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Trump admin. facing critical leadership test TRANSCRIPT: MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: Gina Raimando, Leana Wen, David Jolly, Chris Coons, Yamiche Alcindor, Michael Eric Dyson, Jennifer Epps-Addison

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Joy Reid in New York.

As the coronavirus plays out around the world, we`re witnessing in real- time how the quality of leadership in a country matters. It matters how transparent and, frankly, competent a government is in a time of crisis like this.

Here in the U.S., the Trump administration struggled to provide a coherent and unified message about the coronavirus outbreak, careening from downplaying it with Trump tossing it off as a political hoax to just seemingly scrambling.

Late they are evening Donald Trump will try again. He`s set to address the American people at 9:00 Eastern time to try to mitigate the damage caused by the confusion his own administration`s erratic response has caused.

Just yesterday, amid the news of more and more cases in the United States, Trump tried to assure Americans this would all be over soon.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We`re prepared and we`re doing a great job with it and it will go away. Just stay calm.

Everyone has to be vigilant and has to be careful. But be calm. It`s really working out. And a lot of good things are going to happen.


REID: It`s really working out. But today, the World Health Organization, alarmed by the lack of action by governments around the world, officially declared the outbreak to be a pandemic.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries climb even higher. WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we`re deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.

We have therefore made assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.


REID: Now, to date, the coronavirus has swept through at least 114 countries, with more than 120,000 infections and more than 4,200 people dead.

Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that up to 70 percent or roughly 58 million Germans could ultimately contract the virus. Her startling pronouncement came just two days after Italy announced a national lockdown.

Shortly after the pandemic was announced, the volatile U.S. financial markets plunged another 7 percent. And all of this comes amid the grim news that U.S. coronavirus diagnoses have passed the 1,000 mark.

16 states across the country have declared states of emergency. Many of them are trying to mitigate the spread by canceling large public gatherings and suspending school. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, whose state has been hit the hardest by the virus, prohibited all gatherings, over 250 people in three counties.

Rhode Island`s Governor Gina Raimando is also discouraging large events of more than 250 people and recommended that folks over 60 should not attend large gatherings.

In the meantime, the Coachella Music Festival has been postponed and the Golden State Warriors became the first NBA team to play without fans. Late this afternoon, the NCAA announced that it will hold March Madness without rowdy fans.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was on Capitol Hill today and had this stark warning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the worst yet to come, Dr. Fauci?


We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now. How much worse we`ll get will depend on our ability to do two things, to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country. Bottom line, it`s going to get worse.


REID: For more, I am joined by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. Thank you very much for being here, Governor.

Can you just talk about what you`re doing in your state to try to contain this ongoing calamity that we`re now seeing across the U.S.?

GOV. GINA RAIMANDO (D-RI): Yes, thank you, Joy.

So the approach that we`ve been taking is to be really very aggressive and robust in our response. As you said earlier, government action does make a difference here. We currently have five confirmed cases. We have hundreds of people in quarantine. I was one of the first governors to declare a state of emergency.

The name of the game now is containment. And we know that limiting social interaction now is the most effective approach before there is widespread disease and widespread transmission. We don`t yet have here in Rhode Island widespread community transition, and so we`re taking action in an effort to prevent that.

REID: And let`s talk about the federal response. How has it impacted the way that your state has been able to respond? Has the delay and the sort of confused messaging, who has that wound up impacting your state?

RAIMANDO: First, I`d like to say thank you to the team of CDC folks who are here on the ground in Rhode Island because we were one of the first states with an outbreak. The CDC sent a team here. And I have to say, the on-the- ground civil servants are working with us and just like our civil servants are doing a fantastic job.

Having said that, the overall response from the federal government has been, as you say, at times, inconsistent and, frankly, delayed, which means governors have had to step into the breach and take action. And I feel it`s my job here to do everything I can to protect Rhode Islanders.

Right now, we have asked for greater access to our stockpile of masks and goggles and protective equipment. We`re seeing a slow response. And I`m imploring the federal government to be sped that up so we can protect our frontline workers. And I am calling on the federal government to do more in the way of supporting states with funds so that we can keep our economies going particularly for low wage workers who are out of work during this crisis.

So, again, for the folks that are working hard on the ground, hats off to them and thank you, but I think it`s time for the federal government to have an even more robust response to help states so that we can contain this virus now before we have the widespread transmission.

REID: Yes. And then Politico was reporting that state and local officials, just a little piece of -- a little clip from a piece that is running in Politico, state and local officials in mostly blue states have been largely taking matters into their own hands with outcomes that are varied widely. They`re acting, some say, amid an absence of federal leadership. You`ve had states like New York and California, your state, really sort of having to take action kind of on their own.

Donald Trump is going to speak later on today. What are you hoping that he offers to try to fill in some of the gaps? And do you think that it`s problematic that there seems to be a distinct sort of attitude toward this in red America versus blue America?

RAIMANDO: So I hope that the president is, first of all, honest and based in fact. This is a time to lead based upon facts, evidence and science and to be very transparent with everybody. So that`s table stakes (ph).

Secondly, I want to see the federal government step up their response to this. It would be appropriate to have some sort of a stimulus for states at this point in time. It would be appropriate to declare this to be a disaster and send to states funds so that we can provide unemployment insurance-type benefits to workers who have been asked to stay home. It`s time for them to step up. It`s time for them to have a clear, strong message and to give states the support that we need so that we can fight this on the frontlines and so that we can contain it.

Containment can only happen once. We have a shot right now to contain it. So it`s time to get serious about the response to help us do our jobs here on the frontline.

REID: Governor Gina Raimondo, thank you very much. I wish you guys well in your state.


REID: Thank you so much.

Meanwhile, a stunning piece in The New York Times details how delays in coronavirus testing set back any chance of containing the virus in the U.S. The Times report that after weeks of mounting frustration toward federal agencies over flawed test kits and burdensome rules, states with growing cases, such as New York and California, are struggling to test widely for the coronavirus. The continued delays have made it impossible for officials to get a true picture of the scale of the growing outbreak.

The Times notes that, faced with a public health emergency on a scale potentially not seen in a century, the United States has not responded nimbly.

I`m joined now by Dr. Leana Wen, visiting professor at George Washington University`s School of Public Health and a former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, thank you so much for being here.

LEANA WEN, G.W. SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Of course. Thank you, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

Let`s talk about the response as described so far not by Donald Trump`s opponents, political opponents, but by someone who worked for him, Tom Bossert, who worked in Homeland Security for Donald Trump, wrote a piece in The Washington Post in which he said the following. He said, if we fail to take action, we will watch our healthcare system be overwhelmed. Starting, now public health messaging should be framed in light of this clear objective. Community-based interventions are needed to delay the outbreak peak.

He also said to NBC News in a quote that I think was quite alarming for a lot of people that we are ten days away from the hospitals getting creamed. That was the former homeland security adviser to Donald Trump. Do you share that assessment?

WEN: I do, and I`m very worried as well. You were mentioning about the lack of testing. While there are probably many hundreds, if not, thousands of people who are out there in the U.S. who have COVID-19 but don`t know that they have it and have been transmitting it potentially to other people. So once tests are up and running, we are going to see much higher numbers come up, which will be alarming in and of itself.

But I`m also very worried about overwhelming our healthcare system. Because even if we have a moderate outbreak, and we could still have a severe outbreak, but even a moderate scale outbreak, we`re talking about needing hundreds of thousands of intensive care beds, tens of thousands ventilators that we just don`t have the capacity for.

And so we have this very narrow window now of trying to contain this outbreak. Because if we don`t, if we can`t reduce the rate of transmission, we are going to overwhelm the healthcare system and then people are going to have to go without care and they`ll die.

REID: Yes. Let`s talk -- we just showed a picture that showed a lot of people walking around, I saw, it was in CVS yesterday, and saw people just walking around in masks. Is that something that people should be doing? Should people breaking out the masks and the rubber gloves, assuming you can even buy them at this point?

WEN: No, do not buy gloves, do not go buy masks, and here is why. The masks will only help you if you`re sick. It protects other people from you because you`ll be coughing and sneezing into the mask and not into other people. But it`s not going to protect you if you`re healthy. And also it takes masks away from healthcare workers who really need them. Gloves also give you a false sense of security, because once you have gloves on, you`re still going to be touching everything.

Actually, what you should do is wash your hands a lot and touch your face less. Those very simple steps make a difference and actually individual actions at this time of crisis make a big difference too. So stay away from crowded settings, reducing the amount of non-essential travel that you do, don`t go to big events, things like that will make a big difference for yourself, your loved ones and also for the community around you too.

REID: Yes. And believe that it`s real. Like don`t believe that it`s a hoax, even if an official, let`s say, government tells you.

Italy has locked down the entire country, halted all commercial activity. Just a quote here, Italy on Wednesday ramped up the severity of its national lockdown ordering a halt to nearly all activity aside from supermarkets and pharmacies. The response there from The Washington Post has been dramatic. Is that something U.S. states should be thinking about, U.S. cities should be thinking about doing?

WEN: I don`t think we should be taking anything off the table at this point in time. And I know that that sounds pretty frightening to say but we don`t know what`s coming our way. I mean, just two weeks ago, we had 15 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the U.S. We`re now at well over 1,000. We have outbreaks that are occurring in different communities and we still don`t know the extent of what`s happening now.

We need to stop reacting to what we`re seeing in front of us and start anticipating what`s going to come. And I think nothing should be off the table in terms of closures of events and everyone needs to start planning for what happens if their kids` schools are closed.

What happens if they`re out of work for a period of time and have to telecommute, what happens when major conferences and events are canceled all throughout the country? We need to start planning for that now and actually saying that none of this is an overreaction. Actually, we`ve been underreacting all these past few weeks and that`s why we`re in the position that we`re in now.

REID: Yes, it`s such important advice. And it may make people nervous to hear but it`s so important to hear it because this is the stuff that can save your health.

All right, Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much, I really appreciate you.

WEN: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

And coming up, the coronavirus crisis is once again laying bear Donald Trump`s glaring inadequacies as president. As his top advisers warn that things will only get worse, Trump continues to downplay the fact we`re in a full blown crisis.

Plus, after racking up more big primary victories last night, can Joe Biden unite the Democratic Party? His rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, is vowing to fight on.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While Joe Biden continues to do very well with older Americans, especially those people over 65, our campaign continues to win the vast majority of the votes of younger people.


REID: However, Sanders faces an extremely narrow path to the nomination.

We have much more to get to. Please stay with us.


REID: Welcome back.

Well, despite the spike in coronavirus cases in this country, Donald Trump continues to issue exaggerated and, frankly, misleading statements downplaying the severity of the crisis. And as we`ve seen this week, many of his claims have been contradicted by his own health expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. For instance Trump has repeatedly suggested the end of the outbreak is in sight. While Fauci says it`s only going to get worse.


TRUMP: We`re prepared and we`re doing a great job with it. It will go away, just stay calm. It will go away.

FAUCI: I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now.


REID: Trump continues to compare the coronavirus to the common flu, even as Fauci warns it`s much more deadly.


TRUMP: But right now I guess we`re at 26 deaths. And if you look at the flu, the flu for this year, we`re looking at 8,000 deaths.

FAUCI: People always say, well, the flu -- you know, the flu does this. The flu does that. The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent. This has a mortality of ten times that.


REID: And Trump said he`ll continue to hold public rallies, which Fauci warns about the risk -- while Fauci warns about the risk of attending mass gatherings.


REPORTER: Are you going to continue to hold rallies? Are you taking any precautions with the White House staff?

TRUMP: We`ll have tremendous rallies.

FAUCI: You don`t want to go to a massive gathering particularly if you`re a vulnerable individual.


REID: Most alarming of all, Reuters reported today that the White House ordered federal officials to treat top level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government`s response to the contagion. That`s according to four Trump administration officials who say that staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from those deliberations.

Now, we should also note that NBC News has not independently verified that reporting.

I`m joined by Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times," and David Jolly, a former Republican congressman from Florida who is no longer affiliated with the party.

Thank you all for being here.

Peter, I`m going to go to you on this first, because it appears, from the outside looking in, that the White House response, including the way his experts have spoken in public, has been much more focused on downplaying the severity of the coronavirus outbreaks in order to protect the stock market, the economy and Trump politically.

Inside the White House, is anyone noticing this and pushing back in any way?

PETER BAKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, there`s a debate going on inside this White House, of course, about how to approach this.

There`s a balance to be had between public reassurance and confidence, which is what you expect out of a national leader, and a more frank and forthright recognition of the severity of the situation and the leveling with the American people.

And I think that these advisers are looking at it from different points of view. The economic advisers are telling the president, don`t -- don`t be too alarmist, because it will shock and make the markets worse. You hear the health experts saying, wait a second, we have to be a little bit more, not scary. We need to be a little bit more honest or forthright with the people in order to make sure they understand just how significant this situation is.

And you have got the president`s own natural instincts, which are to downplay it, because he doesn`t want to upset the apple cart, which he sees as a pretty good economy heading into a reelection year.

REID: Yes, I mean, just a couple of headlines for you, David.

"The Hill" reporting that Republican senators who I`m not sure why they think they have any ability to tell Donald Trump to do anything, having essentially said he can do whatever he wants, telling him to make Fauci the face of the government`s coronavirus response, the guy who is trying his best to tell the truth.


REID: The Daily Beast reporting that Donald Trump is seething over having to sit down with the speaker of the House. Donald Trump can`t stand the idea of negotiating one-on-one with his chief counterpart, speaker of the House -- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

He suspects that she would use the moment to try to humiliate him. Two senior Trump administration officials described a president, who, out of intense sense of bitterness toward the House speaker, has shuddered at the prospect of being in the same room with her during the ongoing public health crisis.

I`m not sure who he thinks he`s supposed to talk to when she is the head of half of the Congress. I don`t understand that.

JOLLY: Yes, Joy, in his stubbornness, Donald Trump has yet to realize there is no political win in a public health crisis. There is none.

And he has masterfully been able to work a political win out of even the most dire situations, including impeachment. Among his base, they saw it as a win. He beat the deep state, if you will.

There is no win in a moment of a public health crisis, because the American people are scared. And Donald Trump continues to view this through the lens of an economic crisis. It is why he has focused so much of his attention it. He does not focus -- he does not focus his attention on the public health crisis.

Consider the actual emergency package that Congress passed to address the public health needs of the nation. The White House requested about $2 billion. It was not a serious request, Congress said, no, we need $8 billion. And that just kind of sailed through.

What the president really wants to get to is using the crisis for tax cuts. And good for even Republican senators pushing back on this, because we do not need corporate tax cuts to artificially stimulate a relatively strong economy.

What we need specifically is assistance for those workers who are displaced for coronavirus-related job losses and job insecurity and, frankly, food insecurity among communities that -- when we see schools close, what happens to those families that rely on schools for 100 percent food vouchers for breakfast and lunch?

That`s where the targeted assistance needs to be. Donald Trump needs to realize, if he wants to fix the economy, fix the public health crisis, and tonight address solely the public health crisis. The economy will follow along as they see confidence in the health response.

REID: Not clear that he listens to anyone that is speaking as rationally as yourself.


REID: But I want to play what Donald Trump has been saying, because we just had the governor of Rhode Island on, Gina Raimondo. We just had a public health expert, Dr. Leana Wen, on.

And they were very blunt. It is a bit scary to hear these warnings. But these warnings can actually save your life, save your health.

But here`s how Donald Trump has been talking about the coronavirus outbreak since January, just a little montage.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have it totally under control.

We think it`s going to have a very good ending for us. So, that, I can assure you.

I don`t think it`s inevitable. It may get bigger. It may get a little bigger. It may not get bigger at all.

It`s going to disappear one day. It`s like a miracle. It will disappear.

Everything is under control.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: The global death rate at 3.4 percent.

TRUMP: Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number.

It`s going to all work out. Everybody has to be calm.

It came out of nowhere. But we`re taking care of it.


REID: And we should note his favorite news channel has been -- it`s echoing him.

Peter, do you have any reporting on whether or not that is going to be the message that we hear when he speaks tonight?

BAKER: Well, I think, actually, this sounds like it might be a moment of pivot for him. We will see.

But the very fact that he`s going to give an address from the Oval Office to the country at 9:00 suggests a level of seriousness that he has not conveyed so far, the very -- that`s something you use in a time -- a president uses in a time of war, a time of national crisis, a time of national emergency.

So, in effect, just the very address itself will convey a different mood. And we will see what the tone of his words are. If he does something like declare a national emergency or in some way try to put forward an aggressive legislative package of stimulus or something like that, that too will convey a level of seriousness that the words you just played do not convey.

And I think well the words he uses will be very important. People will be watching them intently to see, does he hit that balance between public reassurance and the seriousness of the moment?

REID: Yes. He hasn`t shown the ability to do it so far, but we will see what happens tonight.

Peter Baker, David Jolly, thank you very much. Really appreciate you both.

JOLLY: Thank you, Joy.

REID: And coming up next: the economic fallout from the coronavirus and who the president is focused on helping out.

This will not surprise you.

Stay with us.


REID: Welcome back.

With the caveat that the markets are not the economy, but that the markets watch the economy and take their cues, today was another bad day on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones down more than 1,400 points.

At this point, the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the entire U.S. economy. And some economists now fear that it could trigger a global recession.

Both Donald Trump and Democrats were spelling out what they think should be done to help those affected by the spiraling health crisis. And, surprise, it turns out they have somewhat different priorities.

Politico reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to unveil legislation today that includes expanding paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and widespread free testing for coronavirus.

Trump included some of that as he spoke about what the administration wants done, as he traveled to Capitol Hill yesterday to talk only to Republicans.

And Trump has some other ideas, like doing a payroll tax cut through the end of the year, which, let`s just be clear, would reduce the funding sources for Social Security and Medicare, and, as if on cue, offering tax relief for impacted tourism-related industries like hotels, airlines and cruise lines.

Hotels, you say?

For more, I`m joined by Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour."

And, Yamiche, Donald Trump`s going to speak tonight. What are we expecting to hear?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": Well, the president is really desperate for an economic response to the coronavirus.

So, apart from the payroll tax that he`s pushing and the Democrats say will really help wealthy people, he`s also looking to do some executive actions, possibly declaring a national disaster. Sources in the White House tell me that could happen either tonight or in the next week or so.

And that, through the act, the Stafford Act, would free up about $42.6 billion. I`m told the president would use that to make small business loans, to also defer tax payments so people would have a longer time to pay the government.

That would also go toward helping people who are financially impacted, whether they were quarantined or whether their kids had to stay home. That would help them make up some lost paychecks.

I`m also told that the president would want to put some of that money aside to also help with shelters and help FEMA set up sort of temporary housing for people who might be quarantined.

So the president will be looking at that much money to be able to have a sort of economic response to the coronavirus.

REID: All right.

Well, we will look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Yamiche Alcindor, thank you very much. Really appreciate you being here today.

And, tonight, "The Washington Post" is reporting that Donald Trump is -- in an explosive tirade Monday -- get this -- urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to encourage Federal Reserve chair Jerome H. Powell to do more to stimulate the economy, as Yamiche said, two officials familiar with the exchange said, revealing the president`s mounting fury as his administration struggles to corral economic fallout from the novel coronavirus.

"The Post" added during that tense Monday meeting in the Oval Office, Trump fumed that Powell never should have been appointed and is damaging the nation and his presidency.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

Let`s unpack this.

Thank you, Senator, for being here.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Thank you.

REID: So, let`s go through this.

Donald Trump expected, per Yamiche Alcindor, to talk about economics. That`s the thing he cares about. He cares about his reelect more than anything else. And his -- it seems to be -- his concern seems to be the way that the -- the way that the coronavirus is sort of spreading throughout the United States is damaging the economy. That seems to be his top goal.

Does that align with the top goal of Democrats? Because it seems to me the health of the American people seemed to be -- should be somewhere in the top two of the things you care about.


COONS: Well, that`s right.

I`m a lot less concerned about falling values in the stock market and Wall Street than I am about the day-to-day concerns of working families who have to deal with the possibility that their kids` schools are going to close, that they will be required to stay home from work and miss a paycheck, and the rapidly spreading concerns about whether folks can get tested, whether those tests will be free, whether they can get access to quality, affordable health care in this crisis, and whether or not their family checkbook is going to balance if they have to stay home from work.

So, we should be focusing whatever economic incentives we come up with this week on exactly what is going to slow the spread of this virus throughout our country, and help those families who are most impacted.

So, that`s why I support the proposals that there are press accounts will be coming out from Speaker Pelosi tomorrow that would provide for paid sick leave, that would provide for better and lower-cost access to things like testing and health care, and that might provide things like food assistance at home for children who would otherwise be getting their main meal of the day through school lunch.

I`m also concerned about support for our first responders and volunteer firefighters, because, remember, when we have got people who are going to be transporting folks to and from hospitals and nursing homes, that will most likely be local first responders, who need to have enough protective equipment and enough support, so that they don`t get infected and infect their entire fire company, and then put an entire community at risk.

REID: Yes, indeed.

Donald Trump wants a payroll tax cut. That doesn`t seem to be something that is even seen as a good idea by his own party.

Here are a few Republicans responding to that idea.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The payroll tax stimulus is something I got to think about, because it does take money away from Social Security.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): I haven`t seen it in writing. I have some real concerns there. It seems like it`s hundreds of billions of dollars of immediate spending that we don`t really know the economic issues that are here.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): We will perhaps vet some of those ideas and see what we can come up with.


REID: Are you in favor of a payroll tax cut, sir?

COONS: I would have to be persuaded. I`m not at the moment in support of it.

It strikes me as something that would spread a very small amount of money very broadly throughout our country, without it being a targeted assistance to the people who are going to be most in need as this virus continues to spread and continues its impact.

So, the short answer is no.

REID: Yes.

What about the this idea -- and I don`t really understand what it -- how it relates to coronavirus, but it appears that Donald Trump would like to pursue federal aid to shale oil companies, shale companies hit by the oil shock and the coronavirus damage.

  COONS: Right.

REID: What does that have to do with what people are suffering right now?

COONS: It doesn`t have anything to do with it at all.

The drop in global oil prices because of a competition between Russia and Saudi Arabia over production is going to hit oil and gas production companies.

But, frankly, if you look at the priorities here of our two parties, it`s pretty stark. Republicans want to offer tax cuts and bailouts to fossil fuel companies. Democrats want to provide support to families who are struggling to meet their paychecks and to meet their family`s needs and to make sure that we have got some help to small business and some help to those who are going to be forced to stay home from work as they get infected in the weeks and months ahead.

REID: Yes, I mean, the people who are going to lose jobs and lose opportunities are like waitresses and people who work in small restaurants.

COONS: Right.

REID: But it appears that Donald Trump`s focus, as the leader of -- your Senate leader has said, are banks, shale companies, rich folks, who are all lining up at the tiller.

The thing that struck me and I think a lot of people was this hotels idea, that Donald Trump -- let`s just put up a list of the hotels that he has something to do with, whether he owns them or leases them out.

COONS: Right.

REID: And those are all over the world, all over the country, but all over the world. But these are just the ones in the United States.

Will the United States Senate, will at least Democrats in the Senate prevent Donald Trump from allowing a bailout of his own industry that he still takes a financial stake in, and that he has not walked away from a financial stake in out of this crisis?

COONS: That question is just a striking reminder that we continue to have a president who runs his family business, whose immediate family members are part of his administration, and who continues to benefit from that global network of hotels and condominiums and commercial developments.

I think you can count on us in the Senate, in the Democratic Caucus, to block any benefit that would directly enrich the president and his network of hotels.

We do have to find a way to come together quickly here and deliver some relief to the impacted families and individuals in our country.

One of the things, Joy, that I found encouraging was that, from start to finish, it took us less than two weeks for the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House to take up and pass and send to the president, who signed, an $8.3 billion package to make vaccines available more quickly, to make tests available more quickly, to provide for personal protective gear, and to support state and local governments.

REID: Yes.

COONS: We can come together around a responsible package. We won`t come together around a bailout for oil companies or President Trump`s personal interests in hotels.

REID: Right.

Well, we certainly hope that your colleagues on the other side of the aisle, who`ve been very amenable to doing Donald Trump wants, will stand with you on that. I think the American people do not want to see any bailouts of Trump industries. That`s just me talking. I`m not putting that on you.

Senator Chris Coons, thank you very much. Really appreciate you being here.

COONS: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

And up next: Bernie Sanders has a tough road ahead after Joe Biden`s romp through more key primary states last night. So, what becomes of Sanders` movement next?

And can Joe Biden unify the Democratic Party?

We`re right back after this.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a common goal and together, we`ll defeat Donald Trump. We`ll defeat him together.


REID: Welcome back.

Well, that was Joe Biden last night sounding like the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee after yet another big primary night with multiple victories over Bernie Sanders. Biden won four out of the six states, including a decisive victory in Michigan, the single biggest delegate price of the night.

Sanders won in North Dakota and leads in Washington state, which remains too close to call.

Biden extended his delegate lead over Sanders but today, Sanders says he`s pushing forward with his campaign.

Speaking with reporters Sanders argued that he`s winning on his policies.


SANDERS: Last night obviously was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view. Poll after poll, including exit polls, show that a strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda. While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability.


REID: Sanders said he`s looking forward to debating Biden one-on-one on Sunday night in Phoenix. A debate that will, due to the times, take place without an audience. That debate comes two days before four more delegate rich states, Arizona, Illinois, Ohio and Florida, hold primaries. Sanders lost all four states to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But even as the votes were still coming in last night, one influential lawmaker argued the Democratic party should put an end to the primaries right now, and that is coming up next.


REID: Welcome back.

Well, Joe Biden`s victories in four of the six states voting on Tuesday brought him closer to locking down the Democratic nomination over Bernie Sanders. But before voting ended, House Democratic whip Jim Clyburn, the man whose endorsement was credited with bringing Biden`s campaign back to life in South Carolina, so the Democratic Party should step in to stop a prolonged primary fight.

He told NPR a potential Biden sweep would make him the prohibitive nominee.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): If the night ends the way it has begun, I think it is time for us to set this primary down, it is time for us to cancel the rest of these debates because you don`t do anything but get yourself in trouble if you continue this contest when it is obvious that the numbers will not shake out for you.


REID: Well, is that a fair way to end the nomination fight?

For more, I`m joined by Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown professor and Biden supporter, and Jennifer Epps-0Addison, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy and a Sanders supporter.

Thank you both for being here.

Jennifer, I`m going to go with you first. We don`t have a ton of time so I will try to let you have as much talk time as possible.

But, Jennifer, as a Sanders supporter, what do you make of that idea ending it early and everyone getting behind Biden?

JENNIFER EPPS-ADDISON, CENTER FOR POPULAR DEMOCRACY CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I mean, listen, I didn`t get in this fight just for Bernie Sanders, I got in for the 40 percent of Americans who are living in poverty. I got into it for the 89 million people who are underinsured or uninsured in this country. I got into it for folks like my grandmother who was born in Oklahoma with share cropping and picking cotton by the age of 5, worked her whole life and died poor.

Right now, we have not heard enough about the folks in this country who are struggling far too much not just under Trump but under previous administrations, too. So, we are asking senator Sanders to stay in this because there is still a path to the nomination and we`re very much looking forward to a one-on-one debate that will put the issues of poverty and the need to transform this country front and center for voters to see.

REID: So, Michael Eric Dyson, you know -- and you and I have talked about this before. I feel like it`s about power, right? That`s the most important thing. There`s enthusiasm that goes with campaigns, but at the end, what you want is power, the power to get the things you want to happen, as we just heard Jennifer say.

Would Senator Sanders, does he have more power now being able to say to Joe Biden, as he says he`s going to do in that debate, you need to pick up some of these things, some of these issues on poverty, some of these issues on helping those who have been left behind economically? You have to put that in your campaign if you want my support?

Does he have more power by going all the way to the convention and fighting him right until, you know, the summer and saying, you`re not going to get me out of this race unless you pick them up?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY: No, I think the latter is what led to a disaster the last time. I think what Jim Clyburn, a political genius, was suggesting there is that we circumvent that.

But I do agree, look, LeBron has already clinched with the Lakers the playoff. But they still have to play games.

So, the debate still has to go on. I think Sister Jennifer is absolutely right. Those issues should be brought front and scare. And I think that Joe Biden is more than willing to embrace them, to engage them. Bernie Sanders himself indicated that people said to him, I like your ideas, I like your policies, but I think this guy is electable.

Well, tell the electable guy to broaden the tent has he has done clearly to engage issues and take seriously what is going on with poor people, with African-American people, with Latinx people, with people whose backs are against the wall, poor white people who are suffering in Appalachia. If we can broaden our tent and enable these people to do those things, yes, that will make a difference.

So, I think Bernie Sanders played as a team player today in his press conference when he said these are the following questions I`m going to ask Joe Biden on Sunday. I think he was being a team player by given fair warning -- these are the issues that people have embraced me on, the younger people did not vote at the same levels that older people seem to vote in their subscriptions to the ideals of Joe Biden.

So, I think Joe Biden has the ability to translate the ideas of Bernie Sanders into articulable policy and to public policy that will make a huge difference for the very people that Sister Jennifer, I, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders care about.

REID: So, Jennifer, what would you need to hear from Joe Biden in order for you to, you know, even if it`s not enthusiastic, just for the sake of getting issues for vote for him and show up and vote for him in November if he`s the nominee.? It`s not over yet.

EPPS-ADDISON: Yes. I mean, first of all, let me just say, young people have come out in record numbers, higher than 2016. The difference is they have three to seven-hour long waits in their polling places.

One thing that young people need to hear, the Democratic Party believes they deserve the right to vote and will deal with the fact they are being suppressed.

DYSON: Absolutely.

EPPS-ADDISON: The other thing that we need to hear really is on criminal justice reform, Joe Biden is the architect and author of the `94 crime bill. While many Democrats voted for it, he was the one who led the charge --

REID: But Bernie Sanders voted for it too. Let`s just -- let`s just be honest about that, yes.

EPPS-ADDISON: Bernie Sanders voted for it --

REID: Yes.

EPPS-ADDISON: -- and he also apologized for that vote and he has committed to working with us to repeal it. So, we need to hear that same --

DYSON: The policy occurred. The policy still occurred.

EPPS-ADDISON: -- and we need to hear that same type of commitment from Joe Biden that he understands mass incarceration has destroyed our communities --

DYSON: Right.

EPPS-ADDISON: -- and that he is willing to work on it.

So far, he does not support legalizing marijuana, he doesn`t support people who are incarcerated who are voting, he doesn`t support an end to bail, to cash bail. These are critical issues that young black people in particular will need to hear if we believe that he will be a nominee who is going to fight for us.

REID: OK. We are out of --

DYSON: I can agree with that but look --

REID: We`re out of time. We`re out of time.

DYSON: He did what he did --

REID: I`m sorry.

DYSON: I think that Bernie Sanders also lived in that house.


REID: We`re out of time. We`re going to have you guys come back.

Michael Eric Dyson, Jennifer Epps-Addison, the clock is against me. Thank you both very much.

EPPS-ADDISON: Thank you.

REID: Up next, Donald Trump takes time away from a global pandemic to bash the man who`s the first person in the Senate to endorse him in 2016.

Stay with us.


REID: Donald Trump just cannot resist. While the country is gripped with anxiety over a global pandemic many Americans feel he`s mismanaging completely, Trump this week took the time out of what should be a busy presidential schedule to kick sand in the face of his former attorney general, Jefferson Sessions, by endorsing Sessions` opponent in Alabama`s Republican Senate run off later this month.

Here is a tweet with -- in support of Tommy Tuberville -- I`m not going to read it because why? The winner of the run off on March 31st will face incumbent Democrat Doug Jones in the fall.

Last week, NBC reported that Trump had been privately itching for days to weigh in on Alabama Senate race to bash his former -- his first and former attorney general who is running to win his old seat back but aides convinced him to hold his fire. But Trump has still not gotten over Sessions` recusal from the Mueller investigation, which found that his campaign eagerly accepted Russia`s help and that he committed for any other politician but the president would be clear obstruction of justice to try and cover his tracks. Trump ultimately fired Sessions who before he was attorney general and Trump`s favorite punching bag was known mainly as a vehemently anti-immigration back bench senator whose top aide was an even more vituperative Stephen Miller.

In Alabama, where Doug Jones is known as a hero of the civil rights movement who is a prosecutor brought long-awaited justice to the men who killed four little girls by firebombing Birmingham`s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, Sessions was known as a mitigated faux of voting rights. Senator Elizabeth Warren famously tried and blocked by Mitch McConnell from reading into the record Coretta Scott King`s stinging rebuke of Sessions during his confirmation hearings, prompting the praise, nevertheless she persisted to enter the American lexicon.

Sessions is doing what one does as a Republican, to try and pitch for Alabama to rehire him, he`s sucking up to the president who does nothing but mock and torment him -- meaning he`s running to be the next Lindsey Graham or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

Meanwhile, the president who tried to pull the exact same Russia act on Joe Biden using Ukraine to do the dirty work seems more exercised about Sessions still hanging around than about Americans risk of falling victim to a global pandemic. Perfect.

Thanks for being with us. Don`t go anywhere.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now.

HAYES: New alarms from America`s top health officials.