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PPE shortages TRANSCRIPT: 5/15/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: James Curran, David Rohde

JOHN BARRY, AUTHOR, "THE GREAT INFLUENZA": So, rumors spread wildly and you have society actually beginning to fray. I mean, fortunately, we`re not facing that now. Even with misleading information. But that is what got to be like back then.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: John Barry, thanks so much for making time tonight.

If you want to hear more about John`s expertise in the 1918 flu, you can listen to our conversation from last month from my podcast "Why Is This Happening." We talk about it for an hour. It`s pretty fascinating wherever you get your podcast.

That`s -- that is "ALL IN" for this evening.

TEHE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Chris, thank you very much for stretching 30 seconds into my hour while I get myself settled.


MADDOW: You think anybody else noticed that`s what you were doing?

HAYES: I was just like -- I couldn`t hear in my ear if she`s good or not good. So, when I threw, I guess we`ll see if we`re getting an empty shot.


MADDOW: I will tell -- I could tell you the backs of the dramatic back story as to why it took me an extra 22 seconds to get here today but it is best shared over a beer on the other side of the curve. I will tell you, my friend.

HAYES: All right. On the other side of the curve, have a great weekend.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks, Chris. Much appreciate it.

All right. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

I am super happy to have you here with us. I`m sorry that I was 22 seconds late. Long story, I`ll tell you some day.

All right. I want to tell you about something that happens behind the scenes at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW this week that has been interesting.

Earlier this week, it happened over the course of a few days, but by earlier this week, we obtained a bunch of internal emails from a V.A. medical center, specifically from the V.A. medical center in Minneapolis, and what was interesting to us about those emails and why they were provided to us is that they showed that the levels of PPE and other necessary supplies for the people that work at that facility, things like disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, it showed the levels of those things currently in stock at the V.A. facility.

Show you what I`m talking about. Here`s one of those emails. This one is from this past Wednesday. And as you can see, the little graphic here in the email shows the current PPE status of each of these items.

Face shields, 30-day supply. Gloves, 30-day supply. It also looks like they`re good in terms of masks needed for general use, 30-day supply.

But then look at this, hand sanitizer, zero days of supply on hand. Oh. Same thing with hydrogen peroxide wipes, zero days of supply on hand. Germinal bleach wipes, one day`s worth of supplies on hand.

In terms of goggles or safety glasses, that`s also very bad. It looks like a total of a four-day supply of those.

Again, this is an active V.A. medical center that`s serving lots of COVID patients. And the throw line is pretty much the same in each of these emails that we obtained. It shows there being very little hand sanitizer and very disinfectant wipes in stock. This applies whether you`re looking at the supply chain emails from April or from the beginning of this month or even from this week.

Now, on Wednesday of this week, we tried to report on this story in so doing, we reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs for comment about what was going on with PPE supplies at this V.A. medical center, and a public affairs officer with the V.A. responded just before we were due to go on the air with this. Quote, you`re misinterpreting a routine email on supply levels.

He added the V.A. medical center in Minneapolis is always stocked with hand sanitizer and has always been stocked with hand sanitizer. He said they have dispensers mounted throughout the facility. He also said employees have access to all the disinfecting products they need, sort of a strong push back from the V.A. on that.

That might have been the end of it had that not been for something that happened today because today we received yet another internal email. Today, we received a copy of the new supply email that`s being sent out to employees at the Minneapolis V.A. medical center and this one is different.

As you can see, the old email used to break out the various disinfectant wipes they needed for working at that facility, hydrogen peroxide wipes, germicidal bleach wipes, super sani wipes, but now, as of today, after all of that reporting earlier on some of those stuff being completely out of stock, now the email just says disinfectant wipes. Can we drop the bug to see that on the lower right-hand corner of the screen? Can we drop that?

All right. Now, they`re just lumping them all together. Thank you. Because, of course, when you lump them all together and you just pick the one for which you`ve got 12-day supply situation, doesn`t look that bad.

As you can see, the email on Wednesday also showed that that V.A. medical center had zero days` worth of hand sanitizer in supply, but as of today`s email, they say they have obtained a 20-day supply, which is great. Good for them.

Changing what you release in terms of information about how bad things are doesn`t actually change how bad things are in real life. And it would be one thing if this was a one off from the V.A., right? If they earned a reputation of giving it to us straight and this is them getting wooly in the one V.A. medical center in the one sore subject. But the V.A. has not been straight with the American people or employees at any point throughout this crisis.

Here is another example. The Department of Veterans Affairs is now pushing to resume regular operations at the medical centers, that would mean expanding medical services and offering certain elective procedures. Given that and given the repeated reporting about a shortage of necessary supplies for health workers at various V.A. facilities around the country, V.A. health care workers are demanding they should get hazard pay given the additional risk they are taking coming into work right now.

The V.A. for its part says that hazard pay is totally unwarranted. You might expect them to push back. They don`t want to spend extra money on employees but look at the statement the department`s press secretary put out about it. Look at this.

Quote: Hazard pay is to compensate employees when risks cannot be reasonably mitigated, and employees cannot be safely protected. That is the opposite of the current environment at V.A.

But don`t ask us about those germicidal wipes and the fact that we don`t have them anymore or we`ll just stop telling you that we don`t have them anymore.

It doesn`t seem like the V.A. is getting money`s worth in terms of their spokespeople right now. Or maybe they are. Maybe this is what they going for.

But Baghdad Bobbing your way through this part of the crisis is something worse than embarrassing, right? I mean, the truth will out -- we will ultimately learn what`s going on and then all your happy talk about it will become at best embarrassing and at worst, indicting.

I mean, listen, I believe that V.A. medical staff are doing their absolute best. If you meet someone that tells you they work at a V.A. medical center, your first instinct likely is and definitely should be to buy that person a beer or at least shake their hand. They are doing a great public service by doing that work.

But the agency itself and its leaders and its spokespeople in particular are not doing themselves favors by pretending everything is fine in the V.A. right now. This is the largest medical center in the country, right? It serves as incredibly vulnerable and valuable population of Americans who have served their country, most of whom over the age of 65, who depend on the V.A. for directly provided care. It`s the federal government`s direct responsibility. They need to get this right.

Happy talk that the problems don`t exist in the V.A. is not a way to make the actual problems in the V.A. go away. It`s not a way to get help for those problems, for sure.

I mean, hello, V.A. leadership, you are not alone having a hard time handling the challenges of the epidemic, including keeping your medical staff protected with hand sanitizer and germicidal wipes and all the PPE that they need. You`re not alone having those problems. It shouldn`t be embarrassing to you that you are having these problems. If you tell people the truth about what problems you are having, you`ll be a heck of a lot more likely to get help to meet the challenges.

No one is looking to blame you. We want you to succeed. When you lie, you make it hard to help you succeed.

But we see this over and over again. This is becoming sort of a character test of various types of leadership and governance in this crisis.

Take the Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts who finally made headline national news this week when he finally hit the front page of "The Washington Post" for his remarkable decision to stop reporting coronavirus case numbers from individual meatpacking plants in his state, just as two big meatpacking plants in this state with significant outbreaks were starting to get test results from their workers. That`s when Governor Ricketts decided, you know what, we`re not going to allow this data out anymore. We decided this data is privacy concern.

Yeah, heaven forbid people actually know where the problem is, right? Heaven forbid the workers and their families know that the communities know where these facilities are and workers go home at the end of the day, maybe if we don`t talk about it, it won`t seem that bad?

The problem is not information about the spread of the virus. The problem is the spread of the virus, which you can`t stop if you don`t have any information about where it is. But still, even so, this week that same governor, Pete Ricketts in Nebraska, got up in a press conference and announced that he also will block the release of any data about coronavirus outbreaks in specific nursing homes in his state.

He told Nebraskans this is on top of him deciding they`ll no longer release data about specific meatpacking plants. There will be no data about nursing homes released, and the way around that if you`re concerned is that he told Nebraskans that they, as individual citizens, can just call nursing homes one by one and ask if they have a coronavirus outbreak and how many cases and deaths they`ve had. Just see what they say.

That`s how we`re going to handle the spread of coronavirus in nursing homes in Nebraska. Individual citizens just calling around and seeing what you can figure out.

Is that going to help? I mean do you think that`s going to make people think Nebraska doesn`t have people dying in its nursing homes.

We are now far enough into this that we are seeing these kinds of dumb, shoot-the-messenger distortions all over the place now. Various leaders in various states are figuring out that when their epidemic is bad, people will be able to tell that because the numbers are bad. And when the numbers are bad, that makes the graphs look bad.

So, now, we`ve got all of this very artful, dumb, math lying going on all over about both the numbers and the graphs. This is one of the best ones this week.

This is a graph that the Georgia state government released on Monday as Republican Governor Brian Kemp there is trying to justify his sort of radical, rip the lid off, open everything up, end the stay-at-home orders approach to what`s going on in Georgia and where his approval rating has been paying the price for it.

Now, again, this is released by the state government in Georgia. You can see at the top there this is the top five counties with the greatest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia. Top five worst hit counties in Georgia.

You can tell at a glance from looking at this, even if you don`t put on your reading glasses, just take a glance. You can tell this is good news, right? This is a good news chart about the worst hit counties in Georgia. You can tell it`s good because everything goes down. It all slopes off gently to the right until it disappears.

And the subhead explains, the chart below represents that most impacted counties over the past 15 days and the number of cases overtime. Well, like I said, I mean, that looks excellent, Georgia. I can see why you`re opening up what with everything just dropping off to zero.

But you know what? Put your readers on. Look al the bottom here. Look at the X-axis. Look at what they`ve done here. Look at the X-axis left to right.

It goes from April 28th back to April 27th, ahead to April 29th, ahead to May 1st. Jumps ahead to May 6th. Then back to May 4th. Then up to May 5th, then all the way back to April 25th. Then the 2nd of May, then the 7th of May, then the 26th of April, 3rd of May, 8th of May and then 9th of.

What the heck is this? That`s how you had to stack it to make it look like it was sloping down to the right? I mean, this is a graph that was specially created to create the impression of a pretty picture of things going down and getting better over time -- when really, no, they`re not.

After the Georgia state government tried to pull this over on the people of the state of Georgia, one state legislator from Atlanta wrote to the department of public health to say, what the heck is this? He called it, quote, cuckoo that they were trying to do this. The graph became the object of sustained mockery and wonderment online in Georgia. You see this is from the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," their data interactive team.

Quote: This graphic has been the subject of much head scratching by the interactives team. The AJC ultimately tried to make sense of it in a kind of article that tends to follow a public official to the end of his or her career.

Here`s their headline, quote. It`s just cuckoo. State`s latest data mishap causes critics to cry foul. Here`s the lead in that piece. Where does Sunday take place twice a week? And where does May 2nd come before April 26th? Well, that happens in the state of Georgia as it provides data on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quote, in the latest bungling of tracking data for the novel coronavirus, the Georgia department of public health`s website appears to show good news, new confirmed cases in the counties with the most infections had dropped every single day for the past two weeks. In fact, there was no clear downward trend. Cases have held steady or dropped only slightly in the past two weeks. Cases in those five worst hit counties were actually flat.

Ultimately, after being ridiculed for it and questioned about it in ways they couldn`t answer, the state changed the graph. The Kemp administration actually apologized for having published that graph. The good news in that bad news story is that shame and ridicule and pushback made them fix it.

I mean the governor in Georgia, Brian Kemp, is still trying to happy talk the epidemic in his state to justify the policy which he wants, which is to say everything`s fine and nothing needs to be done to slow the spread anymore. And that`s his right to try do that and get away with that as governor. But at least because of the pushback on what they tried to get away with this week, at least he won`t have what appears to be public health data backing up that B.S. happy talk that he`s otherwise trying to get away with.

It`s one thing to be able to blame the politician for making stuff up. When the public health people appear to be on board with it, that`s a much bigger problem. I mean, you can still get real data. Actually, real data well presented on what`s happening in Georgia, when they don`t muck around with it and try to make the data tell a story.

And the real data is not good. I mean, here`s Georgia deaths from COVID-19 mapped by the Georgia department of public health. That`s bad. That`s particularly bad if you`re opening up right now in the middle of that.

Here`s Georgia confirmed cases from COVID-19. Very similar shape to that graph. That`s bad. That`s not what your state should look like if you are opening up right now.

Here`s Georgia cumulative cases from COVID, cumulative cases over time. That is the blue line. That`s bad.

So, yeah, if you want to look at graphs like that and say, oh, trust me. Everything`s fine. Don`t believe your lying eyes. Let`s open up.

I mean, if that`s what you had -- if that`s the real data in your state, you might want to fudge something that looks better than that, which is apparently what they did. But they got called on it, and ultimately, they took it down.

Happy talk and hiding the data doesn`t make the problem go away. Happily, right now, pushback against B.S. happy talk and hiding the data sometimes works to shame the people trying to do it, and it makes them stop.

We`re seeing that at the national level too with investigative reporting by the "Associated Press" over the past two weeks. "A.P." reporting on the White House shelving the CDC`s guidelines for how to safely reopen the country, pressuring the CDC not to release those guidelines and not to let anybody know they existed. It took a couple of weeks of sustained attention and investigation by the "A.P." and hard questions of people in the administration and leaks of the early drafts of the CDC`s work that was being suppressed.

But last night finally at least some of it was finally actually issued by the CDC. That wouldn`t have happened without the "A.P." investigating it and calling them on it and asking them hard questions about it. But that relationship, the survival and integrity of the CDC, the public health part of the U.S. government that we ought to be able to look to even when our politicians are plainly getting it wrong, that relationship between the administration and the CDC is being sort of existentially tested now just by the misfortune of us having an epidemic this bad while we have a government this terrible.

I mean this kind of a headline is the last thing you want to see in a country that has already got the biggest epidemic on earth with 1.4 million cases now and more than 88,000 Americans already dead. This is not what you want to see as the lead headline in "The Washington Post" more than two months into this, growing friction between White House and CDC hobbles pandemic response.

But that is what`s going on. "The Post" reporting tonight that the Trump administration inexplicably gave a $10 million no-bid contract to a private company to collect a bunch of data about the epidemic that the CDC already collects. Well, why would you do that? Why would you undermine the CDC that way?

Well, maybe because you wanted to have an alternate source of data, in case you wanted to trash the CDC`s reputation and have data you are more comfortable with. I mean, keep that in mind when the White House starts disputing the coronavirus death toll in our country and saying that not that many Americans have actually died. Keep in mind that they have bought and paid for a private source of data to compete with and undermine the CDC`s data.

"The Post" further reporting that the CDC is now so demoralized, they`re now so kicked and beaten down, they`re no longer even trying to play their traditional role of keeping the public informed at the time of a public health crisis. Quote: The CDC, which has not held a briefing since early march, has repeatedly asked the White House to resume its sessions for the media, but they have not received permission, and the CDC has finally given up.

Also this. Quote: Now as Trump has promised a reignited economy heading into the November election, CDC is in the awkward position of producing the information Trump want wants leased. The reminder that the COVID-19 death rate has plateaued at nearly 2,000 Americans dead every day.

And if that`s not enough of a test to see whether the Trump administration will allow the CDC to do its work unimpeded, the CDC director, Robert Redfield, tonight tweeted this. Quote, CDC tracks 12 different forecasting models of possible COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. as of May 11th, all forecast an increase in deaths in the coming weeks and a cumulative total exceeding 100,000 American deaths by June 1st.

June 1st is two weeks away. This is the CDC director saying tonight that the best, the rosiest of the dozen forecasting models the CDC is tracking says there will be 100,000 Americans dead by then, by two weeks from now. And it gets worse from there. That`s the best-case scenario.

And the president, you know, did say at the White House already today, when he was asked by a CNN reporter as to whether or not the death toll might be too low, he said actually the real death toll is -- is much lower than what the official numbers say. Who says that they`re overstating the death toll? Right.

The president really has been saying for a solid week now that the virus will go away on its own without even a vaccine. He used to say it would go away on its own in April because, what, viruses hate months that begin with "A" or something. But now he says it will go away without a vaccine. He said this today at an event that was supposed to be hyping how great America is doing at developing a vaccine.

The president saying that doesn`t really matter. He`s there to hype vaccine development, but simultaneously he wants you to know it doesn`t really matter because vaccine disappearance magic will fix this whole problem before we need a vaccine so don`t get too hung up on it.

The president said today most Americans should not fear the virus because most Americans are probably immune to it, which is a wonderful idea if the only part of wonderful you care about is its root word, der.

I mean, that makes no sense at all. Most Americans are immune to the coronavirus, really? The president literally said this last night.

He said, when you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn`t do any testing, we would have very few cases.

I know you think that I am being hyperbolic and making fun of him and I am making that up, but I am serious. He actually said exactly that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn`t do any testing, we would have very few cases.


MADDOW: If we didn`t do any testing, we would have very few cases. No, actually, if we didn`t do any testing, we would have lots of cases. We just wouldn`t know about them, which would be bad if you happen to be a human being or at least some kind of being that recognizes that people who get this thing are human beings, and human beings generally choose to avoid unnecessary suffering, illness, suffocation, pain, death, and mourning.

If we didn`t do any testing, we would have very few cases. That`s the line from the president right now. That`s the way we make our cases go away. We stop testing for them.

That`s the way we make houses stop burning down. We close the fire department. Then the data that says how many fires we`ve responded to goes to zero. We haven`t had any fire responses at all. There`s also no more houses left.

The president went on to say today, quote, it could be that testing frankly is overrated. Could that be because they cannot figure out how to get anybody outside the freaking White House tested on any regular basis?

This is a terrible time for us to have a terrible government. I mean both in the persona of the president, who suggests, you know, injecting bleach and that testing is the real problem and that viruses magically disappear, and we don`t need vaccines. It`s a terrible time to have a terrible government in the persona of the president and in terms of what he can do to the rest of the government.

And in terms of what he has done already to public health, to the CDC, you should see this editorial that ran today in the revered ancient British medical journal "The Lancet." It`s called reviving the U.S. CDC. Sometimes people outside our borders can see these things more clearly than we can.

Quote: The COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen in the USA, prompting pointed new questions about the inconsistent and incoherent national response to the COVID-19 crisis there. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the flagship agency for the nation`s public health, has seen its role minimized and become an ineffective and nominal adviser in the response to contain the spread of the virus. This is an agency that was once regarded as the gold standard for global disease detection and control.

In the decades following its founding in 1946, the CDC became a national pillar of public health and globally respected. It trained cadres of applied epidemiologists to be deployed in the USA and abroad. CDC scientists have helped to discover new viruses and developed accurate tests for them.

The Trump administration`s erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation and science and public health. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats both domestic and international and help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. The USA is still nowhere near able to provide the basic surveillance or laboratory testing infrastructure needed to combat the COVID-19 epidemic.

The administration is obsessed with magic bullets, vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear. But only a steadfast reliance on basic principles like test, trace, and isolate will see the emergency brought to an end. And this requires an effective national public health agency.

The CDC needs a director who can provide leadership without the threat of being silenced and who has the technical capacity to lead today`s complicated effort. Americans must put a president in the White House come January 2021 who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.

When who is the president of the United States is one of the world`s biggest public health crises, that`s when you know these are -- these are very serious times. That`s "The Lancet" today in a scathing editorial. A former star CDC scientist is now the dean of one of the nation`s leading public health institutions is going to join us here live next for the interview.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: If you`re looking for an American scientific leader who`s really, really experienced in finding and fighting and explaining a terrifying, deadly, new, mysterious virus, you should get to know Dr. James Curran.

All the way back in 1981, before anybody knew what HIV or AIDS were, Dr. Curran was tasked with leading the CDC`s task force to study what was then a mysterious, unknown disease that was inexplicably killing mostly young, healthy men. Before we all learned to live through terrifying projections about the exponential growth in coronavirus cases like we`re living through now, Dr. Curran was the one making those kinds of projections for the country about HIV.


REPORTER: Dr. James Curran gave the figures for the incidence in the United States and the projection there will be 350,000 cases by 1982.

DR. JAMES CURRAN, FORMER HEAD OF CDC TASK FORCE TO STUDY AIDS: I mean, I`m getting a little tired of making these projections. I`m even more tired of having them turn out to be right. Twenty-eight thousand in the past year alone or approximately one case reported in our country every 14 minutes.


MADDOW: Dr. James Curran spent 25 years at the CDC. He rose to the level of assistant surgeon general. He joins us tonight for the interview. Dr. Curran is now the dean of the School of Public Health at Emory University and co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research.

Dr. Curran, it`s an honor to have you here with us tonight. Thanks for your time.

CURRAN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: With what you have lived through and the response that you helped lead to what was then an unknown virus that took a terrible toll in the United States, I wanted to ask you like sort of the biggest possible top- level question of how you think our country is doing, how you think our federal government is doing at responding to and mounting a fight against this virus now.

CURRAN: Well, Rachel, this is the public health crisis of the century. This is something that people haven`t seen before and nobody will see again. Everyone in public health will, just like people did with World War II, say, where were we before COVID, and where were we after COVID?

Now, the country has been overwhelmed by it, more so than most other countries, and we haven`t had a very clear messaging or very clear aim at goals. You pointed out, I think, quite clearly in the previous segment that accurate surveillance is the conscience and guidepost for public health, and it was for us with AIDS. And it`s a governmental responsibility to be interpreted by people who are experts in epidemiology. That`s why it has to remain with the CDC and of course can`t be interpreted wrong as it has been in two instances you mentioned previously.

MADDOW: When it comes to the CDC`s particular expertise, obviously they`re supposed to be our guiding light on public health matters, both for us as civilians looking for expert advice about how we should live and what we should do and what we should do to protect ourselves, but also guiding public policy decisions by the rest of the federal government. And I know the CDC comes in for a lot of criticism, and I know even that individual leaders and scientists at CDC have had their time in the spotlight, some uncomfortable and some celebratory.

It does feel to me, though, that the CDC has been sidelined and, in some ways, compromised, sort of forced to accept political influence or political inflection in a way that I don`t remember before.

Is that a fair assessment?

CURRAN: Well, I think "The Lancet" editorial points out the early problems with the diagnostic testing capacity, which was a major problem, and CDC played a role in that. But the CDC is the best prevention agency in the entire world. Other countries model their public health prevention agencies after the CDC, and it`s expected that the thousands of epidemiologists there will contribute to what we know about prevention of a new infectious disease.

The two goals from the very beginning was to prevent the new virus and to save the lives of the people who were infected. And we could be optimistic about that because of the short duration of the virus. And the goal from the very beginning was the identification and isolation of infected people.

But because of the scarcity of testing, we said, well, we don`t have enough tests, so we will change our policy toward what our priorities are, that is saving lives, and we`ll pretend we don`t have to test because we know we can`t.

That`s really unconscionable because then you start to say, well, what is testing? Well, it`s making test kits. No, that isn`t what it is. The goal is to identify and isolate as many infected people as you can. And we still haven`t gotten there.

MADDOW: Do you think that the president`s sometimes baseless remarks about things like testing -- today he`s calling testing overrated and saying essentially blaming testing for revealing the existence of cases. If we didn`t test so much, we wouldn`t have so many cases. The president obviously has made some inappropriate comments about things that he imagines might be effective treatments for the disease. He`s talked about it disappearing on its own.

I think some of that is just baked into our expectations in terms of what we expect from this president`s public remarks. But do you think that it materially sets back our ability to fight this as a country and the ability of the federal government to get its ducks in a row in terms of what it needs to do to save the most lives?

CURRAN: Most of us know that the only thing that`s close to being accurate in surveillance is the number of deaths and the number of hospitalizations because the only people tested were those who were seriously ill. If you assume that perhaps 1 percent of people who get COVID die and we have six times that many deaths reported in the U.S., that means that we must be underestimating the cases by a huge margin, particularly since the deaths were infected four weeks ago.

So, it`s very likely that maybe 10 million to 15 million people have already been infected. So if you employ effective prevention measures like testing, isolating and contact tracing, you`re going to increase the number of people infected, but you will -- I`m sorry, you`ll increase the number of people who reported while you`re reducing the number of people who become infected in the future, which is what we want to do.

It seems like he just learned that if you increase testing, you`re going to increase people who are diagnosed as positive, and that for some reason that`s a bad thing, when that`s exactly what we`re trying to do.

MADDOW: Dr. James Curran, dean of Emory University school of public health, co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research -- Dr. Curran, it is a real pleasure to have this much with you tonight. Thanks for making time and thanks for your service.

CURRAN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead this Friday night. Do stay with us.


MADDOW: April 2nd, 1992, after years of evading prosecution and becoming very, very, very famous as America`s most high-profile gangster, John Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime family, on April 2nd, 1992, he was finally convicted in a Brooklyn courtroom. It was murder and racketeering.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening. This time the wise guy smirk disappeared. John Gotti, the modern grandfather, the so-called Teflon Don, he also escaped the big convictions in the past but not today. Guilty of murder and racketeering. 12 counts and now facing a long time in jail.

REPORTER: In a hushed courtroom, Gotti sat and heard the forelady of an anonymous jury say guilty. Gotti and his co-defendant were charged of being boss and underboss of the Gambino crime family.

REPORTER: The best evidence that Gotti was a mob boss came from his own mouth over FBI bugs.

JOHN GOTTI: It`s going to be a Cosa Nostra until I die. Be it an hour from now or be it tonight or a hundred years from now when I`m in jail. It`s going to be a Cosa Nostra.


MADDOW: That conviction of John Gotti in 1992 was a huge deal, obviously national news.

But one of the biggest moments in American law enforcement history when it comes to organized crime. "The New York Times" called it a scintillating triumph for a team of federal prosecutors who shattered the maddening aura of invincibility of a notorious gangster.

"The Times" said, quote, the prosecution`s most visible member was 38-year- old John Gleeson, who presented the evidence with a calm professorial air, ignoring Mr. Gotti`s arm-swinging bravado and violent glares. With his boyish appearance, dark, wavy hair, the horn-rimmed glasses and earnest voice, Gleeson seemed to enhance the sincere image, a James Stewart character perhaps, upholding truth against the mob.


REPORTER: After six weeks, prosecutor John Gleeson began by trying to dilute whatever effect the aura of Gotti`s mob boss image might have had on the jury. He said, this is not a media event. This is not a movie. It is not about a movie star. It`s not a stage. It`s a trial in an American courtroom.

Gleeson went on to read from the transcripts of FBI bugs that detailed the murders and evidence that Gotti was the boss of the Gambino crime family.


MADDOW: John Gleeson, the prosecutor who finally got John Gotti, would go on to serve as a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York. He retired as a judge in 2016. This week he surfaced again in the news when he wrote an op-ed weighing in on the Justice Department`s bizarre and absolutely unprecedented decision this past week to simply drop the prosecution of Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn despite the fact that Justice Department prosecutors already secured a guilty plea from Mr. Flynn multiple times.

Retired Judge John Gleeson wrote about that this week, that the department`s handling of the Flynn case, quote, reeks of improper political influence.

Well, two days after he wrote that in "The Washington Post," the judge overseeing the Mike Flynn case made an extraordinary decision of his own to appoint John Gleeson, the prosecutor from the John Gotti trial, to appoint John Gleeson, that retired judge, to essentially argue against the Justice Department`s decision to drop the case against Flynn.

And, of course, the politics around this could not be more vulgar and transparent, right?

President Trump now says on a daily basis that both President Obama and Joe Biden are guilty of a deep-state criminal plot to do something to Mike Flynn and to do something to President Trump. The president is making clear that he wants them locked up just like he wanted Hillary Clinton locked up four years ago.

He wants to imprison his immediate predecessor as president. He wanted to imprison the person he ran against for president in 2016, and he wants to imprison the person he`s going to run against for president this year in 2020.

What`s new now is that the Justice Department is helmed by Bill Barr, and so nobody knows if the Justice Department might actually try to do that. The president`s attacks calling on the imprisonment of Obama and Biden this week followed the release of audio of former President Obama speaking at a private event with members of his administration in which President Obama warned of the justice department`s intervention to drop this case involving Mike Flynn.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: That`s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic -- not just institutional norms, but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we`ve seen in other places.


MADDOW: President Obama speaking at what was a private event that was published, though, and made public, and it has become a sounding board for President Trump, who this week has continued to accuse former President Obama and former Vice President Biden of crimes, saying that he wants them locked up.

Former president Obama replied to one of those outbursts from the president today with a single one-word tweet. Simply, quote, "vote."

Hold that thought. We`ll be right back.



OBAMA: That`s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic - - not just institutional norms -- but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we`ve seen in other places.

Whenever I campaign, I`ve always said, ah, this is the most important election, especially obviously when I was on the ballot. That always feels like it`s the most important election. This one, I`m not on the ballot, but I am -- I am pretty darn invested. We got to make this happen.


MADDOW: Former President Obama on a private conference call this week talking about the Trump administration`s to drop the prosecution of Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn, warning in pretty stark terms that the Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr has put the rule of law in the United States into question, that that could accelerate quickly and that therefore the November 2020 election is, as he said, the most important we`ve ever had.

Joining us now is David Rohde. He`s executive editor of "The New Yorker" website. He`s the author of most recently, "In Deep: The FBI, The CIA, and The Truth About America`s Deep State."

David, thank you so much for taking time to be with us tonight. I really appreciate you taking the time.

DAVID ROHDE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE NEW YORKER": Thank you. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So you freaked me out today with what you wrote in "The New Yorker" about this. I know that you do not have rose-colored glasses on when it comes to Bill Barr. But when you said Barr has won, Trump has won, the post-Watergate reforms that were attended to stop presidents, attorneys general and spy chiefs from using law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political purposes have been obliterated -- you have set me back weeks in terms of figuring out how to sleep again.

You this is -- you think this is bad, and it`s done.

ROHDE: I think in terms of, you know, through the election, yes. It was sort of a wake-up call. I, you know, haven`t wanted to say that. But, you know, let`s look at what`s happened in terms of the Flynn case being dropped.

Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, sort of leaking this evidence of what he claims is there`s improper unmasking, and then his replacement, John Ratcliffe, a Trump partisan, a member of Congress, and you know, next week on Tuesday, he will be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee. So, it`s partisans running the intelligence community and the Justice Department and helping the president politically, it seems, at every turn.

MADDOW: In the past week, we have seen Bill Barr, or at least the Justice Department under Bill Barr drop that prosecution of Flynn. We don`t know how that`s going to play out in Judge Sullivan`s courtroom, but it`s already an unprecedented act given that Flynn has pled guilty.

We`ve also in a related matter, perhaps, seen Paul Manafort, the president`s campaign chairman, sprung from prison. A lot of people are getting sprung from prison right now because of the risk of coronavirus. He doesn`t seem to meet some of the criteria other people have been held up to in terms of getting out, but he`s out.

When it comes to favorable treatment of the president`s friends, I feel like we`ve got certain expectations now. I worry even more about disfavorable treatment of the president`s enemies and his threat, his insistence that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Hillary Clinton should all be imprisoned as traitors and as enemies of the country.

How much of a higher bar is there at the Justice Department toward punishing the president`s enemies rather than just rewarding people he sees as allies?

ROHDE: I hope there`s a higher bar. One of the disturbing things that Attorney General Barr also said recently is he has this ongoing investigation. It`s a sort of reversal of history. That`s an investigation of the investigators of the FBI officials who looked at the Trump/Russia connections and, you know, John Durham is the prosecutor that Barr has appointed to carry out this investigation.

And there are very strict Justice Department guidelines about not announcing the results of a criminal investigation close to an election. That happened four years ago. Jim Comey, you know, reopened the investigation of Hillary Clinton for a few days. The new evidence, these emails on a laptop didn`t prove to be new at all, but that impacted that election.

Now, Barr said he will, if he wants to, announce the results of this investigation into the FBI and their conduct towards Trump just before this election, and he says these guidelines don`t apply because Jim Comey`s not on the ballot. And it`s just, again, what struck me to write this piece, it`s just example after example of just using the Justice Department to help the president politically.

MADDOW: David Rohde, executive editor of the New, David, thank you for being here tonight. You have not made me feel any better even if you have made me smarter in talking about it. Thank you, my friend. It`s good to see you. I appreciate it.

We`ll be right back tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Thanks for being with us tonight. I will see you again on Monday. But now it`s time for a special hour here on MSNBC. "Life in the Time of Coronavirus", which is hosted by Dr. Zeke Emanuel and our own Ali Velshi.

Good evening, Ali.

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