KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to Tuesday. It is MEET THE PRESS DAILY. I`m Katy Tur in for Chuck Todd. And in this hour, we are expecting the president to speak to reporters at the White House on the issue of the coronavirus.
It comes as the president is facing a lot of blowback for comments he made dismissing the rising death toll with no end in sight for this pandemic. And the election fast approaching. We are going to get the latest headlines involving the pandemic and the politics surrounding it.
But first, we need to start with breaking news out of Beirut, where a massive explosion at a warehouse in one of the city`s ports has killed at least 60 people and injured at least 3,000, according to government officials.
We don`t know yet exactly what caused it, but the explosion itself was enormous and it sent a shockwave that was felt for miles. As you can see, the pictures are stunning. Take a look at this dramatic video from an eyewitness who was nearly two miles away from the blast, who said that he is surprised to be alive.
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TUR: Just a massive mushroom cloud. NBC news chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is tracking the very latest developments from London. Richard, what do we know?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know right now in Beirut there is a chemical smell in the air. The U.S. Embassy is warning people to stay inside, to wear a mask, if possible. Staying inside is difficult right now. So many of the windows have been blown out in Beirut. So many of the doors blown off of their frames. This is believed to be a chemical explosion, according to several Lebanese officials. It was in the main port.
It started out with a fire. There was -- some people heard an explosion, and they saw a large fire in the port area. People started training their cell phones on it, as there was a large cloud of smoke that was curling into the sky. And then the fire apparently set off this secondary explosion, and according to local media reports, there were 2,700 tons of chemical agents that were stored in this facility. Exactly what kind of chemicals remain unclear.
There are conflicting reports, but they have been described as nitrates. And they apparently had been in the storage facility, tons and tons of nitrates or some other chemicals for years.
The Lebanese Prime Minister said that they were there for at least six years, and he`s calling for an investigation, why these combustible, toxic chemicals were being kept in the center of the city, and then why this massive explosion detonated at the port and sent a shockwave that ran all across Beirut.
People could hear it, they could feel it in the city. Now they are worried about the after effects. I just spoke with a friend and colleague of mine in Beirut. And he said people are terrified because they can smell it.
He says his lungs hurt because of this, and he`s trying to put plastic up over his broken window frames. And even in other parts of the city, everyone is now facing a situation where there is gas in the air, and they don`t know how many people were killed or injured. Those reports have been going up by the hour.
TUR: Richard, do they suspect foul play here or is this just an accident?
ENGEL: They suspect corruption. They think that there was a reason why -- these materials were at the port, why they are being kept there for so long. Nobody is overly or no credible sources are saying that this was an act of terrorism.
But obviously Lebanon has a very long history with Israel. Fought a war with Israel in 2006. Israel came out quite quickly and said it had nothing to do with this. Israel has carried out attacks in Beirut before, but nothing on this kind of scale, even at the peak of war right in the center of the city sending a shockwave.
So the suspicion now, as the Lebanese Prime Minister was indicating, is that this -- something went wrong, that something shouldn`t -- this material shouldn`t have been there, shouldn`t have been stored the way it was, and they want to know why.
But first, they have to deal with containing the situation. Hospitals are turning people away. They put out a nationwide appeal for all types of blood. The Red Cross has called for all ambulances in the entire country to head to Beirut, so they can help ferry the wounded to hospitals, even though so many of the hospitals are not taking any more people, because they`re at capacity.
TUR: Just stunning images. It`s hard to imagine what it`s like to be there right now. Richard Engel, Richard thank you so much.
And let`s turn now to the situation here at home, where it is 13 weeks until Election Day. And we`re watching developments out of the White House as we await the president. He has walked back his position on masks. He`s gone from refusing to wear one to campaigning on how great they are, after calling mail-in ballots a catastrophe for our democracy, he`s now urging everyone in the battleground state of Florida to request a ballot by mail and to vote by mail.
Meanwhile, negotiators on Capitol Hill are still scrambling to figure out what exactly the president and his party will agree to as part of talks with Democrats on the next phase of the virus relief. The result is a mix of confusion and incoherence coming from this president and this administration, whether it`s their approach to the pandemic or the politics surrounding it.
But at his core, even with more than 157,000 deaths in this country, 157,000 dead Americans, the president remains incapable of fully acknowledging the severity of this crisis.
In an interview with Axios on HBO, he dismissed the rising death toll and twisted himself into knots on the importance of case counts in this country, simultaneously arguing that they are less important and more important than you think.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s under control. I`ll tell you what --
JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: How? A thousand Americans are dying a day.
TRUMP: You know, they are dying, that`s true. And it is what it is, but that doesn`t mean we aren`t doing everything we can. It`s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us.
SWAN: Do you really think this is as much as we can control it? A thousand deaths a day?
TRUMP: Well, I tell you what. I`d like to know if somebody -- first of all, we have done a great job. We`ve gotten the governors everything they needed, because we are so much better at testing than any other country in the world, we show more cases.
SWAN: The figure I look at is death, and death is going up now. It`s a thousand a day.
TRUMP: OK. We`re lower than the world.
SWAN: Lower than the world?
TRUMP: Lower than Europe.
SWAN: In what?
TRUMP: Take a look. Right here. Here`s case death.
SWAN: You`re doing death as a proportion of cases. I`m talking about death as a proportion of population that`s where the U.S. is really bad, much worse than South Korea, Germany, etcetera.
TRUMP: You can`t do that. You have to --
SWAN: Why can`t I do that?
TRUMP: You have to go by -- you have to go by where -- look, here is the United States. You have to go by the cases.
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TUR: Just a masterful interview by Jonathan Swan. Joining me now from the White House is my NBC News colleague Shannon Pettypiece, Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press and a MSNBC political analyst. Also here with us for the medical perspector -- perspective -- excuse me, is Dr. Kavita Patel. NBC News medical contributor and former adviser in the Obama White House.
Dr. Patel, I do want to start with you, because the president is claiming that we are doing all that we can. It is what it is because we are doing all that we can to stop this virus. Are we doing all that we can?
KAVITA PATEL, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR, FELLOW AT THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: No. And Katy, listening to that it breaks my heart. Because I`ve had colleagues who have died and those are preventable deaths. I mean, we easily could have had a mandate for masks in place, not just a comment that it seems OK to wear a mask, but asking all Americans to wear a mask.
We could have easily followed the CDC`s own guidelines for reopening. Just follow the metrics. They were out there, instead of reopening in parts of the country too early.
And as we`re going now into a precarious fall season, with schools and tens of millions of Americans who don`t have jobs, millions who don`t have health insurance, we could easily be doing more to provide timely testing, to actually give people protective equipment. Schoolteachers shouldn`t be shopping on Amazon to look for facemasks to protect themselves. These are all preventable deaths and cases, period.
TUR: So Shannon, I guess the question is, is the president not getting the facts from his advisers? Are they not actually laying out what`s happening in front of them? We saw in that interview that he had a graph. The deaths by proportion of cases, as Jonathan Swan pointed out. Is he just not getting the information that everybody else is using to determine whether this virus is under control or out of control? Or is he ignoring that information?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I do know my reporting indicates that the president has been informed of the severity of the situation of the outbreaks of the need to take, you know, really increase the calls for appeals the masks and social distancing and all that. I know he has been told about the severity. You know, what I have heard from advisers in the past is sometimes the president just actually often times he mixes up the facts and the messaging.
For example, deaths is a proportion of cases. You know, that`s interesting to know, because it says we are doing a god job of keeping people alive for example. Or we have a big denominator because we do a lot of testing. So there are things that would be valuable to take away from deaths as a proportion of the number of cases.
But when you are talking about how widespread this virus is, and how much, you know, of an impact it`s having on the country, obviously you would want to look at, as Jonathan noted, death as a proportion of the population.
So while advisers maybe telling him about the death rate when you look at it in a number of cases, as an example of, you know, here`s where we`re doing things well, he is not retaining the broader number of how many people have died as relation to the population. And of course, that`s just one example.
And we`ve seen this throughout the course of the presidency whether it`s the Mueller investigation, whether it`s gun control. You know, advisers telling him one thing and the president interpreting that in a different way. And of course, in a way that deflects blame from him, as you can see in this situation, trying to deflect blame and responsibility by trying to look at the rosier picture of numbers, versus the statistics that show the real scope of the problem.
TUR: So, Jonathan, we`re waiting on another coronavirus briefing from the president. Kellyanne Conway has said the reason that he`s back out there doing this is because of polling. Now that we have had it for roughly two weeks, I wonder how the White House feels about how it`s going.
The president in these briefings, has shown himself refusing to admit any sort of error. He`s contradicted the advice of his public health expert. He has painted a misleadingly rosy picture of the pandemic in this country. And he`s pushed, again, untested and potentially dangerous treatments. Do they think that these task force briefings are helping the president right now?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST, A.P. WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, other than all that, Katy, they`re going great. I think the White House, they did want him back out there. The president back out there for a variety of reasons. You mentioned certainly polling being one of them. They have tried every possible argument here in recent months to talk past this pandemic. To focus on the economy reopening, the president, as we know, has waded into a lot of cultural wars, including some that have been on very racial terms. The confederate flag being just one of them.
And certainly the president has shown over these two weeks a bit more of an ability to stick to his talking points than he did during some of those very freewheeling, combative briefings that we saw that defined the March and April.
But as you say, he is still dealing misinformation and outright lies at times. He`s downplaying the crisis in a number of ways. He`s struck a few notes suggesting that yet, indeed that this is something that`s going to get worse than better.
He has highlighted some growing hot spots that even as the situation has stabilized somewhat in places like Florida, Arizona, and Texas, we`re really seeing a rise of cases in the Midwest. Part of the country that was not as touched the first time around, but places now like Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota are now seeing their cases surge. That`s a great concern for this White House, particularly since some of those states are battlegrounds.
LEMIRE: But the president doesn`t have any other options. He`s not able to be out there to have rallies every day. He has a limited ability to sort of campaign, to have set pieces. The convention has largely gone away. They want him out there in front of the cameras, because they have come to the recognition and it has taken them months.
This election is going to be a referendum on how he`s handling the pandemic. Right now, the polls suggest the American people don`t think he`s doing a very good job, but they don`t see another argument. There`s not another theory of the case here. He has to show some ability, he`s advisers believe to manage this crisis.
TUR: But Jonathan, just outside looking in, it seems as if the president and his team are flailing. Initially, he wasn`t supportive of masks, and he made that turn and talked about it in a couple of interviews. He tweeted how it`s patriotic, now the campaign is sending out campaign emails, urging people to wear masks.
He`s been going on and on about mail-in ballots, saying that they`re going to be (inaudible) with fraud, even though there`s no evidence to support that, only to backtrack on that today by telling Floridians to go and use mail-in ballots. Do they know what their message is?
LEMIRE: In many ways, Katy, it seems like it`s almost too little too late. That`s the concern that a number of people around the president have. But yes, he has finally sort of ended up where he needs to be on some of these issues, including I just say masks. He started to wear it sometimes, not all the time. He has started to promote their use, that`s good.
But certainly, you know, it has not been a full throated embrace, not it could be. You mentioned mail-in ballots, he always had a distinction where Florida, in his mind, seems to be a state that does it well. Perhaps in part because that`s the state where he votes mail-in, and he`s been much more critical of other places.
But let`s remember, the Republican Party itself has urge mailing on ballots. He`s urge absentee, he`s own campaign has. He`s daughter-in-law, Laura Trump, who is a senior campaign adviser has cut ads urging Republicans to indeed vote by mail, which is going to be so crucial this time around, because so many Americans are going to be fearful of going to the physical ballot box during a pandemic.
And we wrote that, my colleagues in the A.P. wrote that this week. This is a -- though the president is privately telling people that he has got time to turn this around, it is still about three months to Election Day, he points to the late breaking events in 2016, Katy that you well know shaped the election, like the James Comey letter. But not only that, you can`t count on that happening again. You can`t count on an October surprise.
But this is an election, where we`re going to see a historic amount of people voting early. So, even if the president were to have a good political moment in October, think about the tens of millions of ballots that could already have been cast by then. Because early voting starts in early September.
TUR: And we`re still, unless there is a miracle vaccine and millions of people could get vaccinated all at once, we`re still going to be in the middle of a pandemic in November and people are still going to be suffering. So there`s that. That`s not going to easily go away.
Dr. Patel, I want to ask you about trust. Because there are a lot of people out there who say I don`t trust what the president says. It doesn`t matter to me if he`s changing his messaging. But there are also a lot of people, mostly Republicans, who do listen to him.
And let`s put up some polling from an NBC News survey monkey, it shows that there are Democrats who listen to Dr. Fauci and the CDC, and there are Republicans who largely listen to the president. So when he`s flip-flopping on masks, when he`s flip-flopping on the severity of this pandemic saying I don`t know, it`s all going to go away, what does that do to our ability to come together as a nation to fight this off?
PATEL: Yeah, that`s a great point, Katy. And I think what`s disturbing about that, is that the president does have an incredible bully pulpit. And so his kind of consistent misinformation and kind of propagating, even though his own officials have said things like, hydroxychloroquine should not be used, period. And then he continues to tout some of these treatments, so-called treatments.
All that does is undermine any ability for science and data and evidence to emerge as kind of a guiding light. So if you just consistently use that amazing bully pulpit to spread misinformation, all you will have is what you see today, where there`s chaotic response. Where people will actually claim, as we saw senior members of Congress, claim that using a mask might actually cause the coronavirus to spread.
I mean, imagine how that narrative started to enter the conversation. So, by also distancing the few scientific advisers around him, Dr. Birx most recently, but beginning with Dr. Fauci, we have just seen kind of consistent attacks at the very things that we should be at least bringing forward to the public. Something that is nonpartisan, the data, the trials, the evidence, and the medicine as we know it.
TUR: Consistency is key. Dr. Kavita Patel, thank you very much. Jonathan Lemire and Shannon Pettypiece, thank you as well. But don`t go too far, because you`re all sticking around to help us put the president in context when he speaks in a few minutes.
Ahead though, the very latest on the coronavirus relief bill negotiations. A meeting of negotiators just wrap up on the Hill, we are going to go there next. And here`s a live look at the White House where the president is set to speak in about 10 minutes. We are going to go there once he does.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: The American people, in the end, need help. And wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team, they have to sign it into law, and the Democrat not insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House is something I`m prepared to support. Even if I have some problems with certain parts of it.
TUR: Welcome back. That was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this afternoon saying he would back any compromise made between the White House and Democratic negotiators on the Hill, even an extension of the $600 a week enhanced unemployment benefits.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were back on the Hill this afternoon to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. That meeting has just wrapped up. Schumer told reporters a couple moments ago that while both sides have made concessions, there is still no deal. And that they are quote, still slogging through.
Joining me now is Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun. Senator, thank you very much for joining us. I want to start off with what Mitch McConnell said, that he would sign a bill that he wasn`t happy with, that he saw as having some problems. If that is what the Democrats and the White House`s negotiators have agreed upon, would you?
SEN. MIKE BRAUN (R-IN): That`s pretty well what I heard in our Senate lunch on, as well. And I think the consensus I get is that if it`s close to the hero`s act, I don`t think that will be the case, I don`t think you`ll get enough Republicans coming along.
If it addresses the essential stuff like trying to get something that`s meaningful on the unemployment category, every business I talked to back in Indiana, many of our Republican states, they do not want the government competing with businesses to get their employees back.
So something would have to give there. Some businesses were left out in the original package, errors and omissions. Many of us think that could be done for less than a trillion. But I think if you get something that is practical and pragmatic, that`s what the leader was talking about. Each of us will have to look at what our states want us to do, a place like Indiana puts a big emphasis on fiscal integrity and responsibility.
So the top line level may be too much for my constituents to handle. But I think if you get what he described and it comes a long distance from the hero`s act that could very well happen. I don`t think that`s going to happen this week. Probably sometime in a week or two.
TUR: There are millions of Americans who are out of work, and many of them don`t have jobs to go back to. Are you saying too bad to those Americans because you spoke with a few businesses who think that $600 is too much?
BRAUN: Not at all. I think that we put out on the floor the ability to get unemployment benefits out there at the $600 level for a week or two while we get it together. The Democrats did vote against it. We put other options out there through unanimous consent. It didn`t work.
So I make -- here`s the way it plays out. We are all interested on helping those that have been dislocated and need to do it quickly. We put it out there, they voted against it. They want something grander. And I think it`s on their shoulders, it`s their burden to come into something that`s going to be doable, not a wish list of many things that are unrelated to the coronavirus.
TUR: With all due respect, the Republicans haven`t gotten on the same page about what that would be. So do Democrats have a -- have the Republicans proposed a plan that said hey, here`s how much money we want to give in unemployment benefits and let`s negotiate on this?
BRAUN: Every Republican is in a place where we think we need to do it. I think we can coalesce together quickly. But at this point, when Mnuchin and Meadows come over and say that they haven`t move at all with Pelosi, that`s where the lack of urgency is.
TUR: But where do Democrats stand -- I mean, where do Republicans stand if you --
BRAUN: We would coalesce --
TUR: Are you asking them to negotiate with themselves?
BRAUN: We would coalesce around something that did not compete with the unemployment benefit. You got to remember in many cases across the country that wage is lower than what you could get from unemployment. And I don`t know of any Republicans that think you should have an incentive not to come back to work. We would come together on something quickly --
TUR: Do you really think that is an incentive to not go back to work? There was a Yale study that said that is just not the case. And there is a number of Americans who have foregone that extra $600 to go back to work when the job is available to them. Do you really believe that there`s just a bunch of lazy Americans sitting around and saying I want to take this money and not go back to work?
BRAUN: I don`t think it`s necessarily lazy. It`s an incentive out there that anybody might be tempted to stay on it if in fact your wage was less than that. And I think when I listen to main street business owners, not big companies, all in general having difficulty in places like Indiana, to get their employees back, because in many cases, it`s so much higher than what the wage was before. And in states like that, your cost of living is a lot lower, too. So, it is (inaudible) --
TUR: But that`s not everybody. Hold on, that`s not everybody. You might have spoken to some businesses, but that doesn`t cover everybody that is out of work right now. So it sounds like you`re saying because the businesses that you spoke with would like people back, everybody else is going to have to suffer.
BRAUN: Listen, all of us have talked to a broad cross section. This isn`t like here or there. We`re hearing it everywhere. So it`s a consensus, and the fact is, we would come together on something that was focused on that, as long as it`s not going to be something higher than what the prevailing wage is. My proposal was --
TUR: Do you have a number in mind?
BRAUN: -- taking it up to 66 percent. Ron Johnson and I did as an option. There`s another bill out there at 70 percent. Or there`s a flat rate if your systems can`t handle that in terms of the technology in 50 different states. Something that would work and not create that incentive not to come back to work.
TUR: Senator Mike Braun, thanks so much for stopping by and talking to us. We appreciate it, sir.
BRAUN: You bet.
TUR: And ahead, the census is going to stop counting early, prompting fears that a lot of people mainly minorities and immigrants could end up uncounted. We are going to talk to the reporter who broke that story, next.
TUR: Welcome back. The U.S. Census Bureau is suspending all counting efforts for the 2020 census on September 30th, which is a month sooner than previously announced.
This includes door knocking and responses collected over the phone, online, or by mail. The move has researchers and experts worried that this change will miss minority communities even more than past years and produce incomplete data.
It has also raised concern among Democrats about distribution of political power across the nation. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Congresswoman Karen Bass and Stacey Abrams wrote -- quote -- "With an inaccurate count, under Trump`s scheme, congressional districts, apportioned by Congress every 10 years, will become wider and more Republican, despite population trends that run the exact opposite direction."
Joining me now is NPR reporter Hansi Lo Wang. Hansi covers the 2020 census and broke the story last night. So, walk us through your reporting.
HANSI LO WANG, NPR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Katy. The story actually -- I broke it last week before the Census Bureau`s official announcement. I talked to three Census Bureau employees who spoke under condition of anonymity. They don`t want to lose their jobs. They told me early on that the bureau was ending door knocking a month early.
And just last night, the Census Bureau`s director, Steven Dillingham, posted a statement on the website confirming that door knocking is ending a month early, as well as a collection of responses online over the phone and by paper, through the mail.
And this is a big concern amongst Census Bureau directors, as well as a lot of census advocates who are very worried that this is a time when the Census Bureau needs more time to make sure that every person is counted, every person living in the country is counted for the 2020 census.
TUR: What is the reason they give for stopping early?
LO WANG: The Census Bureau`s director says in a statement that the commerce secretary who oversees the Census Bureau directed this change being made to the schedule and they are trying to follow current federal law.
There`s a federal law that says the Census Bureau has to provide to the president the latest state population counts by the end of this year, December 31st, latest state population counts used to redistribute seats in Congress.
And back in April, the Census Bureau made a request to Congress that, you know, the pandemic happened, we need more time to do this, we can`t meet the deadline.
Since then, not only Democrats have introduced legislation to extend that reporting deadline, and the Census Bureau have been operating as if it would get that extension and extended the counting tap to October 31st. But yesterday, officially, the Census Bureau says they are going to stop counting on September 30th.
There is concern here that there are ongoing negotiations about coronavirus relief package, the latest one, a provision there, and it is not clear to Census Bureau why the Trump administration seems to be assuming that there might not be a provision, that it might not emerge from those negotiations.
TUR: If door knocking has stopped early and there`s less time given for mail-in and online census filling out, why do democrats believe that it is going to disproportionately affect minorities and immigrants?
LO WANG: This is based on Census Bureau research and historical trends. People of color are less likely to participate, to fill out a form on their own than white people.
And so what that means is that at this point the census process is months into the process. That`s why door knocking is so important to the Census Bureau`s efforts to make sure every person living in the country is counted.
That in-person contact showing up at someone`s front door, if they have not filled out a form, that`s the way the Census Bureau has tried to make sure that communities of color, rural residents, other historically undercounted groups, to make sure they are fully represented.
And if this counting is shortened and that means that those door knockers have less of a chance, less opportunity to try to make that in-person contact, the bureau will have to rely on statistical methods as one option that essentially try to fill in the blanks, rely on existing records.
Those records really -- could really exacerbate the historical undercounts of people of color because they show that white people are overrepresented, well-represented in the records, but people of color are not so well represented in those records.
TUR: And for those of us who don`t know the full extent of what the census means, not just for representation but for allocation of funds, just give us a few examples of what could be affected beyond just the apportionment of representatives in Congress and what districts are more heavily represented than others.
LO WANG: You know, when we`re talking about the census, we are talking about power, we are talking about money, we are talking about $1.5 trillion a year in federal tax dollars that are allocated based in part on census data for public services that include Medicare, Medicaid, schools, roads, emergency services.
Also, policymakers, businesses rely on this demographic data collected once a year that help them make decisions based on the needs -- to try to figure out the needs of a community, of an area based on the demographics.
And so the big concern here is that as the country continues to change, the demographics are projected to become a browner country that if the 2020 census results don`t reflect that, we may have these multiple realities where some communities may be living out that certain demographic reality.
But on paper, there are people who will not exist, who will not be counted or invisible for the next 10 years because they are missed in the 2020 census.
TUR: Hansi Lo Wang with some very important reporting, Hansi, thank you so much for joining us.
LO WANG: You`re welcome, Katy.
TUR: And the president`s press conference is now scheduled for 5:50 p.m. We`re going to take you there live when it happens. Also ahead, if it`s Tuesday, people are voting, a lot of them, and a lot of them by mail. How is it working and could it be a preview of what to expect in November? That`s next.
TUR: Welcome back. You know what Chuck likes to say, if it is Tuesday, somebody is voting somewhere. And today, it`s voters in five states. And while we will be keeping a close eye on the results of those states` contest, we are also monitoring how those votes are passed and when they`re counted.
In Arizona and Michigan, many of those votes will be cast by mail, meaning they could tell us how mail-in voting will go this November.
It comes on the same day President Trump tweeted that the election system in Florida with a Republican governor is safe and secure, and the day he pledged to file a lawsuit to block mail-in voting in Nevada, which has a Democratic governor. Watch.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You`ll have somebody like the governor of Nevada come out with this massive plan out of nowhere to take millions of ballots and send them all over the place. You`ll never know who won that state. We will be suing in Nevada and that`s already been taken care of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Nevada. It also comes six weeks after New York held its congressional primary. Results in Congressman Carolyn Maloney`s race are still in dispute. A judge ruled yesterday that a thousand disputed ballots in that race must be counted.
Vaughn Hillyard and Dasha Burns are in two counties that are part of our MEET THE PRESS "County to County" project, which focuses on five counties we are watching closely through Election Day.
Vaughn is in Maricopa County, Arizona and Dasha is in Kent County, Michigan.
So Vaughn, mail-in voting is not new in Arizona. I know though this year is different. Are you seeing even less people there than in normal times casting ballots in person?
VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: In 2018, across the state of Arizona, Katy, 78 percent of Arizonans voted by mail. That`s why the lines here, we see no more than four or five people lined up here at once on this primary day. I think it`s important to put into context, what is Arizona doing right here?
Take into account, I was talking with Maricopa County recorder Adrian Fontes, not only did they send early ballots out four weeks before Election Day, they also have early voting sites, more than 100 for the general election that open up four weeks before Election Day.
You can go to any voting location. This is where I think a lot of the confusion over mail-in voting comes into play. That is, what happens on Election Day? We should note here, when early ballots come in into droves in which they do, here in Maricopa County, they are going to begin counting those early ballots that come in beginning 14 days before Election Day so that there is not a huge log jam of uncounted ballots.
That is where -- (INAUDIBLE) speaks to this. But this is where concerns in some of those Midwestern states that don`t have quite that same history of mail-in voting, if they begin counting on Election Day, we may not know those results up there in Midwest where officials here in the state say that they hope to have those results sooner rather than later.
I want you to hear directly though from Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is in charge of elections in the state. This is what she told me, what her primary concern is here in Arizona.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: My biggest concern is misinformation. We already knew misinformation was a big thing coming into this election and, you know, the additional misinformation about vote by mail is another layer on top of that. And so we`re just really working to make sure that voters again know those trusted sources of information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILLYARD: Here in Maricopa County, with your early ballot, Katy, you can request getting a text message to notify you that the county has received your mail-in ballot. Misinformation, we should tell you, we talked to multiple voters.
There is one gentleman who walked up here with a walker, slow, making his way to vote. Why? Because he doesn`t trust mail-in voting. Another woman, Karen Bailey (ph), came with her friend who is here with an oxygen tank to come and vote. Why? Because they do not trust mail-in voting. They do not trust the process.
I asked Karen (ph), I said, do you believe, let`s say Donald Trump doesn`t win on Election Day, do you believe in the integrity of the election? She frankly told me, no, because of mail-in voting, reflecting that of her president. Katy?
TUR: Interesting. Vaughn, thank you. Dasha, let`s go to you in Michigan. So Michigan is now using no excuse mail-in voting for the first time. What are officials expecting in terms of the votes returned and how long do they expect to take to count all of them?
DASHA BURNS, NBC NEWS JOURNALIST: Yeah, that is the key question, Katy. I got to say, probably the only thing that I have in common with Vaughn right now in terms of the situations in our respective counties is that here we have also seen very, very few people.
Today, I talked to the clerk in there who told me that typically this is a pretty bustling polling location. We`ve seen a handful of people trickle in and out every couple of hours. That is because this election really is all about mail-in voting.
It is a big test here because they are dealing with some new factors. You mentioned no excuse absentee voting. This is the first cycle where they will have that. Any voter who wants to vote absentee can go ahead and do that.
On top of that, the secretary of state here took the unprecedented and pretty controversial step of issuing absentee ballot applications, not ballots, as an important distinction, absentee ballot applications to every voter in Michigan. She actually got some criticism from President Trump about that. But it meant that voters had one less step that they needed to take in order to vote by mail.
The thing is though in Michigan, unlike in Arizona, election workers are not allowed to start opening those envelopes until 7:00 a.m. on Election Day, which means with this major surge in absentee ballots, it could be a while before we get election results out of this state.
I asked the Kent County clerk about what she feels they need in order to deal with this massive rise in mail-in ballots. Take a listen to what she told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA POSTHUMUS LYONS, KENT COUNTY, MICHIGAN CLERK: I believe there should be a serious conversation about potentially providing more funding, whether it is from the federal government or the state government, to our local election workers, our local election officials to provide additional tabulating equipment, additional scanners, funding for additional workers in our absentee counting boards to be able to beef up our operations and count more absentee ballots at the same time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNS: And Katy, she told me she is not in favor of changing that rule in counting those ballots before Election Day. She said she doesn`t want to sacrifice speed for security. So, it could be that we need to have some patience. We could be waiting as late as the end of the week to hear results from this very critical swing state. Katy?
TUR: Dasha Burns, thank you. Vaughn Hillyard, thank you, as well.
And ahead, one place voters are voting today could give a major boost to Democrats trying to take back the Senate. Steve Kornacki is at the big board, next.
TUR: Welcome back. As we mentioned earlier, five states are holding primary contests today, including Kansas, where they have got a republican Senate primary today that could be pivotal in the Democrats` quest to take back control of the Senate.
Establishment Republicans are afraid that if polarizing candidate, Kris Kobach, wins the GOP primary, they risk losing this open seat. Kobach was the Republican nominee in the Kansas gubernatorial race two years ago, and he went on to lose in the general election.
For more on the Senate state of play, I`m joined by our own Steve Kornacki at the big board. So Steve, how does this race look?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you mentioned Kansas, and we`ll see. We`ll get some results tonight at least and see if Kobach does get that nomination. It could have general election implications, as you mentioned.
There is another primary we`re keeping an eye on today out in Arizona. This is where Republicans -- it is expected -- will formally nominate Martha McSally, appointed senator there. Remember, she was appointed earlier this year. She had run in 2018 and she had lost. She is going to be running -- it is expected -- against Mark Kelly, the Democrat.
This is a seat the Democrats think they can flip, a Republican seat the Democrats think they can flip. This is a state that Trump won by a few points in 2016.
But the polling has been consistently showing Kelly with a pretty sizable lead here over McSally. Kelly has been running ahead in that race. If he were to hold on and win, that would be a pick up for Democrats.
To put this in some bigger context here, let`s take look at sort of the battleground, the potential battleground for the Senate here. We can break this into two categories. Let me start with two states here. There is Alabama. This is a Democratic seat. Doug Jones won a special election three years ago, very, very red state. Republicans think they can get the Doug Jones seat and get a pick up there.
There`s also Michigan. Now, Republicans have been saying that Trump won that narrowly in 2016. John James is going to be there, a candidate there. They think -- they`ve been saying they can make it competitive, but the polling in Michigan so far has not been that competitive. So if the Democrats held on there, the Dems would be 46, Republicans 45. Every single seat you see here in the middle is currently a Republican-held seat.
We`ll see tonight if Kansas becomes competitive. We talked about Democrats feeling very good about where they are in Arizona right now. They also think they got a great shot at Colorado. That`s Cory Gardner. If they were to get that, that is 48.
You know, Maine, Susan Collins. Democrats think this could be the year they could get her. Let us say they do just for the sake of argument. That there would put them at 49. And again, every single one of these seats, you see Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, two seats in Georgia, all Republican-held.
So Democrats are in offense here. They have a lot of opportunities. Republicans are to hang on to the Senate. They got to win a lot, a lot of those toss-up seats.
TUR: Such a dramatic change from what we saw even a year ago or what we expected even a year ago, let alone six months ago.
Steve Kornacki, thank you very much. We will be right back.
TUR: We want to squeeze in a quick update on the breaking news we led with at the top. Lebanon`s prime minister now says the explosions were caused by an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been left unsecured for six years in a warehouse.
He says he will punish the officials responsible. At this hour, 50 people are dead, 3,000 are hurt, and there are big fears that those numbers are going to rise dramatically.
That is all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.
Hi there, Ari.
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