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A.G. Barr TRANSCRIPT: 6/25/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Katie Benner, Cam Patterson

NATE COHN, DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT AT THE UPSHOT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: -- the president has struggled to win Republicans there. So, I -- you know, at the moment, it would take a pretty significant shift in the race for them even to be considered a 50-50 proposition.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Home state of Barry Goldwater, birthplace of the modern conservative movement, Arizona. It`s pretty head spinning.

Nate Cohn, thank you so much for making time tonight.

COHN: Happy to come.

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.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

We start tonight with some breaking news that has posted at "The New York Times" this evening. This is the headline, "Inside Barr`s Effort to Undermine Prosecutors in New York."

Barr in this headline would, of course, be Attorney General Bill Barr. This is blockbuster reporting tonight from "The New York Times" reporters, Ben Weiser, Ben Protess, Katie Benner and William Rashbaum. It`s a whole raft of newly reported details about criminal cases that touch on the president`s interests that Attorney General Bill Barr has interfered with or intervened in since basically right after he got sworn in as attorney general.

Now, I know there`s a lot going on in the country right now, but this is remarkable new reporting. I mean, the nature of prosecutor`s offices is that we the public are not supposed to know what they`re working on and what they`re doing until they publicly act -- until they, you know, indict someone and bring about a criminal trial. When an investigation is ongoing, when a prosecution is potentially in the works that is by necessity secret. We the public don`t get to know about that until prosecutor`s office acts out loud.

And that secrecy about the prosecutorial process is a pillar of the rule of law. We need that. We don`t need people indicted by rumor and whisper and discussion without anybody having to prove their case, right? But that secrecy around prosecutor`s offices also provides insulation. It provides sort of deadening insulation, protection from public view in the event that something goes wrong inside the prosecutorial process. In the event that, say, someone inside the Justice Department starts messing with federal prosecutors to twist the rule of law to benefit the president and his friends.

So we have been waiting for this story in "The New York Times" tonight for a long time. In this era given what this president plainly thinks about using the law to lock up his enemies and benefit his friends one of the things we`ve been worrying about and watching for a long time is whether or not improper corrupting pressure from the White House or from Bill Barr is the sort of thing that a U.S. attorneys office would squawk about.

Would they actually make noise if they got their prosecutions or investigations of people related to the president messed with by the president`s administration?

Well, in the Southern District of New York one of the most important prosecutors offices in the country and one with lots of cases before it that touch on the president`s interests, we don`t know what broke the dam exactly tonight. By coincidence of time it appears it may have taken Bill Barr firing the U.S. attorney in that office this past week.

But whatever broke the dam that mystery, that thing we`ve been waiting for and wondering about for a long time now is now solved. And it turns out the answer is, yes. SDNY will squawk if you mess with them badly enough. At least now tonight they appear to be squawking.

And -- I mean, it`s not like this comes out of nowhere. Bill Barr ordered the case against Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn to be dropped even after Flynn pled guilty. That happened in broad daylight.

The prosecutor on that case withdrew from that case when that happened but he`s never spoken publicly about his decision to withdraw. Bill Barr`s order to lower the sentencing recommendation for the president`s friend, Roger Stone, that happened pretty much out in the open, too. One of the prosecutors who withdrew from that case in protest did testify to the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. He testified that sentencing recommendation for roger stone was killed explicitly because of pressure from the president, and everybody in the chain of command at the Justice Department knew it.

But now tonight, thanks to this new reporting in "The Times", one of the things we`re learning is that the attorney general`s interference in cases involving people close to the president goes all the way back to his very first days as attorney general. It goes all the way back to the case of Michael Cohen.

This is from today`s scoop in "The Times." Quote: Shortly after he became attorney general last year, William Barr set out to challenge a signature case that touched president Trump`s inner circle directly and even the president`s own actions, the prosecution of Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump`s long time fixer. The debate between Mr. Barr and the federal prosecutors who brought the case against Mr. Cohen was one of the first signs of an intense relationship that culminated last weekend in the abrupt ouster of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

It also foreshadowed Barr`s intervention in the prosecution of other associates of Mr. Trump. By the time Mr. Barr was sworn into office last February, Michael Cohen who paid hush money to an adult film star had already pled guilty all of which embarrassed and angered the president.

But Mr. Barr spent weeks in the spring of 2019 questioning the prosecutors over their decision to charge Mr. Cohen with violating campaign finance laws. At one point during the discussions, Mr. Barr instructed Justice Department officials in Washington to draft a memo outlining legal arguments that could have raised questions about Cohen`s conviction and undercut similar prosecutions in the future.

Mr. Barr`s unexpected involvement in such a politically sensitive case suggested that he planned to exert influence over prosecutors and SDNY, which is long known for operating independently of Washington. Mr. Barr and other officials have told aides and other U.S. attorneys that the Southern District needs to be reined in.

Here`s why this is such a big deal. The decision by SDNY to drop the rest of that case over the hush money payments, to only prosecute Michael Cohen and not go after anybody else in that case, that has always stuck out like a -- like a sprig of poison ivy right in the middle of a fairway, right?

It`s always just seemed unusual and unexplained given the fact that prosecutors in that office explicitly identified other people who took part in the commission of those felonies. Michael Cohen, the guy who went to prison, didn`t even benefit from it himself. Why is he the only one who went to prison on it?

I mean, they described the involvement of all of these other people in those felonies, including the person who most benefitted from the commission of those felonies and in the words of prosecutors the guy who directed the commission of those felonies. The top of that list was individual 1, the president himself identified by SDNY prosecutors in the Cohen case.

When he made guilty Michael Cohen explicitly pointed at the president saying he had acted at the president`s direction. And yes, the case involved other people, too. Maybe you can`t charge the president while he`s serving as president under Justice Department policy, arguably.

But it wasn`t even just the president and Michael Cohen. It wasn`t them acting alone in this illegal scheme for which Cohen went to jail. I mean, we`ve literally seen the checks by which they laundered the money for those felonies through the president`s company.

All right, in addition to individual 1, SDNY prosecutors identified executives at Trump`s company who facilitated the hush money scheme. How can it be Michael Cohen is the only one who went to jail, the only one who got charged?

And the investigation got closed inexplicably without warning months after Michael Cohen got sentenced. SDNY closed the hush money investigation in a footnote to a court filing, telling the judge, quote, the government has effectively concluded its investigations who besides Michael Cohen was involved in and maybe criminally liable for the two campaign finance violations to which Cohen pled guilty and whether certain individuals made false statements or gave false testimony or otherwise obstructed justice, quietly in a footnote months later.

Why`d they drop that? Why`d they drop it after only Cohen went to prison?

Well, now we know that that happened after William Barr personally and directly pressured the prosecutors in that office for months. To the point where it seemed like he was maybe even trying to undo the prosecution of Cohen after Cohen had started serving his sentence. He`s pressuring them on that case about Cohen himself even after Cohen`s going to jail already. And then they decide, OK, we`re not going to bring charges against anybody else in this case either. No explanation why.

Well, now we know thanks to reporting from "The New York Times" because people are apparently now talking about what Bill Barr has been doing to the rule of law in this supposedly super independent U.S. attorneys office. Now we know that one of the people who had been actively under investigation for potentially having lied to investigators or trying to obstruct the investigation was a, quote, senior executive at Mr. Trump`s company.

William Barr is there leaning on those prosecutors personally and directly about how much he`s against that prosecution. So whatever happened to that? Why did it get closed quietly in a footnote months later?

I`ll tell you one other thing from "The Times" reporting tonight. Times reporters also say William Barr has been personally and intimately involved in all of the details of the prosecution of our friends Lev and Igor, too. Really, even them, too, the guys who got their trial put off until next year after the election is over. He`s been personally involved in pressuring them on that, too?

Joining us now is Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter at "The New York Times." She and three of her colleagues at "The Times" broke the story tonight.

Ms. Benner, thank you so much for talking us through this. Congratulations on this scoop.


MADDOW: I`m not asking you to comment on your sources, and I do not want to ask you to associate yourself with what I just said in terms of SDNY squawking. You are not describing your sources. I don`t have any inside information about it. I want to make that clear.

But beyond that, is there anything I just described that missed the point or got any of this wrong, or is that the basic plot you and your colleagues have been able to describe here?

BENNER: Yeah, you know, I think you represented a lot of the story really well. One point I think to add is that Bill Barr believes truly that as the attorney general he does have the right to have strict oversight over the Southern District. The Southern District is independent not because it is allowed to be by something in the U.S. attorneys manual or statute but simply because of tradition. You can imagine somebody who wants to strongly control everything that happens in the department for him the Southern District has been particularly a thorn in husband side, and U.S. Attorney Berman particularly a target.

MADDOW: In terms of what Mr. Barr believes he should be controlling, though, does it seem to be out of proportion the way that Attorney General Barr has personally gotten himself involved in cases that touch on the president`s personal, political and business interests compared to other types of cases that don`t relate to the president whether at the Southern District of New York or other U.S. attorneys offices around the country. It certainly seems like an unusual amount of personal intervention, all of which seems to go towards lenience for the president`s associates.

BENNER: Sure. Before I address that first I want to note that Attorney General Barr did speak on this point to NPR today. So, in his own words he believes these accusations are essentially a conspiracy theory whipped up usually by the media or by people who just do not trust the Justice Department law and order.

But I want to make sure I put in his defense before I also say when you step back and you look at this pattern of behavior, it is one of the reasons why people suspect that he is intervening to protect the president. Yes, he is heavy-handed attorney general, and he is a micromanager to say the least, so it`s not surprising per se he would want to know what`s going on in really, really sensitive matters and want to manage them.

That said, of course, between the president`s public statements and his tweets, the way he regards Attorney General Barr, the fact he`s all but called him his fixer or guy on the inside, he`s sort of danced around that theme. Of course, people will say this is part of a pattern and practice on part of the attorney general to make sure he has ear to the ground for anything that could hurt the president.

MADDOW: You and your colleagues at the end of this piece tonight describe the attorney general also taking a very active role in what I colloquially called the Lev and Igor case. This case related to Rudy Giuliani`s associates and their potentially or their allegedly having directed hundreds of dollars in illegal contributions to Republican campaigns and to a super PAC supporting the president`s reelection effort.

The delay of their case so their trial is going to happen after the election may certainly be explained just by the pandemic, just by the fact that COVID has delayed all trials and has delayed a lot of different proceedings.

But I do wonder and I just have to ask if your reporting indicates anything about whether Attorney General Barr is trying to shape the way that prosecution goes forward. In December, federal prosecutors of SDNY said in open court that a superseding indictment is likely in that case, one a lot of people expected to mean Rudy Giuliani. That`s very close to the president`s interests.

Is there any sense that part of the case is what Barr is interested in or working on?

BENNER: Sure, I`ll take your question in a couple of parts. One, on the timing the delay really was I believe because all the courts were shutdown because of the COVID. There were no grand juries and not a lot actually happening in the courts. So when something was essential like life or death or, you know, a criminal matter that was of the utmost importance, national security matters mostly, you were not going to see any action happen in the courts. So that is truly a big reason for why this has been delayed.

Now, interestingly, again, this gets to the relationship between Attorney General Barr and the Southern District another part of your question, which was is he very closely scrutinizing this matter. He is.

Now, one reason is because we have Justice Department policy saying anything that is going to be a matter of public interest, anything that`s going to make the news, anything that pertains to a public figure, an important public figure in government like the president had every prosecutorial step has to be run by the deputy attorney general`s office and the attorney general`s office. And I`m told that`s exactly what`s happening in this matter.

Now, of course, we also know there are people within the Southern District of New York who do not trust Mr. Barr`s motives, thanks to these past encounters with him not just on, you know, the Michael Cohen case but also on Halkbank and others. So, this -- you know, it just speaks again to this very broken relationship between Southern District and main justice and this bigger fear that the attorney general is able to use existing rules for the president`s ends.

MADDOW: Yeah, existing rules, exactly. And being able to put in context his behavior toward things that affect the president versus his behavior toward run of the mill things in the Justice Department I feel like that`s where the story is becoming very clear.

Katie Benner, justice reporter with "The New York Times" -- thank you for helping us understand this tonight and congratulations to you and your colleagues.

You know, at the start of the Trump presidency back at the start of 2017, if you had asked most Americans to choose what they would have expected to befall the country by the end of just this presidential term, just by the end of this four-year term of Trump being in office, how many Americans would have given you this list that we are now living through, right?

I mean, an unemployment chart that looks like this. This is Department of Labor Unemployment numbers going back to 1967. Look at us there on the right. That`s how we`re living now.

Or economic headlines like this one from CNBC today. U.S. GDP fell at a 5 percent rate in the first quarter and the worse is likely -- and worse is likely on the way. GDP is negative 5 percent, alongside rule of law headlines like that breaking news we just covered from "The New York Times" with Katie Benner, about the president getting his attorney general to interfere in apparently all criminal cases that touch on the president`s interests and his associates, right, as he tries to take over the federal prosecutors office in New York after he already effectively took over the federal prosecutors office in D.C., ousting that U.S. attorney already. Taking over ongoing investigations in that office related to the president`s interests before they ever produced potential indictments.

Reporting a criminal prosecutor to go after FBI and CIA officials who are involved in investigating the president getting Russian help in the election that put him in the White House, appointing another criminal prosecutor to go after high level members of the previous administration including, say, maybe it just so happens the very senior member of that previous administration that President Trump is going to be running against in his re-election effort in the fall.

I mean, maybe -- maybe we all saw all of this coming, right, the economic collapse, the rule of law collapse. But who among us saw it coming all at the same time and at the same time as the total surrender of our country to a highly contagious viral pandemic? Right?

I mean every country that took drastic steps to contain coronavirus took an economic hit for it. Well, we took among the worst economic hits in the world. We`re still reeling, except the difference is we didn`t actually contain the coronavirus. Right?

We gave ourselves the economic hit, but we wasted it in terms of what we used that time for in terms of containing this pandemic. We blew it. Everybody took an economic hit, but look what they got for their time. They got their pandemics under control. We did not.

We took the economic hit, and we are still eating it in terms of the health impact of this thing, with 121,000 dead Americans. I mean, last night, we reported that the United States had reached the largest number of new infections yet on any single day since the start of the pandemic. We did break that record yesterday.

Then today we broke it again. Today we set a new record when we broke the record that we set yesterday. Let`s see how tomorrow looks.

Most states in the United States are seeing a rise in the number of new infections reported each day now. Most states. Today, a whole bunch of states hit new record numbers overall in terms of new infections reported today -- Missouri, Nevada, Alabama, those states all hit record numbers today. Texas has hit a record number -- Texas has hit a new record for highest number of cases it has ever reported every single day this week.

Texas had almost 6,000 new cases reported today. Texas case numbers are up 340 percent since Memorial Day. That was only four weeks ago.

In Harris County, Texas, where Houston is they were reporting on average 372 new cases a day last week, 372 -- 732 new cases a week last week on average. This week on average, they`re reporting 1,090 new cases a day.

Houston area, this is Harris County, right, Houston area, ICU beds are at 97 percent capacity. Texas Medical Center in the Houston area reports today they have hit their normal ICU capacity. They are at 100 percent. They`re now going into newly created surge capacity. We`ll see how long that can hold out.

The Texas governor today finally announced he will slow down plans in Texas to keep reopening stuff further. Yeah, you think? He also ordered a ban on all elective surgeries in four hard hit Texas counties today, which is something they try to do to save bed space, to save PPE, to save man hours for overworked hospital staff.

They put in place that no elective surgeries rule in four Texas counties. And let me just tell you one last thing. I don`t know if this has had any national attention today, but Mississippi is another one of the states that hit a new record today in terms of the number of new infections that state reported in the last 24 hours. Now, we`ve been keeping an eye on Mississippi in part because when they hit another record earlier this week, the state health direct basically just went off to the "Jackson Free Press".

He told them earlier this week, quote, just because you`re tired of something doesn`t mean it`s gone and we are going to pay for it. We are paying for it now and it is just going to continue to get worse. Again, this is the state health officer from Mississippi. He told the Free Press earlier this week that the Mississippi outbreak was going to get in his words really bad by fall.

He said, quote: Prepare for not being able to get into the hospital if you have a car wreck, to have heart attack and there fought be a ventilator to put you on.

That was what he said at the start of this week, and since the start of this week, Mississippi`s case numbers and hospitalization numbers have just kept rising since then, hitting new records in that state on both of those metrics.

Well, tonight that same state health officer from Mississippi just did a press conference in Jackson in which he said he wants to revise that statement of concern he made earlier this week. This is what he said tonight.


DR. THOMAS DOBBS, MISSISSIPPI STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH OFFICER: We have seen significant stress on the health system and over the past couple of days, we`ve seen the highest number of hospitalized patients as well, not so much ICU utilization but there`s a sequence from hospitalization and ICU, and I`m absolutely terrified we`re going to overwhelm the health and secure system of the hospitals and ICU not in the fall, which is something that had worried me previously, but now I`m worried about next week, or two weeks now.

We`re already tight. We have a massively growing population of infected people that are going to transmit it more and more to over folks and people who have going to have severe adverse outcomes.


MADDOW: Not in the fall, which is something that had worried me previously. Now I`m worried about next week or two weeks from now. That is the health director for the great state of Mississippi speaking tonight.

I think that a lot of people, a lot of Americans thought that this presidency might be a bad one, that this leader we chose in the last election might not have the right stuff to lead the country well. I think that is not overstating the case.

But this level of multivariate, simultaneous, existentially threatening mass catastrophe, this -- I mean, this is what we`ve got. We`ve got economic disaster. We`ve got rule of law disaster. We`ve got health disaster, none of which we`re abating, none of which are abating. They`re all getting worse with every passing day, and all of which are cresting simultaneously now down onto us.

We have -- we have got to survive it, one, and we have got to fix it.


MADDOW: It is becoming way too common for me to say this at the start of a new segment, but this next story we`re about to do is a difficult one. It involves a 27-year-old Latino man who died in April after he was forcefully restrained by police officers in Tucson, Arizona.

The police body cam footage of this incident, even though it took place in April, the footage of the incident was just released this week, and it is difficult to watch. So if you do not want to see it, if you need to step away from the TV for a few moments, now is the time. I`ll give time a chance to do that, ready? Three, two, one.

OK. It was the early morning of April 21st. A family member of Carlos Ingram-Lopez called 911 about him, to say that Carlos was drunk and yelling and running around the house naked.

Police arrived on the scene. They confronted Mr. Ingram-Lopez in the family`s garage and they restrained him. They handcuffed him and placed him facedown on the floor.

The video quality on the tape is poor, but Mr. Ingram-Lopez can be heard repeatedly asking for his grandmother, asking his grandmother for water. At one point you can hear an officer saying if he doesn`t calm down, he will Taser him, or as the officer, says, quote, you`re going to get zapped.

A few minutes into the video, the officers are seen placing a disposable yellow plastic blanket over Mr. Ingram-Lopez, and you can hear in the tape that he`s clearly in distress.


CARLOS INGRAM-LOPEZ: Please! Some water, por favor.


MADDOW: Shortly after this, it appears that an officer pulls something over his face. It`s a mesh covering apparently that is referred to as a spit hood covering up his face.

The officers held Carlos Ingram-Lopez in a prone, facedown position for about 12 minutes, and then he went into cardiac arrest. An autopsy later found that he died due to a combination of physical restraint and cardiac arrest involving cocaine intoxication. Now, the three officers involved in this incident resigned from Tucson`s police department last week.

The Pima County attorney`s office is now determining whether or not those officers should also face criminal charges in addition to losing their jobs.

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus also made a surprise officer to himself resign when the tape of this incident emerged. He made that offer unexpectedly during a news conference that was held yesterday.


CHRIS MAGNUS, TUCSON POLICE CHIEF: I realize that given the times we`re in, any mistakes of this kind are viewed with great suspicion and contribute to the lack of trust in the police. While I think this is extremely unfortunate because I believe we have one of the best police departments in the country, with good policies and training in place, and I believe that our members and I work hard every single day to earn and sustain that trust.

But to demonstrate my willingness to take accountability for these mistakes, I am offering my resignation to the mayor, city council, and city manager, which they can accept or handle as they deem appropriate.


MADDOW: Today, the mayor of Tucson, Regina Romero, responded saying in part, quote: In this moment my focus is on the fact that the life of a fellow Tucsonian, Carlos Ingram-Lopez, was needlessly lost. The chief`s abrupt announcement of press conference yesterday shouldn`t take away from that, by city charter, it`s the city manager`s responsibility to accept resignations or fire department directors. After listening to the feedback of my colleagues on the council, on the city council, I do not believe the chief should resign.

Late tonight, the city manager in Tucson in fact rejected the chief`s proposed resignation, so it`s official. He`s staying on. But now the city has to move forward in large part under the leadership of the mayor, who yesterday offered this message to her city and to Carlos Ingram-Lopez`s family.


MAYOR REGINA ROMERO (D), TUCSON, ARIZONA: Carlos Ingram-Lopez not only lost his life, but his family lost a son, a grandson, and his daughter lost a father. As mayor and as a mother, I am deeply troubled and outraged by what happened. I am outraged that Carlos Adrian lost his life. I am outraged that his family lost their son.


MADDOW: Joining us now is Regina Romero, who is the mayor of the great city of Tucson, Arizona.

Mayor Romero, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I know it`s a really difficult time.

ROMERO: It`s an emotional time for our citizens here in Tucson and, you know, it`s difficult. We never saw this -- a failure like this happening in our city, and I`m -- I want to make sure that we keep the focus on Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez and their family and what happened here in Tucson, make sure it never happens again, and the action we need to take and the reform we need to do to offer much of a safety net from this happening in our city.

MADDOW: Let me -- let me ask you about a foundational question in this very troubling incident, which is the delay. This happened in April. Information about this incident was not disclosed publicly until this week.

Do you yet have a handle on why that is, on why there was that delay in the reporting of the death let alone the publication of these very disturbing details about how the death occurred?

ROMERO: Well, I`m very disturbed as well as the community are disturbed as to why the mayor and council only learned of this death in custody last Wednesday when it actually happened April 21st. I believe there was a breakdown in communication in the police department. We do have an Office of Professional Standards that do an internal investigation and offers the chief of police a recommendation in terms of what the officers -- what type of punishment the officers should receive, and that breakdown is what brought us to this point.

Why did mayor and council not hear from the death in custody until last Wednesday, and why did the community not hear what happened?

I offered -- yesterday I offered a reform, a very quick reform that mayor and council have to approve immediately, which is any in-custody death that happens here in the city of Tucson must be reported to mayor and council and the community within the first 24 hours, even if we don`t release the names of the victim or the names of the officers so that the investigation can be fair and neutral, the community has a right to know.

MADDOW: The Pima County attorney`s office is reportedly deciding whether or not charges should be brought against the officers involved here. They are all former Tucson police officers right now.

In addition to this drama from the chief offering his resignation, you`ve said that you don`t believe the chief should resign. The city manager is not accepting that resignation. But in terms of the fate of the three officers who were directly involved in this incident, do you believe that charges should be brought? Do you believe this was a criminal act by those officers?

ROMERO: The chief has called in the FBI so that the FBI can also do an investigation as to what happened internally in the department with the communication breakdown. The Pima County attorney now has the case and, you know, I want to make sure that that case is swift and thorough for the community to learn what the charges will be. I believe that the family of Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez deserves an explanation as to what -- if it is - - if it is criminal conduct that the officers did.

But the family deserves justice. The mayor and council and the community deserve a swift and thorough investigation by the Pima County attorney, and we must -- right now what we need to focus on is reform and reconciliation in our community, and that is only done with actions, in partnership and in solidarity with our community.

MADDOW: Mayor Regina Romero of the great city of Tucson, Arizona, which is going through so much right now in terms of the coronavirus epidemic and the local difficulties that I know that you`re having, and now with this crisis that has come to the public fore. Good luck to you, madam mayor. Thank you for helping us understand what`s going on. Please keep us apprised. I know it`s difficult days ahead.

ROMERO: Thank you so much, Rachel.

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


MADDOW: The Washington Regional Medical Center is not in either of the famous Washingtons. It`s not in Washington, D.C. or Washington state. It`s actually in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It`s a good-sized, 425-bed hospital. More than 3,000 people work there.

Late last week, employees at the Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, got this letter from the CEO of their hospital, a letter that we have now obtained. It says in part, quote, team members, our ongoing battle against COVID-19 intensified this week. Nearly every component of our health system saw a meaningful surge in COVID-19 related activity.

Our two patient, dedicated in-patient critical units experienced a dramatic increase in both the number and acuity of patients with census nearing 75 percent of capacity. Our screening centers saw a daily average of 320 patients with staff being presented the additional challenge of having to conduct those screenings in full PPE in the heat of summer.

Our supply chain became challenged as precious in-house rapid test kits were utilized faster than inventory could be replaced. In short, this week has been marked by increasing anxiety and challenges. This week, he says, I rounded -- meaning I did rounds -- on our two COVID units with our nursing leadership. I was not prepared for what I experienced.

My first conversation was with a critical care nurse concerned for his family. My next conversation was with two critical care nurses who shared the particular challenge of having to deliver news of a patient`s death to loved ones, the language barrier and the strain in trying to communicate that the loved one was not simply asleep.

A respiratory therapist shared with me her activity app results, which showed that by late afternoon, she had already logged 28,000 steps. Hospitalists and intensivists commented that the care of a typical patient required three times the amount of time required for a normal critical care patient. There were no visitors, no guests, just our teammates.

When I returned to the quiet of my office and reflected, I was overcome. While I try to reassure each of you and truly believe we`ve got this, there`s often in the pit of my stomach the fear of the unknown. How high is the hill we have yet to climb?

He says, I wept, but then became inspired, a Winston Churchill quote regarding the foolishness of trying to predict the future at the expense of focusing on the task at hand came to mind. Then he quotes Churchill. It`s a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.

It goes on, but it`s signs the president and CEO of the Washington Regional Medical System. Again, this letter sent to health workers at that Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

We actually got this interestingly from a tipster who wanted us to see this to show the scale of how bad things are getting for health care providers in Arkansas right now as they are battling one of the fastest growing COVID epidemics in the country.

After we got it from a tipster, we have since confirmed this letter with the hospital. It is authentic. They provided us with their own copy which the CEO sent to hospital staff.

It`s kind of a remarkable snapshot, right? This is clearly the sense of hope at that Arkansas hospital, since of pride in the team there, but also, there`s real worry, this real fear about the oncoming deluge of more sick people coming through their doors right now given what they`re already coping with -- the question of whether or not that hospital, whether those health workers will have the capacity and the stamina and the equipment and the ability and the time to keep up through the end of this.

And there is reason to worry. This is a chart from the Arkansas department of health today tracking the number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus in the state of Arkansas. That`s not the total number of hospitalizations over time. This is just how many COVID patients took up a hospital bed on any given day.

Just look at the last two weeks. Hospitalizations hit record highs 12 of the last 14 days, and those hospitalization numbers look like that in Arkansas because new infection numbers look like this in Arkansas. They`ve just lit up the state since the start of June.

At the end of May, new COVID cases in Arkansas were around 200 a day. Arkansas right now is clocking in just shy of 700 new cases a day, from 200 new cases a day to close to 700 new cases a day in less than a month. Put that graph up there one more time.

How in that letter, he says he fears the unknown, not knowing how high of a hill his staff will have to climb to treat all those sick patients. Well, the experts in Arkansas think what we`re looking at here is not the top of the hill, not by a long shot.

This is something I want to bring some national attention to tonight. Researchers at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences say they do not expect Arkansas to hit their peak of new COVID infections until the last day of September when they predict Arkansas will have 150,000 active cases of COVID, not total cases, not 150,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, but 150,000 active cases, 150,000, among other things, contagious people milling around the state of Arkansas at one time, many of whom will urgently eventually need medical care.

So where does that hospital capacity come from given how stretched the state already is months before experts in that state think they are going to see the height of this thing?

The chancellor of the Arkansas medical school that`s making that fairly dire prediction is going to join us live here next.

Stay with us.



GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: We`re clearly on pause here in the state in terms of moving to lift further restrictions until we are comfortable with where we are in controlling the spread.


MADDOW: Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas today announcing the state won`t keep reopening right now. Arkansas began phase two reopening last week, dine-in restaurants and bars, the whole thing. They`re not going backwards. The governor says he doesn`t plan to re-impose any of the previous restrictions but at least no further reopening for now.

We got that news from Arkansas tonight after the University of Arkansas for medical sciences published a sobering projection recently. They`re projecting that Arkansas isn`t going to peak in its COVID numbers till the end of September, by which point the state will have as many as 150,000 active cases of coronavirus.

For perspective, there`s about 5,600 cases right now. They think they`re going to 150,000. Right now, ICU units in Arkansas are already 80 percent full.

Joining us now is Dr. Cam Patterson. He`s chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Dr. Patterson, Mr. Chancellor, thank you so much for making time to be here tonight. I appreciate it, sir.


MADDOW: The projection that you have made at the University of Arkansas is incredibly daunting. Why do you think that Arkansas numbers will not peak until the end of September and that they will peak at such a high rate?

PATTERSON: Well, that`s a great question. You know, the models are like hurricane forecasting, and the models are now all converging on a notion that the crest will be in late September, early October. The real question is what is going to be the magnitude, and our models are at the high end right now compared to other models. But our models are based on Arkansas data rather than national data.

So I think, you know, we have to take them seriously. We have to be honest about them, and we have to think about how we`re going to have the capacity to manage a situation that means that we would have 30 times the number of active cases that we have right now. It will definitely stretch our resources to the breaking point.

MADDOW: And tell me about that breaking point. I mean we`re seeing strain, Arkansas health providers and the heads of Arkansas hospitals talking about how pushed health providers are right now and how worried they are about forthcoming numbers even just over the next few weeks. A 30-times expansion in terms of the pool of people who are infected, how does that match up against the resources that Arkansas has in terms of treating sick people and critically ill people?

PATTERSON: Great question. You know, right now, we have search plans in place across the state to manage a crisis to the health care system that`s induced by COVID-19. The problem that Washington regional hospital faces right now is that the outbreak -- the hot spot in Arkansas right now is concentrated in northwest Arkansas.

So that particular region is being stretched to, you know, to a tight limit. If the outbreak expands across rural parts of the state, areas of the state that currently have capacity like Central Arkansas where I am right now are also going to be stretched and strained. And, you know, the challenge for us is, what can we do to mitigate this rather than simply wait for a tidal wave to crest over us.

MADDOW: Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Dr. Patterson, the numbers that you and your team have put out there are really worrying, and I think deserve some national attention. Please keep us apprised as that modeling develops and also as we start to look toward what kind of resources you`re state`s going to need. Come back.

PATTERSON: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here.

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


MADDOW: Thank you for being with us tonight. I know this is sort of a heavy show tonight. A little lack of leavening as they might say. But those are the times.

It`s good to have you here. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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