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CO plant TRANSCRIPT: 4/27/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Kim Cordova

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

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now on this Monday. Good evening, Rachel.

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

Thanks to you at home for joining this hour. Happy to have you here this Monday night.

I`d like to you meet Jennifer Steenburg. She`s the head of nursing at the ICU, the intensive care unit, at the Memorial Herman Southwest Hospital, which is in Houston, Texas.


JENNIFER STEENBURG, ICU PATIENT DIR. MEMORIAL HERMANN, SOUTHWEST HOSPITAL, HOUSTON, TX: I remember one of our first COVID positive patients, he was a guy that had gone for spring break in Miami, and he came back and he was admitted in the ICU for trouble breathing and his friend, best friend was outside the unit, wanted to drop him off some toiletries.

And so, I went and talked to the best friend, and he said I know I can`t come in but can you please give him this and please tell him I love him dearly. So I`m in the COVID-19 unit and I talked to his friend, the patient, and explained we can`t have any visitors, that he wanted me to tell you that he loved you, and he started to cry. And I started to cry.

And we talked for a minute. And he said, can I ask you something? I said sure. He`s like, no, never mind. It`s a dumb question. And I said no, no, no-no questions are dumb right now.

And he says, well, am I going to be OK? I says, well, your vital signs look good, you`re how many days in. He said, five days in, and I said, well, you`re talking, and just continue to exercise your lungs, and he cried some more, with tears of joy, and gratefulness that I gave him some hope.

And later that day, he was intubated. And I was crushed. Because I told him he was going to be OK. Nine days later, though, he was extubated and I went and visit him on the floor and when I saw him in the ICU, I had my isolation mask and gown and gloves on, so it is hard to recognize people, but when I went in his room, he recognized me right away, and he said, oh, my God, I`m been praying about you every day.

And I felt so bad, I told you were going to be OK, and he said look, I am, he was down to one liter of oxygen and able to walk to the bathroom, and so, it gave me some hope.

I told my husband on the way home I was crying and I said, I don`t think I can make it, and I don`t think I can get through this, two more months of this, and I can`t do it. And he`s like, don`t look at it like that. Just look at it as you did one day. And so that gave me a lot of strength to know that well, I got one day done and 59 left more to go.

So, it helps to talk about it, even when somebody that doesn`t know your world, and definitely helps to take things one day at a time. And we made it. And we`re 30 days in and we`re still managing.

I`m talking help such late, most night, just top talk to the night shift and if I could see them smiling, then I would be able to go home at night and sleep, praying for them. They`re the true heroes. In the E.R. they march in there with their PPE, scared to death. But if they can at least smile a little bit, I have some assurance that they would be OK.

And the support of the community, I know the community feels helpless, but they fed the nurses, every shift, every day. And food helps, yes, food helps. That`s the only thing that helps right now is at least they don`t have to worry about cooking for their kids or cooking for themselves and just give them a little bit.

The community made masks and head bands and devices to hold the masks so that their ears weren`t raw. There was pain. There was breakout on noses and ears. There was fear of testing positive.

It was horrible watching patients die without family. I`ve always been a proponent of good death. And watching people die without anybody there is just torture. And I know it is going to hurt a lot of nurses. And we`re going to need a lot of coaching and counseling after this is over. And I know it`s hard for the families to not be there. I`m just praying that we are done with this soon.


MADDOW: I`m just praying that we are done with this soon, she says. That is Jennifer Steenburg who runs nursing at an ICU at a large Houston hospital.

And, you know, you see this again and again now, from front line health care providers, talking about what they are going through, talking about stamina among themselves, and how they need to support each other and how there`s going to be a need for, you know, long-term counseling, and support, and as Jennifer Steenburg said, coaching, to help people through this, given how hard they are working and the circumstances in which they are working with people who are so sick and so many people dying.

And this is why people are thanking health workers all over the country, right? This is why people are sending food. You know, she said there, food helps. You hear it -- you hear about people sending food to the health workers at hard-hit hospitals all over the country, and it`s not like it`s a national effort to do that. Individual communities all over the country are deciding to do that on their own. It`s happening, because people are so grateful.

That`s why the orders to open everything back up, just assume our doctors and nurses can handle it all, our hospitals, they can handle more. I mean, that`s, that`s why I think it`s so discordant to have this open it up political movement, hospitals will be fine. Health care workers are fine. They can take a lot more.

Alongside the way, Americans feel about our health care workers. I mean, the vast majority of Americans do support our health care workers and they do -- the vast majority of Americans, Democrat and Republican, and neither, vast majority, support the continuation of stay-at-home orders to try to limit the spread of the disease, to limit the assault of our health workers and our health systems. I`ll tell you, this was also nice to see this weekend, this was from the Salinas Valley in California, people turning out to thank farm workers, people picking produce, thanking them for their essential work.

And as we understand it, this has happened a few times in the Central Valley in California since the epidemic got so big but this was Salinas, California, this weekend. It`s really nice to see.

The United States is approaching one million cases of coronavirus now, which means that we`re about to -- I guess now, already, we`ve got quadruple the size of epidemic that any other country is dealing with. In terms of the death toll, the American death toll is now over 55,000, approaching 56,000 as we speak.

There was a brief shining moment over the past couple of moments when the White House seemed like it was going to stop doing the briefings with the president and something about him suggesting the injection of disinfectants from the White House podium last week, I think that got very close to breaking whatever the rickety system is in this government that has produced these daily, weird televised screeds from the president. After the "why can`t we all just bleach our insides "debacle on Thursday night, the White House didn`t have the president do more of these briefings over the weekend.

And today`s planned briefing eventually got canceled before the president decided that he really must keep doing these things and so, we yet another daily dose of live, bizarre performance from the president today including him trying and failing to read words, he couldn`t get anywhere near pronouncing, and lots of fanfare about a new testing plan that doesn`t actually seem to be a new testing plan. It`s just a statement of what the government should have done a few months ago, but they didn`t.

There`s still no readily available testing in most of the country. The Trump administration`s FDA turns out to have allowed dozens of companies to start marketing untested, unproven supposed coronavirus antibody test, even though most of those tests are now proving to be worthless, or to have such high error rates they are wildly irresponsible to use for any clinical decision making but the FDA let them all on to the market anyway without testing them. States to this day are still competing with one another on the open market to try to buy PPE for health workers and other basic supplies.

It even turns out that the V.A., the V.A. health system, is in that same boat with the state, and with individual hospitals that are competing with each other for material, and even trying to defend their station from the federal government, the Trump administration that keeps stealing it, the head of the V.A. health system now telling the watch, that the V.A., the Veterans Affairs, had put in an order for five million marches for health providers who work at V.A. hospitals, they placed the order of the five million mask, on the way, until FEMA swooped in and stole those masks and took the order for themselves, from the V.A.

So, that is -- that is still happening, even to other parts of the federal government. They`re not just stealing from the states anymore. They`re now stealing from other parts of government. Will the V.A. try to defend itself against FEMA? What would that look like?

I mean, today was the next try for the small business relief loan debacle that ran out of all its money instantly in the first round. Today was the second round. But the Trump administration`s small business administration website that was supposed to facilitate the loan process today, it crashed instantly, today, and the crash lasted all day long. And so that`s still a catastrophe in terms of America`s small businesses.

I mean, the federal response has been either absent or disastrous or occasionally in the hands of the president insane. From the very beginning, I know that I have said this before, but I think, I at least have to check in weekly, we are now months into, this we`re now 55,000 American deaths into this, and it is worth noting that things are not getting better. We expect in the news, when stuff is exposed to scandalous and fail, particularly when it is government action that has had catastrophic bad consequences, you expect that news coverage is associated with people getting embarrassed potentially losing their job, starting to work on, it and improving the systems.

In the U.S. response to coronavirus, when it comes to the federal government, nothing is getting any better. Nothing is getting better over time, months into this now. I mean here`s just one example. It turns out, the CDC, a week and a half ago, put out a new list of symptoms that the CDC says could indicate potential coronavirus infection. The initial list from CDC said there were only three symptoms to look for -- fever, cough, shortness of breath. Now, they have added a bunch more, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, the new loss of the sense of taste or sense of smell.

And that list of symptoms has ended up being a really important thing in our country because we are a country where the federal government blew it on testing and so, testing is hard to come by, and testing availability has been severely cramped for most of the country for the duration of the crisis thus far. And that CDC list of symptoms has been really important in our environment of scarcity when it comes to testing. Lots and lots of places all over the country have basically triaged testing so only people with the CDC-defined symptoms were able to get a test.

It`s still true in lots of places today. But unless you got the symptoms that are on that CDC list, you don`t qualify for a test, just assume you`ve got it and hope for the best. But apparently, the CDC revised and pretty significantly expanded its list of symptoms that indicate potential coronavirus a week and a half ago.

But nobody knew because the CDC never put an announcement out about it, they don`t do briefings about coronavirus, because they don`t really have an opportunity to tell anybody. They never told anyone. They just quietly posted the new expanded list of symptoms online.

And if anybody had known about it, over the past week and a half, that might have made a significant difference all over the country in terms of who was able to get a test. But you know, oh, well, did we forget to tell you we did that?

When we started this epidemic, it was the CDC, it was scientists at the CDC, who were giving daily briefings about coronavirus. And remember, the president shut that down because he decided they were being way too alarmist and clearly he decided he wanted to do those things himself. So, we don`t have daily CDC briefings. All other health crisis of this magnitude, I guess we haven`t had one of this magnitude but ones of less magnitude than this, you would expect to hear from health officials that day, and now we hear from the president and whoever else he likes that day, because he shut down the CDC briefings.

Maybe if we were hearing from the CDC, from scientists on a daily basis, instead of from the drink the Lysol artist at the White House, we would have heard about the CDC`s new official list of symptoms and our epidemic would have had a different course over the past week and a half.

That said, the CDC and OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they did, this weekend, release new guidelines or meat processing plants. Ah, you might have seen this full page ad in a number of newspapers this weekend ahead of Tyson Foods, one of the meatpacking companies in this country warning that the food supply chain is breaking and talking about how much Tyson is doing to protect their workers so please, please, please, can they keep their plants open?

It seems good but CDC and OSHA are finally giving advice, giving meatpacking plants advice on how to stay open without infecting all of their workers, which they`ve been doing very efficiently from the start of the epidemic. Thousands of meat processing employees have been infected since the start of this epidemic, thousands of them. But it`s important to note that even though the CDC and OSHA has now put out guidelines for meat processing plants, they just came out yesterday, why did they wait so long? I don`t know.

But they did put out these guidelines as of yesterday. And the guidelines are purely voluntary. The Trump administration could make these CDC guidelines for meat processing plants, it could make them mandatory. The department of labor could just tell meatpacking plants these guidelines are required you have to follow them.

But they`re not doing that. So these are just a suggestion. Except, interestingly, in one plant, in the whole country, in Missouri, a really innovative lawsuit was filed against Smithfield, one of these big companies that runs these big plant, filed by an anonymous long-term employee at that plant, identified in the legal filings as Jane Doe, and Jane Doe in her lawsuit against Smithfield alleges that people at the plant she works with have been working while sick, working without protective equipment, there is a whole host of irresponsible alleged behavior by the plant that this employee is suing to correct.

She is interestingly not suing for damages. She`s just suing to try to force the plant to make the plant safe for its employees. And this case in Missouri against Smithfield is ongoing. But the federal judge overseeing that case today did rule that henceforth the plant must comply with guidelines from the CDC and OSHA.

So the CDC and OSHA took until yesterday to come up with guidelines for these plants. The Trump administration says those guidelines are just a suggestion, not mandatory, for any of the meatpacking plants in the country. But in Missouri, thanks to the order of one federal judge, this Smithfield plant is mandated to follow those guidelines at, at least, one of their plants. Start somewhere.

And God bless you and keep you, Mrs. Jane Doe, thank you for what you`ve done.

Smithfield is also the company that operates that huge plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that has produced one of the largest COVID outbreaks anywhere in the country, there is now over a thousand cases in Sioux Falls, South Dakota associated with that plant. They still don`t have a statewide stay-at-home order in South Dakota.

There is also nearly a thousand COVID cases in Grand Island, Nebraska. Nebraska is another state where they don`t have a statewide stay-at-home order. In Grand Island, Nebraska, that outbreak too seems to be originated with a meatpacking plant in town of JBS beef plant. That`s the nucleus of what`s becoming a pretty worrying outbreak in Nebraska as a state.

Nebraska had 2,000 confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday last week. As of yesterday, as of Sunday, they have over 3,000 cases. That`s not a good projection.

But again, no stay-at-home order in Nebraska. And a major campaign donor to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is back on his idea he will open up the gigantic Nebraska Crossing Mall on Interstate 80 just outside of Omaha by the end of this week. Sure, Nebraska just went from 2,000 cases on Thursday to 3,000 and they got a 1,000 cases in one pretty small city associated with a meatpacking plant that the governor wants to get reopened, why not get everybody breathing in each other`s faces as quickly as possible?

When Trump Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia decided that he would not make the health guidelines for meatpacking plants mandatory, I don`t know if that would mean that these outbreaks would stay inside the plants, and not turn into big outbreaks in the communities where those workers live, but what we`re seeing, where we have big outbreaks in meat packaging plants -- meat processing plants all over the country, is that they`re turning into big community outbreaks in all of these places. We`re seeing that everywhere now.

For example, there`s a very worrying situation tonight in Logansport, Indiana. The county there, Cass County, Indiana, this morning, announced a new public health emergency in their county because of a really big spike in cases there centered on a local Tyson meat processing plant. I mean, this is their total cases in Cass County, Indiana, over time. This is not, that is not a good trend line.

This is the growth in cases in Cass County, Indiana, day by day, again, not good, not a good trend line. They have closed that Tyson plant in Cass County, Indiana, but today, with the case numbers now in that one county topping a thousand, the CEO of the local Logansport Memorial Hospital said quote, our hospital is not equipped with enough staff or resources to care for numbers like this.

And so that county in Indiana has put in place a state, a new state of emergency, an a stricter stay-at-home order than what is in place statewide.

And now, here`s another one, to watch. And that we`re going to talk a little bit more about tonight. It`s been unfolding in Greeley, Colorado. You might have heard about the particular problem they`ve got in Greeley. You might have heard about the big outbreak they`ve got at the JBS plant, specifically because at one point, it got mentioned at the White House by Vice president Mike Pence.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I spoke today to the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, and we`ve been in contact with Senator Cory Gardner about an outbreak at a particular meatpacking facility in the Colorado area. And at this time, our team is working with the governor and working with the senator to ensure that we flow testing resources.


MADDOW: Working to flow testing resources, working to ensure that we flow testing resources.

That announcement from the White House led to a bunch of sort of relieved local coverage in Colorado that testing, universal testing, was coming to all of the workers at that meat plant in Greeley, Colorado, that everybody thought was the White House saying okay, everybody`s going to be tested at that plant.

That has not happened. By the time the plant closed, the day after Vice President Pence said he would load testing resources to that plant, there were a few dozen positive cases that were associated with the plant. Now, there are over 100 positive cases associated with the plant, but also five employees known to have died, which is a large number of employees to have died if there`s only just over 100 positive cases overall.

Could there be a lot more positive cases at that plant? Nobody knows. Because despite those words, from Vice President Pence and the White House about flowing testing resources to the plant, despite the plant being given a public health order, telling them to test every employee, including repeated surveillance testing for workers who initially tested negative, this plant in Greeley, Colorado, just didn`t do it. They just didn`t test people.

And now, today, they`ve reopened, they partially reopened Friday, fully reopened today. There are 6,000 people who work at this plant, it has been reported locally, in Colorado, that the plant did actually start a plan to test everyone, they started by testing their supervisors and managers. The test results reportedly turned up over 40 percent positive for the state`s supervisors and managers. Upon seeing those result, the plant just decided to stop doing any additional testing because do you really want to know?

And as I mentioned, then they just opened up again today. Sure, it will be fine. 6,000 people in there. Five workers dead already.

And they`re not doing universal testing despite supposedly being provided with resources to do it, and being told to do it. Nope, more important that we be open. Let`s not test.

Greeley is in Weld County, Colorado. The Republican-dominated Weld County board of supervisors today told businesses in the county that even as Colorado Governor Jared Polis starts to allow phased reopening of some businesses across the state, in Weld County, the local officials say that even those looser guidelines from the governor, those looser guidelines are not going to be enforced in Weld county, they say those guidelines can`t be enforced in weld county and they will tell businesses in Weld County to do whatever the heck they wants.

And the gigantic 6,000 worker JBS plant is back open even without testing everyone, and the public health order to test everyone, that was apparently optional, too. Colorado has the fourth largest case load west of the Mississippi after Texas, Washington and California. Pry the lid off. Open that plant back up. Watch what happens next there.

Here we go.


MADDOW: The first confirmed case of coronavirus at the big JBS beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, 6,000 employees was discovered on March 26th. After 50 confirmed case at the plant, the president of a local union who represents people who work at the plant wrote to JBS management and to the Colorado governor demanding that the plant be closed immediately until effective safety procedures could be put in place to stop more people from getting infected there.

In her letter, Kim Cordova, the union president wrote the union, quote, believes there may be significantly more individuals at the plant who are carrying the virus but may be asymptomatic, not tested or afraid to come forward. Well, the plant was later ordered to close for eight days. But then, they started to reopen on Friday, and they fully reopened today.

Ahead of reopening, the general manager of the plant cited a range of measures and said that JBS was taking to keep the workers healthy. JBS also blamed federal official, federal, state, and local official, for not coming through on promises to test all of the workers. They`re not testing all of the workers, those assurances, and that finger pointing, from the company was last week, over the weekend, a fifth person who works at the plant died. The number of employees testing positive has inched up to now 120.

But there may be many more. Again, there`s 6,000 people who work in this plant. There`s 120 confirmed cases at this plant and five deaths already among people who work there. We don`t have enough testing in this country.

From the testing that we do have, we know that a scary high percentage of people who test positive have no symptoms. In some instances, it`s more than half of the people who have it and we know, we are learning from the virus, that if you test only symptomatic people, you are likely to miss many cases including asymptomatic people who are nevertheless infectious and can give it to others.

Well, today, in Greeley, Colorado, as they fully reopen this plant, many of the plant`s 6,000 workers waited in line to be screened for fever or other symptoms before entering the plant, because they`re only still looking for symptoms, if you show symptoms, then you can get a test.

But colleagues and the people who are working there say that they worry about possible positive cases among asymptomatic workers getting waved right on through, indeed the system they set up, that`s -- would be a by design outcome, that wouldn`t be a screw-up.

Joining us is Kim Cordova. She`s president of United Food and Local Workers Local Seven, which represents workers at this plant in Greeley, Colorado.

Ms. Cordova, thank you so much for being with us tonight. Thank you for making time.


MADDOW: I have been following this from afar. Watching the local press in Colorado,. and the national process, there has been some national coverage of it, too, but I`m sure you can see this more clearly than I can.

Can you tell me if I screwed anything up or if I missed anything important in terms of the way I explained this?

CORDOVA: No, but you know, a worker had passed away when I originally sent the letter asking for the plant to be closed, and so we already, our first death was on April 7th, and then we had two other deaths on April 10th, when the health order was finally issued.

MADDOW: So, April 7th was the first death, two more on April 10th, which is when the plant was ordered shut, and another death this weekend.


MADDOW: With five employees of the plant dead, the idea that there are only 120 positive cases among the workers, that ratio just seems wrong. From what we know of this virus, and again, we don`t know everything about it, but it seems if there are five workers who have already died, there are likely many more positive people in the plant.

Is that your estimation, too, working closely with the people who are employed there?

CORDOVA: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they haven`t offered testing for the regular front line workers. And so we believe that there`s a higher, a lot higher number. The 120 are only those that actually made it to the hospital and were able to test, but there are thousands of workers, either with symptoms, or asymptomatic, that have not had an opportunity for any type of testing.

MADDOW: Do you know anything about what`s been locally reported, which is that after Vice President Pence said that testing resources would be sent to Greeley, and after there was a local expectation created that there would be universal testing for everybody who worked there, it`s been reported locally that the plant did start testing managers and supervisors, and that they received a disturbingly high proportion of results, more than 40 percent positive, and that they then decided that they wouldn`t expand testing to the rest of the plant.

That`s how it has been described both in the local press, I`ve had one source federally confirm that that`s what happened as well, is that your understanding of what happened?

CORDOVA: Yes, they started, they had scheduled testing, to happen starting the Saturday before Easter, starting with their managers, and then on Sunday, Easter Sunday, that Monday and Tuesday, all workers were advised that they would be testing. Once they started testing, their supervisors, and it became apparent that the numbers were alarmingly high, they abruptly stopped testing, without consulting Weld County, and then they just stopped testing. They never tested any of the front line production workers.

MADDOW: I look at the footage of folks going into that plant lining up today, to be symptom screened, to be check for a temperature or other symptoms so they, can if so, they would qualify for testing but without that, they won`t, I`m looking at people wearing homemade face coverings, looking at the reassurances from the plant management, but looking at the way they reacted to other public health orders, and I just have to tell you I`m really worried about the 6,000 people who work there and I can`t imagine the concern in the community and among their families and co- workers, especially with the expectation that so many people who are going in every day may be positive right now.

Is there anything that you feel like the rest of the country should know or can do to be supportive of the people working there, in these very difficult circumstances?

CORDOVA: Well, the workers are scared. You know, there was a commitment by not only Vice President Pence, the health order said that required testing for that plant, they didn`t even close the plant on the day they were ordered to, they continued to run the plant through the 10th through the morning of April 16th. So, there were only nine days. So, not enough days to stop any type of cycle or flatten the curve.

Workers were not clearly given guidance on sheltering in. And there was community testing this weekend, and workers are already getting their results that were asymptomatic, and they are positive. And so had there not been this community testing, and it was only for those with symptoms, but some of our JBS workers went down, took their chance, they were asymptomatic, and they`ve come back positive. And they were scheduled to start working Friday and Saturday.

So we are very concerned that this is going to be another repeat cycle of workers being forced to come to work, and this is a work while sick culture, and you`re seeing it all over the country, and we`re really worried that more people are going to get sick, that without the plant-wide testing, workers are very scared. They`re also still mourning the death of their co-workers, and family members of these workers have passed away from COVID, too.

MADDOW: Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 Union representing workers at that JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado, that has reopened now despite these pretty disturbing circumstances -- please stay in touch with us. Keep us apprised of what`s happening. I know this is a very fluid situation in Colorado as a whole but specifically in Greeley, please keep us apprised, we would love to have you back to keep us updated.

CORDOVA: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. It was mentioned that Kim Cordova is the president of the local union which represents people that work at that plant. I should tell you that NBC News obtained a statement from that JBS plant, they say they have taken quote aggressive action to voluntarily close the plant, they did that before when it was closed, it is now reopened, quote, assuming the entire work force was positive and subject to quarantine.

But, again, despite a public health order to test everybody in that plant before they reopened and to even test people on a repeated basis, people, once they were negative, once they test negative, that plant is up today without people working there having had access to testing.

All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: We`ve been watching the story and waiting, since Friday, when "The New York Times" was first to report that the Navy had recommended the reinstatement of Captain Brett Crozier as the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, that big nuclear power aircraft carrier that had the terrible outbreak of COVID-19.

We`ve been waiting since that report that the Navy decided to reinstate the commanding officer, we have been waiting since then for some kind of announcement that he has actually been reinstated. Well, he hasn`t.

Captain Crozier, of course, was fired by the Trump administration, after he sounded the alarm about a burgeoning coronavirus outbreak on board his carrier. That outbreak has now -- has since infected more than 950 crew members for that carrier. One sailor has died.

The president`s appointed Navy secretary, the man who fired Crozier, himself was forced to resign over this debacle in disgrace. The entire thing has been an absolute mess every step of the way. But, of course, things can always get worse.

Following that Navy review, which recommended that Captain Crozier be reinstated as commanding officer of that ship, the Trump administration`s Defense Secretary Mark Esper was expected to announce what was going to happen to Captain Crozier. That decision has apparently been indefinitely deferred.

"Politico" reporting that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, wanting more extensive investigation than what the Navy has already done. Secretary Esper himself is also apparently in no rush to make any sort of decision. Navy leaders have already reportedly verbally briefed Secretary Esper as to why Captain Crozier should get his job back but Esper is apparently holding out for a written version of that same information. I don`t know.

After he reviews back, he apparently plans to meet again with Navy leadership to discuss next steps again. It`s almost like he is trying to run out the clock on ever having to make a decision at all, because who knows how the president will react once you actually decide something. You know what happened to the last Navy secretary? And the one before that? You want to know?

How about the last defense secretary. And the one -- yes.

Meanwhile, another U.S. Navy vessel, a deployed U.S. Navy vessel, a destroyer called the USS Kidd is in trouble now, too. As of Friday, we reported that 18 sailors on board the USS Kidd had tested positive for coronavirus. As of today, it`s not 18 anymore. It`s now 47 sailors on that ship.

That ship is currently en route to San Diego where the Navy hopes to continue offloading infected crew members.

A lot of news coming out of the Navy these days, none of it good unfortunately. But a lot of it trying to make things last as long as possible and not invoke presidential ire. That seems healthy.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: I present to you the U.S. Air Force Academy`s class of 2020.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Class of 2020, dismissed!



MADDOW: Normally, after you throw your hat in the air after graduation, you get to, you know, high five and hug the classmate next to you, but this is 2020. Social distancing while you celebrate is the best case scenario. You can see the cadets at the Air Force Academy were seated eight feet away from each other in formation when they had that graduation last week.

Meanwhile, two other service academy, the Coast Guard Academy, the Naval Academy, decided in a real life graduation was not worth the risk this year. They scrapped plans for graduation this year in lieu of virtual graduations. But that has left an open question as to what the Army`s service academy, what West Point would do.

West Point is about 50 miles outside of New York City. It is very close to the red hot center of the American epidemic. West Point had decided that it`s graduation would be, its graduation would be postponed with coronavirus and cadets were sent home to spring break and told not to come back and finish classes online and per "The New York Times", quote, the pandemic left it unclear whether a graduation ceremony would happen at West Point at all.

But then, presidential drama ensued, naturally. Right before the Air Force Academy`s graduation, the one we showed you, President Trump was asked about the fact that Vice President Pence was expected to be the Air Force Academy commencement speaker. When President Trump was asked about that, quote, Mr. Trump never wanted to be up staged abruptly announced he, in fact, would be speaking at West Point.

Quote: That was news to everyone, including officials at West Point, according to three people involved with or briefed on event. Quote: The academy was looking at the option of a delayed commencement in June but yet to complete any plans. Quote: With Mr. Trump`s preemptive statement they are summoning a thousand cadets scattered across the country to return to campus in New York the state that is the center of the outbreak.

Wrangling the cadets back to New York is half the battle, and they also have to test every cadet and quarantine them for 14 days. They also have to figure out how dorms and mess halls work when you have 1,000 cadets flooding back to campus and nobody is supposed to be near anyone else.

Our motto on this show for administration basically, or maybe the caption under our show for this administration, is silent movie. Watch what the administration does, don`t pay too much attention to what the president says.

But in this case, what the president said blurting out this unexpected news about what he planned to do at West Point, it has consequences. It means very specifically that 1,000 military families will now have a kid dragged back to New York in the middle of a pandemic so that those cadets can be there to decorate chairs for the president`s benefit because he has decided he wants to give a speech. Seriously.

Joining us now is Annie Karni, who is White House correspondent for "The New York Times". She and her colleague Eric Schmidt broke this story.

Ms. Karni, I`m grateful that you`re able to be here with us tonight. Thanks for joining us.


MADDOW: First, let me ask you if I got anything wrong or screwed around the wrong way in terms of my understanding of this story.

KARNI: Nope, I think you pretty much laid it out. West Point joined a long line of institutions and individuals who have learned of their involvement in the president`s plans from hearing their names blurted out in the briefing room, with members of the business council. They announced a lot of CEOs hadn`t agreed to anything when they learned they were on a task force.

This time, West Point, they were to be clear in discussions and the president coming to speak on June 23rd was something that was being talked about. So, it`s not that he made it up completely out of thin air but nothing had been decided. There was a range of options. West Point officials understood that this was a really complicated and potentially dangerous situation to hold this graduation. They still wanted the president to come speak but it wasn`t a done deal.

And so, the president saying he was in fact going to be the graduation speaker got ahead of anything being officially finalized behind closed doors.

MADDOW: And, you know, it does seem like it has created this, like, Rubik`s cube complication for West Point in terms of scrambling to figure out how to do this on the time frame the president has just hoisted on them. I mean, for the Air Force commencement, Air Force cadets were already quarantining at the academy. So, there wasn`t travel involved for them for example.

With West Point cadets already dispersed around the country, it does seem like what the president set in motion is not just awkward, it involves a whole layer of risk. "The Army Times" is reporting that cadets are expected to start returning using commercial air transit, or using commercial transit sometime in May.

It does feel like he has injected a considerable layer of risk and logistic necessity on both the academy and individual cadets.

KARNI: Yes, and that`s why nothing has been decided yet and they were still considering it. The June date was something that they were looking at if it could work and the president made very clear in private conversations that he was very interested in continuing forward with this commencement speech, and wanted to do it. They just hadn`t finalized anything yet.

The president loves these military academy backdrops, commencement speeches. All presidents use them and to some extent to talk about foreign policy accomplishments and election year. This is a backdrop that is not beatable for Trump.

Now, a president who is always first and foremost concerned with how things are covered and how they play, it poses kind of this is a wrinkle now because instead of it looking like a commanding show of force, this looks like the president is putting cadets at risk to come and be a backdrop for him, and that is the opposite of what he was hoping to get out of this commencement, which is a show of look how great and strong our military is under my leadership.

He doesn`t want to anger the military and that we heard and my colleague Eric Schmidt did a lot of the reporting on the West Point side and heard some eyebrows being raised and some concerns among alumni of the institution saying that this felt like a rash decision to bring people back for this.

MADDOW: Yes, alumni of the institution and boy, is that a powerful and impressive alumni network. But also, I imagine, families and parents of this year`s grad graduating cadets.

Annie Karni, White House correspondent for "The New York Times", it`s fascinating reporting. Thanks for helping us understand it tonight. Thanks for being here.

KARNI: Thanks so much for having me tonight.

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


MADDOW: Among the list of things that feel broken right now, the news that good food is going to waste in huge amounts while thousands of Americans line up at food banks, that`s its own upsetting news.

In New York today, Governor Cuomo implored his state`s dairy producers to stop dumping things like milk and sour cream, saying the state would take it and ship it to food banks. Dairy farmers cheered that news.

In Cassia County, Idaho, farmer Ryan Cranney posted this photo on Facebook imploring people to please come take the potatoes he grew and dug up but couldn`t find anywhere to sell. Free potatoes come and get them.

A lot of people did so. One local volunteer posted this picture of a truckload of potatoes being delivered to her town within 48 hours of people coming to get food for their families. That giant pile, this is what was left of it.

Cranney farms ended up giving away 800,000 pounds of potatoes to regular people, food banks, to charities. There is a lot wrong in the world that we cannot fix yet, but people are really trying every day, every way.

That`s going to do it for us. We`ll see you this time tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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