(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of our beds are full. There are 12 patients waiting for admission to ICU which we have no beds so that means we`re pending transfer. Half of them are on intubated, on ventilators.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don`t enough nurses for these patients.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One nurse is not enough for one patient. That`s how sick they are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes patients don`t respond. And you don`t know why. And -- it`s hard. It`s hard to do that over and over and over again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes everything you do is just not enough and everyday things change.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like the worst is yet to come.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This virus is no joke. It`s something we still need to continue to take seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Beginning the show with a reminder of what life is like for medical workers on the frontline of this pandemic. We haven`t had to do that in a while when the frontlines are in New York. But here we are, we`ve got the spike. The surge is back and the frontline distress is back, as well.
Welcome to Tuesday. It is MEET THE PRESS DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd. And we begin tonight with what Dr. Fauci testified today is a quote, disturbing surge of infections in states across the country while President Trump is on his way to rally crowds in Arizona which is one of those hotspots, perhaps the hottest of all the hotspots right now.
The spiking cases in multiple states cannot be explained away by simply more testing as the president has suggested. Texas hit a record number of hospitalizations for 11 days in a row now, ii days in a row they have set a hospitalization record. South Carolina, eight days in a row of record hospitalizations. Arizona, also eight straight days of record hospitalizations. California just saw its highest number of hospitalizations since April 30th.
In Texas, Governor Abbott said the state is reporting a record number of cases today which has just officially did moments ago and he urged Texans to stay home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Because the spread is so rampant right now, there is never a reason for you to have to leave your home unless you do need to go out. The safest place for you is that you`re home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So those stay-at-home recommendations are a notable shift in tone for a governor who has defended his state`s reopening plans in some of the redder parts of Texas. Now, nationally cases are steadily rising and while some of that can be explained by a steady rise in testing, it doesn`t seem to give health experts like Dr. Fauci much comfort. Today he testified before the House alongside a number of one-time familiar faces from what used to be those coronavirus task force meetings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALERGY AND INFECTOUS DISEASE: In other areas of the country we are now seeing a disturbing surge of infections that looks like it`s a combination but one of the things is an increase in community spread and that`s something that I`m really quite concerned about that and you know that this has been something that`s been in the press over the past couple of days.
We were going down from 30,000 to 25,000 to 20,000 and now we saw the state about flat and now we`re going up. A couple of days ago there were 30,000 new infections. That`s very troublesome to me. Right now the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surging that we are seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona and in other states. They`re not the only ones that are having a difficulty. Bottom line, Mr. Chairman, it`s a mixed bag. Some good and some now we have a problem with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Dr. Fauci`s testimony was as you might expect sobering and at odds -- at times at odds with the president. While the administration has assured there will be no second wave. Dr. Fauci said we still haven`t got in the first wave under control yet. As President Trump holds campaign rallies, Dr. Fauci today plea with the public not to congregate in crowds, whether talking about protests or rallies.
As the president downplays the rising cases pointing to a declining rate in deaths which you can see on the scaled graphic t better show you those trends. Dr. Fauci today reminded the public that deaths lag considerably behind cases. And he also testified that he was concerned about the consequences of President Trump`s decision to cut ties with the World Health Organization.
And health officials continue to emphasize that they want more testing contradicting President Trump`s suggestion that testing should be scaled back because it`s making us look bad.
As I mentioned, President Trump this afternoon is in Arizona to tout his efforts to build a wall along the Southern Border. He will also be rallying students in Phoenix as he continues to ramp up his re-election campaign.
Joining me now, my NBC News colleagues, Kasie Hunt is following developments in Capitol Hill, Joe Fryer is in Phoenix, where the crowds are waiting for the president`s arrival. But I want to start on Capitol Hill. Because Kasie, we got today what we haven`t got in about 60 days which was a coronavirus task force briefing. It just happened to be done via a committee hearing in Congress since we haven`t had a public briefing in two months.
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, KASIE D.C.: That`s right, Chuck. And you know, they appeared here in person which we didn`t see when they testified a few months ago at the height of the pandemic in New York when they were also going before the cameras basically daily at about this hour of the day and the reality is while they were able to point to some successes and Dr. Fauci praised New York in both their you know, kind of overall flattening of the curve but also in how they are carefully reopening according to rules, he mentioned that.
We do have those examples to point to but that curve that you showed is where we are right now and it`s going in the wrong direction and Dr. Fauci said that the next few weeks are going to be absolutely critical to what happens next and it`s coming as you`ve reported and point out when the president essentially wants to move on to a re-election campaign and move on from the coronavirus when many people across the country are still starting to feel its affects perhaps for the first time very intensely.
And, you know, you saw it in Tulsa where there were so many people who perhaps were interested in signing up to attend the rally, but did not feel comfortable actually going to an indoor arena. And in some ways there`s an irony to the reality that the president`s own failures in the public health sphere may in fact mean he can`t run that re-election campaign that he is so desperately wants to.
The events that, you know, fed his approach to everything, the energy that he would get from those crowds, they can`t gather anymore so instead, of course, we have this event based on an issue that was a touchstone for him in 2016 that he always used in times of trying to energize his base of supporters when in fact our focus is somewhere completely different, Chuck.
TODD: And I`m curious, I saw one exchange with one House Republican who essentially wanted to get Dr. Fauci to say that everybody is trying their best in the White House I guess. He was not happy. He seemed to imply that Fauci was going out of his way to criticize the president and Fauci back- off on that, but I noticed there wasn`t -- that was an exception. There didn`t seem to be a lot of House Republicans trying to protect the president as much. As we had seen in previous years.
HUNT: I didn`t think so, Chuck. I think the coronavirus hearings have been an exception to this pattern of Republicans tending to stand up for the president in these kinds of hearings. I think you saw that on the Senate side, as well, with Lamar Alexander.
HUNT: This is an issue for members of Congress that crosses their roles as officials for a local area representative of their constituents and the national conversation. There aren`t as many issues that fit that quite so neatly as this one and I think for each member it was very important to be seen taking this seriously in front of the constituents that they will have to face in fall.
They have got hospitals in their district, doctors, they need PPE. A lot of them had been on the phone trying to scrounge some up in the past because of those kinds of problems. So yeah. I think the tone was different and for a good reason.
TODD: Well, Kasie Hunt, getting us started on Capitol Hill, I think the president underestimates that issue for fellow Republicans that are also on the ballot with him this cycle. Anyway, Kasie Hunt, thank you.
Joe Fryer, set the scene for us right now. Here, the president is arriving. The state is literally the hottest of hotspots in the country right now. We`ve got the hospitalization issue in Arizona which is bordering on a crisis situation so set the scene. Are you seeing people take precautions? What are you seeing on the ground there?
JOE FRYER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So right now the group, a lot of them students, but also some other adults have moved inside the church. They`re listening to other speakers right now, waiting for their keynote speaker, the president, who is on his way here to this mega church. We can tell you on the inside right now the vast, vast, vast majority of people are not wearing masks inside. They are all sitting close together.
So, it is a situation that public health officials aren`t going to be thrilled to see. Not much social distancing, very little mask wearing and of course that becomes a problem not just when people cough or sneeze but also if they are sitting and sort of chanting or yelling or anything like that.
We saw this sort of earlier today. We saw the lines forming, people in lines for hours waiting to get in. Very few people wearing masks then. We are under the impression now a lot of folks were that they would have to wear them on the inside. But so far we are seeing very few people doing just that.
Now, let`s set the scene here in Arizona as you said, this is one of the hottest hotspots in the country. In fact, just today the newest numbers came out, another record. Nearly 3,600 new cases were announced here today. Hospitalizations in the state, the ICU beds around 84 percent full right now. Another major problem right now is testing, a lot of folks say it is hard to schedule a test. If you go and wait in line for a test then you maybe have to wait hours to get it and then if you do get a test some people say the wait to get the results might be seven days or even longer.
So, testing remains a problem. All of this adds up to a situation where last week the governor said, OK, I will let cities and counties if they want to let people enforce mask rules they can do that and a number of cities and counties jumped in including Phoenix, including Maricopa County. Chuck, back to you.
TODD: Kasie Hunt and Joe Fryer, getting us started, both there. That testing issue is specifically in Arizona really rings awkward for a president who is talking about slowing testing down. I have a feeling Arizona residents are going to be scratching their heads on that one. Thank you both.
Here with the medical perspective, Dr. Richard Besser, he is a former acting director of the CDC. Dr. Besser, it seems as if, you tell me, it feels like, and even Dr. Fauci seemed to hint at this very gently, we are right back to where we started. It feels like we are right back where we were on, I don`t know, late March where cases are rising. Not as much testing. The only good news now is we have a lot more testing than we did then but it seems like our caseload is back up, our curves are in the wrong direction. Is there any way to turn this around?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE CDC: You know, Chuck, I think in many ways we are in a worst place than we were early on and what I mean by that is that we are in a situation where we are seeing incredibly mixed messages. We are hearing from some political leaders that there`s nothing to worry about. Go about your job. Get back to your social life.
And we are hearing from every public health leader in the country as well as a lot of political leaders that this is really serious. That we are in the early days of the pandemic and what we do as a nation, what we do individually, what we do collectively, is going to determine how many people die from this in the months to come and whether we`re able to get the economy up and running in a sustainable way.
And you`re seeing in different states, different approaches to this. You know? We are seeing in some northeast states, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts where the curves have really turned and the numbers are going down and we are going to need to see the proof of concept. Can they open up carefully and slowly?
Do they have the public health systems in place to test people, to track people, to provide the capability for everyone to isolate and quarantine in a way that you can allow people to have more activity? There will be some cases but those cases won`t turn into localized outbreaks or outbreaks that overwhelm the health care system.
TODD: How would you explain why the E.U. is basically flatten their curve almost down, I think there are 4,000 cases collectively and the E.U., the European Union in collectively, those nations, this is a very -- as close to an apples to apples as we can get between the United States and Europe, they spiked about a week before we did but we were on the same trajectories going up. And their roller coaster went down. Ours didn`t.
BESSER: Yeah. I mean, when you look at Europe and you break it down country by country, you will see some countries that have done better than others. Some countries that have had spikes and that have to readjust. What we are seeing in the United States though is the -- lack of leadership from the top that says we are in this together, building a national spirit, building an approach.
You would expect to see in the U.S. and it is appropriate that things are taking place on a different time course and different states depending on what`s going on locally. But what you don`t want to see have had happening is states that are seeing an increase in cases, not reacting very quickly. Telling people, hey, it is OK. Go about your business.
What you want to see is slow, careful opening, based on the best public health science so that you can react and adjust as you`re seeing what`s happening. I`m very worried though that even in the states that have seen a big downturn, that hasn`t been the engagement at the community level and in particular with communities of color to ensure that people who are going back to work have the protections that they need, that they`re able to get sick leave or time off if they need to quarantine.
We are going into this period of increased economic activity just at the time when the supplemental, unemployment insurance is running out. When eviction, protection is running out, when mortgage foreclosure protection is running out. So you`re going to see people who are in a position of having to decide, hey, I know I was exposed, but if I don`t go to work, I`m not putting food on the table and I may get evicted. And you want to make it as easy as possible for everyone in America to do the right thing to protect themselves, their families and their community.
TODD: You heard there the governor of Texas is not ready to institute a stay-at-home order but he`s recommending people stay at home. Right? Maybe that`s politics that`s preventing him from going all the way, but he is letting the local communities issue mask ordinances and things like that. What would you be advising the governor of Texas to do right now? He does seems to be the startled by the numbers. I mean, he is -- you could -- the shift in tone is pretty obvious to watch over the last 72 hours.
BESSER: You know, Chuck, if you recall early on, in the U.S. where there was somewhat delay in terms of telling people to go into a shelter in place and social distancing and the modeling work after that, every day really matters. So in a state that is seeing a dramatic increase, in states that are seeing their health care system, starting to feel that pressure, running out of beds, running out of ICU beds.
You have to take that really seriously. And one of the reasons for that is that there`s a tremendous lag between the increases in cases which states will see and hospitalizations and deaths from this disease. Because it takes a while from being exposed before you have symptoms, and then from having symptoms to severe symptoms that take you to the hospital and then being in the hospital it can be a couple weeks before you`ll either recover or succumb. So, you have to act really, really quickly we you see signs that things are moving in the wrong direction.
TODD: Dr. Richard Besser, former acting Director of the CDC, I had a lot more questions but I don`t have enough time. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your expertise with us.
BESSER: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: You know? Hopefully some warnings will get heeded.
Coming up, ahead of a big hearing tomorrow, a former prosecutor says Roger Stone got special treatment from the Department of Justice.
Plus, Democrats appear to be ready to block the Republicans` police reform bill tomorrow calling it woefully inadequate. I`ll ask Senator Dick Durbin if there`s a chance to find common ground.
And later, it`s Super Tuesday for progressives. Six states are holding primaries today. We will show you the races that could be big opportunities for progressive candidates.
TODD: Welcome back. Top Senate Democrats are making it pretty clear they will not be supporting the Republican police reform bill which is set for a test vote tomorrow calling the Republican bill quote woefully inadequate. Senators Schumer, Harris and Booker sent a letter to Majority Leader McConnell today saying in part, this bill is not salvageable and we need bipartisan talks to get to a constructive starting point. McConnell accused Democrats of playing politics even before that letter was sent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The American people expect us to do our jobs, discuss, debate and legislate on the subject that has captured the nation`s attention. Discussion, debate, votes on amendments, tomorrow we`ll find out whether even these modest steps are a bridge too far for our colleagues on the Democratic side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: With me now is Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois and a Senate Minority WHIP. Senator Durbin, good to see you, sir.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Good to see you, too, Chuck.
TODD: Let me start with tomorrow`s vote. Are you whipping that vote? Are you encouraging Democrats not to vote to allow the bill to be -- to allow debate to begin or the letter that Schumer sent speaks for itself and you`re not whipping?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you, the Democratic caucus operates a little differently than most. We had a discussion naturally, a telephone conference discussion that was pretty lengthy and there was some strong feelings expressed in it and at the end of it, members started stepping forward and saying we are going to stick with Booker and Harris on this. And more and more momentum was building for that.
I would say there`s a significant number that have joined me and Chuck and Cory Booker and Kamala Harris in saying we have to vote no on this motion to proceed. This is the wrong way to do a job which needs to be done.
TODD: Do you think that there are seven Democrats that might vote with the Republicans tomorrow?
DURBIN: I don`t know the answer to that, but I think that the momentum is growing in our caucus to stand together and here`s what it boils down to, Chuck. We realize and I bet you do, too. This is a unique moment in history. I have seen a lot of political activity and political movements. I have never seen what`s going on the streets across America and around the world.
George Floyd struck a chord with America and the rest of the world. Eight minutes and 46 seconds changed the way we look at the issue of race and law enforcement. And now we have to seize this once in a lifetime opportunity. Not to come through with a bill which doesn`t meet the needs and make real change but something that really is significant.
TODD: I guess the question`s going to be, Senator is, how do you answer to criticism says, you are not even letting them put forth what they`re going to put forth? You`ve got a House bill that you are going to like. I have a feeling that is likely to pass the House. Let`s -- I get the lack of trust with the amendment process these days with leadership. I understand that issue.
TODD: But you`re going to have to -- how do you answer the criticism that, you know what, you are not even letting the other side put their money where their mouth is, put there -- lay their cards on the table here, see the amendment process -- because you have multiple chances to negotiate. You have a conference committee, you can vote it down. Why not let the process start tomorrow?
DURBIN: The reason why the major civil rights groups and police reform groups all universally opposed the Republican amendment is they understand the process in the Senate. We do, too. You do, too, Chuck. When McConnell decides to calls something on the floor he decides whether there`s going to be an amendment offered. Ever heard of an amendment tree? He fills it.
DURBIN: And then when it comes to the amendments that are offered, he`ll decide which ones we get to vote on and the things are not going his way, he`ll decide to stop the bill or pull the bill. That is not the way to get this done. I have been involved in immigration. I have been involved in criminal justice reform. I`ve been in all in a lot of these others.
The most recent one, being the first step act under President Trump. Each and every one of them started off with a bipartisan basis, a handful of Senators, both political parties said this is what we believe in and now we are going to fight for it. And we are going to fend off amendments, fend of amendments. That will hurt us, we will accept those that don`t and we can move forward. That`s how the Senate really works when it comes to historic significance.
TODD: Right. If Senator McConnell said open amendment process, would your mind change on starting debate?
DURBIN: Even if an open amendment, if the starting debate is on as suggested today, a bill that has bipartisan backing to it. It can make a difference. I have been in those rooms where you sit down and literally spend hours at a time to try to find that common ground and once found it you said this is isn`t exactly what I want. It isn`t exactly what you want, but together, it`s a good offering. It will really get the job done.
Now, let`s stand together on a bipartisan basis for it. That`s how things should work if you`re dealing with real change. You know, I don`t want to miss this opportunity. This young generation that`s out in the streets, there are others too, many different ages, but the younger people out in the streets are looking at us, us grown-ups and saying, for goodness sake, we don`t want to live in the shadow of racism. Would you please change this country for the better? We can`t miss this opportunity with something that doesn`t get the job done.
TODD: So in some ways your decision not to let this bill advance, this is basically a lack of trust with the way the leadership has conducted business on the floor of the Senate?
DURBIN: And I won`t go into chapter and verse of how I became a disciple of that point of view, but I got plenty of evidence to back it up. I can tell you what it boils down to. I believe, I do sincerely believe that there are Senators, Democrats and Republicans, willing to sit down now and put together a bipartisan coalition and that is exactly what Chuck Schumer asked for today. I hope we can move on that. We ought to be doing this, we ought to be sparing future victims from what we`ve seen too often in these videotapes.
TODD: You have worked a lot -- I want to pivot to immigration here. The president wants to suspend these work visas and you worked hard on a H1B, this is a bipartisan, there`s a lot of support on the right side of the aisle on this. Lindsey Graham even gently tweeted criticism, I think, yesterday on the president`s decision. Is there anything you can legislatively do to tie the president`s hands on this?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you. Last Thursday when the Supreme Court reached the decision on DACA it was the worst day in Stephen Miller`s life. Stephen Miller, of course, is the president`s immigration consultant. He`s been a pretty tough character to work with. Over and over again he fends off people who want to come to this country and be part of the heritage of a country of immigrants and now he had a bad day last week and answered it this week with an effort to exclude even people who come to work here, who are desperately needed.
And you think to yourself, what are they trying to prove? We want to make sure that we have an immigration system that works, they just want to shut it down. And this move this week is they are trying to take at least some of the steam out of the criticism that was thrown at them for the way they handle DACA.
TODD: I understand that but is there anything you can do to legislatively stop him from doing this or no?
DURBIN: Nothing that would survive a president`s veto. So, let`s be honest about it. He is in charge. The election`s in four months and a few days if I remember correctly. The American people get the last word on the subject.
TODD: Yes. Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois, I appreciate you coming on sharing your views on both of those key topics and we`ll be watching tomorrow to see if anything moves. Thank you, sir.
DURBIN: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: Up next, some new allegations that Roger Stone got special treatment from the Justice Department.
Plus, I`ll talk to the former acting White House chief of staff who admits President Trump didn`t hire very well. Mick Mulvaney on the president, the administration and the fallout from the Bolton book will join me live in just a few minutes.
TODD: Welcome back. Assisting U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky, a prosecutor who worked on and then withdrew from the Roger Stone case, plans to testify to Congress tomorrow that his team was pressured by the "highest levels of the Department of Justice to argue for a lower sentence for Stone."
According to an opening statement released by the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon, he plans to tell the committee that "What I heard repeatedly was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president."
Joining me now for the latest is NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams. Pete, that`s a charge that had been whispered about, had been blind quoted about, had been sourced up. Now, we are hearing first-hand. What is the Justice Department saying?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, remember what the Justice Department said at the time was that the attorney general didn`t think that that initial sentencing recommendation accurately reflected similar sentences for similar offenses and he thought it was out of line.
Zelinsky doesn`t say in his testimony where this pressure was coming from. He said he heard about this from his supervisors, that the U.S. attorney who had been put into the acting position by Attorney General Barr, Tim Shea, feared the president was getting all sorts of heat from the Justice Department to water down the description of Stone`s crimes and call for a lesser sentence.
Now, interestingly, the sentence that the judge ultimately imposed of three and a third years was pretty much in line with the Justice Department`s revised sentence recommendations. Zelinsky`s initial had been something like seven or eight years.
But I think a couple of things are really interesting about this, Chuck. Number one is Zelinsky is stepping forward to say all of this, which is gutsy. He is still unlike one of the four prosecutors who stepped down, who quit the government altogether, Zelinsky is still a prosecutor. He is now at the U.S. attorney`s office in Maryland. But secondly, the Justice Department reviewed and completely cleared his testimony. That`s interesting, too.
TODD: It is. You have an update, by the way, an FBI investigation involving the NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace.
TODD: I don`t mean to take a bit of a turn here, but we got this breaking news and it`s -- well, it is important to get it out there. What do you got, Pete?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think it`s interesting because remember Bubba Wallace said he found this noose, so the FBI was investigating whether there was some sort of a hate crime here. Now, they say no, there wasn`t. And here is why. They say they have now concluded that that noose was in the specific garage, garage number four at NASCAR, as early as last October, October of 2019.
Bubba Wallace didn`t get assigned that garage until last week. And so the Justice Department says there`s no way that whoever put that noose there would have known that Bubba Wallace was ultimately going to be assigned that specific garage, so they say there`s no federal crime here.
TODD: Well, they came in pretty quick, and I guess they are now done with that investigation. Pete Williams --
TODD: -- with the latest there, our justice correspondent, thank you, sir. Much appreciated.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
TODD: And right after the break, we`ll speak with former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John Bolton is a stupid guy, and he was a guy with no heart. And I fired him, and I didn`t think it was a big deal. And I wasn`t around him very much. But what he did do is he took classified information, and he published it during a presidency. It`s, you know, one thing to write a book after, during. And I believe that he`s a criminal. And I believe, frankly, he should go to jail for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Welcome back. That was President Trump continuing his attack on his former national security adviser John Bolton as Bolton continues to attack him on his book tour. Bolton said this week that working in the Trump White House is "like living inside a pinball machine." He called President Trump`s stunningly uninformed and said his sole motivation is reelection.
As we have said, Bolton is now the fourth former top administration official to question the president`s fitness for office. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and former Chief of Staff John Kelly have all gone public with warnings about the president`s competency or character.
Joining me now is former acting White House chief of staff, former OMB director, Mick Mulvaney. His tenure at the White House overlapped quite a bit with John Bolton`s time as national security adviser. They had the competing offices in the West Wing, two of the few with a fireplace in them, if I`m not mistaken. Mr. Mulvaney, thank you for coming on. Good to see you, sir.
MICK MULVANEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET, FORMER ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Chuck, it is good to see you. How are you been?
TODD: Oh, you know, locked up like the rest of us here a little bit. Let me start quickly. I want to get to the Bolton book. But I want to start with the virus. You were chief of staff basically in the early days of the start of this pandemic.
TODD: You got -- you look back on some things that you wish you`d have done sooner, you wish the administration had done. Have you done your own after action report and feel as if there are some things you would have done differently now?
MULVANEY: Chuck, it is easy to sort of look back and say would you do things differently because the information was changing so rapidly. Keep in mind, from early on, the only metric we really have, the only measuring stick was the previous coronavirus as we had dealt with in the recent past which was SARS and MERS.
These are very, very deadly diseases, much deadlier, by the way, a higher fatality rate than coronavirus, but they weren`t nearly as contagious. We didn`t know that at the time. What we thought was if we can keep coronavirus, COVID, out of the United States, we can really prevent serious difficulties here, so we focused mostly on what they called containment.
And then it wasn`t until the virus got to Italy that we learned more about how easy it was to move the virus, to contract the virus, and that`s when we knew we had difficulties with containment and to switch to mitigation.
Now, fast forward, here we are three, four months into it, and the CDC is telling us now that it is not as easy to get the disease, for example, from hard surfaces, it is not as easy to get it from somebody who`s asymptomatic.
So the information is changing. So, yeah, easy to look back and say, yeah, we would do something different if we knew then what we know now. But given what we had at the time, I thought we did a really, really good job on trying to contain it and then trying to mitigate it.
TODD: You look at our curve and the E.U.`s curve. It is hard to sit there and say it looks like we have done a good job.
MULVANEY: Look, we don`t have the same type of culture we have, we don`t have the same type of society they have. You got -- keep in mind, public health in this nation is driven by the states. We don`t have a sort of national public health system. We do, but it`s administered and run by the states, which is why you`re seeing so many different policies across the 50 states.
That is part of the way we are structured. So you`re going to get a different result here than you would say in China which has an authoritarian approach or even in some European countries that have a more centralized approach. Look, am I happy with the number of people who have the disease? Absolutely not. Do I think we are doing a better job?
Keep in mind that we looked so closely, Chuck, at the numbers of people who are infected. Really, that`s not the critical metric. The critical metric is do we have enough health care capacity to deal with the folks who need to go to the hospital? It looks like if we get this disease but get decent health care, the fatality rates go down dramatically.
The places where we had difficulty, the places where there has been difficulties all over the world, is when there`s too many people getting it at one time to where they overwhelm the health care system and can`t get the care they need. In that case, the fatality rates go dramatically up.
Look, it`s a very dynamic situation. Everybody, you know, hopes that we can do better, wishes we can do better, is working to do better. I don`t think it is fair to look back and say, oh, you made this mistake, you made that mistake, just because the information changes so rapidly.
TODD: Let me move to the Bolton book. You made an interesting comment late last week when you said if there`s one criticism of the president you thought was valid, he didn`t hire very well. Well, it struck me as sort of like I thought that was his chief pitch as a candidate. I want to play a bit of sound bite from the president and as a candidate talking about his hiring process. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. TRUMP: I know the best people.
We are going to get the best people.
I know guys that are so good.
Look, I have the best people in the world.
The best people.
The best people in every profession.
We have to get the best people. We need to get the best and the finest. And if we don`t, we`ll be in trouble for a long period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Look, I can go through the statistics here: Four chiefs of staff, three secretaries of defense, four national security advisers. Why is the hiring process with this president so difficult?
MULVANEY: Well, I mean, keep in mind, Barack Obama had four chiefs of staffs in his first term as well. The average life expectancy of chief of staff is not that long in first term. I think four in the second term. But it`s a tough job.
Anyway, that is not your question. Look, I think if there`s -- if you look back at those comments of the president when he was running for office, I think what the president didn`t know is Washington, D.C., and hiring good business people is one thing.
People in Washington, D.C. are different, and he learned the hard way with John Bolton. I give the president credit for this. He was not afraid to hire people that he knew would disagree with him. It is one of the reasons he hired me to run the Office of Management and Budget, because he knew I was more fiscally conservative than he was. He welcomed that. He welcomed that difference of opinion.
Where I think he made a mistake was not realizing that Washington, D.C. is full of people who are not really interested engaging in a debate. They are interested in just sort of winning an argument. That is where John Bolton was. We had a lot of folks who had different opinions than the president.
They were going in the Oval Office, they make their case, the president will make the ultimate decision, and then almost all of us would line up and said, OK, I had my say, I participated in the debate, I will now be able to go forward in a good conscious and support what the president has decided, except Bolton.
Bolton is never willing to accept and still isn`t. He is still continuing to undermine the president today because he doesn`t like the president`s policies. He wants to be more militarily aggressive. He would love to be at war with Iran, I think. I think he would like to have military intervention with Venezuela, maybe in Korea.
The president doesn`t want any of those things. Instead of going along with the president after having his say, Bolton continued to try and undermine him. I think that is the big difference and that is what I say -- what I mean when I say --
TODD: When did you know that Bolton was a bad fit?
MULVANEY: Before I was chief of staff. I think Bolton got there in April of `19. I was the chief of staff effectively December of `19. John was tough to work with. You know, Sarah Huckabee Sanders`s book is out. She details the things accurately.
MULVANEY: She said he was tough to work with. He really was. He thought and many times, Chuck, that he was the secretary of state. And at times, he thought he was the president. And that`s just tough. That was the joke in the building, you know, President Bolton. That`s what a lot of folks refer to him. He was tough to work with. He really was.
Now, again, that`s not a problem as long as at the end of the day you`re willing to sort of rally around the president`s decisions. But John could never do that. His ego is too big to follow the president down any road that John Bolton would not have gone down if he was president.
TODD: In fairness, you have been around this town a long time. The book on John Bolton was out. John Bolton was a guy whose views were well-known. He`s a process guy. And it seems to me the most generous thing I could say about the disagreements between I think you and Bolton are this. He seems to be a process guy to the "T." Dot every "I," cross every "T."
And the Trump White House doesn`t do that. How much of it was that do you think the breakdown with the relationship between the president and Mr. Bolton?
MULVANEY: In fact, I would disagree with that entirely. John was a John process guy, whatever. He would do what he wanted to do. He would not participate in the broader process. I think that`s a major criticism of his. But look, I wasn`t involved in his hiring. I was surprised when he was hired. You know I`m not an interventionist neoconservative (ph) like he is. I was surprised by the hiring.
But again, the president gives him credit, always welcoming people, encouraging people who disagree with him to join the team. So it was Bolton who is not able to conform his behavior to be a good part of the team, not the president`s hiring.
TODD: We have never seen a sitting president have a former secretary of defense, a former chief of staff, a former national security adviser, and a former secretary of state question their fitness for office. That`s a big hurdle to go into re-election with, is it not?
MULVANEY: Oh, you know, I think it`s much more an inside the beltway kind of discussion. I don`t think most voters really care what Secretary Tillerson thinks about the president or honestly quite honestly vice versa. We pay a lot of attention to it because we`re from Washington, D.C. You`re from Washington, D.C. I`m back home in South Carolina thankfully.
But, you know, it makes for a good news story for a couple days, something interesting. But I don`t think it drives an election one way or the other nor should it.
TODD: Curious. Are you done with elective politics?
TODD: No, you`re not running again? You are done?
MULVANEY: No. I`m too short to be president and not interested in being governor of South Carolina. So, I`m looking forward to going back to the private sector. Be in Washington every now and then but mostly back in South Carolina.
TODD: All right. Mick Mulvaney, I`m going to leave it there. Appreciate you coming on, sharing the campaign`s perspective here, and your perspective on Mr. Bolton. Good to catch up and hope to have you on again, sir.
MULVANEY: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: You got it. Up next, it`s a Super Tuesday of sorts, for progressives that is. Steve Kornacki is at the big board with a primary result forecast that we`ll get the results for some time next month the way ballots are going to be counted. We`ll see. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. You know what we like to say around here. If it`s Tuesday, someone is voting somewhere. Well, the somewhere today is in six states. It`s something of perhaps a progressive Super Tuesday. It could be a big day for some progressive candidates.
Progressive Democratic candidates in places like Kentucky and New York have the opportunity to score some victories over so-called moderate or establishment candidates, including the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Eliott Engel.
Let us bring in NBC News national political correspondent Steve Kornacki at the big board. So Steve, this is probably the biggest progressive day we`ve had this cycle right now perhaps, seeing since it is New York.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely, and also happening now with the Black Lives Matter movement taking hold all over the country. In fact, take a look at this question from a poll within the last week. This was asking voters in each party, in the presidential race.
To give you a sense of where folks are in these parties right now, how important will race relations be to your vote for president? You see among Democrats, basically nine out of 10 Democrats right now are saying they consider race relations extremely or very important. That`s in the presidential race but it gives you a sense perhaps of the mood within the party right now.
You think back to 2018, two years ago. Remember the "Me Too" movement was really taking hold back then. And what happened in democratic primaries? A record number of female candidates were nominated. I think one question here is: Will this -- added to among Democratic voters -- translate into more success for African-American candidates?
So, for instance, take a look at what is going on in Kentucky. We got polls closing in a big chunk of Kentucky in just a few minutes. Here`s the democratic Senate primary. Charles Booker, state representative, is running against Amy McGrath. The winner of this takes on Mitch McConnell in the general election.
This was a race a couple months ago. It looked like Amy McGrath would certainly be the Democratic nominee. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, really catching fire here, Booker has gotten a lot of national attention. He started to raise some money, got some big endorsements, seems to have a lot of momentum. Interesting test here today in Kentucky.
By the way, we`ve been talking about this all day here, mail-in voting. These are the stats the secretary of state just gave us. They`ve already got 560,000 ballots. They were received in the mail. They had another 100,000 plus that were cast in person today, 100,000 in person early.
You add these all up. This goes way past already Kentucky. More votes cast than in the 2019 governor`s primary than in the 2016 democratic presidential primary there. More to come still. The winner, as we say, of the Senate primary, though, it is still Kentucky. It is a presidential election year. Donald Trump won the state basically two to one over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
And then you get to New York, couple congressional primaries there, House races. Eliot Engel, three-decade incumbent, facing the challenge of his life. We are keeping an eye on that one. Also, Yvette Clarke nearly lost two years ago, now a rematch. We are keeping an eye on that, as well. So, yeah, interesting test here, Chuck, from the progressive left to watch tonight.
TODD: Absolutely. Hopefully, we`ll get results maybe next week at how things are going --
KORNACKI: The new normal.
TODD: -- these days with our new counting and new ballots. I know. Kentucky used to be such a fast-counting state.
TODD: Anyway, Steve Kornacki, thank you. Kentucky, you always count on Kentucky. They got 100 percent for everybody. Well, on our way to break, we want to show you what the scene looks like in Phoenix, Arizona where the president is about to rally a crowd, mostly compromised of young people. But, honestly, what really stands out from this indoor event is that you see virtually no social distancing and virtually no one wearing masks.
A number of high level Arizona officials are expected to attend this event. And remember, Arizona is currently arguably the hottest spot in the country. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Well, that`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END