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Houston E.R. doctor TRANSCRIPT: 6/30/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Peter Hotez, Elissa Slotkin

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with us this hour.

The biggest population center in the great state of Nebraska is, of course, Omaha. Lovely Omaha has a population of nearly half million people. That`s Douglas County, Nebraska. More people lived there in Omaha, in that county, than anywhere else in that state by a large measure.

Down at the other end of the population spectrum is Dakota County, Nebraska, where the population is only 20,000 for the whole county. Dakota County, Nebraska, is tucked up in the northeast corner of the state. It`s the home of Dakota City, that`s the county seat which itself has a population of well under 2,000 people .

So, Omaha is the big kahuna in Nebraska in terms of population. Little Dakota City, Nebraska, is like 1/300th of that size. Guess which one had more coronavirus cases?

This is the headline a few weeks ago in "The Sioux City Journal." Dakota County has most COVID-19 cases in cases Nebraska. Not most per capita, but literally the most cases, the highest number of cases in a county with only 20,000 people in it. They had more cases than any other county in the state, including Omaha, which has a half million people in it, including Lincoln, including anywhere else.

This little county where the county seat is 2,000 people, the whole county is only 20,000 people. I mean, it even made the news in the Omaha big city paper. Little Dakota County now leads Nebraska in coronavirus cases.

And why is that? Why did we get those headlines a few weeks ago in Nebraska?

Well, I`m sure you see this coming. It turns out little Dakota County, Nebraska, is home to a gigantic beef processing plant run by Tyson Foods and that exact type of workplace has proven to be perhaps the most efficient delivery system human beings have yet created for spreading coronavirus among ourselves.

And so, with that big Tyson plant in Dakota County, Nebraska, that county just got whacked. They got hit early. They got hit super hard and there were headlines about it all over the place. Dakota County, one of the nation`s fastest growing coronavirus hot spots. Dakota County, Nebraska among highest rates of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Look at this headline, actually. Seven percent of the entire population of Dakota County confirmed to be infected with the virus. As of the end of the first week in -- 7 percent of the whole county, confirmed infection. Dakota County, Nebraska, up in the northeast corner of that state, they just got battered by this thing. And of course this thing isn`t over there or anywhere.

And Dakota County has had to adapt. They have had to try to protect themselves, to try to get this thing under control. They have made changes the way -- in the way they do things in Dakota County to try to deal with the fact that they have such a high prevalence of the virus in that little unpopulated place.

And that includes the county making accommodations at the public buildings there. This is the Dakota County courthouse. I love buildings like this. This is like what you would make up if you were imagining a heartland American solid stock local courthouse. Look how gorgeous it is.

But with incredibly high prevalence of COVID-19 that they have had in Dakota County, they`ve taken steps to try to protect people who work in that building and who have to visit that building on official business. So if you have wanted to come into the Dakota County courthouse, you have had to wear a mask.

They`ve also been checking everybody`s temperature to see if you had a fever before you could come in. If you wanted to come into the courthouse, you`d be asked a series of questions about whether you knew you`d been exposed to the virus. And it make sense that they would put those things in place, right? It`s kind of what you expect in a place that has a higher prevalence of COVID-19 among its population that almost any other place on the planet.

Well, Republican Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska is now forcing Dakota County to drop the mask requirement at their courthouse. Governor Ricketts of Nebraska has told every community in that state, even unbelievably hard- hit Dakota County, that they are forbidden from having any mask requirements for places like courthouses and county offices and he has backed it up with a threat. He says anybody who puts in place a mask requirement or holds on to their existing mask requirement, he will cut them off from COVID relief money.

And, you know, it`s not like the problem represented by this virus is -- is over in Dakota County now. I mean, still with only 20,000 people in the whole county, even with this bigger, more widely spread epidemic that we`ve got all over the country now, still little Dakota County is still the second highest case numbers in the whole state. The third highest death toll in the whole state. But now they have been forced to drop one of the things they were doing to try to protect themselves in public buildings.

The county assessor for Dakota County told us today that he had implemented that mask order in the first place for obvious reasons because of the still rising number of cases in that county. Because of how hard hit they`ve been. But they had the legs cut out of them by their governor, threatening them over it.

Now, the county assessor told us today that the county absolutely would still have that mask order in effect in public buildings if the governor hadn`t done this, hadn`t forced them to drop it. But they don`t know what to do. They can`t really make it without any relief money for the virus, right?

Federal money that`s come in to Nebraska, they`re supposed to get a significant share of it. They`ve had such a disproportionate number of cases and deaths. They`ll get none of it unless they drop their mask requirement at the county courthouse. That`s the priority.

So, Dakota County assessor today told us that there are grave concerns for their employees who work in their public buildings. Without being able to require masks anymore, with having to drop that, they have resulted to new ideas. They are holding people in long line out in the sun in front of the courthouse just letting in one person or a small number of people at a time.

They`ve started putting out shade tents in front of the courthouse and handing out water when it`s a hot day and people are out there for a really long time, but they can`t require masks. They`ve been forbidden to do so. Forced to drop that.

Why would anybody do that to them? Why would any governor force them to drop that? I mean, especially now. Why would this be the thing that you would do to the citizens of your state now? Given what`s going on right now, with this crisis.

I mean, this is what it looks like when a country goes off the rails, right? All these nonsense decisions, turns out they add up. I mean, this cumulatively is what the failed American response looks like right now. And it`s a million little decisions and it`s the absence of federal leadership, but what it adds up to now is 40,000 Americans getting newly infected every day now.

When the rest of our allies, the rest of the industrial world, the industrialized world has wrestled this thing to the ground, we are just making incredibly backward decisions every day that keep making it worse. It`s not like we had some early problem and now we`re having a hard time getting over it. Our bad decisions are now.

You look at us against France, Italy, Germany, yeah, it`s no surprise the E.U. today announced formally that it`s ready to reopen its borders to travelers again, except not to Americans. Are you kidding? America.

Look at the U.S. epidemic. No way. We are a threat, we are perceived as a threat and in some ways we are a threat to the whole rest of the world, as much as we are all a threat to each other now. Because of how disastrously this thing has been mismanaged.

And the mismanagement is, you know, chaos, as much as anything. There isn`t a federal response to speak of. As the -- as the epidemic has started taking back off like a rocket, the president doesn`t even talk about coronavirus anymore.

I mean, he does occasionally criticize people for wearing masks. He says that`s just people trying to make him look bad. Under his leadership of the Republican Party, many Republican elected officials apparently don`t know if their job now is just to try to make the president look good or if their supposed to govern, and so you get these crazy things in the local news like a Republican governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, banning even the worst counties in his state from requiring masks, forcing them to drop an existing mask requirement. Why would you do that?

We`ve got that happening while at the same time the increasingly definitive evidence about mask-wearing actually working to slow the spread of this thing. It`s led all of these other places across the country, newly, to start requiring masks, to start requiring masks. In Oregon, a new statewide mask requirement goes into effect as of tomorrow. The state of Nevada`s new statewide mask requirement went into effect Friday.

Las Vegas helpfully promoted that with pictures of can-can dancers from Caesars wearing masks coordinated with their can-can outfits. Thank you, Las Vegas.

Another in Washington state and another in North Carolina and another in Kansas starts this Friday. Even in states where there isn`t a statewide requirement, individual cities and communities are now putting in mask rules all over the place. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Savannah, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Jacksonville, Florida.

Jacksonville, Florida, where the president moved the Republican convention later this summer because he was worried there`d be too many protect yourself from coronavirus rules in North Carolina, where the Republican convention was -- was initially supposed to be. He moved it to Jacksonville.

Well, Jacksonville now has a mandatory mask requirement, too. So eventually it`s going to be time to face the music here.

We don`t -- we don`t even know if the president is working on coronavirus stuff anymore at all. Again, while this is the kind of disaster we`re in, the president doesn`t talk about it anymore, he doesn`t tweet about it, he doesn`t seem to be paying attention to it anymore at all. But perhaps one positive consequence of that for us, as the rest of us try to figure out what we can do to try to save the country in this disaster that we`re in.

Perhaps one sort of silver lining to the president being totally checked out from this is that the president has perhaps forgotten as he`s moved on to other things, he maybe has lost track of the fact that he was previously preventing the actual public health -- public health experts from speaking to the public about what`s going on.

And so with the president totally checked out from this crisis, now some of the high-ranking doctors in the U.S. government who know what they`re talking about have been slipping through cracks and speaking publicly and bluntly.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I`m very concerned about what`s going on right now, particularly in the four states that are accounting for about 50 percent of the new infections, but the other vulnerable states. So I`d have to say the numbers speak for themselves. I`m very concerned. And I`m not satisfied with what`s going on because we`re going in the wrong direction, if you look at the curves of the new cases. So we`ve really got to do something about that and we need to do it quickly.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Dr. Fauci, based on what you`re seeing now, how many COVID-19 deaths and infections should America expect before this is all over?

FAUCI: I can`t make an accurate prediction, but it is going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that. Because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country, even though in other parts of the country they are doing well, they are vulnerable. I made that point very clearly last week at a press conference. We can`t just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk. We are now having 40,000- plus new cases a day.

I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned. I think it`s important to tell you and the American public that I`m very concerned because it could get very bad.


MADDOW: It could get very bad. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country`s leading infectious disease doctor, testifying in the Senate today, saying we`re over 40,000 cases a day now. He sees us potentially more than doubling that to 100,000 cases a day, 100,000 newly infected Americans a day, which would be like moving from this bad kitchen fire we`ve got right now to the whole block being on fire, right?

Dr. Fauci today talking about 100,000 cases a day. I think that blew a lot of people away until you started looking at the curves of what we`re doing right now in terms of rising case numbers, realizing that without any evidence anywhere of us doing anything dramatic to change this, why wouldn`t we hit that number and, in fact, relatively soon?

But I also want you to see this. This is Dr. Anne Schuchat. She`s the number two official at the CDC. The director of the CDC is a -- I don`t know him personally at all, I don`t mean this in a mean way, but he is an almost uniquely ineffective public communicator.

So the White House allows him to go out and do a thing every once in a while. There is a reason you`ve never heard Dr. Redfield quoted from any of his public remarks. They`re often inexplicable, dense and they`re designed to never make news.

Anne Schuchat, on the other hand, who`s the number two person at the CDC almost never speaks publicly at all. Of course not. Not in this administration. That`s in part, I think, because she`s an incredibly effective and clear communicator, not to mention an unbelievably authoritative presence who knows of what she speaks and helming a lot of what the CDC is doing right. She very rarely speaks publicly.

But here she is being interviewed by "The Journal for American Medical Association", and I want you to know who she is because she makes a really, really important point here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, 35,000, 40,000 cases. Deaths in just under 1,000 for a few days. What`s your sense of what the last week`s been like, Ann?

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, CDC PRINCIPAL DEPUTY DIRECTOR: You know, I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around that hey, summer, everything`s going to be fine. We`re over this. We are not even beginning to be over this.

There`s a lot of worrisome factors about the last week or so. You know, these increases are in many places. It`s not just New York City.


SCHUCHAT: Geographic area. It`s so many geographic areas.

This is really that beginning. And what we hope is that we can take it seriously and slow the transmission in these places, but what I think is very discouraging is we`re clearly not at a point where there is so little virus being spread that it`s going to be easy to snuff out.

We`re not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where they have their, you know, a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolate who`d are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined, and they can -- they can keep things under control. We have way too much virus across the country for that right now. So it`s very discouraging.


MADDOW: We have way too much virus across the country for that right now. We have way too much virus to do the things that other countries have done to get things under control.

Why do we close things down anyway? And -- and how should you make a decision as to whether or not you should be opening things up? And why does having access to testing matter so much anyway?

I feel like this has all become sort of ambient noise. But this is a very specific idea. It`s not a hoax. You know, it`s not a trap to make you give up your guns or something, right?

It`s a rational system that makes sense in the light of a highly contiguous viral epidemic that kills people. You need for people to not have so many other contacts with people so that when a person does test positive they`ve had, say, three contacts that need to be traced and then themselves need to be tested and then they need to be isolated if they`re positive. And then their contacts can be traced as well.

You need people to have, like, three contacts or four, five or six. But if your community has not been closed down at all. If there aren`t mitigation members -- mitigation efforts in place to keep people from having lots of contacts with other people, if you`ve got no controls in place in terms of limiting people`s contact with each other, then every infected person you identify turns out to have not three or four or six contacts you need to trace, but 30 or 75 or 150 or 300.

How many people were at that party? How many people were in that bar? How many people are in my workplace with me? Lots of whom at that point they can`t even identify. That`s then too many to trace. And that means there`s too much virus in the community to meaningfully get an outbreak under control, to meaningfully work on it. To find any one outbreak, to track down where it has spread to, to stop it from rapidly, exponentially, freely increasing its spread beyond anything public health experts can do to trace it.

There`s a reason we closed down. It was not being at home is a nice place to hide. It was being home you don`t contact that many other people, A, so that the virus spread slows, but also, B, when it does slow, you can grab it, you can get your hands around it, you can intervene in a public health way to stop this thing from running off like a block of buildings on fire now threatening the whole city.

I mean, opening up for no reason or for reasons not based in science or for political reasons that had nothing to do with health. When you didn`t have the epidemic small enough to monitor and manage any new outbreaks, that was a recipe for disaster, and now we`re living through that disaster.

All right. And the bad decisions are still being made. The vice president and president scheduling indoor rallies right now, right?

Governors like Pete Ricketts in Nebraska forcing the repeal of existing mask requirements. I mean, stuff like this shows that it`s possible even now, even when we`re at over 40,000 cases a day. It`s possible that we are still making the most disastrously wrong decisions that we have made of this whole epidemic.

Not we made bad decisions before, but we`re still making them right now. And you can see these disasters manifest all over. Texas is in a real pickle right now. We`re going to take a close look at Texas this hour.

It is not good news. In Houston, in Dallas, in Laredo, in Waco, in Corpus Christi, in San Antonio, it is bad news in Texas right now and starting to look like urgently bad news that could become a national level problem because Texas is such a big state and their epidemic is so out of control and their hospital situation is so bad.

California, the most populous state in the nation, just hit their biggest daily case number today by a mile. The "L.A. Times" headlining it the state obliterating its previous record. In Southern California, Riverside County ICU capacity is now at 99 percent full.

Arizona blew through its daily case record today. They shattered it. Alaska, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, California, all hit record case numbers today.

It was two weeks ago today that the vice president, who is supposedly helming coronavirus policy efforts for this government, two weeks ago today, Vice President Pence wrote his op-ed calling our coronavirus experience a cause for celebration as a country and a great success story. Two weeks ago today he wrote that op-ed.

Today, we are at 40,000-plus cases a day and headed for 100,000 cases a day, according to Dr. Fauci.

I mean, if you have been waiting to break glass in case of emergency, we are there.



DR. CEDRIC DARK, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, HOUSTON, TX: I was working a few days ago and it was pretty obvious to me that there were no hospital beds for any patients that had COVID throughout the entire Houston area. And that`s, you know, ranging as far south as Galveston and upwards into the Woodlands. Nobody had any capacity to take care of a patient with coronavirus. And it`s -- pretty ashamed to say that that`s the state of our city.


MADDOW: That was Dr. Cedric Dark, who is an ER doctor in Houston, Texas, doing an interview with me this past Friday. And what he said about his revelation as an ER doctor that there was no bed to put anybody in, no bed for a COVID patient for the entire Houston area all the way down to Galveston, all the way up to the Woodlands, sort of shocking to hear, but it`s been backed up in the last few days in terms of news out of that part of Texas.

ERs in the Houston area are reportedly so backed up, that it`s -- according to the local fire chief, it`s taking paramedics more than an hour to transfer patients out of the ambulances into the hospital. That`s more than double or triple the time it normally takes and that means those same paramedics or their ambulances are then tied up when it comes to responding to other emergency calls because there isn`t bed space to put new patients.

It`s not Houston with the largest medical system on earth that is treading water. Dallas, Texas, today posted its worst day yet in terms of new coronavirus cases. Dallas County has seen a record-breaking number of cases for five straight days.

In Corpus Christi, which is in southeastern Texas, the regional health system points out they`re down to nine available ICU beds, nine total in that county. In San Antonio, more than 800 critical care nurses are on their way to augment that city`s hospital system to try to help with the onslaught of patients in San Antonio. Local officials in San Antonio have also asked the state of Texas to please staff a 250-bed field hospital in addition to the hospital space that San Antonio already has.

The medical director for the San Antonio region has, quote, warned that the community is on a worst-case scenario trajectory for COVID hospitalizations. Referencing one local model that forecasts 1,900 patients in the San Antonio region by mid-August. That`s a load that would exceed local hospital capacity.

Quote: For the last few days, hospitalizations have been rising even faster than that model`s worst projections. It`s against the backdrop of that worst-case scenario that the top health official in San Antonio abruptly resigned late last week. San Antonio`s health director`s only been on the job, like, five months, but she quitting in the middle of all of this. Her last day is this Friday.

Statewide, Texas has now topped 150,000 cases and they are not looking back. They`re settling in over 5,000 cases a day now regularly. Once again today, the state hit a record for total number of hospitalizations. They`ve broken hospitalization records 18 out of the last 19 days.

Despite just this explosion that we are seeing in Texas, they`re struggling to handle even the basics. The basic first step you need to be able to tackle this problem, which is testing.

Vice President Pence was in Texas this weekend praising the scale of Texas` testing, proclaiming anybody who wants a test can get one. He actually said that in Texas. While he was doing that, this was the front cover of one of the state`s biggest newspapers, "The Austin American Statesman." Unleashed, virus spikes in urban and rural Texas.

And what`s that underneath that all-caps headline? That is a picture of cars snaking around in a parking lot waiting in an hours-long lines in Austin to get seen at a coronavirus testing site, hours-long lines for testing.

As "The Texas Tribune" reports, quote, problems beset almost every step testing process in Texas, starting with the glitching websites, and unanswered phone lines used to schedule appointments, and extending to long lags before test results come back.

In Texas City after Texas City, the state of Texas is failing when it comes to testing. In remote parts of west Texas, people are waiting in line for four hours for testing in the heat. In Lubbock, a testing site was just shut down because the lab it works with is, quote, critically low on supplies.

Again, in San Antonio, one man told the local paper, he called the public health hotline more than 50 times to try to get an appointment because the line kept dropping.

So, no, Mr. Vice president, not everybody who wants a test can get one. Maybe you should have checked on that before you publicly praised Texas specifically for its testing. They are not doing a good job when it comes to testing in Texas.

And, unfortunately, for the residents of that state it looks like Texas is going to need help or at least radically upscale what they`re doing to respond to this. Not just is in one part of the state that is being hard hit, but all over that great state.

Joining us now is Dr. Peter Hotez. He`s dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He`s co-director of the Texas Children`s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

Dr. Hotez, thank you so much for your time this evening. I know your time is really precious right now.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF THE NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: It`s a -- it`s a really crazy busy time. We`re also developing a vaccine for COVID-19, trying to get that into clinical trials. So life is very full, but thank you for having me.

MADDOW: I`m worried about Texas because Texas is big and anything that`s happening on a large scale and going wrong in Texas is almost by definition a national problem. I`m worried about it because of the way that Dr. Fauci today talked about places that we`re seeing in the South and in the West having problems being big enough problems that they are going to become national problems.

I`m also just worried about Texans and all these different people in all these different cities having so much trouble.

Can you put it in perspective in terms of where Texas has been and how bad things are now?

HOTEZ: Yeah, absolutely, Rachel. We hit 7,000 cases today, which is our all-time high. To give you a sense of what that number means, today, Dr. Fauci predicted this apocalyptic number of 100,000 cases a day in the United States. If you were to extrapolate that for the population of Texas, 30 million, that would be 10,000 cases a day. We`re at 7,000.

So, we are already here in Texas reaching that level equivalent to the worst-case scenario for Dr. Fauci, and it`s not just in Texas, it`s happening in Arizona. It`s happening in the metropolitan areas all across the southwestern part of the United States.

The other really important piece to talk about that really not many people are mentioning is I think it`s the low-income neighborhoods especially that are being hit very hard where it`s harder to do social distancing. Where there`s higher rates of underlying comorbidities. I think this accounts for a lot of the people also piling into the hospital.

So, in that sense, we`re failing to protect our most vulnerable people across the major metro areas and in the American Southwest, L.A., Phoenix, Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio. And on that basis, I`m calling this a humanitarian catastrophe, unless we intervene very soon because the numbers continue to rise very aggressively. These are vertical curves at this point.

MADDOW: What kind of intervention do you think would be most important and most effective? We have seen Texas start to re-impose some restrictions within the state, rolling back reopenings, putting in place some mask ordinances, finally once again encouraging people to stay at home.

Are those the right interventions -- are there more -- are there things just speaking from a public health perspective that you think would be more effective to do urgently?

HOTEZ: Well, these are all important developments and we`re in a much better position now this week than we were last week. I still don`t know if those are going to be enough.

One of the things we haven`t gotten help from the federal government is any type of epidemiologic modeling exercise to actually look at what these interventions will do. What will the impact of those specific interventions be, short of a total lockdown? Will that level the curve? Will that bring it down?

We have access to that information. The CDC can help design a strategy for us. And this is the other very odd piece to this. There is no national strategy or national road map. What you`ve got are the individual states trying to figure this out as best they can. They`re certainly getting some FEMA help and PPE help, but no overarching strategy, no road map, no -- no overview in terms of how they should proceed.

And this is the other place where the federal government has let us down quite a bit. We don`t have that good road map to follow, unfortunately.

MADDOW: Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Baylor College of Medicine, co-director of the Children`s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development -- sounding the alarm for quite some time about things getting back in Houston and bad in Texas and keeping the focus on those low-income neighborhoods that have been the worst hit.

Dr. Hotez, thank you for being here. Come back any time. We want to do as much as we can to shine -- to spread a light as we can in Texas. Please help us.

HOTEZ: Thank you. This -- this is not going away. This will be with us for a while.

MADDOW: Yeah, I know that`s true. Thank you, sir.

All right. We`ve got much more to get to tonight, including the other huge story about this presidency right now -- a story that keeps getting worst the more reporting that we get. Families of American soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan within the past year are now demanding answers about what the president knew about bounties allegedly being paid by the Russian government to the Taliban to kill American troops. The family members of American troops who have been killed since the Russians have been doing now want to know what the president did with that information after he was briefed on it.

That story and more, next.



SHAWN GREGOIRE, MOTHER OF SOLDIER KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN: Considering that my son Isaiah was killed during an insider attack, and that, you know, it`s almost been a year later and I don`t have any reports on the final findings, you know, I can`t help but wonder if his death was -- was caused by this. I would like to know if the White House was informed if they really did know about this. It seems as though, you know, they did and, you know, why wasn`t anything done or precautions taken and why weren`t we notified?

There definitely needs to be some action taken for this. I mean, to have -- put bounties on U.S. soldiers` heads, I mean, this is -- this is serious. So something should be done.


MADDOW: That is Shawn Gregoire. Her son Isaiah was 24 years old when he was killed in Afghanistan last summer, fatally shot along with another U.S. service member by an Afghan soldier who was being trained by U.S. forces, what they call a green on blue attack, as -- as Army Specialist Isaiah Nance`s mother said there.

Intelligence officials tell the "A.P." that they are looking closely at attacks like that in Afghanistan last year, to determine in attacks could be linked to bounties put on American soldiers reportedly offered to the Taliban by Russia.

Now, to be clear, Ms. Gregoire has no idea if her son`s death in Afghanistan was in any way connected to these reported bounties. But that`s just it, she has no idea and neither do the other families of other Americans killed in Afghanistan over the past year.

"The A.P." was first to report that among the deadly events American intelligence officials are specifically investigating as possibly related to these Russian bounties for American bodies is a car bomb attack on an American convoy that killed three U.S. marines in April 2019 near Bagram Airbase. The one -- the mother of one of the marines who died in that attack, 25-year-old Corporal Robert Hendriks told CNBC today that she just, quote, happened to randomly see the news about the apparent Russian payments. She said, quote, I was pretty upset.

Corporal Hendriks` father tells NBC News tonight, quote, it would break my heart if this was known and once ounce of blood was spilled and the government did not let these soldiers know there was an extra threat in an already horrific arena. It would be horrible.

Quote: Why hasn`t anyone called me and my ex-wife to settle us? Isn`t it enough, the hell that we`re going through, that no one has to come forward with anything at all? It`s really horrible.

Twenty American service members were killed in combat-related operations last year in Afghanistan. Four more were killed earlier this year, and you can hear what they`re families are going through right now with this news, right? It makes it, frankly, unlikely that the president`s response thus far, these flailing scattershot denials and deflections, it seems unlikely that is going to cut it here for much longer.

I mean, just in the last 24 hours, as the administration has ushered various members of Congress, Republicans first, up to the White House to tell them everything is fine with this. In just 24 hours, there has been so much new damning reporting on this stuff.

"The New York Times" reporting that intelligence on the Russian bounties was included in the president`s daily brief all the way back in February. You want to be specific, February 27th. "The A.P." reporting that top White House officials were aware of the intel a full year before then and that the president may have been briefed on it in February or March of last year.

"The Times" blowing a big hole in the White House`s argument that the intelligence was unclear or unsupported. With "The Times" reporting today that American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russian military intelligence to a Taliban-linked account.

Quote: Investigators also identified by name numerous Afghans in a network linked to the suspected Russian operation, including a man believed to have served as an intermediary for distributing some of the funds, a man who is now thought to be in Russia.

All this idea that it was vague or nonspecific, there wasn`t much to back it up, yes. And maybe the president wasn`t told about it or maybe the White House didn`t really hear about it or maybe it was -- slipped my mind.

What are we supposed to do with this literally unimaginable situation?

A member of Congress who has an extensive intelligence background and military background who has just been briefed on this herself is going to join us next to talk about it.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: She started as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. She moved on to the National Security Council, then the State Department, then the Pentagon.

In 2019, Elissa Slotkin then moved on to a new job when she became a member of Congress. She is not your typical member of Congress. She has unique qualification for the job, unique experience that she brings to it.

Not many members of Congress have spent their years before Capitol Hill writing, you know, presidential daily briefings or briefing American presidents in the Oval Office. But Congresswoman Slotkin has. And when she said today that she would be at the White House to get this briefing on the allegations of Russia offering bounties for the lives of American service members -- well, that at least makes sense.

Yes, you would want someone like that in the room. When she said she wanted to hear directly from the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department so they could, quote, characterize their intelligence and their confidence in it themselves and explain what`s now happening to protect our troops.

Well, she is a person who is worth paying attention to when she gives you that sort of assessment.

Joining us now is Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, House Homeland Security Committee. As I mentioned, she`s a former CIA analyst, former acting assistant secretary of defense. She worked in both the Bush and Obama White Houses.

Congresswoman Slotkin, I really appreciate you being here tonight. I know it`s a busy time.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So, you are, as I mentioned there, an unusually sophisticated consumer of intelligence because of your own background before becoming a member of Congress. At this point, do you -- do you feel confident that you know what the story is here, that you know what happened, both in terms of the intelligence and how it was handled?

SLOTKIN: Well, I wouldn`t say that I feel confident we have the full story. I mean, I think the biggest thing that I came away from the briefing scratching my head about was, you know, we can have a discussion about the veracity of certain reporting. There can be debate in the intelligence community, I`ve seen that before, and you have to run that down. You want to know that you`re talking about accurate information.

But I think the bigger more strategic issue is that the senior staff of the White House did not feel the need to at least let the president know and say, you know what, sir, we just want to flag this for you. Because between March 30th and June 3rd, the president had at least four phone calls with President Putin. So just staffing those phone calls, helping him prep, thinking about potentially inviting him back into the G7, it`s just -- I had to ask repeatedly, why was it that you never thought it made sense just flag this for him?

We`re talking about the protection of U.S. forces. We`re talking about the most important role for you as a commander-in-chief. So that was the biggest question I left with. We need to know more about the intelligence, that`s for sure, and need to understand the debate on whether any agency has evolved on that debate.

But that fundamental question I think fits into a bigger narrative of the president really leaning into his relationship with Putin over and over and over again. And that`s why it prompted so many questions when we see a story like this come up.

MADDOW: Given your background working on Russia issues, including at the highest levels of the Pentagon, does this seem like something that Putin would do?

SLOTKIN: Well, listen, I mean, I used to get an intelligence book every single morning and before that when I was a CIA officer, I wrote articles for the president`s daily brief. So I`ve seen a lot of classified intelligence pretty much my entire adult life. And I think it`s clear, I mean, we have a very complicated relationship with the Russians.

And once you come into government and get access to those materials, you know that starting long before, during the Cold War, we have a relationship that`s diplomatic, but we have a competitive relationship, sometimes an adversarial relationship, that`s the nature of strategic competitors.

And I do think we`ve seen the president of Russia do things like invade Ukraine and illegally annex parts of countries. We`ve seen him try to influence political processes in Eastern Europe and in the United States.

So I do think that they`re sort of like a game of chess that goes on with the Russians, and you got to make sure you`re playing chess and you`re not playing checkers.

MADDOW: The mother of one young U.S. Marine who was killed last year in Afghanistan, who was killed in a green on blue attack, she`s now calling for an investigation into whether her son`s death was the result of this Russian bounty scheme. We have started to hear similar concerns from other family members of Americans who have been lost over the past year, year and a half in Afghanistan.

I wonder what you would say tonight to active duty service members and their families who have been hearing about this over the last few days and who aren`t just angry and bewildered like the rest of us, but really concerned about this additional threat and the prospect that our government -- that the president in particular didn`t do anything in response to it, and didn`t apparently do anything to protect troops in light of these expressed concerns.

SLOTKIN: Well, this one hits really close home to me. My husband is a 30- year Army colonel. My step daughter is a brand new Army officer. My son-in- law is a brand new Army officer. And both of them could be sent to Afghanistan in the next year.

So it`s personal, it`s not just strategic and national security for us. And I think every family wants to know that their commander-in-chief is going to bend over backwards and is going to do everything that he can to protect them.

And while I have faith that our military in Afghanistan is doing right by force protection and making sure that folks are, you know, they have the security that they need on their bases, I just want the president to articulate clearly himself, that if these allegations are true, he`s not going to accept it and he`s going to take action.

That`s what we still haven`t heard directly from him, and it`s painful, as a stepmom with an active duty kid, just say that, say that if we find out that there were bounties of our soldiers, and God forbid that any of them were killed because of this bounty that you will not let that stand, because both personally but also strategically, the message it sends to Russia and every other country in the world, if we allow that to happen and we don`t push back, and instead we just continue to bring that relationship with Russia closer, it`s -- it is just an absolute like foregoing of his primary responsibility as commander in chief.

So I want to hear him say it and I want to hear him mean it, that if this is real, he`s going to do something about it.

MADDOW: I cannot imagine those words coming out of his mouth. I mean, I can -- I could write them, and I know exactly what you`re saying in terms of what you would expect to hear from any normal American president in this circumstance. I cannot imagine him speaking those words, but your lips to God`s ears.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committee, I really appreciate you being here tonight. Thanks for making time.

SLOTKIN: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right. A little bit more to get to tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Before we go tonight, I want to tell you we`re watching some late interesting breaking news out of Oklahoma. Oklahoma had primary statewide elections today, record numbers of people voted by mail and absentee.

The most interesting thing on the ballot was not any particular candidate, no offense. But instead, a statewide referendum about whether or not to expand Medicaid in the state of Oklahoma under the Affordable Care Act, under Obamacare.

This would be consequential, particularly in a pandemic. It would mean health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma residents who don`t currently have it. It also mean that deep red Oklahoma just voted statewide to have that, at the same time President Trump and Republican-led states are all telling the Supreme Court they want to kill Obamacare all together.

Well, right now, we are watching returns come in from Oklahoma. Let`s put it up on the screen, I think what we go.

Right now, this is what we have in terms of Oklahoma`s Medicaid expansion referendum. We don`t have a call, but at this point, with more than three quarters of precincts reporting, the move to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma is leading a little bit. That`s going to be very interesting to watch over the course of this night and watch this space.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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