KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to Thursday. It is MEET THE PRESS DAILY. I`m Katy Tur in for Chuck Todd. Nearly 160,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. People in this country are dying at a rate of 1,000 a day. Another 1 million Americans have now lost their jobs. And key unemployment benefits have expired. Neither Congress nor the White House can agree on a relief package. Negotiators are meeting again right now for basically the 10th time.
Cases while declining nationally remain at levels Dr. Fauci calls unacceptable. Dr. Deborah Birx says privately sounding the alarm with state and local officials and Ohio`s Republican Governor today tested positive as he was about to meet with President Trump who is striking an increasingly desperate tone.
With 89 days until the election and early voting just weeks away in some states, there is simply no way to sugar coat the full extent of the political crisis that is facing this White House.
Our first NBC news battleground map of 2020 has President Trump right now headed toward a significant defeat. We are going to have much more on this coming up with, who else, but Steve Kornacki at the big board.
Right now, though, President Trump appears to be looking for any Hail Mary that he can find whether it`s claims of a rigged election or warnings of violent bloodshed. The end of the suburbs or socialist indoctrination of your children.
Today in Ohio he told crowds that his opponent Joe Biden is against God. Facebook and Twitter have removed his post for spreading coronavirus misinformation, specifically his claim that children are immune.
Also, today, President Trump suggested a vaccine could be available, you guessed it, by Election Day. Even though a number of health experts say the most optimistic scenario, this is the most optic -- optimistic scenario possible is to have a vaccine widely available next year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEW ROAMING CORRESPONDENT: So, what`s the earliest we could see that, a vaccine?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sooner than the end of the year. Could be much sooner.
RIVERA: Sooner than November 3rd?
TRUMP: Oh, I think in some cases, yes. Possibly before but right around that time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said a vaccine could be ready around November 3rd. Are you optimistic that that will happen? And will that give you a boost on the Election Day?
TRUMP: On the vaccine?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TRUMP: I am. I`m optimistic that it will be probably around that date. I believe we`ll have the vaccine before the end of the year certainly but around that date, yes. I think so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, would that give you a boost in the election? Would that help you in the election?
TRUMP: It wouldn`t hurt. It wouldn`t hurt but I`m not doing that, I`m doing it not for the election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Joining me now from New Jersey where President Trump will be shortly after visiting Ohio is my NBC news colleague Kelly O`Donnell. Also, with us is Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief for the Washington Post and an MSNBC political analyst. And Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and a MSNBC medical contributor.
Kelly, the president when he does travel is largely traveling to states that he needs to win in November. Today one of those states was Ohio. Was this anything more than a campaign stop?
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Katy, as you know there are times where they align an official event and campaign stops like fundraising tonight in Ohio and it gives the appearance of being government business and a president visiting a state and speaking on behalf of all the people, but the president`s also able to use it as a way to get his campaign message.
Remember, in states that are those key battleground, Ohio is the example today, there`s a lot of local coverage, there are a lot of opportunities for the president to be seen in the community and those are things that any campaign views as valuable currency. So, the president more than past presidents tends to blur the line between the official event and the campaign event.
So he uses what is a White House taxpayer funded setting and more and more we see him talking about themes that are really very much from his campaign side. Now, obviously the rallies are gone due to COVID, other kinds of retail campaign opportunities have dissolved because of the pandemic. So the president is fusing all of that together to try to get the most punch out of his official visits.
And so typically if it were just campaign business, the campaign would pay for the airplane, would pay for all of the different thing that go along with setting up an official visit or a campaign visit. In this case taxpayers get the bill, and this is a way for the president to try to talk about the things that matter to him. He likes to have that optimistic, cheerleader for America persona that you talked about.
Some of that sometimes trampling right beyond the bounds of what is factual in order to try to push those ideas like we have seen him moving up the timeline on a potential vaccine when the scientists are saying early 2021, that could conceivably be in for him a second term or for Joe Biden a first term depending on the outcome.
The president`s moving that timeline up saying it could be much before the end of the year. Now it may be the case to identify by that point some of the promising medicines that are in the works right now. But to disseminate and to have a system to distribute that would be much tougher to do so the president trying to do that in order to make the vaccines a deliverable potentially that he could claim for campaign benefit. Katy, Chuck?
TUR: I remember mail-in ballots are starting to go out soon so, it`s not just something that would be decided on Election Day. People could be using that as hope when they mail in their ballots. Phil, let`s talk about these claims. Vaccine by Election Day. Children are immune so don`t worry about sending your kids to school.
Joe Biden is against God. It looks as if the president of the United States is desperate right now, especially when you put it up against the polling that is out there. From your reporting, how desperate is this campaign? And, I mean, perhaps maybe they`re not desperate at all. What are you hearing?
PHILIP RUCKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the president is incredibly desperate to try to turn the dynamics of this race in his favor to find a way to generate fresh momentum in his bid against Joe Biden. And one of the ways he is doing that is by talking about a vaccine. We hear in these regular coronavirus briefings that he`s been having. He`ll talk about how optimistic he is about a vaccine.
Of course, the news today being that he thinks a timeline could be in early November. You know that conflicts with what we`re hearing from medical professionals and we should also keep in mind that having a vaccine is not like flipping a switch. It is not like one day it`s discovered and all of the sudden all, you know, 300 odd million Americans are cured from the coronavirus.
There`s a process underway to get that vaccine produced, to get it distributed to the masses. Get it tested and so forth. So, it could be a very long time. But the president has shown himself these last few months to be prone to magical thinking. You know, first he thought the hydroxychloroquine anti-malarial drug is going to be a cure-all, but science prove him wrong.
RUCKER: Now, he`s touting a vaccine and it`s all an effort according to our reporting to give people something to hope for and to give people some positive impression of the way that this administration is managing the crisis.
TUR: But what about the way he`s trying to characterize and even run against Joe Biden? Today saying that he is against God. Where is that coming from?
RUCKER: Katy, I don`t know. I mean, Joe Biden is a catholic, a devout catholic. He`s talked publicly repeatedly about how his catholic faith had helped him get through the untimely death of his first wife, the death of his young daughter, the death more recently of his adult son. This is a man who lives his faith.
Trump, I don`t know what inspired him to say that Joe Biden is against God. I don`t know how one can actually be against God but I think it speaks to the effort by Trump and his campaign to find something that they can use to weaponized against Biden because so many of the attacks they have tried against Biden the last several months have really not worked.
TUR: Sleepy claim isn`t working. The cognitive test hasn`t been working according to the polling. Dr. Bhadelia, let`s talk about the virus and where we stand with the death toll and the spread. The very latest IHME model says as many as 300,000 Americans could die from this by the beginning of December.
And they also say that if mask wearing was universal that 70,000 lives could be saved and that video we just showed a moment ago, the president is walking up to the podium.
You can see people weren`t socially distanced. It`s hard to tell if they are wearing masks, because we are just looking at the back of their heads but these projections, I mean, they`re not good. And to say that we could save that many lives by just wearing masks seems like it`s an easy thing to get behind.
NAHID BHADELIA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Katy, you know, just weaving everything together, whether the president says this will go away or if he gets his false hope of a vaccine that might be available. The function that that serves is basically telling people, hey, business as usual. You don`t need to change your behavior, or you don`t need to do anything as Americans while in the middle of this pandemic and the truth is the exact opposite.
As you said, I mean, I think that what we really need in this moment is to take on this charge and unify as Americans to really come behind this idea that it is our responsibility.
By simple things like wearing the mask, by reducing indoor gatherings, by staying home when we`re sick and for the government to put in the investment, the concrete actions need to be taken to avoid actual losses of American lives between now and December as you talked about so the myth, the most painful myth of spreading these idea that we are in normal times is that people are not taking the importance of these measures into consideration.
You know? And honestly if there`s one plea that I can make as you said, you know, the mask, the hand washing, the physical distancing, it will have an impact and honestly those are the only tools we currently have available to avoid new infections because, you know, even our testing is falling behind.
TUR: Yes. Let me ask you this. And it`s a question that we ask every single day but it`s one that needs to be asked because the president keeps repeating this claim that kids are immune to this virus. Be very clear. Where do we stand on what we know about how the virus affects children?
BHADELIA: Katy, there is not just studies but American experience now that the fact that kids can get sick from this virus. They get infected, fewer kids get hospitalized and get sick enough to come for medical care but they can be hospitalized in smaller numbers.
But they carry the virus, you know, as well as adults do. We know that older children transmit it at least as well as adults do and we know from both summer camp experiences and it is all just this week, you know, in Georgia, in Missouri, schools had to quarantine the entire classes or large groups of students because students came back positive.
And so to put this claim, again, it is just as pushed towards normalcy to say, hey, we don`t need to do the hard work, we don`t need to drive the community transmission down, we don`t need to make the investments to make sure that if we do have in certain areas in-person learning that schools don`t have to follow the same type of physical distancing or decontamination or wearing personal protective equipment such as masks. I think all of this is hurting us in the long term.
TUR: There seems to be certain -- sorry for interrupting. The delays get you -- a certain level of complacency among many people on this country and I`m just going to put up a graph, Dr. Bhadelia, something that happened in Ohio.
One man went to church and it seems that he infected at least 91 others, and this is just going to show you the spread. One man and we`re going to get it on the screen just a moment, was able to infect a number of people within the Ohio church.
So secondary cases you can see ringed around in yellow. It`s a number of people and then the tertiary cases, 35 cases, the tertiary cases in green. This is one person, one super spreader going to one event linked to 91 other infections.
Is this just -- you know, a unique event, a unique experience or are we potentially going to be already seeing this at events across the country that we aren`t able to track yet, because we don`t have the testing necessary or the tracking structures in place, infrastructures in place to figure out who people are in contact with?
BHADELIA: Well, Katy, I never assumed in my entire career, you know, doing outbreak response that six or seven months out into this pandemic that United States with all these resources would not yet have that capacity to even answer that simple question that you asked.
How frequent are super spreader events? And so this call for data, the fact that, you know, not only do we not have accurate hospitalizations in some areas their (INAUDIBLE) are measured other measures that the death, but we don`t have intricate data such as how many new infections come from clusters like this?
You know, how do we not have that? The tough part of this is as you said, you know, so that particular Ohio case we saw to five different counties and the studies that I saw today basically said that asymptomatic patients, patients without symptoms carry as much virus as patients who have symptoms.
And so, you know, I think people are looking at this as saying if I`m not sick, that if I get sick I will (INAUDIBLE) the circumstances or the -- you know, the impact of that. But they are not considering is that, if you get infected even if you don`t have symptoms you will make a lasting impact on those around you.
TUR: Phil Rucker, one last question to you. These things are all tied together. The economy is tied to how the virus is under control, the president`s poll numbers at least on the coronavirus are tied to how well the virus is under control and the economy, as well.
So does he understand the importance of getting serious about this? And wearing a mask all the time, leading by example, beating the drum on social distancing, on hand washing, telling everybody to take it seriously? Does he understand that it`s in his own electoral benefit to start treating this very seriously?
RUCKER: Well, you are exactly right, Katy, and it has confounded some of the president`s allies these last few months. The president hasn`t really understood that the easiest way for him to fix all of these problems, to fix his own political problems, but also to revive the economy and get the schools back open is to get control of the virus.
And he had an opportunity in the spring to do that and with the assessment of a lot of health experts, the administration failed to putt in the measures required to really get control of this virus which puts us in the situation we are in right now. But you`re right, everything is connected to that virus and if they can get those numbers down and get some control over this all of the other pieces could potentially fall into place to the president`s benefit.
TUR: Phil Rucker, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia and Kelly O`Donnell, everybody thank you very much.
Ahead, three months out from Election Day and our first NBC News battleground map has a lot of blue on it. Steve Kornacki is at the big board with a closer look at the state of the race right now.
Also, later, New York State pulls out the big guns against the NRA. The latest on the lawsuit trying to bring down the powerful group for good.
TUR: Welcome back. As we said at the top of the show NBC News is rolling out our first battleground map of 2020 today and it shows Joe Biden with a commanding lead. Our map which we`re basing on public and private polling, as well as conversations with Democratic and Republican strategist shows Biden with a whopping 334 electoral votes.
President Trump with 125 electoral votes and 79 electoral votes in the toss-up category. Among the states we have right now in the lean Democratic column are Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan, all states that Donald Trump won four years ago.
In just a moment you`re going to hear why Biden is dominating this map right now from some lifelong Republican voters who have become disillusioned with their party. It`s part of our Meet the Press County to County Project. But first, let`s go to our own Steve Kornacki at the big board. So, Steve, explain these numbers and how we got to this point in the electoral map or a battleground maps so far.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think one way to look at this maybe is let`s take a look at where it landed in 2016, whereas of right now we think things have changed. Of course, this was the 2016 map. Remember Trump with 306 electoral votes, 232 for Hillary Clinton. So, this is where it landed. Now, I`m going to show you what the NBC news map looks like right now.
By the way, some of these states are lean Biden or lean Trump. We`re going to making them blue or red here so you`re not seeing the difference between the solid and the lean. If it`s lean, we are giving it to the candidate it is leaning to. Just for the purpose of showing you where these things stand. And you can see that as you mentioned, we have got Biden at 334 right now. Trump only at 125. So, what are the changes? Six states here. Six states that Trump won in 2016 that we now have leaning to the Biden column.
That is Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, those big three Midwest states that Trump was the first Republican to carry in three decades. All three of those now over the Biden side and then Arizona, Florida, North Carolina. Six states there and also by the way there`s that one Congressional district in Maine, the 2nd Congressional district in Maine.
Remember they give out electoral votes by district there. Trump won one of those districts in 2016. We have that over on the Biden side. So that adds up to a gain there of 112 electoral votes for Biden -- from 102 from where Hillary Clinton landed in 2016.
So, there`s these states Trump`s lost and then there`s an additional four here, Texas, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa. And again, these were solid Trump margins in 2016, all moving to the undecided to the tossed-up column right here.
Remember, Trump won Iowa by nearly 10 points in 2016. Eight points in Ohio. Nine points in Texas. Five points in Georgia, all four of those states now again not in Trump`s column or not in Biden`s column, not in Trump`s column. We`ve got them in the tossed-up column right now.
In additionally if you see that gray in the middle of the map, Nebraska like Maine gives them out by Congressional district. There`s a district in Omaha, we`ve got that as a tossup right now too, a district that Trump had won in 2016. So, the only movement you are seeing on this map from 2016, you know, Trump campaign has talked about Minnesota. You know, Clinton state in `16, trying to make it a Trump state in 20.
We`re not seeing that movement now. They`ve talked about that in Nevada, in New Mexico, New Hampshire. They picked a number of states, you are not seeing any movement from what where the Clinton states in `16 to Trump in `20 but you are seeing a lot of movement on this initial map from the Trump states in `16 either to tossup or to Biden.
And right now, Katy, again, that`s just basically that`s what the polling is showing. We are here all the time talking about there`s a poll in Michigan, there`s a poll in Texas. We are going to put it all together at this point this is what it looks like.
TUR: Steve Kornacki, Steve, let`s try to figure out why this is. So let`s turn now to Michigan, a state Donald Trump won four years ago but is in jeopardy of losing this year and he`s handling of the pandemic may be one reason.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DASHA BURNS, NBC NEWS REPORTER: What made you go from pretty solidly for Trump to backing away from that and now winding up more on the fence?
JERRY STEPANOVICH, KENT COUNTY, MI VOTER: When he said that you know, well, we`re just going to knock this right down, well, that`s not -- that ain`t going to happen. Not with the actions that we took. He took some right actions. I agree. Some he should have taken a lot sooner and taken a lot more seriously.
BURNS: What do you think he should have done differently?
STEPANOVICH: Not made such a -- I don`t want to say a mockery. It is not the right term but not had it so blase, blase. Like, you know, we`ll take care of this. The bravado. The bravado would be -- that`s kind of irking me right now at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: NBC`s Dasha Burns joins us from East Grand Rapids, Michigan, in Kent County. It`s one of the counties we are watching through Election Day in our Meet The Press County to County Project.
So, Dasha, I find all of this conversations you have to be really interesting and two of the big stories lately have been one the virus which you were just talking about there with that gentleman and the other one the president handling of racial issues in this country after the George Floyd protests. How do you summarize what you have been hearing over the past few months?
BURNS: Yes. Katy, it`s so fascinating. This is why I love this project because I have been in touch with these voters since last November. We are coming up on our one-year anniversary here.
And Jerry, who you just heard from there, when I first met him at (INAUDIBLE) farmer`s market in downtown and he was echoing the president`s language on impeachment. He was calling it a witch hunt. He was very much a Trump voter and speaking like one and since then so much has changed in all of our lives.
For Jerry it`s really been the pandemic but for another voter I talked to, a mom of two, named Katey Morse, for her it`s really been that the president`s handling of the black lives matter movement and some of this messaging he`s using now to target suburban moms like her, this law and order message she said is actually turning her off. She says, I`m not the suburban housewife of the 1950s and it`s made her pretty frustrated and offended in fact.
And remember Trump won both Michigan and Kent County by a very narrow margin. So, he needs to hang on to these voters here, particularly this slice of the electorate that we`ve been following which are this moderate Republicans.
Kent County is the hometown of Gerald Ford and its home to a lot of voters who view themselves as moderate Gerry Ford Republicans and they feel like they don`t really have a home in this Republican Party.
In fact, one voter how he calls himself politically homeless. So, there are a lot of factors at play here and of course the other big conversation is the V.P. pick and that is going to be a big deal here as well. And could be make or break for some of these voters. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAL OSTROW, KENT COUNTY, MI VOTER: I`d have a very hard time, as much as I don`t want to vote for Trump, voting for Biden if he were to nominates somebody or ask somebody to be his running mate who is extremely divisive.
KATEY MORSE, KENT COUNTY, MI VOTER: I think it`s important not necessarily to me as an individual but I think for the ticket as a whole and there`s still, you know, people that need to go ahead and make their decision if they`re going to vote for Trump or Biden just like, you know, that you two gentlemen sitting here. I really like Gretchen Whitmer.
BURNS: Jerry, do you agree with Katey?
MORSE: And that`s OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNS: They fall along the spectrum, Katy and when it comes to Gretchen Whitmer, the Governor of Michigan, we know she is still on that short list. Katey is all for her. Hal is open and Jerry, if Biden picks her will probably be going for Trump. Katy?
TUR: So interesting that they would put so much stock in the V.P. pick. It is not as if Vice President Pence is doing much of the governing. It is Donald Trump that does the governing as it would be Joe Biden. NBC`s Dasha Burns, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
Ahead President Trump is railing against mail-in ballots, but California says they are absolutely trustworthy. I`m going to talk to California`s Secretary of State about how they are securing the vote, next.
TUR: Welcome back. President Trump continues to rail against -- I`m sorry. One hundred and sixty thousand people are dead, there is a pandemic going on, there is an election in November, and the president is railing against mail-in ballots.
He is railing against the expansion of mail-in voting in Nevada this morning, this time during a radio interview with Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera, claiming again without evidence that mail-in ballots are -- quote - - "rigged."
But the real danger to mail-in voting in November may be coming from one of his own appointees. In July, the postmaster general implemented dramatic changes and cuts to the U.S. Postal Service workflow, resulting in some pretty significant delivery delays.
And with states like Nevada and California now sending ballots to every registered voter, there are real worries that the volume could be overwhelming.
Joining me now to discuss California`s approach to vote by mail is California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Mr. Secretary of State, thank you so much. What do you say to those who might be concerned about the volume, the number of ballots that are going to be heading the postal service`s way and their ability not just to get them to the voters but get those ballots back to you on time?
ALEX PADILLA, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Katy, good to see you again. Look, it is a legitimate question and there`s good news to report, right? Vote by mail has been around for decades, no excuse vote by mail specifically, and California is not just the most populist state in the nation, we have the largest electorate of any state in the nation.
Vote by mail has only increased in popularity over the last several election cycles. In fact, more than 70 percent of the more than 20 million registered voters in California received a mail-in ballot in the primary.
And so while we, too, are keeping an eye on funding levels for the U.S. Postal Service overall, we have years of practice working in partnership with local postal service leaders and representatives to ensure the timely delivery of not just ballots to the voters but the ballots back to counties, number one.
Number two, in California, we have a "postmark plus three" (ph) policy. So as long as the ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day, we allow for more time for it to be delivered and still be counted.
In fact, we are extending that delivery deadline even more for this November, just in case all the ballots still must be postmarked before the election.
And last but not least, in our efforts to improve transparency, you can now sign up to track your ballot through the postal delivery system, and so will be alerted if there`s any bottlenecks or delays.
TUR: Let me talk about the authorizing of somebody else to return your ballot. That seems like an area that critics of this process will point to say it`s ripe for tampering.
PADILLA: Critics when they think it doesn`t suit their agenda or their interests, right?
So here`s what some of Trump`s friends don`t like about California. We have empowered voters to decide for themselves how they prefer to return their vote by mail ballot, either through the postal service, in California the return postage is prepaid, voters can drop their ballot off at any secure drop box anywhere in the county convenient to them over the course of the weeks leading up to the election, or they can drop it off in person themselves at any voting location.
And on top of that, if for some reason they get caught up with a work schedule, a sick child, whatever the case may be, voter can decide who they trust to return their ballot for them, who shouldn`t have any artificial restrictions especially in the area of COVID. We should be working harder to give voters more options for safe voting, not make it harder.
TUR: So, the president, the administration is suing Nevada for its decision to count ballots after Election Day that are postmarked on or before Election Day. Are you worried that you`re going to end up getting sued, as well?
PADILLA: Katy, we have already been sued.
PADILLA: Both the state Republican Party and the RNC sued California for our audacity to provide voters for more safe options to vote this November. Only took a matter of weeks and a couple times in front of the judge for the Republican Party to voluntarily withdraw the lawsuit.
California will not make voters choose between exercising the right to vote and protecting their health and that of their loved ones. We are getting ready for November. We have some work to do. I am pleased to see that many other states across the country are following similar models.
TUR: So I have two last questions I am going to ask you both at the same time. Number One, what do you tell voters -- how long should they give to mail their ballot in? Should they be filling it out on Election Day or should they be giving 10 days, 14 days to get it back on time?
And number two, I know you`re going to count them past Election Day if they`re postmarked on the right day, how long is it going to take to count all these ballots? When do you expect to have results?
PADILLA: I appreciate both of those questions. So, look, in California, voters should check their ballots not in eight or nine days from today but in 60 days from today. Ballots will begin to arrive 29 days before the election.
My suggestion, fill it out, mail it back right away. I don`t think most people are changing their mind as to who to vote for this November. But according to law, your right is to be able to vote up through Election Day. And so as long as your vote by mail ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day, it will be counted. But the sooner, the better is our recommendation.
And you`re right, California is notorious for taking a little bit of extra time to finish counting the ballots first of all because of our volume, and second because of the steps we go to ensure the integrity of the vote, the signature checks that are required for vote by mail ballots, to post election audits, etcetera.
So on election night, we will have a pretty good sense of the outcome of most contests. For close contests and final results, it is going to be a few weeks. And that`s normal. It is for a good reason. And I appreciate your help in setting those expectations now. We may have a tense election night, but we may not know final results for a couple weeks until after the election. That`s simply the process at work.
TUR: Just very quickly, when it comes to your signature, it got to match your driver`s license or your state ID, right?
PADILLA: Right. So the first thing that election officials check when the vote by mail ballots come back is the signature on the envelope compared to the signature on file as part of one`s voter registration record. If they match up, the ballot is then counted, not beforehand. If they don`t match or the voter forgot to sign the envelope, the county will attempt to reach the voter and rectify that issue.
TUR: Look at your driver`s license and match that signature.
TUR: California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Thank you, sir, for coming on. I appreciate all of your time.
And as the U.S. passes the grim milestone of 160,000 deaths, coronavirus relief negotiations are happening right now on Capitol Hill. We have got the latest, next.
First up, though, new developments in the Beirut warehouse explosion. At least 135 people are confirmed dead, including one American. And now, 5,000 more are hurt. The number of people left homeless has grown to 300,000.
More than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded Tuesday, flattening Beirut`s buildings in the downtown port. Many are now pointing the finger at Lebanese authorities, accusing them of corruption, neglect, and mismanagement. Newly surfaced documents show the government knew the explosive chemicals were there but failed to act to secure them.
Other countries are stepping in to help Lebanon deal with this catastrophe. President Emmanuel Macron of France arrived in Beirut today where he called for an international investigation into the blast.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Yes, I`m not going to speculate about the timing. But what I do want to reassure the American people is that there is a desire on the part of both the Democrats and the Republicans, at least most of the Republicans, not every single one, that we get to an outcome because the economy does need an additional boost until we get the vaccine. Exactly when that deal comes together, I couldn`t tell you, but I think it will at some point in the near future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Welcome back. That was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this morning, highlighting one of the obstacles in the next round of coronavirus relief.
Right now, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are back on Capitol Hill for another round of negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. They are scrambling to reach a deal on major components of the coronavirus bill by tomorrow. The two sides have been making incremental progress, but they are still far apart on many key issues.
My NBC News colleague Kasie Hunt is on Capitol Hill this evening. Kasie, it is always good to see you. Where do the negotiations stand right now? Have they agreed on anything? Are there other sticking points and when are we going to get a bill?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: It is always good to see you, too, Katy. They just headed into this meeting a couple of minutes ago. It started at 5:00 p.m. On the way in, Mark Meadows and Mnuchin stopped briefly to talk to reporters. Mark Meadows in particular was focused on the top line number for what this bill may cost in the end.
Remember, Republicans initially made an offer of 1 trillion in total aid. Democrats are north of three trillion with their Heroes Act. Meadows claimed that that kept going north. He said that Republicans had moved up from 1 trillion but said that there was very little incentive to negotiate if they couldn`t figure out that top line number.
But I think what Mitch McConnell said and the fact that he went out on TV and said what he said signals that there is quite a bit of pressure to actually crack a deal, even if it spends more money than some of these Republicans are now saying is too much.
Meadows, of course, you will remember was the Tea Party congressman who was a thorn in John Boehner`s side on a lot of these spending issues. So that seems to be something that is complicating the talks a little bit.
But, you know, I think we can`t lose sight of the reality here, which is all of these Americans who are waiting to find out what is going to happen to them. They are struggling to make rent, to put food on the table, and they are relying on that money from the federal government.
And Nancy Pelosi framed it today. She said she sees light at the end of the tunnel on the negotiations, but that the light at the end of the tunnel might be the oncoming train that is the virus. So that is a bit dark here.
HUNT: But I do think the next 24 hours, Katy, are going to be critical for these negotiations. It seems as though there is still the will to do a big bill. It may not be done by Friday. We may see intense negotiations through the weekend. But of course, you know, nothing is done until it`s absolutely -- every single detail is agreed upon up here on Capitol Hill. So, we are going to be watching it for the next couple of days, Katy.
TUR: And then it is voted on and the president signs it. Very quickly, what about money to states, Kasie?
HUNT: So that has been one of the big sticking points. That really contributes to the overall amount of money, the total price tag of the bill. And Republicans have basically agreed to let states move money around that they had already given them.
Democrats, on the other hand, want to send a lot more because there`s a lot on the line -- cops, firefighters, teachers, people that are paid by cities and municipalities and by state governments who are at risk if they don`t get that money, Katy.
TUR: Kasie Hunt on Capitol Hill. Kasie, thank you very much.
And coming up next is an epic legal battle that is in the works, New York State versus the NRA. The AG is accusing the leadership of the NRA of a lot of corruption. Stay with us.
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LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW YORK: They use millions upon millions dollars from the NRA for personal use, including for lavish trips for themselves and their families, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel. For these years of fraud and misconduct, we are seeking an order to dissolve the NRA in its entirety.
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TUR: Welcome back. That was New York Attorney General Letitia James today, announcing a lawsuit she filed to dissolve the National Rifle Association.
The lawsuit accuses NRA leadership, including its chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, of a pattern of widespread corruption and financial fraud, and of diverting more than $64 million from the non-profit organization for their own benefit over a three-year period.
In response, the NRA has filed its own lawsuit, alleging the New York case is a political hit job. NRA President Carolyn Meadows said, "This was a baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend. You could have set your watch by it. The investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle."
Michael Waldman is the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. He is also the author of the book, "Second Amendment: A Biography." Michael, always good to have you on.
Let us talk about the allegations in this lawsuit. That NRA statement is not addressing what the lawsuit is alleging, what they`re charging the NRA with, saying that it`s fraud and corruption and that the people at the top were pocketing the organization`s money for their own benefit. It says nothing about guns or the Second Amendment.
MICHAEL WALDMAN, PRESIDENT, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Well, there`s an old saying in the law that when the law is on your side, pound the law. When it`s not, yell and pound the table. They`re making that response.
But the allegations in the lawsuit are really quite something. The NRA would not be the first organization, but it certainly seems like one of many that start as a cause and become a bureaucracy and end up as a rocket.
It really is a remarkable portrayal of grifting and self-dealing of Wayne LaPierre arranging for himself a $17-million contract, in case he gets pushed out. That`s a stimulus, if ever there was one.
Any charitable organization -- and New York State`s attorney general does have authority over charities in New York -- would really raise questions about whether there`s been a lot of misconduct. And it comes, as you know, because of revelations to the internal splits in the NRA involving Oliver North --
WALDMAN: -- where a lot of these charges were first made public.
TUR: So, this is accusing the leadership of fraud and of pocketing this money. Does the organization, thereby, have to be dissolved or can there be new leadership to rectify these issues?
WALDMAN: Well, as you know, this is a civil lawsuit. It`s not a criminal prosecution. It will get hashed out in court presumably over many months. The suit was against the NRA and also against the leadership. It is not necessarily going to be a surprise if the organization decides that its interests diverge from this leadership.
And it`s conceivable that the organization could face this kind of penalty, but that one of the possible consequences is that LaPierre and the others are tossed out. That`s how these things go and there is a lot of litigation and a lot of lawyers` hours ahead.
TUR: Is this likely to be a successful lawsuit?
WALDMAN: Again, the facts of it are quite damning, and there`s no question that both the New York and the Washington, D.C.`s attorneys general have the authority to do this kind of thing. But it`s a very big deal, of course, to ask for the dissolution of any organization, certainly one as prominent as the NRA.
In a lot of ways, one of the things significant is, even before this lawsuit, the NRA was something of a shell, so to speak, of its former self. It was this force that struck fear in the hearts of politicians. And that made them think if they did anything around gun regulation that they would be struck down at the ballot box.
And in recent years, the NRA has lost of its focus, has lost the sense of its political invincibility. And so it`s hard to know how a suit like this will go. But in a lot of ways, the political fading from power of the NRA had begun already.
TUR: Couldn`t they just change the name of the organization? I mean, sometimes when a restaurant is not doing well, they`ll change the name of the restaurant in order to boost -- to boost its sales. Could they take this lawsuit, deal with it, and then afterwards just form another organization that isn`t called the NRA but called something else and is functionally the same?
WALDMAN: Well, that`s -- you know, the key fact is that there are millions of Americans who care a great deal about their gun rights. And they are out there. They passionately believe in this. And whether it`s through the organization called the NRA or something else, they will continue to be a force in politics and to be something to be reckoned with and to be part of the national conversation.
I don`t think if the NRA goes away that that point of view goes away. And there could be other organizations popping up with similar interests and even similar personnel. But this kind of monolithic terrorizing effect that the NRA had, it would be hard to replicate at least at first. And one does have to be concerned about the timing.
TUR: Michael Waldman. Thanks so much. Sorry, we were up against a hard deadline. Thank you very much. We will be right back.
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