COVID-19 cases TRANSCRIPT: 5/18/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Amesh Adalja, Chris Murphy

BHARAT RAMAMURTI, CARES ACT OVERSIGHT COMMISSION MEMBER: And if you look at the data from that day, some of the biggest movers in the corporate fund index were oil and gas companies, that stood to benefit from the changes that the Fed had made.

So I think they`re getting support from basically every different angle in this bill.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. Bharat Ramamurti, one of the few people sort of on the case on this, thank you so much for sharing your expertise tonight.

RAMAMURTI: Thank you.

HAYES: 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 to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here. Happy Monday.

One week from today is Memorial Day. Weekdays, versus weekends is a distinction that`s kind of losing its difference right now, I know. Holidays versus non-holiday work days is also a divide that is getting a little bit fuzzy.

But even still, even in this new weird reality that we are living in, where it is hard to tell the days from one another, Memorial Day is still a big deal. It`s one of the most important days on the American calendar. It`s one we remember Americans who have given their lives fighting for this country. It is always a big deal.

This year, it will be even more somber than usual, with over 90,000 Americans killed over the past two and a half months by the coronavirus. With over 1.5 million Americans infected with the virus. But Memorial Day, this year, again, one week from today, is also going to be more notable than normal this year, because Memorial Day this year is also the day by which Vice President Pence said this whole thing, this whole epidemic, was going to be over, done and dusted in the United States.

Vice President Pence is, of course, not just the vice president, he is the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, even as he went to the Mayo Clinic and talked to coronavirus patients, while not wearing a mask, even when he caused all of the senior political leadership of the state of Iowa to have to go into quarantine, after he visited with them, with no mask and no gloves, literally hours after one of his top staffers tested positive. Despite all of the stuff he has done, in public, Vice President Pence nevertheless gets credited with being less -- than the president, when it comes to the epidemic.

But I think his reputation should be constantly revised because for one thing, I mean here he is, announcing on the Geraldo Rivera radio show that by Memorial Day this year, by a week from today, this will be done and should be all wrapped up by this time next week.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think honestly, if you look at the trends today, that I think by Memorial Day weekend, we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.

GERALDO RIVERA, "GERALDO IN CLEVELAND", WTAM 1100: Well, from your lips to God`s ears.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Your lips to God`s ears, Mr. Vice President. I think honestly if you look at the trends, I think by Memorial Day weekend, we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.

Wouldn`t that be awesome if this thing was going to be over next week?

This thing is not going to be over next week. I mean, as ridiculous as that is, though, coming from the vice president, while he is running the coronavirus task force for the White House, that thinking, and that specificity about when it`s going to be over by turns out to be kind of an important piece of the puzzle in terms of us figuring out, us understanding why our national response to the epidemic, has been so terrible over time.

I mean look, here`s a really simple way to look at what`s going on with us as a country right now. This is total deaths from coronavirus in our country, over time, in the United States. The red line there is the deaths just in the tri-state area. So that`s New York, New Jersey, Connecticut.

New York, as you know, is the initial major epicenter, the tri-state area, just got walloped, that tri-state region, dominated in depths with the initial weeks of the epidemic. So, that tri-state area, that`s the red line you see there, you its shape, sort of flattening out.

The blue line there is the deaths from coronavirus in the rest of the country, which surpassed the tri-state area about a week ago, and is still just climbing on up.

So what this, this is a very simple idea, right? But what this is showing is that the worst, the first worst-hit areas in the country, are finally starting to get better. But the rest of the country now is not only catching up to how bad those first three states were, the rest of the country is now getting inexorably worse. It`s even easier to see when you don`t look at total deaths, but you instead look at total cases. And again, here, the red line is the tri-state area, that`s New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and the other line, the blue line, is the whole rest of the country, other than those three states.

And you see the tri-state area, flattening out, as they start to get a handle on their epidemic, and the rest of the country is just a ramp straight up. This is what`s going on in our country right now. One epidemic is finally flattening and waning, in the first hardest hit part of the country and the rest the country is going great guns. Not letting up at all. That`s not the kind of graph, that`s not the kind of growth you would want or expect to see in a country where people are being told to open up, it`s all behind us, everything`s fine.

Here`s another look at the same situation. This is the list of where the outbreak is worst now, which is something that "The New York Times" is tracking on a daily basis. This is new cases per capita over the past two weeks.

This is the same portrait of the same country painted a different way. Number five, where the outbreak is worse now, new cases of the last two weeks, number five worst is Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Number four worst is Saint Cloud, Minnesota. Number three worst is Amarillo Texas. Number two worst is Sioux City, Iowa. The number one worst place in the country in terms of where the outbreak is the worst right now is Gallup, New Mexico.

Next Mexico, Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, Arkansas, I mean, that`s where the numbers are worse in terms of the case numbers piling up over the past two weeks, a whole swath of the country. That`s not what one place where it`s bad and everybody else is all right. That`s the whole country, right?

You can also look at where the case numbers are growing the fastest right now, and it`s a similar portrait. The top five there is Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, North Carolina, and then Texas again. I mean, if the epidemic is bad and worsening, the fastest, in all of these heartland places, right, growing this fast in all of these heartland and southern towns, why is there all of this political pressure that now is the time to open up, particularly in Republican-controlled states?

Well, it doesn`t come from nowhere. It comes from a very specific place in Washington. It comes from a specific kind of magical thinking that we`ve had out of Trump White House which is traceable to a very specific decision that they made. And that is what it has brought us to this weird place, where Vice President Pence is fantasizing out loud on the radio with Geraldo Rivera, that by this time next week, this whole thing will in be the rearview mirror and we will be looking back on all of this and laughing, right?

This is what`s brought us to the point where the president has been saying, it`s all just going to go away, right away, like magic and we don`t even need a vaccine, because by the time we have a vaccine, it will all be gone by them. Why are the president and vice president saying those things? Why are they telling everybody to open up in the country as if our curves are the opposite of what they actually are?

Well, this has sort of been hiding in plain sight. The "Washington Post" reported this out at the beginning of this month and we are now seeing it come to fruition, as the deadlines set by the White House, from their magical thinking that they`ve been working on for the past month, have now started to come to pass.

This is from the "Washington Post," just a couple of weeks ago. Quote: The epidemiological models under review in the White House Situation Room in late March were bracing. In a best case scenario, it showed the novel coronavirus was likely to kill more than 100,000 Americans. President Trump was apprehensive about so much carnage on his watch, yet also impatient to reopen the economy and he wanted data to justify doing so.

So the White House considered its own analysis. A small team led by Kevin Hassett, former chairman of Trump`s Council on Economic Advisers, with no background in infectious diseases, quietly built an econometric model to guide response operations. Quote: White House aides interpreted the analysis as predicting that the daily death count would peak in mid April before dropping off substantially, and that there would be far fewer fatalities than initially foreseen. This model was embraced inside the West Wing by the president`s son-in-law Jared Kushner and other powerful aides helping to oversee the government`s pandemic response.

The model affirmed their own skepticism about the severity of the virus and bolstered their case to shift the focus to the economy, which they firmly believed would determine whether Trump wins a second term. By the end of April, though, with more Americans dying in that one month than in all of the Vietnam War, it became clear that the Kevin Hassett, econometric model was too good to be true. The former senior administration official briefed on the data described it as, quote, a catastrophic miss.

The president`s course, however, would not be changed. Trump and Kushner nevertheless began to declare a great victory against the virus, while urging America to start reopening businesses and schools.

They didn`t like the real models. And so they invented their own model inside the Trump White House about a month ago. And that model from a White House economist, with no background whatsoever in health, let alone infectious disease, told them that this thing was soon to be done, it was going to be over. What did they call it, they called it an econometric model, created by Kevin Hassett, this economist with no background in infectious diseases. That was "The Washington Post" on May 2nd.

Two days later, White House officials gave this model a name. Quote: White House officials have been relying on models, including a, quote, cubic model prepared by Trump adviser and economist Kevin Hassett and the Council of Economic Advisers.

What is this cubic model that is telling them we should get the whole country open right away because this whole thing is going away magically on its own, and soon. It will be in our rearview -- it will be in the rearview mirror by the time we get to Memorial Day? What is this cubic model? Nobody really knows, but "The Washington Post" did get multiple White House sources to tell them what the model said.

Quote: The model shows deaths dropping precipitously in May and essentially going to zero by May 15th. Zero deaths by May 15th. May 15th was this past Friday, three days ago. American deaths from coronavirus did not go to zero by May 15th.

Why are they calling this a cubic model? Why did the White House decide this was the model they were going to follow? That seems obvious. What is a cubic model? Where did they get this? Nobody really knows.

A cubic function is a mathematical concept that has nothing to do with how viruses work or contagion works. It is a sort of a math way to put a meaningless line on a bunch of numbers on a graph that makes the numbers look like they will drop to zero or less than zero right after they peak. You can do that, you can draw a line like that, on any amount of data, on an excel spreadsheet, without having any understanding of infectious diseases or contagion whatsoever.

And I`m sure it`s very comforting if you decide to believe that line is a real thing. But that line isn`t a real thing. It`s just a thing you can put on a graph.

Kevin Hassett and the Council of Economic Advisers eventually tweeted out this sharpie. Look at this. This isn`t somebody else drawing on it. This is actually what they tweeted out this. This sharpie-looking thing, to defend how rigorous their model was.

But this is their model created by an economist that the White House used to base decisions on reopening around the country. But it is literally just a thing they made up about what they hoped might happen with the epidemic that has nothing to do with real epidemiology. It said the deaths would be zero by May 15th. And so they cranked to get the whole country open, to take advantage of the fact that deaths would be zero.

Jason Furman was chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. He said in response to this, from the Trump White House, quote: This might be the lowest point in the 74-year history of the Council of Economic Advisers. The stakes on the epidemiological questions are so high, that this utterly superficial and misleading modeling has no place whatsoever in any discussion of the government`s response.

He continued, quote: Faux expertise is even worse than ignorance. To the degree that this crowded out input from genuine experts and confused other participants into thinking that the Council of Economic Advisers or other economists had any sort of real or valid model of the epidemic, it is really and truly terrible.

But here we are, in the world created to some degree by policies, pushed by a White House that decided to believe this model that they invented out of whole cloth. Here we are, three days after the White House`s imaginary model made by their economist friend, said that U.S. deaths would be at zero, and, of course, U.S. deaths are not as zero.

We have the biggest coronavirus epidemic in the world. U.S. deaths continue their inexorable climb up over 90,000 at this point. The only question right now, in terms of the milestones here is whether we are going to hit 100,000 dead Americans by the beginning of next month or are we going to hit it sooner.

But policy in the United States, policy from the White House, policy aped and praised particularly by Republican governors around the country, was created at the White House, on the basis of that deaths will go to zero fantasy, and it really did lead the head of the government`s coronavirus task force to say on the radio that this thing would be done and over by this time next week, it will be in our rearview mirror. And it really has driven the national led presidential imperative to open things back up, don`t believe your lying eyes, the deaths are about to go to zero, anybody who says otherwise is just a Democrat.

So we`re opening up, all over the country. And you know, this isn`t a national story, because these deaths happen in local places, and governors are being responsible for what their policies are going to be state by state, to a certain degree. But as we open up, as the imperative to open up is led from the White House every day, every day, all over the country, this are stories like this one, you know, as Texas reopens, coronavirus cases are increasing while testing misses benchmarks. Minnesota`s case numbers, deaths rise as stay-at-home order ends.

This from Arkansas. With 130 new COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday, Arkansas saw one of its biggest jumps in confirmed cases since the virus reached the state in March. Arkansas businesses began to reopen under lighter COVID-19 restrictions last week.

It is understandable to want this thing to be over, but just proclaiming it so doesn`t get you there. You know, there`s, you know, there`s obviously still a lot going on every day, some of it still harder to believe than is comfortable for this far into this epidemic. Today, a "Reuters" investigation showed that the CDC`s national numbers on coronavirus cases in jails and prisons, the CDC numbers are dramatically, dramatically wrong, dramatically way too low. CDC official numbers on infections in meatpacking plants, also appear to be dramatically wrong, dramatically low.

And CDC numbers on testing in this country appear to be dramatically wrong. The CDC has now started posting national numbers on testing that happen to vary wildly, and radically, in an unpredictable ways from the numbers that you can get from the 50 states.

The CDC has got bad numbers on meatpacking plants, on jail and prisons, on testing overall. That`s bad. The CDC is the public health gold standard in our country. They used to be the gold standard for public health worldwide. But if all their numbers writ large and writ small are garbage, that is going to be bad not only for now in terms of making decisions but for the long run in terms of how this thing is handled and who is held accountable.

Today, also, the president announced somewhat blithely, somewhat gleam in his eye he is taking personally this unproven malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine as well as zinc. He say he is taking it because a doctor wrote him a letter and the doctor who wrote him a letter told him it really works. And so, the president is taking that now.

At least he says he is, and the White House today is affirming that the president really is taking that now, even after multiple studies were stopped because of danger to patients taking it, and no provable benefit to patients taking it. Even after the FDA, the actual FDA formally cautioned quote against use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or clinical trial due to the risk of heart rhythm problems.

Tell me now from the president`s meager health history that he`s got some heart issues, so now he`s just taking drugs that are off-label and unproven for coronavirus that he says he doesn`t have, despite the fact that one of its known complications is heart trouble? And the White House medical office is saying, oh, he said he wanted to, and the president is kind of advertising this as his approach though this public health crisis now?

We also got intriguing news, worrying news today, that a number of sailors on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, sailors who had had coronavirus, who had been tested positive and recovered from it, they all initially tested positive and they each tested negative at least twice, a number of those sailors, more than a dozen of them, had now tested positive again, even though they tested negative twice, before. Positive, and then negative, making it seem like they had it and they cleared it and now they`ve got it again.

That raises a whole bunch of different worrying questions about, you know, the testing, for one, is the testing showing false positives, or false negatives, but if the testing is all right, then there`s also the worrying prospect that this might mean that people who got coronavirus once before, might be re-infectible, so they could get it again, despite all of the hopes that we have that at least being infected with it once might render you at least somewhat immune to being able to get it again.

So there`s a lot going on. We`re going to get some expert advice on some of these questions and worries in just a moment.

But big picture, the more we understand about what is going on in our country, I know it sucks to hear it, forgive me, but things really aren`t getting better. We do have the worst epidemic in the world. And yes, the tri-state area, that got it initially, they have started to bend that curve down, and there are a few isolated states that have started to bend that curve down, but by and large, writ large, big picture, outside of that tri- state area, the country`s epidemic is getting worse.

And it`s getting worse, not on the coasts, it`s getting worse not in the biggest cities in the country, it`s getting worse all over the heartland of America. And that`s real. A couple of weeks ago, we showed you this photo, which we received from the daughter of this woman, her name is Tin Aye, she worked for 12 years at the JBS beef plant in Greeley, Colorado.

Ms. Aye is 60 years old. Her family says she felt ill at work. She went to the on-site clinic at JBS. They told her she was fine, to stay at work, she tried to do so but then ultimately, she had to go home and she ended up checking herself into the hospital. She ended up on a ventilator. Yesterday, Ms. Aye became the eighth worker from JBS in Greeley to die from coronavirus.

Her daughter gave birth to Ms. Aye`s first grandson just as Tin went into the hospital. She was never able to spend time with her first grandson before she died.

Her son is a lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps. He is deployed right now in the Pacific. He was not able to come home and see his mother before she died.

The Greeley, Colorado, beef plant, where Ms. Aye apparently contracted the virus that has now killed her, and where these seven people have -- seven additional workers have now died, you might remember that that is the plant that promised that they would test all of their workers before they reopened. They shut down, and they had a major outbreak, Vice President Pence talked about them from the White House, they said they were going to get testing for all of their team members before they reopened the plant.

And then something happened with the JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado. And they went back on those promises. And they decided to reopen without testing everyone.

Well, tonight, we can report that what they`re doing at JBS is that they are screening their workers now for symptoms. They`re giving their workers instructions that they shouldn`t work if they don`t feel well. And it`s true. Nobody should be going to work if they don`t feel well. But that also shouldn`t count as screening workers for coronavirus before they go into that plant.

Given the hundreds and thousands of cases we`ve had in meatpacking plants, screening workers at those plants for fever, before they go in, isn`t going to help keep the virus out of those plants. You can have coronavirus and infectious to others with zero symptom, including zero fever and even in that place where they have had all of those workers killed, they are screening for symptoms and otherwise come on in.

We can also report tonight, that according to two sources, the huge Smithfield meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, they have also made testing available to their workers. They have encouraged their workers to get tested. But workers at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that has given rise to a good-sized outbreak, more than 2,000 cases attributable to that outbreak there as of weeks ago, we can report tonight that workers at that Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls now that the plant is reopened, they are told to report to work and get on the line, start working inside that plant, while they wait for their test results.

So they`re being encouraged to be tested, right, they`re getting tested, but before they know if they`re positive or not, they are going into the plant starting to work. And the result there we have on authority from two sources is that the workers at that plant in Sioux Falls are getting positive test results while at work and only then are they being sent home.

Like I said, there are is over 1,300 positive cases associated with workers at that plant already. They`re telling people to go in and get swabbed and get tested and get on the line and go to work.

The science is getting further from our national response over time. The science and our policy responses, both when it comes to individual workplaces, and when it comes to our national policies, the science and what we`re doing are divorcing further every day. The chasm is getting wider. As the epidemic gets worse, you would at least hope that the scientific foundation of our actions would become more solid. Instead, it is becoming thinner and thinner and thinner and weaker and dumber with each passing day.

We`re going to take that on here directly next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In our new coronavirus world, a temperature check may soon be the way you`re allowed to get on an airplane in the United States. "The Wall Street Journal" today reporting that TSA may start temperature screenings in U.S. airports before people are allowed to board flights, which is something.

But in terms of the science of this, since people can still be infectious to others without having a fever, without having any symptoms, is that actually a good idea in U.S. airports? But it`s not just something that is maybe starting at airports. Being screened for fever is now also how you get put back on the factory line or not at some of the big meatpacking plants in this country, including one with a huge outbreak and now eight workers dead in Greeley, Colorado.

In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the union tells us they have had 1,300 positive tests among workers at that plant so far. Smithfield, South Dakota, meatpacking plant. Excuse me. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Smithfield meatpacking plant.

At that plant, they are testing asymptomatic workers but the union says workers without symptoms are sent to work while they are waiting for their test results, which means some of them are going into work, awaiting their positive test results, potentially spreading the virus without knowing it, inside a plant where we know it is almost uncontrollable.

Initially, relying on symptoms, as a way to find this virus, might have made sense, before we really understood more about the virus`s dynamics. But now, that we know that huge numbers of people can be positive, and infectious, with no fever and no symptoms, why are we still doing that? Why would we be starting to do that on a broader scale now?

And what about places that are finding outbreaks of the virus but officials are not reporting it? So the public doesn`t know?

In Arizona, for example, they`re not reporting where nursing home outbreaks are in Arizona, because the governor says it would be bad for business to report where outbreaks are in individual nursing homes. Bad for business? How good is it for business for everybody to know?

In Iowa, they`re not reporting outbreaks at any workplaces, including meat packing plants, until 10 percent or more of the work force there is infected. Isn`t that backwards? Why would you do that? Why would you wait for the problem to get that big, before you told anyone? Instead of trying to get on it, when it was still potentially a manageable problem.

The longer we coexist with this virus, the more we learn. And sometimes the more we realize we don`t know. How can we make the best use of the lessons we have learned? Are there simple steps would he can take to make big gains? Is our policy keeping pace with what we are learning about the virus? Or is my perception correct that actually the science and our policy is diverging more, even now, than it was in the early days?

Joining us now is Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

Dr. Adalja, thank you so much for talking to us tonight. I really appreciate you being here.

DR. AMESH ADALJA, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY, SENIOR SCHOLAR: Sure, thanks for having me.

MADDOW; First, let me just ask you, if anything that I have said thus far strikes you as wrong or backwards, or if I`m already asking dumb questions?

ADALJA: No, I definitely think the points you made about not notifying which nursing homes have outbreaks, which workplaces have outbreak, that is the exact opposite of what you want to do in an infectious disease emergency. You want full transparency. You want the public to be completely informed so they can take the best action and that is definitely something we need to emphasize.

The other points you made about fever screening being not this panacea, that again is something I completely agree with.

MADDOW: In terms of a fever screening, I feel like when we saw initial reports that companies like Walmart, or other large companies, were going to start fever screening for their employees, it seemed like the first initial sense that a big organization with a lot of equity for this crisis, was at least starting to take seriously, the possibility of their employees were going to be bringing it into the workplace. Now that we`ve learned so much about asymptomatic transmission, and just the number of people who can be, the proportion of people who can be positive while asymptomatic, it`s made me rethink whether or not those were good moves initially.

It`s made me worry that maybe fever screening is a kind of security feeder that makes people feel more confident than they should, as if it were a real screening when it`s really not.

ADALJA: That is definitely true about fever screening because there are many people who don`t have fevers, so people can take Tylenol or ibuprofen and that can suppress the fever. There are airports around the country, even in a non-pandemic time, not in the country, other countries, that have done fever screening and haven`t gotten much value from it. So, that`s not something I technically recommend as one -- as a sole, standalone type of thing.

You really have to -- if you are going to be screened, you really have to think about all of the other symptoms. Do you have a fever -- not just do you have a fever, sore throat, cough, muscle aches and pain, shortness of breath, all of those types of things are what you have to use when you`re screening. That`s what many hospitals do.

The question about asymptomatic transmission that`s still very controversial. We still don`t know what the context is when asymptomatic transmission occurs. We know what happens in households. We know there have been reports about it, but we still don`t know how common it is. We know it does occur and it`s something that we -- a scientific question we have to answer about asymptomatic transmission when you start thinking about how to screen people going back to work in meat packing plants, for example, in hospital, other places like that.

MADDOW: Does it make sense, from a medical perspective, scientific perspective, for people who work in high risk environments, like a meat packing plant, to be tested and then to be told to go to work on the line, to go into the factory, and start working, while they are awaiting their test results?

ADALJA: No, we know that meatpacking plants are a place where it`s a congregate setting, it`s indoor, we`ve seen explosive outbreaks in meatpacking plants, often rural areas which can easily in inundate a hospital where the contact tracers, the health department. So we want to make sure that those places are safe, so if you`re giving a test, you probably have that person stay away from the plant until you get the result back and then let them -- then let them work. That`s the only reason -- that`s the only way that the testing actually makes sense, because of what might happen, in a place where you can`t social distance.

MADDOW: Dr. Adalja, let me just ask you one last question about something that I find both concerning and really intriguing in the news over the past few days and it is this news that first it was five and then it was eight and now it is apparently 13 sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt who tested positive, who were believed to have recovered, all of these sailors reportedly had at least two negative tests, after initially having had a positive test, but now, these sailors have tested positive again.

Looking at that, do you think that is probably an artifact of the testing, not being that great, and so maybe we had false negatives or false positives? Or is this potentially a window into the prospect that people can be re-infected after they`ve cleared the virus and recovered from an initial infection?

ADALJA: My best analysis of this is probably a testing artifact. We know that people can toggle between positive and negative when they`re near the limit of detection. We know that people can cough up, or have remnants of the virus that can be detected by the test. So I would want to know a lot more about these cases.

But there`s no strong evidence that you can be reinfected in the short period of time after infection. We`ve seen this in South Korea, where they actually were able to cultivate the virus and they couldn`t actually grow it. So, it may be noninfectious and the test toggling between positive and negative because of the viral degree. At least that is what we hope and I think that`s what most evidence points to.

MADDOW: Dr. Amesh Adalja from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security -- thank you for helping us put some facts on those news stories today. I feel like the scientific basis of a lot of what we are talking about and deciding as a country right now is getting really wobbly. It`s helpful to be able to go to you for expert advice. Thanks.

ADALJA: Thank you.

MADDOW: Much more news ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: One early sign that something might be off about Mike Pompeo`s use of government resources was just about a year not Trump administration when he was still director of the CIA, "The Washington Post" and then CNN reported that Mr. Pompeo`s wife, for some reason, had set up what amounted to her own office in the director`s suite at CIA headquarters as well as a support staff of CIA employees to assist her.

To be clear, Mike Pompeo`s wife did not work for the CIA. She was just wife of the CIA director. But that apparently got her, her own CIA office, and her own support staff, of CIA employees.

Then, after Director Pompeo left the CIA, and moved on to become secretary of state, he very quickly managed to tick off a bunch of people there. His new job as well, when in the middle of a U.S. government shutdown, that forced many State Department employees to work without pay, Mr. Pompeo brought his wife on a tax-payer funded eight-day trip across the Middle East.

State Department sources told CNN that at each of the stops on that trip, Mrs. Pompeo had her own staff and her own security personnel. A taxpayer- funded entourage for the second`s spouse, the entourage was at one point tasked with taking Mrs. Pompeo to a local market to go shopping with her.

But it wasn`t just international trips. Secretary of state and his wife made frequent trips to the home state of Kansas last year, using State Department funds and aircraft, as Mr. Pompeo reportedly considered a U.S. Senate run in Kansas. The State Department does have a lot of far corner responsibility, not a lot of them are in Kansas.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee formally called for an investigation into whether Secretary Pompeo was violating the Hatch Act, which says you can`t use your official taxpayer-funded government position to, you know, run a stealth Senate campaign for yourself. But it is just, it has just kept devolving over time.

Who can forget, for example, the whistle-blower who came forward who alleged the Pompeos were using their taxpayer funded diplomatic security agents to pick up their dog from the groomer and to go collect their Chinese food for dinner. CNN reported, quote, prompted agents to lament that they are at times viewed as Uber Eats with guns. Not to mention the full-time security detail for Mrs. Pompeo which agents were allegedly told to keep secret.

Immediately after President Trump fired the State Department`s inspector general, late on Friday night, right after we got off the air, we learned two things in rapid succession. One is that mike Pompeo had personally asked Trump to fire the inspector general for the state department. And two, we learned that that inspector general was in the midst of investigating Mike Pompeo, over some of these allegations of misusing government funds, and resources, and personnel, for his own personal and family needs.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said exclusively this weekend that it is their understanding that Secretary Pompeo asked for the inspector general to be fired because the inspector general was investigating him personally.

That guy`s investigating me, all right, well that guy`s got to be fired, right? That is just about as bad as it gets in terms of bad governance, right? No. No, it`s just scratching the surface. It gets much worse.

Hold that thought.

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MADDOW: When the State Department inspector general was abruptly fired late on Friday night, the fourth inspector general to be fired in six weeks, we already knew that he had reportedly been investigating allegations that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been doing things like making State Department staffers walk his dog, and pick up his dry cleaning, and get his Chinese food for dinner. That`s an investigation we knew about already.

This morning, we woke to news of another potentially more concerning investigation, that that same I.G. had reportedly been working on as well.

"The Washington Post" was first to report that at the time of his firing, the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick had almost finished an investigation into whether Pompeo had illegally approved billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi arms sale was pushed through by Pompeo last year, over the bipartisan objections of Congress. He used a somewhat dubious emergency declaration in order to do it.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress wanted to block that arms sale because, among other things, the Saudi regime being implicated in the murder of a U.S.-based journalist named Jamal Khashoggi. So, Congress wanted to block it. They didn`t want to sell the Saudis billions of dollars worth of weapons.

But this emergency declaration was invoked by Pompeo to say, well, Congress, you can`t block it even if you want to, I`m going to go ahead with it without even notifying you.

So, the I.G. was reportedly looking into that as well. And we don`t know if that investigation into the Saudi armed sales was the reason that inspector general got unceremoniously fired late on Friday.

But we did learn today that Secretary of State Pompeo refused to sit for an interview as part of that I.G. investigation, and Secretary of State Pompeo did admit in an interview today that, yes, he`s the one who told President Trump to fire that inspector general. He says he was unaware that the I.G. was investigating him, but how plausible is that?

And if this new angle on billions of dollars in Saudi arm sales, if that did play a role in his firing, what does that mean that Congress might do next here?

Joining us now is Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sir, it`s great to see you. Thank you very much for joining us.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: First of all, let me ask you if I`ve explained that in a way that comports with your understanding or if I`ve left anything important out in terms of what we know about the firing of this I.G.?

MURPHY: Yes, listen, I mean, Mike Pompeo using taxpayer-funded assistance to pick up his dry cleaning probably is fairly middling in the hierarchy of Trump administration scandals but it speaks to this broader ethos inside the State Department which they, you know, just don`t believe that the rules apply to them.

And the other revelation that you described speaks to that trend line. This was last year when the State Department decided to declare an emergency so that they could sell weapons to the Saudis that didn`t have to go through a congressional approval process.

The problem was there was no emergency. They claimed it was general Iranian threats but the Iranians are always threatening the United States and our interests. And so, there was no particular emergency that required them to go around Congress.

It was just that the weapons sales were becoming increasingly hard to defend, especially when they were being used to bomb innocent Yemenis and cause more space to be created inside that country for really bad groups like al Qaeda and ISIS.

And so, at the time, we wonder whether the real reason that they were declaring this emergency was simply to avoid embarrassment. Of course, that`s not allowed by the statutes that they are subject to for arms sales and now, it is possible that the inspector general was maybe going to come to that same conclusion, and it might have been part of the reason that he is no longer the inspector general.

MADDOW: We have seen the State Department inspector general fired under these circumstances. It is remarkable to have the secretary of state saying, yes, I`m the one who told the president to get him out of there. We`ve also seen the Defense Department inspector general, the intelligence community inspector general, the HHS inspector general, all fired, all sort of Friday night news dumps, trying to keep it out of the news cycle and in pretty quick succession.

Is the president in -- with this -- the series of firings, is he violating not just the spirit but the letter of the law in terms of how these things are supposed to be handled? Isn`t he at least supposed to notify Congress of why he`s doing it if he does want to fire some of these folks?

MURPHY: Well, not only is he required to notify Congress why he`s doing it, he`s required to give 30 days notice so there can be action taken by Congress to protect some of these inspectors general.

Listen, you know, democracies don`t tend to hang around as long as ours has and it`s because, you know, it`s completely natural for human beings to try to accumulate as much power as possible. And so, over the years, as the bureaucracy around presidents have gotten bigger and bigger, we`ve developed some additional checks beyond those that are in the Constitution. One of them are inspectors general, because, you know, Congress just can`t see everything that`s happening in multibillion dollar departments like the State Department.

And so, as much as Trump has taken, you know, an assault on the constitutional checks on his power, he is now also taking these pot shots at the statutory checks on his power like inspectors general. And I just don`t have the ability to see wrongdoing given how big and how cumbersome and complicated the State Department is without an inspector general there. And that`s why this is worrying.

The eyes of Congress just are not good enough to see what`s happening inside the administration without independent I.G.s.

MADDOW: We have seen a few, a small number of your Republican colleagues in the Senate express some discomfort with what the president has done here and specifically with firing this State Department I.G., Mr. Linick.

Do you think that the concern is bipartisan enough in the Republican controlled Senate that we might see him testifying in the Senate about his work and the circumstances of his firing? Do you think that the Republican- controlled Senate will do anything to try to stop what the president is doing here and also, to get to the bottom of what this firing might have been trying to cover up?

MURPHY: No. No, they won`t. Listen, they`re fantastic Republicans in the Senate at expressing alarm and concern. Occasionally, they even send a letter in which they put on the record their alarm and concern. What they`re really bad at is actually doing anything to stop this president.

Listen, ultimately, this is all about an election in November. If you really care about stopping the president from removing the checks on his power, then you have to put in charge of the Senate, people who are going to actually do something about it, not just occasionally send out a statement or send a letter.

I reserve the right to be monumentally surprised by Republican colleagues but I have literally been part of this script about 1,000 times in the last three years, and I think, once again, they`re going to let the president get away with murder.

MADDOW: Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, Foreign Relations Committee -- sir, it`s always a pleasure to have you here. Thanks very much for being with us.

MURPHY: Thanks.

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

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MADDOW: One quick programming for you tonight -- you need to stay right where you are. Among the guests joining Lawrence O`Donnell in the next hour on MSNBC is Senator Amy Klobuchar. That is coming right up.

That`s going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

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