IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pres. Trump attacks China TRANSCRIPT: MTP Daily, 7/14/20

Guests: Richard Besser, Nelson Wolff


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Take this very seriously. Don`t take it as a joke because one minute you could be coughing and then the next minute you could be admitted to the hospital. When this first began we had increased numbers but now it seems to be over capacity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Every place is a potential bad. We have a person. Sometimes are doubling up and sometimes we`re putting people in hallways, unfortunately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Working in the covid unit has been very emotionally and mentally taxing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Not only do I come to work and worry about the safety of my patients but I also worry about taking covid home to my family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Please stay home, wear your masks and be safe as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If everyone wore the mask I think we would at least have a better handle on this where our numbers won`t be climbing so much.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Once again, we begin the show with sound from medical workers on the front lines of this pandemic. As you learned last week we are nearing a grim milestone among medical workers, nearly 1,000 have died of this virus just since the start of this pandemic. Many of whom have gotten the virus by treating others who have the virus. Welcome to Tuesday. It is MEET THE PRESS DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd.

The president is about to make some sort of China-related announcement from the Rose Garden. We are going to be keeping an eye on that and we`ll bring you the headlines as news warrant. If things get interesting or the president starts taking questions from reporters we`ll of course, immediately go live to the Rose Garden.

We have also got some late-breaking news from an interview that the president just finished with CBS. And we`ll have more on that in a moment. But we start with what is driving everything right now in this country with covid cases surging, hospitals overwhelmed, deaths rising, major school districts not reopening, the economy struggling, states rolling back reopenings, testing lagging again, reports of PPE running low. The Republican convention in limbo and deficits soaring. This is all today, folks. This crisis is once again, just like it did in March and April, cascading on the country and the entire federal government.

As this pandemic rages the president is facing escalating criticism for his attempts to politicize the virus, for dropping campaign style opposition research on Dr. Fauci and for sidelining or silencing public health experts. Moments ago at a virtual conference hosted by George Town, Dr. Fauci was asked about the White House`s efforts to discredit him. Here`s some of his response.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALERGY AND INFECTOUS DISEASE:  I believe for the most part you can trust respected medical authorities. You know? I believe I`m one of them so I think you can trust me. But I would stick with respected medical authorities who have a track record of telling the truth, who have a track record of giving information and policy and recommendations based on scientific evidence and good data.


TODD:  A track record of telling the truth. Today in the Washington Post four former heads of the CDC wrote an op-ed and saying that no president has ever politicized science the way Trump has. The (inaudible) writes we are seeing the terrible effect of undermining the CDC play out in our population. Willful disregard for public health guidelines is unsurprisingly leading to a sharp rise in infections and deaths.

We are going to speak to one former CDC chief, Dr. Richard Besser. One of the co-authors of that op-ed in just a moment. And we are also going to head to some hotspots on some of the hardest hit states including Texas, California and Florida for the latest. But we are going to begin with the latest from the White House and my NBC News colleague Monica Alba joins me.

And Monica, I think the thing that is blowing up the White House world right now is some excerpts from this interview the president conducted with CBS, some startling ones, some startling comments he made about George Floyd, police reform. Let me just get right to them. I`m going to play, I believe, the order that we have here, I think this first one has to do with George Floyd. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Let`s talk about George Floyd. You said George Floyd`s death was a terrible thing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?

TRUMP:  And so are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people by the way. More white people.


TODD:  So, Monica that was one. I want to get through a couple, everything first and then we`ll get to it. He was asked about the issue over the confederate monuments. Take a listen to this answer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  President Trump, back in 2015 you said the confederate battle flag belongs in a museum. Do you still believe that?

TRUMP:  All I say is freedom of speech. It`s very simple. My attitude is freedom of speech. Very strong views on the confederate flag. With me it`s freedom of speech. Very simple. Like it, don`t like it, its freedom of speech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Would you be comfortable with your supporters displaying the confederate battle flag at political events?

TRUMP:  You know, it depends on what your definition is, but I am comfortable with freedom of speech. It`s very simple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You understand why the flag is a painful symbol for many people because it`s a reminder of slavery.

TRUMP:  People love it. And I don`t -- I know people that like the confederate flag and then I`m thinking about slavery. I look at NASCAR, you go to the NASCAR, you have those flags all over the place. They stop it. I just think its freedom of speech, whether its confederate flags or black lives matter or anything else you want to talk about. It`s freedom of speech.


TODD:  And then finally, Monica, here is the president on school reopenings.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What do you tell parents and teachers who feel that it`s unsafe to go back?

TRUMP:  I would tell parents and teachers that you should find yourself a new person whoever is in charge of that decision, because it`s a terrible decision. Because children and parents are dying from that trauma, too. They`re dying because they can`t do what they`re doing. Mothers can`t go to work because all of a sudden they have to stay home and watch their child and fathers. What`s happening, you know, there`s a tremendous strain on that whole side of the equation.


TODD:  Now, we use the phrase double down, we sometimes use the phrase triple down on these different things, but in all three answers, Monica, it was -- what was interesting is how the president did not even want to address what may be some opponents think would not want to address, how some people are uncomfortable at the schools. Or not want to address why some people are offended by the confederate flag. Or not want to address the concern that African-Americans have about policing in this country. It was quite remarkable given his poll standing right now.

MONICA ALBA, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Absolutely, Chuck. Tripling, quadrupling down in some of those instances and really undoing a lot of the effort that White House officials have made exactly on these topics in the last couple of weeks speaking specifically about police reform and George Floyd. If you remember, the president did sign an executive order on that but beyond that hasn`t really discussed what`s at the root of that and has still not really answered the question of whether he believes systemic racism is contributing to this. At least not in an in- depth way.

When you`re talking about confederate flags, potentially flying at his campaign rallies, that`s something that the White House press secretary has said shouldn`t occur, won`t take place, but you see here the president not condemning that, saying he loves it, it`s beautiful. He understands why some people also in his words would want to display that and look at everything that happened just with NASCAR in the last couple of weeks.

This is really a president who`s coming in making clear that these comments are more for his base and his supporters than anybody else and when it comes to talking about reopening schools, this is another issue which the White House has actually backtracked on in the last couple of days. Even if the president believes he is still trying to undercut what his own CDC has said are the guidelines for safely reopening.

The White House said they`re going to put out their own. The president now saying basically if you`re a parent who doesn`t like that your schools not going to reopen, find someone else to tell you how that school may reopen, but again, you have here a White House that really isn`t even addressing necessarily in those clips the crux of the coronavirus issue as we see those cases spiking.

And as you said Chuck, the president`s about to hold an event in the Rose Garden on a China related matter. It`s unclear whether he`ll even take more questions or whether he`ll address the pandemic there.

TODD:  Monica, look, I don`t want to dismiss our issues with China right now. I mean, we are headed to a (inaudible), this is going to be the long- term rivalry that is going to define the economy on this globe perhaps for the next couple of decades, China versus the United States, what do we know about today`s event? Is this Hong Kong specific? Is this something else?

ALBA:  We believe it may be, Chuck. It seems a couple weeks ago the president would have to sign a bill that was passed, this would be in that timeline, the deadline is approaching for him to do that as it relates to Hong Kong specifically and sanctions. It`s unclear that that`s exactly what he`s going to be doing. Whether he`s going to be signing that. Whether he`s going to be talking about his intention to sign it and he`ll sign it behind closed doors. We`re not clear on that exactly yet.

But this was a very much late add in the day. The White House has said, the president wasn`t going to have any open events and just a couple of hours ago, they notified that he was going to be doing this. But I`d also point out --

TODD:  Right.

ALBA:  -- the White House often calls these events press conferences and doesn`t necessarily go into the topic and that`s because the president normally also can go off script and discuss really whatever he wants, whether he takes questions from reporters or not is also to be seen, but there are a lot of chairs set up for the reporters and our colleague Geoff Bennett is in there in the Rose Garden. And we`ll probably be putting questions to him on all of these if that something he does decide to take question on, Chuck.

TODD:  And, Monica, you were one of the first to break the news about the RNC now, basically it seems like facing reality of the situation in Jacksonville. What more can you tell us about what`s happening with the convention?

ALBA:  Yes. Four months into the pandemic, now you finally have Republican officials it seems coming to terms with reality, particularly on the ground in Florida saying we will probably can`t have as many as 15,000 people in an arena for the president`s re-nomination speech which is all the fanfare he had envisioned and that`s why he took the convention away from Charlotte, North Carolina in the first place and move it to Florida. Because he thought social distancing and mask guidelines would be more relaxed than they were in the other states.

But now they are saying they think they are going to have to move a lot of the three day event outdoors if not all of it. They are considering other areas, other arenas. They have outdoor amphitheaters, for example, and other places where they could move people but what`s unknown is how many people the Governor of the state, Ron DeSantis, an ally of the president is even going to allow to gather.

There`s currently an executive order that caps sporting arenas at 50 percent or less capacity. Is that something that he`s going to do for the president? We don`t know. We are told there`s a meeting here at the White House last night where the president really kind of came to terms with this, discussing with his political advisers that it is really not feasible to have this convention fully indoors.

Whether it does go fully outdoors, whether it`s shortens, whether it takes on a whole another form, we are talking about Florida, at the end of August, as you know so well, Chuck, there`s heat, there`s humidity, there`s hurricane risks and there`s a health crisis, of course, to consider.

TODD:  Yeah. Exactly. Monica Alba, quite a busy day at the White House. If they had a message for the day, the president himself has stepped on it. The question I always have for him is, where does he think his base is going if he thinks it`s going to leave him? Anyway, Monica Alba, getting us started at the White House. Monica, thank you very much.

Let`s stick to the virus. Joining me now is former acting CDC Director Richard Besser. Of course, Dr. Besser and three other former CDC heads have that op-ed that I referred to in the Washington Post today. It`s entitled we ran the CDC, no president ever politicized his science the way Trump has.

And Dr. Besser, let me -- I`m going to put one more excerpt up on the screen for folks before we get started. You guys write, trying to fight this pandemic while subverting scientific expertise is like fighting blindfolded. How well and how quickly we adhere to the advice of public health experts to the CDC will determine whether how soon and how safely our schools going to reopen. It is not too late to give the CDC its proper role in guiding these response, but the clock is ticking.

Director Redfield today said if everybody in America wore masks at a proper times and when they`re supposed to, we could be -- have this virus under control in four to eight weeks. Do you buy that?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE CDC:  I think we need to do a lot more than that. You know, Chuck, I think the injection of politics into this response is extremely dangerous to the nation. You know, we are talking about people`s lives and what it takes to save lives. And CDC is the nation`s public health agency and so when you see politicians attacking CDC they`re not just attacking CDC. They`re attacking every public health agency, every state agency, every local agency that`s working to save lives.

Masks are important. And we need to do that but we also need to social distance. We need to wash our hands. And we need to make sure that everyone in America has what they need to protect themselves and for some people that means extending protections from eviction and mortgage foreclosure, I mean, continuing or renewing income support so that people will have the money they need so that they don`t have to go to work if it`s a dangerous situation, it involves protecting our workers. Masks is not the cure-all to this. There`s a lot more we need to do and a lot more the federal government needs to do.

TODD:  I`m curious. One of the concerns that I`m sure you have and others have is a morale issue at CDC and I`m just wondering, when the president of the United States amplifies a tweet that`s critical of the CDC and that tweet is from a former well-known, sort of game show host that Chuck Woolery, who I don`t think is a noted medical expert on any of this stuff and just throws out these things that are just not true. He says, the most outrageous lies are the ones about covid-19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, media, Democrats, our doctors, not all but most that we are told to trust. I think it`s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back which is about the election. I`m sick of it. Which of course we hear the president himself talk about. He thinks that somehow that school superintendents are deciding not to reopen schools because of his re- election efforts which just -- I don`t even want to enter into how people think that way, but what does this do to morale at CDC?

BESSER:  Yeah. You know, I worked at CDC for 13 years and there`s nothing in my career that I`m prouder of. There`s not a group of people, civil servants who are more committed to helping the public. And that`s not just something you see at the federal level. You see it at state, local public health.

These are folks who are committed to protecting lives, to saving lives and so when you see them getting beat up in the press by politicians, it has consequences and it has consequences to safety, as well. You have been hearing about public health leaders whose lives are threaten or needing bodyguards, people who are losing their jobs.

TODD:  Right.

BESSER:  It`s extremely hard. During a pandemic you need people to be supported, you need the country to rally around them because they`re doing heroic work in really challenging times.

TODD:  Do you think Director Redfield is glad you guys wrote this or do you think part of him which is -- you`re just going to get me in more trouble with Trump?

BESSER:  Well, you know, I think that`s beside the point. I think it`s really important for us as former directors and acting directors to stand up for the agency, to stand up for science, to push forward because if as a nation we were to emerge from this stronger than we are right now, we need to follow the guidance of public health.

It is the roadmap to a sustained economic recovery. It is the roadmap to ensure that everyone in America is protected and is safe. And if we don`t follow that guidance, our numbers are going to continue to go in the wrong direction and any idea of opening schools becomes simply a dream. Something that`s absolutely unattainable.

TODD:  At this point, if you were sitting in that role would you be advising the president to authorize shutdowns again? Dr. (inaudible), came on this show Friday and basically said, look, we didn`t do it right the first time. We probably need to do it right and get it done.

BESSER:  Well, you know, I think, what we are seeing in states that are seeing increasing numbers is roll back of these openings and hopefully as this is done and can be done in a more refined than it was done the first time with everyone stay-at-home. You know, there are certain things we know now that is safer. It is safe to be in an outdoors activity six feet away from people. So that is something that can be allowable.

But a lot of the openings that have taken place are going to have to roll back because you can`t move to a system of testing and tracking and isolation and quarantine when you`re seeing thousands of cases a day in a state. That will overwhelm the public health department. You have to get the numbers down to the hundreds or less than hundreds so that you can put that system in place and switch from a lockdown kind of an approach to one were your using traditional public health measures to keep this under control.

TODD:  Dr. Richard Besser, acting -- former acting CDC Director, one of four who wrote that op-ed today in the Washington Post, thanks for coming on and sharing your perspective with us. We much appreciate it.

And we are waiting the start of that White House news event. Not quite sure if it`s going to be a press conference and whether people are able to get their questions taken by him, but we will be monitoring that closely and we will bring you any important developments.

Also ahead, the trouble in Texas over coronavirus testing. Many are complaining the wait, but the wait for the results that it`s far too long. I talked with one local leader, taking matters into his own hands.


TODD:  Welcome back. Cases of coronavirus are surging in the lone star state. Just moments ago, Texas reported a record number of new cases for that state, 10,745. This now means the state has recorded more than 275,000 total cases. And more than 3,200 deaths. More than 10,000 people are hospitalized with the virus there right now. Another grim number, another number setting grim records as it continues to climb. And in the San Antonio area, local officials say the hospitals under severe stress and have reached a critical point. Bexar County, Texas Judge Nelson Wolff joins me now. Judge Wolff, just paint me a picture of how things are right now in your county, sir.

JUDGE NELSON WOLFF (D-BEXAR COUNTY, TX):  Well, right now, about 30 percent, 35 percent of all the patients in the hospital are covid related. As of yesterday, we had 1,267 in the hospital. We show you just how fast that grew from -- June 1st we only had 93. So it`s exploded here in the last several weeks and we are in a bit of a crisis. We have few more beds. We are doing everything we can to enlarge the number of beds we have, but if this trend continues we`re going to be in serious, serious problems. We are hoping that we can turn this around but there`s not any clear evidence that we have been able to do it yet.

TODD:  What would you like to be able to do policy wise right now that you can`t because of state law?

WOLFF:  Well, we would like to cut back on some of the openings that have occurred. We had in place a limited number of people that could gather, but the Governor putt 13 exceptions to that and that`s amusement parks, it is a number of other venues that have larger facilities like having a rodeo or having a sports event in an arena, or having a soccer match. We need to stop all of that and as soon as we can do that, the better.

But have not the authority to do it. We are enforcing our law now with respect to having to wear a face mask and with respect to businesses requiring them to make face masks. We have given warnings, we`ve talked and now we`re giving citations for it.

TODD:  I want to go to the testing issue because it seems as if the same problem that`s taking place in Texas is also hitting both Florida and Arizona as well. And that is, while you can conduct a number of tests, getting the results back in a timely fashion in order to do something about it is a problem. You have got a major turnaround time. What are you trying to do about this?

WOLFF:  Our average turnaround now is three days. Previous to that it was even worse, but when you get data that`s three days old or maybe you get some backed up data from the labs that you just don`t know when you get that every day, like yesterday we had 854 more cases. I can`t tell you whether they originated a day ago, two days ago or three day ago, or maybe four or five or six days ago. So yes, there is still a problem not getting it timely.

There are some (inaudible) tests that have been done by Texas med clinic that you can go on and do and they`ll get the return for you as short as 15 minutes. But the typical tests that we are doing, we are still seeing labs backing up. Delayed results coming in.

TODD:  The Governor has said on June 22nd, the governor mad a proclamation and he said, essentially he would have to take new action if three metrics doubled in the next month. And those metrics were on new cases, hospitalizations and the positivity rate. Well, all of them did double and we`re not even at July 22nd yet. Now, he has said one of the reasons he`s holding off that he is thinking about doing a stricter lockdown, but he hasn`t, because he doesn`t believe it can be enforced. What do you say? What would you say to the Governor about that?

WOLFF:  Well, ever since we put in place which -- with all the opposition of the state required businesses to do it and then he took the step on July 3rd, I think it was to mandate face masks. He took that away from us, all the way back on May 5th. So people were confused about that. So he recently changed his mind. Now were out there enforcing it and I know just yesterday we had citations to denying businesses and three residential. We found other violations.

People still get a mixed message. You know? The President of the United States, I think, put a face mask on and he should keep it on. And so, many mixed messages going out and I think out of everything the mixed messages and young people also are being a little careless has thrown us into the tremendous problem that we are facing today.

TODD:  Yes. I think it`s fair. Four months in, there`s a lot of places that are not sure. Is the mayor in charge? Is it the Governor that makes this call? The lack of federal leadership that is sort of perhaps made it to where everybody is taking matters into their own hands. Anyway, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff of which of course encompasses San Antonio. Judge Wolff, thanks for coming on and sharing your perspective with us. I really appreciate that.

WOLFF:  Thank you.

TODD:  Up ahead, we`ll have the very latest on the coronavirus surge in other places that are hard hit right now including Florida and California and later, an immigration crisis amid a global pandemic. Could migrant children be separated from their families for a second time in just two years? Believe or not, that may happen sooner than you think. We`ll be right back.


TODD:  Welcome back. A day after calling the surge of cases at his state a "blip," Florida Governor DeSantis wore a mask today during a news conference today alongside a group of South Florida mayors. It is one of the first times he has done that in public.

The governor has been reluctant to require face coverings statewide. It came on a day Florida reported more than 9,000 new cases and 133 new deaths. That was the state`s highest one-day death toll since the pandemic began.

California, meanwhile, reported more than 8,000 new cases a day after Governor Gavin Newsom ordered bars and inside restaurant dining, as well as most gyms and churches closed. The statewide conditions worsen.

For more, I`m joined by our own Joe Fryer in Los Angeles. Kerry Sanders in in Miami Gardens for us. We are going to start out west. So Joe fryer, you know, it is interesting, as the Sun Belt fights this and we have talked about this before, California can`t blame their problem on reopening too soon.

Any good explanation for why they`re having such a hard time despite the fact that they have had stricter lockdowns, stricter protocols than most of the other Sun Belt states?

JOE FRYER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It is sort of hard to get an answer on that. You talk to officials, they say some of the places where they`re seeing these cases come from might be indoor work settings or people having gatherings that are indoors where they might see a cluster form from that.

So their concern is still over people`s behavior, especially when things are indoors. Even though there is mask mandate here, there is no guarantee necessarily that everyone is doing that either. And there is still, you know, some critics who have said even though California moved at a slower pace at some of the other places, it still perhaps could have even moved slower.

You look in the bay area, Northern California, not experiencing the same problems we are seeing in Southern California and it has been moving at a much more conservative pace when it comes to reopening.

Of course, right now, you have the situation where so many businesses across California that had reopened in the last few weeks or in the case of Santa Clara County where gyms and salons just reopened yesterday, now they have to close again immediately.

And the worry is what is going to happen here in Los Angeles. The mayor here in L.A. is sounding the alarm, saying this could actually get a little stricter. He`s basically saying L.A. has the sort of color-coded system. Right now, they say L.A. isn`t orange. He feels the city is getting very close to red.

And if the city hits red, then you`re going to basically be looking at a shutdown again, going back to having to stay at home, only leaving your house for work or for essential services. The mayor is issuing that warning, Chuck, so people are definitely paying close attention to what`s happening here in California, trying to, I guess, re-bend the curve, if you will.

TODD:  And Joe, what does this mean? We know in Southern California, we had L.A. County and San Diego County announced their school decision collectively. What kind of impact this is going to be for the rest of the state? I mean, at what point is the UC System, for instance, going to announce what they`re doing in the fall? I mean, is everything on hold on that front and other places?

FRYER:  It`s going to be hard to say. It`s going to be interesting to see what the colleges all decide to do. We are already seeing what sort of the K through 12 school different decisions being made.

We know L.A. and San Diego, they came out together with a joint statement, both scheduled to reopen next month, first L.A. sort of in the middle of the month and San Diego at the end of the month, saying, we are definitely going to start the year not in classes. It is going to be remote learning and then they will sort of revisit this as things go along.

But in between those two major cities, you have Orange County where the board of education has actually recommended going back to school in person and right now not recommending masks or social distancing. We should note that ultimately that recommendation is up to the actual school districts to make the final decision.

Of course, we know Orange County is sometimes a little bit of an outlier compared with L.A. and some of the areas around, but certainly a lot of debate over what is going to happen with schools and then what we are going to see at the college level, too. Times are ticking. We are getting close to those classes needing to resume.

TODD:  Orange County being Orange County in some ways. Joe Fryer is in California for us. Joe, thank you. Kerry Sanders, let me go to you. Today, Governor DeSantis is meeting with some Miami-Dade County mayors. He wore a mask.

We now have the grim reminder that the death toll sadly is a lagging indicator and now we are seeing the spike in cases is now leading to this increase now in the death toll. We`re a long way away when Governor DeSantis is like joking about lunch in Queens.

KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yeah. I mean, the governor is taking this very seriously. But as he meets with the mayors here in Miami-Dade County, he is still letting them make the decisions on what they want to do in their communities.

Of course, the criticism has been that the coronavirus doesn`t know a city limit. It doesn`t necessarily stop right here where in one area you have a rule that a gym can be open and another area where you can have that a gym needs to be closed.

As he met today -- this is the location where I`m standing which is where they`re doing coronavirus testing. It`s completed for today. But to give you an idea of the size of the state that we are talking about, they`re doing 90,000 tests a day in Florida.

Miami-Sade where I am right now is coming back with a positive result of about 14 percent. That is higher than anywhere else in the state. The other parts of the state are around 11 percent.

But when you look at what is going on in terms of this being an epicenter and the fact that this state does not have coronavirus under control, there are a lot of concerns and a lot of anxiety.

And when the governor was holding a news conference yesterday, he was heckled by one of the people who had gone into the room. We have since spoken to that heckler. So, let`s listen to a little bit as the governor is speaking and then hear the response from the heckler why he chose to scream at the governor.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL):  So I think the --

THOMAS KENNEDY, DIRECTOR, UNITED WE DREAM:  You`re an embarrassment! We have record-breaking cases every day and you are doing nothing.

DESANTIS:  So I think --

KENNEDY:  You are falsifying information and you are deceiving the public. Over 4,000 people have died and you are blaming the protesters. You guys have no plan and you are doing nothing. Shame on you!

There is no plan. There is no actual, you know, political will to take steps to get us through this. And again, we are looking at other states that are, you know, reopening. They`re having, you know, no deaths recorded, very few cases popping up. And in Florida, we are the epicenter of the pandemic. It`s embarrassing what`s happening here. It is a complete and total abdication of leadership and a total failure honestly.


SANDERS:  The governor not necessarily directly responding to a heckler but pointing out at the roundtable today that the reason he does not have a one rule fits all for the state is because, Chuck, you know this, Florida is like many different states. It is almost like five states.

What happens in Miami-Dade County is very different than, say, Tallahassee, around the panhandle and Destin. And he believes that one rule does not fit all and sort of underscoring that, Chuck. In Indian River County, they voted today, nobody has to wear a mask.

TODD:  Right. No, you got to let the counties work with each other if they can, as well. I mean, there`s no doubt a regional system in Florida might make a whole lot of sense and all of that got to be allowed to happen. Joe Fryer, Kerry Sanders, thank you both.

We continue to monitor the president`s news conference at the White House. We`re going to bring you any major developments that come out of that, especially if it is virus-related. We`ll be right back.


TODD:  Welcome back. After facing pushback and multiple lawsuits from multiple states and university institutions, the Trump administration has walked back a policy that would have attempted to strip international students of their visas if their classes were somehow online for the fall.

The decision comes as the administration continues to implement some restrictive immigration policies amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including a decision by a federal judge that could lead to migrant children being separated from their parents for the second time in two years. The separations could begin as soon as this Friday.

Joining me is NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff with the latest in this reporting. He, of course, has been following family separations under the Trump administration from the very beginning and details his account in his new book "Separated: Inside an American Tragedy."

So I do want to make sure folks get their hands on this book, a lot of great reporting in there. We have gotten most of the great reporting on the air, as well.

Jacob, let`s start with this decision by what we could expect coming Friday. I sort of want to skip past the Trump administration backing off on these international students. They were about to get routed in the courts, so I think we understand why they pulled back on that. What is happening though that could lead to a second round of family separation?

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC AND NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It`s almost unbelievable to think about it, right, Chuck? We are two years after the height almost exactly of family separations in the summer of 2018 and here we are again where about 335 parents and children are on the verge of separations Friday.

The crux of it is this. A judge here in California has ordered the children released because of dangerous conditions relating to coronavirus inside ICE family detention, but the Trump administration for weeks now has refused to rule out separating the parents and children and releasing the children alone.

They are not obligated, mandated. The judge is not able to rule on the release of the parents. So the Trump administration although in the discretion of ICE and ICE could right now, as you and I are talking, release the parents and children together, the Trump administration has basically categorically ruled out doing that at least until this Friday when the deadline comes.

And that`s when everybody, activists, lawyers, anybody who works with these children is worried that you`re going to see more family separations even though President Trump signed an executive order on June 20th of 2018, supposedly ending the practice.

TODD:  There`s obviously a couple ways that the administration might have been able to solve this. Let me ask this. Has there been any attempt to improve conditions where these migrants are being held?

SOBOROFF:  The lawyers will tell you, no. I was on a call yesterday with a different judge and the D.C. district court who declined to rule on whether or not the parents should be released, again setting up this Friday`s separation deadline.

Lawyers insist that the conditions have not improved. In fact, they continue to point the people with underlying conditions, saying there are at grave medical risks. And that is -- you mentioned the book. That is why I want to write the book, because it is almost unbelievable that we are here again until you really look closely at what happened in 2018.

We were warned at that time that that was not the worst of it despite the fact the president had ended the policy, that people would be sick in border patrol conditions. We saw children dying in border patrol custody last summer. And here we are now with a global pandemic infiltrating these government detention centers.

And the solution to the problem, at least the Trump administration`s solution is not to fix the situation inside, not to release the parents and children together so they don`t get sick and potentially die, it`s to offer them either family separation or indefinite detention, and that`s the bottom line.

TODD:  We have actually seen a lot of temporary changes in immigration law. We have seen some attempts at asylum law. All are using the pandemic as the rationale for some of these changes.

You have been covering what the DHS has been trying to do, what`s been the Trump administration is trying to do. Can you separate out how much of this is long-term policy goals that the Trump administration has, that they`re just using the pandemic and how much of this is truly pandemic inspired because we are in the middle of this?

SOBOROFF:  Observing this as closely as I have, it is hard to believe that it`s coincidental that the result of immigration changes put into place under the guise of the coronavirus include turning around unaccompanied minors and deporting them immediately and finding ways to indefinitely detain parents when those have been the underlying goals of the Trump administration all along.

When you talk to people, again, that represent the children, whether it is lawyers or activists, they`ll tell you that these have been the goals of the Trump administration from day one. In fact, they were the goals of the Trump administration during the family separation policy.

Katie Miller, who was then Katie Waldman, but now Katie Miller, the vice president`s spokeswoman, told me at the time that the reason they were separating people was to scare Congress into acting to force some of these changes. Obviously, that didn`t happen then, but the Trump administration is doing it now during the coronavirus.

TODD:  And going back to family separation, all this has to do with the Flores settlement, right, which is sort of been at the root of a policy fix that Congress and nobody seems to -- the courts have been forcing this for how long? And essentially we have been sitting in this legal limbo for how long?

SOBOROFF:  Right. To remind everybody, the Flores settlement agreement mandates that the United States government release children, migrant children, in their custody within 20 days because that amount of time is suitable for finding them a sponsor or releasing them together with their families.

In fairness, the Obama administration also wanted to get around the Flores settlement agreement. And when you talk to activists and lawyers, they will tell you that they battled the Obama administration, as well. Here we are again with the Flores settlement agreement being the middle of this debate, the crux of the debate. The Trump administration is still trying to find a way around letting children out.

And we should just be really clear, what getting around the Flores settlement agreement means is holding children in detention indefinitely with their parents. What doctors and medical professionals will tell you is not in the best interests of the child, but I guess in immigration policy, multiple administrations have pursued this goal and nobody has been successful yet.

TODD:  Jacob Soboroff, congratulations again on the book. I`m sorry though for the topic in some ways. "Separated: Inside an American Tragedy." It is an important well reported story chronicling in many ways, your chronicles in reporting this story in real time that many of us got to watch unfortunately up close and personal this way. Jacob Soboroff, much appreciated. Thank you very much.

When we come back, an update from the White House where the president is still speaking. We will bring you the news that was actually made right after this short break.


TODD:  Welcome back. For part of the time we`ve been on the air this past hour, the president has been speaking in the White House Rose Garden. Back with us to discuss the news of this ongoing event, my NBC News colleague at the White House right now, Monica Alba. Monica, you said it was likely China-related, Hong Kong. He signed a bill that Congress passed. Tell us more about the news itself from this event.

MONICA ALBA, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Exactly, Chuck. That was the headline. The president came out saying he signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act just moments ago which had passed. This is within the two-week period that he needed to essentially sign that since it had passed in terms of legislation moving forward.

But really, Chuck, I have to tell you, what strikes me is the president has been speaking now for some time delivering what could be mistaken as a campaign rally speech, far after talking about those key points on China and Hong Kong.

He pivoted to attacking former Vice President Joe Biden and he is now going on many different ranges of topics. And it strikes me that the president hasn`t had a campaign rally really since the debacle in Tulsa nearly a month ago.

Of course, the Portsmouth event that was set to take place last weekend got scrapped. The campaign claimed it was over weather concerns. But we reported it was really also driven by a question of crowd turnout, whether there wouldn`t be enough attendance that the president is used to at these events.

So seemingly, he doesn`t have an outlet right now to vent to air his grievances on a range of topics. He seems to be using this Rose Garden event precisely for that even though it was billed as a China-related event. He did indicate he would take questions at the end, but has not done it yet. It is a truly political speech here though from the White House, Chuck.

TODD:  Monica, just curious. I know that he has blamed China on the virus front. Are there any substantive comments at all on the current pandemic?

ALBA:  He did continue to say that it was the China virus and to make those cases that he wants to be tough on China, blaming China for this, but didn`t go into any direct detail, certainly not in terms of foreign policy.

But in the interview with CBS earlier, he was asked whether he was interested in talking about a phase two trade deal with China and he said, I`m not interested in talking to China about that at all right now. So that shows you a little bit of where he is in that sense. He has said he wants to continue to be tough on China. This fits into that message.

But then you also had him said when we were talking about infrastructure, talking about fake news. He even referred to some of the coronavirus cases as being drummed up for the fake news to report on. I mean, that is just a remarkable statement here, Chuck, as we`re seeing these cases spike.

You have Dr. Fauci appearing in other events talking about just how serious people need to take this and trust their health experts on this because other sources may not be the ones who are giving the best information, seemingly referring there without naming him to the president, Chuck.

TODD:  Monica Alba with the latest from the White House. Monica, I appreciate you bringing the -- it looks like there was just really one piece of news at the top. That sounds like about it. Anyway, Monica Alba, thank you. We`ll be right back with an update on the health of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


TODD:  We are following some breaking news that I told you about before the break. We`ve just learned that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is recovering from a medical procedure and expected to be in the hospital the next few days. She was taken to the hospital last night after experiencing fever and chills.

A statement from the court says Justice Ginsburg is being treated for a possible infection. She went in for a procedure to clear out a bile duct stent that was placed last year, and is now on antibiotics. They said she`s on an IV (ph). And indications are she should be just fine. That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.