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George Floyd's Death TRANSCRIPT: 6/5/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Byron Brown, Douglas Lute

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.

And thanks at home for joining us this hour. Thanks for being with us on a Friday night.

This was Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, today. Look at this -- hundreds of health care workers in PPE, out in the streets, protesting the police killing of George Floyd. They held signs that said, say their names, it could have been my son, the color of our skin is not a weapon.

Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, MRI techs, you name it, they all walked out of their hospital, to support the protesters, and to have their own protest today. Again, that`s St. Louis.

This was Atlanta, Georgia. Med students and nurses, and doctors at Emory Medical School, taking a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds, out on the Quad. They called it a white coat for black lives protest.

There was another one in Salt Lake City, Utah, outside the medical school at the University of Utah, bowing their heads in respect.

Tonight marks the 11th night of nationwide protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last Monday, last week. Just like the ten nights prior to this one, we are seeing big crowds, gathering in some of America`s largest cities tonight, left side of your screen, that is Louisville, Kentucky, right side of your screen, that`s Los Angeles. You`re also seeing substantial protests under way tonight, in Denver, Colorado, and in Phoenix, Arizona.

And again, just like the ten days prior to tonight, it has been a largely peaceful day of demonstrations, in big cities, and in small ones. This was Vestavia Hills, Alabama, today, which is basically a Birmingham suburb. This was outside city hall, Vestavia Hills. This was La Miranda, California, today. Protesters gathered outside the civic center there.

In Mansfield, Texas, today, students organized a march at their high school, which wound its way to city hall, in Silver City, New Mexico, they had a protest in their car, socially distant protests, people in their cars, holding signs out their windows, honking their horns. Again, that`s Silver City, New Mexico.

There were protests today, in Orlando, Florida, as, in Denver, Colorado, as I mentioned, in Detroit, Michigan, in Miami, Florida. I want to show you a shot of Brooklyn, New York, today, a huge protest, outside the Brooklyn public library.

New York City has been home to some of the largest protests since all of this started 11 days ago, it has also been home to some of the more chaotic protests, thanks in large part to an aggressive and at times militaristic response from police that usually comes toward the end of each day. We`ve seen that day after day after day in New York.

In the Bronx, last night, right before curfew, a group of heavily-armed officers aggressively pushed their bikes into a throng of protesters, knocking people to the ground left and right, and they arrested people who tried to run away, they arrested them by tackling them to the ground, as people were trying to get away from the police.

Police reportedly started arresting legal observers who were on the scene, if you`ve ever been on a protest, a well-organized protest of any size, you have probably seen people in hats to distinguish themselves as legal observers, police even started arresting them last night in the Bronx.

This is not just a New York thing. Just like having protests have stretched our country from coast to coast, aggression from the police toward peaceful protesters has been a nationwide hallmark of this last 11 days as well. So I`m going to show you something, I want to give you a second to, I just want to give you a second to warn you about what I`m going to show. This is the next piece of tape that I`m going to show you is something that is difficult to watch and I want to give you a second to look away, or change the channel, if you would like now is the time that you should do that, I will countdown, three, two, one.

OK. This was Philadelphia yesterday afternoon. A group of police officers ramming their bicycles into peaceful protesters, shoving them violently to the ground, eventually they just beating them mercilessly, with their batons.

I also want to show you footage from Buffalo, New York, this week. This man was giving an interview to the press. He had his arms in the air and that is when the police charged at him from behind as he was giving the interview and tackled him to the ground.

But there`s one final incident that also happened in Buffalo that I want to show you, and it`s violent and difficult as those pieces of footage are to watch, this next one, we`re going to show you, and that we`re going to talk about and we`re going to speak with the mayor of Buffalo about, this next piece of footage is particularly stomach-churning. We have become accustomed to seeing very violent displays of police force over these past -- well, over these past years, but certainly, acutely over these past few days in the face of these protests.

So I`m going to show you a couple of short videos, they are quite graphic, this is your warning. But what they show is an elderly man who clearly sustains a serious head injury, after being shoved violently to the ground by police, while he is doing absolutely nothing violent or threatening whatsoever.

So if you don`t want to watch this, this is the time to not watch. Ready, three, two, one.

All right. Set this up for you. This happened yesterday evening, Buffalo, New York. Just minutes after that city`s 8:00 p.m. curfew went into effect. We`re going to show you a 75-year-old protester, Martin Gugino. He`s seen approaching members of the police department`s emergency response team during a demonstration in that city, and like that, he is knocked to the ground by officers, hitting his head on the concrete.

So here he is, walking up to the police, that sounds like the officers yell "move", and they push him back, one officer shoves him arm into the man`s chest, another extends his baton toward him, Mr. Gugino then falls backward and cracks his head on the sidewalk. Almost immediately, he starts bleeding quite considerably, from his ear, one officer does lean down to look at him closely, only to be pulled away before he could offer any aid.

A bunch of officers then walk right by, without checking on him, as he lays motionless on the ground. He had been holding something in his right hand - - a pad of paper, a pencil or something. You can see his hand loosen up as he loses, apparently loses consciousness.

Considerably later in the video, eventually, you see a man in fatigues who steps in to render aid, to this man, who was seriously hurt. The video itself is shocking enough. What is just frankly as baffling is the fact that shortly after this took place, the Buffalo Police Department said in a statement, that Mr. Gugino had quote tripped and fell, which you have now seen enough to know is a lie, directly and blatantly contradicted by video evidence.

And it`s not just from that one angle. Here is a second angle of the incident that was shot from across the street, making it just as clear as the first. Once again, you see Mr. Gugino walking up to the officers, he has then pushed, which leads him to fall to the ground, he hits his head on the pavement.

This is obviously not someone who tripped and fell, and none of the officers who all saw that happened and none of the bystanders who saw that happen, and none of the video account would lend any credence to anybody who claimed that is what happened there.

Now, the mayor of Buffalo said earlier today that that inaccurate statement about him tripping and falling was an error, and that the record was later corrected.

Mr. Gugino has been identified as a long-time activist, within the Buffalo area. After sustaining that injury yesterday, he was taken to a nearby hospital. He`s been described as stable but serious condition. A hospital spokesperson said today he was alert and oriented.

The department officials say there is now a full internal affairs investigation into this matter. The Erie County district attorney`s office says prosecutors are also investigating the incident. The police commissioner has ordered that the two officers directly involved in this incident should be suspended without pay.

And honestly, that`s, you know, the least that you would expect at this point, given that footage. But get a load of this next part. Earlier today, the members of the Buffalo Police Department who were working on that special unit, that emergency response team, that was seen responding to yesterday`s demonstration, who had this altercation with Mr. Gugino that resulted in him and this head injury, all of the officers on that team today resigned from that unit en masse, all 57 of them.

They didn`t resign from the police department. They resigned from the emergency response unit. Their union president telling NBC`s local affiliate that, quote, 57 resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders.

The head of the police officer`s association told "The Buffalo News", quote, our position is that these officers were simply following orders, from the deputy police commissioner to -- from the deputy police commissioner to clear the square. It doesn`t specify to clear the square of men 50 and under, or age 15 to 40. They were simply doing their job. I don`t know how much contact. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backward.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has said that he was deeply disturbed by this video.

Earlier today, he issued a statement addressing the mass resignation, saying, quote: The City of Buffalo is aware of developments related to the work assignments of certain members of the Buffalo police force. At this time, we can confirm that contingency plans are in place to maintain police services and ensure public safety within our community.

I mean, putting basic police services aside, is it fair to ask where the city goes from here? I mean, how does it even -- how do you begin to get on the same page, when it doesn`t appear that you`re reading from the same book, or potentially that you can even read the same language.

Joining us now is the man in a very difficult position tonight, Buffalo, New York`s mayor, Byron Brown.

Mayor Brown, thank you for making time for us this evening. I know this is an incredibly fraught time for you and your city.

MAYOR BYRON BROWN (D-NY), BUFFALO: Yes, it is. It is a difficult time for the city of Buffalo. It`s a difficult time for cities all across the country.

But we have a good community, we have a strong community. We`re listening to people who are in our community protesting against police brutality, protesting against racial injustice, and we will work with those protesters, that social movement, to bring real change and reform to our community.

MADDOW: Mr. Mayor, the way that I just described what happened in Buffalo, let me give you a chance to tell me if I got any of that wrong. But also to give us any further updates, if anything has happened, in this situation, either with Mr. Gugino, specifically, with the two officers who are -- whose conduct is being reviewed, or with this mass resignation from that unit of the police department.

Have there been any further developments?

BROWN: No further developments. The matter is under investigation. When that video was sent to the Buffalo police commissioner, he immediately suspended both officers without pay. The investigation is ongoing.

I`ve asked for the investigation to be fast tracked in the department. And the management of the department has moved that investigation forward.

MADDOW: In terms of potential charges here, I was struck by the fact that New York`s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said today, that the city should pursue firing these officers, the district attorney should consider possibly bringing criminal charges.

Because those were public remarks, made by an elected official, made by the governor of the state, I have to ask you, as the highest-ranking elected public official in Buffalo, do you agree with the governor about that?

BROWN: I believe that the officers should have due process. As you mentioned, I was very disturbed, and immediately concerned with the health of the gentleman that fell backwards and struck his head. I was concerned that he was pushed. And the concern was shared by the police commissioner who suspended those officers immediately, without pay.

I think it is critically important to make sure that those officers` due process works are protected. We don`t tolerate police misconduct. I think police misconduct has to be taken very seriously.

That is a specialized team. The team is trained to deal with mass demonstrations, mass protest situations, and advanced to clear an area. There are medics that are imbedded with that team, people who have first aid training. The team is trained to continue to move forward, and the medics, that are imbedded with the team are trained to render first aid, to police officers, to the public, if they need it.

And in this case, first aid was immediately rendered to Mr. Gugino by medics that were in that back team who helped get him into the ambulance where he was taken to ECMC.

It is my understanding that he is conscious. He is alert. And certainly, I am praying for his full and complete recovery.

MADDOW: You say that medical attention was immediately rendered, I think that part of what is so stomach-churning and upsetting to people about seeing those videos, is that while the medic does eventually arrive on the scene, the officers who continue -- who look at him, recognized, it appears, the seriousness of what happened. Including one officer who appears to move toward him, essentially potentially to assess him, or at least take a closer look at what is going on, is yanked off of him, and those officers walked by.

And this is a man who is lying their long enough that we can see blood pouring out of his ear. We can see blood pooling and starting to run out of the back of his head. He`s obviously an older man. And while ultimately first aid is rendered there, whatever training those police officers have received surely doesn`t allow for them to continue to walk away from a man who is bleeding out because of what they just did to them.

I mean, they`re not even acting to continue -- to move to protect them after they caused him this injury. It just doesn`t seem like this is the way training for your police should play out.

BROWN: This protection is from the medics. Those officers are trained to advance, to keep moving, not to break their line. There are medics that are imbedded with those units, for that exact reason. Those medics are trained to render first aid. It was seconds, and in seconds, first aid was rendered to Mr. Gugino.

Am I happy with the situation? Absolutely not. Was it very disturbing, very distressing to watch that gentleman pushed and fall backwards and hit his head? It absolutely was very distressing.

We are working hard to provide the best training for our officers. This has been a very difficult situation, where we have police officers that are working around the clock, they are working long hours, they are very tired, they are near exhaustion -- it`s no excuse, no excuse for misconduct, no excuse for not following proper procedure, and in that particular case, proper procedure was not to push that gentleman to the ground.

So, we are very concerned about it. We`re taking it very seriously. And it hurts our efforts to bring healing to this community.

It hurts our ability to gain the continued trust of the community, to negotiate with protesters, to listen to the demands of protesters, and then to collectively, as a community, bring solutions to some of the problems, the issues, and concerns around police brutality, police misconduct, and racial injustice and equity that we have in the city of Buffalo, as exists all across the country, in every single sector of our society.

MADDOW: Was there anything going on in the City of Buffalo, in terms of civil unrest in terms of protests, in terms of threats to the public order, threats to people, threats to property, that necessitated, that made it appropriate for a military style unit of officers trained to leave those who they injured, laying pleading behind them, as they move on, as the police force that was operating in your city in that moment? Did conditions actually warrant having those types of tactics deployed in your streets?

We can see what`s going on in the immediate vicinity there, and it doesn`t feel like the war is under way for that kind of a militarized unit to be moving in that kind of a formation.

BROWN: (AUDIO GAP) agree with that characterization that officers moved on. As I mentioned, medics are imbedded with that team, and it is the role of the medics that are behind the advancing officers to render aid to a police officer who needs it, to render aid to a citizen who needs it, and that is what the medics that were part of that unit immediately did, within seconds of Mr. Gugino`s injury.

And, yes, we were seeing that when protests lasted into night, when it got dark, in the city of Buffalo, we saw violence, we saw vandalism, we saw fires set. We saw looting. We saw rioting.

And I imposed a curfew for 8:00 to prevent that kind of violence, vandalism, and danger to our community.

Our priority is to protect the residents of our community, to protect the businesses in our community, and to protect the right of peaceful protesters to be able to protest in our city.

The curfew is set. People who were violating the curfew were given multiple requests to leave that area. The folks that were still in that area did not heed the request of law enforcement to leave the area, and law enforcement moved in to clear the area for the safety and protection of the community.

Unfortunately, in Mr. Gugino`s case, that did not occur. We are very saddened that it did not occur in that case. What happened to Mr. Gugino shouldn`t have -- have happened, and certainly, we are working to make sure that we protect residents, we protect our businesses, and we protect peaceful protests in our community so people can exercise their First Amendment rights to express their freedom of speech.

MADDOW: The video of what happened in Buffalo is indelible for this country, and as you face police -- the Police Benevolent leader who says that he slipped and as you face this pushback from the police as you try to figure out what`s going to happen with those officers and with your community, I -- you have a mountain to climb, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Byron Brown of Buffalo, New York, good luck to you, sir. This is -- this is a very difficult circumstance you`re in.

BROWN: (AUDIO GAP) is on the wrong side of history. They are wrong. They essentially threatened those officers without support for the PBA if they continued to work in that unit.

That is absolutely wrong. This union has been on the wrong side of history for a very long period of time. And they have been a real barrier to reform of policing in the city of Buffalo.

MADDOW: Mr. Mayor, Byron Brown, of Buffalo, New York -- sir, thank you for being with us tonight. I appreciate your time.

Let me give you some geographic context here. Buffalo, New York, is on the very western edge of New York state. You can see it over there towards Niagara Falls. Buffalo, New York, is a good six and a half hour drive from New York City, the largest city in the state obviously, and in the country. And in New York City tonight, they are under yet another night of curfew that started at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and that curfew will continue through the weekend.

Just like all of the other nights this week, protesters are disregarding that mandatory curfew, and are in the streets tonight, anyway, to protest George Floyd`s killing. In the nation`s capital, last night, in Washington, D.C., the mayor of D.C., Muriel Bowser, actually lifted the curfew on her city. Protesters marched peacefully in the middle of a gigantic lightning and thunderstorm, chanting "hands up, don`t shoot".

There are demonstrations once again continuing tonight in Washington, D.C., also peaceful this time, with clearer sky. The protests in D.C., of course, have been marked by this overwhelming, militarized presence of the mystery federal law enforcement officers sent in by the president, and overseen apparently by Attorney General Bill Barr, maybe, to counter what had been largely peaceful protests in the district.

Today, D.C.`s mayor, Muriel Bowser, called on President Trump to remove those federal officers from her city. She called on the removal of the National Guard, the Bureau of Prisons officers, all of them. She said they were inflaming the peaceful demonstrations in D.C. tonight. She started contacting the governors of individual states whose National Guardsmen and women have been sent to D.C., asking those governors to recall their national guard troops back home and get them out of the streets of Washington.

These were strong forceful demands from the D.C. mayor, as demands that are escalating, but perhaps you may have seen there was something else that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser did today that spoke louder or spoke bigger than anything she could have put in a letter to the president. Starting at 3:00 a.m., Mayor Bowser of Washington, D.C. sent a group of volunteers to 16th Street, and the White House address is 1600 Pennsylvania, 1600, as in 16th Street she sent volunteers to 16th Street in Washington, D.C. in front the White House with buckets of yellow low paint and paint rollers and in huge giant larger than life 50 foot letters they painted a new mural on the length of 16th street, they painted black lives matter, big enough to see in the highest buildings in Washington, D.C., big enough for the president to see out his window, you could practically see it from space. It takes up almost two full city blocks.

Mayor Bowser`s office saying today that since the president dispatched law enforcement officers to lurk all over D.C., there`s been a dispute over who the streets of D.C. belong to. The mayor`s office saying today she wanted to make it abundantly clear whose street it is, it is D.C.`s streets and honor the peaceful protests that had been assembling in her city day after day.

Mayor Bowser had that portion in 16th Street in D.C. smack in front of the White House, officially renamed today, as well. Look at the street sign there. It is now Black Lives Matter Plaza. They hung the new street sign early this morning.

Lots to get to tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Big Bloomberg News obtained a document called domestic unrest, Washington, D.C. overview. The document was reportedly prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the military and while the document is not classified, it also doesn`t seem like it was prepared for public consumption. It describes the makeup of the otherwise mysterious force of federal agents of some kind that appeared to be maybe under the command of Attorney General William Barr, in the streets of D.C., but really, who knows?

These guys in T-shirts, and tactical vests with no insignia, may be random want to be militia dudes who are pretending this is the civil war they always wanted but they might also be federal officers or maybe, could be, how do we know. I mean without name badges and without identifying markings, how do we tell?

But they are apparently from the U.S. Marshall Service, the DEA, the FBI, the Park Police, according to this document, prepared for the Joint Chiefs, it is basically the list of all federal agencies that have forces like this, so it could be all of them. Could be any one, really. Use your imagine nation, how many federal agencies you can name off the top of your head.

I mean, at least according to leaked document, the public is only seeing thanks to someone surreptitiously showing them to reporters, there are thousands of these agents who have deployed to the streets of Washington, D.C. under some sort of cryptic mysterious command structure we`re not allowed to know about. But even that document spelling out which agencies these guys apparently come from, even that document doesn`t say bupkis why they`re not wearing badges or identifying what agencies they are from or who they are, which is really a banana republic kind of thing, right? I mean, random pseudo-military, armed, unidentified man roaming around the vicinity of the president, apparently answerable to him and his administration but nobody is really sure.

Are you supposed to obey these people if they point guns at you? What if it turns out they are just random citizens? Who are they working for? I mean, this is not a very American look. This is kind of Libya, right? This is -- this is weird. This is not how law enforcement is supposed to work around the White House.

That said, even as these guys were told to take off their insignia and name badges by someone, no one will admit to giving that order, eventually, you put these guys out in public, then enough people will post enough close-up images of them online that people are going to start recognizing something about them eventually.

A WTOP reporter named Alejandra Alvarez posted some close-up photos of some of these guys and specifically, some of the T-shirts that they were wearing with otherwise unmarked gear. After Alvarez posted these photos for WTOP, some reporters in Texas at the "Dallas Morning News" were able to confirm that yes, at least some of these guys deployed, like Gadhafi`s body guards but in the streets around Washington, and streets around the White House, they were able to confirm that at least some of them were from two federal prisons in Texas, the federal correctional institution at Three Rivers, Three Rivers, Texas, about halfway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, and another federal prison complex in Beaumont, Texas, as well.

Apparently, they sent officers to go patrol protests, in Washington, without insignia, except some of them kept on t-shirts or other little bits of gear that gave telltale -- gave away telltale signs of where they work in their day jobs.

I mean, ultimately, you can`t stay anonymous forever, even if the attorney general wants you to be for some reason. The Bureau of Prisons sending corrections officers from federal prisons in Texas to walk the streets of Washington carrying guns and answering maybe to the attorney general while not wearing uniforms or telling anybody who they are, that is unsettling enough, right? That was not even on my apocalyptic bingo card of where I thought we would be in the Trump administration. That I did not get.

But the "Dallas Morning News" today, notes one other very specific implication of these officers from the specific Texas federal prisons where they are turning up police protests in D.C. without their name badges on, and that weirdly specific implication, at least in Beaumont, they have had a bunch of corrections officers test positive for coronavirus there. And we`ve all seen huge outbreaks in American prisons and jails just like we`ve seen them in meatpacking facilities and on one particular nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

When it comes to federal prisoners in Texas, they are not exactly testing up a storm, but so far, the Bureau of Prisons has posted information about corrections officers being diagnosed with the virus, and some of them from Beaumont, and Beaumont is one of the prisons from which the BOP apparently secretly drafted officers to be brought all the way across the country to police these protests.

And no, almost none of these unbadged random officers were wearing masks while they police these protests. So, thank you, Bureau of Prisons. Thank you, William Barr, and anything else you would like to deliver to the kind people of D.C.?

The president today said we are, quote, largely through the coronavirus epidemic. That was his phrase. He said we`re largely through with coronavirus. And we`ve done very well.

Meanwhile, here on earth one, this was the headline at "The New York Times" tonight. Quote, U.S. cases are still rising by more than 20,000 cases daily. The daily average of new coronavirus cases in the United States is actually starting to rise again. We`re still seeing about a thousand Americans every day die from coronavirus.

In terms of where it`s getting worse, there are more states that saw an increase in new cases over the next two weeks than states that saw a decline in new cases. That`s bad. Last night`s show, we reported on the state epidemiologist in Utah, sort of pulling the fire alarm in that state, describing a state-wide spike in cases in Utah, that is not explained by increased testing or by some localized outbreak somewhere in the state. It is a big surge statewide that they can`t explain and that they are worried about.

The Utah state epidemiologist yesterday sounding this alarm specifically saying there`s now reason to take action to stop Utah`s hospitals from being overwhelmed because that is where it is heading if the case numbers keep rising like that. That was Utah last night. Tonight, the alarm is being sounded in the great state of Arizona.

Now, the local press in Arizona has been reporting pretty furiously over the course of the past week, on things looking like they`re really heading in a bad direction in terms of the metrics in that state. When the state ended the stay-at-home order and opened up on May 15th, the state was having an average of 378 new cases a day at that point. Well now, now that they`re opened up, they`re averaging 519 new cases a day, and it seems to be a sustained rise. They`re getting record numbers of new cases, and record numbers of hospitalizations. The state`s hospitalization numbers are just soaring.

We`ve already reported in recent days on the situation specifically in Yuma, Arizona, where they have overtopped their hospital capacity with COVID-19 patients and have been shipping critical patients to other hospitals around the state because they are full-up in Yuma. Well, now, today, an alarm of a different magnitude, because today, Banner Health System, which is the largest health care provider in the whole state of Arizona, today Banner Health System held a press conference to announce that Arizona is in that kind of trouble statewide.


DR. MARJORIE BESSEL, BANNER HEALTH CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER: Today, there are some trends that are making me concerned and we have several key concerns that we`re going to share with you here. You will see what looks like an exponential increase of cases. More concerning for us, is the increase requiring ICU care. While the cases are concerning, we are seeing increase of these very sick patient in these ICUs on violators.

We do have very high volume currently. And we are ensuring 125 percent stretch capacity which is what was required by an executive order to make sure we have a 25 percent increase ability. However, if the increasing trend continues of what you`re seeing up here, we will exceed our capacity.

As we all know, the stay-at-home order that was placed was to flatten the curve, so that hospital capacity would not be exceeded. That curve was flattened. We did not have exponential growth, although we did have growth. When that was lifted, of course, our social distancing was decreased.

So, of course, we started to see increasing cases, and we`re starting to see even more increase, look at all of the way to the right of that curve, the increase and the pace of the increase is concerning, when we start to see this increasing hospitalization capacity, it`s time for us to change our behaviors.

The purpose of my message here today is to show you that COVID is increasing. It`s increasing, Banner Health is increasing in the Maricopa County where most of the beds that we have are located. And we need to change behaviors now so we don`t exceed hospital capacity.


MADDOW: That is the clinical director at Banner Health, which is the largest health care delivery system in Arizona. Maricopa County is where most of Arizona`s population is located. That`s where most of the beds are for Banner Health.

They`re saying this is not isolated in one part of Arizona. This is all over Arizona. This is in Maricopa County. They`re saying their ICU beds have been expanded to 125 percent capacity. That is now at risk of being over topped.

But if the increase can trend continues of what you`re seeing up here, we will exceed our capacity and they are already into their surge 125 percent capacity. And we`re seeing Arizona make new record numbers of coronavirus cases, and new record numbers of hospitalization numbers every day now.

This was the headline today in "The Wall Street Journal." Trump`s focus shifts away from coronavirus. Quote: U.S. coronavirus deaths surpassed 100,000 and health experts say the pandemic remains a serious concern, but Mr. Trump and his advisers have made a strategic decision to shift focus, to issues they believe will animate the president`s conservative base ahead of the election, while projecting confidence.

Over 109,000 Americans dead. As of tonight, a thousand Americans dying every day, 20,000 new cases every day. Those things are not getting any better. Multiple states have cases spiking. Multiple states are now warning their hospitals are not equipped to handle how bad it is right now. Let alone some feared second wave in the fall.

We`re not going to get to a second wave if the first wave never crests. I know why the president doesn`t want to talk about this and he`d rather play civil war. But this is bad. And not talking about it and not doing anything about it doesn`t keep a thousand Americans alive every day, and it isn`t making it any better for coming weeks.


MADDOW: It started this week, when audio emerged of the defense secretary on a call with the nation`s governors, and with President Trump, referring to America`s streets as a battle space, that the U.S. military needed to dominate. Former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, four star General Tony Thomas responded, quote, the battle space of America? Not what America needs to hear, ever.

It`s almost unheard of for high-ranking general, even retired ones to criticize the current leadership of the military. But just a couple of hours later on Monday, as peaceful protesters were violently cleared from the front of the White House to make way for the president to go pose for photos, with the defense secretary and the chairman of joint chiefs at his side, that evening, it was former chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, rebuking the White House, quote, America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy.

The next day, it was his predecessor, chairman of the joint chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, published this article, quote: I cannot remain silent. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy and must never become so.

Former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, four star General John Allen, wrote that Monday`s events outside the White House, quote, may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment, talking about this the potential start of the end of American democracy.

And, of course, Trump`s own former defense secretary, James Mattis, who had been studiously unwilling to say anything critical of President Trump since resigning in protest a year and a half ago, he broke his silence as well, he told, he said that the president made a, quote, mockery of our Constitution. He compared Trump`s efforts to divide Americas against each other, to the divide and conquer strategy used by the Nazis against us in world War.

Then, Trump`s own former chief of staff, himself a retired four star general, John Kelly, said today that he disagrees with Jim Mattis and his criticism of the president.

This flood of criticism from retired generals is extraordinary because they are generally a tight-lipped bunch. They are obviously strenuously nonpolitical. It`s a requirement of the job. Most of them served across multiple administrations of both parties.

Take somebody like retired three-star general, Douglas Lute. He rose to the military ranks for 35 years. He served under seven presidents. A Republican President George W. Bush brought him to the White House to be his coordinator for Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. Then George W. Bush`s Democratic successor, Barack Obama, kept General Lute on, his national security counsel and ultimately made him his ambassador to NATO.

Well, today, General Lute tells "The New York Times", quote, there is a thin line between the military`s tolerance of questionable partisan moves over the past three years and the point where this becomes intolerable for an apolitical military. Relatively minor episodes have accumulated imperceptibly, but we`re now at a point of where real damage is being done.

General Lute joins us live here next.


MADDOW: Quote, there is a thin line between the military`s tolerance for questionable partisan moves over the past three years and the point where this become intolerable for an apolitical military. Relatively minor episodes have accumulated imperceptibility, but we`re now at a point where real damage is being done.

General Douglas Lute speaking with "The New York Times" today joining a flood of former high ranking military officials who are criticizing the president this week in stark terms. General Lute is the former ambassador to NATO. He`s now chair of the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. He`s a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Ambassador Lute, thank you so much for your time tonight. It`s an honor to have you here, sir.

DOUGLAS LUTE, THREE-STAR GENERAL, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It`s good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Something has clearly shifted in recent days among high ranking military officials, including yourself. Not just the willingness to criticize the president and be heard making that type of criticism, but also giving us stark warnings about how bad things are. Why did you reach this point this week?

LUTE: Well, this week needs to be placed in a broader context. As the quote that you mentioned, I think there have been a number of incremental steady erosions of the military`s relationship with the president or civil relations writ-large over the Trump administration.

I mean, this began early, in the first week of the Trump administration, when he went to the place in the Pentagon which is designated for commemorating Medal of Honor winners and it was there he chose to sign the immigration ban against Muslims. He has repeatedly used troop visits, which all presidents do, but he`s used troop visits as campaign rallies. He has diverted troops and funding from the Pentagon to his border wall project.

And these are all indicators that the norms between presidential leadership and the way that the military sees itself as an apolitical institution in America has been steadily encroached upon.

This week, however, is different. That is simply because we saw the prospect or the hint that active duty soldiers might be brought into the streets of America and confront American citizens peacefully protesting but posed as more of a combat situation. And for military leaders that is unacceptable. That is why you see a long list of impressive former military leaders now stepping forward to include Jim Mattis, Marty Dempsey, John Allen and so forth.

MADDOW: There has been a push me, pull you that has been evident from looking from the outside in terms of what happened with the president`s desire to use troops. He went to the White House and he gave the remarks and crowed how heavily armed these active duty troops he was dispatching in his words to Washington, D.C.

We then saw the Pentagon, Secretary Esper apparently changed his mind and reverse course a few different times as to whether or not troops were coming from Fort Bragg to be deployed in the streets of Washington D.C. There was a fight about that internally.

Do we, the American people, have a right to know about those internal fights, if the military -- civilian leadership of the military or military themselves are being given orders that are in their view wrong or potentially illegal, is the right thing for them to do to tell us about them, or is there something you do within -- within the power structure, within the chain of command that we may not ever see as a public?

LUTE: Well, I think there are internal deliberations in the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room that we should not -- we should not expect to know about. Those are held in confidence inside the administration.

But actions often, Rachel, speak much louder than words. When you have the national security team in tow behind the president walking across Lafayette Square just across the street from the White House after that square had been heavy-handedly dispersed or dismissed of peaceful protesters, in that scene, they stepped across the line. So that action, whatever the deliberations behind closed-doors, that action spoke louder than words.

Now, to be fair, both General Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs, and Secretary of Defense Esper in the days after that walk across Lafayette Park with the president have sort of corrected the record or attempted to correct the record with public statements and messages to the military about the rightful place of the American military serving the Constitution and reminding everyone under their command of responsibility.

But I think the damage that was done on Monday sparked this outflow of responses from retired military.

MADDOW: Lieutenant General, Retired Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, former ambassador to NATO, National Security Council official in the Bush and Obama administrations -- Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for your time tonight, and thanks for being willing to talk about these things publicly. I know it is not an easy decision, sir.

LUTE: Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. We will be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: One last thing to tell you tonight. You heard them screaming, go Johnny, go Johnny. Johnny is Johnny Johnson. He`s father of seven.

Today, Johnny Johnson was discharged from Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, and the nurses and doctors gave him round after round of applause, in part, because Mr. Johnson has been at the hospital fighting COVID-19 for 76 days. 21 days on the ventilator. Today he went home to his wife and their kids. He told us his first order of business was going to it be a really long bath.

Mr. Johnson, I hope you got the bath and a big welcome home from all of us.

That`s going to do it for us for now. Our coverage continues now on "THE LAST WORD", where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali. I`m sorry, I went into your hour there.

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