IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Navajo nation TRANSCRIPT: 5/20/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Michelle Lujan Grisham, Bruce Weniger

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris. That was a little weird.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Just saying, I`m just saying it`s another day in quarantine, and it`s another 9:00 p.m., and here we find ourselves again.


MADDOW:  Like 9:00 on the nose.

Thank you very much, friend. Artfully done, and gymnastically done, in this case, as always. Much appreciated.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well. We`re happy to have you with us on this Wednesday night. When President Trump was impeached in December, oh, my god that was only December, you might remember that one of the impeachment hearings that the Judiciary Committee held was one where they heard from a panel of constitutional scholars about the legal threshold for impeachment, and how members of Congress should understand the seriousness of the president`s behavior, in light of what the Founders meant, and what they wrote, when they wrote impeachment into our constitutional system of government.

One of the scholars that Congress heard from in those hearings is Pam Karlan, Professor Pam Karlan, as a sort of legal superstar from Stanford Law School. Little to be known at the time that Professor Pam Karlan from Stanford Law School is also a person who could see very clearly six months into the future, to predict for us, at that impeachment hearing, the news that would happen today, in the middle of this epidemic.


PAMELA KARLAN, STANFORD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR:  The list of impeachable offenses that framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president`s decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends. Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that`s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding, what would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid, that Congress has provided for, what would you think, if that president said, I would like to do you, I would like you to do us a favor, I`ll meet with you, and I`ll send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal?

Wouldn`t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office, that he betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process? I believe that that the evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on that scale here.


MADDOW:  Professor Pam Karlan, in the impeachment hearings for President Trump, reaching there, for a hypothetical example of presidential abuse of power, so obvious, so outrageous, so clearly wrong to any observer, that this hypothetical would clarify the nature of the impeachment allegations the president was facing. What would you think if the president wouldn`t send disaster relief to a state unless that state took an action that would help him win re-election in that state? Can`t we all agree that such an outrageous hypothetical would be a clear instance of presidential wrongdoing? Wouldn`t that be just outrageous?

Well, no, apparently, that would just be a Wednesday, six months later, in the Trump presidency, in the middle of this disaster. Because today, President Trump really did threaten the state of Michigan that he would hold up funding to the state unless that state stopped preparations to vote by mail in the next election, because the president has decided he doesn`t like people being able to vote by mail. He randomly calls voting by mail illegal, said it is illegal for Michigan to send out absentee ballot applications to voters.

It`s not at all illegal. But after declaring it illegal, the president then says he will cut off Michigan`s federal funding if they could doing it.

It should be noted that this happened today, on a day when not only is Michigan dealing with one of the worst death tolls in the country, in the coronavirus catastrophe right now, they are also dealing, since yesterday, with catastrophic flooding in the central part of the state. So shame about what`s happening in your state, make it harder for people to vote in the next election, or I`ll cut off all federal funds that you`re getting.

Soon thereafter, the president also accused the state of Nevada of acting in some mysteriously illegal fashion, by also planning vote by mail options for the next election. The president also threatened to cut off their federal funding unless they stopped making those plans. And it is not a mystery as to why this is happening, right? The president believes that if too many people vote, that will disadvantage him, in his re-election efforts, so he is threatening states to make it harder to vote, or else, they will get their disaster funds cut off, in the middle of the pandemic.

I would usually at this point say you can`t make this stuff up. But Professor Pam Karlan from Stanford Law School literally made this exact thing up as a hypothetical to try to explain the cartoonishly evil nature of the president`s alleged crimes in the impeachment scandal, tried to explain to the country the risk of not removing a president from office, who has shown that he`ll use the power of the government office he holds to try to rig his re-election effort.


KARLAN:  What you would think if you lived there, and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for, what would you think if that president said, I would like to do you -- I would like you to do us a favor? Wouldn`t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office? That he betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process?


MADDOW:  Yes, we do know that in our gut. We do know that in our gut. But apparently, we just live with that kind of stuff happening right out in the open now.

You can see, actually, when he tweeted these things today, he tagged the secretary of the treasury, and he tagged the guy who runs the Budget Office, in the White House, that`s to make sure the threat to cut off funds is really unsubtle. It really puts some teeth in that threat. Professor Pam Karlan speaking six months ago, warning us of this in a hypothetical designed to portray cartoonishly evil and impeachable behavior by a president, and then he just lives up to it.

The president is due to go to the state of Michigan tomorrow. He wants to show off the fact that U.S. auto companies have reopened some of their production plants as of this week. He`s due to visit a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, tomorrow, and while there`s been a lot attention today as to whether or not the president will wear a mask on that visit, because that`s required of everybody who was on that plant.

Perhaps more substantively, it should be noted that as excited the president is to basically proclaim the epidemic over and to insist that everybody must be open back up, and that`s part of the reason for this visit to Michigan tomorrow, while he is taking the victory lap, look, the plant is opened. Ford has already just since Monday of this week had to reclose two of the plants that they just reopened, because of coronavirus cases among the workers there, once they reopened. They had to reclose this week, a plant in Chicago, and they have had to reclose a plant in Dearborn, Michigan after reopening.

And that sort of thing is happening now, in states that are reopening all over and it is not only in workplaces. Big workplaces like those auto plants. It is also happening in places like church, too. "The Washington Post" today profiling two churches, one in Georgia, one in Houston, Texas, that were happy to open back up, everything`s fine, things in the past now, let`s start holding services again.

But now, after doing that, they have closed their doors once again, because families who attended services at the church ended up contracting the virus. Two priests who conducted services contracted the virus. One priest died.

Speaking of Texas, this was a protest outside a meat processing plant last night in Dallas. These are former workers from the quality sausage plant in Dallas, Texas, also, family members of at least one worker of the plant who died from coronavirus.

"The Fort Worth Star Telegram" covered that protest last night, and posted this today.


CARLOS QUINTANILLA, ACTIVIST:  They have to come in because they`re being called every day, that they got to produce, so that the American public can have meat on their tables. But yet, the American public has abandoned the immigrant community that is dying to maintain the food supply for America.


MADDOW:  This one plant in Dallas, the sausage plant in Dallas is believed to have had three of its workers die from the coronavirus, and 63 other known cases among workers at the plant. But that`s an estimate. That`s just an unofficial count from activists representing the families of people who have died there. There is no official count. Either from the plant, or from Dallas County, or from the state of Texas, and apparently, there`s no plans to make that information available at all.

Now, yesterday, this is interesting, the president was asked directly about these ongoing large outbreaks and meat processing plants around the country, despite his executive order telling all these plants to reopen. The president responded to that question, with a veritable pooh-pooh platter of assorted made-up announcements about meat processing plants.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They have a -- they had a disproportionately high number of people that had the problem and that`s going away, the plants are very, very clean now. They`re getting to a level where I think we had, a report that they`re cleaner than they`ve ever been. That`s a good report. I don`t know exactly what that means but they are cleaner than they`ve ever been.


MADDOW:  That`s going away. That`s going away. They`re cleaner now.

Yes, maybe the problem there is that they were dusty before. Had like scuff marks and stuff. But now they`re clean.

He says they`re so clean, there`s a good report, I don`t know exactly what that means, there`s a report they`ve been cleaner than they`ve ever been, I don`t know what that means but that`s all going away.

I mean, we`re getting on to three solid months into the thick of this thing in this country, and nearly 100,000 Americans have been killed already. And the president is still just kind of feeling around the edges of any specific question, hoping to say words that might in someone`s mind map on to some portion of the problem as posed in the question to maybe give an impression that he understands anything about that that he was just asked.

The plants, they`re very clean now. I don`t know what that means but that`s all going away. Next question? I mean we`re used to it now, because this is the way he talks, but literally, like three months into this thing, he just throws word salad at anything, tries to approximate a noun that might have something to do with the real problem he was asked about, and assumes that you`ll round him up to the nearest "he might understand that" perception of his comments.

I mean, it`s -- if you weren`t teaching a kindergartener how to answer a basic direct question, you would continue to ask for further tries and answers before you would let that kindergartener finish that lesson. And it`s true about the most fundamental fatal things in this crisis that has killed nearly 100,000 people in this country, of which he is the leader. It`s just, I mean again, I know we`re used to it, but I will never be that used to it.

To the point of the president saying that`s going away, about the meatpacking plants. I will tell you that there is a sense in which the problem in meatpacking plants appears to be going away since the president ordered them to reopen. And that is, that we have since seen Republican governors around the country, in states that have meatpacking plants, we have seen those Republican governors and their state governments crack down on people`s ability to know about outbreaks in specific meatpacking plants.

In Nebraska, for example, we have seen Republican Governor Pete Ricketts announcing that the state will no longer release information about coronavirus outbreaks in meatpacking plants. Once they started getting big outbreaks in his state, and started doing testing, he announced nobody will be able to see those numbers anymore.

In Iowa, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds applying this bizarre 10 percent threshold standard, where no one, including the people who work at the plant, their families, or local public officials who want to prepare their hospitals in the event of a large outbreak within their city limit, no one in Iowa is allowed to know if there`s an outbreak at any one plant until at least 10 percent of the entire workforce at that plant is positive. That is the 10 percent threshold that Governor Reynolds has set in Iowa.

So if you`re a local official and want to try to act and prepare while the outbreak at your local meat processing plant is still small, so you might still be able to test and track and isolate and contain it under good public health practices, no. Iowa`s governor says you cannot do that. You are not allowed to know what is going on until the outbreak is giant. You have to wait until the outbreak has infected at least 10 percent of the people who work there, before you are allowed to know that the outbreak is there.

And it`s -- I mean, it`s, this is the thing that Republican governors are doing now. In Arizona, they`ve got what appears to be a good-sized outbreak at a JBS meat processing plant in Tolleson, Arizona. I think that`s how you say it, T-O-L-L-E-S-O-N. It`s just west -- due west of Phoenix, Arizona. Neither the plant, the JBS plant, nor the county, Maricopa County, nor the state of Arizona, will tell anyone how many cases there are at that plant though.

The workers are freaking out. The union who represents those workers is freaking out. They`re asking for help. But even if they`re going to be testing, it is all going to be kept secret. Nobody is allowed to know.

Which of course makes it easier for the president to bumble through a 5- year-old`s answer at the White House, saying well, as far as he`s concerned, everything`s very clean now, and it`s going away, I don`t know what that means, but I`ll be fine, right? It is easy to say when it`s going away when the numbers are going away because Republican governors won`t let anybody see them anymore.

But beyond that, beyond this sort of new and newly-concerted effort by Republican governors to not divulge the bad news, from these meatpacking plants, we have also seen, from the beginning, some of the plants at least, the plants themselves, trying to pretend the problem isn`t there. The problem isn`t that bad. The problem has gone away by just avoiding testing in the first place.

And to that end, we just obtained a document that I want -- that I want you to see. I find it very strange. What we have just obtained is -- this document, it is a document from Greeley, Colorado. Greeley, Colorado, of course, is one of the first meat packing plants that we covered, one of the huge meatpacking plants that came to attention, at that Greeley, JBS plant, they have had we believe eight workers die in Greeley already. This is the plant they pledged publicly that they would test all of their employees before they reopened the plant.

But then they didn`t. They just reopened anyway without doing the testing. We have been trying to figure out why and how that was allowed.

Well, as we`ve been trying to figure that out, look at this document that we just obtained. This document is so strange, I first assumed it was all a misunderstanding. It was like a three`s company plot. It was a typo.

But it`s apparently real. And it`s apparently not a typo. And this is what they meant. This is a document from Weld County, where the plant is, where that JBS plant is the largest employer, and what we`ve got here, can we put it up on the screen, this is the form that was sent to JBS, to the plant, from the county health department, as a screening form, for any JBS employees who were going to be tested back when JBS set up its first testing session in Greeley, back when they were still saying they were going to test all of their employees.

And you can see what`s on the screening form there. Employee name. Date of birth. Temperature reading, taking their temperatures when they were going to screen people to see if they were going to test them. What language the employee speaks. Whether the employee needs an interpreter.

Then the screening form says list your symptoms, have you had cough, shortness of breath, fever, body aches, et cetera.

And then this is the kind of amazing part. The bottom part of the form there is labeled exposure questions. Do you have a household member who has had fever and/or respiratory symptoms? Or one who has been told they have COVID-19? Yes or no.

Has the person you stand next to on your work line had fever and/or respiratory symptoms? Yes or no. Do you ride to work with anybody who has had fever and/or respiratory symptoms? Yes or no.

Do you eat lunch? Have you eaten lunch next to somebody at the plant with fever or respiratory symptoms? Yes or no.

But then look at this, on the very bottom, in bold, if the person answers yes to any of the above screening questions, they are not eligible to be tested. Wait a minute. They`re not eligible to be tested?

If you have -- if you`ve been exposed to somebody with fever or respiratory symptoms, if you`ve been working next to somebody with fever or respiratory symptoms, if you`ve been traveling to somebody who has fever or respiratory symptoms, if you`ve been in the lunchroom at the plant with somebody who has had fever or respiratory symptom -- no, you can`t be tested? What fresh hell is this? You`re not eligible to be tested at the meat packing plant if you potentially have been exposed to coronavirus.

If you have had any evident exposure, we`re not going to test you. Yes, because what might that turn up? What might that test result indicate?

We actually called the Weld County Health Department after we obtained this document to see if it was a typo. If you answer yes to any of these exposure questions, you can`t be tested? You were not eligible for being tested?

The county health department cheerfully wrote back to us, no, we understand this is not a typo, thank you.

I mean, this means that the local county health department, in the county where the JBS Company is the biggest employer in town, in conjunction with the county, they set up a testing protocol, for the meatpacking plant workers, that ensured that no one would be tested if they had any reason to be tested, if you know what I mean. Well, that`s one way to keep your numbers down.

But that plant is open, up and running. Eight employees dead already. Still hundreds of known cases in that plant, even though that was the approach to testing.

The county health director there in Weld County just quit his job without explanation after more than 20 years on the job.

The president says these plants, though, it`s all going fine, it`s all going away, I don`t know what that mean, but it`s fine.

Where we are willing to look, we are still finding some of the very same persistent problems we have had in responding to this virus so disastrously as a country from the very beginning. The original problems we had at the outset aren`t getting better. I mean, going back to the -- to the official declaration that we were facing a pandemic, health workers in the United States have been pleading, they have been standing outside hospitals, and publicly pleading for personal protective equipment, to keep them safe, as they cared for COVID patients, right?

We saw them on Twitter, begging, get me PPE, and in newspapers, describing workplaces, that had transformed, basically, into infectious disease war zones, where front line health workers dealing with COVID patients were forced to make due with a single mask for days on end, and conditions where having what you need close at hand can make the difference between your own life and death. I mean, that was the story from the outset, right? Back in March.

And that was the story the following month, in April. Including for one California nurse whose colleague said she was not given an N95 mask at the start of her shift. And they have one to give her.

So, wearing own a thin surgical mask she jumped to help a patient who had stopped breathing, she herself was exposed to the virus. She died from it.

I mean, this dangerous shortfall on protective equipment for American health workers was the news in March. It was still the news in April. And it`s still the news tonight.

A new poll of health care workers from the "Washington Post" and Ipsos this afternoon, asked health workers directly, health workers who deal with COVID-19 patients, about conditions in their hospitals and clinics. They still do not have enough of those N95 masks, and two thirds of the health workers polled. Funding surgical masks, the ones that are not really appropriate for protecting you in a health care environment, from patients with active disease, even finding the surgical masks is, still a problem for 42 percent of health care workers who are working with COVID patients.

This poll of health workers found persistent notable shortages for hand sanitizer, protective gowns, face shields, cleaning supply, eye protection, all the way down to glove, still now in May. We have this problem at the very outset. And we have it now, still, today.

As total known cases in this country are now well above 1.5 million, and 93,000, almost 94,000 Americans have died.

Today, a coalition of advocacy groups staged a national day of mourning, a national funeral, to mark the administration`s abysmal response to this public health catastrophe, and the loss of tens of thousands of American lives because of it. These funeral-like protests were held in roughly 20 states today and in Washington, D.C. protesters in dc staged a mock funeral procession in their cars outside Mitch McConnell`s house in Washington, honking their horns, displaying signs like Trump lies, people die. The procession later made its way to Lafayette square, which is right across the street from the White House, demonstrators again laid out body bags, within view of the Oval Office.

And in Denver, activists stacked fake body bags outside the office of Republican Senator Corey Gardner. You can see his cardboard cutout there at the right to protest his support of the administration through all of these failures.

It`s the same in New Orleans outside the office of Republican Senator John Kennedy. You can see again, the symbolic body bags and the signs, mourning in America.

In South Lake, Texas, outside Fort Worth, protesters set out body bags in the town square there. And the grim reaper was there. And the protests of the rush to reopen, even as Texas case numbers and deaths spike.

The anger is real, right? The anger is palpable. The grief for 92,000 Americans lost, also the anger that this has been so screwed up, so horrifically managed, the worst in the world.

You can find that anger in your town square among your fellow voters. You can find it among the ranks of health workers and scientists. Tonight, we will have with us a former senior scientist at the CDC who has had it up to here who is now basically trying to sound the public alarm about what has gone wrong with his old agency, within this botched national response. We`re going to be speaking with that former CDC scientist coming up.

We`re also tonight going to be talking with the governor of one of the very hardest hit states in the nation. The governor who also as a matter of fact, happens to be getting vetted right now as a potential vice presidential running mate for Vice President Joe Biden. That governor joins us next.

Big night ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Gallup, New Mexico, is a beautiful part of our country. It is toward the western edge of New Mexico. It`s about two hours west/northwest -- west/northwest of Albuquerque. Gallup borders the Navajo Nation, which is the largest Native American reservation in the United States.

The Navajo Nation is huge. It actually spans the territory of three different U.S. states, mostly in New Mexico and Arizona.

Right now, the Navajo Nation has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the whole country. A grim milestone achieved this week. Quote, Navajo nation surpasses New York state for highest COVID-19 infection rate in the United States.

The worst outbreak in the country, within the Navajo Nation has also caused consequences that spill behind Navajo borders. If you look at the last two weeks, Gallup, New Mexico, right on the edge of Navajo Nation, has had the second highest rate of new cases per capita anywhere in the country. They follow only Sioux City, Iowa, which has a meatpacking-driven outbreak there that just won`t quit.

Over that same time period in the past two weeks, coronavirus also took more lives per capita in Gallup, New Mexico, than anywhere else in the country. And that is partly a function of how fast the virus is spreading near Gallup, but it may also be of -- may also be partly because of how hard it is to get health care there.

The city of Gallup has one acute care hospital, Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital. It`s the only acute care medical center for more than 100 miles. That hospital has eight intensive care beds, which are all full. Doctors and nurses at that hospital have been protesting and trying to get further help as they have been overwhelmed.

Rehoboth has had to start transferring any COVID patients with severe breathing problems to other facilities because they don`t have the facilities there to continue to keep up with the case load. And as I mentioned, there are no advanced health care facilities that are close by.

Earlier this month, the governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, called the spread of the virus in Gallup, quote, uninhibited. She closed all roads leading into Gallup to try to mitigate that uninhibited spread but the problem there is dire.

So the governor of New Mexico is dealing with the challenges of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks anywhere in the world. She`s also simultaneously dealing with a sharp increase in the national scrutiny on her on the heels of news that she right now is being vetted by Joe Biden and his campaign as a potential vice presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket this year.

Joining us now for the interview is Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham from the great state of New Mexico.

Governor, it`s a real honor to have you here tonight. I have a ton to ask you about. I`m really glad that you made the time.

GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D), NEW MEXICO:  Well, thank you, Rachel. I appreciate the opportunity. Nice to talk with you.

MADDOW:  Let me just -- let me just ask you first about the epidemic in your state, some of the information that I`ve said about Gallup and where the crisis has been so difficult there and within the Navajo Nation.

Can you just give our viewers a broad strokes picture of what`s going on with the epidemic in your state, and in some of those real hot spots that you`re still contending with?

GRISHAM:  Yeah, and I hope you don`t mind, I`m going to correct actually something about Gallup. There are two hospitals in Gallup.

MADDOW:  Good.

GRISHAM:  There`s the Gallup Indian Health Center, Medical Center, and they`ve got acute care beds and critical care beds. There are after-care sites that we built in Gallup in Rehoboth.

Rehoboth is a private rural hospital that`s long been troubled and is now under direct management and support by the state of New Mexico, and I feel very confident that the men and women who are on the front lines, providing incredible care, are getting what they need, they`re amazing.

And part of our plan in New Mexico all along has been to move patients to hospitals in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and in areas where you`ve got much higher percentages to serve the population, in critical care, acute care, and ICU settings. And so, that`s always been part of our plan.

And you`re right. Some days, we were seeing two patients transferred an hour from the northwestern part of the state. So what is going on?


GRISHAM:  What`s going on is the Navajo Nation, and we sounded the alarm to the White House, months ago, about the impact on sovereign nations, lack of testing by Indian Health Services which I`m going to really defend them. The federal government is not giving them what they need either, and have long underfunded Indian health.

So, what do you have? You have intergenerational families living hundreds of miles from food, water, health care services, just the basics. You`ve got children and elders and working family members in very tight quarters, which is ripe for having containment issues that you can`t get your arms around.

And, in fact, I want to give a shout-out to the Navajo Nation, both the council and the Navajo Nation president have been good partners and really effective leaders by having some of the strictest stay-at-home orders and curfews in the country, and we`re seeing a flattening in Gallup, and in McKinley County, and in San Juan County, as a result. And we`re seeing the transmission rate finally beginning to decline.

But we are not out of the woods in Indian country around this country, in Indian country in New Mexico, and not in the Navajo Nation either.

MADDOW:  Because of that unique circumstance with Indian country in terms of the Indian Health Service and the federal responsibility for providing - - for providing health care, to a certain extent here, what specifically should the federal government be doing to contend with the situation in Navajo Nation that they`re not doing? Obviously, there`s federal responsibilities here that are unique.

GRISHAM:  There are. And I will give you a couple of examples.

So one is, and we`ve got support. Admiral Weahkee who`s from Zuni, Pueblo, which is also near Gallup, in New Mexico, he`s the leader of IHS, and he`s incredible.

But he`s supporting us to tell the federal government, give us the testing supplies, and when I say "us," the state. Let us at our state lab do the testing, because here`s what happens -- and give us some personnel to do that.

We can increase the testing of the Navajo Nation. We can increase the testing in all of our Pueblos and Apache Nations. We can turn those tests around in incredible amounts of time, which means we can then support directly the contact tracing.

Here`s what they do now, right -- they wait to get supplies. And when those supplies are available, they get them out to the Navajo Nation. Then they have to get those test samples to LabCorp, or another laboratory that they`ve got a national contract with. They compete with all of the other testing in the country. They might get it back in 24 hours. They might it get back in four days.

That means no one gets isolated. Nobody`s getting contact tracing. None of that is happening in a way that`s meaningful. Nor have they invested in the right personnel to beef that up.

So, we`re doing contact tracing. We`re doubling the amount of personnel on the ground. We want to just take control with IHS as a partner, of the whole thing.

New Mexico`s done more testing in total than Colorado, which has a significantly higher population. So we have capacity to do much more, and it`s been really hard to disrupt that. And I am confident that gets done immediately, and that`s going to make a big difference.

We`re also going to get cell phones out to everyone we test. We`re going to work with telecommunications companies, to put towers out, so we can do contact tracing, because we can reach people who do not have a self service or Internet connections.

And probably too much, but last legislative session, that was January in New Mexico, even though I had to veto many capital projects because of the COVID-19 impacts on the economy, I kept, which were part of our projects, we need broadband, water, and electricity, and public safety emergency response investments in the Navajo Nation, and they`re going to get it, because we`re clear as a state, we have a responsibility to meet the shortfalls of the federal government.

MADDOW:  Governor, I also need to ask you about reports that you have been approached by the Biden campaign to vet you as a potential vice presidential running mate for the -- for the vice president. I want to ask if you can confirm those reports and tell us anything about what that process has been like.

GRISHAM:  Well, I really appreciate that you -- literally, what happened to me all the time when I was in Congress, people would say I was a senator, so I got a boost, reaching out to me, to make sure we`re on track for an endorsement, I`m a big Joe Biden fan, and I`m doing my part, as the first- ever Democratic Hispanic governor in the country to make sure that we`re getting out Hispanic voters and minority votes across the country.

So that`s speculation, you put into vetting -- I don`t know if that`s an endorsement, Rachel, but I appreciate your kind words. We`re working on the campaign specifics that I should be doing as the chair-elect of the DGA, and then the rest of my work is to make sure, to your point, where you have significant issues going on in the state, you need to be focused on getting them addressed.

And you know, New Mexico is the -- one of the, was the first step to test asymptomatic individuals, who tested 7 percent of our population, we can do better than that, and will.

We are -- we lowered our transmission rate. We`re meeting our gating criteria. We`ve been very slow and steady.

But I`m troubled today, I was troubled yesterday. We need to do everything in our power to disrupt the lack of federal responding and support to protect our sovereign nations, in New Mexico, and we`re going to keep fighting to slow the spread, to support the Navajo people, to support the president, and vice president of the Navajo Nation and the Council, and we`re going to get a hold of this virus, and we`re going to create a system where no one in the federal government can put the Navajo Nation, or any sovereign nation, in harm`s way ever again.

MADDOW:  Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of the great state of New Mexico -- Governor, it`s great to have you here. We`d love to have you talk about this as it proceeds. I appreciate you taking the time tonight.

GRISHAM:  You got it, Rachel. Thank you very much.

MADDOW:  All right. Thanks.

We got a lot more to get to tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW:  It`s titled "Straight Talk from an ex-CDC for the long slog ahead".

And straight talk is what they mean. This is about the White House plans to reopen the country, and the guidelines they put out around that. Quote, the White House, in obvious desperation as the election looms, rushed out its guidelines for relaxing mitigation efforts and lockdown, titled as a political slogan, Opening Up America Again, complete with campaign logo bars, the guidelines are banal, quantitatively, and subjectively vague, ambiguous, and they shirk any federal responsibility.

As any thinking person would have anticipated, opening up America again is now serving as political cover for some states to relax whatever mitigation efforts were in place. Thus, the nation is entering what epidemiologists call a natural experiment. The resulting state and national epidemic curves will be as volatile as the recent stock market. Governors who open up their states too soon, or too broadly, may turn out to be pied pipers, leading some constituents into the folkloric river to drown.

Quote: CDC`s logo was sullied when someone put it on the White House web page and download of the opening up guidelines. Such labeling was defamatory of a document, so unlike the thousands of well-defined, clearly explained recommendations and guidelines the CDC has published under that logo, often cited and respected worldwide.

Straight talk from ex-CDC indeed. People who work at the CDC have started speaking out anonymously now, telling reporters about the way the agency has been compromised and sidelined and pushed aside, and not really defanged so much as deformed by the Trump administration over the course of this epidemic.

But people who are ex-CDC, who are retired from the agency, can put their name to some of these critiques. Dr. Bruce Weniger is a medical epidemiologist who`s retired from CDC, he`s is one of the ex-CDC scientists who wrote that article, he joins us next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  There`s only one infectious disease known to infect human beings that has been totally eradicated and that is smallpox, which was only eradicated in living memory, 40 years ago after the World Health Organization went on a mission to wipe smallpox off the face of the planet, in part, by deploying smallpox eradication basically SWAT teams that went house to house in hard hit areas administering vaccines. They also offered cash to anybody who reported smallpox cases so these teams could do a strip down quick version of contact tracing to try to find all the last instances of this disease on earth.

This is one of those smallpox SWAT teams at work in Bangladesh in 1975. You can see the posters offering cash rewards like I described and the maps tracking active infections they have been able to find. The gentleman you can see in this picture with the beard is Bruce Weniger, UCLA med student at the time who was recruited by the World Health Organization to go to the front lines in Bangladesh and try to wipe smallpox off the face of the earth. He was later recruited by the CDC and sent to work with refugees in Somalia.

Bruce Weniger over time would become the CDC`s vaccine guru and particular expert on the spread of HIV and AIDS across the continent of Asia. That`s Weniger there with President Bill Clinton who appointed him to the presidential advisory committee on HIV and AIDS in 1995.

So when Dr. Bruce Weniger who spent 30 years fighting deadly viruses under the banner of the CDC, when this man in particular fires off a public rocket aimed squarely at the CDC over their handling of this current pandemic and what they have not done that they should have been expected to do, when it comes from him, you ought to sit up and listen.

Joining us now is Dr. Bruce Weniger, a medical epidemiologist, 30-year veteran of the CDC. He`s affiliated with Emory University, as well as Shanghai University.

Dr. Weniger, it`s an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you for making time.

DR. BRUCE WENIGER, EMORY UNIVERSITY PUBLIC HEALTH ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR:  Well, thank you for having me here and also for your coverage of what is happening to the CDC whose mission my co-author on the essay, Dr. Jimmy Oh (ph), and I have been very proud to serve for our entire careers. I must correct you, the rocket, as you termed it, was not aimed at the CDC, it was aimed for the CDC.

MADDOW:  Well, to that point. Let me just ask you as somebody whose been in the middle of the CDC`s response to the most -- what seems like the most difficult things on Earth before we got here, what do you think is the most important thing that the CDC could be doing and should be doing that it isn`t in this crisis?

WENIGER:  Well, basically, taking the forefront on the scientific public health efforts to control the pandemic in this country, which has been their role for Ebola, the Ebola outbreak in Africa because what happens anywhere in the world can quickly come to this country and they have been doing this for roughly 70, 75 years, and many other people have already spoken publicly about the proper role for CDC, including our wonderful former director, Dr. Tom Frieden.

MADDOW:  In terms of what`s been going wrong with the CDC, one of the things that we`ve reported here and that we`re still trying to get our arms around is what appears to be political pressure from outside the CDC from the White House, from other parts of the administration to soften their scientific language to soften their assessments about not only what`s wrong but what needs to be done and it appears that the CDC has been acceding to that pressure.

Is this something that I`m just being naive to be disappointed about? Is this -- is this rare or unusual, or something that you`d expect people inside CDC to be squawking more about if they are, in fact, getting that pressure?

WENIGER:  I think you have it correct that there is political interference that I don`t think we`ve ever seen before. The comments that you quoted came on October -- on May 3rd, actually and they were based on the initial Opening Up America guidelines and just today, I found we were able to track down the new 60-page version of those guidelines that are officially promulgated and it was really long and difficult to get through. They are like nothing I`ve ever seen come out of the CDC.

They are very complicated. Their recommendations you probably need an attorney with 20 years experience argumentation before appellate courts to explain inconsistencies from page one to another on these recommendations. Some of the recommendations have exceptions and they`re often exceptions to the exceptions. So, this is just a good example and I`m sure many people still at CDC are embarrassed to even look at this document.

MADDOW:  Is there anything we, the public, can do to support the scientists and the science at CDC especially against the kind of political pressure that may be resulting -- may be causing this compromise that you`re seeing?

WENIGER:  To use one word that President Obama used recently, vote.

MADDOW:  Dr. Bruce Weniger, medical epidemiologist who work with the CDC for 30 years, now speaking about the shortcomings at that agency`s response -- Dr. Weniger, thank you for being here and thank you for your service.

WENIGER:  You`re welcome, thank you.

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


MADDOW:  As we wrap up tonight, one quick piece of breaking news. We led the show last night with news that the Trump administration had planned to end the federal deployment of National Guard troops in the United States to fight the coronavirus epidemic in June, specifically on day 89 of the deployment of all of those national guardsmen and women because if they served until day 90, that would render all of those national guardsmen and women eligible for some retirement and education benefits that President Trump didn`t want them to get. That was one of the lead stories last night. just reporting that, quote, under pressure, the Trump administration is now weighing extending those National Guard deployments. Oh, yeah. When people find out what you`re doing, sometimes they pressure you about it, especially when it`s something that evil.

All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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