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shortages of PPE TRANSCRIPT: 4/13/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Phil Murphy, Eric Lipton

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks. my friend.

And thanks at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you on this Monday night.

Tonight, as we get on the air, we are getting interesting news out of the state of Wisconsin. You remember the long voting lines in Wisconsin last week. Following a decision by the state`s conservative dominated Supreme Court, to block the Democratic governor`s attempt to postpone that election, because of the pandemic. The state Supreme Court blocked that governor`s efforts, the election went ahead, it was a public health nightmare, to have that many Wisconsin residents out, standing in line for an hour, two hours, three hours, in proximate contact with one another, just to be able to cast their ballots, but it went ahead.

There were two big statewide races on the ballot in that election last week. One was the Democratic presidential primary between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. That race was essentially made moot after Senator Sanders dropped out of the race last week following the vote in Wisconsin. It was made especially moot after senator Sanders today formally endorsed Vice President Joe Biden. They were doing a live stream broadcast today, on the coronavirus, and other issues, and Senator Sanders endorsed Vice President Biden today.

And so that means that the Wisconsin primary results for last week are not necessarily the most important thing in the world anymore, but Wisconsin did start releasing their election results tonight from last week`s voting and it shows that Vice President Biden did in fact end up beating Senator Sanders handily in that primary.

But as I mentioned, that is not the big news in Wisconsin. The big news is actually in the other big statewide race on that ballot which was for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court. It`s unusual that the -- I don`t know if it is unusual anymore, in my opinion, unfortunate, that judges are elected to that court, but they are and increasingly partisan and ideological contests, this race of the state Supreme Court, pitted Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, who`s a conservative endorsed by President Trump and state Republicans against a Democratic-backed challenger, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky, that was the other big statewide race other than the Biden v. Sanders on the ballot last week.

It appears tonight that the Democratic-backed candidate Jill Karofsky has won that race. That makes this the first time in I think 12 years that an incumbent has lost a Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin. But that has happened as of tonight. Conservatives previously controlled that court with a 5-2 majority. Now, tonight, with Karofsksy`s victory and Kelly being ousted, that margin will narrow by one.

So we`re going to have more on Wisconsin, and what that means later on in the show. But just getting those results in tonight, after all of the consternation around the logistics of that vote to get these results tonight is interesting.

A couple of weeks ago, there was an unusual report out of California that we noted here on the show the night that it happened. This was the last week of March. So, the national emergency had been declared by the president. The nationwide shortage and irrational lack of access to protective gear for front line health workers was already totally evident as a very specific, very consequential, very bad aspect of the American coronavirus epidemic.

Amid a flurry of stories that was coming out around that time, about businesses donating masks, and face shields, to hospitals, places repurposing their production lines, to create those things, to donate, to health workers and hospitals, also places you wouldn`t expect, like the National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C., finding a stash of medical masks hidden in a crypt of all places, and the cathedral donating those masks this.

Rash of interesting stories about the scramble nationwide to try to obtain these materials for health care workers, and there was this unusual story out of California, in which the SEIU, Service Employees International Union, officials from that union said basically out of desperation they had taken it on themselves, to try to source masks for California health workers and California hospitals. They just mobilized on their own. They started making calls. They started tracking down supplies from various warehouses, from various suppliers. And SEIU announced that last week in March that they had located 39 million masks, which is such a strange story, but good news, right?

And tens of millions of N95 masks that they found, that California hospitals would then be able to buy, in order to protect their front line workers. It was a good story, but an odd story from the very beginning.

Well, it turns out, those masks never existed. The union officials who did go to work trying to source the stuff for California hospitals, as well as a businessman who was helping them make contact with purported supplier, turns out the union and the businessman they were working with were both apparently duped by people, by con artists, who claimed to have this stuff, and didn`t.

It`s infuriating, right? I mean that you would have scam artists working this crisis as just another grift, right, just another opportunity to rip people off. It is enraging. I will tell you now there is a federal criminal investigation under way into what happened there. Neither the union nor the businessman they were working with in Pittsburgh is the target of the investigation. But a broker in Australia and a supplier in Kuwait now are both targets of a federal criminal investigation that`s being run out of the U.S. attorney`s office in Pittsburgh.

So it`s infuriating to get that result from that story, that we latched on to, a couple of weeks ago, and thought it was such an interesting twist in the California health care wars.

But we should also know tonight, is how this particular federal criminal investigation came about. Because like I said, these masks were supposed to be for California hospitals. California hospitals thought they had a bead on nearly 40 million masks. And these masks don`t exist. So there`s lots of local anger. And local interest in what exactly happened here.

That`s why it is being reported out in "The L.A. Times", which is why I can bring you this. Check this out. Quote: A California union that claimed to have discovered 39 million masks for health care workers fighting coronavirus was duped in an elaborate scheme uncovered by FBI investigators.

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady of the Western district of Pennsylvania said FBI agents and prosecutors stumbled onto the arrangement, while looking into whether they could intercept the masks for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for FEMA. Quote: The federal government has been quietly seizing supplies across the country, taking the orders placed by hospitals and clinics, and not publicly reporting where the products are being routed. But in this case, there was no warehouse, and there were no masks to seize.

So hooray for there being a criminal probe against the scammers who were trying to sell these masks that didn`t really exist to California health workers and hospital, right? Hooray that is now going to be a criminal probe. But the only reason the federal government found out about this scheme, and found out the masks didn`t exist, is because when they thought the masks did exist, they were trying to steal them from California, because the federal government is still doing that, even now.

I mean, it is three months since the United States started fighting its own coronavirus outbreak and ours is now by far the worst outbreak in the world. But this far into it, to the extent that we have a national response to this crisis, it`s that the federal government is like reading the paper, and watching the news reports, to find out if any states or cities or clinics or random union officials might have been able to find some gear somewhere and the federal government is coming in and stealing that gear, before it can get to the health care workers it was otherwise going to go to.

I mean the federal government, you will recall, the president, you will recall, told the states it was up to them to figure out where they could try to get critical medical supplies. Hey, governors, go shopping, you guys figure it out, see what you can find. The federal government, under President Trump, ran down the national stockpile of critical supplies that they had control of, by randomly sending those supplies out, apparently according to who the president wanted to brag that he had sent stuff to, to the point where the national stockpile is now totally depleted.

When the federal government did finally try to get some stuff themselves, the way they got their stuff was by bogarting stuff that the states had found and sourced for themselves. And that is still their M.O. That is still going on, still today. That`s what they`re doing to the states.

Here`s "The Washington Post," quote, some governors and lawmakers have watched in disbelief as they have sought to close deals on precious supply, only to have the federal government swoop in to pre-empt the arrangements. Officials in one state are so worried about this possibility that they`re considering dispatching police or even the National Guard to greet two chartered fed ex planes scheduled to arrive in the next week with millions of masks from China, according to people familiar with the planning. These people spoke on the condition of anonymity. They asked that their state not be identified to avoid flagging federal officials to their shipment, because they believe federal officials would steal it, if they knew where it was coming.

That`s the status of our nation`s response to the coronavirus epidemic right now. That`s the leadership we`ve got from our government. With 579,000 confirmed coronavirus cases among Americans, with more than 23,000 Americans already dead, the federal government`s big idea for supplying the nation`s health workers and hospitals for obtaining critical medical supplies is still to find out when states are buying stuff and then go take it, and not say where it`s going.

Good luck, America. I mean, when the president said, I`m behind you on this, governors, he meant like in the form of a stick-up.

One of states that has decided that it doesn`t need a stay-at-home order, at least where the governor has decided that her state doesn`t need a stay- at-home order and the president has said that`s fine. One of those states that still does not have that kind of order is the great state of South Dakota.

The governor there is named Kristi Noem. She`s a Republican. The largest city in South Dakota is Sioux Falls.

Here`s some images from a drive-by protest, a socially distant protest, people in Sioux Falls who came out to show support for people who work at a local meat processing plant and a city in Sioux Falls owned by Smithfield. It`s a pork processing plant, they process about four to five percent of the pork sold in this entire country. They got about 3,700 employees at that one facility at Sioux Falls.

That plant had its first employee test positive for coronavirus on March 26th and when they learned of that first test, the other people who work in that plant were concerned, as you would be, and in part because a lot of that work inside that plant is done in very close quarters. And a lot of cases, you are shoulder to shoulder with your fellow employees, doing what can be very tough physical labor.

After asking for better conditions and protective equipment inside the plant, and the community turning out to support those demands from the people who worked there, Smithfield did close the plant down last week for three days, they said they wanted to give everything a good cleaning, they wanted to see what they could do about putting barriers between employees, and supplying masks, and anything else they could do to try to keep people safe.

They had their first positive case on March 26th. Employees were upset. They got support from the community, expressing what they were upset about.

They had the three-day shutdown last week. They had their first positive case on March 26th. Now, as of today, they`ve got 293 positive cases in that one plant.

And so now, the plant is closed down indefinitely. Now, I should mention that that 293 cases figure from that one plant, that was announced yesterday. "The Argus Herald" in Sioux Falls now says that the number of cases associated with that one meat processing plant is actually considerably higher. It`s now 350 cases.

They`ve got 868 cases in the whole state of South Dakota, 350 of them associated with one meat processing plant, with one workplace. The governor is not issuing a stay at home rule.

The South Dakota Medical Association has asked for a stay-at-home order. The governor will not do it.

Today, the mayor of Sioux Falls asked Governor Noem to please do it, please do it at least for the counties around Sioux Falls, where they now know they have this very large cluster of cases.


PAUL TENHAKEN, MAYOR OF SIOUX FALLS, SD: The window though of time for mitigation is certainly dwindling right now. Sioux Falls area has seen a very rapid spike in the last several days, and quite honestly, we`re growing increasingly concerned about the need to mitigate that spike before it overwhelms our hospitals.

Hospitalizations are low. Yes, they are low. Hospitalizations are a trailing indicator of COVID. So you don`t act once your hospitalizations get high.

So I want to share a little bit of data. These are some peer cities that we kind of look at in terms of population, in terms of, some are geographically similar, some are similar, Tallahassee, Laredo, Texas, total number of cases, and this is the cases per thousand, and Sioux Falls is highlighted in yellow.

And this should be concerning to our community. This keeps me up at night right now. This number. We`re obviously the highest among the peer cities.

And so our time to act on this is right now. So Saturday, I did send a formal request to Governor Noem to issue a shelter in place, for Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties. I feel that based on this, and based on a lot of other data that we have, the time to act is now.

If we just take the average doubling rate of all of those peer cities I just showed you, we`ll be here, but we are by far outperforming in a bad way our peer cities. So if we continue the trend that we have been on, the last four or five, six days, we are going to be up here, very shortly.

This is a crippling number to our health care systems, OK? This is very bad. This is a very bad outlook. That is why a shelter in place order is needed now. It`s needed today.


MADDOW: It`s needed today. The mayor of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where they just found a cluster of 350 cases among workers at one meat processing plant in that city. And again, in South Dakota, there is no stay-at-home order.

So everybody working at the plant is kind of, you know, in the wild, and they`ve got 350 known cases there, already. Governor Kristi Noem so far, says, no, she won`t do it. She doesn`t see a need to have a shelter in place, any sort of stay-at-home order. Why bother.

She did however announce to great self professional fanfare today that she`s going to spend a whole bunch of state money to do a South Dakota state clinical trial of the malaria drug that the president keeps inexplicably promoting in the press briefings, the one for which there`s no clinical evidence of effectiveness and the one other clinical trial which was just halted this weekend because of serious cardiac complications for people taking this drug.

But for some reason, the president loves talking about that drug, and so does Fox News, and so that`s what the state of South Dakota is going to do. They`re going to have a big clinical trial of that drug the president likes. While a large cog in the nation`s meat processing capacity gets shut down indefinitely under the weight of hundreds of positive cases, and there is not even a stay-at-home order in the state of South Dakota.

The mayor of Sioux Falls is asking for one for the counties around Sioux Falls, please, governor, not interested, apparently.

It was one month ago today that President Trump declared the coronavirus crisis to be a national emergency. That is a technical thing that has consequences. That should have put agencies like FEMA in control of coordinating the national response to that national emergency, but instead, who knows who`s in charge or what they`re doing.

You might remember, the actual optics of that declaration of the national emergency, a month ago today, where everybody was crowded together, in the Rose Garden like they were all taking a super-tight elevator ride to know where and the president shook hands and touched the microphone they were speaking into and breathing into. That`s when the president announced that there would be drive-through testing sites with major retailers like Walmart and CVS all over the country. They`d be ubiquitous, just about to open.

A month later, there are less than ten of those operational in the entire country. The federal government was also, he announced going to partner with Target, and be able to get tested at target parking lots. How convenient is that?

The federal government it turns out is not actually partnering with target at all and you can`t get tested in their parking lots. The president at that event brought up one CEO, who to his credit, did show the president how to elbow bump him instead of grasping his little hand. The president brought that CEO up to say that his condition would be rolling out in-home testing for people getting at-home health services and for people in rural areas.

That is just not happening at all. NPR followed up on that big splashy announcement today. NPR called more than 20 of the company`s sites in 12 state, none of them is doing in-home testing, one month following the Rose Garden address, and employees at the carpet site said they lacked both testing kits and the training to administer tests.

Still, the announcement sounded so good. That was the same Rose Garden announcement a month ago today where the president said that 1,700 engineers from Google were all working on a nationwide online screening tool, that would be rolled out soon. It would tell you whether you should get tested and where you should get tested and then it would tell you your results.

Vice President Pence said we have further details on that. The rollout of that would come within two days. Google never actually worked on that at all.

A related company did do something much smaller, in conjunction with the California state government, but that`s just for five counties just in that one state. Literally a month ago, there was the president and vice president in the Rose Garden announcing it was rolling out nationwide.

NPR also reported on a request that major testing labs made of the White House and of the federal government, in conjunction with that same national emergency declaration in the Rose Garden, testing companies asked the White House for three things -- now that this was a national emergency. They asked for government funds to build new testing facilities. National standards to prioritize who gets test and they asked for government support of the supply chain.

Quote: More than a month later, the diagnostic testing labs still have those three requests outstanding, because the government hasn`t done any of those things they asked for.

Our testing numbers rate now aren`t even going up on a daily basis. The number of tests being processed each day in the United States is flat or even down within the last few days over the COVID tracking project.

I mean, we`ve heard all this talk about opening things back up and what day we`re going to be opening things back up, what do you need in order to open things backs up? You need to have a whole bunch of stuff in place, if you don`t want to just go back to putting tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of American lives on the chopping block. I mean, there`s no way we can even start to think about opening things back up, unless we`ve got a few things in place, right?

You need to have robust nationwide testing in place. A robust nationwide testing system that allows for widely available, easily screening for this disease. You`ve got to have contact tracing for people who do turn out to be positive, figure out who else they`ve come in contact with, who also needs to be tested, who also needs to have their contracts traced who also potentially needs to be isolated.

You need intense epidemiological surveillance systems in place if you are going to reopen and you know this virus is still circulating among us. We have none of that. None of that.

You can`t talk about opening things up just because you want things open. You have to have the things in place that will allow you to open things back up, without killing thousands of Americans. We have nowhere near any of those things in place.

And this is the crucial point. It`s not getting better. It`s actually getting worse over time, because the federal government over time is not improving their response. We`re not getting more testing. We have less testing.

We`re not solving the medical supply chain problem on the national level. The federal government is stealing stuff from the states. That`s -- that`s their plan right now. That`s a bad plan.

The states are paying three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine ten times what they used to be playing for the supplies. So, they`re spending the money and then the government is coming in and stealing them. That`s how we`re dealing with the medical supply chain crisis, right?

Republican governors still don`t know apparently that they ought to be putting in place stay-at-home orders even when they`ve got huge clusters in their largest cities. They have no idea that means they should put in a stay-at-home order. Instead, the message they`re getting from the White House, they ought to try the malaria drug that the president has said will fix everything or will soon. So, instead, that`s what they will work on.

I mean, it`s not getting better. The federal government is not learning. The federal government is getting worse. The response is getting worse.

We`re going to focus in the next few days on the people whose lives are most on the line because of it. We`re going to focus in the next few days on nursing homes, where the federal government is not even counting cases, or tracking them, let alone making nursing homes get better at dealing with what is ripping through nursing home populations right now. They`re not working on that part of the problem. They are not even counting or tracking those cases.

That may cost more American lives than any other thing that`s going wrong. So, we`re going to focus on that over the next few days. We`re also going to focus on what we can do if the federal government never does get better.

Some governors, particularly in hard-hit states, are now starting to realize that the federal government isn`t going to spring into action here. And so states are starting to get together in small groups themselves to form slightly smaller sub-sets of the United States of America, basically to try to approximate, to try to artificially imitate what it might be like if there was a national response, because there still isn`t.

One governor who is trying his best, linking up with other governor, now in very trying circumstances is, going to join us live, next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Necessity is the mother of invention, but so is incompetence as we are finding out as we live through a black hole of any coherent national response in the face of this global pandemic, absent even the most basic "break glass in event of emergency" plan from the federal government.

Today, small groups of governors from across the country started teaming up to form mini me versions of the United States of America, one in the Northeast, another in the West, states trying to figure out together if they can coordinate their own responses as regions, trying to rationalize supply concerns, and to share lessons learned, planning for the future, working together, working together as small groups of states. If there isn`t going to be a federally-led effort.

The hardest hit state in the nation continues to be New York but New Jersey is nipping right at its heels, 64,000 in New Jersey, more than 2,400 deaths in New Jersey thus far. In terms of the two states being part of a Northeast consortium working together, now, one of the differences between the two state, New York was able to scale up the ability to test peoples revealing terrifying numbers of infections in New York.

But New Jersey has had a ton of trouble ramping up testing, a two-week backlog of testing in New Jersey right now and the first-hand accounts of what it takes to get a test will keep you up at night. This is from "The New York Times." quote, the lines start forming the night before, as people with glassy eyes and violent coughs try to get tested for the virus, in the darkness, they park their car, cut their engines and try to sleep.

Two weeks ago, at the Bergen Community College in Paramus, a drive-through FEMA testing site in the hardest-hit area of New Jersey, residents had to arrive by 3:00 a.m. to get a spot and within days they were told to show up at 11:00 p.m. the night before.

Do you see that string of cars in that line there? That`s -- this is an aerial shot of the cars at that testing site in New Jersey. People waiting hours and hours and hours and hours just to try to get tested.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says the backlog for coronavirus testing in New Jersey is, quote, unequivocally worsening.

Joining us now is Governor Phil Murphy of the great state of New Jersey.

Sir, I know you`re in the belly of the beast, thank you for making time to come back and talk to us tonight.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW YORK: Honored to be with you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: I want to talk to you about the challenge, some of the new ways you`re trying to move forward and particularly working with nearby state.

But the last time you were here last week, you said that the models you were looking at for your state, indicated that New Jersey might be two or three weeks out from an apex in terms of patient demand on the hospitals. That was as of last week. I just wanted to ask for an update.

Is that still the timeline you`re expecting?

MURPHY: Yes, we look at probably four models, most regularly and we`re right in the thick of it right now. So I would stick with what I said to you last week, Rachel, and that is the next couple of weeks feel to us as though that`s the hottest period. That`s not to suggest May is going to be a walk in the park, but I think we`re right in the middle of it as we speak.

MADDOW: Tell me about the testing challenges that you`ve got in New Jersey. My partner`s family is from New Jersey. I have lots of friends who live in New Jersey. Lots of people who work on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW live in New Jersey, and have connections there, and I just -- I know anecdotally that the -- that the inability to access tests and then to get your results if you have been able to get a test, is causing just a huge amount of anxiety, really just feels like a crucial bottle bottleneck in your state`s ability to handle this.

Tell me what`s going on there and what your plan is to try to get around that.

MURPHY: Listen, in a perfect world, we`ve been screaming for universal testing from day one. We just haven`t been able to get the materials to either take the swabs, the intake side, or the personal protective equipment necessary to protect our health care workers.

There`s a little bit of good news and a lot of challenges so I think we`re the fifth most -- amount of tests of any American state. We`re the 11th largest state, population-wise. So, I guess, at one level, that looks good. And another level, you look at the videotape that you`re showing, you look at a two-week wait to get your result back, and it`s unacceptable.

In fact, we have from moment one, focused only on symptomatic folks, for probably for obvious reasons. Again, it`s gotten better but it`s not where it needs to be, and it certainly isn`t where it needs to be if we have any hope, not just in New Jersey, but as a country, to actually have the confidence to begin to reopen our economy, and reopen our society.

We`re going to need masks, scaled, rapid return testing, as you suggested, contact tracing, all of the things that go with that, before we have the confidence to reopen.

MADDOW: I imagine in the absence of widespread testing and with the number of cases that you do know that you have, even without great access to testing, that the hospitals in your state essentially have to be operating on the assumption that even when they can`t test people, they have to be assuming that everybody`s positive. I know that seven New Jersey hospitals are on what they call divert status, as of right now, meaning they`re full- up, and sending incoming patients to other hospitals.

Today, you said that most of the hospitals in New Jersey -- in North Jersey, are reporting that they are at or near capacity. How worried are you about running out of capacity? And how much flexibility do you have to move patients between different sites?

MURPHY: So listen, as I mentioned last time, we`re in a war with two fronts. One front is for the 9 million of us to keep pounding the heck out of that curve, and lowering the amount of infections, therefore, lowering hospitalizations, ICU hospitalizations, need for ventilators, and please, God, fatalities.

On the other front, it is a 24-hour a day, every single minute, to build out health care capacity. Beds, ventilators, PPE, health care workers themselves. We have a three region strategy in the state, north, central and south. As you suggest, Rachel, the north is really up against it. It has been up against it.

And we`re, since January, trying to stay as out in front of this, but it is a struggle. It is an absolute struggle, day in and day out, particularly right now, as we are feeling like we`re in the hottest period we`re going to be in right now.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about some of the people I`m most worried about in this, and it`s true nationwide, it`s true in New Jersey, too.

I know that you have made a decision to call in the National Guard to assist at the -- to a veterans home, in New Jersey, where a number of veterans had died. A New Jersey state official said today that basically, the state is working on the assumption now that the coronavirus is present in, quote, most, if not all, of New Jersey`s nursing homes. Veterans homes, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, congregate facilities, and all of these, particularly of elderly and fragile people, it`s just incredibly dry tinder for this virus.

Do you have -- do you have a plan in mind? Do you have a vision of what can be done in terms of state resources with trying to protect those people?

MURPHY: Yes, we do, but it is, without question -- and you`ve raised this consistently and hats off to you for doing it -- it is I think the most critical highest concern we have, long-term care facilities, as a general matter. We have three veterans homes, two of them had been ravaged.

I was on with the secretary of veteran affairs today, talking about getting staffing to come in, and helping us plan through this, even more aggressively. You`ve got the reality of staff getting sick, or self- quarantining. So you`ve got -- you`ve got a whole mass of challenges coming together.

I mentioned last time, and we`re continuing to try to do this, to break the patients as well as employees into cohorts of COVID, non-COVID, again, patients as well as employees, but that`s a fragile reality, given the population that we`re talking about here. That includes transporting folks around from perhaps one facility to the next, not just one wing to another wing.

And it`s just not a New Jersey frustration. It`s a -- it`s a weakness right now in this war that we`re battling around the country. But again, separating folks, getting more staff, getting more help from the feds in particular, to come in, to help us man particularly these veteran homes, it`s a whole, it`s going to be a whole mix of steps.

But it`s really hard, Rachel. There`s no question about it. It`s really hard.

MADDOW: It`s really hard and really important, and it`s just -- I was -- I said it before, it keeps -- it keeps me up at night. I know, Governor, that it keeps you up too, but you`ve got a lot to do right now, a lot competing.

I appreciate you helping us understand what`s going on in New Jersey. Come back and talk to us whenever there`s a stuff we need nationwide -- you need people to know nationwide. But we`re all pulling for you.

MURPHY: Thank you so much for having us.

MADDOW: All right. Governor Phil Murphy of the great state of New Jersey, the state is dealing with second most cases in the country after New York. And that testing bottleneck that they`ve got is really bad in terms of them getting their arms around this problem.

All right. We`ve got lots more to get to tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: This is from the senior medical adviser at the Department of Veterans Affairs Public Health Office. This is from back in January, January 28th.

Quote: The projected size of the coronavirus outbreak already seems hard to believe. Any way you cut it, this is going to be bad. You guys made fun of me for screaming to close the schools, now I`m screaming, close the colleges and universities. One thing I`m checking each day is the availability of respirators on Amazon and eBay, just curious, since this an indirect way of taking the temperature of the country.

That email from a serving Trump administration health official calling to close schools and colleges as of January, that`s from a long chain of emails, first reported on by Kaiser Health News and "USA Today", a chain with the subject line, Red Dawn, which is a reference to a ridiculous cult favorite movie from 1984, about a band of American teenagers, trying to save the country, after a foreign invasion.

But now, "The New York Times" has published 80 full pages of the Red Dawn emails, alongside a blockbuster piece of reporting on the many ways in which President Trump failed to see the crisis that was right in front of him. "The Times`" Eric Lipton describes this email chain as, quote: an extraordinary conversation hatched among an elite group of infectious disease doctors and medical experts in the federal government and academic institutions around the nation.

And as the emails progress, from late January, to early March, they show, quote: The expert`s rising sense of frustration and then anger as their advice seemingly failed to break through to the administration, raising the odds that more people would likely die.

The emails also showed top Trump administration officials playing catch-up. Here, for example, is the top disaster response official at HHS, appearing to learn for the first time, in late February, that the virus is being transmitted by people without symptoms. Quote, is this true? If so, we have a huge hole, this is a hole, on our screening and quarantine effort.

Here`s President Trump`s former Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert reacting incredulously when Trump banned travel from Europe last month. He says quote: Can anyone justify the European travel restriction? Scientifically, seriously is, there any benefit? I don`t see it but I`m hoping there is something I don`t know.

To which the group responds to him, that: No, there is nothing you don`t know. This is pointless. The virus is already here. And others go on to bemoan the fact that the president did not announce social distancing measures or any plan to protect health workers which is what needed to be done and instead he announced some problem in Europe but only among countries whose leaders he didn`t like.

One infectious disease expert who worked in the Bush and Obama White Houses wrote this, quote: We have thrown 15 years of institutional learning out the window and are making decisions based on intuition. Pilots can tell you what happens when a crew makes decisions based on intuition rather than what their instruments are telling them and yet we continue to push the stick forward.

Eric Lipton and his colleagues at "The New York Times," in addition to publishing these emails have detailed how these warnings failed to make their way to President Trump, or when they did, how he just ignored them. It is damning. It is important.

And Eric Lipton joins us next.


MADDOW: Here`s the headline. Quote: He could have seen what was coming, behind Trump`s failure on the virus.

"The New York Times" got access to 80 pages worth of emails from an email chain among top medical experts, including those inside the government in the run-up to the coronavirus crisis in this country. In this reporting, you can see page after page, of health experts, including current and former government officials, as early as January, just hair on fire, sounding the alarm the Trump administration wasn`t doing enough and this was going to be very serious.

Quote: The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials.

Joining us is Eric Lipton, investigative reporter for "The Times" and lead author of this report.

Mr. Lipton, thank you for making time to join us tonight. Appreciate it.


MADDOW: I feel like we are living through the consequences of the slow and random and unfocused response from the federal government. It does not surprise me to read detail about how slow it was. I was very surprised in your reporting, though, to learn there were so many people inside administration that seemed to know that`s what was going wrong and how big a deal it was, but for whatever reason they couldn`t get through to the president that it was a problem.

Is that a fair takeaway from what you and your colleagues discovered?

LIPTON: I think that there was a group of physicians who work for the federal government whose job was to prepare for pandemics preparing notes starting in January to figure out what needed to be done and they became increasingly concerned over the need to shift from attempting to contain the virus to moving to mitigate the effects of it, and they felt as if the switch should be flipped to mitigation by the middle of February, and the date in which you flip that switch, you have just a week or two and the consequences are enormous -- the number of people who will get sick or die if you don`t flip that switch within that one or two-week period, it`s enormous. It`s the difference between what is happening in California and New York.

And they were -- they were growing increasingly concerned particularly as the middle of February came and they saw all the signs that it was time to flip the switch, to go to mitigation full steam ahead.

MADDOW: And the reason that they didn`t remains a little fuzzy. I mean, you and your colleague`s report they did this group of very influential and important advisors say that it`s type to flip the switch. They make a plan to talk about mitigation and talk to him about the stuff we all learned would ultimately need to be done, but it seems to get derailed. The president gets upset a CDC official makes a public warning before he was willing to say anything that stark.

There seems to be some confusion in terms of when the president is actually supposed to talk to these advisors.

LIPTON: Right. Well, the president was in India on a very short trip at the time that his top medical advisors had reached the consensus that it was -- it was time to go now for this flipping of the switch, and so they decided they would wait until he got home because they want to present this to him in person. In the interim, a CDC official spoke at the press conference and said, we`re going to need to, you know, consider closing schools and interrupting society, and as soon as she said that, the stock market began to tank.

President Trump was getting on a plane at that moment on his way to come back to the United States and he was furious because this was the beginning of the major decline in the stock market and by the time he got home, he was railing out the head of the Health and Human Services angry at what had happened, and that result was that there was a three-week delay before the United States, before the president stood there and said it`s time for social -- it`s the 15 days to stop the spread, that whole campaign.

And that two weeks of delay is really consequential in terms of the number of people that and in places like New York. And, of course, it`s the governors who have the power to make those class, but they need the leadership from the federal government, from the president who gives them the cover to say, we need to make this move. Our health experts concluded now is the time to go.

Instead what happened is different governors made different choices and those choices had enormous consequences.

MADDOW: Eric, one of the things I`m worried about, I feel like the federal government is not learning and their response is not getting better over time and they`re talking about things like, you know, opening the country back up and all these things that afford another -- afford another chance basically, another sort of decision point where the wrong decision could cost thousands of American lives.

Do you have any sense from your reporting both for this piece and overall as to whether or not the president is taking better advice or getting better advice or listening to advisors who actually know what to do in a more systematic way as time goes on?

LIPTON: There is no question that the determination as to when they were supposed to flip the switch is something they`ve been studying for, you know, 15, 20 years in the United States and there was a failure in this instance. Now, the question as to when you reopen, that`s something that they are clearly is a very sensitive one and I believe that they are consulting with medical experts.

The last thing that Trump probably wants is to have a return of an outbreak just before the election again. And I`m hoping and we`re all hoping they will take the medical advice and not just take advice of people who are concerned about the economy. We`re concerned about both.

At a certain point, you can cause many deaths by having the economy shut down, but I do think they are looking for a valid way to evaluate how broadly the virus is still prevalent in community by community. That`s the way you have to make these decisions.

You can`t -- it is not going to be a national reopening. New York City and New York state are going to take longer. New Jersey is going to take longer because the percentage of people infected is much higher than other places they mitigated earlier, and so, therefore, there is not as much spread. So, not only is the death and illness is worse in New York but it will take a longer time to reopen in New York than other places.

MADDOW: Eric Lipton, investigative reporter at the "New York Times" -- thank you very much for your time. Thanks for being here. I appreciate it.

LIPTON: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. Thank you for being with us.

Now it`s time for a special hour here on MSNBC. It`s "Life in the Time of Coronavirus" hosted by Lawrence O`Donnell and Dr. Zeke Emanuel. That starts right now.

                                                                                    THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END