U.S. nears 3 million cases TRANSCRIPT: 7/6/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Ashish Jha

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Senator Cory Booker of the great city of Newark, New Jersey, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Thank you, my friend. I am grateful for you, more than you know.

HAYES: Thanks.

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.

And thanks to you at home for being with this hour. Happy to have you here.

I would like you to meet Dr. David Chansolme. He`s the medical director of infection prevention at INTEGRIS Health, which is a hospital in South Oklahoma City.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID CHANSOLME, INTEGRIS HEALTH: This is what we look like before we go into the room: hair bonnet, respirator, face shield, gown, gloves, and attitude.

This is one of our more seriously ill patients on a bed to help them rotate, move their lungs round so that they can try and breathe better.

This you man remains very ill.

This is our COVID step down floor for patients who don`t need intensive care unit. The crack squad here today taking care of what is a very full unit, which was empty for a few weeks and now has plenty of patients all over again. So anything to say, anybody?

CROWD: Wear your mask.

CHANSOLME: Wear your masks. There you go.

CROWD: Wash your hands.

CHANSOLME: Don`t end up -- don`t end up on this floor. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. That`s right.

This is one of our COVID rooms with a negative pressure unit to try and blow the airs outside. And this is the super awesome sign that our nurses made so that this patient`s family could pray outside of her room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So, they`ve set up a sign on that outward-facing window there. It says "pray here" to let the family of the patient in that room know, OK, this is the place, this is the place for you guys here outside. This is where you should pray.

Due south of Oklahoma City, it is starting to feel like the state of Texas has a big "pray here" sign on its windows as well. This footage we just showed again was from south Oklahoma City, but we`ve also just had in a bunch of frontline footage from struggling Texas hospitals in Houston and in San Antonio. Now, this first bit of footage I`m going to show here is from reporter Miguel Marquez at CNN. It`s footage from San Antonio Methodist Hospital that was shot heading into this holiday weekend that we just had.

And just one thing to note here medically, when the doctor you`ll hear here refers to an ECMO machine, that`s an ECMO, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine. This is one of those things that those covering this epidemic had to learn. ECMO is basically a super intensive, almost sci-fi life support machine that takes your blood out of your body in great quantity very fast. It then pumps oxygen into your blood with a machine, and then it pumps the oxygenated blood back into you. It happens in really large quantity fast through these huge tubes.

An ECMO is basically an external heart and lung machine, right? It`s the most intense, invasive mechanical life support thing you can possibly imagine, particularly if you are not a doctor. But that`s what the doctor here is talking to this reporter about, trying to get patients onto ECMO machines, patients that are so sick, that are so close to dying that their best hope is getting onto an ECMO machine. That`s what he`s talking about here.

Again, this is Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOCTOR 1: Yesterday was probably one of my worst days that I`ve ever had.

REPORTER: Why?

DOCTOR 1: I got ten calls all of whom, young people who otherwise would be excellent candidates to be able to put on ECMO. They`re so sick that if they don`t get put on, they don`t get that support, they`re probably going to die.

I had three beds. And just making that decision, being able to figure out who -- who really is going to benefit it. It is a level of decision-making that I don`t think a lot of us are prepared for.

DOCTOR 2: Right now we are so full upstairs that we are having some delays in getting the patients upstairs because there just aren`t beds that are prepared and ready for -- for COVID patients. So we are holding a lot of them in the emergency department right now, some for hours, some for days.

REPORTER: So you have 14 rooms. How many are filled?

DOCTOR 3: Fourteen, with a waiting list.

REPORTER: How long is that list?

DOCTOR 3: It`s long.

DOCTOR 1: The last few weeks has just been overwhelming is how I would describe it. There`s been more and more patients than we really know what to do with. The patients are getting younger, and they`re more sick.

REPORTER: How much younger?

DOCTOR 1: It`s gone from, you know, probably 50s and 60s for the first wave to I`ve lost track of how many people in their 20s.

DOCTOR 3: I don`t think I have seen anything like this ever, and I would say that if you want to see August 1st, then maybe you should stay indoors and isolate on July 4th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: If you want to see August 1st, maybe you should stay indoors and isolate on July 4th. Also that initial claim from that doctor, ten patients who will die without getting onto an ECMO machine. Three ECMO machines available. How do you make those decisions?

Again, that`s some of Miguel Marquez`s reporting for CNN from San Antonio`s Methodist hospital. But it`s interesting. We are -- things look different now as we have seen this frontline footage come in from the earliest days in New York now through what we are in now.

That same, you know, not just frustration that you saw there from those doctors but even anger from doctors who are being pushed to the brink like this. You are seeing that frustration and anger when we`re getting into footage now from other Texas hospitals as well. We`re seeing it from the doctors. We`re even seeing it from some of the patients, including in some of this footage from Houston from Sky News and "The New York Times." From United Methodist -- excuse me, United Memorial Hospital and Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me about your experience with coronavirus. You look good right now, but you`re breathing with some extra help.

ROSA V. HERNANDEZ, PATIENT: We had a little party for my 8-year-old granddaughter. Just a birthday cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Rosa V. Hernandez. Like many people, she had really tried to be careful, but she had let her guard down, and she got sick and was very close to having to have a breathing tube yesterday.

HERNANDEZ: People are not taking it seriously. They`re like, oh, my God, I`ve got to party hardy. I`ve got to go to bars. I`ve got to go to the beach. I`ve got to go eat out.

Really? Like you`ve never done it before? Please, please, please take it seriously.

GAYLORD DUVAL, COVID-19 PATIENT: I isolated myself from everybody except one family, the family across the street. When you`re staying at home and you`re isolated, there`s better management. But our governor went along with the president, so we got screwed.

We`re fighting two wars. War number one is coronavirus. War number two is stupidity because there are some people out there that just really -- I don`t know how they`re still alive.

DOCTOR: A lot of people are going to die being ignorant, and ignorance is never a defense. So they`re going to die, and they`re going to be made the example for the rest of the country. Wherever, if they don`t take this serious, they`re going to die point blank, and they`re going to get sick, and it`s going to be bad.

DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, HOUSTON: I don`t have enough beds for you. Let me just put it that way, okay? I don`t have enough beds, and you will die. I mean it`s simple as that. There is no more Mr. Nice Guy, no more please don`t do that. If you go out this Fourth of July to a mass gathering, you have the potential of dying yourself or killing somebody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Houston hospitals, "New York Times" footage, Sky News footage. Hospitals and individual doctors are starting to allow cameras into these wards, into these intensive care units, into these emergency rooms, into these totally full, newly created COVID wards and COVID floors. We`re starting to realize they`re doing this now because, forgive me, they`re pissed. They`re angry. They`re coping with something inside these hospitals that`s getting worse quickly, and we are getting access to this kind of footage now.

We are being allowed to see what`s going on there and to hear from the doctors themselves because the only thing that can fix what these doctors and nurses are going through is if people stop themselves from getting this virus and stop themselves from spreading it right now.

And so they are trying to convey this sense of urgency, of desperation, of anger, right? So we are seeing this in all of this footage that we are starting to get in from the new front lines now, from medical directors, from paramedics, from nurses. We`re also seeing it at the national level now.

Interestingly, even from former Trump administration officials. Former Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert sent up a red hot flare this weekend. Quote, we are in trouble.

He posted that along statistical estimates of how much of the entire population is potentially infected already in certain states. California, 1 percent of the entire population. Georgia, 1.4 percent of the whole population. Texas, 1.4 percent. Florida, 2.3 percent. Arizona, 3 percent.

And what do those estimates mean per Tom Bossert? Quote, once a state is over 1 percent prevalence, it becomes much harder to extinguish a flare-up. It will take a huge effort to put out these outbreak fires, more than masks alone. We could top 500,000 U.S. deaths alone this year if this trend continues.

Again, that`s a former Trump administration official, that`s Tom Bossert, the former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: Tom, what is different about this spike than the ones -- or more worrisome than the ones we saw in New York and New Jersey?

TOM BOSSERT, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: The numbers, just the sheer numbers. What we saw in February and March in the Northeast was among and between a population of 39 million people. We`re talking about 90 million in just three of the states we`ve covered this morning -- Florida, Texas, and Arizona. Add an additional 40 million, 39 and change if you add California.

Martha, here`s -- here`s the perspective. We are now, as a country, adding a Wuhan a day to the case totals of this world. Wuhan collectively, cumulatively had as many cases in its entire history as this country posted on Wednesday in one day last week. And in the next week or two, we will get to a level where we add a new China a day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s President Trump`s former homeland security adviser pulling the proverbial fire alarm. Again, that`s Tom Bossert.

Here`s President Trump`s former FDA commissioner doing the same thing basically but perhaps even more dramatically.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER IN THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Two months ago, there were about ten states that where the reproduction number was above 10, meaning they had expanding epidemics. Now, there`s 40. There`s not a clear line of sight of how we`re going to get this under control. Medically, we are improving but we have so much infection around this country, we`re going to see unfortunately a lot of lethality.

We`re going to take all this infection into the fall and winter. It`s not clear that it`s going to get better. We`re going to have epidemics that come and go across different cities. They`ll light up at different times. But we`re not going to be able to crush this virus at this point because there`s just so much infection around. We really don`t seem to have the political will to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Scott Gottlieb was FDA commissioner under this president in the Trump administration, right? Tom Bossert was homeland security adviser to President Trump. I mean, even when it comes to Trump administration former officials, everybody who can reach a proverbial fire alarm at this point is reaching it and pulling it.

Here, for example, is Dr. Anthony Fauci speaking today. He`s speaking here with Dr. Francis Collins, who is head of the NIH, National Institutes of Health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, HEAD, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I think we`ve all seen that there seems to be an increasing number of cases in certain parts of the country. Is this the second wave? Is it a surge? What do we call this? And what should we know about the current state of the outbreak?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE MEMBER: Well, Francis, thanks for that question. It`s important. The current state is really not good in the sense that as you know, we have been in a situation we were averaging about 20,000 new cases a day, and then a series of circumstances associated with various states and cities trying to open up in the sense of getting back to some form of normality has led to a situation where we now have record-breaking cases. Two days ago, it was at 57,500.

So within a period of a week and a half, we`ve almost doubled the number of cases. So in answer to your first question, we are still knee deep in the first wave of this, and I would say this would not be considered a wave. It was a surge or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline, Francis, that really never got down to where we wanted to go.

If you look at the graphs from Europe, Europe, the European Union as an entity, it went up and then came down to baseline. Now they`re having little blips as you might expect as they try to reopen. We went up, never came down to baseline, and now, we`re surging back up. So, it`s a serious situation that we have to address immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: A serious situation that we have to address immediately, says the top infectious disease doctor in the U.S. government, Dr. Anthony Fauci. A serious situation we need to address immediately. Good idea.

And an idea that we are hearing consistently now from every level of the health profession that is dealing with this, from the doctors in the ICU wards to the top doctor in the U.S. government, right? This is a serious situation we must address this immediately. This is not good. We are in trouble. We need to do something.

You are hearing it at every level, including from former Trump administration officials and current Trump administration officials. It`s just that the Trump administration is not doing anything in response. It was four months ago today that President Trump went to the CDC.

Remember back when he used to talk about the epidemic and do photo ops about it? It was four months ago today that he said anybody that wants a test, anybody that wants a test can get a test. Anybody that needs a test can get a test.

That was four months ago. It wasn`t true then. Still not true now four months later, which is an astonishing failure from the man who spoke those words, right?

Four months ago. Anybody that needs a test can get a test. Well, tonight here`s the headline at the "Times Pic" in New Orleans. New Orleans coronavirus test site runs out of tests minutes after opening. Others turned away.

I pick New Orleans here because they got this headline on it today, but you could find this all over the country right now. "The Times Picayune" reporting, quote, New Orleans doesn`t have enough testing materials to keep testing people even at the race they were testing before. They had to lower the number of tests they do each today.

So today they opened their testing site at Dillard University in New Orleans at 8:00 a.m. on the dot. There were more than 150 people standing on line when they opened. Every one of their testing slots for the whole day was then filled between 8:00 a.m. and 8:02 a.m.

Today in New Orleans, that was your window, in which you might have had a chance to get tested, how you`d been lining up for enough hours before the 8:00 a.m. opening. That`s what our testing situation is in this country. That`s how we`re doing this now even as of July.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody that wants a test can get a test.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Was not true then. Still not true now. And the wasted time and effort and sacrifice between then and now that got us to a place now where that is still not true will go down in American history, not just as a presidential failure but as an American failure of epic and fatal proportion, 130,000 dead now. We still can`t get people tested in July?

Phoenix, Arizona, is the fifth largest city in the country. It`s New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, then Phoenix. Really big city. Phoenix`s positive rate for COVID testing right now is well over 20 percent.

You want to aim for like less than 2 percent, right, or even less if you could. They`re well over 20 percent of all tests coming back positive in Phoenix, in the huge city of Phoenix. That`s the highest of any city in the country although Houston may be giving them a run for their money any day now.

But Phoenix residents have been trying to do their part. Residents of the city of Phoenix have been lining up for five, six, seven, eight hours in 110 degree heat hoping they have enough gas in the tanks of their cars to stick it out for the number of hours it takes to get to the front of the line to maybe, hopefully get a test because that`s the status of testing in this country right now this many months into it.

The mayor of Phoenix said this weekend that she has been begging the federal government to please help establish more testing sites, more capacity, more testing capacity in Phoenix. The mayor`s office says that she was told in response that FEMA is, quote, getting out of the testing business.

Arizona and Texas both hit hospitalization records this weekend as did South Carolina and Mississippi and California and Montana and Nevada and probably some others that have hit it since I last checked. The Texas tribune reports today that in the Rio Grande valley in Texas, there are 12 hospitals there. Ten of the 12 are full.

This is hidalgo, Cameron, and Starr Counties in Texas where as of this weekend, 10 out of 12 hospitals were on what`s called diversion status, which means all their beds were full. Any new patients would have to be diverted elsewhere. There was no more room at the end, 10 out of 12 hospitals for the whole Rio Grande Valley.

The Valley Baptist Health System in south Texas says its two hospitals in Harlingen and Brownsville, Texas, are not only at capacity, they are above 100 percent capacity right now. Hidalgo County and Starr County both sent out emergency alerts to all residents of each of those counties this weekend warning that the long-feared worst-case scenario has arrived.

The one from Starr County`s top elected official, Starr County judge, said this. He said this, he said, quote: The local and valley hospitals are at full capacity and have no more beds available. Please shelter in place. Wear face coverings. Practice social distancing and, all caps, avoid gatherings.

Again, that one out in Starr County this weekend in Texas. But it`s a crisis all over Texas. I mean, ten hours northwest of Starr County, up by Marfa and Alpine, Texas, and Big Bend National Park.

We just obtained this voicemail that was sent to all residents there in Brewster County, Texas.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

VOICEMAIL ALERT, BREWSTER COUNTY, TEXAS: Sunday, 2:21 p.m.

Alert. Stay home. The COVID-19 virus is spreading rapidly across Brewster County. Local hospitals are approaching capacity. Protect yourself and your family. Stay home except for essential activities and avoid gathering of people outside your household. Stay safe.

End of messages.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: End of messages.

It will not be the end of those messages. But that`s from Brewster County, which is Alpine, Texas, is the county seat there, and Big Bend National Park. But it`s all over Texas. I mean, it`s not only Texas, but just look at Texas. In Austin, Texas, the capital, the mayor in Austin says it`s ten days to two weeks before the Austin hospitals are overwhelmed.

In San Antonio, the express news says it`s a week or two before the hospitals are overrun there. There are right now more COVID patients in hospital rooms in San Antonio than there are COVID patients in hospital rooms in New York City. San Antonio, Texas.

In Fort Worth, the "Fort Worth Star-Telegram" is reporting they may have three weeks maybe there before the Tarrant County hospitals are overrun. Laredo, Texas, announced on Thursday that their hospitals there are full. Corpus Christi, Texas, announced late last week that they were down to nine total ICU beds for a 12-county region with a population of more than 600,000 people. Nine beds.

And of course in Houston, in Harris County, where we are starting to get in this frontline footage from the COVID wards and the ICUs, in Harris County, Houston, Texas, we are already seeing it.

Houston`s the fourth largest city in America. This is where we are, and this is what we`re going to keep barreling further and further into without a change in course. Let`s talk about that change in course next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is the headline in the "Arizona Daily Star" over this Fourth of July weekend. Quote, as COVID-19 explodes in Arizona, Sonora to close border to nonessential travel.

Sonora? That is specifically Sonora, Mexico. Yes, we are at the point where Mexico is hardening its border against Americans. Maybe they will pay for a wall after all.

This is from "The Washington Post", another version of the same story. As cases have increased in southern California, Arizona, and Texas, Mexican border states have increasing come to see the outbreak in the U.S. as their biggest threat in controlling the epidemic.

Mathematically, you can`t really blame them, I mean, not after what we`ve done to ourselves here. Today, Arizona passed 100,000 coronavirus cases. Mexico would like Arizona to keep that over here by keeping Arizona residents out of their country, so they`re blocking their border between Mexico and Arizona.

Americans are also, for what it`s worth, not welcome in Europe. Not like our president is not welcome there. It`s us, all Americans. We are banned from Europe now because of our government`s catastrophic handling of the coronavirus crisis.

And, again, mathematically it`s hard to blame them for taking that position. Europe has largely gotten this under control. They did this right.

This is how "The Wall Street Journal" summed it up today. Quote, Estonia has detected only 12 infections in the past two weeks. Iceland, 40. Norway has reported 187. Ireland got 148.

Norway and Ireland are each comparable in population to South Carolina. Over that same period, South Carolina reported almost 17,000 new cases of coronavirus infection.

Quote, aside from restrictions covering large gatherings, Estonia has now lifted almost all the measures it put in place to suppress transmission of the virus. Having brought infection numbers to a low level, Estonia and Norway are now deploying sophisticated test, trace, and isolate programs to find new cases before they can spread the virus. The Norwegian health minister telling the journal, quote, our goal it to find and identify small waves locally and hit them down before they get to be regional or national waves.

Imagine that. Imagine being able to see and respond to small waves instead of drowning in multiple simultaneous tsunamis. I mean, is it even possible at this point for us to aim at to let alone replicate what these successful other countries are doing? And if not, what do we do other than despair?

Joining us now is Dr. Ashish Jha. He is a professor at Harvard Medical School, and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Dr. Jha, I really appreciate you making time tonight.

I`m sort of in the depths of it tonight. We have talked through a couple of dark moments in this epidemic, but I feel like the situation in the U.S. right now feels really hopeless, and I wanted to get your expert take on it.

DR.ASHISH JHA, HARVARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR: Yeah. So, Rachel, we are in a very difficult time. There`s no doubt about it. And we are, I think, at an infliction point.

If we begin to get our act together, and I believe we still can, we can turn this thing around. But if we don`t act in the upcoming days and weeks, we`re signing off on all of the fall and winter in terms of kids not being able to go back to school, a horrible economy, and, of course, hundreds of thousands of Americans dead. And this is not a decision we have to make in four or eight weeks. We`ve got to make a decision in the upcoming couple of weeks to really turn this around.

Now, there are states in America that are doing very well, probably about a dozen of them. So we know we can do this. But the problem is that about 35, 38 states are not doing very well. And, you know, I think what we need is at least state-level leadership. Ideally, we`d have federal leadership. But I think at this point, that seems like maybe a bridge too far.

MADDOW: For states that aren`t doing well, it`s not good enough right now, though, to just imitate what the states that are doing well are -- have in place in terms of policy, right? So, for example, New Hampshire or Massachusetts or one of these states that has either had very little virus or had some and brought it down.

The other states where things are exploding, you look at a state like Arizona or Texas or Georgia or the Carolinas, if they just started aping what Massachusetts has in place right now or what New Hampshire has in place right now, they wouldn`t get there. Part of the thing that`s so hard for me to get my head around is once you`ve got gigantic epidemics, once you`ve got huge numbers of people who are actively infected in the state, it seems like the toolkit must have to be different or somehow more acute to try to bend that curve down, to try to get it at all under control so you can start doing things like contact tracing, isolating, and getting things under control.

JHA: So absolutely right. The model for a state that had a horrible outbreak and now has one of the lowest levels of new infections in the country is New York. New York did turn this around, and it`s a big state. But, of course, what New York did was shut everything down for quite a period of time and then opened up very, very slowly.

This is exactly what those of us who have been tracking this were worried about when these states opened up way too early with too many cases. They didn`t meet the White House`s own guidelines, and so then the question is are there really any options left for Texas and Florida and Arizona short of a shelter in place complete shutdown? The window is looking pretty narrow here. Maybe with true mandatory mask orders, canceling all indoor activities, and bumping up testing as much as you can, maybe they can turn this around. But I`m worried they`re all heads towards a shelter in place order and having to try to replicate what New York did.

MADDOW: And having to try to enforce it, which is a different thing to be able to do practically when we are this many months into it and when they have already been through what they`ve been through with their, you know, lighter, friendlier shelter in place orders earlier. It just feels like the toolkit is getting so narrow here, Doctor.

JHA: It is. And what`s, I think, to me the most frustrating part about this is the lack of a consistent message from our political leaders. Look, it`s hard enough to get people to change behavior under the best of circumstances. But when you`ve been hearing for months that this is nothing but the flu, that this is a hoax, that it`s no big deal, it`s going to go away, then to turn around and expect people to change their behavior on a dime, I don`t really blame the partygoers.

I understand. I look at them, and I think, this is the message they`ve been given by their political leadership for months, that it`s not a big deal. So the hill here is much steeper to climb because of the misinformation that`s been emanating from our political leaders from Washington to statehouses across the country.

MADDOW: Yeah, and that should be curable in a day if anybody started paying attention.

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, thank you for making time for us tonight. I realize I gave you a lot of dark news to try to make sense of, but you speak with a lot of clarity. It`s really helpful. Thank you.

JHA: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Lots more to come tonight, including speaking of dark, coming up next, we`re going to talk about a little eternal damnation in your news cycle. Don`t say I never gave you anything. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: There`s a lot of competition for the worst thing this administration has done since they`ve had power. I mean for starters, how about running the worst coronavirus response of any industrialized country in the world, killing 131,000 Americans in the process and heading into month six, month seven of this crisis with Americans still not even reliably able to be tested for the virus? I mean that`s a pretty good competitor for worst thing they have done. That`s got to be a front-runner, right?

But the competition is stiff. How about botching the response to Hurricane Maria, which kills 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico and then blaming Puerto Rico and cutting off their funding and support in the aftermath of the hurricane? That was a pretty good competitor as well.

Here`s another, though. A crowd favorite, another competitor for the worst thing they`ve done -- how about soliciting, accepting, and trying to leverage further help from the Russian government to help Trump`s election effort against Hillary Clinton, then spending his entire four years in office doing every single thing the Russian government wanted from him and then firing, demonizing, and trying to criminalize everybody in intelligence and law enforcement who was involved in investigating what happened there?

I mean, all of those three things, the coronavirus, the Hurricane Maria stuff, the Russia stuff, those are all just so terrible, and not just so terrible but so nuts and unprecedented that we weren`t even prepared to defend ourselves against those things for the most part.

There`s another top contender, though, that was, I think, foreseeable. At least people in the Obama administration told me to worry about it before it happened, and that`s the thing that Trump is overseeing in terms of the rule of law, the end of the independent justice department, its transformation into a tool that both hunts the president`s enemies and protects and rewards the president`s criminal allies, right? That maybe should have been foreseeable. It should also be noted that`s the one that rushes you right to the end of history in terms of your status as a rule of law country.

There`s lots and lots of competition if you are trying to rank the worst things they have done, the most damage they have done to our country and to the American experiment. Lots of competition.

But here`s the one, here`s the one where if you are a person who believes in hell, you have to think this is the one for which multiple Trump administration officials are most likely to spend eternity in cosmic penance and damnation. This is the one that will be in the first paragraph of obituaries of many different people in this administration no matter how long they live and what else they do in their lives, because they will never do anything else as morally consequential as what they did here. And this is one thing that will never slide off of our conscience as a country.

And this is something we first found out the specifics of below the fold, "New York Times" on April 21st, 2018. Over 700 children taken from parents at the border. "The New York Times" was first to report on 700 kids who had been separated by policy from their parents after crossing the southern border, the White House had carefully guarded that number. They`d insisted that kids being taken away from their families, that was very rare. The number was actually very low.

But it turns out it wasn`t low. It was north of 700, and it turned out the White House had been keeping track. As of April 2018, more than 700 kids. And the contours of that story from there on out are familiar and still, to this day, almost unspeakably terrible, little kids taken away from their moms and dads. Babies and toddlers and teenagers taken from their moms and dads and sent to live in jail-like conditions, sleeping on the floor under space blankets by order of the federal government in the name of us, the American people.

It was an early but unspeakably ugly chapter of this administration that will never be forgotten in history. But there`s a part of the story we did not know until right now. This is new. It`s from a book that comes out tomorrow that`s called "Separated: Inside An American Tragedy."

It`s a book written by my dear colleague, NBC news and MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff, who was on the forefront of reporting the child separation story. In this fairly stunning new book from Jacob, he has broken news about what happened after "The New York Times" first reported on the list of kids the Trump administration was keeping to track how many of them had been taken apart -- taken away from their parents.

And this piece of the book is about a Trump official named Scott Lloyd. Scott Lloyd was in charge of keeping the list of kids who had been taken away from their parents. And for the first time, Jacob Soboroff reveals in his new book what happened when Scott Lloyd, this Trump administration official, saw his list, this list of the separated kids, reported on the front page of "The New York Times."

This is how Jacob reports it in his new book. Quote: The reporting in "The New York Times" made Scott Lloyd irritated. He was left to stew about the leak over the weekend. Embarrassed, Scott Lloyd knew the leak came from his department on his watch, under an administration that appointed him to his position.

When considering how to handle the fallout from the leak, Lloyd`s first thought was a drastic one. Quote, let`s get rid of the list. If he followed the idea through, it would destroy the critical linkage between the 700 separated children in his custody and their parents, despite the fact that the list itself was the best hope of ever reuniting them.

Scott Lloyd knew that in order to discard the list, he`d have to instruct his staff to do. Lloyd wanted to hear from them before deciding on a course of action. Once back in the office, he queried his staff.

He asked them, quote, why are we keeping this list? Can`t we just email with Democratic of Homeland Security on a case by case basis? You see the problem this created. How can we prevent another leak?

He wanted to destroy the list because it looked bad. Bad publicity. Might get him in trouble.

Destroying that list would have made it nearly impossible for those kids to have ever been put back with their parents ever again. But, you know, hey, maybe it would have made the story go away.

The story obviously did not go away. Neither did the policy. The list of several hundreds of kids taken away from their parents turned into a list of several thousand. You might remember after all the public outcry and disgust about this policy, the Trump administration said, OK, yeah, fine. We`ll stop doing that.

They haven`t actually stopped doing it. Since the quote, unquote, end of family separations, more than 1,000 more kids have been taken away from their parents at the southern border and put into U.S. government custody in our name.

And those are just the kids that we know about. The White House is not doing this in the open anymore. This time they`re doing it quietly, which is, of course, important to know just on its face, right? That taking little kids from their moms and dads is operational policy in this country. It`s still in effect.

But it`s also important for another reason, one that Jacob smartly underlines in his new book. Part of that is that this whole idea was supposed to defer people from trying to immigrate into this country, right? Well, if you`re doing it secretly, how exactly are you deferring them, right? Even on its face, in terms of your own explanation for this, if you are doing this secretly and trying to get away with it without people knowing about it, how exactly are you using this policy to keep people from coming into this country?

But it`s also relevant because the most vocal and vehement defenders and enablers of this policy in all of its garbled mystery, these people are not only still employed by the federal government, by the Trump administration right now, they are some of the people who are most highly visible and actively directing the mismanagement of our country`s response to the coronavirus epidemic, which again in short order has already killed 131,000 Americans.

Take, for example, the health and human services secretary, Scott Lloyd`s boss, Alex Azar. During the family separation disaster, he`s job was to take care of all those kids in U.S. custody, the ones sleeping on the floors under aluminum blankets. Now he`s in charge of leading America`s public health response to coronavirus. How`s that going?

How about Katie Miller? She was spokesperson at DHS during the family separation crisis. A vocal, unwavering defender of what we were doing taking these kids away from their parents. Here`s how Jacob Soboroff recalls a conversation with her in his new book, previously unreported but in Jacob`s new book.

Katie Miller told Jacob Soboroff, quote, my family and colleagues told me that when I have kids, I`ll think about the separations differently, but I don`t think so. Homeland Security sent me to the border to see the separations for myself, to try to make me more compassionate, but it didn`t work, end quote.

Jacob responds, quote, it didn`t work? I will never forget what I saw. Seriously.

Are you a white nationalist, he asked, exasperated? No, she said. But I believe if you come to America, you should assimilate. Why do we need to have, like, Little Havana? That was Katie Miller in the throes of the national uproar over this government prying kids out of their parents` arms.

Today, she has a new job. Today, she is the press secretary for the vice president of the United States in charge of all communications on coronavirus for the federal coronavirus task force.

As the nation continues to blunder murderously through the worst coronavirus epidemic on Earth, tens of thousands of new cases a day, it`s helpful to remember who`s at the wheel here and what was the last big crisis where they got their training. It makes Jacob Soboroff`s really good new book not just the telling of a dark chapter in our nation`s history, but a kind of instruction manual to inform our understanding of the newest chapter we are living through right now and why it has to be this way.

Jacob joins us live next. Stay with us.

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(BEGIN VIEO CLIP)

JACOB SOBOROFF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I have been inside a federal prison before. I`ve been inside several county jails. This place is called a shelter, but effectively these kids are incarcerated. There are 1,400 of them, over 1,400 of them that are spending not weeks, months inside this place. They`re not actually literally in cages or in cells.

But I kid you not, one of the first things an employee of the shelter said to me is when we walked inside, can you try to smile at these kids because it`s weird to see people from the outside. They feel like animals locked up in cages being looked at. It was an extraordinary thing to see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That report two years ago from my colleague Jacob Soboroff was one of the first glimpses we as a country got inside the Trump policy of taking kids away from their parents. This is a policy that Trump first disavowed and then crowed about and then announced he was ending, and now the Trump administration quietly continues it without admitting to it.

Jacob`s new book about it is called "Separated: Inside An American Tragedy," and it is out tomorrow.

Jacob, congratulations on this book. I`m so glad that you wrote this thing and I`m so glad you wrote about it in the way that you did.

SOBOROFF: Thanks, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Let me just ask you -- I kind of want to go to the part of it that has kept me up since reading your book, which is the sort of moral quandary about people who are in the administration who took part in this because you tell a number of stories I had never known before about people who did the right thing inside the administration, and tried to gum up the works, people who said, yeah, I`ll do that and didn`t do it, people who resigned in protest at some pieces in this.

Did you end up having any clarity in this as to whether or not there was a moral way to be inside the Trump administration when this was happening?

SOBOROFF: Well, resist is what the individuals who tried to stop this policy would say to me time and again. And, you know, I wrote this book to basically try to answer that question. I saw all those things you described before the commercial break with my own eyes, the kids under the Mylar blankets in the cages guarded by a security contractor in a watch tower.

And even though I saw it myself, and that`s a vision that will never leave me for the rest of my life as long as I live, I get sick every time I talk about it, I wanted to know how this happened and how it could have happened and how nobody tried to stop it. And I often said during our coverage at the time, there`s no plan. There was no plan to separate these kids and there was no plan to put them back together.

And in reporting this book and in talking to officials throughout the Trump administration, both career officials and political officials, in some measure I was wrong. There were people all throughout the government who tried to stop this. They tried to stop this on multiple occasions whether it was from within ORR and Commander Jonathan White, talking about the fact that this was going to create lifelong trauma for these children and telling people like Kevin McAleenan about what he believed to be the dangers of this program or Claire Trickler-McNulty in ICE who knew that the systems, the technology systems wouldn`t be able to put people back together and talked about this openly.

Nevertheless, the administration moved forward with this policy. Kirstjen Nielsen signed this policy into existence despite the fact that she denied that it existed and despite the fact she was warned by her own general counsel within the Department of Homeland security that this was potentially going to violate the constitutional rights of migrants coming to this country and violate their rights to due process.

And so, resist is the short answer, and do everything in their power to stop this from happening. And, unfortunately, they obviously were not successful.

MADDOW: They were not successful in stopping it from happening, but they were successful in stopping some of the worst things that still could have happened beyond this from happening, including the mass expansion of this program, which you report they had floated.

Jacob, I just want to say congratulations on this work. I want people to buy it and read it. It`s stunning. It puts it back in context and does give us the moral center that we need for this story.

Great reporting. Thanks, my friend. Congratulations.

SOBOROFF: I`m grateful to you, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: Jacob`s new book is called "Separated: Inside An American Tragedy." Comes out tomorrow morning.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has announced for the first time in 40 years, he will not attend the Republican National Convention this year because of COVID. He said, I`m not going to go. I`m not going to go because of the virus situation.

After Senator Grassley`s announcement, we called the offices of all of the other Republican senators over the age of 80 today, there are a bunch of them, we called them all, We did get a response from the youngster of the group, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, who turned 80 years young on Friday.

Senator Lamar Alexander`s office telling us today, quote, Senator Alexander is an honorary chair of the campaign, but he will not attend the convention, because he believes that the delegate spot should be reserve ready for those who have not had the privilege before, like he has had.

So, he is just giving somebody else a shot. But Senator Lamar Alexander, we can confirm today, is the second Republican serving U.S. senator who will not be attending President Trump`s in person nominating convention this summer.

That`s going to do it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.

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

Good evening, Lawrence.

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