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SCOTUS TRANSCRIPT: 5/12/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Nina Totenberg, Elizabeth Warren

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it is striking right now there`s a little getting high on your own supply situation happening among Trump and the right. They think there`s more clamoring for the kind of thing they`re calling for in terms of the virus than there actually is, and they`re locked in their own echo chamber which can happen to politicians in political movement sometimes and I think that`s where they are right now.

David Plouffe, who is a clear eyed observer, thank you for being with me tonight.


HAYES: All right. 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.

Thanks for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.

In the early morning rush hour this morning, this was the view from the steps of the state capitol in Florida, looking down over the capitol grounds. As you can see, that is the grim reaper in the foreground and people dropping body bags on the front steps of the capitol at his feet. The body bags are stamped county coroner.

Again, this is Tallahassee. This is Florida state capitol building this morning.

We`ve seen similar protests like this outside the president`s hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. But at the Florida state capitol today, I think this happened -- I think we`ve also got shots of the signs that they held as well after they dropped the body bags on the steps. You can see them there. There you go.

One of these signs was actually echoed at the Trump hotel body bag protest, Trump lies, people die. You can see a corpse is not a customer, mourning in America. Also one of the signs there, we are better than this.

Florida has more than 41,000 cases of coronavirus now, over 1,700 people in Florida dead.

There`s also similar scene today outside the governor`s mansion in Austin, Texas. People dumping body bags outside that building today too in Texas, people holding signs showing the climbing case load and the mounting death toll in Texas.

We also just got in some photos of something similar today that happened in Phoenix, at the state capitol in Arizona. Body bags arrayed there too, propped up, you see the grim reaper figure again propped up along with the body bags was this sign that said, truth is 80,000-plus dead Americans because the coronavirus did not magically disappear.

These protests are becoming sort of a hallmark, a visual hallmark of this moment, this epidemic. The epidemic has really only been killing Americans in huge numbers for two months.

But with over 83,000 dead Americans now in two months and 1.3 million cases, by far, the largest epidemic on earth, and with no sign that decisions about opening things up have anything to do with the actual pace and toll of the virus as it continues to rip through this country, I think this imagery, these kinds of protests, are not -- not going away. Again, that was Tallahassee and Austin and Phoenix all today.

In the past 24 hours, NBC News obtained these documents that were apparently not intended for public release. They were prepared by and for the White House coronavirus task force a few days ago, late last week, while the president said publicly yesterday that, quote, all throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly. It turns out his coronavirus task force knows that is not true.

Honestly as does anybody looking at the data. But these documents from the coronavirus task force at the White House single out in very stark terms top ten metropolitan areas in the country in terms of their growth and case numbers over the past week. The top ten areas in the country all with case numbers growing by 72 percent or more over the previous week include Amarillo, Texas, Rockford, Illinois, Des Moines, Iowa, Garden City, Kansas, Racine, Wisconsin, Gainesville, Georgia, Nashville, Tennessee, St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The top two are St. Joseph, Missouri, and in Muhlenberg County, Central City, Kentucky area, where according to the White House coronavirus task force, the percentage rise in coronavirus cases in both of those places, St. Joseph, Missouri, and Central City, Kentucky, the percentage rise in both of those places over the past week is over 600 percent, over 650 percent.

I mean, meanwhile the president is saying publicly the numbers are going down everywhere rapidly. All throughout the countries, the numbers are coming down rapidly, the president says. But internally, the White House is grappling with these places having case numbers rising 75 percent, 100 percent, 400 percent, 650 percent in a week.

And this is not like one difficult epidemic in one corner of the country. This is not like one state where things are bad. This is all over.

On the watch list, according to these documents, internally at the White House coronavirus task force, again, this is a document that was not supposed to be shown to the public. There`s other metro areas that have horrific numbers of their own -- Charlotte, North Carolina, up 250 percent in case numbers in the past week. Kansas City, Missouri, over 220 percent rise in a week. Lincoln, Nebraska, Minneapolis, Montgomery, Alabama, all with case numbers up over 100 percent over the course of seven days, over the course of one week.

And meanwhile, the places it is rampaging through are not getting any better, still getting worse. Bloomberg News is out with a disturbing report on what happened epidemiologically after President Trump issued his recent executive order telling meat processing plants they had to be open despite the huge numbers of people who work in those plants testing positive for the virus. Here`s Bloomberg News, quote: In the first week after President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing that meat processing plants be reopened, confirmed COVID-19 cases in counties with major beef or pork slaughterhouses jumped 40 percent in their case loads, compared with a 19 percent rise nationally.

That means a 19 percent rise in cases nationally over the course of a week is bad enough. Nineteen percent in a week, that`s terrible. But in meatpacking counties, it was more than double that in the week after Trump ordered all those meat plants reopened.

The "Associated Press" reported today that when they crunched the numbers nationwide, they came to the stark conclusion that, quote, of the 15 U.S. counties with the highest per capita infection rates between April 28th and May 5th, all of those 15 counties are homes to either meatpacking and poultry processing plants or state prisons.

And I think some of that persistent fact -- some of these used to be interesting things about how to track where it looked like the epidemic was going. But as this stuff persists and gets worse and digs in and is not made better by federal policy and, in fact, is made worse apparently by actions of the federal government, I think some of this is starting to resonate in the states, especially as it becomes clear, more and more over time, that if you`ve got outbreaks in your prisons or if you`ve got outbreaks in meatpacking plants or even in your nursing homes, those outbreaks are not going to stay inside your facilities. You cannot just write off the populations inside those facilities and assume for one those aren`t outbreaks that affect real Americans and for two that they`re going to stay there.

With a highly contagious communicable disease, outbreaks anywhere can quickly become outbreaks everywhere near there. And so, we are not fixing the nursing home problem. We are not fixing the meat processing plant problem. We are not fixing the prisons and jails problem.

And so, all of these places all over the country, red states, blue states, rural states, urban areas, everywhere, all sorts of places all over the country, with all sorts of different type of leadership that have these persistent outbreaks that are not being addressed and are getting worse as the national response to the crisis continues to flounder, all over the country people are realizing these outbreaks that we`ve got, these are our outbreaks.

This is where our case numbers are coming from. This is where our case load is coming from. This is where our viral load is coming from. This is where our people are getting sick and where the virus will spread into the community, into our population, ultimately into our hospitals, into our ICU wards and into our morgues.

These little epidemiological outbreaks are now places where huge numbers in cases are growing all over the country, not just in New York, right? Not just in New York, right? Not just in the tri-state area, all over the country.

And so, you`re starting to see localities and states that may not have wanted to deal with this before starting to figure out they`re going to have to deal with this. Today, for example, the governor of the great state of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, who has been as much a head in the sand about any other governor in the country about opening things up because he wants to open things up regardless of the status of the epidemic in his state. Today, Governor Reeves announced that seven counties in Mississippi actually won`t open up as much as everything else, despite his previous plans and his previous announcements because it turns out they really do have raging numbers, particularly in poultry processing plants now in Mississippi.

And you can`t just ignore that and write off those workers and assume the rest of your state will be fine. And so, adjustments are being made in Mississippi. Adjustments also being made today in Iowa, which has some of the fastest growing outbreaks in the country right now. The Iowa governor you will recall is now herself in isolation after spending time with Vice President Mike Pence and his staff, after Pence`s communications director tested positive.

Today, Governor Reynolds delayed what had been expected to be an even wider opening things up announcement for Iowa after, among other things, "The Des Moines Register" ran a fairly blistering long fact-check, pointing out that her repeated claims that Iowa has flattened the curve don`t appear to be true. They at least do not appear to be based on the real metrics of the really quite large and growing epidemic in that state.

Again, Iowa has some of the fastest growing outbreaks in the country. In Weld County, Colorado, where there has been a huge outbreak with hundreds of positive cases that appears to have incubated at a JBS beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, the rural county health director just quit his job. This is the county health director that had told the JBS plant they needed to test their employees before they reopened. JBS said publicly they would do that, but then they didn`t.

The plant just then didn`t test everybody and they reopened anyway. And now, the Weld County, Colorado health director has decided to quit his job after 20 years there.

Today in Connecticut, the Democratic governor there, Ned Lamont, fired the state health commissioner, blaming her for Connecticut being too slow to address the virus in nursing homes in that state.

In Connecticut, nearly 60 percent of the coronavirus deaths in the case happened in nursing homes. Connecticut is not alone there. They`re one of more than a dozen states where a majority of deaths have been nursing home deaths. But this is the first state that I know of where they fired the state health director for it.

The governor now says that he wants every nursing home resident tested. They`re also moving to set up COVID-only nursing homes in Connecticut, presumably to move positive patients so they can more easily separate nursing home residents with the virus from nursing home residents who don`t have to try to get a late handle on what has been a very, very deadly epidemic in that part of Connecticut. I mean, way too late in coming, right? Hundreds of nursing home deaths in that state already.

But as we say basically every day, in this failed response to this epidemic in this country, yesterday would have been better than today, but today is better than never. Federally, things are as weird as ever. We`re going to talk in just a moment with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren about the truly surreal Senate hearing today with Dr. Tony Fauci and the head of the CDC, Dr. Redfield, and the head of the FDA, Dr. Hahn.

And that was interesting. It was important I think to get, particularly Dr. Fauci on the record without the president standing right behind him, breathing down his neck literally while he`s talking about things. But while that interesting, historic, and weird hearing was going on today, the White House confirmed that the president and the vice president will be keeping their distance from one another for a little while.

Again, both the president and vice president have had a close staffer test positive in the past few days. The president`s personal valet and the vice president`s press secretary both tested positive within the last few days. Now, the president and vice president are going to keep apart from one another.

Does that mean in practical terms? I mean, presumably, they`ll still only sometimes wear masks even at meetings if you`re the vice president and never if you`re the president. They`ll presumably continue to sometimes social distance at official events except when they don`t want to. But at least they will do those things apart from one another for the time being, so we don`t, I guess, pose the immediate risk of ripping right through the line of succession if they both come down with it at the same time and do equally poorly.

The president spent the morning tweeting and retweeting other people dozens of times in an almost frenzied pace, opining, you know, in fairly typical for him fashion on how he wants to prosecute President Obama or Obama officials or something, and opining on the free press being the enemy of the people, and how terrible MSNBC is and how governors who have better approval ratings from him right now, they stole their approval ratings from him. Those were his good approval -- it was more than his usual level of petty and out of control I would say, just in terms of average census of how he behaves in public.

But today, it did take on slightly more weight than usual because while the president literally had only two things on his schedule today -- he had an intelligence brief at noon which is the thing he is often said to skip, and he had a meeting with Republican senators at 4:00. Other than that, he had nothing else on his schedule today. And we know from his public online pronouncements what he did all day was tweet, including just tweeting about stuff he apparently saw and liked while he was watching cable TV. The president manifestly not busy today.

But while he was showing us that, today his lawyers at the same time were at the United States Supreme Court arguing that the president should be immune from any form of investigation, not just immune from prosecution, but immune from investigation in part because responding to requests for information in any sort of investigation is such a hassle. The president responding to any effort to get evidence from him would take up his very, very, very valuable time which as we saw today he always spends in very valuable ways.


JUSTICE BREYER: Why isn`t it sufficient just to apply ordinary standards? I gather ordinarily any person who gets a subpoena can come in and say it`s unduly burdensome. And what counts as unduly burdensome for a doctor who`s in the middle of an operation might be very different from a person who`s a salesman and similar for the president, all the factors you raise could come in under the title unduly burdensome.

So why not just go back? Let the president say I`ll show you precisely how this is burdensome. I`m going to spend time, effort working all these things out, figuring out what they mean, et cetera. And if he shows undue burden and lack of connection, he wins and otherwise not. That`s true of every person. That`s Clinton v. Jones. Why not the same here?

JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: Justice Breyer, the hypothetical you just gave I think proves the point. By the time you were to prepare, review, analyze the various requests, just in these three cases that we have today, shows the burdensome nature. And then to require the president of the United States as you raised in your opinion in Clinton versus Jones, that burden is being met just by us being here. But to require the president to have to respond to each and every state district attorney that would --

BREYER: No, he would hire you and he would hire a lawyer to list what the burdens are. That wouldn`t take a lot of time. And then he wouldn`t be burdened because you would go in and say what the burdens are. And if you`re right, you win that case.

They`re saying the other side, there are no burdens here?

SEKULOW: Well --

BREYER: You say there are. Send it back and let them figure out what they are.

SEKULOW: I think doing that establishes the problem with analysis of case by case analysis. For instance, in this very case in this subpoena found on page 118A and 119 of the petition appendix, there`s a list of documents that are extensive. You would have to meet with the president of the United States.

I mean, could you imagine, Justice Breyer, and you say, let`s assume the president were to hire me, I`m going to call the president of the United States today and say, I know you`re handling a pandemic right now for the United States, but I need to spend a couple or three hours with you going over a subpoena of documents that are wanted by the New York County district attorney. I know you`re busy --

CHIEF JSUTICE ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel.

SEKULOW: -- but you -- can you carve me out two hours.


MADDOW: Can you carve me out two hours? That would be a very good argument with many presidents. But with this president, you getting two hours with him to organize evidence related to what this subpoena about, money laundering, bank fraud, insurance fraud, campaign finance felonies, yes, you need two hours?

This president could probably afford to give you that time to help organize evidence about serious investigations like that given what we know about how he spends his time including what he put on display about how he spends his time today. Yes, he probably could spare two hours with his lawyer to provide evidence.

We`re going to speak with one of the best court watchers in the country, one of the best legal journalists our country has ever had in just a moment about today`s historic Supreme Court arguments about whether the president is immune from being investigated, whether the president is effectively impervious to the law by virtue of being president.

But hearing them fight it out today was fascinating including the inadvertently funny back and forth between Justice Stephen Breyer and the president`s lawyer about whether or not this president has two hours to provide evidence to various areas of investigations. But there`s also today -- you should hear this -- some surprising lines of questioning from justices you might not expect them from including this from Chief Justice John Roberts.


ROBERTS: Counsel, for all that, you don`t argue that the grand jury cannot investigate the president, do you?

SEKULOW: We did not seek to have an injunction as was the case involving Vice President Agnew and in joining the grand jury. We have targeted the utilization of the temporary immunity here to the subpoena. That`s correct.

ROBERTS: Well, in other words, it`s OK for the grand jury to investigate except it can`t use the traditional and most effective device that grand juries have typically used which is the subpoena.

SEKULOW: You can`t use a subpoena targeting the president. Under his Article II responsibilities and the Supremacy Clause, that, as our view, would be inappropriate and unconstitutional. So, we have not challenged the --

ROBERTS: I don`t understand if your theory in terms of distraction and all that would seem to go much farther than resisting the subpoena, I don`t know why you don`t resist the investigation in its entirety or why your theory wouldn`t lead to that.

SEKULOW: Well, our position is that criminal process against the president. That`s what we`re talking about. That`s before the court. Criminal process targeting the president is a violation of the Constitution. We did not seek to enforce an injunction or seek an injunction against the grand jury investigating the situation with the president.

ROBERTS: You focused on the distraction to the president, but I don`t know why in Clinton versus Jones, we were not persuaded that the distraction in that case meant the discovery could not proceed. And, you know, there are different things that distract different people, but I would have thought the discovery in a case like Clinton versus Jones, even though civil, would be distracting as you argue the grand jury proceedings are here.

SEKULOW: Well, Clinton versus Jones of course was in federal court. This is in state court. Clinton versus Jones was a civil case. This is a criminal case.

And as this court noted on page 691 of its opinion, if in fact the Clinton versus Jones case had originated in a state court proceeding, it would raise different issues than separation of powers concerns over local prejudice and in footnote 13, this court said that any direct control by a state court over the president may implicate concerns that are different than either branch disputes under separation of powers. So, it would be a - -

ROBERTS: Justice Thomas?


MADDOW: Cuts him off. Justice Thomas, you go now. Lawyer, stop talking. Now Justice Thomas. He goes next.

The telephonic format of these Supreme Court hearings now where the justices all ask their questions in turn, it`s awkward. It`s brusque. It`s a very different thing than I think Supreme Court advocates are used to.

For us the public, though, so few of us get to hear live Supreme Court arguments, being able to dial in and listen in on them is a bit -- is a bit of a revelation even in a case that`s not this historic. But, I mean, that`s Chief Justice Roberts saying to the president`s lawyer today, are you saying the president can`t even be investigated? You`re saying it`s OK to investigate him but they can`t collect any evidence for their investigation? Is that what you`re saying? No evidence about potential crimes by a president can even be collected?

I sort of expected to hear that line today. I didn`t expect to hear it from the chief justice. But it was fascinating on a bunch of different levels, fascinating day today.

We got more ahead. Stay with us.



JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: Good morning, Mr. Strawbridge. I think what strikes me about this case is this isn`t the first conflict between Congress and the president as many of my colleagues have pointed out. We`ve never had to address this issue. And the reason is because Congress and the president have reached accommodations with each other and sometimes one has gotten more and sometimes the other has gotten more.

But there`s always been this accommodation-seeking. And what it seems to me you`re asking us to do is to put a kind of ten-ton weight on the scales between the president and Congress, and essentially to make it impossible for Congress to perform oversight and to carry out its functions where the president is concerned.


MADDOW: Justice Elena Kagan not wasting any time with one of President Trump`s lawyers this morning. Good morning, Mr. Strawbridge. Aren`t you asking us to put a ten-ton weight on the scales to make it possible for us to do its job? Straightforward.

President Trump is trying to block two banks and an accounting firm for handing over information that pertains to him in response to subpoenas from Congress and from the Manhattan district attorney. The investigations that led to those subpoenas include things like money laundering, potential foreign influence over the president, potential bank and insurance fraud, the question of whether or not the president`s business was used as a vehicle to facilitate the campaign finance felonies that put the president`s lawyer in federal prison.

The president has been litigating these cases for months. He has lost in multiple federal trial courts and in two federal courts of appeal so far. But today, he was at the Supreme Court hoping that the Supreme Court unlike every other court that has heard these arguments thus far will agree with him, block the enforcements of those subpoenas, and hopefully, I`m assuming, they want the court to side with the president in what appears at least to me to be a truly novel argument that he is not only immune from prosecution, he is immune from being investigated.

A Supreme Court ruling against the president would mean that the financial information he`s been fighting so hard to keep secret could be turned over to Congress as soon as this summer. But it seems like anything including a black and white yes/yes or no decision and a lot of gray areas in between is possible at this point.

Boy, is this a moment where I would like somebody to explain to me what we can glean from today`s hearings, someone who has, say, decades of experience dissecting Supreme Court oral arguments.

Thankfully, joining us right now, I`m honored to say, is Nina Totenberg, who`s NPR`s legal affairs correspondent.

Ms. Totenberg, it`s really a pleasure to have you here on this big day. Thanks for making the time.

NINA TOTENBERG, NPR LEGAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And it`s a pleasure to be here and to actually be able to have put on a little bit of make up.


MADDOW: Well, for me, you never have to, although I appreciate it.

TOTENBERG: The radio I definitely don`t have to.


MADDOW: That is fair enough. This is what attracted me to radio in the first place.

Let me just ask you as I just set up what I saw today in those hearings and what I think is at stake in these cases, let me just ask you to steer me right and correct me if I laid that out in a way that`s naive or wrong.

TOTENBERG: I think you basically have it right. The two things that are missing from what you said is that they didn`t subpoena the president. Neither Congress nor the grand jury in Manhattan subpoenaed the president. They subpoenaed the accounting firm and Deutsche Bank and the Capital One Bank, I think, all of which have information that they think is relevant to their investigations.

Now, normally this is a pretty straightforward thing. When you subpoena a third party, they just turn it over and they`ve got it all packaged up, and there`s no burden to the president about that because they have it packaged up and ready to go.

What`s to burden is for him to figure out what are my objections? Do I have reasonable objections? What are my lawyers telling me? And what do I do about it?

And what he`s done about it is to intervene to try to block all of these subpoenas and take the case all the way up to the Supreme Court which frankly today I thought seemed unpredictably divided I would say. And oddly enough, maybe because these are not people who have generally worked in politics, oddly enough, they were much more comfortable talking about the grand jury subpoena where they clearly thought that you can`t just say you`re temporarily immune. We`ve already said you can`t be temporarily immune in the Clinton versus Jones case in 1997 where President Clinton was forced to give a deposition in a sexual harassment civil lawsuit which ultimately led to his impeachment.

And interestingly enough, Justice Alito, one of the court`s conservatives said to the lawyer for this county of New York, he said, you know, we in the court said there was really not going to be any problem with Clinton giving a deposition. And has history borne that out? After all, parentheses, it will lead to his impeachment.

And Carey Dunn who was the lawyer said it wasn`t the problem he gave the deposition. It was that he lied under oath. That`s what led to his impeachment.

So, he got very interestingly around that question, very amusingly in some ways around that question. But I thought the justices were more befuddled in a way about the congressional subpoenas.

MADDOW: Do you think that it is fair to put these arguments, particularly the way they played out today in court on a continuum with the Paula Jones case and with U.S. v. Nixon, and these other sort of -- we think of these generational tests of presidential powers and these incredibly dramatic moments where two presidents come to the Supreme Court complaining that too much is being demanded of them and in both of those cases we get decisions by the court telling the presidents that too much has not been asked from you, you are not above the law, you have legal obligations as well? Is it fair to put this case today on the continuum with those other two?

TOTENBERG: I think -- I think it is because, you know, if the president wins slam dunk in the congressional subpoenas, it`ll make it very hard in the future for the congressional committees to do effective oversight of the president`s activities before he was in office, that`s what all these involve, matters that occurred before he became president or certainly when he is president.

And what I thought the court was looking for was some sort of middle ground that wouldn`t just spear the president`s heart. At the same time, that it wouldn`t spear the heart of congressional oversight and legislative powers. And I`ll be very curious to see how they thread that needle, if they try to thread that needle.

MADDOW: Nina Totenberg, NPR legal affairs correspondent, and truly the person I most wanted to talk to about this today, of anybody in the whole country -- thank you so much for making time. It was a fascinating day to be able to listen to those live arguments, you know, in my sweat pants. But I thank you for dressing up and joining us tonight to talk about it here.

TOTENBERG: It was a fascinating day, you`re right, and a little bit the Perils of Pauline when you`re filing on deadline.


MADDOW: I know that myself. Thank you, Nina. Great to see you.

TOTENBERG: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`re going to be joined in just a moment live by Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Stay with us.



SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Obviously, the plan to reopen America was meant to be followed by more detailed nuanced guidance. So, my specific question is, why didn`t this plan get released? And if it is just being reviewed, when is it going to be released? Because states are reopening right now, and we need this additional guidance to make those decisions.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: The guidances that you`ve talked about have gone through that interagency review. Their comments that have come back to CDC, and I anticipate they`ll go back up into the task force for final review.

MURPHY: But we`re reopening in Connecticut in five days, in ten days. I mean, this guidance isn`t going to be useful to us in two weeks. So, is it this week? Is it next week? When are we going to get this expertise from the federal government?

REDFIELD: I do anticipate this broader guidance, though, to be posted on the CDC website soon. I can`t tell you --



MURPHY: Soon isn`t terribly helpful. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


MADDOW: Soon isn`t terribly helpful. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut today grilling the CDC Director Robert Redfield on why his agency`s detailed guidelines for how various entities and businesses and organizations should reopen remains stuck somewhere inside the administration even as states are starting to reopen and they can really use that granular guidance. The guidelines will be posted soon.

Some of them have already been leaked to the press. We know they exist. Soon?

Today, the Senate Health Committee got its first socially distant teleconference crack at the head of CDC, Dr. Redfield, since the pandemic ramped up. As well as some other top health experts who have been charged with carrying out the president`s rather calamitous response to the coronavirus, including Dr. Anthony Fauci.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Dr. Fauci, you have advised six presidents. You have battled deadly viruses for your career. So I would just like to hear your honest opinion. Do we have the coronavirus contained?


Right now, it depends on what you mean by containment. If you think we have it completely under control, we don`t. I think we`re going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak.


MADDOW: That exchange between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Dr. Tony Fauci made headlines around the country. Fauci says, quote, we don`t have virus completely under control. Quote, pressed by Warren, Fauci says coronavirus is not contained.

Joining us now live is Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Senator, it`s great to see you tonight. Thank you very much for making time to be here.

WARREN: Thank you. It`s good to be with you.

MADDOW: Let me first just ask you whether or not you think the Senate is able to effectively do its job in the way the sort of partially socially distant, partially remote, partially isolated, partially in person way that we saw you all sort of struggle through this hearing today?

WARREN: Look, it`s not ideal, but we should be doing all of this remotely. It makes absolutely no sense. We had a hearing today in which none of the witnesses appeared because at least some of them are under social isolation because they`ve been exposed to the virus the from being in places presumably where people were not wearing masks and not distancing.

But the chairman of the committee was not there because he`s in isolation because he has been exposed. None of the Democrats came because it basically is a violation of the CDC guidelines.

I mean, I`m still looking for the health guideline that says, hey, if you could do this remotely or you could all get together in person and breathe on each other, pick the one where you all get together in person and breathe on each other. There`s no health guideline that says that.

We can do this remotely. Most of this was done remotely. Why it is that a handful of Republicans had to show up and ask questions and not wear masks and show how tough they were, it just makes no sense.

And it`s just putting politics ahead of good practices. Everybody else can manage to do this online. We can too.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about Chairman Alexander who you mentioned is also socially isolating right now because of his exposure to a staffer who tested positive. I was really struck by it. A bunch of people on my staff are struck by the way he opened up the hearing today.

He kicked off the day`s hearing by saying he wanted this hearing to be about being well-prepared for the next pandemic, which is definitely laudable. I mean, the next pandemic is something we should worry about, but it just struck a very discordant note for me and at least for others that I work with in terms of whether or not he thinks we`re done with this one.

Do you think there is a sort of earth one, earth two divide where some of your Senate colleagues really think that this is handled, this is dusted, and we should start thinking down the road?

WARREN: Well, look, they can say that`s what they think, but they have to confront reality every single day.

When the chairman said that today, I genuinely thought he meant how we handle the next wave in this pandemic because what I heard from this more than anything else was Dr. Fauci ringing an alarm bell -- I mean, loud and clear -- saying that if we don`t ramp up testing, if we don`t get a national program on contact tracing, and if we don`t follow appropriate social distancing guidelines, then the next wave of this thing is going to cause many, many unnecessary deaths.

He`s making it clear. As he said, it`s going to be a really bad fall if we don`t get the preparations in place now.

MADDOW: Let me ask you a little bit about that specifically because what Dr. Fauci is describing about that potentially catastrophic second wave in the fall, while we are still in the middle of the first wave, is that we really do need as a country to get really good and really big and really expert at contact tracing and testing in order to try to head off the second wave. And that is something that takes skill and good governance and good administration. It`s just a technocratic thing that we really haven`t developed nationally at all.

Do you -- do you feel like that is going to have to happen state by state or even city by city? Have you given up on the prospect that we might be able to do that nationally at the kind of scale Dr. Fauci was talking about today?

WARREN: They`re saying we need competence and leadership, and that`s what`s missing at the federal level. And the problem is there are many things the states can do by themselves, and God bless them. They`re out there trying to do it every day, to open more emergency hospitals and to do all kinds of work to try to keep their citizens safe.

But contact tracing, we moved (ph). We move from place to place and state to state. This is something that needs national leadership.

Same thing is true on testing. We need for the test kits to be produced nationally. We need for all of the support materials that you need, whether it`s swabs or tubes, test tubes, or whatever it is to be produced nationally, to be distributed nationally. The notion of saying to the 50 states and to Washington and to Puerto Rico, hey, you all are on your own, good luck to you, and try outbidding each other for what is necessary, that is -- that is not only wasteful, it costs people lives. It wastes dollars, and it puts us further and further behind in responding to this crisis.

That`s why I said what I heard from Dr. Fauci is saying, in effect, we all know over the past, it`s roughly about 16 weeks that we`ve been at this since the first case appeared here in America. And in that period of time, there`s been no real planning, no real organization, just as you say, just good technocratic government, government that functions, government that works.

We`ve now got roughly about 16 weeks to when the next big crash could hit us, when the next big wave could be upon us. We need to use that time to plan, to get organized, and to be ready for it, and to have the measures in place so that we can really do national contact tracing.

I`ve got this right now in the plan that Speaker Pelosi put out today. I`ve been pushing for this for a long time. We`ve got some money in it.

You know, Rachel, what we`re suffering from is without federal leadership, it is really hard to get this stuff done. And human beings across this country and our economy are paying a terrible price for the lack of leadership.

MADDOW: Senator Warren, if you can stick with us for just a moment, you just mentioned the plan described today by Speaker Pelosi, that`s exactly what I want to ask you about. If you can stick with us, we`ll be right back on the other side of this break.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is our guest. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Joining us once again is Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Senator Warren, thank you again for sticking with us.

I wanted to ask you about the plan that was rolled out today by House Democrats announced by Speaker Pelosi, which would be about a $3 trillion relief effort. It would be the largest relief effort thus far, even though it would not be the first.

What do you make about what the House Democrats are proposing?

WARREN: So, look, there`s some really important pieces in this. Think of it this way. We have to think about health first, and how we protect Americans and help restore health. And as we restore health, we need to be thinking about the economic issues and how we make sure there`s enough economic security.

One of the keys to that is making sure there`s enough money for state and local government. They need to be able to provide those essential services and we need them to have enough money that they`re not laying people off. So that`s critical.

I`ve been pushing hard for the essential worker`s bill of rights so that our frontline workers, doctors and nurses, and the people who mop the floors in the hospitals, the people stocking the shelves at the grocery stores, the people who are making deliveries, the people who are picking up the garbage, that all of those folks have got appropriate protective equipment and health care coverage. But also that they`re getting hazardous duty pay and that they`re getting enough support, and they have whistleblower protections, so that they are fully protected. And we`ve got a lot of that in the bill.

The bill also has in it one of the big pieces -- it`s got student loan debt forgiveness in it, which I`m really excited about, $10,000 for each person who has outstanding student loan debt. It will be canceled from the principal and a delay on payments.

That`s going to be really stimulative to the economy, help relieve a lot of burdens for a lot of young people. So these are good pieces in there. It`s also got a piece in it to protect voting.

On the other hand, there`s still work to be done in this bill. There`s not nearly enough money for child care. And child care has become like basic infrastructure.

If we want parents to be able to go back to work to reopen the economy, if we want people out on the front lines, we`ve got to be able to support the child care centers, so they`ve got the resources they need to be able to operate safely, and to be financially secure. Absolutely critical to what we`re doing.

We also need more oversight in this bill. Oversight on how the president and Steve Mnuchin dole out money from what`s effectively a $450 billion slush fund for giant corporations. We need to put some curbs on that and some essential oversight.

And we need to make sure that everyone in this crisis has full health care coverage. You know, you`re in the middle of a pandemic, and yet with 20 million people just last month losing their employment, they`ve also lost their insurance. And we`ve got to make sure that everybody stays covered. We`re in this together and we need to have a good bill all together.

And the Democrats, we started in the right direction, but there`s still a lot of work to be done on it.

MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts -- it is great to see you, Senator. Thanks for making time to be with us tonight in the middle of all of this. I really appreciate seeing you.

WARREN: Good to -- it`s good to see you. Stay safe.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. You too, thanks.


MADDOW: Thank you for being with us tonight. That is going to do it for us for now. But I`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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