KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to Wednesday. It is MEET THE PRESS DAILY. I`m Katy Tur in for Chuck Todd. And if it is 5:00 p.m. in Washington, we are once again expecting the president to hold a news conference this hour. It comes as he is once again saying that this virus will go away, as he pushes for schools to reopen. Meanwhile, Dr. Fauci is once again warning that new cases remain at an unacceptably high level and he`s once again warning that they must come down dramatically before we can safely reopen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALERGY AND INFECTOUS DISEASE: As long as you have any member of society, any demographic group who is not seriously trying to get to the end game of suppressing this, it will continue to smolder and smolder and smolder. And that will be the reason why, in a non-unified way, we`ve plateaued at an unacceptable level. Now, I`m sorry for the long-winded answer, but I think that`s the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Fauci wasn`t speaking explicitly about the president or his supporters in that clip, but he could have been, because as we surpass 158,000 deaths, President Trump has basically at every turn downplayed the severity of this virus, while misleadingly telling the country and his followers that it will disappear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s going to disappear, one day, it`s like a miracle. It will disappear. We`re prepared and we`re doing a great job with it and it will go away, just stay calm, it will go away. But I think what happens is, it`s going to go away. This is going to go way. This virus is going to disappear. It`s a question of when. We`re doing so well after the plague. It`s going away. I said, it`s going to disappear. I`ll say it again. It`s going to disappear. And I`ll be right. This thing is going away. It will go away like things go away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: That last clip was from an interview the president conducted this morning as he pushed to reopen schools. At the same time, we`re getting images like this one in Georgia, showing crowded hallways with few students wearing masks. It comes as new jobs data suggests once again that hiring is slowing dramatically in this country, due to the spread of this virus. White House negotiators on Capitol Hill meanwhile have been so inconsistent in outlining what the president will support that the next phase of virus relief has been mired in uncertainty.
The virus has paralyzed America, virtually everywhere. Contrary to the president`s claims that it`s only effecting a small portion of the country. The issues is facing communities across America are splashed across the front pages of local papers in this country.
Montgomery, Alabama, it`s a story about child care providers who are struggling in this pandemic. Biloxi, Mississippi, virtually the entire front page of the Sun Herald is about various COVID issues facing the area. Ventura County, California, it`s a look at how the virus is ravaging impoverished communities. Grand Rapids, Michigan, it`s a look at how children are at risk of going hungry. We looked at hundreds of local papers today and, no surprise, this virus is impacting communities everywhere.
Joining me now from the White House, where we await the president, is NBC news White House correspondent Kristen Welker. Garrett Haake has the latest on the negotiations on Capitol Hill. Also with us is Peter Baker, Chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times and a MSNBC political analyst. And Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
Garrett, I do want -- sorry. Kristen, I do want to start with you. How involved is the president in the -- gosh, the overcoming of this virus, the attacking of this virus, behind the scenes? How much more involved is he than just getting out in front of reporters and reading a piece of paper?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he`s engaged, Katy and he`s getting regular updates holding regular meetings, certainly with his coronavirus task force. At the same time, you have seen him, several weeks ago, try to turn the page on this crisis, try to focus on the economy, try to focus on his re-election campaign and that is where he has been met with great challenges, because of course, as so many medical experts and economic experts, frankly, have said, he cannot tackle this virus and really start to see the economy get back on track until the virus is under control. And that just has not happened yet.
It`s remarkable, as you played his sound bite yet again this morning, saying that he expects the virus to just go away. Now, he is going to be holding a briefing in less than a half an hour from now, Katy, so, it`s a chance to ask him about what specifically he means by that, why he`s reiterating that statement yet again, as he continues to call for schools to reopen and as we`re seeing cases surge in various states throughout the country.
This adding urgency to this White House, to the administration, to try to get more of those rapid tests out nationwide, but that hasn`t happened yet. And the critique, of course, is that there hasn`t been a national testing strategy. So, what is the update on that and why hasn`t that happened yet?
Those are among the questions that loom large over this president and over this White House and all of it, Katy, really adds urgency to those talks that Garrett has been watching on Capitol Hill. The fact that you`ve had these ongoing talks, trying to get yet another relief bill done and yet there is no imminent deal in sight at this point, Katy.
TUR: I want to get to that deal in just a moment, but Peter Baker, first, I want to ask you this. People are getting sick by the thousands. People are losing their jobs because the economy can`t really reopen while people are getting sick and people are locked inside. People are struggling right now, they can`t pay their bills. They can`t find new employment. Does the president get it?
PETER BAKER, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, the statement that you just played, the idea, well, it will just go away, doesn`t suggest that he does, right? It doesn`t suggest that he is connecting with the pain and suffering of the American people. 160,000 people dead so far. We had 1,300 people die yesterday. If we keep this up, we`ll have another 90,000, 100,000 dead by Election Day.
To say it`s going to go away is not very reassuring to the people who are looking at those numbers and as you put it -- the vast number of people as well who have been effected because their jobs aren`t there anymore, because they can`t afford health care, because they are stuck at home because their kids aren`t going to school. So, he has yet to find a way, I think, to connect with the American people who are, you know, enduring this terrible crisis, in a way that suggests that he understands just how tough it really is for them.
TUR: Well, does he understand that the economy can`t really reopen unless the virus is under control? Does he get that?
BAKER: Well, you know, that`s what people told him back in May, when he was first arguing to reopen the economy. People said, look, first get the virus under control and then the economy will follow. If you try to reopen too fast, you won`t get the economy, because the virus will snap back and look what happened.
So, we`re right back where we started, basically, three months ago, where we`re having to have this debate, where the virus and the economy are inextricably connected. As Kirsten just said, if he really wants to get things going, especially by fall when he`s facing a re-election, then, you know, what the experts are saying is, he needs to take more drastic action right now to get control of this virus. We haven`t seen that kind of urgency.
TUR: Dr. Adalja, where is he getting this idea that the virus will just go away?
AMESH ADALJA, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I don`t know where he`s getting it. Some sort of unreality. This is a respiratory virus that spreads efficiently from person to person. It`s established itself in the human population. It`s not going to go anywhere until there`s a significant proportion of the population vaccinated.
And even then, it`s still going to be something we can tend with. Coronavirus that can spread efficiently from humans, they are something we deal with it every year and this looking like it`s going to be an endemic or a seasonal coronavirus. So, it will not magically disappear. And I think we need to get serious about doing the simple tracking, tracing and isolating and we`ve been unable to do since the beginning of this pandemic.
TUR: We can`t even get test results back in a timely manner in much of the country. Garrett Haake, on that subject. On the subject of testing, what sort of negotiations are happening to get states more money or to fix the log jam that we`re having with our testing capacity? It`s been six months and we still don`t have adequate testing across the country in a timely manner that would allow for contact tracing.
GARRET HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, remember, when these negotiations started before the Republican even rolled out their counter offer to the HEROES act, the White House was pushing to zero out the money that would be provided in this next relief bill for testing. Democrats feel like they`ve confidently nipped that in the bud, but the negotiations continue, and money for state and local governments remains probably the single biggest sticking point.
The White House and the Democratic negotiators here are literally hundreds of billions of dollars apart on how much money they think needs to go to state and local governments and that`s money that could potentially be used to help with the coronavirus response in hot spots all across the country.
Now, Katy, I can tell you, since we`ve been on the air, negotiations have wrapped up for the day. Secretary Mnuchin and Mark Meadows where in Speaker Pelosi`s office for about two hours today. They were joined for at least the first 30 to 40 minutes of that by the post master general. Democrats are hoping that they can extract some agreement from hand to chain some policies that`s done entirely clear on what the specific ask is, so they can potentially lower their number of billions of dollars they`re asking for in aid to the postal service.
We`re told no major breakthrough today. Progress continues. The Congressional front that qualities as good news, but it`s certainly not going to be enough for all the people across the country waiting quite anxiously to see what their federal benefits will look like, when and if a deal is reached on this next relief bill.
TUR: So, Nancy Pelosi is talking right now, we`re monitoring that, to see and this is Chuck Schumer now talking, to see if either one of them have any news on the negotiations. So, Garrett, it sounds like they are coming closer together on the things like unemployment insurance, on extending the evictions moratorium, potentially until December. Is that what we`re going to see, that it`s a $400 extension on a week, extension on this unemployment benefits. Is that locked in stone at this point?
HAAKE: I think nothing is locked in stone at this point. I think, you know, the classic cliche here is that nothing is decided until everything is decided. But I will say that we and other news outlets started reporting that $400 compromise this morning and it felt for all the world to me like a trial balloon. But I didn`t see today were a bunch of people shooting at it. You know, we didn`t see people coming out of the woods to say that that number would be totally unacceptable to them, which suggests to me that it`s at least the kind of issue that they can sort of table for now and move onto some of these other things.
The eviction moratorium is the biggest red herring to me in all of these negotiations. The White House has been saying for weeks, whether it`s the president or his top advisers, they wanted to see the evection moratorium continue. That wasn`t even in the Senate bill, so, the idea that this was a compromise means it was essentially a compromise between Democrats who wanted it, the White House who wanted it and perhaps Senate Republicans who didn`t. So, the process of gaining concessions and coming to agreement here is a little bit unusual.
TUR: Garrett, what`s the timeline right now?
HAAKE: Anybody`s guess. I mean, everyone wants to move quickly on this. They seem to have set for themselves an arbitrary deadline of trying to get some kind of deal struck by Friday. Congress loves to set arbitrary deadlines. Unfortunately, they also love to blow through them. We`re in August. Most of these folks would rather be at home, a lot of them would rather be campaigning for re-election. So, we`ll see what they`re able to come up with.
TUR: Let`s talk for a second about mail-in voting. Garrett just mentioned that the postmaster general was in negotiations with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Steve Mnuchin and Mark Meadows. There are a lot of questions about whether the post office, USPS, will be able to handle mail-in votes in November.
At the same time, Kristen Welker, the president is going after the mail-in votes, saying it`s rife with fraud. The administration is suing Nevada. What is behind that? I mean, mail-in voting has been happening in a number of states, mail-in voting has led to wins for the Republican Party in California, leads to wins in Utah. Why are they so angry about it in a state like Nevada?
WELKER: It`s just remarkable, Katy, and he`s targeting states where he essentially has feuds with the leadership. For example, yesterday, he said that mail-in voting works perfectly well in Florida, which is where he actually decided to vote by mail. And where he doesn`t like the potential results, and the potential outcomes of the races in that state.
So -- but I think the bottom line here is, he`s raising questions about the legitimacy of the November election and that is creating essentially a backlash not only among Democrats, but among Republicans, as well, and raising the question, Katy, if he has these real concerns, why not make sure that he is funding the postal service, giving them the funds that they need to make sure that people can go and vote safely in November, Katy.
TUR: Well, it makes you wonder if the goal is not to -- to get it done right, but to be able to push back or question it if he does not win. Peter Baker, it feels like deja vu. It`s the same thing he did in 2016 when the polls showed him losing to Hillary Clinton, he started talking about a rigged system. He told people to watch polling sites in places like Philadelphia, where he knew he wasn`t going to do that well.
How much of this is just the president`s anxiety coming over about the election and how much of it is the administration preparing to fight the results if he does not win? Not the administration -- yeah, the administration, the White House.
BAKER: Right. Yeah, no, that`s a great question. I think look, this is a constant theme of his, right? Its fact-based web service which tracks President Trump`s statements and speeches went back and calculated this. They found 700-plus raising -- times he has raised vote fraud since 2012. 700-plus times. It`s at 91 times or more so far this year alone. Actually more than that, because that`s now a dated figure.
They cluster around, of course, the election themselves, 2012, 2014, 2018, and so forth. And it`s, you know, even some of his own former advisers saying is he`s setting a ground here to explain what would happen if he loses to Joe Biden, if he loses to Joe Biden, it`s not because he did something wrong, it`s because the election was somehow stolen.
Now, we`re conflating at two different things here, or he`s conflating two different things here. There are certainly are issues to be addressed with regard to mail-in voting, whether or not the U.S. Postal system is ready to handle the flood that could be coming, given the COVID, you know, concerns, but that`s a different thing than fraud, which is the other thing he`s saying. He`s suggesting that basically any of these problems with elections like we just saw in New York automatically mean that they can`t be trusted. That`s a different thing and I think that -- and he`s trying to sort of make them all be the same thing so voters, at least his voters, won`t trust the outcome if he doesn`t like the results.
TUR: Dr. Adalja, I just want to get one last point from you, going back to this virus. We`ve seen images out of a Georgia school where high school students are crowded together in the hallways, a lot of them not wearing masks. It looks like normal times. How concerned are you, when you see images like that? There are members of the, I believe the football team who have tested positive for COVID.
ADALJA: So, what that shows you is a school that`s not prepared to deal with conducting classes in the midst of a pandemic. This has to be a priority. Opening schools in a safe manner, following guidelines. But what you can`t do is go back to what it was like in a pre-pandemic era. We know that children are less likely to get the severe consequences of the disease, but that doesn`t mean they can`t get infected and it doesn`t mean they can`t pass it onto other people.
That tends to be relatively rare, at least compared to adults, but it is a possibility and when you have a school and you have people crowded, not doing face coverings, not following any of the guidance that tells you that this school didn`t really prepare to conduct classes and you are going to see cases. It is inevitable that you will see cases and then you`re going to have panic and disruption which could have been avoided if you would have open the school in a proper manner following CDC guidance.
TUR: The school district said it is encouraging mask use but it is not requiring it. Dr. Amesh Adalja, Peter Baker, Garrett Haake, Kristen Welker, guys, thank you. While and we are awaiting the president`s news conference set to begin in about 15 minutes. Once he does start speaking we are going to bring it to you live.
Also ahead, the White House chief of staff just said that if there`s no action on the Hill by Friday, the president will act unilaterally. I`m going to talk with Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley about that.
But first, the very latest on that massive explosion at a warehouse in Beirut yesterday. At least 100 people are confirmed dead and 4,000 are hurt. Those numbers are only expected to grow. We`ve also learned one of the people killed was an American. According to the Governor of Beirut, the explosion has left at least 200,000 people homeless.
Remember, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. The massive blast came from a warehouse at a shipping port, where more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate was being stored without proper safety measures. Ammonium nitrate is a common industrial chemical used in fertilizer, but under certain circumstances, it can turn into a devastating explosion. That is exactly what happened here. The explosion leveled buildings in port and could be heard and felt as far as 145 miles away. It is still not clear what set it off. We`ll be right back.
TUR: Welcome back. You are looking at live pictures here of Capitol Hill, where as we mentioned earlier, Congressional negotiators just wrapped up a meeting discussing the details of the next coronavirus relief bill. Those talks included Postmaster General Louis DeJoy earlier this afternoon. Moments ago, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said they had a heated discussion with DeJoy about their concerns and they did not find his responses to those concerns to be sufficient.
And after weeks of back and forth, the contours of a relief bill are coming into focus. Contours that appear to include $10 billion for the postal service, less than half of what Democrats had been demanding to ensure timely mail service as millions of Americans prepare to vote by mail.
But with both sides so far apart on a deal, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows moments ago said that if a deal is not reached by Friday, the president is prepared to issue some kind of executive order to restore unemployment payments and eviction protections that recently expired. With me now is Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat from Oregon. Senator, thank you very much for joining us. I want to talk about the contours of this bill. A $400 a week unemployment benefit. That`s down from $600, but it looks like it could be extended until December. Is that adequate for you?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Ah, no, it`s not. And a lot of statement unemployment agencies that actually prosecute the checks say that that will throw a real wrench for them to have to make this sudden change. And we don`t need to create more chaos. And we need to rebuild this economy from the ground up, and these families are proceeding to pay their rent, their mortgage, their utilities, they`re keeping other businesses afloat and so really do damage to the recovery, as well, in addition to hurting the families that can least afford to be hurt.
TUR: So, is it your sense the Democrats are going to hold firm on that $600?
MERKLEY: I think we`re going to keep pushing on it. Obviously, in every negotiations, Republicans control the Senate, there`s going to be compromises worked out, but let`s understand that the fundamentals that the House put forward almost three months ago when they passed the HEROES bill, are right. We need to have testing and tracing. We need to support state and local government. We need to have election assistance to make sure the elections are pandemic-free, if you will, that you can vote without getting sick.
We need to -- to assist in these various ways on health care and education, and of course the complexities of schools of serving children, either online or in limited ways going back into a class room. All these -- these have been there for months now while McConnell and the Senate Republicans have been sitting on their hands saying, well, let the states go bankrupt and we`re not that worried about it anyway. Well, maybe not living in their cloistered communities where everyone`s wealthy, but most of America`s really struggling. And we need to help.
TUR: So, you said that the Republicans don`t seem to be taking this seriously. The other day, I guess you stand by that claim today.
MERKLEY: Absolutely. It`s like a check the box arrangement. Like, they know they have to do something. There is an election ahead of us, so, they need to do something, but they`re not treating this like the worst pandemic in a century. They`re not treating it like the worst economic implosion since the great depression.
Even the great depression, we didn`t lose so many jobs this quickly. And it just makes no sense. They`re still talking about giving tax breaks for three martini lunches. So, I think they`re completely out of touch with how families are being effected across this nation.
TUR: What about the postal service? $10 billion, down from what the Democrats had wanted at $25 billion. Is $10 billion enough for you to have confidence that USPS will be able to deliver election ballots on time, both to the people who need to fill them out and back to the various states?
MERKLEY: Katy, I want to see the analysis on it, because truthfully, without the analysis, I mean, what is it -- what does it actually take to make sure that every ballot gets postmarked in the states where postmark is required to have your ballot counted? What does it take to process the extra flow that might come in the last few days? You know, I watched in Oregon in my first election, so, we`re going back to 1998 election, half the ballots were by mail just because of an effort of both parties to encourage their citizens to vote by absentee ballot.
And two years later, it was all by mail, 100 percent. Post office was not an issue. Post office simply not -- it never was a problem. They were able to process it just fine. I`m worried that there`s kind of a deliberate strategy here to throw up one more impediment and that this postmaster general is working with the president to make it a problem, make it a problem so that he can argue that he doesn`t like vote by mail and look the post office can`t work, put me in charge, I`ll show you.
And that just is against -- it`s another form of election manipulation. And we`re seeing so much of that. We`re seeing it in the strategies for registration cards, for polling places, where you reduce the number, you put in bad machines, you change the location, you change the hours of early voting, all these strategies.
Now, if the president believed in our constitution, are we the people constitution, he would believe in voter empowerment, and we need to keep fighting for that, for that fundamental right for every person to participate in the direction of our country.
TUR: Let me go back to the bill. Have you gotten a sense from your leadership, from Chuck Schumer, about when to expect to vote on something, to get it passed?
MERKLEY: No, not at all. They`re far apart. I mean, we have seen the Republicans say, well, maybe we`ll go from 200 to 400. Maybe we`ll give a little bit of funding for state and local governments, maybe a fourth of what the House had put forward. But think about the areas they`re apart on. Housing, elections, the post office, food, schools, testing and tracing.
Testing and tracing absolutely the critical tools for getting ahead of this pandemic and they`re dragging their feet on it. Which doesn`t just mean that more people get sick, it means tens of thousands more people will die. We`ve got to have a robust testing and tracing program in this country.
TUR: What is the log jam? Is it just money? It seems like if you -- if you need more capacity at Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp or you need more swabs, it seems like those are two things that you can overcome or we should be able to overcome as a country. Are those the problems or is there something else going on that we just don`t know about?
MERKLEY: This is a mystery we`ll ponder for a long time. I mean, we know what enables countries to get ahead of this disease. We`ve seen it happen in country after country. They still can have outbreaks, but they`re prepared to manage them, because they`re small and because they have enormous preparations for testing and tracing.
And so, I think, you know, the president was imbedded with that, it will just disappear philosophy and let`s not talk about how bad it is, because people will find out how bad it is. You know, it`s kind of, let`s cover our eyes and our ears and cover the eyes and ears of the rest of America. That is just not fine.
I think about how we didn`t have a national program on producing protective equipment and we pushed hard here, Democrats pushed so hard to have it, Defense Production Act and so forth. We didn`t have a national program on testing. We didn`t have a national program on tracing. Its three strikes and you`re out. And this president is -- he struck out and now he is just trying to cover it up and we can`t let that happen, that`s why we`ve got to keep pushing.
TUR: It`s incredible that we`re six months into this and it`s a mystery why we can`t get faster testing done, more widespread testing. Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate your time.
MERKLEY: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: And the president is set to speak from the White House. Maybe somebody will ask him why testing is such a problem. We`re going to go there live when he does.
Also ahead, the Democrats` new virtual reality, the upcoming convention in Milwaukee will have almost no attendees, plus big announcements from both Biden and Trump about where they`re going to accept their party`s nominations.
TUR: Welcome back. Former Vice President Joe Biden will not travel to Milwaukee for the Democratic National Convention. Instead, he`ll accept his party`s presidential nomination from his home state in Delaware. In fact, the entire convention is now going to be effectively a virtual. No National Democratic Party officials will travel to Wisconsin because of concerns about the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, President Trump is floating giving his acceptance speech from the White House, which would be a significant defiance of the norm of separating official White House business with campaigning.
Joining me now is NBC`s Mike Memoli, who covers the Biden campaign. Mike, thanks for joining us. How does the Biden team feel about the president potentially accepting the nomination from the White House, the optics of that and how that might compare to Joe Biden`s optics?
MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, they haven`t weighed in specifically on the idea of President Trump doing it from the White House, though there is this sort of confluence of potentially both men doing it from their homes in some respects.
But what has been interesting in terms of the decision to move the former vice president`s acceptance speech from Milwaukee here to Delaware has to do with at least they`re spinning it as the idea of the former vice president setting a good example, right?
They really did want to have this speech in Wisconsin. When the Democrats chose Milwaukee among several bidding cities to do it, there was a sense that they were trying to make up, let`s say, for the mistakes of 2016, when Hillary Clinton, of course, famously did not campaign in that battleground state in the final months of the campaign.
They delayed the convention from July to August. They adapted it to a more virtual but still, even last week, advisers saying they were going to anchor the convention in Milwaukee.
But as we`ve seen with other events that the former vice president has tried to do of late, he was traveling regularly into Pennsylvania to do his economic speeches. But obviously the last few he`s done were here in Delaware and that`s entirely about following the guidance.
At a fundraiser this afternoon, Biden said, listen, Mayor of Milwaukee limited gatherings there just recently to smaller than 225 people, and he believed that that`s necessary at this point to follow that guidance and that means not doing his convention speech there.
TUR: So, does that mean we`re not going to potentially see Joe Biden and his running mate in person together when the person is announced or when he accepts the nomination?
MEMOLI: Listen, Katy, we`re not even sure if he`s going to be able to do the interviews with potential running mates in person. I can tell you, I think the former vice president really does want that to be the case, as he narrows in on his selection. Those interviews, as I understand, haven`t taken place just yet, but they`re still considering whether or not he can do them virtually or in-person.
But think about all the major moments of a campaign that we`re not going to be able to see or we don`t know if we`ll be even able to see. When the former president, Barack Obama, endorsed Joe Biden, it was virtually, that was when they finally sat down together, a socially distant conversation.
Now, we are looking at the possibility of a rollout that doesn`t necessarily include both people in the same space. That famous shot on a convention stage, balloons falling of the running mate and the nominee arm- and-arm, just not going to be part of it.
But the Biden campaign has been planning for these contingencies for much longer than the Trump campaign appears to have done. We know there are still key elements of the republican convention that are very much unclear, where the Biden campaign has been preparing for these eventualities all along, whether or not those optics matter.
The Biden campaign is at least putting the big money where their mouth is in terms of investing in the fall. They announced yesterday, just this morning, in fact, $280 million in reservations this fall, especially geared earlier rather than later, as they have an eye on early voting, putting -- that fact that they`ve outraged the Trump campaign to use.
TUR: Yeah. Mike, just really quickly, Axios is reporting that the top two contenders for the VP slot are Susan Rice and Kamala Harris. Does that line up with your reporting?
MEMOLI: I don`t think they`ve narrowed it down to two, Katy. And I think one of the things that been clear in my conversations along with some of the others, my colleagues Kristen Welker and Andrea Mitchell, as well, when Biden engages himself in this process, that reopens things.
There are some names maybe we haven`t been talking about as much of late, who are still very much in the mix, and we`ll get a clearer picture, I think, in the next few days of who is coming in for those final conversations.
TUR: Very interesting. Mike Memoli, thank you very much.
And we`ve got some other election updates for you after yesterday`s primaries. Congressman Roger Marshall is the winner in the Kansas republican Senate primary. He beat Kris Kobach, giving Republicans a much better chance of holding on to Kansas`s Senate seat.
Groups linked to Democrats invested heavily to prop up Kobach, hoping to give themselves the best opportunity to flip that seat.
We also saw a couple of incumbent members of Congress go down. Embattled Republican Congressman Steve Watkins lost his primary to state treasurer Jake LaTurner.
And in Missouri, longtime Democratic Congressman Lacy Clay lost the nomination for his St. Louis area seat to progressive Cori Bush, who had the backing of Justice Democrats.
Missouri voters also approved Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to the ballot box yesterday. They became the 38th state to do so following Oklahoma`s ballot initiative last month.
We`ll be right back.
TUR: Welcome back. Some coronavirus hot spots across the country may be getting a reprieve right now, as data shows case numbers declining in Texas and Florida.
But while California`s data has signalled that state is also in decline, some of the counties with the largest COVID case load have cautioned not to trust those numbers.
At least four counties, including L.A. County, the county with the state`s highest number of COVID cases, have said they are having issues reporting their data, resulting in potential undercounting of cases.
NBC News`s Steve Patterson is in Los Angeles with the latest. So Steve, what is the deal with this discrepancy?
STEVE PATTERSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and I can tell you, it`s even more than four counties at this point. It is the system by which the state takes this reporting data from these county health departments. The health department for the state says that there is a reporting glitch in that system that has led to a significant decline in the numbers that we`re seeing.
This comes at a very dangerous time, because for so long, California has been sustaining this incredible number of cases. So, all these health departments, including the top health officials in the state, are looking for any good news to report and they are seeing it, a week-to-week decrease of 20 percent in the weekly number of positive cases.
The governor reported that earlier this week. But like everything that has come in this data this week, both at the county level and the state level, there have either been addendums of asterisks or out and out caveats that say, maybe you shouldn`t trust this health data because of the glitch that is happening.
The problem is we don`t know how long this glitch has been going on, how many days this has been affecting these numbers, and we don`t know necessarily how significant it is, only that it is significant.
The top health official in the state says it is unequivocally attributing to the decline specifically in the (INAUDIBLE) positivity rate, which is the metric by which these health departments base their decisions.
The statewide data says that is not at six percent. It has been hovering around 7.5, close to 8 percent at its highest point. So, they`re looking at that number to make sure that everything is correct and they`re doing that by going back through these local health departments, trying to check with each individual lab so they can get the numbers updated and appropriate.
But this bears out in what I was reporting today. I spoke to several nurses. It was a national day of action for nurses across the country, but really focused here in California, that say they are lacking the proper PPE, they`re lacking the proper staffing, but more to the point that they are not seeing the declines that are reported, reflecting in the ERs, the ICUs, and the general hospital wings where they are doing all they can to battle against this virus.
It is really disconcerting, particularly when a lot of these metrics determine contact tracing, they determine what happens next happens with the path to the virus, and what gets implemented at the state level as far as either rolling back some of the things that have been in placed or keeping the state in a lockdown fashion.
They really needed to get a handle on this because a lot of these numbers right now are in the dark. Katy?
TUR: Steve, we just got the two-minute for the president, but I got one more question for you. In terms of testing, where do you stand now in Los Angeles County, in the state, in getting tests back? How long does it take?
PATTERSON: It is anywhere from right now five to it can be as high as 12 days. We have seen some of the testing improve in certain areas.
But specifically, when you`re looking at communities and we keep saying this over and over again, these minority communities, and particularly regions where the virus has hit really hard like the Central Valley where you have a high amount of Latino workers going to work on farms where there`s a high amount of meat processing plants, the bread basket of the state, there, the testing really has been lacking so they`re hoping to improve that, as well.
But again, the reporting on the data that comes from that testing has to be correct with the testing that comes in or else none of this really matters. Katy?
TUR: Steve Patterson in Los Angeles. Steve, thank you very much. And again, we`re awaiting the president, who is set to speak any moment now. We`re watching that sliding blue door in the briefing room.
In the meantime, Peter Baker is with us. And Peter, just quickly, how does the White House staff feel about how these past few weeks have been going for the president with these interviews with Jonathan Swan, with Chris Wallace, "Fox & Friends" this morning, where he continued to downplay the virus. Do they think that this strategy is working?
PETER BAKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, look, polls show that he`s in trouble and that the main issue is the coronavirus. So, they know that he needs to get hold of it. They do find it better that he`s out front addressing it in a way he hadn`t been until two or three weeks ago in which he is basically trying to pretend to move on. Now, he --
TUR: Peter, I`m so sorry to interrupt you. You were ahead of me on that. The president is coming out. So, let us listen to see what he says today.
(PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP NEWS CONFERENCE)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`d like to begin by providing an update on my administration`s actions to protect American workers as we battle the China virus.
Only five percent of patients hospitalized were African-American and African-Americans represent --
TUR: We`re going to jump out of this for a minute and go back once the president starts taking questions. It is important to note right now that he`s focusing heavily on Arizona.
The administration so far is not supporting giving money to states across this country to shore up their budgets during the pandemic. But he`s talking about giving $18 billion in economic support to Arizona.
Peter Baker, how important is Arizona for November to the president?
BAKER: Well, it`s pretty important. It is one of the states that Joe Biden has good chance of picking up and that President Trump is feeling defensive about. And I think that the fact that the virus has been spiking so badly there the last few weeks and months, it will upset (ph) that political apple cart.
And, you know, this is a problem across the south and the west. A lot of the states right now that are having issues are states where President Trump is more popular than others. It challenges him in his desire to keep pushing ahead and say that the virus is behind us and we`re moving on and we`re reopening, when it is the very people that he speaks to the most who are suffering the most at this particular moment.
TUR: Dr. Gupta -- Dr. Vin Gupta is with us, as well. I remember Arizona being late to the game in terms of telling everyone to wear masks, you know, closing down some of the more vulnerable businesses once it started spiking in that community. The president right there was painting a very rosy picture of how Arizona handled this crisis.
VIN GUPTA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You bet, Katy. Look, Governor Ducey is not to be put up as an example of an effective leader in this crisis. He is an example of what we should not need in a leader, which is he got in the way of mayors of cities to implement mask ordinances, he finally decided he is going to get out of their way, and now he`s taking credit for mayors actually doing the hard work of implementing mandatory masks in dense urban populations like Phoenix.
That`s number one. He didn`t lead. He led from behind. He finally decided to get out of the way of mayors by removing obstacles.
And number two, just to highlight this, he is still pushing. Even though Dr. Birx gave him a little bit of cover to say it`s OK to delay school, reopening on August 17th, he still continues to push on that. The school board in Arizona, multiple school boards, I`ve heard from a few of them, they say we need to delay this until at least October 1st.
He is still not leading on this issue. And so the chances of Arizona, which currently has 70 percent of ICU bed capacity, still take it up with patients from COVID-19. The chances of resurgence are still quite high as again, this governor is actually not leading from in front, he`s leading from behind.
TUR: Peter Baker, back to the politics on this, just for another second, I guess I`m just stuck on talking about all the money he`s sending to Arizona. Yet at the same time, you have a state -- I`m in New York, which is facing a serious budget shortfall, New Jersey as well, serious budget shortfall, we are almost out of time, is it crazy to expect the president to focus on blue states with economic aid?
BAKER: Well, he`s making it out to be a partisan thing. He`s saying that these are Democrat-led states, they`re in trouble, he doesn`t want to help them because they were mismanaged, and it is up to Pelosi if she wants to help them.
So he is drawing a red-blue line here, which is rather remarkable for a president. A president, of course, is supposed to represent all the states, not just the states where he`s won in the past. It is rather striking --
BAKER: -- to hear him talk in that way.
TUR: He`s not the president of red America. He`s the president of everybody.
Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you very much. Peter Baker, thank you, as well, for sticking around with us.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now as we wait for the president to take questions.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END