Dr. Fauci TRANSCRIPT: 7/13/20, MTP Daily

Guests: Jerry Demings, Chad Gestson

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just saw a patient and admitted a patient who was 26 years old with COVID. Doesn`t look good. I think he`ll be fine but he`s requiring lots of oxygen. We are at capacity meaning that we have no beds so he`ll probably stay in the E.R. Where at over 100 percent capacity if that`s possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think we hit that peak at all so I think we are going to be seeing increased numbers. We have been trying to avoid using the ventilator, doing all these other therapies to try to get them better and unfortunately it hasn`t worked for us as of right now and so we have had to put the patients on the ventilator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not having a definitive treatment for this disease and, you know, we are doing everything that we know what to do and we`re still dying from it. It is tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: And once again, we begin this show with sound from medical workers on the front lines of this pandemic. Welcome to Monday. It is MEET THE PRESS DAILY. I`m Katy Tur in for Chuck Todd.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that cases would spike and the death toll would rise to disturbing levels if our country and its leaders did not take control of these outbreak. They have not. And now cases are exploding. On Friday the U.S. just reported a record 70,000 plus cases in a single day. Hospitalizations are soaring as you can see. The number of deaths across the country is going up and the president is deploying disinformation tactics and treating public health experts like they`re campaign opponents.

Florida shattered its single day record over the weekend reporting more than 15,000 cases yesterday. The biggest single tally of any state in this pandemic. If Florida were a country, they`d have the fourth fastest growing case rate in the entire world. Deaths as you can see are going up.

Governor Ron DeSantis is about to hold a press briefing in Miami as he faces criticism for downplaying the threat. We`ll be keeping a close eye on that. As cases and hospitalizations also surge in California, the state`s Governor Gavin Newsom has now ordered every county to close indoor restaurants, bars and movie theaters.

Texas broke its single day case record over the weekend, as well. Hospitalizations are soaring there. Deaths are climbing there, as well. The Governor is threatening another stay-at-home order. The military is deploying hundreds of medical personnel to that state. Since Friday roughly 20 states have reported a record number of cases and/or hospitalizations. This country`s testing capacity once again has been overloaded. Hospitals are overwhelmed in a number of hotspots. Protective equipment is running short. Morgues are full.

And as I mentioned but it bears repeating the White House is deploying disinformation tactics and treating public health experts like their campaign opponents. This afternoon, the president continued to down played the crisis as a result of a surge in testing. This morning he retweeted a conspiracy theory claiming that the CDC and doctors are lying to the public to try and hurt his re-election chances.

His aides are trying to discredit Dr. Fauci with campaign style opposition research dumps. Just let that sink in for a moment. The White House is dropping oppo on the nation`s top infectious disease expert amid a raging pandemic. Our NBC news team has the latest on the coronavirus from Washington and around the nation.

Joining me first from the White House is Monica Alba, also Erin McLaughlin who on Los Angeles, Priscilla Thompson in Houston Texas, and Sam Brock outside of Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Monica, starting with you, again this research, this oppo research dump on Anthony Fauci, what does this signal to you about the White House`s strategy for this pandemic going forward as hospitalizations are on the rise, as cases are on the rise, as red states are now grappling with this disease?

MONICA ALBA, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It was a remarkable document Katy, in and of itself that was sent to reporters, but also because of what it contains because if you zoom out and look at what a lot of the timeline showed of the president, the vice president, others in the administration, they were making almost identical comments to what Dr. Fauci was saying in the early days of the pandemic as again we all learned collectively what really was contributing to the virus spread before we knew all of the details.

So, they are trying to paint an incomplete picture which is perhaps the greatest metaphor for what they are doing in terms of the entire health crisis. We saw the president at an event earlier today that had nothing to do with the pandemic, but he did take some questions and he was asked specifically about his relationship with Dr. Fauci and he said that they were not at odds, that he likes him, that he has taken his advice but at times he has disagreed with him.

Of course, we`ve seen Dr. Fauci never really hesitate to contradict the president with he makes an inaccurate claim, but what`s notable here is that this is a significant escalation from the White House taking time and resources to try to undercut and diminish the presence of the nation`s top infectious disease expert Dr. Fauci. They said he will continue to be advising the president, that the president hasn`t lost confidence in him, but he has taken the sort of backseat role where now he is reaching Americans in a far different way than the president is.

Dr. Fauci continues to do media interviews, but you don`t see him appearing here from the White House. He hasn`t briefed the president specifically on the pandemic in more than two months and he hasn`t come face to face with him we`re told since early June and it comes as the president is trying to paint this rosier picture overall of what is happening.

Press Secretary Kayleigh Mcenany earlier today from the podium said, in the next two to four weeks, they are just going to continue doing what they`re doing and when pressed on what that means specifically especially in these spiking cases and red states as you mentioned, she didn`t have much of an answer beyond we are just going to keep doing what we`re doing and as you see there that polling that Americans really have turned to Dr. Fauci as a more trusted source of information especially as compared to the president. Katy?

TUR: Monica, Dr. Fauci is a member of this administration. In some ways, he is the top infectious disease expert, he is a member of the president`s coronavirus task force. He is one of the president`s own experts. What does it say that he is treating him and the CDC and just wearing a mask, although he wore one over the weekend, but generally, wearing a mask and not opening schools and taking safety precautions as a political opponent, all of those things as politically detrimental to the president of the United States?

ALBA: It really shows you where the president`s mind is on this and that`s on the November election and basically he`s resting his hopes for a second term. He believes on this and that`s why he is trying to make such a pivot for the economy and when Dr. Fauci has come in and said we need to slow down, we need to be careful, here are the things we need to do, the president essentially cast him as Dr. Gloom or somebody who`s been so extreme and said please don`t listen to him, listen to me, I want to be able to get schools to reopen.

You see a very, very clear dynamic here where Dr. Fauci relies on science and data and his decade`s long expertise, serving presidents of both parties, and the president is very clearly focused on what happens four months from now and he`s making his pitch to re-election voters essentially saying don`t listen to the doctors and health experts who are painting a darker picture of what`s to come. Listen to me, trust me. That`s a pretty risky political bet heading into re-election in November, Katy.

TUR: You cannot insult or even ignore an infectious virus into submission. It is not a political opponent. Even if you try to treat it that way. Let`s go to Erin McLaughlin who is in California. Erin, California is such an interesting case, because it seems like that state had a handle on things. They went through a lockdown, they came out of a lockdown and now lockdowns are going back into effect. Tell me what Governor Gavin Newsom outlined today.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, once again, Governor Gavin Newsom taking drastic action, ordering certain businesses closed across some 30 counties, representing around 80 percent of the population of California including hair salons, gyms and houses of worship, taking a further step for the whole of the state ordering indoor dining shut down as well as bars and he`s pointing to some really grim and disturbing statistics here in California. Hospitalizations are on their way up, some 6,485 hospitalized due to COVID-19 and a positivity rate of 7.7 percent and that is climbing, clearly authorities here in California are struggling to get the situation under control.

TUR: Another place where they are struggling to get it under control is Texas. That`s where we find Priscilla Thompson. Priscilla, the Governor has come out, he`s issued a mask mandate. Hospitalizations are still on the rise. Deaths are still on the rise there. I`m wondering, are you hearing anything about Greg Abbott deciding to go to a lockdown the way that California is deciding to shut restaurants and bars and indoor activities that could contribute to this virus? What is on the table right now in Texas?

PRISCILLA THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Katy, Governor Abbott has sort of softened to the idea of another lockdown if he says things don`t turn around here but the one thing that we are seeing here is federal resources that are on the way. Today one of those urban augmentation task force actually touched down on the ground here in Houston. It is an 85- member unit and we just heard from the Houston health authority that they were scouting locations today.

It looks like there are going to be taking over a wing of one of the medical facilities here in Houston setting up anywhere from 35 to 50 beds in order to help relieve some of the strain on the hospitals here and that is in addition the Governor earlier today announcing that four more of those task forces are going to be coming to Texas and deployed somewhere in the state. So, that will bring the total to six of those augmentation task forces that are here working to support medical professionals in addition to hundreds of medical support staff that are coming in from the military, all to help as the spike in these cases is seen.

And, you know, one thing that I want to point out is that those resources are really needed very urgently here in Houston. Today the state of Texas reported around 5,600 new positive cases which is lower than what we were seeing last week but more than 1,500 of those cases came from the city of Houston. And so that is why you hear the mayor here calling on the Governor to issue a statewide order or to give him the power to issue a citywide order, but for now, the mayor said he has not receive this response from the Governor on that ask and so, those requests are going largely unanswered. Katy?

TUR: Continuing down the sliding scale or on urgent action from Governor Newsom to Governor Abbott, let`s now go to Governor DeSantis and Florida where we find Sam Brock, so Governor DeSantis, Sam, has been criticized for not taking this seriously, for being overly flippant about the virus, from mocking blue states like New York as they were dealing with the outbreak.

Florida recorded over 15,000 positive cases on Sunday. That`s the most of any state anywhere during this pandemic. We are going to hear from him in just a few minutes. Is there any expectation that he`s going to change his tune and start issuing statewide orders? At least to wear a mask or orders that might roll back some of the reopenings?

SAM BROCK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: At this point, Katy, if you were to change his tune it would be a complete 180. And I couldn`t help but being struck when Erin was talking a second ago, about the fact that Governor Newsom in California waving the red flag when there at a positivity rate of 7.7 percent.

In Florida right now, 20.7 percent last Thursday that has slowly climbed down and as we cite this (inaudible) numbers. The only good news from that is they have done a lot more tests and we are down to about 12.9 percent now, but that is so far beyond what anywhere else in the country is acceptable, deemed acceptable right now that you would expect there might be some more advance measures, whether that is a lockdown, a statewide mandate for wearing masks, something in that ilk.

Now, Miami-Dade County, Katy, is the epicenter of what`s really the global epicenter right now. The ICU capacity in Miami-Dade, 97.6 percent. There positivity rate is 26 percent over the two weeks. Which is to say, if you tested someone in Miami over the last couple of weeks better than one in four chance that they are going to test positive. We are waiting to hear what Governor DeSantis may or may not do. He has close down bars. That as far as he`s been willing to go so far. Could there be more advance action, could there be whispers of a statewide lockdown? Unlikely but we`ll have to see.

TUR: Sam, you are standing outside of Disney World. It is reopened but at the same time Disney in Hong Kong is shutting back down again as a few new cases are coming out in that place. What is happening with Disney World? Do they feel comfortable staying open? Why are they staying open? As Florida recorded 15,000, more than 15,000 new cases just on Sunday alone.

BROCK: Yes. What a juxtaposition between the rest of the country and Florida and now Disney World opening up in amid of this surge as you point out in Hong Kong they`re closing down Disneyland starting on July 15. What`s going on as far as Disney`s perspective is concern, we have reached out to them a half dozen times, so far, have not received a single response on the number of visitors they`ve seen over the weekend.

On criticisms about opening right now. You are only left to speculate about the fact that this company was probably making its plans well before Florida saw this immense surge of 75,000 cases a week really, Katy, for the last couple of weeks.

I can tell you this, the population right now in there is greatly reduced. They have an online reservation system, so they are capping the number of people that can be in the park at any given time. We have talked to families who said firsthand, I looked around and I could walk around this entire park and barely bump into anyone. So, they are keeping the numbers down, but why still open at this point? Perhaps it is the financial aspect of billion dollars every single month that it remain closed. That could be part of it but Disney has yet to give us a response on where their psychology for this is at.

TUR: 15,000 cases on Sunday. 12,000 cases today. 52 cases, just 52 in Hong Kong and Disney shut down. Monica Alba, one more question to you and I will ask you on the subject of schools. We saw Betsy DeVos over the weekend defending schools reopening across the country. There`s news out of California that San Diego and Los Angeles are going to have all online schools, there are other counties in this country that are considering the same thing for the fall.

As this virus surges again, is the White House going to soften its position on mandating from their podium even though they don`t have the authority to do it but from demanding that schools reopen across the country?

ALBA: If you ask the president, Katy, as a reporter did in that event earlier today the answer is, yes, schools must reopen. He didn`t leave a lot of wiggle room there, but notably earlier today, Kayleigh Mcenany, when she was press on this said we defer to localities in terms of what they think is best in their own school district. That`s a change from last week when we saw the White House saying in effect, we don`t like the current CDC guidance on reopening schools, so we are going to offer our own guidelines.

It`s unclear whether the White House still intends to do that. Our read from talking to officials here today is they may lead and may say that in terms of localities they`re OK with a North Dakota making a different decision than a Florida. That was a shift in position over the last few days but the president is firm on this and he was presented with a question that was pretty simple and on the mind of probably millions of parents in this country which is, if you`re worried about sending your child back to school in the fall what should you do?

The president answered in just a couple of sentences with his stance, schools must reopen. Schools must reopen. He doesn`t seem to be seeing any hybrid approach or any middle ground. His position on this is really clear as educators and lawmakers and localities have to make decisions in the next few weeks about what the fall semester might look like, Katy.

TUR: Lots of schools start up in mid-August. Monica Alba, Erin McLaughlin, Priscilla Thompson, Sam Brock, thank you, everybody.

And ahead, much more on the raging coronavirus crisis in Florida. Again, more than 12,000 new cases and infections today after this weekend`s 15,000 case count. I`ll talk with one Florida mayor about the rush to respond.

Also, later, the growing bipartisan backlash over President Trump`s commutation of Roger Stone. Could this be a sign of a true rift between the White House and Republican lawmakers?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back. As I mentioned earlier, coronavirus cases are surging across the country and the White House is taking the extraordinary step of trying to discredit the nation`s top infectious disease doctor. The White House sent NBC news and other news outlets a file of what is essentially opposition research on Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the coronavirus task force and the man who is guided the country through pandemics under six presidents.

It comes at a time when the nation is struggling to control the virus, regularly setting records for new infections and as deaths across the country start to tick up and as a Trump loyalist, he`s former acting chief of staff admits the U.S. has a testing problem. Pulmonologist, pandemics consultant and MSNBC medical contributor Dr. Vin Gupta joins me now.

Dr. Gupta, good to have you. There`s a real testing crisis across the country. In New York, it`ll take you seven days to get the results of a test. Mick Mulvaney was complaining about a five to seven day wait for his son and that his daughter didn`t even qualify for a test. In Arizona, seven days at least, Texas the same, California. There is a testing crisis part of that has to do with Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, not being able to process tests as quickly as it needs to. What do we do to fix that logjam?

DR. VIN GUPTA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR, PULMONOLOGIST AND A PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT: You know, unfortunately, Katy, there`s just not a lot we can do. At a minimum it takes 72 hours in a best-case scenario that Quest test to finalize the result, 72 hours. We are seeing five to seven days and in some cases 27 days I have heard. Makes contact tracing utterly useless.

The larger question here is if we are going to make good on Secretary DeVos claim that schools going to be reopen and children are not at risk of schools reopen, then we need point of care testing, Katy. And that we think that might actually happen by the end of the year, that`s the type of test where you get a swab of your nose or spit into a tube and you get result within 30 minutes.

The problem no one in the administration is messaging on that type of test because that test is not available right now at scale. It is available if you`re a major league baseball or if you`re NBA, but not school districts and that requires money. It will be available commercially by the end of the year that school districts need help.

So, Kayleigh Mcenany saying hey, by the way you take look at each locality does their own thing, that`s great but they still need federal support, they need federal money to support testing and then also to build out space, to build out all the infection control barriers that we need in schools for a safe return.

TUR: If money doesn`t get to schools and it looks increasingly unlikely that the money they need is not going to get to them, we don`t really prioritize education as other nations do with our funding, is there something that the nation can do right now to make it safer in four to six weeks` time when schools do start to reopen? If everybody in the country started to wear a mask tomorrow, could we be in a place where the curves flatten and decrease in places where they`re currently spiking and we don`t see any more new spikes?

GUPTA: Yes. But that`s going to require -- I hate to say this. That`s going to require no more bandanna masks. A study that just came out since suggesting bandana and (inaudible) red t-shirts in front of your face don`t do a darn thing. I have seen way too many to count. So that means we all have to comply with the actual rules and needs to be enforcement, Katy.

Not just, let`s mandate masks but there`s going to be a fine if you don`t wear a mask. That`s number one. Number two, we just need, Florida is lockdown. These hotspots need to lock down just like Cuomo lockdown New York when frankly New York was not in as worst in the position as Florida. Governor DeSantis, did you hear his press conference? If you don`t have the words lockdown, at least shutting down restaurants, common sense things, pausing on a fall semester for school reopenings.

Something is wrong. These hotspots need strong measures, Katy. They need strong leadership. I don`t think schools are going to be ready for reopening by the fall. And I don`t know a single teacher that wants to enter a schoolroom by the fall, because we don`t have the right precautions in place.

TUR: Why is it that we as a country are not taking this virus and the necessary precautions and steps personally as populations of other country? I know we are a much larger nation but why aren`t we taking it as seriously as people in Italy are taking it, or as people in Hong Kong are taking it, why are we out here and having a fight about what precautions are necessary? Having a fight about whether or not this is a hoax, having a fight about whether or not to believe the nation`s top infectious disease expert should be listened to? Why are we having such a hard time here?

GUPTA: If I had the answer to that, Katy, my gosh, I would say it right now. Here`s what I will say. The admiral over the weekend, Giroir basically stating that Dr. Fauci doesn`t have a wide enough conception of the public good. What is he really saying, Katy? He is basically saying that there`s a different way to think of the American public good in being normalized, our economy, reopen schools that isn`t through the lens of contending with this outbreak once and for all.

As though Dr. Fauci doesn`t have that interest in mind. There is this notion, this deranged demented view of individual freedom where I get it. I get it all the time. If I said you need to wear a mask, it`s my body, my choice. There is this deranged view of individual freedom, it`s manifested through people saying they are not going to wear a mask, because of mixed messaging from the top. People saying that Dr. Fauci doesn`t have a wide enough view of the public good. That is so distorted reality.

The only way through this, the only way to normalize life is to contend with this virus head on. That`s the only interest of everybody in public health, everybody who wears a white coat but that rhetoric has been deranged and unfortunately twisted.

TUR: You know, I`ll say this. New York went through a multi-month lockdown, it was painful. Things are starting to reopen here. You can go to outdoor dining, you can walk into a shop, if you maintain social distance and you wear a mask. Throughout New York City on Saturday for the first time we reported zero COVID deaths for the first time in a while, at least. Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you so much for joining us today.

Coming up ahead, the mayor of Orange County, Florida, on the urgent response to the growing virus crisis.

And later, are Phoenix schools ready to open? Again, I`ll ask the superintendent in the five high schools about his plan for his students this fall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back. Florida Governor DeSantis was heckled by one angry resident during an update briefing just moments ago. The man was saying you are doing nothing to him as disturbing COVID-19 numbers come out of the state today.

Governor DeSantis is still holding that news conference but so far not announced any new updates or new protocols for the state. This as Florida has shattered records, reporting over 15,000 new deaths -- I`m sorry, new cases over the weekend, 15,000 new cases over the weekend. That is the most of any state at any time during the pandemic.

Today, that number is at 12,624. The state has surpassed numbers reported by New York during the height of its battle with the coronavirus back in April. And all of this as Disney World has opened for visitors in Orlando and the debate around school reopening also continues.

Joining me now is the Mayor of Orange County in Florida, Jerry Demings. Welcome to MEET THE PRESS DAILY, Mayor Demings. Thank you for being here. Governor DeSantis so far, according to our logs, hasn`t yet announced any major changes in protocol for the state, 15,000 new cases on Sunday, over 12,000 today. What would you be putting in place if you could ask the governor to change something right now?

MAYOR JERRY DEMINGS (D), ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, first, let me say good evening to you, Katy. We are always happy to be on the show. Here within Orange County, we are both excited and concerned at the same time regarding the reopening of Disney. I say that we are excited because it had been a long time coming.

Of course, Disney closed its doors back in mid-March, and so they have had a four-month period of time now to really evaluate and come up with a very robust plan of how to keep their guests safe as they reopen.

But I`m also concerned because it`s at a time when the numbers here within our county have increased significantly. We have about 19,000 cases of positive coronavirus reported in our community. To put that in perspective, Miami-Dade County has over 60,000 cases. But the positive thing here is that we have not exceeded our capacity within our hospitals. We are nowhere close to that in fact.

And so because of that, I`m reasonably confident that given the protocols that Disney has put in place, we should be able to have a successful outcome. Of course, we are living during the era of a pandemic, none of us have been at this relative place before, so it`s really a living lab, it is an experiment.

If there`s any place on planet earth that should be able to get it right, I can tell you it is Disney. They have an abundance of technology and engineers and others who have looked at this and consulted with our local health offices to be able to reopen in a safe manner. So we remain highly optimistic at this point.

In addition, we have several other theme parks that opened here locally prior to Disney. We had Universal Studios of Orlando, Sea World that opened, and we have not been able to track an outbreak to either one of those re-openings.

So that`s good news for us. So we`re going to move forward. But I want you to understand that we are going to be monitoring the numbers very closely here and if there are some adjustments that need to be made, that I`ll be the first to make those adjustments.

TUR: Mr. Mayor, can you hear me? I know you are having an issue before. Can you hear me now?

DEMINGS: I can hear you now.

TUR: OK, great. Florida as a state just surpassed over the weekend 15,000 new cases. That`s more than New York ever did. When New York was at the height of this crisis, the state entirely shut down from New York City all the way up north to upstate to Buffalo. It was shut down -- the entire state -- because there is free movement within the state as there are other states, as well.

Florida has more cases than New York did during its height. You don`t have enough testing in Florida to be able to actually tell where the virus is. You certainly can`t do contact tracing.

I`m a little confused at how you`re defending the reopening of a theme park in the middle of a pandemic when the state has no handle on the spread of this virus, especially considering that in Hong Kong, there are 52 new cases and Disney has shut down there.

DEMINGS: I can tell you two things that we primarily look at here. One is the qualitivity (ph) rate of the new cases. Number two, again, the hospital capacity. So what we are not seeing is that people are very critically ill, even of those who are testing positive for the case. They tend to have minor symptoms and primarily they`re asymptomatic.

So that is a significant difference, I think, than what you saw back in New York at the height of the surge during that period of time. The hospital system had been overrun. There were many, many more --

TUR: There are a number of hospitals in Florida that are talking about how they don`t have ICU capacity, Mr. Mayor. There are a number of hospitals in Florida that are worried about running out of beds. Death is a lagging indicator as we have seen across the country. Deaths are upticking right now and you`re defending the opening of a theme park.

Also, just to be clear, you might not have a ton of cases in Orange County but it`s not only Orange County residents that are going to Walt Disney World. It is people from all over the state and frankly all over the adjoining states who are able to drive in for the most part. It is not confined to just your county.

DEMINGS: Well, what I`m saying here is that I`m not in the business of trying to defend a corporate decision that was made by Disney. Here in the state of Florida, our government put out a statewide executive order that gave guidance to the reopening. Disney followed that particular plan and we had the privilege to be able to review it.

And so that`s where we are here in the state of Florida. Governor DeSantis has continued to say that he supports the reopening. So given that, at the local level, what we have to do is make certain that if the businesses reopen, that they do so in the safest manner possible.

At this point, what I`m saying to you is that we believe that the measures that Disney has put in place should give us a kind of outcomes. At the same time, the guests are coming into the park, they`re hosting the NBA. I would dare say that that environment is pretty secure because the players are living within an isolated area there.

In addition, they`re being tested on a very regular basis. And so people aren`t going to be allowed to go in to that particular space. And so with the NBA and major league soccer reengaging there, their environment is likely safer there than it is in the general public at large because they`re not going to --

TUR: There have also been NBA players who have tested positive. Yes, it is an experiment and I know you said you didn`t want to sound like you were -- with all due respect, a corporate flack for Disney, but it certainly sounded like you were defending a Disney decision more than you were sounding like the mayor of Orange County, with all due respect, sir.

DEMINGS: Well, that`s an opinion that you might have, but what I`m saying here is I spent nearly four decades in crisis management and I always will make my decisions by putting the people over profits at any given time. So safety is the utmost concern to me and to the health officers who are here. I think that that is the case for Disney.

Obviously, you have corporate responsibility at play here and so we are trying to make the best decisions for our populous. It is not sustainable for the long term to shut down our full commerce so we have to learn how to live with the virus.

None of us at this point know really what the pandemic is going to do. We have the body of knowledge of our past experiences that we can lean on going forward. But we haven`t been in this place before.

So I think, again, what we are trying to do here is take a look at the existing data within our county, within Orange County here, to make the best decisions going forward. So as I started out, I said that we were excited for the reopening but it is also concerning to me at the same time. So we will have to see. If this is -- if we have the kind of outcome that we want to see, then we`ll make appropriate decisions.

TUR: OK.

DEMINGS: But what I say to our public here is that if at any point when we evaluate the data on a day-to-day basis, if we need to make adjustments and shut things down, I will not hesitate to make that decision either within the authority that I have as a local county mayor.

TUR: Mayor Jerry Demings, thank you very much. I will just reiterate again, Florida had more cases on Sunday than any other state at any other time during the pandemic. And not everyone from Florida -- people go to Disney from all over Florida and all over the country frankly. Thank you very much for your time, sir. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back. As we mentioned earlier in the hour, Los Angeles and San Diego school districts have decided they will not be holding in-person classes this fall, announcing the decision in a joint statement earlier this afternoon.

School districts across the country have looked at the COVID response in their states and are taking similar action. One example, the Phoenix Union School District in Arizona, another state where cases are spiking, has decided to hold classes online until at least October.

Maricopa County where Phoenix is located makes up the majority of the cases in Arizona. The county reported nearly 1,100 new cases today, bringing the county total to over 81,000.

Joining me now is Chad Gestson, the superintendent of Phoenix Union High School District in Arizona. Mr. Gestson, thank you very much for joining us. Schools are going to go online until October. What needs to change between now and October to get kids back in their classrooms?

CHAD GESTSON, SUPERINTENDENT, PHOENIX UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT: As you have just alluded to here in Arizona, unfortunately, we have a massive spike in new cases virtually every day. And until we can guarantee to our broader community that it is safe and responsible to do so, we will not bring our staff or students or our families back to in-person learning. At this point, we have made a decision to at the earliest start in-person learning in October.

TUR: Is there something that could happen statewide starting today that would mean that maybe you rethink that decision and are able to open classes earlier than you expect?

GESTSON: Well, for one, I would love to see some precautions taken across the state to start to decrease the new cases here in Arizona. But what we have also heard at the same time from our broader community is that our parents, our staff, our students don`t want week to week decisions.

As we think about families planning for child care and planning to go back to work, we think about our employees really planning high quality lessons for our students. A week to week or every other week decision is just not what our broader community is asking for.

So we at this point believe that we`ll go quarter by quarter. In fact, the gentleman on the show earlier today, your show said that, you know, he thought that perhaps school wouldn`t come back in the whole first fall semester. If we have to make that drastic of a decision, we will. But again, we just won`t come back until it`s absolutely safe.

TUR: Would you appreciate more guidance from the federal government about what is safe and what is not safe? The CDC has issued guidance. The president doesn`t like it. Betsy DeVos was on a Sunday show over the weekend saying it`s all up to individual localities. They`re not going to get in the way by issuing broader guidance. What would you like to see?

GESTSON: Well, ultimately, you know, I had a chance to watch Secretary DeVos this weekend. I think it`s really important that we stop for a moment and reassure America, America`s families, America`s educators that school system leaders across our country are engaged in very thoughtful planning.

We are looking at guidelines. They may not be coming from the secretary`s office. We are looking at guidelines that come from medical experts across our nation. I`m a part of the national organization called "Cheese (ph) for Change."

We engage in phone calls and virtual meetings almost every week and we are studying and planning for launch of school, looking at national and international trends or planning for best-case scenario and worst-case scenario. And so certainly we will take all the guidance that we can get. Please.

TUR: I`m sorry to interrupt. I want to get one more question in before we run out of time. How much money is it that you`re going to need to reopen school safely in October? How much extra money for PPE and hand sanitizer and creating classrooms that are socially distant?

GESTSON: We are talking millions. Even the CARES Act funding that came in to school district like Phoenix Union, there was just a little bit more than $10 million. We`ll spend over $10 million just on technology alone. So that doesn`t include smaller class sizes, AP (ph) schedules, changes to transportation, personal protective equipment. We are talking millions of dollars. Across the nation, it`s billions.

TUR: So I`m assuming you are going to be asking Congress to step up their funding for local schools.

GESTSON: Absolutely. Post-recession, we had over $100 million in a stimulus package. So far, just over (INAUDIBLE).

TUR: Chad Gestson. Mr. Gestson, thank you very much for joining us and giving us the reality of what you need in order to keep kids and teachers safe. We appreciate your time, sir.

GESTSON: Thank you so much.

TUR: And coming up next, how the presidential grant of clemency for Roger Stone sets a dangerous new precedent. Keep it here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back. We are learning more today about President Trump`s commutation of longtime associate Roger Stone`s sentence. According to documents posted by the office of the pardon attorney, Stone is not only spared serving any time in prison. He is also off the hook for supervised release and no longer has to pay a $20,000 fine. In other words, nearly his entire sentence is voided.

For more, I`m joined by Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official. He is now an MSNBC contributor. Chuck, it is always good to see you. Stone has been commuted, but do prosecutors have any other recourse?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR, U.S. ATTORNEY, FORMER SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL: They do, Katy. That`s a terrific question. They can still put Roger Stone in the grand jury. The grand jury is entitled to any person`s evidence, including Roger Stone, whether pardoned or commuted or convicted and incarcerated.

Now, that doesn`t mean, of course, that he will cooperate. He seems to be inclined to do anything but. But they can sure try. And if you want to gather evidence from Stone about what he knows about the president`s involvement and the president`s own knowledge, well, that`s a place to start. Put him in the grand jury.

TUR: There was reporting that there was a lot of handwringing about this commutation, that not everybody in the White House agreed with it, that the DOJ didn`t necessarily agree with it. What would this do that other things would do, that other instances of the president treating the rule of law differently, that`s putting it nicely, to those in the DOJ? Why would this mean so much more?

ROSENBERG: It`s deeply disheartening. But, you know, presidents have given out very sort of bad, questionable pardons. Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, who had fled this country in the wake of an indictment against him and had been a major contributor to the Clinton campaign. That was a terrible misjudgement and it was disheartening.

But this is materially different, Katy, and here`s why. In this case, Stone had evidence about the president`s own misconduct, right? I can`t imagine the framers when they conceived the pardon of powering adopted it from the British monarchy. Imagine that a president would use it to essentially try to undermine an investigation into his own conduct.

And so this is really awful and it`s really disheartening. I can`t imagine that anybody who cares deeply about the Department of Justice, the men and women who have spent professional lives there, can see this as anything but a corrupt and crass move by the president.

TUR: One more question to you. Robert Mueller spoke up about this. And now, Lindsey Graham wants to pull him in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. What do you make of that?

ROSENBERG: Well, first of all, I`m so glad Bob Mueller wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post. You know, it is not so much what he said, Katy, because what he said in the op-ed is really what we`ve all been saying, sort of outlining the contours of the case. It`s the fact that he said it.

He`s a man of such great integrity and such great decency, a marine infantry officer in Vietnam with a Purple Heart and a bronze star. It`s the fact that he said anything, because he`s never inclined to do that. But this must have bothered him so very much that he felt the need to speak up.

You know, Lindsey Graham is really just trying to make a mockery out of this entire matter. I don`t think he wants the truth. I think he wants another platform to try to undermine the investigation. It`s sad and it`s pathetic. But my thanks to Bob Mueller, not only for his work as special counsel, but for putting his name to this op-ed and telling us what really happened.

TUR: Chuck Rosenberg. Chuck, thank you so much for joining us today. it is always good to see you, my friend. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: That is all for tonight. Chuck is back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.

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