: That`s what I was going to ask you.

TRUMP: It`s treason.

Look...

QUESTION: It`s treason.

TRUMP: Look, when I came out a long time ago, I said, they have been spying on my campaign. I said, they have been taping. And that was in quotes, meaning a modern-day version of taping. It`s all the same thing, but a modern-day version.

But they have been spying on my campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And while Biden leads Trump in all national polls right now, Democrats have been here before, four years ago. Is this time different?

That`s up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back.

With just over four months until Election Day, former Vice President Joe Biden is maintaining his lead in national polls. The RealClearPolitics national poll average shows Biden leading President Trump by nearly 10 points now. At the same point in 2016, Hillary Clinton was leading by almost six points.

And while the memory of 2016 still haunts Democrats, according to Politico -- quote -- "There is an emerging feeling that this moment is not like four years ago, when Trump shocked the world. Trump is doing worse in the polls, has a controversial record as president, and is facing a more popular opponent in Biden than he did in Clinton."

For more, I am joined by Joel Payne, a Democrat strategist, and Henry Olsen, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Well, Joel, let me start with you.

Politico says, Democrats remember 2016, when Hillary Clinton seemed to be far ahead, and lost, and they think right now is different. Are you one of those Democrats who feels it is different right now?

JOEL PAYNE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Steve, I had the unique position of being in Brooklyn in 2016 for the Hillary Clinton campaign. So, I certainly remember it.

This feels different in this way. The poll that you showed there that showed Biden with the 10-point lead, don`t pay attention to the spread. Look at the number in front of Biden`s percentage. It`s the five, which means it`s over 50 percent, which I think is key, because I think that suggests that Biden has more room to feel comfortable.

Also, if you look at his likability numbers, his favorability numbers, they`re higher than Trump`s, but they`re also higher than Clinton`s four years ago, which, again, gives him more room to grow.

So, I think Democrats have a lot of reason to feel more confident this time around.

Look, it is four months away. If this was a football game, it`s the first quarter. But, right now, Joe Biden is in control of this race and Trump is trying to react and trying to figure out how to get his sea legs back under him.

KORNACKI: So, Henry, let me put basically that same question to you.

Do you -- do you feel Trump is in worse shape now than he was four years ago? And if so, do you see something that he could do or that could happen that could get him back in?

HENRY OLSEN, ETHICS & PUBLIC POLICY CENTER SENIOR FELLOW: I think Trump is in worse shape than he was four years ago, for so many other reasons that you just heard, that Hillary Clinton was underwater on her favorabilities at this point. Joe Biden is at roughly break-even.

And the president is a known quantity now. Four years ago, he was introducing himself. Now people have had if you years to assess him and assess his record. And if you`re only at 41 percent as an incumbent, that`s a really bad place to go, and people tend to be on the fence, tend to decide to go against an incumbent if they`re still on the fence.

KORNACKI: So, do you -- do you see a path back into this for him?

OLSEN: I see theoretical paths back into it. The question is whether he`s capable of executing that. It was pretty clear when COVID struck that he had an opportunity to show a type of empathetic leadership that he hadn`t. Virtually, every leader in the western world have seen their ratings go up sometime significantly during COVID because they`ve been able to show that. Trump wasn`t.

He`s then botched the second chance to show empathetic leadership with the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. I think I can imagine him turning the race around or I can imagine Joe Biden mounting down in a way that makes people wonder if he can do the job. I just think the odds are very high by that happening.

KORNACKI: Yes, Joel, I`m curious how you think about the Democratic coalition right now. We`re talking about that event going on in Arizona where the president is. This is state of Arizona Democrats think they can get this time. Big reason for that, you know, suburban Phoenix, metro area, suburbs all around the country. It`s big gains for Democrats in the Trump era.

Where do you see the Democratic coalition different and in a better position in 2020 than it was in 2016?

PAYNE: Well, all over the place. OK, let`s start with African-American voters. We often think about working lass whites but there`s a lot of African-American voters in the middle of the country who were not onboard with Hillary Clinton or not onboard she needed for a win number in 2016. You look at cities like Milwaukee and Detroit, Hillary Clinton underperformed with African morn voters. Biden has the chance to do better because of the president`s failures in courting African-American votes.

You look at suburban women. We saw in 2018, we`ve seen in some of these specials that suburban college educated women have long since evaded this president and left this president behind.

So Biden has room to grow all over the place, and Trump keeps cutting off routes to more votes. And when you`re in re-election mode, when you`re an incumbent the idea is to add to your coalition, not subtract. The president has not himself up to add to his coalition.

KORNACKI: Well, across the country meanwhile, protesters have turned their focus to removing monuments from figures of American history associated with racism. And last night, police clashed with protesters trying to take down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park located across the street from the White House.

This morning, President Trump threatened prison time for anyone who vandalizes or tries to take down a federal monument.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are looking at long-term jail sentences for these vandals and these hoodlums and these anarchists and agitators, and call them whatever you want. Some people don`t like that language but that`s what they are. I will have an executive order very shortly, and all it`s really going to do is reinforce what`s already there but in a more uniform way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And tonight, fencing is once again being put up around Lafayette Park just like during the protests following the killing of George Floyd.

Henry, the president here clearly seeing a political opportunity to make himself the defender of these monuments. There`s a range of things that are happening right now. There are confederate figures being taken down. I also saw, you know, there`s some controversy over the weekend, Ulysses Grant, who was the champion of a Civil Rights Act in 1870s his statue was taken down, too, by protesters.

We`ve seen movement on these questions of race away from Trump. How do you -- how do you assess the politics of this one?

OLSEN: I think the politics are very difficult to assess at this time, in part because the people are going to make a decision based on Trump versus Biden not Trump versus the protesters. I think it`s pretty clear that there`s a lot of sentiment that things tied to direct racism like Confederate monuments are up for discussion that they weren`t up for a few years ago. I also suspect that there`s a very large consensus that figures who have imperfect records but were instrumental in advancing the causes of freedom such as George Washington or Ulysses Grant, the general who destroyed the Confederacy and the president who presided over the reconstruction of the South, I think there`s consent one might maintain those statues.

The question for Trump is whether he can turn it into an advantage for him. And that partly depends on what people like Biden will do and I can`t imagine that Biden would be silly enough to try to endorse protesters defacing Union generals and figures like Washington and Lincoln.

KORNACKI: Yeah, Joel, I`m curious about that. We showed some polling here the other day, this question of taking down Confederate monuments, Confederate memorials. In a poll at least last week from Quinnipiac, we now have majority support for that in this country. That`s a pretty significant change just in the last three years since Charlottesville.

So, on the Confederate front, it seems when the president speaks out in defense of that, there`s a clear political vulnerability. I wonder as the discussion shifts, when you get away from non-Confederate figures, somebody like Ulysses Grant, how should Democrats be handling that?

PAYNE: Look, it`s very complicated. It`s wrought with a lot of peril, and I think Henry stated it well.

Look, I think that the aim has been off on what some of the protests have been doing. I mean, I`m a history geek myself. Ulysses s. Grant has a very strong record as was mentioned before, you know, Teddy Roosevelt in New York, there were thoughts about pushing back on his legacy of colonialism.

I think folks need to focus in on what the key issue is here. The key issue is police violence. That`s where it started. And I think as long as the protesters stay laser-focused there and don`t get distracted by some of these issues that can become more complicated and make it harder to build allegiance and coalitions, I think they`ll be better off.

I think what the president is hoping is that this is prayer in school, that this is school uniforms, that this is gay marriage. That this is the culture war he can use to drive a wedge between Democratic voters. I believe it`s going to work because I think most people see Biden as a champion of those folks who are protesting in the streets but also being able to bring folks together for solutions that, you know, build coalitions and don`t split them apart.

KORNACKI: All right. Joel Payne, Henry Olsen, thanks to both of you for being with us. Appreciate it very much.

And coming up, polls have closed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in most of it. There might be a dispute in one part. We`ll get to that. Amy McGrath, Charles Booker, both want to face-off against Mitch McConnell in November. Only one of them will get to and we`ve got some results to show you.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Where`s the music?

Guess what, folks? It`s an election night again. Here we go. This is a COVID era election. This is the Kentucky Democratic Senate primary right now.

The polls close in some of Kentucky 6:00 p.m. Eastern, some 7:00. It`s a split time zone state. We`re starting to get some results.

Let me take you through what`s going to happen tonight in some counties in Kentucky. Not all, but in some counties of Kentucky, they`re going to report the votes that were cast today -- folks who went out to the polls today. So, give me an example of this.

Here`s one county where we`ve got results. These look like votes that were cast today. It`s very, very few as you can see. The majority, the clear majority, the vast majority of votes in this primary look like they were cast by mail. Those can still be coming in.

If you postmarked it today in Kentucky, your vote will count. It will take a couple days to get there, but it will count. So, a lot of absentee mail votes are going to be counted in the coming days, some of these counties. And I`m looking at you Fayette, which is where Lexington is, and Jefferson, where Louisville, may not report this out anything out for a week.

So what we can tell you is a scattering of same-day votes are coming in from some counties across the state. Amy McGrath ahead of Charles Booker with few votes in. Keep in mind, if you`re Charles Booker, Louisville, that`s his hometown, that`s the biggest county in the state, that`s a quarter of the vote, Jefferson County.

Again, we may not get anything from there in days. So Louisville, Lexington, that`s number two. That`s where the University of Kentucky is. Charles Booker`s hopes kind of rest on those two counties.

We may not get them tonight. But if he can be competitive without anything from those counties, that could be a good sign for him. We will see.

Obviously, again, very early here, but now, joining me on the ground in Louisville, Kentucky, the heart of Jefferson County, NBC`s Shaq Brewster who has been covering this for us.

Shaq, where you were, biggest Kentucky in the state, one sort of mega polling site today, as the polls were set to close at 6:00, there was some drama there a short while ago. Take us through what went down.

SHAQUILLE BREWSTER, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: That`s right, Steve. At about 6:00, you had people literally running to the polls, people at one polling location in Jefferson County was at the Kentucky Expo Center. And it`s a large convention center, which means there`s a large parking lot. And apparently, there was a delay of cars getting from the parking lot and getting into the expo center, and then voters getting to the door of the voting location.

So I was there at 6:00, as you had a flood of people running with kids, with strollers, to the doors, to go ahead and cast their ballot at 6:00 or shortly thereafter. The doors then closed. But then voters decided to stay.

There were people who banged on doors. They chanted "let us in, let us vote." About 25 minutes later after an injunction by a circuit court judge, those doors were reopened and 100 or so people that remained on the premises were able to come in and cast their ballot.

But, Steve, outside of that, there was a relatively smooth day of voting. I know much of the talk coming into this election was on the idea of there just being one polling location in Jefferson County. There just being one polling location in Lexington, Kentucky, the two largest cities.

Despite that, you saw pretty smooth voting. At the location I was at, people were going in and out. They were surprised how quickly it was going. They were wearing masks. There was hand sanitizer. They said that they were surprised at the speed in which they are being processed.

There were some delays in Lexington. Apparently, those lines stretched about an hour and a half to two hours long.

But all in all, what the secretary of state said today, and remember, the reason why we had this influx of voting, it was an agreement between the Democratic governor and the Republican secretary of state. And what the secretary of state predicted on Twitter is that there will be about 1.1 million people who would have participated in this primary. I believe that puts it about 32 percent of voter turnout, which is higher than many other primaries before.

That`s something the Democratic governor will consider a success and something the Republican secretary of state will also see as a success -- Steve.

KORNACKI: Yes, there you go, Shaq -- 1.1 million. I think it was about 670,000 when they did this for the governor`s race. That`s a big jump.

Shaquille Brewster on the ground in Louisville, Kentucky. Thank you for that.

We`ll keep an eye on this tonight if we get some more votes. We have a long way to go. Remember, those two big counties where Louisville and Lexington are, may be a while. Interesting primary, a preview of what`s to come in November in some ways.

Anyway, we`ll be right back with an announcement about something coming up later this week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: And before we go, an exciting programming note for you. This Thursday, Joy Reid will host a special report "The Road to Reform" right here on MSNBC at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

She`s going to be joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss this moment of reckoning for American policing. Her guests will include CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass, Congresswoman Val Demings, and Congressman Hakim Jeffries.

Viewers will have a chance to participate in the town hall. You can go to MSNBC.com/townhall to submit a question for that event on Friday night.

And that`s going to do it for me.

Don`t go anywhere. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END