MARK DIMONDSTEIN, AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION PRESIDENT: In this pandemic, where are going to have to -- in order to vote safely, they`re going to have to vote by mail.
So we do it. It`s secure. There`s virtually no fraud. That`s what all the history says. But they need the support to get it done and get it done right and get the mail there.
SAM SEDER, MSNBC HOST: American Postal Worker Union president Mark Dimondstein, thank you so much for being with me.
DIMONDSTEIN: Thank you.
SEDER: That is "ALL IN" this Friday night. I`m Sam Seder.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Sam Seder, it is great to see you. I`m flashing back to our previous lives at Air America together.
SEDER: Indeed, I am too a bit.
MADDOW: Well done, my friend. Thank you.
SEDER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour, this Friday night. It`s good to have you here.
So, I`ll give you a warning in advance, here is one of those stories that starts in one place and then, boy, does it veer off in an unexpected direction. But here`s where it starts.
This is an ad, a political ad that you might remember from a few months ago. It was launched way back in March, as coronavirus cases were starting to take off like a rocket in the U.S., just a 30-second ad. I`m going to play it now to jog your memory, but you might remember it from back in March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The coronavirus.
This is the new hoax.
We have it totally under control.
It`s one person coming in from China.
One day it`s like a miracle, it will disappear.
When you have 15 people and within a couple of days it`s going to be down to close to zero.
We really think we`ve done a great job at keeping it down to a minimum.
I like this stuff, I really get it, people are surprised that I understand it.
No, I don`t take responsibility at all.
ANNOUNCER: Priorities USA Action is responsible for the content of this ad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That ad, again, that was from way back in March, when U.S. coronavirus cases were at what felt like an absolutely terrifying number, what was a terrible number, it was in the tens of thousands of cases by late March. Of course now coronavirus cases in the U.S. are in the millions.
And in the meantime, in the ensuing weeks and months, we`ve seen a lot of ads along these lines since then. There`s a gazillion ads like this hitting the president mostly for his failed response to this crisis and the resultant terrible world`s worst epidemic that we`re now trying to survive. But this ad that we just showed, this was a landmark.
When the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA made this one way back in March, it was one of the first ads of its kind hitting the president on the pandemic and also, notably and importantly, it was one of the first ads of this kind that actually ran on TV a lot, in swing states and places where it matters for the election. A lot of the very pungent, very hard-hitting ads you see online or social media, never actually make it onto TV screens. This one did, they ran it on TV stations in Florida and Michigan and Minnesota and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those are the only states I know of it, there may have even been others.
But the Trump campaign got super mad when this ad ran in March and they said publicly that nobody should air this ad, they threatened that they would sue anybody who aired this ad.
And then of course they didn`t do that, they didn`t sue everybody who ran that ad. They picked one little TV station that wasn`t part of a big conglomerate or group of stations. They picked one little basically mom and pop shop in northern Wisconsin and they sued that one little TV station that had run that ad to try to stop them from running the ad.
And I`m not a lawyer, but I will tell you that I`ve read a lot about this case and most observers believe and continue to maintain that the Trump campaign is quite unlikely to prevail in that case. I mean, the ad, after all, was just publicly available information and the president`s public statements, and, of course, you put them together that way and you play the ominous music and it makes the president look terrible, but that`s what happens when you behave terribly, right? When you say things like, it will disappear like a miracle and I don`t take responsibility at all, somebody eventually is going to cut that into a political ad that makes you look terrible, welcome to politics.
But the Trump campaign did bring this lawsuit against this one station and it earned them national headlines like this one. The Trump campaign`s legal strategy includes suing a tiny TV station in northern Wisconsin. And when they did that, they didn`t sue everybody who ran the ad, they just picked this one station. People started to realize about what the Trump campaign was doing there tactically, is that although they weren`t likely to succeed on the merits of that case, they weren`t likely to prevail against TV stations or anybody else for running that ad, nevertheless suing that one station might be an effective tactic for them in the long run.
They want to try to neutralize the strongest criticism against the president. They want to make people think twice before they run hard- hitting ads against the president. If you harass entities that might air that criticism, you could have a chilling effect that causes people to not do that, that causes people to sort of lose their nerve.
Now, legally, in a lot of states in this country, if you bring a lawsuit, a harassing lawsuit like that, if you bring a lawsuit that the court decides is a frivolous lawsuit, can`t be won on its merits, it`s just been brought to harass and tie down and intimidate the other party, in lots of states in this country there`s a provision in the law that says, OK, you who brought that lawsuit, not only are you going to lose this case in you`re going to have to pay all the costs this lawsuit entailed, all the court costs, all the lawyers` fees for your own side plus all the lawyers` fees that the other side had to pay to defend itself against this B.S. lawsuit from you.
That`s true in lots of states. But it is not true in Wisconsin. Wisconsin doesn`t have those kinds of protections in their law. So the Trump campaign picked this one little station that didn`t have very deep pockets in Wisconsin where the law doesn`t protect people from harassing lawsuits like that. They picked that one station to make an example of them and get national headlines.
Trump campaign sues TV station for airing this controversial ad. And, of course, by bringing this lawsuit, they ensured they would cost that TV station tons of money in legal fees, even if the case was ultimately lost, right? Most observers say there`s basically no chance the Trump campaign will actually win this case but they will succeed in dragging this TV station through hell.
It`s intimidation, to intimidate that one station in Wisconsin, but also stations everywhere. You air criticism of Trump, we will make your life hell. How much time do you want to spend in court fighting us? How expensive are your lawyers? How much can you afford?
It`s this nasty little underbelly tactic from the president`s reelection campaign, right? Just one little scale from the seamy underbelly of the president`s reelection tactics.
Here comes the twist in this story. Here is the docket from that case in Wisconsin, from in a little TV station in Wisconsin getting sued by the Trump campaign. This was posted online by Daniel Bice, who`s a reporter at "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel." And you see there, it says Donald J. Trump for President Incorporated versus the name of TV station, that`s up in the upper left hand corner there, it`s filed April 27th of this year. Plaintiff Donald j. Trump for President Incorporated and then Donald J. Trump for President Incorporated is represented by those two attorneys whose names you see there on the docket.
The second name on the docket, Lane Ruhland, the name should mean nothing to you, it doesn`t mean anything to me, except now we know that same lawyer who is representing the Trump campaign in this intimidation lawsuit against a tiny northern Wisconsin TV station to try to get them to stop playing anti-Trump ads, that same lawyer can also be seen here, this week, rushing into the state elections board, one night this week, right at the 5:00 p.m. filing deadline, to get troubled celebrity rapper Kanye West on the ballot in Wisconsin in November as a presidential candidate running on the birthday party ticket. Same lawyer from that Trump campaign lawsuit in April, same lawyer getting Kanye on the ballot now.
So the Trump campaign is running two candidates for president in Wisconsin. They are running Donald Trump for reelection and they are running Mr. West against him as well.
A watchdog group has actually just filed a complaint with the Wisconsin state bar association saying, hey, there`s this Wisconsin Republican lawyer here who has a real conflict of interest on the surface of things, right? She has engaged in conduct inconsistent with her ethical obligations as a member of the Wisconsin Bar, specifically the conflict is she`s simultaneously working for two different presidential candidates who theoretically are competing against each other in the same election.
Except, of course, Kanye West and Donald Trump aren`t really competing against each other because everybody knows now it is the Trump campaign and the Republican Party that is running the Kanye West for president campaign, because apparently this is how they want to do it. Part of their plan to reelect the president of the United States in this year`s election is to hope nobody notices that they`re the ones who are also running the rap star guy too, the guy who appears to be having some active, serious issues with mental illness, they`re going to run him on the ballot in multiple states too because they think voters won`t know they`re doing it and they`ll vote for the rap star guy by mistake and that will siphon votes away that would otherwise go to Joe Biden.
So they`re trying that. And they`re, you know, bullying TV stations into not airing ads critical of the president, tie them up in court, if they run anti-Trump ads, bleed them dry, anywhere they can find a soft enough target without deep pockets. That`s what they`re doing. Less than 90 days out from the election, that`s the show of confidence from the Republican Party and from the president`s reelection campaign about what they have to run on. About how proud they are of what this president has done with his time in office. That`s what they think they`ve got to run on.
OK, what else you got? Well, there`s this. It was more than a month ago now that "The New York Times" was first to report that U.S. intelligence had concluded that the Russian federation, the government of Russian of Russia, was paying bounties to Taliban fighters and other fighters in Afghanistan for them to target and kill American troops there.
Now, crucially, "The Times" also reported in their initial report that U.S. intelligence agencies had not only concluded that Russia was doing this, they had briefed this conclusion to the president. The National Security Council had met on the subject. It was not a secret inside the administration. It had been discussed at the highest levels.
But president Trump had done nothing about it. By the time this news broke publicly just over a month ago in "The Times," President Trump had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin multiple times after he was briefed on this issue, but he never brought it up with Vladimir Putin.
"The Times" further reported that a sort of menu of retaliatory or at least threatening options had been drawn up for the president to choose from in response to this information, right? Things that the United States government could do to stop Russia from doing this, or even, imagine, to punish Russia for doing this, to retaliate against them for having paid bounties to fighters who had killed or tried to kill American soldiers.
President Trump was presented with this menu of options for what the U.S. government could do in response and he chose from this menu, none of the above. He chose to do nothing. To not even bring it up in his multiple subsequent phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin, because he apparently just does not care. What`s the message that Russia is getting here?
Russia, go ahead, pay people to kill Americans in Afghanistan, go ahead, President Trump knows about it, he has been told with a you`re doing, apparently it`s cool with him, he hasn`t even said that we shouldn`t, so go for it. I mean, feels like an age that we have been living with this, but this is just one of the things we`ve lived with for the past month or so, knowing that that`s who`s in the Oval Office right now, that`s who`s running the U.S. government right now, that`s what he has done or rather, not done, even with this deadly information.
Well, now today the next chapter of that. Now, today, "The New York Times" reports that Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, he did talk to the Russians about this bounties issue. He apparently didn`t do anything about it all last year while the whole Trump administration was ignoring it. But after it ended up in "The New York Times," just over a month ago, Mike Pompeo did say something to the Russian government.
According to "The Times" today, Pompeo raised the issue with his counterpart, the Russian foreign minister. But like I warned you, here is the twist. Pompeo did this, according to "The Times," on July 13. That`s apparently when Mike Pompeo finally, when anybody from the U.S. government finally said something to the Russians rebuking them for this program they`ve been running where they`ve been paying cash money for dead Americans in Afghanistan. He did it on July 13. That was 3 1/2 weeks ago. How come we`re only hearing about it now?
Ah. Well, we`re only hearing about it now, according to "The Times," because apparently Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not want it to be known that he had done this. He didn`t include it in any official statements about his communications with the Russian government. He didn`t say anything about it publicly even when he was asked about this topic, he kept it secret until now, until it leaked anonymously to "The New York Times." why was he keeping it secret?
He was keeping it secret in part, quote, to avoid potential fury from President Trump. Ah, yes. Can`t let President Trump know that you`ve done such a thing, the president would be so mad if he found out that anybody in his government had raised objections of any kind to Russia putting out paid hits on Americans.
If we ever do find out ways to try to protect Americans from this sort of thing, if we ever do find some way secretly to push back on anything Russia is doing to us, including killing Americans, don`t let the president hear about it because he will be so mad.
"The Times" also says, almost in passing today, that President Trump and President Putin have been talking to each other more than ever recently. Quote, Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin have spoken eight times this year, according to the Kremlin list of the Russian president`s diplomatic activity. That is twice as many times as they spoke in all of 2019
So Putin and Trump talked four times last year in 2019. It`s only August this year, and already they`ve talked eight times, but never about Russia paying to kill Americans. That just has never come up.
What have you guys been talking about all these days?
Today for the first time, U.S. intelligence officials released information to us, the public, about Russia once again attacking our presidential elections, once again, to try to benefit president Trump. Two weeks ago, the director of the National Counterintelligence Security Center gave this sort of vague public warning, saying that basically Russia still had feelings about our election, they still had designs on it, they wanted to do us harm. It was a very vague, short statement.
Democrats in Congress who had seen the intelligence underlying that vague public warning screamed bloody murder about it over the past two weeks, about how vague and unhelpful that was. That appears to have resulted today in the National Counterintelligence director putting more meat on the bones.
And this statement that he released today is helpful and interesting. It`s also weird. Someone somewhat bizarrely, the statement also includes two full paragraphs on how China and Iran also have feelings about our election too, and they may have preferences, even though there is no assessment that they`re doing anything about it other than making public statements.
Quite unlike what they say about China and Iran, the counterintelligence director today has very specific things to say about not just Russia`s feelings and its preferences but what they`re actually doing. And Russia, this is specific. Quote: Russia -- we assess that Russia is using a range of measures to denigrate former Vice President Joe Biden and what Russia sees as an anti-Russia establishment in the U.S. This is consistent with Moscow`s public criticism of Joe Biden when he was vice president for his role in the Obama administration`s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia.
Then the counterintelligence director continues. This is important. Quote: For example, pro-Russia/Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption including through publicizing leaked phone calls to undermine former Vice President Biden`s candidacy and the Democratic Party. It concludes: Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump`s candidacy on social media and on Russian television.
So like 2016, according to the top counterintelligence official in the U.S. government, just like 2016, we`ve once again got the Kremlin running social media operations and also Russian propaganda operations to undermine the Democratic candidate and the Democratic Party and thereby boost Donald Trump`s chances of winning the White House again just like in 2016.
But we also get this specific mention of one named, quote, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian who as part of the Russian government`s efforts to mess with our election and undermine Biden`s campaign and get Donald Trump four more years, this specific named guy has been spreading claims about corruption.
How is he spreading these claims? The rest of the statement mentions the Kremlin`s operation here being active on social media, active in terms of Russian propaganda outlets. But with this guy it`s something different. He is spreading these claims to undermine Biden`s campaign and thereby help Trump.
Well, what is his medium for doing this? How is he spreading these claims? As part of the Russian government`s operation against our 2020 election?
Well, we know what he`s doing to try to spread these claims. He`s spreading these claims by providing those claims to this man. The Republican U.S. senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, who heads the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The same pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian named in today`s intelligence report also indicates to us that he is spreading these claims by providing them to this man, the Republican senior U.S. senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, who runs the finance committee in the United States senate.
I mean, this is remarkable. The guy who is named by U.S. intelligence in this specific public warning today about what Russia is doing to interfere in the 2020 election to try to reelect Trump, the way he`s been doing his work for the Russian government to mess with our election, is by feeding material to a purported investigation of Joe Biden by Senator Ron Johnson on the Homeland Security Committee and Senator Chuck Grassley on the finance committee in the Senate, because those two senators have been use information from that specific named guy as the basis for what they say is going to be their big investigation, a big report on their investigation into Biden that they`re planning on releasing in mid-September right in time for the election.
I mean, this guy, who is doing this work on behalf of the Russian government, per this intelligence statement to the American push today, he course has been feeding anti-Biden stuff to Rudy Giuliani. There`s Giuliani on the left, there`s this guy on the right. Rudy Giuliani, of course, continuing to act as the president`s lawyer. He and Giuliani, in fact, did a whole mini-series of pro-Trump anti-Biden propaganda a few months ago on one of these rabidly pro-Trump fringe TV networks, one that shares at least one reporter with the Russian propaganda network Sputnik.
And, you know, at this point, we`re four years into this. We sort of expect that. That`s just the flavor of the Trump-verse at this point, right?
Rudy Giuliani being dispatched abroad to go collect Russian intelligence- provided dirt and bring it home and try to launder it into the American ecosystem, right? Not minding Russian bounties being paid for dead American soldiers, it being a scandal in the Trump administration only if someone deigns to criticize Russia for that, right?
Promoting Russian propaganda on everything from NATO to Ukraine to the coronavirus, you name it, we`ve gotten used to the fact that this is how this presidency and the Trump world and Republican politics now operates when it comes to Russia. This is what we expect from the president, from the president`s close associates, from the Trump White House.
But what`s happening in 2020 is that this is now the Republican-led United States Senate accepting and acting on, effectively laundering and promoting dirt that the U.S. intelligence community now publicly says is a Russian operation to mess with our election because that`s what they want to do to try to beat Joe Biden. That`s what the Republican Party in the United States Senate is willing to do to try to beat Joe Biden.
That`s what the Trump campaign -- apparently that`s how they`re going to approach this, you know. They will run fake third-party candidates that they think might peel off voters from Biden. They`ll have their lawyers run his whole campaign operation too.
Use the lawyers we`ve had trying to bankrupt and intimidate mom and pop media outlets into not run any criticism of Trump. Use those players, we got any of them in places like Wisconsin?
What else can we do? Let`s take over the post office and make drama last- minute changes to slow down the mail right before the first national election ever conducted mostly by mail because of the pandemic. We are watching this breaking news tonight that Trump`s new handpicked postmaster general has just fired tonight nearly two dozen senior leaders at the Postal Service, thus centralizing power over mail delivery under himself personally less than 90 days before the election.
This comes on the same day that Democrats asked the Postal Service inspector general to investigate what that guy, Trump`s handpicked postmaster general, has done since he very recently took over the Postal Service and immediately started to slow down mail delivery all over the country.
I mean, these are the terms on which they`re waging this campaign. Frivolous lawsuits, random fake third-party candidacies, messing with the actual mechanism by which most of us will vote. And this time, like in 2016, apparently they`ve got Russia again pulling along side them on Donald Trump`s behalf.
The difference this time, at least for now, is that the Republican Party in Congress, the Republican Party in the United States Senate, is helping the Russian effort along explicitly and knowingly. I mean, they can`t say they don`t know what they`re doing and what it means here, right? They can`t say they don`t know the implications of accepting anti-Biden material ginned up by this random pro-Russia Ukrainian lawmaker and laundering it through the United States Senate to incorporate it into U.S. election concerns. They can`t say they don`t know what that means or what the origins of that material might be or what material is provided them in order to do. They can`t plead ignorance after this public warning today from the country`s top counterintelligence official saying, that guy, that is Russia`s effort to interference in the election this year for 2020, right?
They can`t plead ignorance. They know what they are doing is taking part in Russia`s efforts to elect Donald Trump again. But these are the means by which this president is trying to stay in office. These are the means by which the Republican Party is trying to keep this president in office.
This is what the campaign is like, and it`s not going to get better over the next less than 90 days. I don`t know that we should have expected better. I mean, I suppose if I were presiding over 160,000-plus Americans dead in six months and an epidemic raging totally out of control and my best idea about it is still, it will go away like magic, I suppose if that were me, I might want to try to run on terms this odious as well.
But that`s what he`s trying. That`s what the Republican Party is trying alongside him knowingly while the rest of the country tries to stay alive in the midst of this catastrophic epidemic.
That`s what this is going to be like for the next 90 days. Buckle up. Eyes open.
Big show for you tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi met with the Trump administration today for what we think was an 11th round of face to face negotiations on another COVID relief package for Americans out of work or otherwise up against it in the seventh full blown month of this pandemic.
Democrats offered to knock about a trillion dollars off of their relief bill, which had otherwise been pegged at $3.4 trillion. The White House apparently said no to that offer. Many of the deadlines to replenish or extend the relief programs that Congress has passed in the past, those have already come and gone. The deadline to continue paying the extra 600 bucks in unemployment benefits that tens of millions have Americans have been relying on since they`ve been out of work, that deadline came and went July 31.
The deadline to extend the ban on evicting people across the country, that passed on July 24th. Now as many as 12 million people are at risk of losing their homes if they don`t get help.
Technically, the paycheck protection program, the federal loan program to try to keep small businesses afloat. Technically that program is still alive. That program doesn`t expire until tomorrow, but it does expire tomorrow. With all these federal relief programs either collapsing or on the verge of collapsing, the Trump administration is saying no to the Democrats` compromise offer. They`ve been making vague noises about the president trying to do some of these things by executive order. The president talked about that tonight at his golf club in Bedminster but then quickly pivoted to spending the next half an hour of his remarks basically holding a very small campaign rally.
Left unsaid at all was how he intends to muster the authority to try to do any of this single handedly since it`s Congress, not the president, that holds the power of the purse. Tick tock, though, in terms of how much Americans need relief right now.
There`s no end to this pandemic in sight. The reason all these things are expiring is because when they initially passed, people thought this would be over by now. It`s nowhere near over. Americans are suffering just as much as they were when these things were passed in the first place.
How is this going to resolve?
Joining us now is the great James Clyburn, South Carolina congressman, chair of the House Select Committee that oversees coronavirus relief funds.
Congressman Clyburn, it`s nice to see you here tonight. It`s been too long since you`ve been here on the show. I really appreciate you making time to be here.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: Can you just give us your overview perspective on what you think is going to happen, whether you think that these programs that so many Americans have been counting on will get extended? What kind of lapse that we`ll be looking at between those programs initially expiring and then getting re-upped hopefully when some deal gets worked out?
CLYBURN: I think we`re going to get a deal worked out. There will be -- the committee is meeting over weekend. We will have some consultations tomorrow. I think we`re getting close to something happening that will be of benefit to everybody.
MADDOW: When the president talks about doing some of these things by executive order, I feel like I`m going back to my Schoolhouse Rock, it`s just a bill -- I`m just a bill, kind of basics about how the different branches of government work.
I mean, the one thing the president doesn`t have is the power of the purse. When he says he can do some of these things just by signing an executive order, when we`re talking about, you know, sending money to people, when we`re talking about an unemployment benefits boost, when we`re talking even about changes around taxes that he`s talking about, it doesn`t seem to me that he has the power to do any of that as president, yet the White House seems to think that that`s -- that`s another way to get at the relief that`s needed.
CLYBURN: You know, the president seems to think that there is no Congress that he has to deal with, no people that he has to listen to. He says these things.
I think that he`s always throwing something up on the wall to see if it will stick. I think he knows better than this. The executive orders that he issues have gone to court time and time again, and they`ve been thrown back into his face. At some point in time, I think he`s going to get the message from the courts as well.
But we`re going to keep working, and we`ll come to some agreement. I wish that Mr. McConnell were in the room so that we can get the legislative bodies together, but he seems to have, you know, turned it over to the White House. But we`ll get something.
MADDOW: You sound confident, and that is buoying to me because I feel like you`re a pretty clear-eyed observer about what is capable -- what Capitol Hill is capable of doing. I`ll just ask what you would say to Americans right now who are really scared about not just the health aspects of this but the economic aspects of this. I mean, so many people I know just in my personal life, whether they`re small business owners or employees of public or private entities, people are worried about whether or not the economic blow that`s been dealt to individual families and to our country right now is something that we`re going to recover from in the long run.
How do you -- do you see that? And how do you think the government has done in terms of trying to fix some of these wounds?
CLYBURN: Well, people are worried, and quite frankly I am worried. You see, we`ve got really a pandemic within a pandemic here. When you really look at it, we`ve got a big health care crisis. We`ve got an economic crisis. And as we`ve focused on trying to do something about the economic crisis, the fact of the matter is we cannot get it solved without solving this health care crisis.
So it`s a double whammy here. We have to try and operate knowing full well that you cannot operate within a silo here. These two things must be taken together, and I really believe people are coming to that realization, and we`re going to get to where we need to be.
Now, I`m always the optimist. I just don`t believe that I can afford to give up on the capacity of this country to respond to the needs of its people.
So I`m holding on to that hope that we`ll get there, and I feel confident that it may not be tomorrow, but I think before next week is out, we`ll have an issue resolved.
MADDOW: It is, as a say, buoying to hear you say that, sir. I`d be remiss, though, if I let you go here before asking you about politics.
I want to just get your take on how the Joe Biden campaign is doing right now. I`ve been paying more and more attention to how the Trump campaign is behaving itself, and I feel like their tactics are starting to -- we`re getting a sort of sense of what their tactics are going to be over these last 90 days.
I want to ask you about how you feel the Biden campaign is doing, and how enthusiastic or how optimistic you are about Jamie Harrison, a former staffer of yours who is running against Lindsey Graham for that Senate seat in South Carolina? He just had a poll this week that showed him in a dead heat, tied at 44 points each with the incumbent senator, Lindsey Graham.
CLYBURN: Jamie is doing extremely well. I knew since I first met him when he was an 11th grader that there was something special about him. I`ve been holding on to him ever since. He has conducted himself in a way that he`s making all the South Carolinians proud.
I ran into a guy yesterday who told me that he was just a rock-ribbed Republican, but he was extremely impressed with Jamie Harrison. He hadn`t gotten around yet to whether he was going to vote for him, but he just thinks that he`s exactly the kind of person who should be representing us in Washington. So, I`m very proud of him.
As for Biden, he`s running a real good race. He`s taking his time on the vice presidential search. I believe that the vetting is about over.
I think he is in the process of determining simpatico, which ones he`s got the most simpatico with. And I think that by next weekend, he`ll make an announcement.
He shouldn`t rush into this. We`ve had experiences with what happens when you rush. I always remember Eagleton. Most people don`t remember that, but I remember when we rushed into that convention, came out with Eagleton on the ticket and had to jettison him several days later because the vetting was incomplete.
I remember what happened with Geraldine Ferraro. The vetting was not done properly. And so, I think McCain, if he had to do it all over, I don`t think he would have done what he did with Sarah Palin because someone didn`t do their homework.
So Joe Biden is doing his homework. He`s taking his time, and I think he`s going to come up with the person that all of us can be proud of.
MADDOW: Congressman James Clyburn, the dean of South Carolina congressional delegation and a sage voice in Democratic politics and on so much more -- sir, it`s an honor to have you here anytime. Thank you so much for being here tonight.
CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come here this Friday. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Starr County, Texas, has one hospital. Starr County Memorial Hospital, which is in Rio Grande City in Texas. Right now, they`ve got this lovely display of carefully hand-lettered thank you cards sent into the staff of that hospital. The cards say things like, you are amazing and strong and brave and appreciated. Remember that each and every day. And when you are feeling overwhelmed, it`s OK to scream, to cry, and to grieve. Take a long, deep breath and find comfort in knowing that you are held dearly in our hearts every moment of the day.
Starr County Memorial Hospital is in Rio Grande City, Texas. That`s the county seat. The staff of that hospital can use the good wishes right now. A couple of weeks ago on the show, you might remember we sort of sounded the alarm about this one overwhelmed hospital in Starr County, Texas.
There`s 65,000 people that live in the county. They`ve just got this one hospital. It`s got 48 beds. There`s only 12 doctors serving that entire county, two of whom do anesthesia, two of whom are E.R. doctors. That leaves a total of eight more for the entire county. That`s less two doctors for every 10,000 people in that county, and again, one hospital.
When we reported on the dire COVID situation in Starr County a few weeks ago, the hospital was reporting that they had three times the number of COVID patients as they did beds to put those patients in. That`s when the top executive in Starr County issued this sort of apocalyptic warning to the people living in this part of Rural Texas. He said, quote, unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources, and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment and who is sent home to die by their loved ones.
That was not a warning that`s what`s coming. That`s what they were saying was upon Starr County. That was two weeks ago. Since then, I am sorry to not be able to tell you about a dramatic turnaround.
This is the headline in "The New York Times" this week about that same hospital. Their headline is, quote, like a horror movie, a small border hospital battles the coronavirus. The hospital`s COVID ward at capacity, doctors are overwhelmed. They say they cannot always provide the level of care these critically ill COVID patients need to stay alive.
Quoting from "The Times," the nurse in charge watched closely as three other nurses wrapped bandages around the knees of a woman in her 60s connected to a ventilators. Her treatment at the hospital, he said, had run its course.
The nurse said, quote, she needs a higher level of care than we can provide. We need to open her throat and clear her airways. We simply don`t have the necessary tools to do that here.
Starr County Memorial Hospital was medevacing her out. They`ve been forced to medevac out, helicopter out patients to other facilities whenever they can. Other hospitals that can provide higher-level care or simply hospitals that have open beds.
Sick patients in Starr County have been sent as far as Dallas and San Antonio. They`ve been sent across state lines to Oklahoma to receive care. Almost unfathomably, though, none of them have come back. A health authority in Starr County saying, quote, very, very unfortunately, of all the patients we have transferred, none of them have come back alive.
One consequence to not having a national strategy for dealing with this thing, one consequence to an incompetent federal response to this coronavirus crisis is that our country continues to recover on very, very uneven timelines, even when the situation is getting better in some places, it is getting worse in others.
But what we have seen over the past few weeks is in the Rio Grande Valley, in Starr County, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, we have seen the coronavirus crisis in a constant, unrelieved de-crescendo. It is just an unmitigated disaster that is plugging steadily along for which there has been no relief. And that has been true for weeks now.
A couple weeks ago I said on the air that this looked to me like an issue of national concern, potentially something that should be seen as a national-level emergency in the Rio Grande Valley. Things have not gotten better since then, but we are going to be joined by the mayor of Rio Grande city here next, live.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Every day the official in charge of public health in Starr County, Texas, posts updates of the toll that COVID has taken on that community, 2,400 people known to be infected, that`s about 4 percent of the whole population of the county. Twenty-two county residents confirmed to have died. Another 51 suspected deaths are awaiting confirmation as COVID deaths from the state. Among those are small children, even a 9-month-old infant.
There`s only one hospital in Starr County. It`s operating beyond capacity. They`ve been transferring patients as far away as New Mexico and Oklahoma because they don`t have space or resources to treat this nonstop surge of cases and very sick people.
Starr County`s county seat is Rio Grande City. The mayor of Rio Grande City told the A.P. this week, quote, we need the help. Our house is on fire. We are no less American than other people in other parts of the country.
Joining us now is Mayor Joel Villarreal, who represents Rio Grande City and Starr City, Texas. He`s the elected mayor of that topw.
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
MAYOR JOEL VILLARREAL, RIO GRANDE CITY, TEXAS: Well, thank you for having me on your show, and on behalf of Rio Grande City and the Rio Grande Valley, a heartfelt thank you for the national coverage that has truly made a significant difference in the mobilization of resources that are now benefiting our area. So thank you for highlighting our predicament as we continue to fight this global pandemic. So thank you.
MADDOW: Well, tell me about that mobilization of resources. I know that you and other communities in the Rio Grande Valley have been hurting for weeks if not months now. Tell me about what new resources have been brought to bear and what kind of a difference they`re making.
VILLARREAL: We are in a position now where we are fortunate and thankful that the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Audie Murphy Hospital in San Antonio has come to our aid in this time of need, and they have agreed to accept our patients. And that has been crucial because our small hospital, as you mentioned prior, we have limited resources. When you`re looking at six beds for every 10,000 people, zero ICU beds, one from six doctors for every 10,000 people, we have limited resources.
However, they have done a tremendous job in spite of these limited resources in now having this lifeline to San Antonio and also to DHR in Edinburgh. And now we have the alternative health care facility in McAllen at the convention center. So, again, these resources have come our way in a critical time because we were at a critical juncture when our medical -- when our community`s medical needs far exceeded our medical resources.
And we were at the point where it -- it was dire, and we did not see an end in sight. However, most recently now we can take a breather. However -- and I say this strongly. As you mention, we have still 2,478 cases, over 73 fatalities. Our rates as far as positivity rate is 16 percent, and out of those positives, 400 of our children are positive.
So when you`re looking at those numbers, it`s still in a position where we need to address these medical needs. But we are fortunate, though. So thank you to our governor. Thank you to the Department of Veterans Affairs and Audie Murphy Hospital for bringing some of these resources to our area that we now can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, we are not yet out of the woods.
MADDOW: Mayor Joel Villarreal, mayor of Rio Grande City in Starr County, Texas, hearing your special gratitude for the help that you had so far when you have been dealing with so much and such dire circumstances, it lifts a spirit. But I know that you have a long way to go.
Stay in touch with us. We`d love to keep people apprised about how things are going in your community. Thank you, sir.
VILLARREAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That`s good to do it for us tonight. Thanks for being with us tonight and all this week. We`ll see you again on Monday.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where the great Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
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