STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: That does it for me. I will see you right back here tomorrow at 9:00 A.M. Eastern. And my dear friend, Steve Kornacki, is up next.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: And good evening, I`m Steve Kornacki in New York.
And America hit a grim new milestone over the weekend, reaching record levels of coronavirus cases and deaths across 20 states including and beyond the Sun Belt, states from Virginia to Alaska, all reported new records of infections over the past week.
Florida, broke the national record of confirmed cases in a day. They reported 15,000 cases in a single day. And according to Reuters, if Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases a day behind the United States, Brazil and India.
Meanwhile, in New York, where cases spiked in March and April, Sunday marked the first day with no confirmed or probable coronavirus deaths. With the virus now hitting states in the south and the west in particular, Arizona, California, Florida, Mississippi and Texas, all have broken their records for average daily fatalities. And President Trump had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are -- we test more than anybody by far.
And when you test, you create cases. So we`ve created cases.
And we`re doing a great job. We`re doing very well with vaccines and we`re doing very, very well with therapeutics.
They`re always talking about cases, the number of cases. Well, it is a big factor that we do --we have a lot of cases because we have a lot of testing.
Had we not done what did, we would have had two -- that Mike and I were talking about it before, 2 to 3 million lives lost, but we did that, so we`re at about 135,000 and we`ll be at somewhat higher than that by the time it ends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: On the ground, doctors and nurses are painting an alarming picture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. FRANK LOVECCHIO, E.R. PHYSICIAN: We`re at over 100 percent capacity, if that`s possible. But every place is a potential bed. We have a person. Sometimes we`re doubling up. And sometimes, we`re putting people in hallways, unfortunately.
We`re trying to avoid and save hallways for people who don`t have COVID.
JACLYNN MOSS, NURSE MANAGER: As you will know, more numbers are on the rise and we have become one of the epicenters for this pandemic. Here in Tallahassee, we have also seen an increase in numbers as well. In response to these increasing numbers, to makes of reopen their COVID-19 unit.
RYAN MOORE, REGISTERED NURSE: Not only going to come to work and worry about the safety of my patients but I also worry about taking COVID home to my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And nationally now, the virus has killed more than 136,000 people. Both California Governor Gavin Newsom and Oregon Governor Kate Brown are now rolling back efforts they had begun to reopen their state economies. They`re now shutting down bars and limiting indoor gatherings.
Earlier today, the Los Angeles and San Diego Unified School Districts, these are the two largest school districts in the State of California, they both announced that because of the spike in coronavirus cases, they would not resume in person classes as originally scheduled on August 18th.
And for more, I am joined by Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor. Tampa currently ranks third out of all the cities in the State of Florida for its number of confirmed coronavirus cases, Dr. Bernard Ashby, a Vascular Cardiologist in Miami Beach, and Dr. Lipi Roy an Internal Medicine Physician and an MSNBC Medical Contributor. Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Dr. Roy, let me start with you on the big picture, I`d like to know how you would characterize what we`re seeing now. Because when I look at these numbers and I look at the individual states here, I know we mentioned New York back in March and April, New Jersey, the Detroit area, we had these hot spots a couple months ago, that now have seemed to have cooled off. And Florida, Texas, California, a lot of places that weren`t originally hit that hard now are getting it. Is this sort of an extended period of the first wave? Is that a fair way to look at what`s happening right now?
DR. LIPI ROY, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Steve, what we`re seeing is just widespread of infection, right? The coronavirus does not respect borders. I think maybe many parts of the country thought that what was happening in New York, in New Jersey, maybe it was just a northeast thing. But, no, the virus, the virus will thrive in any type of environment where we allow it to thrive, which is any type of place where people congregate. Any time people are in close contact, the virus will spread with respiratory droplets.
And what you are just seeing now, Steve, across the country, Arizona, now California, Texas, Florida, these are states where they did not shut down, they did not make the tough decision that, you know, Governor Cuomo did here in New York in terms of just shutting down businesses, telling people, mandating people stay at home.
It was extremely difficult to make those decisions but it was the right thing to do because it was based on data. These are evidence based public health measures and this is what we need to have happen.
Now, really, around these states where there`s over just incredible numbers of cases, hospitalizations and sadly, soon, deaths.
KORNACKI: So let`s talk about that piece of it. Dr. Ashby. Dr. Roy talks about New York, obviously, there were those steps that were taken, but the death toll in New York got severe. At their peak there in New York, I`m looking at it, there were 780 deaths a day in New York. And I`m looking at Florida. We have these surging case counts in Florida. The death toll is rising. It`s about 73 right now, so New York and Florida, about comparably- sized states.
I think the key question here right now is, that death toll in Florida, that death rate in Florida, how much higher is that likely to get, do you think? Is that going to get up near where New York is or is that going to fall short of that?
DR. BERNANRD ASHBY, CARDIOLOGIST: So, a few things, and thanks for having me, first of all. So, when it comes to the death rate, it`s actually increasing. So it`s heading in the wrong direction. And in terms of why it`s this low, it`s multi-factorial.
One reason is because of the fact that the younger population is being affected currently from the virus, but it`s only a matter of time before it affect as our older communities who are staying home. They feel like they`re in prison, but with the virus spread as wildly as it is in Florida, it`s only a matter of time for communities of color, in particular, poorer communities, who have homes where multiple people live in the same unit, that it`s inevitable that this is going to spread.
Now, I`m already seeing it in my practice, I`m already seeing in my hospital, and so I can tell you for a fact that this is headed in the wrong direction. I don`t know if we`re going to reach that numbers that we saw in New York because we`ve had gotten a lot better at treating this virus. There`s been a number of therapies that have come to the table, that have actually been beneficial. But at the end that of the day, this shouldn`t have happened and unfortunately this is where we`re at.
KORNACKI: Let me bring the Mayor in on this. Your honor, welcome, thank you for joining us. If you could talk a little bit about what this situation is like on the ground where you are right now, how would you assess it? Would you say this is something that`s still growing, growing rapidly? is it something you feel has stabilized? How would you assess the situation in Tampa and Hillsboro County, Florida?
MAYOR JANE CASTOR (D), TAMPA, FL: Well, Steve, we did very well in the beginning. You know, as the doctors said, we put the safer at home order in place early on. We also just passed a mask order three weeks ago. It`s a little difficulty in getting that passed throughout the county, but we took all of those measures to you know, get a hold of this early on, but we have seen as you know, the numbers just explode recently. But with the mask order in place, we`re starting to see those numbers level out. And we are - - this week will be the determining week for us to see if that has taken effect, positive affect.
But also the medical personnel have made great strides in treating the patients with this and so we aren`t seeing an increase in the number of deaths, but you know, percentage wise, with the number of positive cases, those are a little bit lower. But, yes, we are nowhere near out of the woods yet. But we`re hoping that the mask order, but the majority of our citizens have readily accepted and are adhering to, will have an effect on the spread of this virus.
KORNACKI: Let me bring Dr. Ashby back in, because now, you mentioned this and the mayor just mentioned this as well, strides that have been made, improvements that have been made, advances when it comes to treating active cases. And we`ve talked so much about vaccines, there`s a little bit of news on that front, we`ll get to it in a minute.
But there`s that question of, before you have a vaccine, just treating people who already have it. When you say there`s been progress there, can you talk specifically, what would that look like? What have you figured out there on that front?
ASHBY: So the question, just to be clear, you`re asking about how vaccines impact the virus?
KORNACKI: So I`m asking about the treatment right now of active cases. You were talking about how some progress had been made there that might be lowering the death rate. So that even if you`re getting run away infections, you may not get the death load as high as you got in New York. What are those advances that have been made?
ASHBY: So, yes, great question. So, first of all, you see that the medical establishment, we`re doing our job, right? We`re letting science dictate our policies, our treatment plans and it`s having an impact on the death rate. So, kudos to us.
But unfortunately, our politicians, our leadership in the state, minus the Mayor of Tampa, you`re doing a great job, but the leadership in general is not having our back. And, unfortunately, we`re seeing a lot of people come to the hospital but they are responding to the treatment. So treatments such as remdesivir, dexamethosone, convalescent plasma, all of these treatments are being thrown at these patients and they`re doing well. They`re doing relatively well compared to early on during the pandemic.
So I`m very happy to say that our medical establishment is doing their job. But, unfortunately, we just don`t feel like our leadership has our back.
KORNACKI: There also -- we said there is some news today when it comes to vaccines, there`s this here, two potential coronavirus vaccines have received fast track designations from the Food and Drug Administration. If the ongoing studies are successful, the companies expect to manufacture up to 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year and 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
Dr. Roy, we`ve been talking about vaccines here every time we get a positive development, that rare bit of good news. What does that mean, to have two drugs getting fast tracked by the FDA? The FDA putting them on the fast track, what exactly does that mean?
ROY: Yes, Steve, this is almost unheard of, right? We`ve talk about this before, vaccine development takes years, actually, decades, and the, remember. The fastest we`ve ever safely delivered a vaccine into a human being was four to five years so the fact this may happen within one to two years is quite remarkable.
And the studies, the articles show that they`ll go into production soon, but that means it has to go through a late stage clinical trials and that`s the great limiting step, Steve. You know, that`s what`s going to take a long time, making sure that these vaccines are actually safe and effective.
Tut this is what I got to be really realistic and make sure I don`t give false hope to the viewers. So we don`t really know how effective this vaccine is going to be, how long the immunity is going to last. There`s just a lot of unknowns right now. We have to live with this new normal, Steve. That`s what we have to do for now if and when there is a vaccine.
KORNACKI: There`s also this news today. We`re talking about Florida so much in the segment but also Texas is another state where you`ve seen a lot of new cases and a lot of political leaders there trying to figure out how to deal with it.
The Mayor of Houston in Texas, Sylvester Turner, he tweeted this. He called for a two week shutdown. He said at a minimum, two weeks, and I proposed this to the governor so we can help blunt COVID-19 progression. If we can`t have a shutdown, then at least step back to the state`s phase one. This will allow us to reset and reassess.
Mayor Castor, I know you`re talking about the mask ordnance where you are being hopeful that the masking is going to be something that helps control this. I`m curious. If you get discouraging data, is the idea of a shutdown, is that something you think that could be on the table? Is that something people would be willing to accept?
CASTOR: Well, I don`t know how much the public would be willing to accept that, but it`s certainly on the table. I think that for us, here in our area, really, it was the opening of the bars that you know, that set us back very, very quickly, literally, overnight. And the majority of our cases are over 25 to about 34 just spiked through the roof.
And so, we can`t afford, we just got back up on our feet economically, and we can`t afford to get knocked back down. But if we don`t see substantial changes, then we`re going to have to make those difficult decisions once again.
KORNACKI: By the way, on the issue of compliance with the mask ordnance, do you have numbers on that? What do you think the compliance rate is? How many folks do you think are wearing the masks when they`re out there?
CASTOR: Well, you know, it would have to be anecdotal, frankly, the majority of individuals that I see. But I did hear a statistic today when asked the majority of citizens, the vast majority, over 70 percent, said they wore a mask at all times when they couldn`t six foot distance and there were only I believe 9 percent that said they did not, they would not wear a mask.
And so I think that the compliance is pretty high. It`s those indoor locations where people are in very close proximity without a mask. Bars, those were, that really just set us so far back down here. But we`ll take whatever steps necessary to keep our community safe.
KORNACKI: All right. Tampa Mayor, Jane Castor, Dr. Bernard Ashby and Dr. Lipi Roy, thank you all for being with us. I appreciate that.
CASTOR: Thank you, Steve.
KORNACKI: And coming up, that commutation by the president of his long time friend and associate, Roger Stone, there are some Republicans speaking out against it and there are reports that Trump was advised against it. And Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel who prosecuted Stone, is speaking out too.
Plus, the White House taking aim at Dr. Fauci. President Trump re-tweeting a supporter calling the CDC, the media and even most doctors liars. We`ve got much more to get to. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Welcome back.
The president`s decision to commute the sentence of his longtime adviser, Roger Stone, has sparked an outcry in Washington. Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller broke his silence in an op-ed this weekend saying that Stone was fairly prosecuted and rightly convicted. Quote, we made every decision in Stone`s case based solely on the facts and the law. Claims to the contrary are false.
NBC News reports that even some in Trump`s administration opposed the president`s decision. According to multiple sources, quote, Attorney General William Barr recommended clemency not be offered. And, quote, other White House officials, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, also advised the president against the commutation. Their opposition, quote, was fuel by concerns that Trump could face significant political blowback and could be seen as abusing his presidential power.
Minutes before receiving his commutation on Friday, Stone told a journalist, Howard Fineman, that he had resisted pressure to cooperate with prosecutors. Stone said of Trump this, quote, he knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably but I didn`t. They wanted me to play Judas. I refused.
Here is how Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee reacted this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The jury of Roger Stone`s peer has found him guilty on every charge. And what the president is effectively doing is saying, it`s okay to lie to Congress as long as you lie to protect me.
Let`s not make any mistake about this. Donald Trump wants to keep Roger Stone silent. Roger Stone knows too much about Donald Trump. That`s always the motivation with this president, which is to protect himself, to cover up for himself, nothing else matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Likewise, Chairman Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee says that his committee will investigate whether the commutation was granted as a reward for Stone`s silence.
And I`m joined now by Democratic Congressman, Ted Lieu, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and Yamiche Alcindor is White House Correspondent for PBS NewsHour.
Thanks to both of you for joining us.
Congressman, we just mentioned the committee you serve on, your chairman saying he wants to look into this. What is your committee planning to do here?
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you, Steve, for your question.
Let me first say that just because the president has a power to commute a person`s sentence does not mean that the president can use that power in any manner. In some cases, it can be illegal.
In fact, Attorney General Bill Barr testified before Congress that if a president, for example, were to pardon a person to prevent that person from incriminating the president, that would be a crime.
So, the House Judiciary Committee is going to investigate this to see if Donald Trump dangled a pardon or commutation to Roger Stone. And if he did, then, certainly, the next attorney general, if Donald Trump were to lose his election in November, could investigate Donald Trump for obstruction of justice or other crimes related to this commutation.
KORNACKI: I just want to ask.
This may be a technical question, but our own Pete Williams pointed this out, just in terms of the right of Congress, the right of the Judiciary Committee to be looking into clemency. You`re saying you think this can be improper. This is an Article 2 power of the president, the right to make a pardon or a commutation.
Pete Williams noted that, in the decision the Trump congressional subpoena case last week, the Supreme Court said that Congress` power to investigate is tied to its power to make laws. Because the Constitution gives the president unlimited power to grant clemency for federal crimes, there`s no legislative hook allowing Congress to investigate.
I know you have the power to investigate the president, if you wanted to open an impeachment inquiry for high crimes and misdemeanors. But short of that, are you confident you do have the power to have hearings on clemency?
In fact, the argument that was just made was rejected by the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas` dissent basically said, we can only investigate during impeachment. By a vote of 7-2, the other Supreme Court justices rejected that and said Congress does have the power to investigate the president.
And let me just give you a simple example. The president, as commander in chief, has authority to order airstrikes. If the president ordered an airstrike on Fifth Avenue in New York, certainly, Congress can investigate that.
So, it depends on how the president uses the power. Just the fact that a president has a power does not mean he could use it in any manner he chooses to.
KORNACKI: Yamiche, let me bring you in here.
We mentioned there`s some reporting here from our colleagues at NBC News that some folks around the president, including his chief of staff, were advising him against this. What do you know about what was going on, what Trump was being told, what the conversations were like in the White House, and what the reaction has been in the White House to everything that`s played out publicly in the last few days?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": Well, based on my reports, what we saw was the chief of staff and the attorney general cautioning President Trump against commuting the sentence of Roger Stone.
And now that he`s done it, you see a circling of the wagons at the White House, where you have White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying this was -- that Roger Stone was really a victim of unfair treatment.
So, even though the people around the president were telling him not to do this, once he did it, once he made up his mind, they all fell in line, which is really, I think, a pattern in this Trump White House, especially a pattern among people who want to remain in the Trump White House.
So, Attorney General Bill Barr and Mark Meadows, they`re not going to come out -- at least right now, they`re not going to come out and publicly defy the president, because they would lose their jobs.
That being said, this is a political calculation on the president`s part. He`s commuting the sentence of a friend of his, someone who`s saying, I don`t want to turn on you. And he`s thinking in his mind he`s not going to have to pay any political price or any legal price for that.
That being said, there are possibly some Trump supporters who are out there in red states who, as this virus is raging, wondering why the president may be more concerned with -- with commuting the sentence of a friend, rather than focusing on the deaths of their loved ones, and their grandparents and even young 20- and 30-year-olds that we`re now seeing fill the hospitals.
So I think that, in this case, the president and the White House, they`re now, I guess, in some ways on the same page, based on my reporting, because people are circling the wagons and saying, well, this is the president`s choice. This is his power. At the end of the day, the president wants to do and can do whatever he wants to do.
KORNACKI: Yes, that`s my other question to you, because we did see Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator who had voted to convict the president back in the impeachment trial, he criticized this on Saturday.
Also, Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, Republican, he criticized this as well. So, there are two Republicans out there, prominent Republicans, at least, who`ve taken issue.
But your sense is, otherwise, you`re broadly going to see Republicans in line with the president on this?
Even when we look at Attorney General Bill Barr himself, when he was asked in his confirmation hearing, is it illegal for a president to pardon someone, to -- in a way that would make them not want to tell something that is that the president did illegally, Bill Barr said that would be a crime.
Now, that`s not exactly -- we don`t know that the facts in this case are exactly that same scenario. But what we do know is that Republicans have stuck with the president through all sorts of controversy, including the coronavirus, his response, his response to the killing of George Floyd, his racist tweets, all sorts of things.
So Republicans have seen this and have seen the president`s base stick with the president through this. So, I think the Republicans, until you see mass amounts of voters separating themselves from President Trump, you`re going to hear the kind of radio silence that you hear on the Republican side, save for someone like Mitt Romney, who has obviously become someone in the Republican Party who is not at all afraid of being very critical of the president when needed.
KORNACKI: Congressman, I wanted to ask you too about -- here`s an argument from Jonathan Turley. You heard from him back during the impeachment process a few months ago, law professor at George Washington University.
He says: "The commutation of Stone barely stands out in the old gallery of White House pardons, which are the most consistently and openly abused power in the Constitution. This authority under Article 2 is stated in absolute terms, and some presidents have wielded it with absolute abandon."
He goes on to cite a number of cases. And I give you one for example. You had George H.W. Bush in 1992. On his way out of office, he pardoned Caspar Weinberger and five others. And the independent counsel who was investigating Iran-Contra said, hey, Bush was going to testify. Now he`s not going to have to. He did it to get out of testifying.
So, you have had some of these before in the past that have walked up to this line and some would say over this line. There haven`t been consequences like you`re talking about here. What would make this one different?
LIEU: There are two differences.
One is, in this case, it appears that Donald Trump commuted Roger Stone`s sentence to protect Donald Trump. That is very different than commuting someone`s sentence to do that person a favor.
And, second, Donald Trump campaigned on draining the swamp. One reason that over 60 million Americans voted for him is because Donald Trump promised he was not going to be like other politicians. He was not going to just go in there and hold onto power and do whatever he could to enrich himself.
But that`s exactly what he did in this case. He set up now two systems of justice, one for everybody, and then one for his friends and his allies. That`s exactly the kind of thing he said he was not going to do. And, unfortunately, we see Donald Trump just reverting back to what other politicians have done. And that`s unfortunate.
KORNACKI: There was also this from Vermont Senator Pat Leahy, a Democrat.
He`s calling for the Department of Justice to review this matter. He wrote a letter to the attorney general, William Barr, today. Leahy saying: "As there appears to be a reasonable factual indication that criminal activity has occurred, your duty requires you to conduct a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Stone`s commutation."
Now, Yamiche, you`re talking about Barr perhaps privately not being supportive of this, but publicly being in line with the administration. Does that mean this letter is likely not to result in any action?
ALCINDOR: I mean, I think it would be surprising if Bill Barr actually went along with this and said, yes, let`s really look at this commutation, because he obviously made his case to the president directly, and the president didn`t listen to him.
So, what Bill Barr has done time and time again has been having the president`s back, has been really defending the president on all sorts of legal issues. The president, as we can remember, really was looking for an attorney general that was going to be someone who had his back and who would ride along with him, no matter what -- the decisions that he made.
That`s why he was so mad at Jeff Sessions and remains so mad at the former Attorney General Sessions. So, as a result, I would be very, very surprised.
But, I mean, anything could happen at this point, but I just don`t see that it`s likely that Bill Barr is going to take a public stance that`s going to be against President Trump.
KORNACKI: All right, Yamiche Alcindor and Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you both for joining us. Appreciate that.
And up next: Is Joe Biden going to go big, or is he going to play it more conservatively when it comes to the Electoral College?
I`m going to head over to the Big Board. We are going to look at the swing states, the potential swing states, the states that may end up swing states that nobody`s even talking about as swing states.
We`re going to break it all down right after this.
KORNACKI: All right, here you go.
This is a tale of two elections. This is the last one. This was the final result, at least in the popular vote. Remember, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote over Donald Trump in 2016 48 to 46. She did not win the Electoral College. It was razor-thin there. So she won it by two points in the popular vote.
That wasn`t quite enough, the way the math worked out, to get her an Electoral College victory.
Now, take a look where this race currently stands, Biden vs. Trump, very different. Where Clinton won by two in the popular vote, Biden leads by nine in the national polling right now. This is the national polling average. Now, this can change, obviously. It could get closer.
We will see. But, right now, Biden is up nine, on average. Remember, Clinton`s margin was two. And it raises a question there for the Biden campaign, because this lead has been around nine, 10 points for a little while now.
It raises a strategic question -- question for the Biden campaign. Let me show you that. This was the electoral map from 2016, remember, and it was Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. These three states were a combined margin of about 75,000 votes.
That`s what got Donald Trump all those electoral votes. That`s what allowed him to win in the Electoral College, even as he lost in the popular vote.
So, for Democrats, the strategy people have been talking about for the last three-and-a-half years or so has been, how do you win back Pennsylvania? How do you win back Michigan? How do you win back Wisconsin?
But if you`re the Biden campaign, and you`re seeing an eight-, nine-, 10- point margin consistently in national polls, does that tempt you to start expanding?
And we have talked about Arizona. We have talked about Florida. We have been talking about North Carolina. I`m saying expanding beyond that.
Here`s what I mean. Let`s take a look at four states here we didn`t think necessarily coming out of 2016 we`d be talking about in 2020. How about Georgia? It`s one Trump won by five point. It`s one that`s been Republican since `92. Bill Clinton barely carried it that year, been Republican ever since.
Now, Trump leads in the polling right now on average by three. Hasn`t been a lot of polling there. Looks like those Senate races are going to be competitive. Georgia could be a very competitive state.
But how about this one? Try on for size Ohio. Here`s one nobody has been talking about until recently, because Trump won this pretty decisively in 2016. He won the Buckeye State by eight points, but, remember, Biden leading by nine nationally, and that`s what you get.
The average of the polling in Ohio right now is a tie. Trump won it by eight. The polling, on average, is tied in Ohio right now. Of course, this was a state Barack Obama was able to carry twice. It swung hard to Donald Trump in 2016.
Raises the possibility here, could the Biden campaign go in there, could Democrats go in there and swing that back?
How about another one here? The state of Iowa. This one swung even more fiercely than Ohio did in 2016. Trump won this by nine, even though Obama had won it in 2012. Now Trump leads, but by a very, very small margin, on average, in Iowa.
And one more for you, one Democrats have been talking about for the longest time, Texas, Trump by nine in 2016, tied in the polling right now. And, wow, look at that. It has been 44 years since Democrats won Texas. That was Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford in `76.
Again, with Biden leading big nationally, if that persists, it raises the question, can you start competing in these states? Maybe could you even start competing in some other states after that? Do you want to? Or do you want to play it a little safer maybe?
So, it`s an interesting question there for Democrats to be thinking about, probably, for them, a good dilemma to have right now.
Still ahead: the politicization of a national health emergency. What does Donald Trump hope to gain by trying to go after federal agencies working to control the pandemic?
We`re back after this.
KORNACKI: Welcome back.
The coronavirus continues to surge through much of the country. And, today, the president seemed to question public health experts` handling of the virus, in the form of surprising retweets attacking his own officials.
The president retweeted a claim from game show host Chuck Woolery, claiming that -- quote -- "Everyone is lying about the coronavirus, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the media and Democrats, and most of our doctors."
According to the tweet, the motive is to hurt Trump politically. That retweet follows a weekend that saw multiple states shatter their own single-day records for new cases confirmed.
And, today, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the outbreak exploding across the country is because initial shutdowns weren`t enough to blunt the spread of the virus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We did not shut down entirely.
And that`s the reason why, when we went up, we started to come down, and then we plateaued at a level that was really quite high, about 20,000 infections a day.
Then as we started to reopen, we`re seeing the surges that we`re seeing today as we speak -- in California, your own state, in Arizona, in Texas, in Florida, and in several other states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The White House has pushed back against that assessment and against Dr. Fauci himself.
Amid all this, there are signs that the failure to control the spread of the virus is costing the president politically. That`s coming up next.
KORNACKI: Welcome back.
Amid an alarming rise in coronavirus cases across South and West, White House has made some moves to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation`s top infectious disease expert. The administration issued a broadside at Dr. Fauci with one official telling NBC News on Sunday, quote, several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things. The official gave NBC News a list of nearly a dozen past comments by Fauci that the official said had ultimately proven erroneous.
"The Washington Post" was first to report on the effort, noting that, quote, the White House has moved to sideline Fauci, scuttle some of his planned TV appearances and largely kept him out of the Oval Office for more than a month.
Today, the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the White House was replying to a direct question in saying Fauci had been wrong on things. Despite the reports, President Trump today insisted that he likes Dr. Fauci personally.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci. I`ve had for a long time, right from the beginning. I find him to be a very nice person. I don`t always agree with him. I get along with him very well. I like him personally.
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KORNACKI: Meanwhile, Fauci receives broad public support when it comes to who Americans say they trust for information on the virus. "New York Times"/Siena poll conducted last month found that more than two-thirds of Americans trust Dr. Fauci to provide accurate information about the coronavirus compared to about one quarter who said the same of President Trump.
And for more, I`m joined Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for NBC, Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, and Noah Rothman, associate editor at "Commentary Magazine".
Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Sahil, let me start with you. I`m curious not just what you make of this, whether the White House apparently having some concerns there, erring off the record some concerns there privately, I should say, some concerns about Dr. Fauci.
The president retweeting the tweet from Chuck Woolery that says this is part of some big lie, some political strategy to stop him.
Are you seeing venting here? Are you seeing the beginnings of a strategy that`s going to get more aggressive? What do you think this is leading to?
SAHIL KAPUR, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Steve, I see a lot of concern. The president is worried that the coronavirus and the resulting economic devastation has taken away his main argument for re-election. He really wants to tell the story of this great American comeback and that`s why he`s trying to strong arm political leaders into reopening the economy regardless of what health experts say. He is trying to strong arm local leaders and into reopening schools and sending kids back to school regardless of what health experts say is safe.
He is desperate to have some argument to offer voters in terms of why he should be re-elected because if the situation is still looking like it is now, that really, you know, gets taken away from him.
And the other thing is that the president generally does not like institutional constraints on his power. He has a -- he has a problem with authority figures who go against things he likes to do that he believes are in his political interest, and he has a tendency to criticize people strongly and say that arguments or, you know, even reporting that`s accurate, is fake, if it goes against his political will. So, that`s what I`m seeing from President Trump.
KORNACKI: Yes. And, Noah, I`m curious what you make of that, because, as Sahil points out, you know, the president, when he has an issue with somebody, usually lets everybody know and usually does it in a pretty memorable way, I guess you could say.
When it comes to Fauci, you`ve got the White House saying sort of you know, to folks a little privately there, hey, look, wrong on this, wrong on that. The president publicly, the clip we just played, saying he likes him personally. So, the president seems to be at least a little bit hesitant to engage, even if he perhaps has some instinct to? Is that how you would read this?
NOAH ROTHMAN, COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Yes, I think so. The president is usually conflict averse when it comes to interpersonal relations. He has certainly -- his Twitter habits are almost always regrettable. The White House projecting a war with its own members does not project confidence. So this is certainly a sloppy approach.
But that, just because they made a sloppy argument doesn`t mean they have no argument to make. Dr. Fauci himself said in May 22nd that prolonged lockdowns can cause irreparable damage. Now, he`s saying that we need more lockdowns to avert this health crisis, which was not the original motive for a lockdown. It was to spare hospitals from catastrophic surge of patients, not to lockdown to a date uncertain to a date which we`ll have a therapeutic or vaccine, which we do not know when will arrive.
We don`t expect public health officials to manage these concerns. We expect elected officials to manage them, and if health is the biggest concern, undiagnosed cancers, suicide and preventable deaths associated with economic despair and perhaps a lost decade of economic precarity and malaise, all of these things our public officials should be focused on. Health experts, not so much.
So the White House does have an argument to make. They did not make it in this case.
KORNACKI: Maria Teresa Kumar, we can put this poll number on the screen. So, this is the bottom line question here. The ABC/Ipsos poll last week. The president`s approval rating, when it comes to handling the coronavirus and you see there, it is 33 percent approved, 67 percent, 2/3 disapprove.
I guess if we stipulate that, the coronavirus being what it is, it`s highly unlikely for president to be re-elected if the numbers stay like that. I guess I`m curious, do you think the president can change in the time between now and the election, change the public`s perception of this handling of the coronavirus?
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT & CEO, VOTO LATINO: Well, I think one of his biggest challenges is that Fauci is a public health official and he`s part of his administration and he doesn`t have a political bone to pick. He just wants to make sure the public is safe, and if you look across the Atlantic and you recognized that at the same time that the numbers were surging here, they were also surging in Italy.
And for more than anything, more or less, Europe has had their pandemic under control. South Korea has it under control. China has it under control. We do not have it under control. We are right now basically not only seeing a surge because it`s never dipped. We`re seeing a surge, but we`re expecting another wave.
President Trump has been very clear with his public when he talks about his rallies, when he talks at the bullpen (ph). We recognize that there`s three things he`s concerned with. He`s concerned with the kids in cages. He`s concerned with COVID being pinned on him. And he`s concerned with unemployment.
The latter two are going to be very difficult for him to wipe out of the American memory because we are going into still one of the highest unemployments coming in September. There is no out of this unless he starts listening to public health officials.
KORNACKI: Also, a bit of news this evening. I can share with you, a judge has lifted that restraining order that had been on place on the president`s niece, Mary Trump. She has that new scathing memoir about the president, her relationship with him, his relationship with his family, because this restraining order has been lifted, she can begin giving interviews tonight.
There is nothing apparently scheduled yet.
KORNACKI: Yeah, yes. There is an opening here, I suppose, if she wants to call in. The lines are open.
But, Sahil, I`m curious. She`s in this book in the excerpts that have been out there, she has some pretty harsh words for the president. Does it move the needle in any way, do you think?
KUMAR: I don`t know, Steve. I think president Trump`s personality and his behavior is so ubiquitous now, I think people know what they are getting when they look at him. If you are not already convinced, you probably won`t be, buy a book. This is obviously someone from the president`s family. So, she offers a different kind of perspective.
I have to think her publisher is thrilled with the fact that the president is coming after her this way and trying to get her book -- you know, prevent her book from being published. It only adds to the interest that people will have. I don`t know why the White House doesn`t understand this. The president doesn`t.
There is an Streisand effect here where a lot more people are going to want to read this and it`s going to get a lot attention, much like John Bolton`s did when the president tried to, you know, go after that in a similar way.
KORNACKI: I want to talk about the state of the presidential race here a little bit. We were just showing Joe Biden leading the president on average by nine points. You have had more and more indications that there are concerns in the president`s world among Republicans, some concern.
There was this article. I thought this was interesting today, though, in "The New York Times" looking back at the 2016 campaign and sort of the legacy of the Access Hollywood tape. You remember a couple weeks before the election, middle of October 2016, that Access Hollywood tape came out.
"The New York Times" with this reminder that publicly and privately, lawmakers were calling on him to step aside and allow Mike Pence to lead the ticket. Party officials predicted devastation down ballot. Others simply could not stomach associating with the nominee.
Noah, it`s interesting to look back at that right now because I remember that moment and I encourage people, so much as happened in the last three years, you think back to how doom just about everybody thought Donald Trump was in that moment and he did end up winning the election and did end up becoming president. And the reason I`m bringing that up and I`m asking right now, is you`ve got more and more Republicans starting to sound the alarm about the state of his campaign in 2020. You have got these numbers with his approval rating on coronavirus.
Do you think that the memory of the Access Hollywood tape in 2016 and everyone telling him he was doomed and Trump winning anyway, do you think that makes him immune to advice from political professionals now?
ROTHMAN: It certainly might. He appears to trust his own instincts more than he does anyone else`s. The story of that moment was not so much that everybody came to their senses as though Republicans realized their fortunes were tethered to Donald Trump whether he was there or not. Though, they were.
It was that James Comey intervened in the election, and it reminded everybody of the potentially criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton. And the Trump campaign did the smartest that they did the entire campaign, which was basically ceased to do a lot of media. They simply sat back and allowed that news cycle to play out. I don`t suspect that a president can get away with that kind of thing. Nor is Joe Biden likely vulnerable to it.
So what we`re probably seeing is recognition on the part of Republicans that even if Donald Trump were to disappear tomorrow, their fortunes would be tied to his. The Republican Party is synonymous with Donald Trump`s brand and voters will render a verdict on both in November.
KORNACKI: And, Maria Teresa, quickly, if Trump pulled a rabbit out of the hat in 2016, politically, do you think he could do it again? Or do you think the circumstances are just different right now and that that ship has sailed?
KUMAR: Well, he was -- Access Hollywood, there was still a projection of what kind of president he would be. If you recall, Newt Gingrich basically said he could be the "Apprentice" president.
Well, now, we see what it looks like under Donald Trump. He has absolutely failed under a pandemic. He`s fomenting racism. He basically has done -- created the biggest economic depression that we have seen since -- since the Depression itself. And the list goes on.
So, unfortunately, we actually now have a record, and we have receipts as people like to say, on Donald Trump as the president.
KORNACKI: All right. Maria Teresa Kumar, Noah Rothman, Sahil Kapur, thank you all for joining us. Appreciate that.
And up next, an 84-year-old NFL franchise retires its name. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: With the NFL preparing for its season this fall at least potentially, one franchise will not be returning, at least under its current name. Washington D.C.`s football name announced it will be ditching its 84-year-old nickname, in which some call a racial slur against Native Americans. It will also retire its logo.
The team has received criticism for decades, but its owner, Daniel Schneider, fought against making the changes in the past. Now some supporters including Schneider had pointed to a 2016 "Washington Post" poll that showed that 9 in 10, 90 percent of Native Americans said they were not offended by the name. Today`s announcement, though, does come amid a broader national shift in public opinion on the subject of race after the killing of George Floyd, along with mounting pressure along with several corporate sponsors who threatened to pull their support of the team. No new name has been announced, but the team says it is working to come up with one that will, quote, inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.
Thank you for being with us. Don`t go anywhere.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.
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