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Stacey Abrams TRANSCRIPT: 7/2/20, MSNBC Live

Guests: Cory Booker, Stacey Abrams, Sylvester Turner, Tiffany Cross

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We have a special report on the history of police brutality in America. What we can do about it. What we can learn from it. That`s tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on THE BEAT.

As for right now, don`t go anywhere, my colleague, Joy Reid, up next. Hi, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Ari, I`m looking forward to that report. This is such an important issue that we are all dealing with in this country right now. So I`m glad that you`re doing that.

MELBER: Thank you.

REID: Thank you very much, have a great night, all right. And thank you all for staying with us.

Well, Comrade Trump, that is the new nickname given to the president of the United States by a group of prominent Republican critics in an epic new ad released today. Do you think it will stick?

It comes of the hill of a brand-new reporting, that Trump is rejecting the intelligence that Russia offered cash for the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Good evening, I`m Joy Reid. We have a lot to get to this hour.

The U.S. once again saw a record number of coronavirus cases in a single day. Infections are spiking in 40 out of 50 states. Trump`s response? Well, this morning he gloated that the country is opening up faster than anybody thought. Much more on that coming up.

Plus, in a few minutes, I`ll be joined by Stacey Abrams to talk about the president`s failed crisis response, his dog whistle politics and the fight for voting rights in Georgia and beyond.

Well, we begin tonight with a new report in The Washington Post that the White House is not planning an immediate response to intelligence reports of Russian bounties because Donald Trump does not believe that the reports are true or actionable. But after a briefing delivered by the CIA director to the Gang of Eight in Congress today, Senator Chuck Schumer begged to differ.

Visibly angry -- visibly angry, Schumer called on the president to get tougher with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I`m not going to say anything about the briefing, but I believe that the president is not close to tough enough on Vladimir Putin.

REPORTER: So you don`t think it`s a hoax based on the briefing?


REID: Trump has repeatedly dismissed reports on the Russian bounty scheme as a hoax despite mounting evidence that appears to support the credibility of the intelligence. The New York Times is now reporting on a key middleman to Russia`s operation who, for years, handed out money to reward Taliban- linked fighters for targeting American troops. But after security agencies carried out sweeping raids, they discovered he had sneaked out of Afghanistan and was likely back in Russia.

I`m joined now by Democratic Senator Cory Booker or New Jersey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And I have to get your response to this ad, this Lincoln project ad is pretty Epic, Senator. And just want to let you listen just too a little bit of it, here it is.




REID: It`s pretty harsh. That`s really the roughest ad that has been against Trump so far. But it does beg the question, there is something very odd about Donald Trump`s relationship to Russia, to say the least. We know that they helped him get elected president, the Mueller report showed that. But the idea that he is still, to this day, not reacted to this news that Russia was allegedly paying bounties for the troops, what do you make of the relationships between Donald Trump and Russia?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Well, clearly, there`s so many examples in his short time in office where Republicans and Democrats have expressed concern about his relationship with Putin and we even know the international community and peers of mine around the European Union feel the same way. I mean, we had a real sanctions and consequences for what they were doing in Ukraine and for their annexation of Crimea, for example. But Donald Trump is out there saying, well, we should bring them back in the G7.

And so for this president, right now, to have multiple contacts with Putin since he was -- he and or his team were aware of these bounties, for him to not say anything to Putin, for him not to discuss their election, ongoing election interference attempts in the United States of America, for him to continue to be silent and yet who want to try to reward Putin and reward Russia is absolutely unacceptable.

And, Joy, the thing that really -- I mean, you know, you get to know a lot of soldiers when you are a United States senator and you can tell them all the time, we have got your back. We support you. And to have a president that seemingly doesn`t have their back when they are being threatened, this should be a unifying thing to make sure that we are all standing strong in defense of our soldiers and this was a time where the president and his team just failed them and therefore failed all of us.

REID: Right. And we know -- you know, my brother went to basic training in Ft. Dix in your state of New Jersey. So it`s an enraging story and not the least, there`s this -- everything about it is enraging. But there`s a part of that story that apparently the person that was trafficking this money to militants to kill our troops was also taking American money as a contractor to build roads.

Do we need to rethink our entire strategy on Afghanistan as well? Because it doesn`t seem that we`re, at least in the administration, doing a good job at looking after where our money is going because this person might have been taking money, passing money from Russia, but also taking U.S. contractor money.

BOOKER: Well, you use a really important word, strategy. But the problem is, is this president has shown no strategy in Afghanistan, no strategy in Syria, no strategy with Iran, he has left those regions more unstable than he did when he came in. We`re now seeing a situation where Russian influence in Iran, in Syria, in Afghanistan has grown. All American respect amongst our allies has diminished. What are our allies thinking when they see us not even necessarily having our soldiers` backs? Go ahead.

REID: Do you -- if this kind of a headline had existed during President Barack Obama`s term, do you suspect that Republicans would have called on President Obama to resign? And do you think that this is something that should cause the current commander and chief to do so?

BOOKER: I mean, you could go from this president`s doing foreign policy by tweet, putting the soldiers at risk in this case and a hundred others in between of his failed foreign policy efforts that Republicans would have called for Obama`s resignation. They clearly have a double standard when it came to Obama, and it comes to the defense that they are giving for often defense they`re giving of Donald Trump`s unacceptable actions on the world stage.

REID: Senator Cory Booker, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you. And have a good 4th of July weekend.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the intelligence on Russia, Trump`s refusal to hold the Kremlin accountable is consistent with his frequent pandering to Vladimir Putin. But the so-called election in Russia yesterday should dispel any doubt over Putin`s autocratic tendencies.

Putin has already been in power for 20 years, if you can believe it. And yesterday`s referendum has now cleared the way for him to continue serving as president until 2036. It`s no surprise that much about the vote was irregular even for a Russian election. I`m joined now by Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Adviser under President Obama.

And I have to go right back to this allegation or this claim by Donald Trump that he was not told by his national security team, about these bounties that started last year. You worked in the Obama White House in the National Security, you know, world. Is that credible to you?

BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it`s not credible at all, Joy. First of all, because the report suggests specific dates that this information was in the presidential daily briefing. So, the absolute best thing that Donald Trump could say is he got this briefing but he just failed to read it and that nobody on his team thought that they should take it to him. If that`s actually what happened, that`s such a massive breakdown in how the national security apparatus is supposed to work, because there`s no higher cause than protecting our troops who are in harm`s way.

If you have explosive information like this, that Russia is paying bounties. You have very specific corroborating evidence, at that Times report has (INAUDIBLE), we know a middleman, we can track money flows, we have interrogation reports. This is very compelling evidence that was very widely disseminated in U.S. government and even to our allies, and so it`s just not credible to me that this wasn`t in at least a written briefing to Trump. And if he refuses to read his briefings, then why is he commander and chief of our military?

REID: Yes, it`s a good question. Let`s me let you listen to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and she took part in this gang of eight briefing today as well. And here is what she said afterwards.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): At the same time as the White House was aware of this threat to the security of our men and women in uniform, the president was still flirting with the idea of having Russia be part of the G8, in total opposition to the wishes of the other members of the G8.

Why were they not raising this to a level to say to the president, this is not a good time for you to be saying Russia should be part of the G8?


REID: You know, and it strikes me that, when President Obama learned that Russia was attacking our election, he took very specific actions. They were attacking our election to actually to help Donald Trump. There were sanctions that will put on two intelligence agencies and three companies. 35 Russian operatives were expelled. They shut down two Russia-owned facilities. And I will recall that it was Michael Flynn, Donald Trump`s incoming national security adviser, who, what he got in trouble for, was lying about telling Russia, don`t worry about it. We will undo that.

There is something strange. I asked Senator Booker this as well. There is something odd about Donald Trump`s affinity for Russia and his refusal to take action. We know he`s spoken with Vladimir Putin, maybe half a dozen times this year, and there`s no evidence that his raised one negative word about these bounties for our troops. Something is odd about it. What -- can you make anything of it? What is behind it, in your view?

RHODES: Well, Joy, sometimes what`s staring you right in the face is the most obvious answer, which is from the beginning, this president has been completely deferential to Vladimir Putin and he has also insisted that Americans live in an alternative reality where the facts aren`t the facts. So we had our entire intelligence community validated and weighed out in some details how Russian interfered in our last election and we have Donald Trump spend years trying to tag that as a hoax and try to redirect attention to other things.

We`ve seen Donald Trump undertake a foreign policy that has a very common thread of whatever he does seems to be what is Vladimir Putin`s best interest, whether it`s inviting him back into the G7 or whether it`s announcing the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Germany, which Vladimir Putin very much wants, Whether it`s just the general unraveling of the alliances, which is a longstanding Russian goal.

And, Joy, I think the really alarming thing that is staring us in the face here is we have an election in a few months and why would Russia not, once again, try to interfere in our elections. They can do so with the kind of massive information campaign that we`ve seen them undertake. They could do so by trying to hack our election infrastructure, as we`ve seen in the indication in the past that they might want to do.

So perhaps what Donald Trump just wanted to do is pick a fight with somebody who he thinks is on his side in the coming election. And that, I think, this is very deeply troubling reality that we have to live with.

REID: You know, there was -- I can still recall during the Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice giving the briefing to Congress in which she had to read from the presidential daily brief, that it read, Bin Laden, determined to attack inside the United States. We now, as you mentioned, know that Russia is still determined to attack our election and nothing is being done. It`s pretty shocking.

Ben Rhodes thank you very much, really appreciate you for being here.

And meanwhile, Stacey Abrams coming up, is going to join me. I`m going to ask her about Trump`s white grievance campaign, his fascination with confederate statues, also voting rights, police violence and much more.

Plus, the trouble with Mr. Kushner, Trump reportedly regrets the fact that when he needed political and campaign advice, he went to Jared.


JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: I think you`ll see by June a lot the country should be back to normal. And the hope is that by July, the country is really rocking again.


REID: Yes, not rocking. We`ve got much more to get to. Stay with us.



GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): I don`t think we have to mandate something in Georgia to get people to do what is right. We all agree, it`s a good idea to wear a mask. We may disagree on whether the government needs to mandate it or whether that we can trust our people to do the right thing. I do, I`m a trusting person.


REID: Well, welcome back. That was Georgia Governor Brian Kemp today on why he will not make wearing a mask mandatory in his state, despite a startling surge in coronavirus there. Georgia was one of the first states to reopen businesses at the end of April, and Kemp is now on a statewide tour to promote wearing masks. Georgia has more than 87,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 2,800 have died.

And amid a steady uptick in recent days, on Wednesday, the state set a new daily record of new confirmed cases, nearly 3,000, and surpassed that record again today with more than 3,400, setting a single-day record for the fifth time in a week.

Governor Kemp says he doesn`t want to politicize the issue of wearing a mask, unlike his apparent boss, Donald Trump, who has been more than happy to do so, at least when he`s not tweeting about confederate monuments.

Today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked about that.


REPORTER: We are in the middle of a pandemic. Is the president more focused on preserving or celebrating the confederacy than getting this pandemic under control?

STEPHEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Let me just say, I think the president is focused on everything. I think this issue of statues and everything else is a complicated issue.


REID: Trump has repeatedly argued that those seeking to remove statues and monuments of slave holders and treasonous confederate soldiers, they just don`t understand their history.

In a new book, Our Time Is Now, Stacey Abrams points out an element of our history Donald Trump himself seems to not understand. Quote, though the founding fathers gave a nod to universal equality and the declaration of independence, they abandoned the aspiration by the time they penned the country`s organizing documents. Let me be clear here, the codification of racism and disenfranchisement is a feature of our law-making, not an oversight.

Stacey Abrams, the Author of Our Time Is Now, and the Founder for Fair Fight Action, joins me now is here with me And, Stacey, it`s always great to talk with you.

I want to -- let me circle back for a moment before we get to monuments. Let`s talk about your governor, Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, who is not going to mandate wearing masks despite an incredible spike in cases there. He`s just going to encourage it, like a suggestion. Meanwhile, so the mayor of Savannah is requiring it. They`re requiring it on businesses or people will face fine, that`s Mayor Van Johnson, said, frankly and honestly, I don`t believe that we have any other choice. Can you explain this disconnect, how a mayor is trying to protect their city while the governor is saying, it`s just an option?

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: Because Van Johnson is a leader and Brian Kemp is not. This is the person who is one of the last governors to close the state despite a disproportionate share of the COVID infection occurring in Georgia. At that time, we had a city in Albany, the City of Albany was the fourth highest rate of infection in the world. And he stumbled into the decision to close the state. He was one of the first to Reopen the state despite every metric saying, do not do so. And his response has been to not lead but to suggest. We don`t elect suggesters. We elect leaders.

And that`s why we are proud to have Mayor Van Johnson, and we are unfortunately being guided along haphazardly by someone who has failed in his attempt to be a leader. And I hope he will learn from Governor Abbott in Texas, who at least has understood that mandating to save lives is why we have people in charge.

REID: You know, there is a -- there`s a two-part part of this.

There`s the part in which these governors want to genuflect to Donald Trump and be obedient to him by not offending him by mandating masks. And then there`s the part of the real experience, particularly in Southern states that have disproportionately large shares of black and brown folks, particularly black people in states like Georgia, where the disproportionate rate of death is so high for black people, for poor people, for brown people.

Do you feel that maybe there is an indifference maybe coming from some of these leaders? Because Donald Trump is certainly important to them, and him liking them and supporting them is important to them. But this disproportionate rate of death among black and brown folks does not seem to move them.

ABRAMS: I think it`s not just a suggestion of indifference. It is a deliberate and provocative indifference.

One of the organizations I created in the wake of the 2018 election was Southern -- the Southern Economic Advancement Project. We just last week announced, which is our attempt to guide the South towards a recovery plan that actually cares about the people here.

And we specifically look at the racial inequity of COVID-19, its contraction rate, its death rate, the economic effect that it has, and the fact that Southern governors, with very limited exceptions of Governor Cooper in North Carolina and Governor Edwards in Louisiana, have done very little to actually address the fact that 59 percent of the population of the South is African -- I`m sorry -- 59 percent of African-Americans live in the South.

We are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. And they have done absolutely nothing to tackle the challenges that faces -- the challenge it creates, not only for our livelihoods, but for our lives.

And this is not an accident. This is part of a pattern of behavior that can be traced to voter suppression. It can be traced to economic oppression. And it can be traced to how they respond to every challenge when the face of that challenge is black or brown.

REID: You know, and I read your book. Your book is excellent, by the way. I hope that everybody will check it out.

But one of the things that you learn about, Stacey Abrams, is that you did live in Mississippi as a young person. And so you know that state as well.

What do you -- I mean, there is this thing happening in the South where first South Carolina did it. And a lot of this is driven by corporations saying, hey, get those flags down, or you`re going to lose business. So let`s just be real about why these governors are doing what they`re doing.

But now you`re seeing in Mississippi the flag taken down out of their -- out of their state flag, but, at the same time, that governor turns around and then signs -- and then vetoes bills that would have allowed poor people, white and black, to be saved from having their water cut off, when you have got to wash your during a COVID outbreak.

What do you make of the sort of atmospherics of showing that the South is changing, but the mechanics showing that it`s, in a lot of ways, not?

ABRAMS: It`s why I was so eager to become the governor of Georgia, because state power, the leadership of our states, is what directs so much of our lives.

It`s why, while it is critical that we elect Joe Biden as our next president, and that we take the Senate for Democrats, we cannot forget the down-ballot elections that are going to decide the governors and the state legislatures.

We know that the reason the state legislature of Mississippi finally bowed to centuries of public -- or a century of public pressure was that the NCAA threatened to pull football out.

We know that Brian Kemp has said that he will try to enforce his masks, not by suggestion, but by saying maybe he won`t let football happen in Georgia, college football happen, if they don`t wear masks.

We are watching the bowing to public pressure, not from those who actually live in the public, but the public they care about, either the public of money or the public of Donald Trump.

But when it comes to the communities that need them the most, those that are disproportionately poor and disproportionately people of color, they have an indifference that is murderous.

REID: Yes.

Stacey Abrams is going to stay with us. So we`re going to have a lot more with Stacey.

We`re going to fit in a really quick break, though. When we come back, we`re going to talk about voting rights and also police reform.

So, don`t go anywhere.



JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The entire structure of the state of Georgia is designed to stop people from voting.

And the only people that are going to change this are these big companies, these universities. Somebody better get on the stick in that state and just tell these people, we want to let people vote.

This idea of having two voting machines for every 1,000 people in Fulton and DeKalb, and having 200 voting machines for every 500 people in Northwest Georgia, they have got to stop this. And they have got to stop it now. Get on the stick, Georgia.


REID: That was political strategist James Carville this morning on what can be done to improve voting in the state of Georgia, after the state`s primary election last month turned into a catastrophe, with many forced to wait for hours, in part because of new voting machines that were either missing or not working and fewer polling places and a shortage of poll workers due to the pandemic.

Now the Atlanta Hawks basketball team is coming to the rescue. The team is making its home court, the State Farm Arena, available to voters as the largest polling site in state history -- quote -- "Hundreds of Hawks employees and arena staff will be trained as election workers at the 700- square-foot venue, which hosts more than 16,000 spectators for basketball games and 21,000 for concerts."

Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight Action, is back with me now.

And I know, Stacey, that you are a part of the More Than a Vote, LeBron James` effort. I will read a little bit about this from the AP.

"The organization is dedicated to maximizing -- maximizing black turnout November. It shared its plans with the Associated Press on Wednesday, after the Detroit Pistons became the second NBA franchise to announce plans to use its arena for voting later this year. The Milwaukee Bucks also confirmed they`re willing to use their home arena as a voting site for the most populous city in the key battleground state of Wisconsin."

Is it basically going to take major athletic teams to open up arenas, and social distancing in those arenas, to allow fair voting in November?

ABRAMS: It`s going to take them and more.

And we know that it begins with allowing vote from home, mail-in ballots, absentee ballots, whatever you want to call it, the ability to not have to show up in person to cast your ballot, which, unfortunately, the Republicans are pushing hard against.

But a coalition of organizations like Fair Fight, working with the Leadership Conference and others, we`re pushing to make sure vote from home is real. And we have seen 50 percent increases in a number of states from people who know that, when COVID is at risk, then we have to have another way to vote.

But what we`re so excited about and so proud of Coach Pierce here in Georgia, yesterday, I had an opportunity to address Coach Casey in Detroit. And, certainly, we`re so proud of the work that LeBron James and others are doing to make certain that, for people who have to show up in person, that they have the ability to vote safely and to vote within a reasonable amount of time.

It is a poll tax when someone has to risk the entire day`s wage in order to cast a ballot, when others can go in and out in 15 minutes. That is not only disproportionate voter suppression. It is a violation of who we are as a nation.

And as we celebrate our democracy on July 4, we have to remember that we have had to fight since our inception to make democracy real and citizenship real for every American. And we should double down in 2020 on making certain that the most vulnerable populations are the ones we can hear from.

And that`s going to take not only voting, but making sure we vote in Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, who can make permanent some of the changes we need to see for democracy to be real.

REID: You know, and I covered your campaign for governor in Georgia.

And I think a lot of people who paid any attention to it at all or just read "Rolling Stone" know that there were a lot of shenanigans. There was a lot of voter suppression, clearly, lots of voter suppression.

I wonder if the voting organizations that are active in the state of Georgia and in the other states that you`re looking at with Fair Fight are prepared for a massive mail-in campaign.

I have talked to a friend who do election campaigns in Florida, who say that, by and large, black voters don`t usually vote absentee, so may not be prepared for that.

Are these voting organizations prepared to conduct a massive mail-in vote campaign, particularly for black voters?

ABRAMS: We absolutely will be.

Part of what we do through Fair Fight is, we have used the primaries as opportunities to build that capacity, build that muscle memory, and build voter education. And it works.

Here in Georgia, for the first time, 450,000 of the absentee ballots turned in, in the state were turned in by black voters. That is a record number. And it happened because we did the work of sending out more than 900,000 text messages and phone calls explaining how these -- ballot works and why they are important.

We did the same work in Wisconsin. We`re doing that work in Michigan. And in the 18 states in total, we are doing work with organizations to make sure not only the people know their rights, but have the ability to have those rights met, and not have their ballots thrown out.

That`s why this isn`t just about advocacy and education. It`s also about litigation, because Republicans have promised to spend up to $20 million to constrain the right to vote.

We know that, if we elect Joe Biden as a president who is competent, but also who believes in democracy, if we elect a U.S. Senate that has a Democratic majority, we can put into permanent practice the act of democratic voting and democratic values, with a small D, meaning that, if you are an eligible citizen, your voice deserves to be heard, because, by and -- we have to remember, elections are not partisan.

Our selections are, but our elections need to work for everyone.

REID: And my final question to you.

We know the Ahmaud Arbery case is happening, the Rayshard Brooks case are all happening in Georgia. There`s so much we could -- we could -- I could keep you on all -- for an hour to talk to you about police reform and everything else.

But you have mentioned Joe Biden. We know that you are a name that is frequently circulated that would make a running mate that a lot of particularly young voters would be excited about.

But if you`re not chosen to be the running mate for Joe Biden, there are a lot of people who would also wonder whether you are going to run again for governor of Georgia. A lot of people think that the conduct of the current governor makes him vulnerable, should you run again.

Would you want to run again?

ABRAMS: I`m absolutely going to keep that on the table.

But I will tell you, my current mission is to make certain that we have a fair election through Fair Fight, that everyone, especially communities of color, complete the census, which is the work we`re doing through Fair Count, that we have a South that is strong, and that we elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.

And my mission is to make certain that, no matter what decision I make in 2022, that the decisions made in 2020 help right the world.

REID: Stacey Abrams, who I think one of the people who is the most watched political careers in America, we`re all going to be watching whatever you do, because, obviously, whatever you do, you do very well.

Stacey Abrams, thank you very much. Really appreciate your time tonight.

And up next...

ABRAMS: Thank you, Joy.

REID: ... the number of patients -- cheers. Thank you so much.

And up next: The number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus in Houston has quadrupled since Memorial Day, quadrupled. And hospitals are out of space and out of supplies.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joins me next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the crisis is being handled. Some areas that were very hard-hit are now doing very well. Some were doing very well, and we thought they may be gone, and they flare up. And we`re putting out the fires.

But other places were long before us. And they`re now -- it`s a life. It`s got a life. And we`re putting out that life, because that`s a bad life that we`re talking about.


REID: What?


REID: Welcome back.

Well, that was Donald Trump earlier today. And despite what he`s saying, whatever that was, the coronavirus pandemic is far from handled.

Cases are rising in 40 out of the 50 states. And, today, after Trump assured the American public that the virus would just disappear, the U.S. reported 53,000 new cases, the largest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.

California, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida all broke their previous single-day records for new coronavirus cases this week.

In Texas, which had one of the shortest stay-at-home orders, hospitalizations have reached an all-time high. Late this afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring Texans to wear masks in public.

I`m joined now by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

And, Mayor Turner, thank you so much for being here.

Just a note on Houston area hospitals. "The Texas Tribune" has been tracking those hospitals in and around Houston, and data from that, in your 6.3 million population city.

Hospital beds in use, 84 percent are in use. Total beds, 13,127, the only - - the number available out of 13,000 beds, 2,000, ICU beds available, 162, ventilators, only 1,252, COVID-19 patients -- COVID-19 patients, 2,139.

Would you describe Houston at this point as overrun by COVID-19?

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON, TEXAS: Joy, I wouldn`t say overrun, I will say that we are -- we are getting very close to our bed capacity. In fact, I just visited with four of our CEOs from hospitals yesterday, they are in their surge capacity.

And what they are saying to me is that if we stay on the current trajectory, in two to three weeks, yeah, we will be in a very bad situation. Things are getting tight. And we have to move very quickly, like yesterday to reverse this trajectory.

REID: And you sent a letter, Mr. Mayor, to the governor, and this is what you asked for -- mandatory masking for individuals when gathering with non- household members inside or outside, and not just through employers; removal of exceptions for gatherings over 100, and the reduction of a number of social group gatherings from 100 to 50. You also requested other measures to be put in place.

What has been the response from the governor?

TURNER: Well, as of today, the governor did impose a mask order, mandating the wearing of masks across the state. And not just on businesses and their employees and their customers, but if you are out and about, and you are engaged in, in the public with other individuals, there`s now a mandated, statewide mandate to wear a mask. That`s a step in the right direction.

Secondly, he is now allowing loyal officials to impose restrictions on outside activities where the number may exceed let`s say, ten. And that`s a step in the right direction.

Earlier, for example, last week, he closed the bars and the clubs. That was a step in the right direction.

Look, we`re having to move back --

REID: Yes.

TURNER: -- from the reopening that took place in early May.

So, we have to step back. You know, a few additional things we need to do, but at least the measures that were that taken today were steps in the right direction.

REID: Here`s some of the reporting. "The Houston Chronicle" reports that claiming confusion, Texas Medical Center actually changed how it reports ICU capacity. Texas Medical Center Hospitals stopped updating the key metrics showing the stress rising numbers of COVID-19 patients were placing on their facilities more than three days.

Governor Abbott expressed displeasure to hospital executives with negative headlines. He didn`t like the headlines about ICU capacity, so they changed the way they were reporting it. You also have reporting about crisis at Houston hospitals.

Roberta Schwartz, a Houston Methodist chief innovation officer, who`s been helping to expand beds of COVID-19 patients told "ProPublica", quote: To tell the truth, what worries is not this week, where we`ll still kind of handling it. I`m worried about next week.

Do you have confidence in your governor or your lieutenant governor who said he stopped listening to Anthony Fauci? Do you have confidence in the state leadership?

TURNER: Joy, I think you already know how I feel about that.

Look, I have the utmost respect for Dr. Fauci. I think he speaks truth to power. I give him a lot of credit for standing at press conferences and speaking truthfully. He has maintained his integrity. He is very credible.

And so, I give him high marks. I give him very high marks. And I follow his advice and I follow his direction. So let me just say that.

And I know Roberta Schwartz. I worked with her. I`ve been in meetings with her.

It is true. Where we are today there`s -- there`s bed capacity, both the general admissions in our hospitals as well as ICUs. But if we stay on the trajectory that we are currently on, in two to three weeks, that may not be the case. And that`s why it`s very important for us to take this situation very seriously.

That`s why it was important for the governor to move today, and to mandate the wearing of masks across the board. Not just on businesses or commercial establishments. That`s why it`s important for the governor to restore the authority back to county judges and mayors, so that we can take even further initiatives.

I said today in a press conference. We need to step back and we need to -- and I`m asking companies and businesses to lower their occupancy requirements, instead of operating at 50 percent capacity. They can operate at 25 percent.

I`m asking the faith based communities, worship services to resume their virtual worship services. And to do everything that you can, to disengage the physical contact and then at the same time as the mayor, of the city of Houston, I have suspended all of our city-sponsored permitted events through the months of July, as well as August.

There`s a lot of things that need to take place and we need to do those things today (ph).

REID: Well, I didn`t hear you express any confidence in your governor, you lieutenant governor. But I`ll let you go because we have to go -- a commercial break saves you from me pressing you to do that, whether you have confidence or not.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, wishing you and your city well. Have a wonderful, peaceful, hopefully peaceful Fourth of July weekend. Thank you, sir.

TURNER: Thanks, Joy.

REID: And up next, Donald Trump takes a second crack -- thank you -- Donald Trump takes a second crack at laying out his top priorities for a second term. And you know what? His second answer makes as much sense as his first one.

We`re back after this.


REID: Welcome back.

Well, the presidential election isn`t looking so good for Donald Trump right now, with Biden ahead by 12 points, according to a new Monmouth poll. It`s just one of several national polls showing Trump significantly behind Biden.

His poor performance, so far, has his allies worried, with "Reuters" reporting that they fear his handling of crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, economic woes and protests over racial injustice, has dimmed his re-election hopes. And one source told "Reuters", people are even actually saying, does he want this anymore? Is he looking for an exit strategy?

I`m joined now by Charlie Sykes, editor at large at "The Bulwark", and Tiffany Cross, resident fellow -- I made you president of Harvard -- resident fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and author of "Say It Louder!: Black Voters, White Narratives and Saving Our Economy".

Thank you both for being here.

I have to play this for you, guys. This is something else. So we know that Donald Trump tried to answer the question of what he would do for a second term, and he failed that. He just gave nonsense words. So he got a second chance to try and answer the question. And I want you guys to listen to it on another network. Here it is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you, it`s very simple. We`re going to make America great again. We are doing things that nobody could have done.

We`ve rebuilt the military. We have a ways to go. We`ve done things for the vets like nobody has ever seen.

We can do even more. We did choice, as you know. We did accountability.

What we`ve done, nobody has been able to do, but we have more to do, economic development, jobs, trade deals. But we have to make our own things. We`re doing it now with steel. We`re doing it now with a lot of different products. I`ve done that.

But we can do it with a lot more. We can build our own ships. We don`t want to send out to other countries to build ships. So we have a lot of things we can do. We`ve done a lot, but we have a lot of things we can do.

REID: Tiffany, that was from the Sinclair Broadcast Group. You`re at Harvard. Can you interpret what he`s saying?

TIFFANY CROSS, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL RESIDENT FELLOW: That was like trying to watch a blind senior citizen parallel park a car. I mean, this is ridiculous.


CROSS: I don`t understand anything he`s saying. I am so lost I cannot make sense of gibberish.

But this is what I`ll say, Joy, and I want to geek out for a minute, so bear with me, and I`m sorry to all of the lame who never watched "Game of Thrones." But do you remember when they were saying that Cersei did not intend to suffer the consequences of her actions, so she didn`t show up to the fake militant. I told you guys I was going to geek out.

This is how Donald Trump is acting. He`s acting as if he has certain reassurances that it doesn`t matter what you say because you are going to get re-elected and that I do take very seriously. So, it could be the GOP- led voter suppression that he feels very confident he`ll be able to suppress the vote and continue to oppress lives or it could be foreign election interference.

And we know how Russia -- his campaign really mirrored the Russian tactics last go-around and this go-around we have seen evidence of Iran trying to infiltrate our elections and we have to worry about China. So this behavior to me says there is either significant cognitive decline or he has reassurances and given the news that just came out about Russia offering bounties on U.S. soldiers and his polling still hasn`t slipped even after that, we should all be very concerned.

REID: Well, you know, I`m going to geek out with you just for a moment. Those of you who watched "Game of Thrones," Joffrey Baratheon, watch Joffrey Baratheon, and then watch Donald Trump. I`m telling you, you heard it first.

CROSS: That`s right.

REID: Let`s go over to you, Charlie.

On the other side of that is that Donald Trump may actually know he`s actually losing and that is some of the reporting we see now from Reuters. "Reuters" saying a Republican closed to the White House said Trump last week acknowledged privately that he was behind in his race against Biden. He knows he`s in trouble. He has no message.

There is a Monmouth poll who says people who are not at all likely to vote for Donald Trump, 50 percent say they are not at all likely to vote for him, 39 percent say they`re not likely to vote for Biden.

And there`s no reporting tonight from Maggie Haberman in "The New York Times", quote, one Republican official in frequent contact with the campaign expressed incredulity as to how some aides are willfully distorting the election landscape to mollify Trump, recalling one conversation in which they assured him he`s doing well in Maine where he`s doing really poorly and where he`s about to take down the Republican senator with him.

So, it`s one or the other, right? He`s either really confident that Russia is going to get him back in or he knows it`s over. Which do you think it is, Charlie?

CHARLIE SYKES, THE BULWARK, EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Oh, I think there is a third possibility that he`s Donald Trump and he lives in an alternative reality, surrounded himself with a bubble and he`s addicted to magical thinking in this particular case.

Look, I think that answer was extraordinarily interesting because that was his do-over. That was his chance to say, what will you do in a second term, and he has nothing. So it is a campaign about nothing except more of the same, more grievance, more division, same old, same old, which during a pandemic and an economic downturn is a hell of a message.

And this is why Republicans are sort of wish-casting. Is he looking for an exit strategy? No, this guy is not going anywhere at all. And the Republicans made a decision early on that they were going to be all in with this guy and so they`re going to rise or fall with him.

But he surrounded himself with people who will tell him what he wants to hear. He`s not going to pivot. He`s not going to change. He`s not going to adapt to all of that, and even when these numbers come in, there is always going to be some sycophant who says, well, look at this little tidbit. Let`s distort this to convince you that you can still win this.

But I will tell you, I thought that interview was really extraordinary that after all of this time the president can`t answer that question. One thing we have learned about Donald Trump, is he wants to be president but he doesn`t want to do the job.

REID: Right, yeah.

SYKES: He doesn`t want to truly govern. And I think he`s being exposed with that and I think that answer highlighted that.

REID: Yeah. It`s actually a difficult job. We didn`t even get to him throwing Jared under the bus, but we are out of time. He`s also thrown Jared under the bus and now we got to that.

Charlie Sykes, Tiffany Cross, I will see you over the weekend on my TV. Thanks you guys for being here.

We`ll be right back.


REID: Ghislaine Maxwell, the long-time confidant of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested this morning and charged with six counts of conspiring with Epstein to sexually abuse minors. The charges relate to acts allegedly committed between 1994 and 1997 for allegedly helping to transport minors for sexual activity and two for perjury. Maxwell has denied any wrongdoing in past statements and court filings.

Epstein was charged with sex trafficking last year but was found dead in his jail cell before he could stand trial.

That does it for us tonight.