CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Chris. Much appreciated, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
And just a little over an hour ago, the president accounted a press briefing in the White House briefing room, flanked by his administration`s top public health officials. It was an update for the public on the administration`s response to the coronavirus. This is unusual on a lot of different levels. The very base logistical level, this is just not well- used room. This is a White House that doesn`t actually do press briefings.
So you can see that the room was packed, full of reporters for this unusual event tonight, people squished in there like sardines. And partly, yes, because this is a very important issue and the president was going to speak on it, but it also ever since the White House canceled regular press briefings, the press doesn`t get in many chances to actually gather in the briefing room and ask White House officials or administration officials any questions at a formal briefing.
As recently as yesterday, really up through today, it wasn`t clear at all who was in charge of the U.S. government`s response to the coronavirus crisis. As recently as this afternoon the White House was specifically insisting that they were not going to put a so-called czar, a coronavirus czar, in charge of the effort the way, say, the Obama White House had done for the Ebola crisis. White House was insisting as of this afternoon that Donald Trump`s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was doing such a great job leading the effort, that`s how things would continue, no reason to bring anybody else in, we can handle this through regular order, everything is fine.
That was the line from the White House as of this afternoon. It changed as of tonight when the president announced that Vice President Mike Pence will be the czar taking charge of the coronavirus response. The president saying tonight that Mike Pence is uniquely suited to this role because of his amazing stewardship of public health in the state of Indiana when he was governor there.
And, Boy, do I have some stories to tell you about Indiana Governor Mike Pence as a public health icon. We have covered that topic extensively on this program, including the very unusual, very alarming HIV outbreak that happened under his stewardship in Indiana. I could go on, but I digress.
Tonight, the president appeared alongside his new coronavirus czar/not czar, Vice President Mike Pence, as well as Health Secretary Azar, also Dr. Tony Fauci, who is a very well respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH. Also, Dr. Anne Schuchat, who is principal deputy director at the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, two very well credentialed, very serious people in this field.
Watching this very unusual briefing tonight, it was a little bit like there were two different stories being told, even from the same podium even at this one event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: What every one of our experts and leaders have been saying for more than a month now remains true. The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly and we can expect to see more cases in the United States.
ANNE SCHUCHAT, CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL PRINCIPAL DEPUTY DIRECTOR: We do expect more cases, and this is a good time to prepare. As you heard, it`s the perfect time for businesses, health care systems, universities, and schools to look at their pandemic preparedness plans, dust them off and make sure that they are ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, in the part of the briefing, the message is pretty clear, right, everybody on the same page. The government`s top health officials saying we expect there to be more cases of coronavirus in this country. There will be more cases here. This is good time to prepare for that. Dust off those pandemic preparedness plans. What did Alex Azar said? He said it is, quote, what every one of our leaders and experts have been saying for more than a month.
Well, almost, almost every one of our leaders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have a total of 15 people and they`re in a process of recovering, with some already having fully recovered.
We`re at that very low level and we want to keep it that way, so we`re at the low level. As they go to better, we take them off the list so that we`re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time.
And again, when you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple days is going to be down to close to zero, that`s a pretty good job we`ve done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I know these people just said we will definitely have new cases, but as far as I`m concerned, we`re only at 15, basically, it`s going to be five any day now, then it`s going to be one or two over the next short period of time. We`ll be pretty close to zero. We`re already almost at zero. We`re doing a good job, right?
I mean, literally, the nation`s top health officials are squeezed in next to him in that crowded room, right next to him at the podium saying, we all agree, there`s definitely going to be more cases, this is the time to prepare. Nevertheless, at that same podium, there`s the president saying, oh, pretty sure we`re going to be at zero. We`ve basically fixed this already. It`s done.
It`s going -- we`re at 15 cases now and it`s going to nothing. And, by the way, when he says there are 15 cases in the United States, when you ask the CDC how many cases of coronavirus there are in the United States, they say there are 60, not 15 but 60.
The difference is that the president is just not counting the other 45 Americans who are in quarantine right now after having tested positive for the virus, Americans who were brought home from China and put on a cruise ship and put into quarantine here. He`s not counting them.
President Trump was reportedly at least initially very angry that those Americans were brought home. So maybe it`s just easier for him to pretend they don`t count.
So with the rose-colored glasses off, the landmark news, it seems, in terms of the virus in the United States today is actually this. As the president was convening this press conference today, authorities confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the United States where they have no idea how the person got infected. The patient is apparently in northern California. We don`t know more specifically where the person is, or for that matter who the person is.
But in epidemiological terms, what`s important here, what`s landmark about this new case is that this is a person who did not recently return from traveling in a foreign country, where coronavirus is known to be more widely spread. This is not a person who is known to have had contact with anybody who recently traveled in a foreign country. There`s, in fact, no apparent contact that this person has had that explains why he or she has now come down with the coronavirus in northern California, but the person nevertheless has tested positive. That makes this the first person in the United States with coronavirus of unknown origin.
This northern California landmark patient is the 60th person in the country overall who is known to be infected. President says it`s soon to be zero. That`s not what anybody else is saying.
The CDC says they have now started contact tracing for this patient in northern California to try to figure out how this person may have been infected, who else might have been exposed either in the same way or by this person who is now diagnosed with the virus.
A similar Rubicon was crossed in the nation of Germany today. The health minister in Germany today convened a news conference to announce that coronavirus in Germany is now in his words moving to a new phase because in Germany, as of today, apparently like us, they now have new cases of the virus that can`t be traced to any particular cause, where patients haven`t traveled themselves to China or to other foreign countries. These are patients who haven`t been exposed to anybody who has done that kind of travel. These are cases of the virus in Germany and apparently here that are now of unknown origin, and that`s important according to the epidemiologists.
Germany and France and Croatia and Austria and Switzerland all announced new cases of the virus today. France today announced its first death from coronavirus. Brazil today announced its first case and that marks the first time coronavirus has been found in Latin America. I will note that Brazil is in the middle of their carnival celebrations which, of course, bring a lot of people together.
Greece announced its first case today. Romania announced its first case today. The nation of Georgia announced its first case today. The nation of Pakistan announced its first two cases today. Pakistan also today closed its national border with Iran.
In Iran, as of last night we reported there had been 16 deaths in that country. Now it`s up to 19 deaths just one day later. Iran has reported only 136 infections already, only 136 people with the virus, but 19 deaths, that ratio sort of feels off. It has raised suspicions that the reported number of cases, the reported number of infections from Iran might be artificially low just because with 19 deaths, you`d expect a larger total number of people to be infected.
The center of the outbreak in Iran appears to be the holy city of Qom, Q-O- M. It`s a site to which Shiite Muslims make religious pilgrimages. Iran has not closed the religious shrines in the city of Qom that are the targets for these religious pilgrims. Nor have they limited access to the holy city. But Iran has as of tonight ordered a week-long closure of schools and other cultural sites in ten different provinces across Iran.
In Saudi Arabia where Sunni Muslims from all over the world make their own religious pilgrimages, authorities have as of tonight suspended religious pilgrimage travel to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In Japan today, the Japanese prime minister said that cultural and sporting events should be canceled or at least postponed. He`s calling on Japanese companies to stagger working hours so people aren`t on site all together all the time at their workplaces. He`s calling on Japanese companies to start implementing work from home and telecommuting options for workers across that country.
Last night, we reported on a luxury hotel on Tenerife on the Canary Islands, which are a part of Spain, a hotel which has been locked down and turned into an involuntary quarantine zone after a guest at that hotel was found to be infected. That lockdown at that Spanish hotel in Tenerife continues tonight.
And now, there`s another one. This time it is a ski resort in the Austrian City of Innsbruck. It`s called the Grand Hotel, a 108-room hotel. It has been locked down and all 108 guests and employees are being quarantined there after an employee of that hotel was found to be infected. Again, that is in Austria.
The largest food company in the world, Nestle, with more than 350,000 employees worldwide. Today, Nestle stopped all business travel for its employees worldwide to avoid their employees contracting the virus or themselves spreading it.
In Italy, which as of now has the largest concentration of coronavirus virus cases outside of Asia, the outbreak in Italy has centered on the region of Lombardi. Well, today, the president of the Lombardi region called a press conference to discuss the status of the outbreak in his region. But then he called off the news conferences at the last minute because it turns out a close colleague of the president himself tested positive. And so, the president of the Lombardi region called off his press conference and announced that he himself, the president, is going into a 14-day quarantine because he has just had close exposure to somebody who has been positively diagnosed with the virus.
We are in this somewhat unusual situation in our country where, to be honest, I don`t mean it in a mean way. I mean it in a specific and consequential way. This president because of the way he conducted himself as president, particularly in his social media presence but also even his public pronouncements, even from the White House and the Oval Office, he doesn`t have very much credibility in terms of being counted on to always communicate true things to the country. Regardless of what else you think about this president or if you are his biggest fan, he has not built up a big well of credibility in terms of always speaking the truth, particularly if he thinks the truth is something that might reflect poorly on him or his administration.
And so, the president is saying, you know, we`re going to be zero cases real soon. As far as we know, regardless of the president, the scientists and the public health people do tell us the truth, and it`s not 15 cases in the United States and quickly going to zero like the president said. It is 60 cases in the United States, including one, our first one as of tonight of unknown origin.
Health officials in one New York county alone, Nassau County, Long Island of New York, say that as of today, 83 people are under quarantine in Nassau County alone. As we reported last night, the first active duty U.S. soldier has been diagnosed with coronavirus at a U.S. military base in South Korea. He is apparently 23-year-old male American soldier. The military reported last night that he`s in self-quarantine at his off-base housing.
But today, the U.S. military in South Korea ordered that anybody who has had contact with him must themselves stay confined in their homes. U.S. forces Korea has declared itself to be on high alert. They have closed schools on U.S. bases in South Korea for at least the rest of this week. They have ordered the cancellation of nonessential meetings. They have ordered the cancellation of meetings off base.
They`re doing temperature screenings at the gates of U.S. military bases in South Korea now. And as of tonight, we just got word moments ago that it looks like forthcoming U.S.-South Korean military exercises have been canceled.
And South Korea, of course, is a highly developed country with a very big, very robust economy. They`ve got a very competent health sector. Today in South Korea, the number of reported cases of coronavirus there jumped by 30 percent in one day. There are about 1,200 reported cases of coronavirus in South Korea all together, but almost 300 of those cases were newly reported in one day, today.
And a big part of the reason for that is because South Korea is very aggressively testing people. I mean, among other things, they`re doing drive-up free roadside testing. Officials in South Korea say they are racing toward a goal of trying to get 200,000 people tested immediately. And as they are testing aggressively, they are, at least if today is any indication, finding hundreds of new cases a day.
So that`s how it`s going. That`s how some of the rest of the world is trying to respond. How are we doing?
South Korea is trying to test 200,000 people as of basically yesterday. How many people have we tested? And what are the plans for testing in the United States? How key is testing for this disease to the prospects for containing it?
And if testing is a key part of it, some other countries, some of our allies are treating test as a very important part of trying to contain this virus, if testing is key, what are our plans around testing and are the tests reliable?
Also, why is it significant in epidemiological terms to start to have cases where you don`t know how the person got it, where you can`t trace that person`s infection to a clear source? Why is that important in public health terms and what does it mean that the U.S. has apparently crossed that threshold for the first time as of tonight with this patient in northern California?
Also, for those of us who aren`t doctors and who are rapidly becoming temperamentally allergic to ignorant snark on this subject, why is it we`re seeing some people trying to calm down the American public about coronavirus by saying, hey, look, it only kills 2 percent of people who get infected, while other people, people often in public health and epidemiology, are saying the opposite? You hear them saying, holy cow, this is a huge deal, do you know that it`s killing 2 percent of the people who get infected?
For those of us who aren`t doctors and for those of us who aren`t interested in the spin and the snark but instead want real information on, this should the reported 2 percent lethality rate of this virus be a comfort to us because 2 percent seems small? Or should that number seem big to us? Is that actually part of what`s scary here?
And while we`re on the subject of what`s scary and what we need to understand, why don`t kids seem to get it? Are older people more susceptible to this because older people have underlying other conditions that make them basically more weak and fragile and susceptible? Why aren`t we seeing reports of kids getting it basically anywhere in the world?
Are the face masks that people are wearing all over the world a good thing for people who are not infected, who are trying to avoid infection? Or are they a good thing mostly for people who are already infected to help those people avoid infecting others? Or both? Or neither?
As we follow the news every day now of this virus spreading around the globe, more than 40 countries now and new ones every day, are we in the containment phase of fighting this virus? And if so this list of new countries reporting their first cases every day, does that mean that we`re failing at efforts to contain it? Or should we think about it in a different way? Is the transmission rate of this illness, the number of other people who each person can be expected to infect, is the transmission rate of this virus high enough that it`s not likely to be containable and we should stop thinking about it in those terms at all?
I have questions, as you might be able to tell.
Joining us now is Professor Christopher Mores. He`s a neurologist. He`s a professor of global health at George Washington University. He studies virus transmission. He led investigations of the initial Zika outbreak in the Americas in 2015. He also worked on the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
Doctor Mores, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate it.
CHRISTOPHER MORES, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Is that OK?
MORES: We need to try to learn not to do that as much, but I`m still guilty of it myself.
MADDOW: I am -- it`s going to be hard for me to be less of a handshaker.
MORES: We need to develop the right habits on this.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that list of questions I asked.
MORES: That`s quite a list.
MADDOW: Well, let me just ask you if any of them seem off base, if any of those things I`m asking seem they`re really wide of the mark and not the right questions to be asking.
MORES: No. I think that`s all spot on. Everything you hit there are the same things we`re concerned about we`re trying to track and glean from available data sources and decide what`s the trajectory of this thing, what are the best responses, do we have a chance of containing this thing or is it time to adopt a new approach of how we`re going to address this?
MADDOW: Let`s talk about two measures of this virus that I`d like you to put in context for a layman. One is the lethality rate, the 2 percent lethality rate as I mentioned, which is being spun very hard by people on both sides on the question of whether we should be increasingly concerned. Then there`s also a transmission rate and how many people -- did I describe that accurately? How many people an infected person could be expected to infect.
MADDOW: Describe the transmission rate for this virus, how important that is to us understanding its spread, and what that means we should be aiming for in terms of containment?
MORES: Yes. The modeling that`s been done so far on the basic transmission rate, how many people are going to get infected from every infected person, has it kind of pegged somewhere in the 2 to 3 range right now. That`s all based on the data we`ve gotten out of China.
MADDOW: Each infected person can be expected to infect two or three others.
MORES: Right, right. That`s going to create an epidemic that grows, right? It`s not going to shut itself down. More people become infected than from each infected person than, you know, in each successive generation of infection.
So, that`s based on the data that`s come out of China at this point. And, you know, like a number of things you listed here as questions and concerns, we have questions and concerns about just how accurate that data has been coming out of China. And so, are those predictions and projections correct, based on good data?
MADDOW: Is there any indication that as the virus spreads, as an index patient gives it to two to three other people, and then each of those people gets to two or three other people, that it becomes less transmissible, that it becomes less dangerous, that the virus weakens at all as it spreads?
MORES: No. There`s no evidence whatsoever at this point that the virus is changing in successive cases or generations of infection. We`re not seeing that in terms of, like, the consequence analysis of people who get it in chains of transmission. There will be some accumulation, mutations that happens over time but it`s not adapting that quickly. So we haven`t seen a change in its transmissive rate yet.
MADDOW: So, if it does -- if that transmission rate holds and you say it`s important to ask questions about how we arrived at that expectation and how that will work in other parts of the world, that would imply that it`s going to get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, and it`s not going to become less lethal as it spreads.
MORES: Yes. So the lethality is a separate issue really this we need to wrap our heads around. And again, that`s based on this data we`ve gotten out of China. And it is being spun in different ways. One is that`s only 2 percent. The other is like wow, that`s 2 percent.
And when you, you know, talk about a highly transmissive infection like this and you look at it in terms of, you know, the global population, all of us are naive to this virus, there`s no immunity out there to slow it down, there`s no vaccine that`s going to slow it down. So, with everyone being susceptible to infection, there`s quite a pool of people that could potentially become infected with this.
MADDOW: Seven billion people, right?
MORES: And so -- and so, 2 percent of 7 billion people is a big number. Even if it`s not 7 billion, but it`s many hundreds of millions, that`s still a big number.
So again, that case fatality rate number is based on the data we`ve gotten from Hubei and Wuhan and the Chinese outbreak experience. We just don`t know yet if that`s going to hold up as we start to see new countries experience this virus for themselves. And so, if that holds, I think that`ll be a devastating number to have to deal with.
I hope and I think a lot of other people are hoping that we haven`t looked at all the cases that occurred in that outbreak zone, and so, the number of deaths versus a more realistic number of exposures and cases will bring that number down. But right now, that`s hopes.
MADDOW: And anybody telling you that 2 percent is a good number --
MORES: I can`t get behind that, yes.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Christopher Mores, virologist, professor of global health at George Washington University, is our guest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. NANCY MESSONNIER, DIRECTOR OF CDC`S NATIONAL CENTER: I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe, but these are things that people need to start thinking about now.
AZAR: There`s no change to anyone`s daily life from this that the country has a plan. We have pandemic plans. There`s a playbook for this. And we`re executing against that. But we have to be realistic also and transparent that we will have more cases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Two somewhat contrasting announcements from the government. One, a serious warning from the director of the CDC`s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases yesterday telling the American people to get ready for our lives to change as this virus spreads. The other from the health and human services secretary today saying nobody`s daily life is going to change. It`s the government that has plans. You don`t need to have plans.
Our government is not being awesome right now in terms of speaking with one voice on this matter. But it is clear they are trying to get it together. At least in the way they`re communicating about it, sort of. In the meantime, what are you going to do? You work around it and do your best.
Joining us once again is Christopher Mores. He`s professor of global health at George Washington University.
Professor, thanks again for being here.
MORES: My pleasure.
MADDOW: One of the things that I don`t -- that I want expert help understanding is the importance of testing. We saw this 30 percent jump today in the number of reported cases in South Korea. And that`s a very alarming statistic on its face, and then it becomes apparent that large number of new cases is because South Korea is very aggressively testing people, trying to get hundreds of thousands of people testing -- tested.
Are the tests reliable enough to -- that it makes sense for South Korea to be doing that? And how key is testing to trying to control this epidemic?
MORES: Well, so I don`t think anything specifically about the tests the South Koreans are using. And I haven`t had hands on the CDC`s test either, although we know it`s had some problems.
I think testing is absolutely critical because without that we`re going on, you know, suspicion based on symptoms or nothing at all. And so we really need to be drilling down on people coming back from areas where they may have been exposed and also within communities we need to start testing, to look for community transmission.
We need tests available at a massive scale to be able to do this. And yes, they should be able to be made reliable and reproducible. I do very much hope the CDC is working the kinks out of its test now and that we`ll see that that`s made available broadly here in the U.S. very soon.
MADDOW: In terms of community transmission, I know that`s a term of art, but in epidemiological terms, why is it important when you start to have cases where you don`t know how the person got it or you can`t trace their infection to a specific person who spent time in China or who spent time in a place in Italy where they know they have a lot of cases or in Iran?
Like we saw the German health minister today call a press conference to say we Germany are now in the phase where we have community transmission, we can`t tell you where the infections are coming from. It appears the United States is in that position for the first time as of tonight with this case in northern California.
Why does that matter so much?
MORES: Well, if you don`t know where the tail of that chain is and you don`t know where it`s coming from, you know, you have to ask yourself what else are you really missing inside the community, right? So you don`t have all the information. You`re not tracing all the cases and all the transmission events.
And so, you know, it`s really tough to put a quarantine on or an isolation protocol in place that really targets all the right people. So, we can`t do this based on travel history alone. We can`t do this based on symptoms alone.
MADDOW: How do you do it? How do you decide --
MORES: So testing is one way, right? So really having access to a rapid and, you know, field-forward test that can really get that answered quickly in the hands of field epidemiologists. That`s going to be quite important in terms of being able to get our hands back around this thing where we can try to put it back into -- under containment. But right now we are not there.
MADDOW: We see people around the world wearing face masks of various kinds. I was struck by the photos of American service members on bases in South Korea stopping cars at the gates of U.S. military bases in South Korea doing spot temperature checks for everybody coming in. The base and the soldiers themselves wearing face masks with civilian travelers everywhere too.
It would -- it strikes me that that is a measure that would tend to be more effective for somebody who is infected who`s trying to avoid infecting others than it would be for someone who`s not infected trying to avoid getting exposed. But that`s me literally making that up based on what the face masks look like. How do you approach it from a public health perspective?
MORES: Yes, I mean that`s -- I would tend to agree with that. Certainly it`s far more effective to put someone who`s actively symptomatic with this virus into a mask so they can`t spread those respiratory droplets as ready to people in their near vicinity there. But people who are really in close contact with patients like health care workers, they`re going to need those masks, absolutely. And they`ll have, you know, what we call an N95 mask usually. That gives them a high level of protection against respiratory droplets.
But everyday people walking around, that`s a tough mask to wear for long periods of time. And so, it`s something that`s really not recommended at this point for the walking well.
MADDOW: We`ve seen -- this is my last question for you. You mentioned health care workers. I am moved by the fact that so many health workers themselves have been infected and killed over the process of this. Obviously, there are -- people who are treating -- involved in treating people who have the illness, particularly in places lot a cases like in China, are putting themselves at great risk by doing this work.
But I`m also struck by -- and I may be wrong about this, but when I`ve been looking at reports of this I`ve been struck by the fact it seems that kids aren`t getting infected. That it`s -- they`re saying that older people may be particularly susceptible. Young vigorous people who are health workers are themselves, when they`re in positions where they`re being exposed, are falling to it.
We`re not seeing reports of kids and young people getting sick, even though there`s lots of preparation around potentially closing schools and all these things.
MADDOW: Is there a virological way we should understand that?
MORES: Yes, I don`t think there`s a good virological explanation for that right now. I think that`s a surveillance artifact of some sort. You know, it could be it does not present in a severe illness way among the very young, and it is heavily skewed to older people and people with preexisting ailments. They`re going to be the ones that are more likely seen in aggressive way tested and isolated in a hospital situation.
But clearly, children and young adults are going to be able to be exposed to this like the rest of us, and it will take time to see whether or not this epi (ph) picture of who gets sick holds up outside the outbreak zone.
MADDOW: Are there any big questions we ought to be asking that we`re not so far?
MORES: I think it`s -- I think it`s really just about, you know, what is the -- what is the end game of using travel bans and restrictions on movement if we really don`t know what`s going on in our backyard. And I think all of the cases that you outlined in your introduction there were the cases that are showing that we don`t know where they came from and they don`t have a travel history.
That`s highly concerning. I think if we don`t change our attitude maybe away from this "I`m just going to wall myself off from the rest of the world" idea and address what is really going on in terms of transmission here and get the data we need to address this outbreak, we`ll put ourselves further and further behind.
MADDOW: Is the president right when he says we`re about to go -- we`re likely to go in a very short amount of time to zero cases?
MORES: I don`t know what data he has access to. But it`s not -- that does not look like the data I`m looking at. So --
MADDOW: Christopher Mores, virologist and professor of global health at George Washington University -- thank you so much for helping us through that. I realize that was like a real litany of questions, but thanks for helping us do it.
MORES: No, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: Stop doing this.
MORES: Soon. Very soon.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Quote from the judge: This is indisputably a widely publicized case. The particular issues related to the composition of the jury have also been widely publicized. For example, the president of the United States used his Twitter platform to disseminate a point of view about a juror.
He also repeated at a televised rally according to newsweek.com that the foreperson of the jury was jumping up and down at the guilty verdict. In a highly polarized political climate in which the president himself has shown a spotlight on the jury through his use of social media, the risk of harassment and intimidation of any jurors who may testify in today`s hearing -- in the hearing scheduled for later today on juror misconduct is extremely high. And that individuals who may be angry about Mr. Stone`s conviction or other developments in the news may choose to take it out on them personally.
The judge was not done. She goes on.
Quote: I need to state this clearly even though it`s not a matter of debate, that any attempts to invade the privacy of the jurors or to harass or intimidate them is completely antithetical to our entire system of justice in which the accused has a constitutional right to a trial by jury. Members of the public are called upon to give that right effect by showing up for jury selection and by serving if selected. While judges may volunteer for their positions and any public attention that comes along with them, jurors are not volunteers. They are deserving of the public`s respect and they deserve to have their privacy protected. And attempts to disregard that for personal or political gain can have a significant chilling effect on the willingness of other members of the public to show up when they are summoned in the future.
We just got the transcript today from the hearing in federal court in D.C. where President Trump`s longtime political adviser Roger Stone has requested a new criminal trial. Roger Stone was sentenced to over three years in prison after being convicted by a unanimous jury on seven felony counts.
But he wants the whole thing thrown out. He wants a new trial because he is alleging that the jury in his case was biased. And President Trump and the conservative media, particularly prime time shows on the Fox News Channel, have been attacking the individual jurors in Roger Stone`s case. That is what brought the judge out of her corner sort of vociferously defending the jurors` right to do their duty without being intimidated or harassed.
No sooner had the judge delivered that explicit warning in court about the chilling effect and the potential safety risk for these jurors, no sooner had she said that than the president started tweeting again an attack on the foreperson of the jury and an attack on the judge calling them, quote, totally biased. Attacks on the judicial process are not new for this president, not at all.
But now in his fourth year as president, he does appear to be on a particular tear. Can anything be done to counteract it? The kind of warnings that the judiciary is signaling in terms of what this does to anybody`s right to get a jury trial are just that, signal warnings.
I have just the person to talk about it next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Again yesterday, the president personally attacked the forewoman of the jury in his now-convicted friend Roger Stone`s trial, accusing that individual juror of bias. And it so happens that another member of that same jury went on the record yesterday to defend the foreperson of his jury in a remarkable "Washington Post" op-ed, the second one that juror number three has written since the conclusion of the Stone trial.
Juror number three saying in this new op-ed quote: The jury foreperson has been the subject recently of numerous ad hominem attacks was actually one of the strongest advocates for the rights of the defendant and for a rigorous process. She expressed skepticism of the government`s claims and was one of the last people to vote to convict on the charge that took most of our deliberation time. Roger Stone received a fair trial but events since his trial threaten to undermine the equal administration of justice.
Joining us now is Andrew Weissmann. He`s former FBI general counsel, was a senior member of Robert Mueller`s special counsel investigation. He`s now an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst.
Mr. Weissmann, thank you for being here.
ANDREW WEISSMANN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Great to be here. We`re not going to shake hands.
MADDOW: No, we`re not. I have to practice. Get better at that. I also probably need different jackets.
WEISSMANN: Me too.
MADDOW: I have been watching the stone case with a lot more interest since the case concluded than I did while he was being convicted. The crimes for which he was convicted were relatively straightforward. He was charged with seven felonies. The jury unanimously found him guilty on all seven counts. Since then, it`s emerged into a thing of national significance.
How important is it that the president is attacking members of the jury?
WEISSMANN: So you already had something remarkable in this case, which is you had the entire trial team withdraw or resign from the Department of Justice. So that`s already -- that does not happen. And now you have a second thing which the judge correctly commented on that she couldn`t believe it was happening and she actually closed the courtroom because of it, which was the president attacking the jury.
So, all of us have been on juries. I`ve been on a jury, remarkably.
MADDOW: You on a jury?
WEISSMANN: Actually, even after the special counsel`s office I was on a jury.
WEISSMANN: But Americans do that. It`s part of our duty the way you do military service. It`s something you do. And the idea that the president of the United States would attack the jurors is really remarkable. That led to Judge Jackson closing the courtroom so there was audio feed but you actually wouldn`t see the jurors who testified because she was concerned about sort of ongoing attacks.
MADDOW: She went so far as to exclude the courtroom sketch artists so that they couldn`t create a likeness of the jurors.
WEISSMANN: Absolutely. And only one lawyer from each side could be present when a marshal testified about threats that were being made to the jurors.
MADDOW: So, as -- if you can just talk as an experienced prosecutor here about what the implications of that are, because on the one hand we see this on a human level, any of us could be jurors, these people didn`t volunteer for it, they shouldn`t be attacked like this. But it has a -- it has a big effect on the administration of justice if individual jurors have to fear for their safety, fear for their careers, fear being singled out like this, including by the president, depending on how they vote as jurors and how they deliberate.
WEISSMANN: Well, you know, this happens in mob cases where you actually have anonymous and protected sequestered juries because you`re so concerned about the defendant getting to the jurors.
And nobody should have to worry about that. I think it`s important here, though, to talk about the law here in terms of just how much that the president got wrong here. In order for the foreperson to be, quote, biased and should have been removed, the law doesn`t require that people don`t have views before they start serving on a jury. All of us do.
The law doesn`t require that everyone who serves on a jury was found under a rock and they come in like newborn babes just hearing everything for the first time. What the law requires is that you can put that aside and hear the case based on the principles that the judge sets forth and the facts that are elicited. And a good example of that is when Paul Manafort was tried.
The one juror who spoke after he was convicted was someone who said, I am a Trump supporter. I left my MAGA hat in my car and I showed up for jury duty. And you know what? It wasn`t a problem because the judge -- I swore an oath to follow what the judge said to do, and I did it.
And, you know, I`d be interested to hear what the president thinks that kind of juror shouldn`t be able to sit. The issue is we all act on principle. And I think that`s something that the law recognizes and clearly what we`ve heard from the foreperson and from the other juror who wrote in "The Washington Post" is that the jury did that. So, I suspect we`re going to hear from Judge Jackson that there was no impropriety here.
MADDOW: We can see Judge Jackson, including in this transcript that we just got today, trying to protect these individual jurors from the opprobrium they`ve been subjected to. Is there a broader way we can protect jurors now that the president behaves this way?
WEISSMANN: You know, the one thing -- I`m not sure there`s much more that within done given that it`s the president and we`ve now seen limited abilities to control him. He`s willing to attack the CDC and NOAA and now judges and juries. But you could see the chief justice again speaking out in the way he did when there was an attack on a district judge. It is so important to the judicial system that jurors be treated well and that Americans are part of that process.
If you just think about the cynicism that there would be -- if the jury system, we didn`t have that and we didn`t have the public participating in criminal and civil cases. I mean, it`s such an American tradition that we have, and we venerate because it means that when there are verdicts, we know that it`s people like you and me who`ve shown up and done their duty and left all of their political beliefs, other beliefs aside to just follow the law.
MADDOW: Andrew Weissmann, thanks for being here tonight. Serious issue. I`m not going to shake your hand. Thank you.
More ahead. Stay right with us.
MADDOW: The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin tonight, they are working their way through a roll call of the 1,000-plus people who were on site at the Molson Coors Brewery when a lone shooter opened fire this afternoon. Officials say they responded to a report of a shooting at 2:08 p.m. local time. They found a 51-year-old gunman who had killed five of his colleagues, all adults, before apparently taking his own life. Nobody else was injured.
At this hour, we do not yet know the identities of the victims or of the shooter. We don`t know what kind ever weapon he used. There is one report citing local police sources that says that the shooter had been fired from his job earlier in the day and that he then returned to the work site with a gun, a gun that was fitted with a silencer. Again, that is one local report citing police sources.
At a press conference this evening, Wisconsin`s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes noted this is the 11th mass shooting in Wisconsin in the past 15 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES (D), WISCONSIN: We shouldn`t accept this. This is not the way this should be. And we should never grow comfortable in the face of these repeated tragedies all across America and especially right here at home. We have a duty to act. We have to be more responsible, as a city, as a state, as a nation. And stop these preventable tragedies from happening. It doesn`t happen anywhere else but here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The lieutenant governor of Wisconsin speaking tonight. The investigation in Milwaukee is continuing. This is a 20-building complex, this brewery. There are federal and state agencies assisting local police. Notice is being given to the families of the victims as they are being identified.
But, again, the bottom line here, five people killed plus the gunman and a shooting at the Molson Coors brewery complex in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We`re expecting additional information over the course of the night.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It has been a day of ongoing breaking news reports about the coronavirus crisis. "The Washington Post" is reporting within the last few minutes that when the president today announced that Vice President Mike Pence would take lead and become the U.S. government`s point person on the response to the crisis, Health Secretary Alex Azar, who until now had apparently been that person, had no idea that announcement was coming until literally moments before he stepped up to the podium for the live announcement of that to the nation.
Five sources telling "The Washington Post" that Alex Azar was completely blindsided by that announcement right until the moment that it was made publicly at that briefing.
Beyond that, the Centers for Disease Control, as we talked about at the top of the show, is confirming the first case in the United States of coronavirus of unknown origin. In a press release tonight, the California Department of Public Health noting that the individual in northern California is somebody who had no known exposure to coronavirus through travel or through close contact with a known infected individual. Nevertheless, that person has been diagnosed with coronavirus now.
According to California department of public health, the individual is a resident of Solano County in California and is receiving medical care in Sacramento County. But that`s all we know thus far, other than that the CDC is apparently doing contact tracing to find out how this person might have been exposed and who else they might have exposed since they`ve had it.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END