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CDC guidance TRANSCRIPT: 5/13/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Jason Dearen, Ashish Jha, Tony Evers, Vy Mai

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

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with Ali Velshi in for Rachel.

Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris. Good to see you. Have yourself a great evening, and we`ll see you tomorrow.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel is off tonight, but she`ll be back here tomorrow.

And there is a ton going on today. Just this evening, we got breaking news out of Wisconsin that that state`s Supreme Court has struck down the state`s stay-at-home order, which the governor had issued to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The state`s Republican-controlled legislature sued Wisconsin`s Democratic governor, over the order. The case went to the state`s conservative majority high court.

And this evening, the court ruled against the governor, saying that his order is unconstitutional. Now, this is the first time that a state Supreme Court has thrown out a state stay-at-home order in its entirety. And this has huge implications for the state of Wisconsin, and potentially for other states as well.

Michigan`s Republican legislature, for instance, is also suing its state`s Democratic governor, over her stay-at-home order. We have more on the story coming up in just a minute, including a live interview with Wisconsin`s governor.

But there`s a lot to get to tonight. Stocks fell today, a lot. The Dow Jones industrial Average sank more than 500 points, after Donald Trump`s hand-picked Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, said the economy could suffer long-term damage if Congress did not step in with more financial support. House Democrats did unveil a giant relief package yesterday to President Trump and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell saying they are in no rush to work on new legislation.

Congress has been having some hearings this week, although they look a little bit different these days. Yesterday, we saw the country`s top health officials testify, before a Senate committee, remotely, because they were all self quarantining after coming into contact with coronavirus-positive staffers at the White House.

At that hearing yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government`s top infectious disease expert, cautioned against opening up the country too quickly. A warning that President Trump today says he, quote, totally disagrees with. He called Fauci`s answer, quote, unacceptable. Donald Trump, who told people bleach might work, told the people that Anthony Fauci`s comments were unacceptable.

One can only imagine what the president`s going to say about tomorrow`s scheduled hearing in which a House committee is going to hear testimony from the Trump administration`s ousted vaccine chief. Dr. Rick Bright, this man, filed a whistle-blower complaint, claiming he was removed from his post because he resisted pressure to flood coronavirus hot spots with unproven drugs that were being touted by Donald Trump. According to Bright`s testimony, he will tell Congress tomorrow that the U.S. faces the quote, darkest winter in modern history, end quote, if it does not develop a more coordinated national response to the coronavirus before an expected resurgence later this year.

Quote, if we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far course and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities, end quote. That`s the prepared testimony of the country`s top vaccine official, who was removed from his job, in the middle of a pandemic. That hearing is storm morning at 10:00 a.m. and it promises to be a doozy.

But I want to start tonight by showing you a little something from a House hearing today. This was the very first hearing, a discussion committee, the house created, to oversee the country`s coronavirus response. As you can see, it`s another of these hearings conducted remotely. The House is not actually back in session in Washington. Because the House`s Democratic leaders are trying to avoid packing hundreds of lawmakers, many of them elderly, and their staffs, into the Capitol, while the coronavirus is still raging across this country.

They are working remotely. That`s what everyone in America has been asked to do if they are able. But at today`s remote hearing on oversight of the government`s coronavirus response, Republicans on the committee decided they would pack into a room at the Capitol anyway.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), RANKING MEMBER, CORONAVIRUS SUBCOMMITTEE:  Congress should be leaning away. We should not be the last to come back. The subcommittee has only called member, there are literally dozens of rooms all around this Capitol that are open right now that can hold the briefing safely, and with 12 members, we can achieve model social distancing. And in fact, let me show you what is going on here, we are in a committee room, or a briefing room here in the capital, and as you can see, the room is set up with proper social distancing, where you can safely have all 12 members of the economy, as well as the opportunity for the public and the press to be here, in person.

And so, I wish we would show that we can do what we`re asking the rest of the country to do.


VELSHI:  All right, I`m going to tell you, this is actually what Republicans on the committee spent a lot of their time on today at this hearing, complaining that not everybody was in that room with them. I mean, they talked about a few other things. They had basically no questions for the expert public health witnesses. But they did talk about the virus being China`s fault, and about how Democrats just don`t want to admit how well Donald Trump has handled this pandemic, and weirdly, there was quite a bit of talk about how terrible impeachment was.

But honesty, a lot of today`s hearings was Republicans being upset that Democrats would not crowd into the small airless committee room with them, none of them wearing masks and their staffs and reporters and sitting there for a couple of hours creating a little germ sauna. What`s the matter, Democrat? Too chicken to come risk coronavirus for absolutely no reason?

It was so weird. Honestly.

And also, can we listen one more time to what Steve Scalise said at the very end there.


SCALISE:  So I wish we would show that we can do what we`re asking the rest of the country to do.


VELSHI:  OK, here`s the thing, no one else is asking the rest of the country to all come back to work like normal right now. That`s only Steve Scalise and his Republican colleagues and the president who is asking the country to do that.

Many -- most governors, if not most governors, and local officials across the country, Democrat and Republican, are begging people to stay home, wherever possible. In some cases, they are mandating that people stay home. When they are not being overruled by conservative state courts as was the case in Wisconsin tonight.

Every poll shows that the vast majority of Americans favored the restrictions that are in place to combat this virus. They are worried about opening up too quickly and spreading the virus. Governors who have been the most stringent about stay-at-home orders get the highest marks in polls, from their constituents. There are now nearly 1.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, over 84,000 deaths. Cases are trending upwards in lots of places around the country.

President Trump and his allies appear to want Americans to believe that the only thing we can do is throw ourselves into the breach, and hope for the best.

But there is actually a detailed substantive step by step guide for how states and localities and businesses can start to open up again, slowly and safely. We`ve just not been allowed to see it.


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 have talked about have gone through the inner-agency review, the comments have come back to the CDC and I anticipate they will go back into the task force for final review.

MURPHY:  But we`re reopening in Connecticut in five days, in ten days. I mean, this guidance is not going to be useful to us in two weeks is. So, is it week? Is it next week? When are we going to get this expertise from the federal government?

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

MURPHY:  Soon?


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


VELSHI:  All right. So for all that the Trump administration has done to hollow out the federal government, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to employ some of the world`s top disease and epidemiology experts. These are the people you turn to, when you want to know how the country should handle a pandemic, and how we should safely try to emerge from a pandemic, from a lockdown.

Now, last week, the "Associated Press" reported that the playbook that the CDC had created to guide the country into its reopening was buried by the White House, which apparently found the experts granular step by step advice too hard, and onerous. Much easier to just say, open back up again, states. You figure it out.

Quote: The Trump administration shelved the 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 the guidance, quote, will never see the light of day.

Last week, the "A.P." was reporting that the quashed guidance was this 17- page document, which provided detailed instruction for child care programs, schools and day camps, faith communities, restaurants and bars, mass transit.

Are you in charge of or do you work in any of these kinds of places? Here`s what you need to know about opening up safely. It`s written.

The White House shelved that guidance. Well, now, thanks to further great reporting from Jason Dearen at the "A.P.", we know that the CDC`s guidance was even more detailed, and more robust than we thought.

Jason got hold of a 63-page document that never made it out of the CDC and into the light of day and it soon becomes clear why.

Quote, the White House is opening up America again plan, that was released April 17, included some of CDC`s approach, but made clear that the onus for reopening decisions was solely on state governors and local officials. By contrast, the organizational tool created by the CDC advocates for a coordinated national response to give community leaders step by step instructions to help Americans re-enter civic life.

Coordinated national response. We can`t have that, can we? I mean, here`s just one example from page five of the CDC document, quote: Travel patterns within and between jurisdictions will impact efforts to reduce community transmission of coronavirus. Coordinated -- coordination across state and local jurisdictions is critical, especially between jurisdictions with different mitigation means, end quote.

Now, that`s easy to figure out, right, if you have an outbreak in one county or one state, you can`t have 50 different containment plans across the country or across the state, not unless you are planning to hermetically seal certain counties or state. And so, the CDC`s plan is very, very cautious about nonessential travel. Where as the White House guidance just says that virus cases in your area have declined for a few weeks, travel at will.

Quoting from today`s "A.P." report, quote, as of Tuesday, CDC`s web page on travel guidance during the pandemic still linked to the White House plan. The stricter guidance is not there.

Now, the White House is clearly at odds with the CDC. It`s buried the guidance that experts at the CDC have been trying to get out to the public for a month now. But the CDC leadership may not be covering itself in glory either. Why hasn`t this guidance been posted on the CDC`s website? Why is the CDC director, Robert Redfield, dodging questions, from senators, like you heard on this today, what is going on at the CDC?

Joining me now is the person who probably knows more about this, other than anyone at the CDC, Jason Dearen, reporter for the "Associated Press", who has broken these scoops about why the White House is burying the CDC guidance.

Jason, thank you again for your time tonight.

The CDC director, Robert Redfield, said yesterday, that the new guidance would be coming soon. What do you -- what do you make of that? What does soon mean? Is there really an effort to get this guidance published? Because it is, as you are reporting, remarkably detailed information that people need.

JASON DEAREN, ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTER:  Well, first of all, thanks for having me, Ali, I appreciate it. Yes, there has been an effort at CDC to gets this guidance published for weeks now.

And what the emails I obtained showed is starting in early April, the guidance was sent to the White House for approval from CDC, and it got caught in kind of a logjam there for weeks. And by the 30th, that`s when the CDC was told it will never see the light of day, according to three different CDC officials who spoke to us on condition of anonymity. And it was only after our first report about that being buried on May 7th, that we heard that pieces of it were revived again.

So there is some move now to get some of the decision trees, and other pieces of this out. We still don`t know when that would happen. Other than, you know, we`ve released it, with our stories, we`ve linked to the documents, so people can access them that way, but in terms of official release on CDC`s website, I don`t know.

VELSHI:  That`s kind of amazing. I`m grateful that we can see this stuff on the "Associated Press" because there are restaurants and bars and churches and mosques and synagogues, and child care centers that can use this information right now in real-time. You have reported that states have contacted the CDC, sort of pleading with them, for guidance, on what they`re supposed to do.

What do they get when they call the CDC?

DEAREN:  Well, they call the CDC, I`ve been told, they can get a lot of the guidance that would have been published otherwise if the White House would have allowed it. But we`re talking about officials in every jurisdiction in the country, right? So counties, cities, states -- that`s a lot of different officials making a lot of different decisions, and for the CDC to have to field all of those kinds of calls an give that out over the phone, to each individual local health department, isn`t very efficient, and it certainly isn`t a coordinated and efficient response.

So what we, what we have instead, are, you know, an agency that has the expertise, has done the work, but hasn`t been able to put it out yet. And so people can call and get this information, one-on-one, but it`s much easier that we`re just, posted as it had been during previous pandemics.

VELSHI:  Because that would allow for discussion about it, and inquiry into it. What`s your sense, if you can tell me, about your, the mood, among the rank and file of the CDC?

This is a world-renowned remarkably important organization that probably for many Americans has never been more important than it is now. I imagine the people who work there think that they are on the front lines, working hard, to try and save lives by developing guidelines, by doing everything else the CDC does, and yet, they seem to be getting a bit sidelined.

DEAREN:  Right. I don`t think it is going out on a limb to say that there is a lot of frustration by folks who I have spoken with, who have worked there for years, or who have kind of watched the way things have gone on with this national emergency, as opposed to previous ones. So, yes, it`s definitely frustration, but people are still working, and they`re still providing this expertise. It`s just not getting out as it should.

So I think the, some of folks that I`ve spoken with, they`re continuing to just kind of soldier on, and do the work, because they know it`s important, and it needs to be done. It`s our public health at stake.

VELSHI:  God bless the people of the CDC and public health officials across the country who are trying to keep us safe and thank you, Jason. This is very, very important reporting that you have been doing.

Jason Dearen is a reporter for the "Associated Press". Congratulations on this latest scoop. And thank you again for joining us tonight.

DEAREN:  Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI:  The United States is woefully behind other nations in scaling up early testing capacity, allowing the virus that causes COVID-19 to spread more rapidly than it might have, and that`s inarguable or it should be.

But the president and the allies in Congress have adopted a new line, forget what we said before about testing, back when we said that anyone who wants a test can get a test, our testing capacity is totally fine the way it is and anyone who thinks we should have more early testing is actually part of a Democratic witch hunt to make the president look bad. That`s how things played out today at the new special House committee hearing on coronavirus.

Dr. Ashish Jha, professor of local public health at Harvard, was called as a witness to talk about America`s testing capacity. Instead, Dr. Jha found himself on the receiving end of a political attack from one of the president`s favorite members of Congress.


DR. ASHISH JHA, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR:  It was inadequate testing that precipitated the national shutdown. We must not make the same mistakes again as we open up our nation.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  It`s a committee designed to go after the president. The very first witness just two minutes ago said it was inadequate testing that initiated the shutdown. I thought the shutdown was initiated to bend the curve so our health care system wasn`t overwhelmed. We got a political statement from the very first witness.

JHA:  Let me start off by quickly responding to Congressman Jordan`s statement that my opening remarks were partisan. They were not. Every expert on the left, right, and center, agrees that we have to shut our economy down because the outbreak got too big. The outbreak got too big because we didn`t have a testing infrastructure that allowed us to hand-put our arms around the outbreak, and so, testing was the fundamental failure that forced our country to shut down.


VELSHI:  Now, the questions that lawmakers should be asking now, are given how much this virus has already spread, in communities across the country, how much more testing capacity will we need, before we can make informed decisions about reopening. What kinds of tests should we be relying on?

Remember there are several kinds of tests. There are the kind that tell you if you got coronavirus. And there are the kind that tell you, you had it. And there are some questions about those, too.

And when if ever are we going to know just how many people are or have been infected by this disease, and whether or not they have immunity. Well, guess what? I`ve got just the person to answer all of those questions.

Joining us now, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

And at this point in the crisis, Dr. Jha, thank you for joining me.

Is there a level of testing and tracing that we can do that will allow us to make the decisions about reentry or reopening in a way that is not as political as it has become?

JHA:  Yes, so thank you for having me on. It`s really actually surprising that I think a couple of members of Congress decided that testing people, to keep them safe is a partisan issue. We had on our panel two former Republican FDA commissioners. Both of whom have come out often saying we have inadequate testing and we need to ramp up testing.

It`s really stunning. As I said, there`s nobody in America, no public health official in America, that I have met, who thinks testing is not an important part of this. So, to your question, is there a level? There is. And experts have some level of disagreement about what that is.

No one thinks we`re meeting the current level that currently we have enough, but our assessment is we probably need about 900,000 tests a day, other people think we need more than that, but whoever you listen to, we all agree we need a lot more testing than we have.

VELSHI:  I want to ask you about testing, because back on March 6th when the president says anyone who needs a test can get a test. It wasn`t true then, but that was about coronavirus testing, that was see if you had corona, if you were experiencing coronavirus. Now, we`re talking a lot about antivirus -- antibody testing, to see if you had it.

And a new study found that the Abbott lab tests that were used for coronavirus, that are being used by the White House, could be missing as many as 48 percent of positive cases. Now, Abbott Labs is strongly disputing this study, and points out that it is not peer-reviewed, as we often expect studies to be these days.

We have seen issues with smaller testing companies across different states. What do we know -- what do we know about the reliability of the tests that are out there?

JHA:  So, most of the tests, for the virus, are pretty reliable, but they do have a certain false negative rate. And false negatives are bad, right, because if you have the virus, but the test says you don`t have the virus, that`s a problem. Because that means you can go out and spread the disease to others thinking you`re safe, and that`s, you know, whether that rate is 15 percent, which is sort of the floor of what we know about the Abbott test, this study suggests it may be as much as 50 percent.

Either way, we need better tests, and we just have to know that testing is very important, but it is not the end all, be all, testing, along with social distancing, wearing masks, tracing and isolation, all of that is a package of activities we need to engage in, to keep America safe.

VELSHI:  And that package of activities doesn`t lend itself to the patchwork that we decided to employ in this country, where governors do something, sometimes they align with other governors, some local municipalities are doing something. So in reference to the conversation I was just having with Jason Dearen, it would be helpful to have a broadly agreed upon protocol for how to do this.

JHA:  Yes, you know, there has been a long-standing deal in public health, and the deal goes something like this. The states run public health. But the federal government, through the CDC, provides detailed guidance, provides technical and often financial support, and it`s a federal state partnership. And what we`re seeing in the middle of the biggest pandemic in a century, is that one of those two partners is kind of is absent. The federal government through the CDC has not been keeping up its ends of the bargain.

So, do states have a role? Absolutely they have a role. But do they need the CDC to help guide and provide resources? Absolutely. They can`t do it on their own.

And that`s what we`re expecting -- that`s what the federal government seems to be expect can the states to do.

VELSHI:  Now, the Abbott test that we`re discussing, that is a test that is given to people at the White House to see if they have coronavirus at the moment. There is also this antibody testing that I think a lot of people are eager to get, because they want to know if they were exposed to coronavirus, do they have some immunity, can they get back to work. I think we`re all eager to get back to some form of normalcy.

Are they reliable?

JHA:  Yes. So some of them are. Look, there are probably 70 different antibody tests out there. But three or four of them actually are quite reliable. So, it`s really critical if you`re going to get this test through your doctor, to make sure you`re getting one of those.

And right now, we think somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of Americans have probably been infected, and have antibodies. So, don`t be disappointed if you turn out to be in that 90 to 95 percent who don`t. Obviously, if you do, there is good reason to believe that you will have immunity. Though we`re not 100 percent sure yet that antibodies confer immunity, but I think more and more evidence suggests that they probably do.

VELSHI:  Dr. Jha, thank you for your testimony. Thank you for the work that you`re doing. Thank you for the work that your colleagues at Harvard Global Health are doing. And to all of the public health experts in this country who are keeping us informed. I appreciate your time tonight.

JHA:  Thank you.

VELSHI:  Much more ahead here tonight. In just a moment, we are going to be joined live by Wisconsin`s Democratic governor, the state`s conservative- dominated Supreme Court, just overruled his state at home order. We`re going to hear from him, next.



COLIN ROTH, WISCONSIN ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL:  The cases in Brown County in the span of two weeks surged over ten-fold, from 60 to almost 800. And that`s two weeks that would be required for emergency rule making, so look --

PATIENCE ROGGENSACK, CHIEF JUSTICE:  Due to the meat-packing though, that`s where the Brown County got the flare, it wasn`t just the regular folks in Brown County.


VELSHI:  It wasn`t just the regular folks in Brown County. It was the meatpacking workers.

The chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court made waves with that comment from the bench this month, saying the coronavirus cases in one Wisconsin County had to do with the meat packing plant. Not regular folks.

Tonight, we`ve got a ruling in the matter at hand. In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin high Supreme Court has thrown out the stay-at-home order, put in place by Wisconsin`s Democratic Governor Tony Evers. The case was brought by the Republican-controlled state legislature, as `The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" reports tonight, this ruling, is the first time that a high court has thrown out a state-level restriction designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

It also portends a potential stalemate on policy at a critical moment. The Milwaukee paper reports, quote: It will force the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled legislature, to work together on the state`s response to the ebbs and flows of the outbreak, a dynamic the two sides have rarely been able to achieve before.

Joining us, Tony Evers, the governor of Wisconsin.

Governor, good it see you again. Thank you for making time for us tonight.

GOV. TONY EVERS (D), WISCONSIN:  Thank you, Ali.

VELSHI:  The Supreme Court in its ruling has said that it was not challenging your power to declare emergencies, quote, but in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely.

This is a legal argument that I think the entire nation is looking at because we have sort of decided our governors are the ones who are going to take the evidence and make decisions about whether we stay home or go back to work, based on the best information they can get. And your court is saying, you can`t, in this environment.

EVERS:  Yes, it was -- it was four members of the court who made a decision that wasn`t based on statute, precedence, or the facts, unfortunately. And the sad thing about it, Ali, is that we have been working very hard, over the past several weeks, and months, in the state of Wisconsin, the people of Wisconsin have stuck to it, staying at home, making sure they are doing the physical distancing, and all of the stuff that is important.

We`ve been making good progress. We`re one of the lowest number of cases per capita, in the Midwest, and we`re doing the right things.

And unfortunately, in this one fell swoop, four judges who didn`t really care about what the statutes talk about have thrown our state into chaos. And that is such a sad thing for the state of Wisconsin. We`ve worked so hard, the people of Wisconsin have worked so hard, to have this chaotic situation at this point in time.

VELSHI:  So this would be very worrisome, if you`re in Wisconsin, because what you`re looking for, is the best information, and the best guidance, on how to stay home, or reopen on a staged basis, and what the court is saying is that you now have to work out political issues, with the legislature.

How does that actually work in practical terms, because there was a stay- at-home order? Does that go away? Do you have the ability to make interim orders, or orders that expire after a short amount of time? What happens next for Wisconsin?

EVERS:  We`re the Wild West, Ali. There are -- there are no restrictions at all across the state of Wisconsin.

The Tavern League in this state has sent messages, emails to their members saying, we`re open tonight.

So, at this point in time, there`s no -- no orders. There`s nothing that`s compelling people to do anything other than having chaos here.

And, of course, you know, you know, people are smart in Wisconsin. They`re not idiots. They`re going to do whatever they can to make sure that they`re safe, but when you have no requirements anymore, that`s a problem.

And we`re just leaving it open, we`re going to have more cases, we`re going to have more deaths, and it`s a sad -- it`s a sad occasion for the state. I can`t tell you how disappointed I am.

The people of Wisconsin have worked so hard to get to where we`re at. Just yesterday, or days ago, Marquette University said that 69 percent of the people that they polled support our efforts around this issue. So, it`s not like things haven`t been going well. We`ve really done a good job.

And also, Ali, I just got to say, early on, I met with business owners across the state, really important folks that are doing great stuff for the state of Wisconsin, and they told me one thing that I`ll never forget. They said that people of Wisconsin have to be comfortable and confident in their health, and safety, and if they`re not, they`re not going to be good to consumers and, frankly, they`re not going to be good workers.


EVERS:  And we have -- we have reached that point tonight. We are -- we are the Wild West. There are no rules, regulations, and the Tavern League has said open your doors and it`s not a good place.

VELSHI:  Governor, what is your next step then? What authority is left to you? And what will you do next?

EVERS:  Well, we have no authority right now. It`s been taken away. So, we`ll meet with the legislatures.

But their answer -- first of all, the Republicans have never had a plan. We keep asking for it. When they took us to court, and they sued, they said they had a plan, haven`t seen that yet either.

So I`m disappointed in that, but we`ll meet with them tomorrow, but their answer is going to be much through an administrative rule. That`s what they told the court. That`s what the court is saying.

An administrative rule in the state of Wisconsin takes at least, at least two weeks, at least. And we`re already started tonight. We`re -- different counties are saying "bring it on", we have other counties saying, "no, we don`t want this to happen." So, suddenly, it is a 72-county affair, which is going to be very confusing to people in the state.

VELSHI:  That is indeed. The Wild West is a good analogy of that.

Governor, thank you for joining me tonight -- Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.

EVERS:  Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI:  All right. We got more late breaking news to get to next. It concerns Michael Flynn. The judge in his case appears to be less than amused by the Justice Department`s attempt to throw the case out. What we learned tonight is coming up next.


VELSHI:  Less than two years into a seven-year sentence, he is out. Paul Manafort, the president`s 2016 campaign chairman, was released from a Pennsylvania prison today amid fears of coronavirus infections at federal prisons. The Trump ally who was convicted of tax and bank fraud as part of Robert Mueller`s investigation will now spend the majority of his sentence in home confinement with his wife in northern Virginia.

The Bureau of Prisons had been prioritizing for release inmates who had either served over half their sentences or had less than 18 months remaining. As the "Washington Post" notes, Manafort is not in either category.

Manafort`s release stands in stark contrast to fellow inmate and former Trump associate Michael Cohen, Trump`s longtime personal lawyer who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress before later testifying against the president. As the pandemic set in, Cohen was initially told he would be released and allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence under home confinement, before that decision was reversed. He remains in a minimum security prison in Otisville, New York.

So Cohen remains in prison. Manafort is sprung free.

Also not in prison, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. His case was dropped by the Justice Department on Attorney General Bill Barr`s orders last week. Despite Flynn having pled guilty two times for lying to the FBI.

But the U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan appears reluctant to put the matter to rest at least very quickly. We got the first hit yesterday when Sullivan invited outside parties to file legal briefs weighing in on the Department of Justice`s unprecedented decision. And in a new twist tonight, Sullivan has appointed a retired judge to argue against the Department of Justice`s decision to drop the case. He`s also asked that judge to make a nonbinding recommendation on whether Flynn could be held in criminal contempt for perjury.

Now, the move came after the president today again praised Flynn, calling him a great gentleman, and a real fighter. The president also continued to push the unfounded and hot on the right Obama-gate conspiracy theory that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and others were somehow involved in an illegal effort to target Flynn or something like that. It is a conspiracy theory that even the president and his allies seem to be having some difficulty explaining.

Today, Republican senators released a list compiled by the acting director of intelligence, Rick Grenell of over a dozen Obama administration officials who had made requests to unmask the names of Americans in U.S. intelligence intercepts. Requests which they had no way of knowing would reveal Flynn`s identity, also requests which all of them were fully authorized to make.

Vice President Biden responded tonight, with a statement. Quote: These documents simply indicate the breadth and depth of concern across the American government, including among career officials, over intelligence reports of Michael Flynn`s attempts to undermine ongoing American national security policy, through discussions with Russian officials, or other foreign representatives.

Importantly, none of these individuals could have known Flynn`s identity beforehand, end quote.

In other words, anything to distract from the real public health crisis that is facing this country, as well as this real non-fabricated news tonight, in the Flynn case, that the judge seemed anything but inclined to let this matter go.

So as Rachel would say, watch this space.


VELSHI:  The headlines come from all over, after a round of mass testing, nearly 900 workers at the Smithfield meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have turned up positive for coronavirus. At the Tyson pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, there are now over 1,000 confirmed cases and another death this week. In Nebraska, 212 workers test positive for coronavirus after mass testing at the Tyson plant in Madison.

And now, in Nebraska, the governor there is not saying which plants have coronavirus, so we`re not getting that kind of statewide information. But in Crete, Nebraska, we do know that at least 200 cases are tied to an outbreak at the Smithfield meatpacking plant there.

After dozens tested positive at the end of April, Smithfield Foods announced that it would be closing the plant but after the president issued his executive order declaring meatpacking plants essential, the plant changed course and decided to stay open without testing everyone.

Now, that led to protests over conditions at the plant.


REPORTER:  Saturday, in Crete, the second round of drive-by protests against the lack of COVID safety conditions at Smithfield Foods. Protesters were seen donning signs down Main Street with signs like dispensable, not disposable and they didn`t get the potential two-week closure they were hoping to get.


VELSHI:  All right. Many of these counties, the meatpacking plants are the main employer. They wield a tremendous amount of power. And now, with the president invoking the Defense Production Act to keep the plants open, they are effectively shielded from liability.

Behind the case, the case numbers are individuals who are working in a very difficult and dangerous job. I want to introduce you to Vy Mai. She`s an immigrant from Vietnam, who returned from her last semester in college in Pennsylvania to go home to Nebraska to be with her family. Not long after she got there, her grandfather got sick with coronavirus and died.

She worried that she infected him but after her entire family decided to get tested, her results came back negative. Her aunt and uncle both tested positive but were asymptomatic and turns out both her aunt and uncle are employees of the Crete Smithfield plant. The family believes they infected their grandfather and after being hospitalized with coronavirus, Vy Mai`s grandmother returned home today.

But Vy Mai had a message for Smithfield about her grandfather. Quote: I want you to know he died in the hospital alone, isolated, and scared. I want you to know what excuse you have -- I want to know what excuse you have for not shutting down a plant with 50-plus confirmed cases. And most importantly, I want you to see him as a person who`s been affected by this and not just another statistic of your carelessness. I want you to know he died in the hospital alone, isolated and scared.

The company sent her a note saying they too ache at the devastation wrought by COVID-19. Quote: We are deeply sorry for your loss.

Vy Mai will graduate college remotely this Saturday.

Joining me, Ms. Mai.

Thank you for joining us tonight. And I`m sorry for your loss.

You have a family that`s involved in what is always -- what has always been a particularly dangerous profession. People don`t necessarily realize how dangerous meatpacking is in this country but it has become suddenly more dangerous and, you know, you risk your life now by going into these places.

VY MAI, GRANDDAUGHTER OF COVID-19 VICTIM:  Yes, actually, my aunt and uncle just got retested and they fully plan on going back once they get the results.

VELSHI:  Let`s talk a bit about your family. Because you`re right, these aren`t numbers. These are people`s lives.

Your grandfather I believe it was was in the Vietnam War. He was a soldier for the South. He was taken prisoner in the North. He was in a concentration camp for ten years and then he arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska, back in 1994.

MAI:  Yes, that`s correct.

VELSHI:  And tell me a bit about what his life was like. He turned 80 years old last Saturday.

MAI:  Yes, my grandfather was a hard-working immigrant. He came here and he started working for I believe it was called Cooks (ph) Food Processing and he worked there until he retired. And when he retired, he would take care of me and my sister since both my parents worked and everyone else worked.

He would come pick me up from school every day until I turned 16, and then he would continue to do that for my sister.

VELSHI:  That`s incredible.

Your grandmother, what was her experience? She got COVID as well but she has recovered and is now out?

MAI:  Yes. She luckily came home today. She has to quarantine for another 72 hours and if her fever goes down, that means that she will fully recover.

VELSHI:  What do you -- you were saying your aunt and uncle, who did get infected, I guess maybe they have some immunity now that they have antibodies but they are going back to work and these plants are going to stay open.

MAI:  Yes. That is as much as I know. I was the one who arranged for their first testing and arranged for the second testings as well.

VELSHI:  How do you feel about the response you got from Smithfield after you posted your comments?

MAI:  You know, I was really heartbroken by their response. I thought, because of the media coverage because of how everyone responded, they would give me a more sincere response, but I don`t -- I`m not even convinced they read my message or looked at the responses that everyone else gave them.

VELSHI:  Your grandfather obviously knew about your impending graduation. I imagine he`s going to be with you in spirit and he`s going to be really proud of the fact that you`re living the dream that he came to America for.

MAI:  I really hope so. I hope I`m making him proud.

VELSHI:  I`m sure you are. Vy, I`m sorry for your loss, but thank you for being with us tonight and for sharing your story, and congratulations on your graduation.

Well, we`ve got one more --

MAI:  Thank you.

VELSHI:  -- bit of news to get to tonight.

My pleasure.

We have one more bit of news to get to tonight. Stay with us.


VELSHI:  This is a C-130 military transport plane. It arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland yesterday. As you can see from the signage on the side, this is not a U.S. military plane. It`s a South Korean plane.

It arrived in this country on a humanitarian mission to deliver 500,000 protective masks to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those masks were donated by South Korea to the V.A. as a way to honor U.S. veterans of the Korean War.

While those masks were no doubt greatly appreciated, the donation is somewhat surprising given the rosy picture that the V.A. has repeatedly painted about its PPE situation. For weeks, the department maintained its PPE supply was robust, despite reporting to the contrary.

V.A. Secretary Robert Wilkie eventually admitted supplies were not optimal, but that was after repeated happy talk from the agency. Happy talk that stood in sharp contrast to what we heard from people actually working on the ground in V.A. hospitals.

For example, we recently told you that some workers at a V.A. Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, were given just two face masks and told them to last -- make them last the entire month. Despite concerns about PPE, the Department of Veterans Affairs is pushing to resume regular operations at its medical centers, which would mean expanding medical services and offering certain elective procedures.

Against that backdrop, V.A. health care workers have been demanding hazard pay. The V.A., for its part, says that is unwarranted. In a statement, the department said, quote: Hazard pay is to compensate employees when risks cannot be reasonably mitigated and employees cannot be safely protected, and that is the opposite of the current environment at V.A., end quote.

Quite a statement. It would be interesting to see what V.A. Secretary Robert Wilkie has to say about that. Good thing he`s testifying before the House Appropriations Committee next Tuesday.

Well, that does it for us tonight. Rachel is going to be back here tomorrow and I`ll see you this weekend at 8:00 a.m. on my show "VELSHI."


Good evening, Lawrence.

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