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Dr. Birx TRANSCRIPT: 8/3/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Susanne Craig, David Enrich, Ed Yong, Natalie Dean, Pat Spearman

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN on this Monday night. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Nicolle Wallace in for  Rachel. 

Good evening, Nicolle. It`s great to see you.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Great to see you. I`m usually using watching  you with my mommy water and jammies on. So, it`s nice to see you, all  dressed up. 

And thanks to all of you at home. Big, big news. Rachel will be back  tomorrow. Obviously, she has tonight off, but I promise, she`ll be back in  this chair this time tomorrow. 

There`s so much to get to tonight. We`re going to start with a bombshell  that was dropped in a court filing today from the Manhattan district  attorney, in his ongoing legal battle with Donald Trump. The Manhattan  D.A., who is seeking to convince a judge to grant him access to years of  Donald Trump`s and his company`s financial records, today revealed that his  investigation into the president and into his company just might be much  broader and more serious than previously known. 

It was a year ago that the Manhattan D.A., Cy Vance, subpoenaed eight years  of tax returns and financial records from the president`s accounting firm.  Vance`s office had opened a criminal investigation into the role that the  president and his business played in that hush money scheme payments that  were made in the run-up to the 2016 election. 

The hush money, if you remember, went to women who claimed they had had  affairs with Donald Trump, Karen McDougal and porn star, Stormy Daniels.  The president tried to block the Manhattan D.A.`s subpoena, taking his case  all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that he, as president, had total  and complete immunity from criminal investigation. 

But last month, the Supreme Court ruled against the president, saying that  the president does not have immunity from Cy Vance`s subpoena, and in  making their ruling, the justices were clear, the president is not above  the law. Their ruling made the Manhattan district attorney basically the  only entity in the country with a clear path toward finally prying loose  the financial records that the president has fought tooth and nail against  handing over. 

But there was a catch. See, the president could still go back to the lower  courts and make other objections to the subpoena. So, that was exactly what  the president did. He urged a federal judge to toss the Manhattan D.A.`s  subpoena, because it was, quote, wildly overbroad. Trump`s lawyers,  essentially, said to Cy Vance, these records you are demanding go way  beyond your investigation. 

So, this is where it gets interesting. Today, the Manhattan district  attorney filed his reply in court, and his reply is basically, oh, yeah?  Well, we are investigating a lot more stuff than you think. 

The D.A. cites news records on, quote, possibly extensive and protracted  criminal conduct at the Trump Organization. And he drops hints suggesting  that the information includes bank and insurance fraud, both felonies. The  filing references congressional testimony from Donald Trump`s former lawyer  and fixer, Michael Cohen. Remember him? 

In that hearing, Cohen gave details on the hush money scheme he carried  out, at Donald Trump`s direction, and for which Cohen is currently serving  a three-year prison sentence, now in home confinement. But he also offered  evidence of what he said was Trump`s propensity for lying to banks and  insurance companies. 


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER:  I am giving to the committee today  three years of Mr. Trump`s personal financial statements. It was my  experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his  purposes. 

REP. LACY CLAY (D-MO): Did this information provided to us inflate the  president`s assets? 

COHEN:  I believe these numbers are inflated. 

CLAY:  And, of course, inflating assets for a newspaper poll to boost your  ego is not a crime, but to your knowledge, did the president ever provide  inflated assets to a bank in order to help him obtain a loan? 

COHEN:  These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank, on one  occasion where I was with them, in our attempt to obtain money, so that we  can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills. 


WALLACE:  Now, giving false information to a bank to secure a loan is  called bank fraud. It`s a felony. Michael Cohen testified there to just one  instance in which he witnessed that personally. 

And we know that Cohen began cooperating with the Manhattan D.A.`s office  last summer, meeting with investigators while he was still in prison in  upstate New York. If the New York grand jury finds a provable pattern of  criminal activity, then will may ultimately be substantial charges for Cy  Vance to bring. 

His office is urging the judge in this case not to let the president keep  delaying the subpoena endlessly in the courts, because that would end up  being a kind of back door to the presidential immunity that the Supreme  Court specifically rejected. 

Joining us now are two reporters with an extensive history of reporting on  Donald Trump`s finances. David Enrich is "The New York Times" business  investigation`s editor, also the author of "Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank,  Donald Trump, and An Epic Trail of Destruction." 

We`re also thrilled to have back with us, "New York Times" investigative  reporter, Susanne Craig, a key member of the reporting team that won the  Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for its deep and riveting dive into the Trump  family`s taxes, including instances of what the investigation revealed as  outright fraud. 

It`s a pleasure to get to talk to both of you. 

Susanne, let me start with you and just the lowest hanging fruit. How  tantalizing is it to think that Cy Vance may actually end up with his hands  on the tax returns and how likely do you think that is? 

SUSANNE CRAIG, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, I think  it`s interesting, because today everybody -- it was interesting to hear  that the investigation has now gone beyond the one -- you know, the hush  money payment that you talked about earlier. But it`s hardly surprising. I  mean, I would imagine if Cy Vance gets these tax returns. He`s going to be  like a kid in a candy shop. He`s going to look at everything. 

I think we got one example today where, you know, he`s interested in seeing  tax information to prove something already out in the public record and add  to that, tax returns and financial records. I think there`s a good chance  he`s going to get it. I think -- the question is when, but I think he`s got  a good argument and the Supreme Court has sent it on a course. The  president will continue to fight it, but I think it`s a decent legal  argument, kind of straight down the middle. 

WALLACE:  And, Susanne, everyone who`s seen the Showtime documentary about  the investigation into his finances that was based on what you had of his  taxes, if the whole thing were suddenly available at the end of a procedure  was made public, what would be the first thing you would look for? 

CRAIG:  In terms of the taxes? I mean, there`s -- 

WALLACE:  Yeah. 

CRAIG:  -- there`s so many things. What would be the first thing I would go  after? You look for some of the things that Cy Vance is looking for. Are  the payments to Stormy Daniels there or Karen McDougal, there were a couple  of payments that were right there. 

And you would -- those would be, I guess, two of the big things that you  would look at. I`m not sure valuations would be the first thing that I  would go after, but I think that`s going to be a piece of a puzzle to me,  because I don`t think you`re going to find, necessarily, in the tax returns  exactly, you know, were those valuations over or under? But you`re going to  see that in some of the other records that Cy Vance is looking for. 

So he`s looking not just for tax records, but financial records, that kind  of stuff. 

WALLACE:  David, I want to get to your story this weekend about Deutsche  Bank and an investigation into the banker that worked with Donald Trump and  Jared Kushner, but I just -- traveling back in time to this Cohen hearing  was so riveting, because Cohen basically says that Donald Trump is guilty  of what Cy Vance today revealed he`s investigating, which is whether or not  Donald Trump committed bank and insurance fraud. 

Here`s an exchange with -- listen to this. Let`s talk about this on the  other side. 


SEN. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY):  To your knowledge, did the president  ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company? 

COHEN:  Yes. 

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  Who else knows that the president did this? 

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari. 


WALLACE:  So to your knowledge, did he commit a crime? Yes. And these three  people know he did. 

How is this not something that`s under criminal investigation at SNDY as  well? Or do we know that it isn`t? 

DAVID ENRICH, BUSINESS INVESTIGATIONS EIDTOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  I don`t  think we do know that it isn`t. And I think the interesting thing to me is  that the moment those words came out of Michael Cohen`s mouth last year, I  got on the phone with some of my sources at Deutsche Bank, who have been  looking -- who had been the ones in the driver`s seat when these loans were  made to Trump. 

And they immediately confirmed that Michael Cohen`s testimony was basically  correct. That Trump was systemically overstating the value of all sorts of  assets and the bankers would go in and sort of pore over his financial  statements and his tax returns and look at the values he was assigned and  kind of laugh to themselves that these were completely preposterously over  the top. 

And, you know, the bank dealt with that by arguing that they could just  write down the value of the assets by as much as 70 percent. And they still  thought that he was worth lending to. And I think the reality is that that  might end up being Trump`s argument, is that, this couldn`t be bank fraud,  because the bank knew as well as anyone that he was prone to wild  exaggerations. So the bank wasn`t taking him seriously, and therefore it  wasn`t a crime. 

WALLACE:  So what responsibility does the bank have if he was submitting  values that were so off that they laughed out loud and loaned him money  anyway? 

ENRICH:  Well, the bank isn`t responsible for, you know, enforcing the law  in this case. Deutsche Bank has been proven over and over and over and over  again over the years doesn`t take very seriously generally its  responsibility to enforce the rule of law. But I think the bank`s  responsibility at this point is to be as cooperative as it needs to be with  investigators, whether they`re on Capitol Hill or on SDNY or in Cy Vance`s  office. 

And to the extent this is a serious focus of Cy Vance`s investigation, it  would really surprise me if he isn`t going to reach out to Deutsche Bank  and seek all their records, Trump and his dealings with the bank. 

WALLACE:  Let me put up -- go ahead, Susanne. 

CRAIG:  I think that`s really important. You said at the outset this is  bank fraud. It might be. Did Deutsche Bank rely on this? In some cases, you  don`t need tax returns to figure out the purchase price of a building in  Manhattan. And they had other information, including other -- you know, his  tax information, in some cases. So I think, just to be careful, they may  have relied on it and to David`s point, we can tell right now without  seeing his tax returns that the information in those documents that Michael  Cohen presented to Congress, there`s some stuff in there that`s pretty  crazy and it`s off. 

So it doesn`t take tax returns to figure that out. And is it fraud? I mean,  you have to come down to, did the bank rely on it? 

WALLACE:  So, David, pick up that thread for me and also, just address some  of your reporting from the weekend. Deutsche Bank opens review into the  personal banker to Trump and Kushner. Is there any intersection between  these two lines of inquiry, the criminal one and the bank looking tat the  banker to Trump and Kushner? 

ENRICH:  Well, I`m not sure that they are causally connected to each other,  but there`s an enormous amount of overlap. The longtime personal banker to  Trump as well as to the Kushner family is now under investigation at the  bank, because of real estate deals she did back in 2013, personally, where  she and a couple of her Deutsche Bank colleagues purchased an apartment  from an entity that now turns out to be partly owned by Jared Kushner. 

And that strikes, I think, a lot of people as a pretty glaring conflict of  interest for the banker, Rosemary Vrablic. And the reason that`s important  right now is that Vrablic the relationship manager for Trump. So when Trump  or Michael Cohen would go to Deutsche bank with, you know, overstated  financial statements or kind of bluffing the bank, they were interacting  with her. 

And she would develop such an important central role to Trump and his --  the people around him that she was a VIP guest at the Trump hotel in  Washington at the inauguration. She had VIP seating at the inauguration.  This is someone who is deeply embedded in the DNA, the fabric of the Trump  organization`s finances. 

And so to the extent that she is now in trouble at the bank, that really --  that raises a lot of questions about, you know, what information people  might be able to get out of her, both inside the bank and outside of the  bank. And so, and we`ll see, but as I said earlier, I think if Cy Vance is  seriously investigating the way that the -- that Trump and the Trump  organization presented themselves financially to Deutsche Bank, Rosemary  Vrablic is going to be very high on the list of people that they`re going  to want to talk to. 

WALLACE:  Susanne, I want to give you the last word. And -- go ahead. 

CRAIG:  I just think one of the things to remember that Cy Vance is trying  to get, he`s going to be looking at these two issues, but he wants to look  at the whole thing and he wants to just put all of the pieces together,  both with the tax returns and the financial statements. He wants to see  this hush money. He wants to see, was there bank fraud. He wants to see,  was there foreign money? He wants to see everything. 

I mean, this is what he`s after. There`s no question. 

WALLACE:  And I guess, Susanne, the same question that I asked David  Enrich, was one I wanted to get you on the record on. Do you think that we  know if Cy Vance is only person looking at what you just described, the  whole picture? Do you think that SDNY could possibly be looking at all of  this still? 

CRAIG:  I think -- I think they definitely could be, as far as we know,  they`re not seeking the tax returns in this manner, but they could be  conducting an investigation into who knows what. I mean, there could be a  lot of things going on that we don`t know about. 

WALLACE:  A lot of things going on that we don`t know about is sort of my  motto these day. "New York Times" reporters, David Enrich and Susanne  Craig, it`s a pleasure to get to talk to both of you. I`m sure Rachel will  be calling on you early and often on this story. Thank you.

Joining us now is Andrew Weissmann, former chief of the fraud section at  the Department of Justice, former senior member of special counsel Robert  Mueller`s investigation, currently a professor -- looking very  professorially tonight at NYU law school. 

Andrew, thanks so much for being here. So you know, your role is often to  break this down for me and we have the reporting, we have the filings, but  tell me. I mean, you go back and you watch that Michael Cohen hearing, and  I watched an embarrassing chunk of it today, and it`s clear he`s telling  Congress, Donald Trump committed the crimes of bank frauds over and over  again. I just saw it one time, but this is his M.O. 

Is it likely that this is going to end in some clear criminal exposure for  Donald Trump? 

ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER LEAD PROSECUTOR FOR SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT  MUELLER:  Well, I think there`s definitely a criminal investigation and you  have now with today`s filing the Manhattan`s D.A.`s office saying that  they`re looking at a series of individuals and entities in connection with  the Trump Organization. That`s their words and their filing.

And this seems like a classic white-collar investigation, where, you know,  they`re going to be looking for the bank records and they`re going to try  to match those up and create a timeline to see what was the Trump  Organization telling the banks, what were they telling the investigators,  and what were they telling the federal and state and city government when  they were filing their tax returns? Because they`re going to want to see  the valuation of the assets and see how those changed over time, as well as  they`re going to want to see what the Trump Organization was saying about  their income. 

It`s not rocket science. You know, if you`re trying to get a bank loan,  you`re going to be saying that you have lots of income and lots of assets,  and when you`re filing your tax returns, you have an incentive to decrease  your income, so you pay less. So, the question is going to be forget  investigators whether that incentive was carried out by people in the Trump  Organization. 

WALLACE:  A close Trump ally and a veteran of the Justice Department said  to me at the time of Michael Cohen`s arrest that that represented the  gravest legal threat to Donald Trump, because the place where he acted most  sort of hazardous to his own legal standing was in covering up affairs, was  in the shoddy business practices. What do you make of the fact that Cy  Vance went up and visited Michael Cohen in prison and seems to be following  those threads? 

WEISSMANN:  Well, it`s an obvious lead. I mean, one of the things that you  need in a white-collar investigation is someone to tell you where the  bodies are buried. And so, you know, you don`t want to take Michael Cohen`s  word for it, but you want to see what leads he has, what documents he has,  and then, you do exactly what the Manhattan district attorney`s office is  doing, which is you press very hard to get documents. 

And you know, they`re doing something very smart, which is, the subpoena  that`s at issue here is to the Trump Organization`s accountants. And that  is really where you`re going to get a cache of documents that could be  really damning, if there is criminality, that is a really good place to  look, because they`re going to have all sorts of records and tax returns in  their possession and custody and control. So that was a smart move to go  after them. 

WALLACE:  Well, Michael Cohen -- I guess I ask, because Michael Cohen was  also, for a while, in the clutches of your old boss, Bob Mueller. And in  his sentencing memo, Donald Trump is named as an unindicted co-conspirator.  Arguably, Michael Cohen gave all of that stuff to Bob Mueller and SDNY, as  well. And we haven`t seen anything. 

Does that mean there`s nothing happening or does that mean it was a  different sort of investigation? 

WEISSMANN:  So, one thing to remember is, first, the special counsel`s  office did not have within its remit -- in other words, it had set limits  that were put in place by the deputy attorney general and that did not  include a sort of personal or Trump Organization financial investigation,  you know, sort of classic white-collar investigation. So that was not  directly within the special counsel`s office. 

Now, the Southern District of New York could have looked at that, but one  thing that is public is you`ll remember, the skirmish at the sentencing of  Michael Cohen, where the southern district of New York seemed quite  displeased with his cooperation and said it really wasn`t full and  complete. 

So I don`t think, just based on that information, my sort of educated guess  would be that the southern district of New York is not looking at this and  that the office that`s really taking the lead in this is the Manhattan  district attorney`s office. 

WALLACE:  Let me ask you what I asked Susanne at the top of the program.  What do you think Cy Vance`s odds are, chances are, Donald Trump and his  lawyers have gone back to the court and argued that it`s overly broad. He`s  come back and said, that`s because my investigation is broad. 

I mean, where do you see this ending up? Do you think Cy Vance ultimately  gets the records he`s seeking? 

WEISSMANN:  You know, it`s -- you`re always -- when you make predictions,  you can always be wrong, but I`m going to go out on a limb -- 

WALLACE:  Oh, I know. 

WEISSMANN:  -- and say that I think it`s as close to 100 percent as you can  get, certainly at the district court. As you mentioned, Nicolle, there were  two arguments that were made by the president. One was that the subpoena  was issued in bad faith. And the other was that the subpoena was overbroad. 

Both of those legal issues were already ruled on by the district court. The  district court had already rejected them when this was first heard when it  went up to the Supreme Court. So it is a near certainty that Judge Marrero  in the district of New York is going to adhere to his prior ruling. And I  don`t see the court of appeals or the Supreme Court taking on that issue.  So -- or a stay being granted on those issues. 

So I think that if I had to make a prediction, I would say that there`s a  real reason for the district attorney to get these documents quickly,  because they don`t -- if there`s going to be a criminal charge, it need to  be brought within a set amount of time, so they have a need for speed. And  I don`t think that there`s any good argument for not turning these over. 

WALLACE:  Andrew Weissmann, one of our favorite people to turn to on nights  like this, former senior member of special counsel Robert Mueller`s team,  thank you so much for your time tonight. We`re grateful. 

WEISSMANN:  You`re welcome. 

WALLACE:  OK. We still have a lot more to get to on a busy Monday night. 

In many states, this is supposed to be back-to-school week, but the  pandemic is still raging and schools are still shifting course. How`d we  get here and how can we get out of this? 

More on that ahead. 


WALLACE:  For most schools in Mississippi, the first day of classes start  this week. So when a reporter asked the top health official in Mississippi  how the state could determine when it was safe for kids to return to school  this term, his initial answer that there was, quote, not an easy answer.  The Mississippi health director said last week that school reopenings could  depend on where the outbreaks were. That there was no one size fits all  approach to school reopenings in the state. 

That very same day, Mississippi set a record for the number of coronavirus  deaths in a single day. Cases there continue to soar. 

So, today, the Mississippi health director says there actually is an easy  answer as to whether or not schools should open for the year. And that  answer is "no." 

Mississippi`s top official telling the public today that he was off when he  first suggested students might be able to safely return to school. He says,  now he thinks it is a good idea to delay school, maybe until September. He  says if Mississippi students all go back to school this week, quote, we are  going to pay the price. 

The governor of Mississippi is supposed to make the final call this week. 

Meanwhile, children in parts of Tennessee return to school today. Many more  are expected to report to the first day of school in the state this week.  There are no rumblings of delaying classes there. 

Last week, teachers in Nashville held this protest, a mock funeral to  protest the state`s refusal to cancel in-person learning. They drove past  the governor`s residence with their cars painted with signs that said: Dead  teachers can`t teach. 

There is no federal policy about whether students should return to the  classroom in the middle of a still-roaring pandemic. We are a patchwork of  policies in this country, on schools and on every other aspect of this  public health crisis. But listen to Dr. Deborah Birx this weekend, a high- ranking member of the president`s coronavirus task force, reminding the  American people in no uncertain terms that this is not a Mississippi  problem or a Florida problem or a hot spot problem, but an America problem. 


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR:  I want  to be very clear, what we`re seeing today is different from March and  April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It`s into the rural, as equal  urban areas. And to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune  or protected from this virus. 


WALLACE:  It is extraordinarily widespread. And yet, 4 million cases,  155,000 deaths later, this president does not see the coronavirus pandemic  as his problem to fix, but if he did, one of the things he would probably  read first is this piece in "The Atlantic" magazine. It`s called, "How the  pandemic defeated America." A virus has brought the world`s most powerful  country to its knees, written by Ed Yong, science writer at "The Atlantic". 

Ed Yong joins us now. 

It`s an incredible piece. I want to get right to it and read you some  pieces. And if I left anything out that you want to talk about, please jump  in and point me toward them. But this was a gut punch. 

But you write this: The coronavirus found, exploited, and widened every  inequity that the United States had to offer. Far from being a great  equalizer, the pandemic fell unevenly upon the U.S., taking advantage of  injustices that had been brewing throughout the nation`s history. 

Let me read one more before I turn this over to you. You also write, as of  early July, one in every 450,000 black Americans had died from COVID, a  rate twice that of white Americans. Latinos were three times as likely to  be infected as white people. 

ED YONG, SCIENCE WRITER, THE ATLANTIC:  I mean, the statistics are so  stark. And I think the sad thing about this is it was entirely predictable.  Like, of course this would happen. America has such long-standing health  inequities that date back to after the end of the civil war and ever since,  when health care has been deliberately pushed away from black communities,  where health care has been apportioned more according to the logic of Jim  Crow than of hypocrisies. 

And as a result, black people suffer worse health outcomes across the  board. So, it is no surprise at all that should a pandemic happen to strike  a country like this, that they would suffer a disproportionate brunt of it,  same for brown people. The same goes for disabled and poor and elderly  communities. 

I mean, just take -- take poverty. So many of the actions that we have  recommended to keep ourselves safe are out of the question for people who  work low-wage hourly jobs without sick pay. You know, how do you expect  someone who needs to put money on the family`s table to stay at home all  the time, instead of going into work, working in those essential jobs that  the rest of us had depended on. So, again, much of what has transpired --  go on. 

WALLACE:  No, no, I just wanted to pull the thread further with you on the  same point. The cycle we seem to be in now is that, as you said, the  statistics are a gut punch. Reading it on paper and reading it out loud is  sickening. But where we`re headed now with the economic calamity, is that  health insurance is tied to employment in this country. And with people  literally pouring off the employment rolls, it`s about to get worse before  it gets better. 

YONG:  It`s about to get much worse. Absolutely, and I think it really  highlights the weakness of having a system like this, which is just  singular in the world, where you tie a person`s access to health care to  their employment. You know, this is not the first time people have been  talking about this as a problem.

But I think truly -- the pandemic truly highlights these compounding  crises, where you have a government that doesn`t take enough action, you  have a virus that then is allowed to wreak havoc around a country that is  already riddled with inequalities, with all kinds of other vulnerabilities,  people get sick, they fall away from -- they fall away from their jobs,  from their normal lives, and now they don`t have access to health care, at  a time when they need it the most. 

And I think this spiral was also predictable, as with much else of this  pandemic. It really has found, exploited, and winded every weakness that  the United States had to offer. And it turned out, the country had plenty  to offer. 

WALLACE:  You also report out how in Washington, the White House and the  federal officials did everything wrong. 

You write this: In practice -- this is about travel bans hurting, not  helping. You write: In practice, travel bans are woefully inefficient at  restricting either travel or viruses. They prompt people to seek indirect  routes via third party countries or to deliberately hide their symptoms.  They are often porous. Trump`s included numerous exceptions and allowed  tens of thousands of people to entry from China. 

Ironically, they, travel bans, create travel. When Trump later announced a  ban on flights from continental Europe, a surge of travelers packed  America`s airports in a rush to beat the incoming restrictions. So even  when we tried, we failed. 

YONG:  It`s the wrong measure. And you know, I keep on saying that this is  predictable, but someone whose first instinct is to build a wall, who rode  into power on this tide of xenophobia, was always going to reach for border  control as their first option. And I admit that it is very intuitive and  that it seems promising, but for all the reasons you read out, they`re very  difficult to enforce. They might delay the spread of a pandemic for a few  days, maybe weeks, at best, but they`re not going to stop it. To stop it,  you need to get testing ready, you need to shore up your hospitals, you  need to get public health strong. 

And the risk of putting travel bans in as your primary means of defense is  you forget about doing all the other stuff, because you think you are  secure. And that is clearly what happened to the United States this year.  As someone who can`t think of anything else other than to build walls and  erect barriers between people, reached for that and did nothing else. 

WALLACE:  Ed Yong, science writer at "The Atlantic" magazine who has  reported out a remarkable piece of journalism. Thank you for sharing it  with us here. We`re grateful to get to talk to you about it.

When we come back, Operation Warp Speed is about delivering a vaccine  faster than we have ever done it before. But can it be done quickly and  safely? We`ll get an expert to weigh in on that next.



ALEX AZAR, HHS SECRETARY: President Trump has launched Operation Warp  Speed, which is an historic effort to bring vaccines, therapeutics, and  diagnostic to the American people in record time. President Trump looked at  the timelines that all of these players and the pharmaceutical industry and  elsewhere said would be needed to bring these products to market and he  said, that`s not acceptable. 


WALLACE:  That was Alex Azar. He`s the secretary of health and human  services, that was him back in May talking about President Trump`s  Operation Warp Speed, the White House`s goal to deliver 300 million doses  of a coronavirus vaccine by January of next year. 

Today, President Trump moved that goalpost even closer on the schedule,  saying that a vaccine may be available well before the end of this year.  While the administration may want a vaccine for political reasons,  yesterday, and frankly, all of us would love a vaccine as soon as possible,  scientists are sounding the alarm that we must resist the urge to rush out  of product we aren`t sure about. 

One such vaccine researcher writes in today`s "New York Times," quote,  creating vaccines is hard and we should be prepared for the reality that  some promising ones will not meet the FDA`s criteria. Researchers and the  government should also commit to transparency, so that people can see the  results for themselves to understand the regulatory decisions. Waiting for  a better vaccine to come along may feel like torture, but it is the right  move. With so many potential shots on goal, scientists are optimistic that  a safe and effective vaccine is out there. We can`t afford to jeopardize  the public`s health and hard-earned trust by approving anything short of  that. 

The author of that stark warning in "The New York Times" today is Natalie  Dean. She`s an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of  Florida, specializing in emerging infectious diseases and vaccine study  design. 

Professor Dean, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 

What is the reality of this push for a vaccine. And I`m guessing that  October or January would both represent a real acceleration of how these  things are normally researched and brought to the public, no? 

NATALIE DEAN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF BIOSTATISTICS, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA:   Absolutely. Normal timelines for vaccines are measured in years, sometimes  even decades, but we`re talking here about months. So it`s been an  incredible feat, how quickly scientists have brought some of these products  for a virus that we didn`t even know existed a few months ago, to bring  these vaccines so far long that we`re already, some of them are already in  phase 3 trials. 

These are the large trials where we actually determine whether the vaccine  protects individuals from infection or disease. 

WALLACE:  So this is what you write. And I wanted to ask you to just lay  out where we are right now. You write this. What we have right now is a  collection of animal data, immune response data and safety data based on  early trials and from similar vaccines for other diseases. The evidence  that would convince me to get a COVID-19 vaccine or to recommend that my  loved ones get vaccinated does not yet exist. 

So just help me understand exactly what that means about where we are right  now. 

DEAN:  So, there are a lot of different vaccines that are being developed  and they`re at very different phases in their development. The ones that  are furthest long are in something called phase 3 trials. These are the  largest trials, where individualized are randomized to either a vaccine or  a placebo. And then we follow them to see whether they have any side  effects or whether they are infected or get disease. 

And so, that`s how we can tell if the vaccine is actually protecting. And  so, these are the studies that determine regulatory decisions, about  whether a vaccine should be approved for use in a general population. And  so, these are the studies that are going to inform the FDA`s decisions  about what becomes available and the plan right now is to stick to these  steps that we want to make sure that the vaccine is at least 50 percent  effective before being considered for widespread use. 

WALLACE:  One of the by-products, I guess, of the rancor in our politics  and of the distrust that`s been sewn over the last five months is that when  you poll people on whether or not they`ll take a vaccine once we do have  one available, only 49 percent of the public says they plan to get  vaccinated. Twenty percent says they will not, and 31 percent are not sure. 

Can you protect a population when 49 percent of them is vaccinated? 

DEAN:  I think those polls are very interesting, because I actually don`t  find the big bucket of people who say they`re not sure to be very  surprising. Why should people agree to take a vaccine that we don`t, you  know -- that doesn`t really exist yet in the sense that we don`t know how  well it works, we don`t know which age groups it works in, we don`t know  the side effect profile. So I think that`s quite normal. 

Certainly, the people who are saying they won`t take a vaccine, no matter  what. That does represent an important barrier. But I don`t find the people  who are unsure, you know, that to be concerning. So my goal is to really  lay out what the process looks like and encourage and advocate for  transparency at every step so that we can convince people that the process  is there to keep people safe and to help protect people and that it`s  moving as it`s intended to do, so. 

WALLACE:  Natalie Dean, assistant professor of biostatistics at the  University of Florida, thank you so much for spending some time with us  tonight. We`re really grateful to talk to you. 

DEAN:  Thank you for having me. 

WALLACE:  Election Day is exactly three months from today. And that fact  apparently has the president worried enough that he`s attacking legislators  in one state for trying to make it easier for people to vote. That story is  next. 



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, Nevada. How are you? Sunday morning. 

All right. The Senate will come to order. 


WALLACE:  When Nevada lawmakers met yesterday for a special session, one of  the first things they got to was a bill to guarantee a mail-in ballot for  every active voter in that state. Some lawmakers spoke for it. Some  lawmakers spoke against it, and then they voted. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Secretary will close the roll and vote on  assembly bill 4, 13 in favor, eight against. The bill having received a  constitutional majority is cleared and passed in the assembly (ph). 


WALLACE:  This is how lawmakers in an American state on video that you just  saw for yourself passed a bill to make it a little easier and a little  safer for the state`s constituents to exercise their right to vote. They  passed that bill on Sunday at 10:42 a.m. 

Donald Trump had a different interpretation of events, calling that vote,  quote, an illegal late night coup and threatening to sue over it. 

If the president sounds nervous, it might be because he is trailing in the  polls now as we are 92 days away from the election and several states will  open voting even sooner. As the pandemic affects more of life in more  places around the country, states are trying to do what they can to help  people vote safely. 

Yesterday morning in Nevada, State Senator Pat Spearman remembered the  journey her near ancestors made from being enslaved to becoming voters. 


STATE SEN. PAT SPEARMAN (D), NEVADA:  My grandmother was barely born free.  My dad was born free. I`m only third generation free. Three generations. 

I`m the third generation to be born free. That`s important to me because I  can remember talking to my grandfather, my maternal grandfather, and I  remember him talking about wanting to have the right to vote. 

And I can remember one of the things, the last things he said before he  passed away was, he was very sorry he would not live to see the day when  everybody could vote. I`m supporting this bill because although I am third  generation free, I am only the second generation to have in law the right  to vote. That`s sacred to me. That`s sacred to me. 


WALLACE:  Tonight, the Nevada governor signed that bill into law. 

And joining us now is Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman. 

Senator Spearman, thank you so much for making some time to talk to us  tonight. 

SPEARMAN:  Thank you. Thank you. And thank you for inviting me. 

WALLACE:  I want to ask you about the state. And I want to ask you if the  partisan politics that are now have sort of engulfed the debate around  mail-in voting at a national level if they have engulfed your state adds  well. 

SPEARMAN:  Yes, they have, unfortunately. It is part of a trend that  Republicans don`t think they can win if a lot of people show up to vote.  And so, yes, unfortunately that trend has come to Nevada. 

WALLACE:  Senator, it seems so backwards, though. I mean, Donald Trump`s  voters or supporters or people who might want to vote for him in November  might also wish to do so my mail. Nevada is a state everybody competes for,  a very important state. 

Is there any reasoning with Republicans, any saying to them, listen, your  supporters might prefer to vote by mail in the middle of the pandemic, too? 

SPEARMAN:  Listen, we tried that. We tried that yesterday. There is really  no reason. And I believe what they have done is they have been co-opted by  a message that is not true. It`s not true. 

And, so, they did everything from saying that there would be fraud, that a  lot of people don`t want to be forced to vote by mail. They want to vote in  person. And they just weren`t paying attention to what the bill is about.  That`s very unfortunate. 

WALLACE:  Tell us exactly what is in the bill and your comments about it  and your support were it for so moving. Tell us about the bill and what it  meant to you personally. 

SPEARMAN:  It`s very simple. So this bill ensures that every person who  wants to exercise their constitutional right to vote can do so. Every  registered voter will receive a mail-in ballot. They can mail the ballot  back or if they prefer, they can always take the ballot with them and vote  in person. 

We already had a primary in June where we had mail-in ballots. No problems  whatsoever. No problems whatsoever. This is a really simple bill, and it`s  designed to ensure every Nevadan as the right to exercise their  constitutional right to vote. 

WALLACE:  Donald Trump says he`s going to sue the state over it. Are  preparations being made to defend what you just articulated, every  citizen`s right to vote? 

SPEARMAN:  You know, we here in Nevada don`t take kindly to threats. We  have been threatened with lawsuits before, and they have brought them and  they`re usually frivolous and they are dismissed. And so, to that I say,  Mr. Trump, we won`t be intimidated. We are doing what we believe is the  right thing to do for Nevadans. And Nevadans are not afraid of you. 

WALLACE:  Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman, thank you so much. I wish this  was the end. That was a cinematic close. But we`ll have more. We`ll be  right back. 

SPEARMAN:  Thank you. Thank you. 


WALLACE:  Tomorrow, the states of Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and  Washington will all be holding primary elections. There are several big  races to watch. 

In Missouri, 10-term Democratic incumbent Lacy Clay is facing a primary  challenge from Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush. In Michigan,  progressive Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is also trying to fend off a  primary challenge by Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. 

The most heated contest tomorrow may be the Kansas Republican primary for  that state`s open Senate seat. That one features former Kansas Secretary of  State Kris Kobach. 

The national Republican Party the warning local Republicans that if he gets  the nomination, it would threaten the Senate Kobach. The National  Republican Party the warning local Republicans that if he gets the  nomination, it would threaten the Senate majority and possibly Trump`s  chances in Kansas. 

As our friend Rachel says, watch this space. 

That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back right here tomorrow night.  I know where I will be. I`ll see you tomorrow afternoon, 3:00 p.m. Eastern. 

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." My friend Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence  tonight.

Good evening, Ali Velshi. You have been busy. I watched you all week last  week at 9:00 and now you`re back this week at 10:00, hardest working man in  television. 

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