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President Trump TRANSCRIPT: 8/4/20, MTP Daily

Guests: Mike Braun, Hansi Lo Wang

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. 




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. 


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. 


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. 

TUR:  Yes. 

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. 



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.