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Coronavirus Relief Bill TRANSCRIPT: 8/5/20, MTP Daily

Guests: Amesh Adalja, Jeff Merkley

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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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.


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 --

TUR:  Yeah.

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.