AZ Health Dept. TRANSCRIPT: 5/7/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Barbara McQuade, Jason Dearen

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: It`s just it`s such a shocking abuse of power just on its face what we know. And then the more you learn, the worse it gets. Dave Dan has been doing great reporting for the American prospect on it. Thank you so much.

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 much appreciated. And thanks to at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.

I want to give you an update on a story that we brought you last night, that was a weird story unexplained as I described it last night, but honestly pretty inexplicable under any telling.

A story out of the state of Arizona, brought you the story last night, it has had a very big payoff today. Let me explain. Arizona continues to see a steady rise in coronavirus cases, they are nearing 10,000 confirmed cases as of today. The state has had 450 deaths, that puts Arizona somewhere in the middle of U.S. states. As far as the number of cases and deaths, but their case numbers and death numbers are both going up.

I should also say, though, that what we know about what`s happening in Arizona, in terms of cases is almost certainly a significant undercount. Because Arizona`s testing rate ranks 51st in the nation, 51st because there are behind all of the other 49 states, and they`re behind Washington D.C. as well. That`s according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. So Arizona`s testing is absolutely terrible. And they know they`ve got a pretty big problem on their hands.

So last week, Arizona`s Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced that he would extend Arizona`s stay-at-home order until at least mid-May. He said he was following the data. And that makes sense looking at the data that we`ve got out of the state. And as we reported last night, we know that the data, the governor was relying on included a very specific and Arizona specific model that was created at the state`s request by experts at two of Arizona`s top university. Top universities, in this model, this -- the most robust Arizona specific Coronavirus modeling project anywhere, it found that the only way the state could avoid an exponential growth in cases was to maintain the current stay-at-home restrictions until at least the end of May, the end of May.

So last week, Arizona`s governor looking at that data told the people of the state hey, we got to extend to the stay-at-home order. We`re not in other words yet. But then this week, surprise, as the President announced a plan to visit to Arizona. Arizona`s Governor Doug Ducey suddenly did a UE and decided that no, the state wouldn`t have to keep in place at stay-at- home order anymore. He was going to accelerate the plan to opening hair salons and barbershops, go for it, restaurants. Your next Governor Ducey, made this sudden change announced it on Monday.

And perhaps it did have something to do with that impending visit from the President, who, of course, has been encouraging governors to open up right now, because everything`s fine now.

In any event, Governor Ducey`s administration said that in making this new decision and changing their mind, they were relying on a new model, a different model from the one they had worked with the universities on. They said that for this new decision, they were relying on a model that had been provided to the state by the Trump administration. And that model said everything would be fine if the governor lifted the stay-at-home order right away. No reason to wait. And this new model that told the governor, go ahead, open everything up. It`s a secret. Nobody is allowed to see it. We just know what the governor`s administration has said is it.

Well, just hours after Governor Ducey announced the new accelerated reopening based on those apparently reportedly rosy projections from the federal model that`s a secret and we`re not allowed to look at. Interestingly, he went beyond just stopping, looking at the Arizona specific model that had been made by the experts and scientists at the universities that has universities in his state. He went beyond just not looking at their work anymore. And he actually ordered those modeling experts at those universities in Arizona, that they should stop their work. He told them to stop down, not just we`re relying on a different model now, but we order you to stop your modeling work. We don`t want your model to exist anymore.

And Governor Ducey told the universities that the state would rescind its agreement to share data with them, and they wanted to claw back the data they had already given them. All the datasets we gave you to do your modeling in terms of the epidemic in the state of Arizona we want all that back and you have to stop working.

I mean, as I said last night, I don`t know what`s weirder about this story, the fact that the state of Arizona ordered its export modeling team to just stop while the state is obviously still very much in the middle of this epidemic, or the fact that they are apparently now relying on a secret model from the Trump administration that nobody is allowed to see. But trust us it says that what we`re doing is exactly the right thing scientifically, you just can`t check us.

Well, since this has come to pass over the course of this week, a number of officials have raised concerns about this decision, including Arizona`s Democratic U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, and Democratic Phoenix based Congressman Ruben Gallego. The congressman actually went so far as to tell the universities that they should ignore the governor`s order and they should keep working on the modeling for the state.

Well, that was the story as of last night. We reported here last night, we talked to a former head of the State Health Department in Arizona, who called this decision astonishing and walked us through and how it had happened and how crazy it was. Update, the Ducey administration today changed their minds. The Arizona Health Department announcing today quote, "We are pleased to announce and ongoing partnership to continue providing models". The state now says they were simply trying to be understanding of all the demands on these researchers time. They didn`t want to be a burden by asking them to continue working on this model for the state. But quote, "since then", meaning since yesterday, "the universities and team members have expressed a willingness to continue doing this work".

Yes, yes. Who knew that we`re willing to continue doing this work in the middle of the epidemic? I guess we should have asked them before we told them stand down, stop working. But yes, but now they`re going to continue working on this, hooray. So that weird situation in Arizona appears to have been resolved today. It appears to be one of those situations, situations that just couldn`t survive in the sunlight.

The Ducey administration tried to make this change in the dark, enough people notice and squat about it, that it sort of crumbled in the light of day, you`d be surprised that the number of bad decisions that can be reversed that way, with enough concentrated attention.

I mean, there`s still a matter of this secret supposedly federal model that nobody can see. It`s still not been released as of today. But like I said, problem a little bit solved at least, the university modeling experts in Arizona will apparently continue their modeling work with the state. We`ll see if that modeling work affects the ongoing decisions of Governor Ducey in terms of what he says to open up. Given that those university researchers say that opening up before the end of May will put Arizona back into exponential growth in terms of their epidemic.

But that is just one development out of a million today. It has been that kind of day. There are both heartening stories and disheartening stories, but so much stuff happened today. It`s one of those days where I think it`s sort of been hard to keep up with the news. Arizona, for example, is just one of 30 states that have either started some degree of reopening, or they will start reopening soon. "The New York Times" reports today in a serious report that we will all look back on and shake our heads at. "New York Times" reports today that most of the states that are reopening are not only meeting the ostensible requirements for reopening issued by the White House, but they`re going in the opposite direction. Quote, "In more than half the states easing restrictions, case counts are trending upward, positive test results are rising or both". And virtually none of the states that are reopening have anywhere near the minimum rate of testing that experts say is required to reopen safely.

And as of this evening, there are over one and a quarter million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States and over 76,000 Americans have died. And our numbers continue to go up and up and up. That appears to be completely dislocated from one our political decisions in places with rising epidemics to open up anyway and pretend like things are all already getting better.

I mean to have lost 76,000 Americans already, it`s just a staggering, staggering number. And, of course, it is likely a significant undercount of the deaths because of the thousands of people who have likely died from COVID-19, who were never tested and therefore not officially counted, because our testing access in this country continues to be severely restricted. I mean, everybody just looking at this from a scientific or basic third grade math understanding, knows that the official death count in the United States is astronomical, and also probably too low.

Unless you were President Donald Trump, if you`re President Donald Trump, apparently you think the coronavirus death poll in the United States is too high. It`s fake news and really the numbers are much smaller. Axios is reporting now that President Trump has quote, "Complained to advisors about the way coronavirus deaths are being calculated suggesting that the real numbers are actually lower. A number of his senior aides share this view according to sources with direct knowledge. A senior administration official says he expects the President to begin publicly questioning the death poll, as it closes in on his predictions for the final death count and damages him politically".

Apparently, the White House thinks that hospitals are running some sort of grift where they`re over reporting coronavirus cases, they`re making up fake coronavirus patients in order to cash in on sweet, sweet Medicare money for treating Coronavirus patients. Apparently we`re supposed to prepare for the President to start blaming American hospitals for inventing this epidemic that this many people aren`t really dying. Right? If it wasn`t for those greedy hospitals, we`d see the real much lower death counts.

While that`s happening at the political level, the virus is hitting close to home for the President literally. From NBC News today, quote, "One of President Donald Trump`s personal value who works in the White House, works in the West Wing, serving the President his meals, among other duties, has tested positive for the coronavirus. The closest the virus is known to have come to the President". According to a White House official. Staffers who come into close contact with the President have said they`re tested regularly for coronavirus. But a few aides have been seen where -- excuse me, but few aides have been seen wearing masks around the West Wing.

Quote, "After learning one of his valets was infected, Trump became lava, level mad at his staff and said he doesn`t feel they`re doing all they can to protect him from the virus". Yes, it turns out it`s just really hard to work to contain this virus. I mean, whatever the President and the White House or Republican governors might wish or want to be true about this epidemic, the virus is the virus, and the science is the science, I mean, you can -- you can deny that it`s as bad as everybody says, and you can deny that it`s really a risk and it`s safe to open everything back up. But, you know, then somebody in the White House who`s probably been close to the President to touch him a lot. You know, because he says valet that then that guy turns out to have it. Scary, right? Scary to not be in that much of a bubble she thought you were.

And you know, the guidelines on how to reopen the economy turns out, that`s a hard thing. You can`t just wave a magic wand and say it`s over. We want it to be over. And so therefore, we shall reopen and the economy will come right back to where it should be. The reason the economy is shut down is not because of some sort of, you know, blue state plot. It`s because there`s a virus that`s killed 75,000 Americans and infected more than a million of us and isn`t slowing down at all. And the only way we can slow it down, because we don`t have a treatment and we don`t have a vaccine is to keep Americans apart from each other. And that must be very frustrating, but that`s the science here.

That said the White House is apparently designed that they are going to stand against that science as well. The "Associated Press" reporting today. That detailed step by step guidance created by the experts at the CDC to advise state and local governments on how and when to reopen various parts of their economies. That CDC guidance was shelved by the White House. Scientists were reportedly told that they`re very carefully researched, fine grained document on the slow, careful approach that would be needed to reopen things safely. That document quote, they were told, would never see the light of day.

No time for all that hard work. Certainly this White House is not going to tell states and localities to do all of that work and be careful and deliberate about it. They want you to just open up, just pretend this isn`t a big deal. We`re actually going to have more on that story, including the reporter who broke that story later on in the show tonight.

There was more today. I mean, there was Vice President Mike Pence and in Alexandria Virginia nursing home today, holding a big, you know, celebratory -- you know, you notice he was not wearing gloves or a mask. Yes, holding a big celebratory, throw the paper towel style photo op for the federal government`s first shipment of personal project. equipment to a single nursing home in America. Why is he working with that guy not wearing a mask, not wearing gloves? Where`s that hand truck going after you`ve been touching without gloves on.

I mean, we are 20,000 Americans dead in nursing homes into this, 20,000 Americans have died in nursing homes already. The Trump administration is really excited to brag that they are doing something for their nursing homes for the first time. Today now that 20,000 Americans are already dead. They say this is one of over a thousand -- one of thousands of deliveries, they`re going to make to nursing homes between now and the end of June. No rush, but they didn`t start doing anything until now. And that`s what they`re bragging about.

Also, I will, I will tell you if this administration is capable of organizing and carrying out some sort of systematic and actually helpful delivery of necessary supplies of PPE to every nursing home in this country, I will be surprised, and I`ll tell you why. Next to Mike Pence today among all the other people he touched and spoke face to face to without masks was Seema Verma, you see there in the frame with him. She runs the part of the Trump administration that oversees nursing homes.

And that part of the Trump administration has been telling us now for two and a half weeks that they`re just about to start releasing data on coronavirus, deaths and cases in nursing homes around the country. That would be really helpful information to have, because some governors, some states haven`t been releasing that information, which is cruel to the people who live in those homes and to the people who have family members in those homes. And it is cruel and self defeating for the communities in which those homes are located because when there are outbreaks in specific nursing homes, the communities in which those homes are located need to know it because nursing home outbreaks won`t stay there they will become community outbreaks because those homes just like prisons, just like meatpacking plants, just like all of these other facilities that are housing huge outbreaks. They`re porous and they create outbreaks where they are where they are located in the community.

So if in fact Seema Verma`s agency is going to start releasing facility by facility information about where there are nursing home outbreaks in this country, that`s great, because in a lot of states, you can`t get that information. The federal government is going to do it. That`s great. They`ve been telling us for two and a week -- two and a half weeks, that it`s coming soon. It`s almost it`s -- we`ve been checking in with them regularly. Every few days, they keep telling us it`s about to come out. It`s about to come out.

Today, they told us that that data will start to be released, maybe at the end of May. So I guess we`ll just wait then. That`s also the timeframe they have announced for when they`re going to have their nursing homes taskforce meet for the first time. Maybe they`ll convene around the end of May. Busy till then. That`s just the kind of day it has been.

And the news has been fast and furious today from the judicial branch and from the Justice Department today as well. We got a big ruling from the Supreme Court today that may file put to rest, the great New Jersey Bridgegate scandal of 2013, which aged me approximately 17 years, seems almost quaint by current standards the way staffer and a political appointee and Governor Chris Christie`s administration decided it was time for some traffic problems in the little town of Fort Lee, New Jersey in order to get back at that Mayor for not endorsing Chris Christie in his bid for re election as New Jersey`s governor. The Christie staffer Bridget Kelly, who wrote that infamous e-mail and Bill Baroni, another Christi appointee, they had been convicted on charges of fraud and conspiracy for cooking up this plot to jam the streets of Fort Lee, New Jersey by closing lanes connecting the town to the George Washington Bridge, the busiest passenger car bridge in America.

Bridget Kelly have been facing a year and a half in prison. Bill Peroni was facing two years in prison. But in a unanimous opinion today, the Supreme Court rejected the entire premise of the case and threw the convictions out, saying yes, there was evidence of deception, corruption and abuse of power. But federal fraud statutes do not criminalize all such conduct. And so our national hunt for what counts as punishable, criminal corruption and public service continues. We`re starting to need brighter and brighter lights to find it.

And that was not the only news today, just that the Supreme Court the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court today if they could please not hand over the grand jury material from the Robert Muller investigation. A lower court had said that the Trump administration has to hand that material over to Congress. The Justice Department has to hand over that material. Unless the Supreme Court steps in the deadline for turning over that grand jury material to the House is Monday. Ever since Robert Muller finished his investigation, the Justice Department has refused to hand over the grand jury material from that investigation if the Supreme Court agrees to step in and hear the Trump administration`s case. It is possible they could hear the case and maybe even rule on it if they were persuaded to act super quickly before the November election.

So, the Trump administration weighing in and asking the Supreme Court to please block this stuff from coming out. And I sort of felt like that was going to be the biggest non-coronavirus news of the day. But that was not even the only news we got today involving the Muller investigation.

We also got this stunning news today about the case against General Michael Flynn. Flynn, of course, was the President`s first national security adviser. He lasted precisely 24 days in the job of national security adviser. He was let go in February 2017, just a month -- actually less than a month after Trump was inaugurated after it emerged that General Flynn had lied about his contacts with the Russian government during the transition. He had lied to reportedly other administration officials but more importantly than that he had lied to the FBI. Specifically, he lied about discussing with the Russians, the possible lifting of sanctions that had been recently imposed on Russia by the Obama administration, as retribution for Russia meddling in the 2016 election to support President Trump.

Flynn was also part of the reason that President Trump later fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey refused the Presidents and treaties to end the investigation into Flynn, he refused to and the President`s words, let it go. President responded by firing Comey, Comey`s firing led to the appointment of Robert Mueller, a special counsel for the Russia investigation. Flynn was the first senior White House official to plead guilty in late 2017 as part of that investigation for lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian government.

I mean, you can see it right there in his plea agreement along with his signature. I am pleading guilty because I am in fact guilty of the offense identified in this agreement. Signed, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Flynn also pled guilty a second out loud in court in front of a federal judge at his initial sentencing hearing, the judge said, let`s just make this clear. Let`s be clear here, quote, you`re guilty of this offense. Flynn responded. Yes, Your Honor.

But now apparently, never mind, never mind that whole thing. A new team of lawyers for Mike Flynn has been on a month long campaign to erase the fact that he pled guilty and to fight the charges against him, accusing the FBI of acting in a bad faith efforts to trap him for some sort of unstated political reason. Today they won. Today Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department said they would entirely drop the criminal case against Mike Flynn. Never mind that Flynn has already pled guilty to lying to investigators he -- never mind that he in addition to that admitted to other crimes. As part of his plea agreement, he admitted to multiple other crimes for which he was not charged. Because he agreed to them as part of his plea agreement, but the Justice Department is excited to let it all go.

This development was both expected and unexpected. A lot of people had been expecting and waiting for the President to maybe pardon Mike Flynn. But now he doesn`t have to bother with that because effectively Bill Barr has done the same thing. The first hint something was about to come. I happened about 15 minutes ahead of the news about dropping the Flynn prosecution when the lead government prosecutor in the case, a veteran of the Muller investigation, Brandon van Grack, abruptly informed the judge in Flynn case -- in Flynn`s case in a one sentence filing that he was quitting that case.

If you feel like that`s reminding me of something that`s giving you d‚j… vu, is because a similar thing happens in the Roger Stone case. Remember all four federal prosecutors working on the Roger Stone prosecution quit that case in protest after Attorney General Bill Barr stepped into their case and overruled the request that Roger Stone get a sentence of seven to nine years.

In this case, this is a different matter. But it`s the same act of protest by a prosecutor, at least as far as we can tell. I mean, it`s different than the Stone case. For one thing, Roger Stone never pled guilty, but by dropping this case against Mike Flynn, the Justice Department is essentially asking us to pretend his whole prosecution and his whole guilty plea never happened, even though his guilty plea is literally right there for all of us to see. Just, I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but quote, "I am pleading guilty because I am in fact guilty".

So, the Justice Department deciding, no, no, no, you`re not guilty. You didn`t know what you`re saying. Let`s undo all of this, prosecutor quitting apparently in protest. I have questions about this. I have a bunch of questions about this. I mean, number one, is this Flynn prosecutor Brandon van Grack. Is he quitting just this case? Or is it possible that he`s quitting the Justice Department entirely? If he is quitting the Justice Department entirely would that free him up to explain to the American public what happened here in terms of the Attorney General and upper levels of the Justice Department wading into a criminal prosecution to pursue an outcome that the President favored and had publicly advocated for. Could he talk about that if he in fact is leaving the Justice Department?

Second, this decision by the government to drop the case came in the form of a request to the judge who`s overseeing Flynn`s case, must the judge in this case, I mean, again, same judge who twice accepted Michael Flynn`s guilty pleas. I mean, must the judge now agree to toss the case? Because the Justice Department is saying they want to? Can the judge refused to do that to see if that option?

Third, doesn`t matter, that Mike Flynn admitted to other crimes as part of his guilty plea, for example, in addition to lying to federal agents about his discussions with the Russian government, Flynn also admitted to making false statements and violating lobbying laws by failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey during the transition. He was literally the incoming national security adviser and he was secretly on the payroll of a foreign government? And he lied about that too and he admitted it. Does that matter now?

And, finally, perhaps most important of all, going forward, what does this decision by the Justice Department today mean for a little thing we used to call the rule of law? I have a whole bunch more questions about this. But I would like to start there. I have just the person who may help us answer those questions next, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department today apparently decided they don`t care what anyone thinks, they died the whole banana republic criticism just doesn`t sting them anymore like it used to.

Today, they just finally went ahead and dropped the prosecution of Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn who already pled guilty twice to lying to investigators about secret communications with the Russian government during the transition. The lead prosecutor on the Flynn case, Brandon Van Grack quitting the Flynn case moments before it all went down, and then quitting some other cases at the Justice Department too.

I have questions. Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan and someone who I miss seeing on the regular. Barb, I really appreciate you being here tonight. Thanks for your time.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, you bet, Rachel. I`m really glad to join you.

MADDOW: So let me ask you first about Mr. Van Grack. He`s an espionage prosecutor. He was handpicked early on for Muller`s team. I think he was lead prosecutor, at least high profile prosecutor in the Flynn case. So moments before this decision comes down, he withdraws from the Flynn case, he also withdraws from several other cases. It seems like he has acted in protest of what the Justice Department decided to do here. Would you expect that he would be able to talk publicly about what happened if this was an act of protest?

MCQUADE: Probably not. I don`t know what his reason is. And as you said, I`m not sure whether that means he is resigning from the Department of Justice or only withdrawing from these cases. But I would imagine that either way, the White House would seek to block any sort of testimony if he were to be subpoenaed, would invoke privilege if he were to attempt to speak publicly about this. And so my guess is we will not hear from him publicly about what happened here.

MADDOW: So even -- hypothetically, if this was a, you know, super egregious intervention in the Justice Department process, in the prosecutorial process, if, you know, the Attorney General marked in one day and said, he is the President`s friend, and we got a rule now that you can`t prosecute the President`s friends. Brandon Van Grack could be blocked from even like doing interviews about that or explaining to anyone that that had happened?

MCQUADE: Well, there is an exception for crime and fraud, and so if that were the case, then certainly he could come forward and talk about that. So I suppose if he`s out of the Department of Justice, there`s less leverage over him about what he can say. But just as we`ve seen with efforts by the White House to block Don McGahn from testifying and all of the other things, I would imagine we`d have a fight about it before we could hear from them.

MADDOW: What about the judge in this case? Judge Sullivan is one of those judges who everybody says has an independent streak, which is a diplomatic way of saying he`s an unpredictable guy and doesn`t really count out anybody. Is he bound to go along with the Justice Department`s request? I mean, this case is so far along. We`re in this sort of endlessly delayed sentencing phase, but it`s been -- it`s otherwise gone through. I mean, years now, in his courtroom, the Justice Department saying they want to drop the charges, is that it or does the judge have any discretion in terms of what happens next?

MCQUADE: Yes. Actually, this is the part where I think I have the most hope on what is a very dark day at the Department of Justice. When the Justice Department moves to dismiss an indictment or an information as it was in this case, it must be by leave of court, which means that the judge must bless it. The reason for that is to prevent the prosecutors from jerking someone around by filing charges and dismissing them and filing them again.

But the judge could, at the very least, call hearing to make the prosecutors come in and explain why they are dismissing the case here. And I think he could be very well inclined to do that, because the reason that the Justice Department gave for dismissiveness is that there was no predication for the case and that the lie lacked materiality. Judge Sullivan himself found that this lie was material in emotion filed by Flynn`s lawyer last summer, seeking to dismiss the case based on an alleged Brady violation. The judge found no violation and also found that this lie was in fact material. So having already made that finding, he may disagree with the reasoning behind this and call the Justice Department in to explain itself on the record.

MADDOW: Let me ask you one last piece of this, Barb, that I just don`t understand. I mean, as part of Flynn`s plea agreements -- as far as I read this as a non-lawyer, it seem to me that he was agree -- he was admitting to having committed other crimes. And he was agreeing with his -- with the government that they wouldn`t charge him for those things. But he did have to lay out what he had done. Particularly not registering as a foreign agent when he was working as the national security adviser to the president-elect of the United States. It`s not insignificant crime. What happens to those things that he admitted to?

MCQUADE: Yes. And this is another glimmer of hope, Rachel, because the counts in the information were solely related to these 1001 violations, false statements to the FBI relating to the interview that he had with the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Even though he admitted it`s referred to as relevant conduct, the parties agreed to it. They agree he won`t be charged for it, but the courts allowed to consider it in imposing sentence.

And so, in terms of this dismissal with prejudice, it relates only to those counts that were filed. And so, as long as the statute of limitations hasn`t run, a new Justice Department could refile those charges against Michael Flynn. And the statute won`t run until five years after the date -- the crime was committed March of 2017, which would give the Justice Department until March of 22 to file those charges.

MADDOW: Wow. And of course, they`d have a sort of a leg up and bringing any such prosecution given that he admitted to all the crimes in writing and scientists named to them, which is a helpful thing if you`re a prosecutor in that department.

MCQUADE: Even if I win that case.

MADDOW: Former U.S. attorney -- yes. Former U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan, it`s great to lay eyes on you, Barb. Thanks for helping us understand this today.

MCQUADE: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We got much more here ahead tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Every day "The New York Times" updates its chart on where the coronavirus outbreak is worst now in the country. This shows the places in the country where the new cases per capita are the worst. Stuck up at the top there of that list for a while now is Sioux City, Iowa. Sioux City, Iowa, geographically is right at the point where Iowa and Nebraska and South Dakota all come together in a little tri-state point.

You might remember our coverage from a few days ago about the mayors from all of the municipalities in and around Sioux City, getting together to put out a joint statement asking all the governors from those three states and the companies that run meatpacking plants around Sioux City, asking all of them to please start telling the mayors what`s going on. Please start disclosing coronavirus case numbers and test results from specific meat processing plants. Because the mayors of all these communities around Sioux City we`re finding that the hospitals are filling up with coronavirus patients and their case numbers, these counties and these towns were going up and up and up but they needed to know where these outbreaks were coming from.

Well, one of the places where the huge numbers in the Sioux City area appear to be coming from was from this Tyson meat processing plant on the Nebraska side of the river but still right there in the Sioux City area, a place called Dakota City in Dakota County, Nebraska. That Tyson plant there is a really big one, it`s 4,300 workers. And that plant in Dakota city has not been saying how many of those 4,300 workers are positive, but everybody could tell something was wrong there, in part because they were workers that kept dying at that plant.

The Dakota city plant finally closed. Tyson finally decided to close it at least temporarily last week. And they did have all of the 4,300 workers at that plant tested. The plant still wouldn`t say what the results were though even after the testing was completed. They still won`t say even now, but we know at least something about what the test results were there because a tipster alerted the local paper, the Sioux City journal, that the number of workers that tested positive at that Dakota city plant was 669. 669 people who work at that one plant, according to a source who shared that number with the local paper.

But officially the plants not saying, and officially who knows. You know, so good luck to the public health officials and the local officials of all kinds around Dakota City and Sioux City in trying to plan for handling your considerable outbreak, Right? Good luck trying to plan for that. You can use these testing numbers that can be gleaned from an anonymous source to the local paper. That`s how you`re going to get your information.

So that Dakota City Nebraska plant did close for a few days. They reopen today. God bless them. We know from a tipster that nearly 700 people who work there have already contracted the virus there. Good luck with the reopening of that place.

But all week long this week, I have been waiting to get some additional data, maybe some more official data out of Nebraska. I`ve been expecting it specifically enough that I`ve had a post it note on my desk all week that says next spike, question mark, with the names of these two towns in Nebraska, Madison, Nebraska and Schuyler, Nebraska. They`re both pretty small towns. Schuyler is about 6,000 people. Madison is about 2,500 people.

But they both have really big meat plants. Madison has a Tyson plant that`s got about 1,200 people that work at it. Schuyler has a Cargill plant with about 2,200 people on it. At the at the Tyson plant in Madison as of last week, the county said there were 96 known cases among people who work at that plant, which is a lot.

At the Cargill plant in Schuyler, we have no idea how many cases they have. The company won`t say but there does appear to be something going on there. The Omaha World-Herald reporting this week that the counties where people live -- people who work at that Cargill plant where they live, the counties around it are suddenly rocketing up in their case loads. Colfax County, Nebraska, for example, on April 23, they had eight cases. All of a sudden, as of this past weekend, they now have 222 cases. They went from eight cases to 222 cases in two weeks.

Over that same period, Platte county went from 13 cases to 179 cases in two weeks. And the gigantic Cargill plant where people in those counties work, well, they`re not saying whether they`ve got any cases at all. But this is starting to feel like it`s not hard to figure out, given that that`s the major employer and given that it`s a meat processing plant and given what we know is going on at meat processing plants all over that part of the country.

So I`ve got this posted on my desk this week. Next spike. And I`ve been checking the Nebraska news all week. Because both the Tyson plant in Madison, Nebraska and the Cargill plant in Schuyler, Nebraska, they both temporary shut down over the past few days, which is a rare thing in Nebraska. But they shut down with plans to reopen as soon as they could and we have been expecting all week from at least one of those two plants from the Tyson plant. We`ve been expecting information on test results from tests of all the employees there while they`re shut down before they reopen and try to put their workforce back to work.

This is from the Omaha World-Herald this week, "Most results are expected back Wednesday or Thursday. In the meantime, the plant will be deep cleaned", whatever that means, "and sanitized." So test results in Nebraska from these two big meat processing plants where it looks like there`s a real problem but we haven`t had real numbers. Those test results expected back Wednesday or Thursday. So yesterday or today.

So where are those results? I mean, Nebraska is already got some of the worst outbreaks in the country. And they`ve been keeping most of their plants open, even as they`ve been getting mounting outbreaks at these plants. Even in the face of public health officials telling the governor to please close down some of these plants.

ProPublica has a great report on that today on local health officials in Grand Island, Nebraska, writing the Governor Ricketts to say we have to shut this plant in Grand Island down in the short run at least to get a handle on what`s going on. We`ve got a huge outbreak here. The governor refusing and saying no to those public health officials and insisting that the plant be kept open. Right.

So Nebraska has got a lot going on. But this is going to be a big week, right, for us finally getting an understanding, at least a partial understanding of what`s really happening in that state. We`re finally going to get some major testing results from big plants in Nebraska. Should be important, should be interesting. Those results should have come in yesterday or today. Where are they? The governor of Nebraska has apparently been waiting for those testing results too but not in the way everybody else has.

Surprised headlines in Nebraska today. Look, Governor Ricketts says Nebraska won`t release specific COVID-19 numbers at meatpacking plants anymore. The governor has decided -- actually, now that we`re about to get testing results from a lot more plants in Nebraska -- actually the test results from plants like that that`s not public health information. That`s business. Now, it`s business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael, from the Dakota County Star has -- just wants to know, do you think that the processing plants should be releasing their own numbers to keep on raising positive tests, to keep the community updated?

GOV. PETE RICKETTS (R), NEBRASKA: Sorry, Michael?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the Dakota County Star.

RICKETTS: From the Dakota County Star says, do I think that, you know, food processing plants should release their own numbers? That really is a decision for the company to make. I think that`s really a business decision whether or not the processors want to do that or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So business decision. It`s just -- I mean, they can release it if they want, but nobody should tell them to.

Good luck, Nebraska. Good luck, communities and neighboring states where people who work in Nebraska come home at the end of their shift. I`m telling you, Nebraska does not release any information about coronavirus in any of the nursing homes in the state. Nebraska has not tested a single prisoner in the entire state correction system for coronavirus. And therefore says they have no cases among Nebraska prisoners.

What do you think the odds are that no prisoners in Nebraska have coronavirus? Nebraska has huge known outbreaks at multiple meat processing plants across the state, including some of the fastest growing outbreaks in the country, including outbreaks that are causing health crises across state borders and other states. And just as the problem is getting so bad that big plants in Nebraska are having to finally shut and the testing numbers are turning out to be horrific, even though they have to be leaked to the local paper for us to find out about them. Some of the biggest outbreaks of any kind anywhere in the country are in Nebraska and just as we are getting data from them.

Just as they are starting to do testing at some of those plants. The governor has now decided we`re not going to release any more information on meat plants. None from nursing homes, none from prisons and not from meat plants anymore. Because, you know, it`s business.

So far at least one county health department in Lincoln appears inclined to defy the governor on this and released the data that they can get anyway. But watch this Spaceman. This is the dead center geographic middle of the country and it is where the huge American coronavirus epidemic is growing the fastest and that governor`s plan in that state is apparently to stop letting anyone know what`s happening.

This is the kind of thing you go down in the history books for Governor Ricketts. Really? You are making history. You stick with this, you are going to be famous for this long after you`re gone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This advice is specifically for daycares, "Avoid the use of items, for example, soft or plush toys, that are not easily clean, sanitized or disinfected". Here`s another one for places of worship, "Limit the sharing of prayer books, hymnals, religious texts and other bulletins, encourage congregants to bring their own". This document was drafted by the CDC. It is a step-by-step guide, a very practical guide for how society could start to safely reopen without spreading the coronavirus.

This is the kind of thing that the CDC excels at. You know, when there`s a measles outbreak, when there`s E. coli and the lettuce story (ph), any kind of public health problem. The CDC writes up really specific instructions for communities to follow to beat back the problem to protect everybody`s health.

When it comes to these reopening guidelines related to coronavirus, The Washington Post was first to report last week that the CDC was prepared to make these very granular, very practical guidelines public by the end of last week. But The Post reported that there were concerns within the Trump administration that maybe the Trump administration didn`t like these guidelines. They made reopening stuff seemed so hard.

Well today the Associated Press further that story and then blew it up entirely, rather than debating what exactly the CDC guidelines should be for reopening the country. The Trump administration has apparently decided just to toss these guidelines out. Because, yes, sure, it`s easier just to tell everybody open back up, you figure it out. Who wants to deal with this pesky specific practical advice about how to actually do so safely without killing people? Who wants that getting in the way? Just open everything up, who cares?

"The Trump administration shelved a document created by the nation`s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still raging coronavirus outbreak. Agency scientists have now been told that this guidance, "will never see the light of day".

Joining us now is the reporter who broke this story Jason Dearen, investigative reporter for the A.P. Mr. Dearen, congratulations on this scoop. Thanks for helping us understand it.

JASON DEAREN, A.P. INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: No problem. Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Am I right in saying that this is kind of what the CDC does that this is the type of guidance that the CDC is expert and potentially best in the world at assembling in terms of giving practical advice about how stuff can be reopened, how things should be conducted in a way that`s safe for public health?

DEAREN: Right. This is exactly what CDC does, they`re built to do. So the White House had released its reopening plan, which was kind of a vague set of bullet points last month. And what the CDC guidance did, the way I see it, is it filled in the blanks. It gave specific facilities, city leaders, county leaders, state leaders, you know, people thinking about reopening mass transit, daycare centers, as you mentioned, schools, restaurants, bars, all the places that we all want to go and use again. It gave very specific kind of more granular instructions.

And what was even more interesting is a series of kind of flowcharts or decision trees they call them which, you know, give a leader or somebody who owns a daycare center, a set of steps. It says if you meet criteria A, B, C, then move to the next step and so on and so forth through a flow of decision making. So it really helps especially people on the ground level with expertise that, you know, they`re not going to find necessarily at their county health department.

MADDOW: Because of your reporting -- even though the White House has said this will never see the light of day and these should be shelved. Because of your reporting, you and your colleagues at A.P. were able to publish some of this guidance. I don`t want to ask you about your sources, but I do want to know if you could tell me if there are people within the CDC who are essentially mad that they`re being side-lined here, that this guidance and the work that they`ve done that is very practical and will be helpful to the public isn`t getting out and they`re trying to get it out by other means.

DEAREN: Well, what we reported is the -- or, you know, a couple of different sources inside CDC that my reporting partner Mike Stobbe and I spoke to, who were, you know, I don`t know if angry is the right word, but disappointed that this work that their experts had so carefully constructed to help state partners because behind the scenes at CDC, what we`re hearing is states and local governments are, you know, hungry for this information. There are lots of requests coming into the agency for help. And so this is what they do.

So I`m sure there`s disappointment and some anger there for sure. But I think the main thing is that, you know, they want people to get the access to the best information they can to make decisions to keep themselves safe.

MADDOW: And one last question for you, Jason, quickly. The CDC is not giving briefings, which we might otherwise expect in a public health crisis. We`ve reported on CDC advice about meatpacking plants and something`s seeming to be sort of oddly inflected with non-CDC language and other people seem to be leaning on them. Is it your sense that there is, broadly speaking in that agency, a change amount of frustration about what they`re not able to do?

DEAREN: I think so. The main reason, you know, is if you look back at previous outbreaks, you know, you can look back at H1N1 in 2009. You can -- if you look back -- even on the CDC website in the archive, if you look back at, you know, the fungal meningitis outbreak in 2012 or in 2013, our Zika, CDC took a very active public role in all of those outbreaks. They were communicating directly with clinicians, with the public and with political leaders.

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