IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Russia Bounty intel TRANSCRIPT: 6/30/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Chris Coons, Juan Zarate, Lanhee Chen, Susan Page, Rich Lowry

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That does it for THE BEAT. You can always find me on Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere @arimelber. We`ll back at 6:00 P.M. tomorrow. But keep it right here right now on MSNBC.

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

New reporting is shedding some light on the question of when President Trump was given information about intelligence indicating that Russia may have put bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

A person with direct knowledge of that intelligence has now confirmed to NBC News that the White House learned of it over a year ago in early 2019. The Associated Press was first to break that news this morning, reporting this, quote, the assessment was included in at least one of President Trump`s written daily intelligence briefings last year.

Additionally, according to the Associated Press, quote, then National Security Adviser John Bolton also told colleagues at the time that he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019. Though we should point out NBC News has not confirmed that detail.

Separately, The New York Times is reporting that, quote, American officials provided a written briefing on the Russian scheme in late February of this year. That is according to two officials, one of whom, said it was included in the president`s daily brief on February 27th. When reports about all of this first emerged over the weekend, the president said on Twitter that, quote, nobody briefed or told me about the intelligence in question.

There is also the question of the intelligence itself. On Sunday, the president said it was not found to be credible and characterized it as a potential hoax. Then yesterday, his White House press secretary said there was, quote, no consensus on the credibility of the intelligence assessment. And today, The New York Times is reported that there is intelligence that links Russian bank transfers to Taliban-affiliated accounts.

Meanwhile, Democrats are demanding to hear directly from the leaders of the intelligence community after what they described as, quote, an unsatisfactory briefing at the White House today. And they condemned the president`s handling of the matter.

Here is House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Congressman Adam Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): The president called this a hoax publicly. Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I find it inexplicable in light of this very public allegations that the president hasn`t come before the country and assured the American people that he will get to the bottom of whether the Russians are putting a bounty on the heads of American troops and that he will do everything in his power to make sure that we protect American troops. I do not understand for a moment why the president isn`t saying this to the American people right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: I am joined now by MSNBC Correspondent Carol Lee. Carol, thank you for joining us.

There are all sorts of different reports floating around out there. I just want to try to nail down with you what you know in terms of when the president was given information about this, whether that was in the form of this daily briefing, this written daily briefing. Whether it was something that was said to him personally one on one by someone else. What do we know in terms of the number of instances and the circumstances in which the president had this information made available to him?

CAROL LEE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know from the body of reporting that`s out there, including some of our own, is that this goes back to early 2019. That`s when we`ve confirmed that the White House, top officials in the National Security Council, became aware of this intelligence of a Russian plot, just for bounties in exchange for the killing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

And the A.P. reported that the president was -- at least received a paper briefing, it was in his presidential daily brief at that time, also reported that John Bolton, the former national security adviser, who was in the job at the time, told colleagues that he briefed the president on this matter. So, that goes back to early 2019.

If you get to more recent months, what we know from the reporting is that The New York Times, as the president received this information in his presidential daily brief on February 27th, late February, and so he would have had access to that information then.

Now, the White House has said that the president didn`t know about this, until this became public and only then he was brought up to speed. That was last Friday when the story broke in The New York Times. Today, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that the president has since been briefed on this intelligence, but only because it was already out there in news reports.

They maintain that this was not something that should have risen to the president`s level. They use the word verified. That`s not really something that intelligence officials will use. They try to determine whether or not something have confidence in a piece of intelligence.

And I got to say, one of the things that stuck out in her briefing today, the press secretary, was that they`re essentially saying now in the White House that because this was made public now, that they may never have a conclusion, there may never be a consensus on this intelligence. I don`t think a lot of people are going to stand for that answer, that response, particularly in Congress, but that`s where their position is right now.

KORNACKI: And that`s the other question here, what do we know about this intelligence? What do we know about how confident it was? This question of whether there was any kind of a consensus here. They say this may go back to early 2019, more than a year. What do we actually know about the intelligence that the president was presented with?

LEE: Well, we know that the president -- there`s not agreement across the intelligence community about the intelligence, about how good the intelligence was and whether or not they were able to validate it. So there was disagreement among those. Obviously, The New York Times and other news organizations have reported that in the intelligence there were things, it was human intelligence, it was signet, which is interceptions from conversations with people about the U.S. would be monitoring, things like that, and that taken together, there were certainly some within the administration, within the intelligence community who felt that this was very significant and that the president, the White House should have taken some sort of actions. And we know from our own reporting that that was discussed in the National Security Council earlier this year but that nothing ever came of that.

KORNACKI: All right, Carol Lee, from NBC News, I appreciate the time as always, thank you Carol.

LEE: Any time.

KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by Senator Chris Coons from Delaware. He`s a member of the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committee, Senator, thank you for joining us. Let me start first, I understand you reviewed some of the intelligence question today.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Yes.

KORNACKI: Can you tell us -- I know there`s some restrictions here, but in terms of the scope of what you think you were presented with today, did you come away with a sense of what this was pointing to or not pointing to?

COONS: It filled in some of the details beyond what`s in press reports. But, frankly, Steve, I think it`s urgent that members of Congress get a full briefing. What was presented to the president, what was known to senior leaders in the White House, a year or more ago, as I`m sure you have seen from press reports, there is a specific incident in which three U.S. marines were killed, including one from Delaware, Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman. That is a focus of ongoing discussion.

I think it`s important that all members of Congress know how long ago was the president briefed on this. If he didn`t read his briefing papers, why not? I just heard the suggestion that the White House position is this wasn`t an issue that rose to the level that required briefing the president. How is that possible? That if Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban or Haqqani Network or other actors or players in Afghanistan to target American and coalition forces and that resulted in deaths of Americans or coalition partners in the field, how is that not something that rises to the level of the president`s concern.

I want to be brief on what the president did in response and on what plans they have going forward to make sure that Americans and our coalition partners who continue to serve in Afghanistan are protected and that Russia is made to pay a price.

KORNACKI: If this is true, if the reporting about this intelligence is true, and this is a bounty situation, what`s the price that Russia should pay?

COONS: Well, frankly, we`ve had opportunity after opportunity in the last few years for President Trump to step forward and to embrace sanctions that we have passed here in Congress, ways that we could impose costs on Russia directly or indirectly. And he has repeatedly failed to do so, to stand up and defend our elections, to stand up and advocate for the conclusions of our own intelligence community, to stand in common with our European partners.

Frankly, as you know, this year, the United States is the chair of the G7, and President Trump tried to invite Putin to the G7 meeting and to re- include them into expanded to the G8. So there are so many different ways, directly and indirectly, that we could and should impose further costs on Russia. But, tragically, our president has a record of refusing to do so over and over in the last three years.

KORNACKI: Again, putting aside the specifics with Trump, I`m just curious what you think would be a warranted response here. Again, if this were true, you`re talking about the Russian military intelligence paying for the deaths of American soldiers. You are outlining some diplomatic, some sanction responses there. Is that something that calls for some kind of military response?

COONS: I`m not going leap to that conclusion, Steve. I`m a little -- I`m not in a good place to make a rational decision about this right now. That`s the kind of thing that certainly appeals to my emotions. I think this is an outrageous action by the Russians.

Frankly, if you look at what the global response was, the response of many of our allies, when they attempted to kill a Russian citizen within the United Kingdom, most of our allies across Western Europe and in other nations, in other place in the world, in Asia, threw out Russian diplomats. That was for an attempted killing of a former Russian citizen.

This may be the targeted killing of Americans and American service members. I think it would call for a much stronger response. But, Steve, I want to be measured. I want to have some time to think about this, I`m pretty upset right now.

KORNACKI: I know House Democrats today, a day after House Republican met at the White House, got a briefing from some intelligence officials there. You know, John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, is set to meet with senators tomorrow. Who else, who specifically would you like to hear from here?

COONS: I`d like to know whether or not field commanders in Afghanistan were briefed, whether or not protective actions were taken. I`d like to know whether or not our diplomats and our military leaders conveyed to their counterparts in Russia, our intention to take action against Russian interest if they continued. And I frankly like to know, what else was done to strengthen collection efforts to make certain that we knew what was or what`s not being done against our troops in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and other place where is we know they`ve been exposed to Russian action, real or threatened.

KORNACKI: All right. Senator Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware, thank you for the time. I appreciate it.

COONS: Thank you. Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. And with me now, Juan Zarate, former National -- Deputy National Security Adviser under President George W. Bush. Juan, thank you for joining us, I appreciate it.

I want to put up, and Senator Coons is alluding to this. This is what Congressman Michael McCaul, a Republican, Who was part of that Republican delegation in there at the White House got a briefing. This is what he said, he said, I think the way the process works is that he, Trump, gets briefed about three times a week on sort of actionable credible items and the decision was made that this was not at that point in time a credible, actionable piece of intelligence. And if at any point it did, it would be raised to his attention.

You know how this process works of briefing the president on intelligence concerns. You know this very well. What McCaul is saying, is there basically two levels of this, and it`s possible that this didn`t meet a threshold to be flagging down the president, putting this in his face, making sure he sees it. Is that credible to you?

JUAN ZARATE, FMR. BUSH ADMIN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: That does make sense, Steve. Keep in mind that the presidential daily brief and the intelligence that reaches the Oval Office is really dependent on how the president receives information, how his advisers think that information can be best conveyed and digested. This president, obviously, very different from President Obama, very different from President Bush. So they have had to adapt to the way he ingests information.

Added to that, Steve, as you`ve just asked some very good questions, the nature of intelligence is often an art form. It`s not science. It`s often hard to give a black and white answer. And often there`s just the need for more corroboration, more confidence to be built into the intelligence picture.

And, finally, you need a policy team, that`s ready to answer the question. The presidential daily brief isn`t an opportunity to raise red flags or to tell the president a lot of bad things are happening. You have to be ready to actually do something about it. And if the information wasn`t concrete enough, if action wasn`t being prepared or options weren`t available, then it`s likely or could be likely the president didn`t receive this in a way that makes as much sense in hindsight now that we`re understanding more and more of this information.

KORNACKI: Well, that`s the question, because there are a number of sort of variables here, you have the question of, does the president read his daily briefs? Did he read this one in particular? Does he read them in general?

The White House today, his press secretary is insisting that he does. I know there`s been some reporting out there that other times that suggest that calls that into question a little bit. But I`m curious, from the intelligence community standpoint, if that is on their mind at all, the possibility that the president isn`t seeing this, isn`t reading something that`s going in there, does that affect at all how they put the information together, whether they make a decision to go to another level and try to get a meeting, something like that?

ZARATE: Absolutely. It affects three levels. It affects what information is actually put in front of the president, is this going to be important to the president? Will it be auctioned? Will it be understood? It also affects the tone and the verbiage, right? Do you need more headlines for this kind of a president? Does it have to be clear cut, black and white versus more nuanced around levels of confidence?

And, finally, can you get the information in front of him? Do you think it`s important for him to make a decision in front of him in different ways? Is it a briefing from a senior adviser? Is it DNI?

Keep in mind, Steve, you`ve had three different DNI over the last few months, I have argued that`s probably affected the way that things have been presented to the president because the DNI helps to filter and helps to guide how the intelligence community is presenting things to the president.

And so the dislocation at the top of the intelligence community has likely affected the way that this has been handled, at least in recent months.

KORNACKI: All right. Former Deputy National Security Adviser, Juan Zarate, thank you for joining us. I appreciate that.

ZARATE: Thank you, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. And coming up a new warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci on the new surge of coronavirus cases.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are now having 40 plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: This as Joe Biden holds a public event where he criticized President Trump`s response to the pandemic the recent protests and those Russian bounty allegations.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back.

Tonight, health experts are voicing growing concern over that increase in the number of coronavirus cases now being seen in a number of southern and western states. To date, the U.S. has reported more than 127,000 deaths and roughly 2.6 million positive cases. And according to data tracked by The Washington Post, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 is growing in seven states, in Texas, Arizona and Nevada, South Carolina, Montana, Georgia and California. The seven-day average is up at least 25 percent from last week when it comes to hospitalizations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci testified today on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I`m very concerned about what`s going on right now, particularly in the four states that are accounting for about 50 percent of the new infections, but the other vulnerable states.

So, I would have to say, the numbers speak for themselves. I`m very concerned, and I`m not satisfied with what is going on, because we are going in the wrong direction. Clearly, we are not in total control right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Fauci also warned about a possible rise in cases.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: We are now having 40,000-plus new cases a day, I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I`m very concerned.

I think it`s important to tell you and the American public that I`m very concerned, because it could get very bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: A number of states and counties have now paused or begun rolling back their reopenings.

Yesterday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order that closed, among other things, bars, nightclubs and gyms for at least the next 30 days. The Arizona Department of Health also activated a plan that prepares medical facilities for surge capacity.

Hospitals in California and Texas are also working to manage upticks in hospitalizations. Los Angeles county has ordered all beaches to close over the Fourth of July weekend, after reporting its highest single-day case number on Monday.

For more, I`m joined by Lanhee Chen, fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, former Obama White House health policy adviser and MSNBC medical contributor.

Doctor, let me start with you.

Well, we played the clips there. Dr. Fauci said he is very nervous about the data, the numbers that we are running through right there. I do note, in some of the states, there are these reopening steps that are being rolled back in some cases, bars, nightclubs, gyms. In-person drinking, I think, in Florida, they decided to do away with.

Are enough steps being taken, do you think, right now? And if not, what are some of the most important steps you think these states should be taking?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, these states are all on the exponential increase in terms of the number of cases. And you can see that just by looking at the graphs.

This was very predictable in May, when they opened up without having a decline, and when they, you know, started having these big gatherings after -- at the Memorial Day and afterwards.

And if you are on the exponential increase, you really do have to do an extreme lockdown. And so these half-measures are exactly the wrong -- I mean, they are good. They are going in the right direction, but they are not sufficient.

And, you know, it`s not going to be enough. You have to actually have people at home, close nonessential businesses, stop bars, stop indoor dining, have everyone wearing face masks. These are the things we need to do.

And, by the way, just doing it in isolated places is not going to solve it either. You need to do it nationwide. It`s not like people in Florida stay in Florida or people in Texas don`t travel to, say, Louisiana or Arkansas or neighboring areas.

And so, if you only do it in Texas, other places are going to begin to see rises also.

KORNACKI: Lanhee, let me bring you in on that, because I know you have written about trying to balance controlling the virus until there`s a vaccine on this with having some reopening, trying to get back to some semblance of life in this country.

I`m curious, what do you make of what Dr. Emanuel just said about the steps he thinks ought to be taken right now?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Well, a few things.

I think, first of all, the notion of trying to do a little more regional coordination makes sense to me. I`d love to be able to see governors of neighboring states, for example, getting together and figuring out, what are some ways we can work together to begin to peel back some of the trend that we have seen in the last few days, which is troubling, indeed?

The notion of a complete lockdown, I just don`t think works at this point. I think, given where we are in this reopening process, the biggest question in my mind is, what are the targeted interventions necessary?

And in some cases, that will be rolling back. In some cases, that will be closing bars, indoor dining, et cetera. But, in other cases, it seems to me that we need to be a little bit more surgical this time around when we think about how to deal with this outbreak.

We know a lot more about the virus, Steve, now than we did when we put in place some of the initial lockdowns. We know a lot more about transmission and some of the scenarios which are more troubling and more difficult, those indoor facilities in particular, gyms, some of the other places that got opened up.

So I think a targeted approach, figuring out what we need to shut back down, figuring out where we need to taper back down, that makes a whole lot of sense to me, in addition to a regional approach that takes into account some of that mobility between states.

KORNACKI: Doctor, what about what Lanhee is saying about the difference between indoor/outdoor, being in a restaurant, being in a bar, being in nightclubs, something like that, vs. being out on a beach?

I see that these -- the beaches in California, Florida, some of them announcing they`re not going to be open for the Fourth of July weekend. For folks who`ve been inside for months now, who don`t have jobs, all of this, is there a pragmatic case for, OK, no restaurants, but, yes, beaches, yes, parks, yes, get outside, get some air?

EMANUEL: Look, Steve, you`re exactly right. There are four things that dramatically increase your risk of transmission, enclosed spaces, crowds, very prolonged exposure, and deep exhalations, coughing, sneezing, yelling, or singing.

It is possible to have a few people on a beach that you can physically distance in the outdoors, and that`s fine. Unfortunately, what we have been seeing is that you get these massive crowds over prolonged periods of time. And that does counteract a lot of the advantages of being outdoors.

That`s why indoor bars are a bad idea, indoor restaurants are a bad idea. Gyms, where you have forced exhalations and you`re indoors for prolonged periods of time, are also a bad idea.

But if you just open up the beaches, and on the Fourth of July, hundreds, if not thousands of people crowd small areas, that is going to counteract all the advantage of being outdoors.

So, I don`t see this surgical strike here that we`re going to get, and that we`re going to cure this thing. The thing that bent the curve in New York and brought it down was a pretty substantial closing and limiting of crowds, not to 50, but to 10.

KORNACKI: Well...

EMANUEL: And that was needed in Italy and other places. We`re not unique.

And if we do these half-measures, it`ll continue.

KORNACKI: I just want to follow up on that, because the situation you`re describing, crowds packed together on a beach in an outdoor space being a vector of transmission here, I`m thinking back to the protests we have seen over the last month.

And I know there`s been some debate over, did this cause, will this cause, is this going to contribute to an increase in the cases? I`m seeing all the numbers rise in so many places among younger people in particular.

What you`re describing about the beach sounds like the protests in a lot of ways. Do you think these protests have contributed to this?

EMANUEL: Well, that`s an empirical question. And we will have to see.

I will note that a lot of the protesters wore -- a lot of them wore face masks. They were -- that situation was complicated by the use of tear gas, pepper spray that caused the deep exhalations, forcing people into small areas, things that the police did to aggravate potential spread.

But we`re -- Steve, this is -- that`s an empirical question. It`s not a thought question. And I don`t think we have definitive data on whether the rate increased or not.

But we have good reason -- on beaches, people aren`t wearing masks. They are crowded together. And they are there for a prolonged period of time. That is not a good combination. And then they also crowd, by the way, at food areas, at bathrooms and other places for -- while they`re getting refreshments or going to the restroom.

KORNACKI: Lanhee, let me just get a last thought from you.

What are your thoughts on that?

CHEN: Well, look, I think it`s fairly clear that any time you have a significant gathering of people -- and that includes people who gathered to protest -- you are raising the probability of transmission of the coronavirus.

Some of those protesters wore masks. Some did not. So, surely, it is the case in some urban areas that we are seeing rising numbers -- and it`s a function of all of these things. I don`t think it`s right for any person to blame any one factor: It`s all reopening. It`s all protests. That`s simply not true.

But a combination of these different factors, to be sure, is the explanation for why we`re seeing these increases, particularly amongst younger populations. Now, fortunately, those younger populations, that has not yet translated to mortality.

Now, mortality is a lagging indicator. We will have to see. But we`re hopeful that we`re seeing at least this case growth is happening amongst younger people, who seem at least to be able to better tolerate things thus far.

KORNACKI: All right, Lanhee Chen and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, thank you both for joining us. Appreciate that.

And up next: With this crisis threatening to spin out of control, Joe Biden isn`t pulling any punches. He goes after Donald Trump and his handling of the pandemic.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump failed us month after month. And now Donald Trump is in retreat.

He called himself a wartime president. What happened? Now it`s almost July. And it seems like our wartime president has surrendered, waved the right flag -- white flag, and left the battlefield.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Welcome back.

That was the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, in Wilmington, Delaware, today. He was taking aim at President Trump`s handling of the coronavirus.

Biden wore a mask, which he removed for the speech. And he used that speech to lay out a plan to fight the pandemic, including more testing. And he urged the Trump administration to put in place more formal public health rules.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Today, we`re facing a serious threat. And we have to meet it. We have to meet it as one country.

But the president gives no direction. And he pits us against one another. We can`t continue like this, half recovering and half getting worse. We can`t continue, half wearing masks and half rejecting science.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Biden also pledged that, if he is elected, he will ask Dr. Fauci, Anthony Fauci, to work with his administration.

He also took questions from the press today. That was the first time he`d done that since early April. This was also his first in-person press event since the end of February.

For his part, President Trump used Twitter today to once again draw attention to monuments that have come under attack from some protesters and to vow prosecution for those who deface them.

He referred to what he called -- quote -- "two anarchists who threw paint on the magnificent George Washington statue in Manhattan," this in reference to red paint that was splattered across the historic Washington Square Arch in New York City over the weekend.

Biden said that the president`s tweets in recent days and, in particular, his retweet of an apparent supporter saying the words "White power," only divides the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: We`re giving a portion of the population who has responded to the sort of race-baiting the president in a sort of free pass, and it generates divisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And Biden also had tough words for President Trump regarding alleged Russian bounties to kill -- to kill -- to the Taliban -- excuse me -- to kill American troops in Afghanistan.

That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back.

In a speech today near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden blasted President Trump over his handling of the coronavirus.

Taking questions from reporters for the first time in months, Biden also weighed in on the reports of possible Russian bounties offered to the Taliban for the deaths of American soldiers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: The idea that somehow he didn`t know or isn`t being briefed, it`s a dereliction of duty, if that`s the case. And if he was briefed, and nothing was done about this, that`s a dereliction of duty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Biden stopped short of saying President Trump violated his oath of office. He said that judgment is up to voters.

Another new poll out today shows Biden with a double-digit lead nationally, Biden with 53 percent in the "USA Today"/Suffolk poll, that to Trump`s 41 percent in a two-way matchup.

And for more, I`m joined by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," Cornell Belcher, Democratic pollster and MSNBC contributor, and Rich Lowry, editor at "National Review."

Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Susan, let me start with you.

We mentioned, this is the first time in months that Biden has done something like this. It`s probably given everybody flashbacks to those days before the coronavirus pandemic set in.

What is it going to look like from this point forward from the Biden campaign standpoint? Are there going to be more of these? Is he going to be stepping up his schedule? Or are they looking at the last few months and saying, this worked out pretty well, no need to be that much more visible?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": You know, it`s been remarkable how well Vice President Biden has done in the polls since he`s stayed out of sight. But guess think they are going to pick things up, in whatever form the convention is going to take. They need to see reporters more often. He has been doing interviews, and it`s the first news conference in three months. I am certain he will be doing more of those.

And, of course, those debates, he`s got to get warmed up for the debates that this fall will be crucial in showing these two men in their 70s side- by-side, both of them charging that the other does not have the competence to be president.

KORNACKI: So, let`s talk about the race. Rich, let me start with you, with the polls right now, we have talked about them so much, another one from "USA Today", Susan`s paper showing a double digit advantage for Biden. They asked voters Trump`s handling of the coronavirus, Trump`s handling of the protests, very, very high negative there.

Two parter. Can you see Trump turning this around and still winning this election, if so, how?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yeah, after 2016, I will never count him out again. But he is in a paralysis condition, it`s a ten-point lead for Biden, you see it nationally and reflected in the state polls. So, Trump needs -- this is one reason why in political terms, the resurging of the coronavirus is bad for him. He needs to turn the page from the COVID crisis that they were expecting to do in the last couple of weeks and we are seeing that will not happen any time soon and then unusually for an incumbent, he needs a debate.

Susan mentioned the debates. He needs the debate. He`s going to have to go in the debates, punching and hoping Biden makes a disastrous gaffe or falls on his face. So, he needs the news cycle to change and he needs Biden, somehow, to be disqualified or disqualify himself.

KORNACKI: Cornell, let me ask you, I`m curious what you think about that, given Rich said, there`s the memory of 2016 when everything seemed to be going wrong for Donald Trump right up until he won the election. There`s also the reality of the polls right now.

Do you look at this and see vulnerabilities on the Democratic side, vulnerabilities for Joe Biden that have not been exploited yet that could be?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER & STRATEGIST: Well, that`s a -- that`s a good question. And I want to under line the point that Rich was making. It is unusual that an incumbent needs you know the debates in this instance, and needs the -- their challenger to trip up. I don`t think that the Biden campaign has been spot on. Why get in the way of your opponent when they continue to crash and burn?

And with all the immediate attention that has been on Donald Trump, 99 percent of it has been on Donald Trump, he has crashed and burned over and over again. So, why get in the way of that and mess up that dynamic.

You know, Steve, usually I would say, I would be one of the first people out there and say, look, you have to give voters something to vote for. You got to sort of draw a sharp contrast to your opponent, and you have to hit your opponent and give them a reason why not to support them, especially if they are the incumbent. It`s hard to say that right now. Because, you know, I think Biden campaign would be foolish to not make this as much as possible a referendum on Donald Trump. Because if this is a campaign that is a -- that is a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, I still like Joe Biden`s chances, I love Biden`s chances, if this election in 2020 is really a referendum on Donald Trump and his leadership, because that`s a contest he can`t win.

KORNACKI: Susan, let me flip it around a bit and talk about this from a Trump standpoint on this, we are talking about Biden can -- might not do. What about the president? There`s all these stories out there right now about the folks around him saying, hey, you`re in trouble, shake up your campaign, change your message. Be more disciplined. We have heard the talk in many different contexts.

Do you have a sense that we`re going to see anything different from the president in the days and weeks ahead?

PAGE: No. Have we learned nothing since 2015? You know, President Trump has enormous confidence in his own gut. It`s brought him this far.

I would not -- it would be no surprise to anyone, including the people who work for him, if there was a campaign shake up, because he is not a person who is afraid to shake up the staff around him if he is unhappy with them. But I think what we have learned is, advisers can tell him whatever they want, that he needs to pivot, he needs to be more positives and not tweet such provocative things, and they`ve had very little effect.

Donald Trump is Donald Trump is Donald Trump, and Americans will be in a position to decide if that`s want a second term of this. And Biden`s task here is to make sure he continues to be seen as an acceptable alternative. If Trump is running against Trump, but Biden is somehow looking like he is not up to the job, that`s a situation in which you might see some hope for the president.

KORNACKI: One of the areas that we mentioned this too a couple of minutes ago, where the president and his team seem to think there is an opportunity here. We mention monuments and statues of all different varieties that are being taken down or defaced right now in some cases. The president with the tweet today in reference to the arch in Washington square in New York City.

Biden was asked about the monuments coming down today, let`s play what he to say about that. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and somebody who was in rebellion committing treason, running -- trying to take a Union to take town slavery, I think there`s a distinction. Toppling the Christopher Columbus statue or George Washington statue, or et cetera, I think that is something that the government has a opportunity and responsibility to protect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So, Rich, you have Biden there drawing a distinction between Confederate monuments something like George Washington, the president wants this issue. Is Biden giving him anything to work with here?

LOWRY: Yeah, so that`s the other clear play for the president, Steve, is to try to associate Biden with the extremism on the left and parts of the Democratic Party. The problem is Biden is not going to cooperate with it, right? Saw it a couple of weeks ago with the "defund the police" was a hot issue and growing rubric and Biden -- there`s no way Biden is getting anywhere near that.

You look at vandalism against statues, especially statues of the Founders, I have to believe that most people reject that kind of hideous conduct, but there`s no way Joe Biden is going to get near it. So, the argument is going to have to be, no matter what Biden says, he is not going to be in control of the presidency and he is going to be pushed to the left from extremists. That`s the argument that a little bit of a bank shot compared to if Biden came out and said, defund the police and topple George Washington, which he is not going to do.

KORNACKI: That raises an interesting question, Cornell. Rich is saying, you know, that Biden is not playing in to Trump`s hand. We have seen it in a number of contexts so far. When you look at all those Democrats, the 24 that set to run for president, do you think given the circumstances that they would all be ahead right now? Or do you think the last few months have revealed some particular advantages that Biden has that the rest would not have? It would be a different race if somebody else was nominated?

BELCHER: I think -- I think the fact that Biden is probably one of the strongest candidates, probably the strongest candidate we had in the field for that moderate swath of the electorate, which I think is more important. Sometimes we forget the moderate swath of the electorate. Truth of the matter is, while Barack Obama was losing independent voters in 2012, we dominated that middle swath of the electorate, we won moderate voters big, and that was key to the pathway.

But I have to make this other point about the monuments and the cultural war. It`s not 1969, and when you look at how Donald Trump won, you know, college voters narrowly in 2016 but he is losing them big right now, it`s not just about the economy. These middle class, Middle American voters are tired of the division.

KORNACKI: We did see polling of college educated voters on the question of the monuments, the Confederate monuments at least moving dramatically in the last couple of years.

Cornell Belcher, Rich Lowry, Susan Page, thank you all for being with us. Really appreciate you taking the time.

LOWRY: Thank you.

KORNACKI: And still ahead, hey, guess what? It was prime day in Kentucky a week ago, and now, a result in the big Senate race. Welcome to elections in the age of COVID. Kentucky primary results, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. Here we go. You`re looking at results here.

About a week ago, I was standing here, in fact, it was a week ago I was standing here saying we were starting to get some results, a very small number of results from the Kentucky Senate Democratic primary. Now we have all of the results.

Basically, they took a week there in Kentucky to take all of those mail-in ballots, hundreds of thousands of them, to have them all to come in to count them and release the results, which they did today. Here you go, just about everything is counted.

Amy McGrath, that`s going to be the Democratic nominee against Mitch McConnell. She defeated Charles Booker. This was a story of, you know, McGrath came into this race about a year ago, got a lot of national attention. She made a big name for her running in the midterm election for the House.

Charles Booker got momentum late. And this is the interesting story, McGrath wins this very, very narrowly as you see. When the votes were cast, it is sort of the story of this primary.

This was the in-person vote. This was what was cast last week. Officially, last week was primary day. Some people went out and voted last week.

Three largest counties in Kentucky, and what do you see here? Among the people that went out last week and voted, big, big Booker margins. Remember, he had the late momentum. He got all the attention in the last week or two of the campaign, seemed to make an impression on the people who voted at the last minute.

But compared to the number of mail-in votes to this, there were not a lot of people went to the polls last week. The vast majority cast their vote by mail. Some did this weeks ago, before Booker got that attention, got that momentum. And, look, it was a totally different story here.

This is home county, Jefferson, he still won the mail-in vote, but that`s 1/3 the margin he got on primary day. The margin was reduced by 46 points.

In Lexington, Fayette County, look at this, McGrath won this county, this is the suburbs of Cincinnati. She won it overwhelmingly in the mail-in vote even as Booker carried it in the primary. If this were done on one day, on primary day last week, I think it`s possible Booker would have won this primary.

But that stretched-out mail-in voting time you had in the era of COVID made the difference. Before Booker caught fire in this race, McGrath banked an awful lot of votes and helped her pull out the victory.

So, by the way, that`s Kentucky. Those are the results there.

There`s also one playing out tonight the state of Colorado. Two Democrats, remember this guy, John Hickenlooper, former governor of the state, former presidential candidate, he`s got to get through a primary. He`s the favorite. We`ll see what happens.

If he wins, he faces Cory Gardner, Republican incumbent. This is one of two states, Colorado is, where you got a Republican incumbent, Gardner, running in a state that Trump did not carry in 2016. So, Gardner`s got a tough fight in the fall. It`s going to be a nationally watched race.

And, by the way, we may, may, may get some more numbers tomorrow in New York, where two long-serving Democratic incumbents, Carolyn Maloney and Eliot Engel, in the votes that have been counted so far, they`re -- Engel is in big trouble in this race. It`s going to take a miracle for him to turn this around. When those mail-in votes are counted in New York, Maloney leads narrowly right now.

We`ll see what happens there. We may get some numbers there. But two incumbent members of Congress, and certainly at least one of them in a whole world of trouble right now. Keep an eye on that.

Up next, we`re going to remember the legend Carl Reiner.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: The world lost a comedy legend last night. Carl Reiner died at the age of 98. His career spanned seven decades as a comedian, actor, writer, director. Reiner`s big break came in the `50s in Sid Cesar`s "Your Show of Shows", and in the `60s, he created "The Dick Van Dyke Show.", played Alan Brady in there.

Reiner also teamed up with fellow comedian Mel Brooks for iconic "2 000 Year Old Man".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll give you a high note.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A natural reaction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People hit themselves in the face?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, boy. Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That hurts, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bet it hurts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: His son, Rob Reiner, tweeted this: Last night, my dad passed away. As I write this, my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.

When asked how he wanted to be remembered, Carl Reiner once replied, quote, he made a difference, a little, and he made me laugh.

Thanks for being with us.

Don`t go anywhere.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.

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