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NBA suspends season TRANSCRIPTS: The Last Word W/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Laurie Garrett, Leana Wen, Adam Schiff, David Plouffe


And I invite viewers to compare what they learn from Ron Klain in your last 45 minutes of discussion to what they`ve been hearing from Trump administration officials, not the medical professionals but the actual White House staff because that`s what Ron was in the Obama White House. He was in a position of -- without medical expertise, but with expertise about how to make government work, how to make arms of the government work together in a crisis like this and, of course, he did pick up a great deal of expertise about this kind of situation and about the medical elements of this situation.

I haven`t heard anyone from the Kellyanne Conways to the Larry Kudlows to these Trump appointees that have command of this subject that Ron has in one sentence.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Not only the lack of command but the overt publicly -- excuse me, politically convenient disinformation. Those people you just cited, Kellyanne Conway and Larry Kudlow, both saying this is contained, Kudlow saying almost airtight. You know, as the number of U.S. cases started low and headed toward -- over a thousand where it is now, the overt disinformation from the president on down has been -- is actually one of serious challenges that we`ve got as a country in terms of how we`re going to deal with this, and I don`t think anybody was under illusions they handled this well. I`m not sure that any of us were cynical enough to expect that they would handle it so overtly badly that they`d be one of the problems we needed to fix along the way.

O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, the basketball theme that went throughout your hour, it`s at least two weeks ago, maybe more that an official at one of the really big basketball powers at the university systems in this country said to me that he was very worried what this meant not just for college basketball games with 20,000, 25,000 people watching them but what happens if one student in there is then tested and found to be ill, what do you do about the 25,000 people who are in that arena?

Clearly, the NBA has been thinking about it in this announcement tonight that they are suspending, and it`s suspending. It`s not necessarily ending. Perhaps they`re suspending for 30 days. Perhaps the NBA season will finish in August this year. We don`t know.

But this is really the first really big decision about limiting large groups of people in enclosed spaces.

MADDOW: And it feels like they hit it like slamming into a wall.


MADDOW: I mean, the NBA was not exactly, you know, engaging with this possibility in a way that seemed particularly open-minded, but then you saw a bunch of things happen in very quick secession. You saw Toni Fauci in Congress today say overtly, if this -- we don`t believe Americans should be in large crowds and if that means NBA games should be played out audiences, so be it.

We then saw in San Francisco, the mayor institute a ban on gathering of a size that would exclude events like an arena full of people watching the Golden State Warriors play games. We saw this start to happen in individual locations and then in this Thunder game tonight in Oklahoma, it turns out a player from the Utah Jazz is perceived to potentially be positive.

That apparently was a calamity at the Oklahoma Thunder stadium or arena tonight in Oklahoma City when they instituted at first a 30-minute delay. Nobody there knew what it was for. Then they announced the game would be postponed and only after they announced the game would be postponed we found out the answer was about a player from that visiting team.

And so, it`s -- I mean, it feels like we`re sort of stumbling through this but in the end, we`re coming to the same conclusion about cancelling large events now.

O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, the idea of OK, the basketball games will be played without the audience in the arena, there`s a real business to be done that way. The television side of the business, there`s obviously still a very viable business to be done without the ticket sales, unless, unless a player contracts the virus, which is where we are now. I mean, the amount of physical contact, you know, your hands can`t touch your face. Well, you sure can`t play basketball with other people if that`s the case.

And so, all they needed was that one player and they just did what you would do, thinking about that one player project that out how long has that player been carrying this? How many other players in the NBA has he actually literally touched in just, say, the last week?

MADDOW: And those calculations as Ron was saying, if we were in a regime in which, like they are in South Korea, in which there was widespread testing, in which not everybody was symptomatic getting tested but everybody that was a traced contact of anybody who was known to have the virus was getting tested, and there was just wide spread surveillance testing within the population to ferret it out in places that we didn`t know about, then you`d be having a completely different conversation about the sort of workplace risk to NBA basketball players than you would in our country where it is a mystery because the federal government, the Trump administration blew it just absolutely blew it, when it came to us having tests.

And so, we`re the biggest industrialized nation in the world dealing with a significant epidemic while flying blind, with no information you need to take the first steps to make sure this is brought under control. It`s just absolutely unconscionable.

O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, there is one more thing before you go and this developed during your hour, one of the breaking news elements of your hour. And, by the way, the president`s ten minutes was a complete contradiction of everything the president had said publicly about this prior to his ten minutes tonight.


O`DONNELL: When he was telling people nothing to worry about. I think America tonight has a symbol, couple of big symbols about what there is to worry about with the NBA suspending because of one of the players. But then that news that you broke during your hour, of Tom and Rita Hanks in Australia.


O`DONNELL: Tom Hanks tweeting out tonight, a very upbeat statement by Tom Hanks about him, himself being infected with the coronavirus and his wife Rita and, of course, Tom Hanks is going to put a very brave face on this, which he has done and I hope all of the positive feeling that he conveys in his text -- in his tweet how this is going is true. I`m sure it is.

But that`s a real face now. Tom and Rita Hanks is a real thing, a real fact for Americans to consider if it can happen to them, even though they are in Australia, it can absolutely happen to anyone. I think that`s the reality now through Tom Hanks that a lot of people might not have had without Tom Hanks announcement about this.

MADDOW: And for that to be happening while Mr. Hanks and his wife are in Australia, which is where they are diagnosed which is key to learning this, that`s why they were able to get diagnosed because they were in Australia and not here, who knows how they could get access to a test here.

But the president tonight issued a travel ban from Europe as the way he`s going to try to address coronavirus in this country because he knows how to do travel bans. I mean, how about Australia? That`s where Tom Hanks and his wife appear to have it.

I mean, this dart board approach, this blind throwing darts that he`s doing in terms of trying to make it seem like he`s got some sort of rational response here, Schengen area countries from Europe will be restricted in terms of travel from the United States starting on Friday and we`re excluding the U.K. where the health minister tested positive, it`s just -- it`s random action at a time we need concerted smart science driven action.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, thank you for your hour of coverage. We all learned a lot and we`re going to continue with it here.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee will join us in this hour, later in the hour. We`ll get his reaction to the relatively vague outline that President Trump announced tonight to try to control the coronavirus.

And at the end of the hour tonight, we`re going to try to change the subject. I`m not sure we will but David Plouffe is here. He managed President Obama`s successful presidential campaign. I want him to referee a disagreement that I have with our friends James Carville about where the Democratic presidential race could go from here. James Carville says Bernie Sanders should drop out. I say that he should not. David Plouffe will tell us who is right at the end of the hour, but I can`t promise you that is what we`ll be discussing at the end of this hour the way this news is breaking tonight on the coronavirus.

We begin tonight, of course, with analysis of the president`s ten-minute address to the nation tonight. The first action the president announced tonight as Rachel mentioned is a ban on travel to the United States from Europe with some unspecified exceptions and possibly some significant loopholes.

Listen carefully to how the president described it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground. There will be exceptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting covering global pandemics. She`s a former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and the former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

Richard Stengel is with us. He`s former under secretary of state in the Obama administration and an MSNBC political analyst.

Laurie, let me start with you on this travel ban and how you interpret it.

LAURIE GARRETT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS FORMER SENIOR FELLOW ON GLOBAL HEALTH: Ever since we heard about this virus, the way the president has approached it is I live in a castle, I`m pulling up the drawbridge, and the virus can`t swim. We`ve pulled up first the China drawbridge and then, you know, some other drawbridges and now we`re pulling up Europe drawbridge but we`re leaving down the South Korea drawbridge. We`re leaving down drawbridges all over the rest and the U.K. apparently.

None of it makes any sense. Virus will -- is already here and is probably already extremely wide spread in the United States. There`s very good indication that it was in Snohomish County, Washington state, by the 10th of January and very likely it was spreading dramatically in Washington state from there for weeks before we knew it.

Without surveillance testing, of course, we don`t really know where it is. We don`t know how wide spread it is. The one place that has done contact tracing, that classic instrument you say here is an infected individual, let`s find everybody that person was in contact with and test them, that`s been done one place so far in the United States, in New York looking at one lawyer who we know is in infected and still hospitalized and identified 50 infected contacts.

O`DONNELL: From one person?

GARRETT: One person.

So, what we have to ask ourselves is what are we really up against at this time in the United States? And is the government taking it on on that scale and the answer is no. I`ll tell you, Lawrence, this today is the day that I had that feeling the last time I had it after more than 30 years, dealing with epidemics, was in 1981 when I sat down with great epidemiologist named Andrew Moss who showed me a preprint he hadn`t yet published and it calculate that 50 percent of the gay men living in the Castro District were already infected with this brand-new virus that didn`t have a name that we now call HIV.

O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, on the enforcement of this vague travel ban, what do you see in that? I mean, for example, you can come here from the United Kingdom. Does that mean a French citizen can simply cross the channel, fly from Heathrow to here, that same French citizen couldn`t fly from Paris to here? Do you see in this ban?

RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it`s not very clear and it`s not very rational. Like he didn`t say anything about American citizens going back and forth and does kind of as Laurie mention, confirm the world view there is us and them and the disease comes from elsewhere. That`s of course false. The disease is here. It`s spreading probably more than we know in part because we`re not testing and he didn`t talk about testing at all.

If I can make one other point about your conversation with Rachel and what we`ve been talking about closing NBA games and that, this is what epidemiologist call flattening the curve. It`s the idea of preventing a quick spread of the disease, which would over tax the hospital system and trying to make it smoother, and the problem is, there aren`t enough beds for people with spikes and that`s why this is a responsible thing to do. I think these people need to know that.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what the president said tonight about the threat and what it means to people medically.


TRUMP: The vast majority of Americans, the risk is very, very low. Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus. The highest risk is for elderly population with under lying health conditions. The elderly population must be very, very careful, in particular, we`re strongly advising nursing homes for the elderly suspend unnecessary visits.

In general, older Americans should also avoid non-essential travel and crowded areas. Each of us has a role to play in defeating this virus. Wash your hands. Clean often used surfaces. Cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.


O`DONNELL: Dr. Wen, your reaction to the president`s comments?

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSIONER, CITY OF BALTIMORE: Well, most of what he said is kind of true. Better than previous appearances, it is true the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions are the most medically vulnerable and should stay out of crowds and out of -- not do non-essential things, not do non-essential travel but it`s not true that all of those people who are young and healthy who get the COVID-19 will recover. I mean, 80 percent will do very well and the likelihood is they will recover but some won`t get very sick and some will die.

The other thing, too, is even if you`re young and healthy and if you recover, it doesn`t mean that it will be fine if you get the virus because you are still at risk for transmitting the disease to other people. And I think that`s what I found to be the most profoundly disturbing part that was missing from the president`s speech tonight, which is the warning that there is going to be significant disruption to everyday life. It`s not just about banning those people from over there. It`s about real actions that we have to be taking that are hard.

I mean, school closures. Not going to work. Not getting a paycheck. Having events and conferences and all these things being cancelled, not going outside. These are really hard social distancing steps that we have to take but if we don`t take them, then we won`t be able to flatten the curve and a lot of people in this country could die.

O`DONNELL: Laurie, I want to point out one thing not on the president`s list. He says nothing about shaking hands when he`s telling people how they should change behavior. This is within 24 hours of the vice president of the United States standing in front of the American people saying he still shakes hands but he said that only after having to admit that President Trump still shakes hands and so Mike Pence didn`t want to get out of line on the handshaking rule in the Trump White House.

And I am absolutely certain that the speechwriters there were not allowed to put shaking hands in that teleprompter for him to read because of Mike Pence and Donald Trump statements about that already.

GARRETT: Well, I don`t know about that but I know this. I wrote today published in "Foreign Policy" that we should chance l the cancel the elections. We have to cancel the rallies. We have to cancel all the --

O`DONNELL: You mean the campaigns. Not the election.

GARRETT: The campaigns, not the election. Sorry, I misspoke.


GARRETT: Thank you.

We have to cancel the baby kissing and the hugging. You know, if you think about how many times a candidate hugs hands down the line --

O`DONNELL: And Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have already said they`ve changed their behavior about this.

GARRETT: This is a vector. This is a vector, just as surely as a mosquito is for malaria. And if you go down the line and shake 1,000 hands and one of them has COVID and you may not get it but you then shake three hands later and pass it on on down the line -- well, you`ve just facilitated spread of the disease.

I think we have to rethink how we`re going to do the campaigns. Rethink even the voting process. We`re in that level of crisis in this country now.

O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, your former job editor and chief of "Time Magazine", you certainly had a feel for popular culture and Tom Hanks, I believe, I know you know Tom Hanks from that job and other things and I believe he`s on the cover, possibly even more than once in "Time Magazine".

STENGEL: At least once, I recall.

O`DONNELL: OK. So, judge for us what you think the impact of an American, you know, Hollywood icon like Tom Hanks telling us tonight that he and Rita Hanks are now suffering from this ailment. Tom Hanks is over 60 years old, technically, very, very healthy man and Rita obviously very healthy, but technically a higher risk than someone of a younger age.

What do you think the impact of that news -- I have a feeling that is probably for many, many people their first real jolt about what this means to them.

GARRETT: Like Hudson moment.

STENGEL: Yes, it personalizes it for Americans but not just a person, a person that represents these all American values and in fact, he represented that in that tweet that he did which was jaunty and positive and it`s like we`ll never get put down by something like this. I thought it was a really admirable and heroic thing he did and I think it can calm a lot of fears. It was just -- it was a typical kind of Tom Hanks thing to do.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Wen, where do -- where do you think we are going to be on decisions for other businesses that collect large crowds in enclosed spaces like the NBA, theaters, these kinds of things going forward?

WEN: There`s been a real shift in this last week and I hope that everyone, every part of society will recognize that we have to do work differently. We seen a lot of universities are changed their plans. A lot of companies are cancelling non-essential travel and encouraging telework and I hope everyone says, look, individual actions, however small they are, can make a big difference.

Not everyone can work from home and that`s understandable but for those who can, let`s allow them to. Not every school should close because there are downsides to schools closing, too. For example, kids may not be able to get meals and there may be instances where this is not advisable. But for those that can close, we should be doing that. We should not be having large events and large rallies. It`s just not worth it.

We are -- we have this very narrow window now to intervene and to flatten the curve and to prevent a much worse escalation as has been seen in Italy. Let`s use that window and let`s not look back and say, I wish I had done that because we actually knew the evidence all along.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Leana Wen, Laurie Garrett, Rick Stengel, thank you all for starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

And when we come back, Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee will join us with his reaction to the president`s comments tonight and the ban on travel from Europe to the United States. Congressman Schiff will be our next guest.


O`DONNELL: We have breaking news from Washington from United States Senator Maria Cantwell who represents the state of Washington. A member of her staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

Senator Cantwell issued a statement tonight saying a staff member in Senator Maria Cantwell`s office tested positive for COVID-19. The individual has been in isolation since starting to have symptoms. On the advice of the attending physician, the senator has closed her Washington D.C. office. This week for deep cleaning and staff will be teleworking.

Senator Cantwell`s Seattle and Washington, D.C. offices will continue to serve her constituents remotely. The individual who tested positive for COVID-19 has had no known contact with the senator or other members of Congress. Here is more of what President Trump said tonight.


TRUMP: To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action which is unprecedented to provide financial relief. This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others due to coronavirus. I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He`s the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

I want to begin with your reaction to this announcement by Senator Cantwell that a member of her staff has tested positive for coronavirus. Senator Cantwell has had no known contact with that staff member and, of course, we all know that that`s possible because of the travel schedule of senators and other reasons why that might be the case.

But your reaction to what Senator Cantwell is reporting tonight.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, certainly, our thoughts go out to that staff member and we hope they have a quick recovery and hope that it wasn`t transmitted to others on her staff or anywhere else on the Hill for that matter.

But, Lawrence, it doesn`t really come as a surprise. We have a very public job. Our job indeed is interacting with the public, but more broadly than that, given the pace at which this virus is being transmitted, we have to anticipate that every major workplace is going to be touched by this virus and what really matters is how we prepare for that and how we try to control and address and mitigate that.

And time is very precious. There are a lot of things I wish I heard in the president`s speech today and some I heard that concerned me because when you have a major health crisis like this incompetence kills. Incompetence kills.

And the response thus far from administration has been unfortunately plagued with incompetence and in particular, not getting those tests out there quickly so we can see who is infected, where are they infected, what steps could be taken to really mitigate the spread of this virus and we now are in the position of trying to make up for lost time that we will never get back.

O`DONNELL: Congressman, what is your reaction to what the president was proposing legislatively tonight?

SCHIFF: Well, the snippet you showed about making sure workers can stay home that get sick and still pay the bills, you know, frankly that was the only thing or one of the few things that made sense to me in what the president had to say and indeed the package we`ll take up tomorrow will have a provision, among most important is for paid sick leave, so that those that get ill but can`t afford not to be paid aren`t going to have to go to work and risk infecting others.

But what I would have liked to have heard the President say is, this is a serious public health crisis, I`m not going to sugarcoat it, but this is something we can handle. First, I`m going to surge the test kits and we`re going to make sure we find out where is this virus, how widespread is it, and these are the resources I`m going to devote to make sure that these tests are done quickly and widespread.

We`re going to make sure that we surge our health capacity. This is what I`m going to do for the hospitals and the clinics, these are the resources that we`re going to deploy, this is how we`re going to involve FEMA, we`re going to set up at defense installations additional beds.

And here`s what we`re going to do for those people that are touched by this. We`re going to make sure they can still pay the bills, we`re going to make sure they get the best health care in the world, we`re going to make sure that those that are on the edge of poverty have food on the table, and we are also going to have to be serious about some major changes in our lifestyle. But, we can do this, we can do this, and I`m going to ask you all to make certain sacrifices in our social life to really contain the worst of this virus.

That wasn`t the kind of thing we heard, not something that was uplifting that gave us reason to believe we could deal with this rationally sensibly. But instead, it was frankly a kind of a crazy quote, no more crazy than the travel ban which applies to certain countries but not others. It applies to countries where there`s less of a problem in Europe, but not where there`s more of a problem elsewhere like in South Korea. And that kind of thing not only doesn`t inspire confidence, it doesn`t lead to results.

O`DONNELL: Congressman, I want to go back to where we began with this breaking news from Senator Cantwell about a member of her staff testing positive for the virus. When we know how these steps are, I mean Senator from Washington, she has a minimum of 40, 45 people on her staff probably in the Washington office.

That we just got a report in the first segment we discussed tonight, where the one person who`s infected in New York who has been traced directly infected another 50 people.

I`m imagining the staff members having their lunch as you know in the basement of the Dirksen building in that vast cafeteria there, I know all of the interaction that those staff members have, the restaurants they go to on Fridays after work.

And for someone who had been infected maybe for 10 days without knowing it, the possibility of what we`re facing now in the Russell Senate Office Building, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hart Senate Office Building and not so far across the lawn over in the house office buildings, we could be a week or two away from a situation there that we`ve never seen before.

SCHIFF: Well, that`s absolutely right. And indeed, they`re already any number of House members that have self quarantined. And because there`s so little testing, we don`t know how widespread this is on the Hill, let alone anywhere else in the country.

But in terms of the continuation of governance and in a Congress where we physically have to be present to vote, there are additional challenges and difficulties. As you saw, we`ve already taken some steps in the Capitol to minimize the spread on the Capitol, but we`re going to have to entertain a lot more.

I had discussions for example again with my staff today about teleworking. Now, as the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, this poses a real challenge, because if you`re going to be dealing with classified information generally, unless you have a secure line and few people do, you have to be in the Capitol.

So, we`re trying to navigate our way and there probably won`t be a one- size-fits-all, but this is something that we were understanding would only be a matter of time on the Hill. But I think people all over the country have to understand is, it`s probably only a matter of time before it affects their own workplace, and the changes they put in place now will affect how well they can protect that workplace, and whether there is an opportunity to keep their workplace free of the coronavirus.

O`DONNELL: Has there been any discussion about the possibility of not just teleworking, but televoting members of Congress who may be quarantined and many of them may be quarantined?

And based on this report from Senator Cantwell`s office, Senators who might have to be quarantined, might there be a rules change in the House and the Senate that would allow temporarily whatever the time takes for some members to be able to vote from home?

SCHIFF: There are members that have introduced legislation along those lines already. I can tell you, it`s gotten a very chilly reception on the Hill from most of the members, because so much of the business really is done in person and of necessity is very difficult to do remotely.

The voting is just one piece of it, but the negotiations over changes to bills, over the legislative process itself, that is very difficult to accomplish when you`re spread out throughout the country. And so, at the moment, there`s not much impetus behind that, but things are changing so fast, things that we thought were implausible, unlikely, extremist a week ago now seem quite rational, and if anything, an under-reaction.

So where we will be down the road, if indeed there are substantial number of members who have to quarantine themselves or their staff, who can say. But I think at the moment, we have to do everything we can to try to minimize the likelihood that that`s necessary.

O`DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff, stay safe and thank you very much for joining us tonight, we really appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, why Bernie Sanders says he`s been losing to Joe Biden. He gave his own reading of that today in his statement that he made to reporters in Vermont. John Heilemann will join us.



JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a common goal, and together, we`ll defeat Donald Trump.


We will defeat him together.



O`DONNELL: That was Joe Biden last night after his big wins in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho. The State of Washington is still too close to call. More vote was counted earlier tonight, Joe Biden is now leading at the moment by about 16,000 votes, with 78% of the vote counted.

Bernie Sanders won North Dakota last night and spoke briefly to reporters in Burlington, Vermont today.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): Last night obviously was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view. While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability.

I cannot tell you how many people our campaign has spoken to, who have said and I quote, "I like what your campaign stands for, I agree with what your campaign stands for, but I`m going to vote for Joe Biden because I think Joe is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump."


O`DONNELL: As of tonight, Joe Biden has 838 delegates, Bernie Sanders has 691, according to NBC News, and 1991 delegates are the necessary number to secure the nomination. The candidates will have their first one-on-one debate Sunday night in Arizona, one of the four states that will hold primaries next Tuesday.

In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, the Democratic Party has decided to have no live audience in that room with the candidates and no spin room after the debate, where the candidates or their representatives normally gather for interviews with the media.

Bernie Sanders gave a preview of how he hopes to focus Sunday night`s debate.


SANDERS: Joe, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of the United States of America being the only major country on Earth where healthcare is not a human right? Joe, how are you going to respond to the scientists who tell us we have seven or eight years remaining to transform our energy system, before irreparable harm takes place to this planet, because of the ravages of climate change? And what are you going to do about the millions of people who are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt?


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, John Heilemann, National Affairs Analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is also the co-host of show titled The Circus and the Editor-in-Chief of the Recount.

John, kind of a stirring speech by Joe Biden last night in Philadelphia with an audience not as big as he wanted, but you heard the cheering, you heard all that. Bernie Sanders responds, having said nothing last night, with basically just a meeting in front of reporters in Vermont, no invited campaign supporters where he could have got gotten a lot in Vermont to do any cheering.

It didn`t look like he was looking for a rousing campaign, let`s fight all the way to the end moment today.

JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC: No, and a lot of his supporters would like to see that happen. I think what by Bernie Sanders can read the writing on the wall, he sees that giant delegate lead that Joe Biden has as of last night bigger than people thought he could have as of last night.

I mean the notion last night was that it was a chance that he would pick up some delegates in Mississippi, net some delegates there. The Michigan would be close, it was not close. This is a large delegate lead right here that, if my math is right, that`s 147. You have landslides on the horizon, Florida next week.

It`s likely that Biden will win all four of those states next week; the demographics in Ohio and Illinois very similar to Michigan. Arizona might be the closest battle because Bernie Sanders has been performing well among Latinos. But it`s going to be a big night again for Joe Biden.

We got Georgia two weeks later, where Biden is again going to rack up another bunch of net delegates. It`s not - the math is not there for Bernie Sanders now, and I think what he`s now tried to do was orchestrate his way out.

O`DONNELL: And it might have sounded a little more confrontational in that excerpt when he was saying Joe, Joe. It was--

HEILEMANN: It was not.

O`DONNELL: If you saw the whole ten minutes, he just said, listen I`m going to ask Joe how about this, how about that, and he kept saying - he said it at the beginning, he said at the end the most important thing is beating Donald Trump in November. He didn`t say, and I will be the candidate who does that.

And so, this debate is going to be very - it`s very hard to anticipate. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden both seem to be going in it as friends - longtime friends who know that there has to be a nominee that emerges from this who has strength to beat Donald Trump.

HEILEMANN: I don`t think Bernie Sanders is going to try to draw blood on Sunday night. That doesn`t mean he`s not going to be tough, that he`s not going to argue with Joe Biden over the many differences they have.

But, you could see him in a way those challenges today were in a way that he was sort of - I read them as, I`m going to offer you a chance Joe Biden to address these issues that matter a lot to my supporters.

In the end, you are going to need my people. I am the person who has the power (ph) to end this race. Bernie Sanders can keep this race running for another three months or bring it to a close when he wants to. He can`t probably be the Democratic nominee under the circumstances, but he does have the power to end the race and he does have the power to help those - help Joe Biden gain the allegiance ultimately of those supporters in his camp that Joe Biden will need to win a general election.

So, he`s kind of offering Biden a chance to prove himself to those voters. And I thought it was really important, what you just said Lawrence, which is that a guy who was looking to burn the party to the ground would not have started and ended with the most important thing to do here is beat Donald Trump. That`s someone who`s looking to ultimately find his way to unity.

O`DONNELL: And he wouldn`t have done a quiet 10 minutes.



O`DONNELL: Set the Joe Biden comeback in historical context in Presidential primaries, he`s down to fourth place, he`s fallen off the map, people were saying it`s hopeless, he`s pulling in single digits all around the country, and then comes South Carolina and the world changes. There`s never been a comeback like this.

HEILEMANN: Unprecedented, absolutely unprecedented. To finish fourth at Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, to be broke, to have no operations on the ground in the Super Tuesday states, to have no ads on the air in the Super Tuesday states, to have really one state on which your entire campaign rests, which is South Carolina after having had a fourth or fifth and a distant second.

Then to win that state overwhelmingly and then see the dominoes fall, the various endorsements, and then to march through to the victory that he had in Super Tuesday, there`s nothing been like it in our lifetimes in the modern era of nominations in which you win or lose through primaries and caucuses, not in smoke-filled rooms. Never anything like it before.

O`DONNELL: And now, we`re going forward into a campaign where we quite literally don`t know what it will look like. Bernie Sanders campaign is the big rally. Donald Trump`s campaign is the big rally. We`re probably not going to see any more of those. We don`t know what`s coming.

John Heilemann, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And when we come back, should Bernie Sanders drop out of the race now. James Carville says yes, I say no. David Plouffe will referee, that`s next.


O`DONNELL: James Carville knows much more about Presidential campaigning than I ever will. He has proved that to me many times, including on that unforgettable Election Night in 2016 when Donald Trump won the Electoral College. I was sitting beside James in a studio in this building for most of that night.

And when we weren`t on camera, James was on the phone to his sources around the country, in Florida, Virginia, the Midwest, and he would discover a voting pattern in a County in Virginia and then turn to me and say, that means we are going to lose Wisconsin. And sure enough, half an hour later, Wisconsin went to Donald Trump.

I knew before anyone else because James Carville knew before anyone else. And so, it is with no small amount of reluctance that I venture my complete disagreement with something James Carville said on this network last night.


JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Let`s shut this puppy down and let`s move on and worry about November. This thing is decided. There`s no reason to keep it going, not even a day longer.


O`DONNELL: I believe that concept is conceptually flawed, because everyone is already thinking about November. Every Biden voter and every Sanders voter is voting for the candidate who they think will win in November.

In Spring training, baseball teams are thinking about the World Series and I think it`s helpful to the eventual nominee to continue this campaign and to continue to debate because it strengthens the campaign skills of the eventual nominee.

Bernie Sanders is absolutely right that he is winning the youth vote in this campaign. He`s winning 18 year olds, 20 year olds, 21 year olds who are casting their very first votes for President of the United States in their lives.

And if you want those voters to return to the polls in November and return to the polls two years from now for Congressional races and four years from now for the next Presidential race, if you want those new voters to continue to believe the effort is worth it, you have to be very careful of what they experience when they suffer their first loss as voters.

If, as James Carville believes, Bernie Sanders is not going to be the nominee, I think the Democratic Party should give Bernie Sanders and his campaign staff and his voters as much time as they need to come to terms with that reality, even if that means running the campaign all the way to the New Jersey primary on June 2, and let every state cast their votes on who they want as the Democratic nominee for President.

But, what do I know? I`ve never worked on a Presidential campaign. James Carville might be right. And to referee this gentleman`s disagreement, we have another member of that very rare group of Americans who have worked at the highest level on successful Democratic Presidential campaigns.

David Plouffe is the former campaign manager and White House Senior Advisor for President Barack Obama. His new book A Citizen`s Guide to Beating Donald Trump is now on the New York Times bestseller list.

David, who`s right? Should Bernie stay in, take it to New Jersey, or is James right?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER BARACK OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I`m not just going to choose the mushy middle here, Lawrence.



PLOUFFE: But I`m not - I don`t think staying until June makes sense. But listen, first of all, to fully unify, you want Bernie Sanders to get out on his own time and schedule, right, because we need to unify. It`s not just 18-year-olds, Bernie Sanders is dominating with anybody under 45.

Secondly, I think if Joe Biden is going to be our nominee, I think we`d all feel more comfortable with a very strong debate performance. So I think Sunday is important. And I`d say, next Tuesday, Biden is going to grow his delegate lead almost certainly to the point that it`s insurmountable.

So, I think that`s probably the appropriate time for the Sanders campaign to think about that, because I`m in Wisconsin today. I was in Pennsylvania the last two days. I`d much rather us begin the general election in those two states than continue the primary, if it`s clear who`s going to win.

So I think staying in through Sunday makes sense, I think it`s actually an opportunity for Biden. I also think the delegate picture will be even clearer after Tuesday. So Bernie Sanders decide to suspend his campaign, I think that`ll be even more rationale for that.

So, I`m not in they`ll go to June, but I`m okay for another seven days.

O`DONNELL: But if you have Joe Biden as your general election candidate, for example, don`t you want to kind of keep a shield around him for a little bit longer as long as you can? Meaning, the minute there`s one candidate left here and there`s just that one candidate against Donald Trump, the heat on that candidate increases dramatically. There`s a little bit of a heat shield right now.

PLOUFFE: Well but, I`d say a couple things about that Lawrence, I understand that. But first of all, particularly with the coronavirus situation going on, I think it`s going to be very helpful for the party to have one voice telling the American people how they would handle this as President.

I mean, this is so critically important. I know in 2008, when we went through the financial crisis, that`s where people centered their attention on Obama. Yes, Iraq was still important, yes health care, but can you handle this crisis. So, I think having one person.

Secondly, we need to train a lot of fire at Trump and we need to train all of it. Donald Trump, where I am today in Wisconsin, where I just was in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, he`s running a race right now and we`ve got to take the race to him.

So, I think that`s a pretty defensive view, which is we need to shield Biden. If he`s going to be our nominee, I think we need to have him unshackled and we need to have him begin to run that general election campaign against Donald Trump.

And again, I think having one voice out there saying this is what we need to do that Trump`s not doing is so vitally important.

O`DONNELL: So, I think the agreement I`m hearing between us anyway is this is Bernie`s decision, let Bernie make that decision on his timetable, and certainly you don`t want the public impression that there was any kind of pressure, any kind of forcing Bernie Sanders out of a campaign where he earned his place.

PLOUFFE: Yes, I thought his remarks today were pretty clear. You just had a previous discussion with John Heilemann about this. I mean he wasn`t like we`re going to the mattresses. He was pretty clear that he`s trying to orchestrate I think how this ends. So, I think we ought to give him some time to do that.

Again, I think after next Tuesday`s primaries, particularly because you`ve got Georgia the week after that, where Biden is only going to add to his delegate lead, I think it`s just going to be pretty clear the lead`s insurmountable.

And then, I think we have to get at the business of unifying, which won`t happen easily. We got to work at it, we got to listen to the Sanders supporter. To your point, hopefully the Biden campaign, if he`s the nominee, he hires a lot of the Sanders team, we listen to those organizers on the ground, because they`ve shown the ability to attract youth support. Now, we need to grow the turnout as well.

O`DONNELL: David, what happens to the Trump which lives on rallies, if many states just make these large assemblies illegal or if there`s this general recommendation which were pretty much on the verge of do not gather in large groups like this, and Donald Trump, let`s say he continues to just try to violate it and tries to gather 20,000 in arenas?

PLOUFFE: Well, he may try to do that. I think he`ll pay a big price for that and it`s the wrong thing to do. Listen, there`s no doubt that that`s one of his political weapons. But, their real warfare is the digital war, the advertising on Hulu and Facebook and YouTube, and they`ll just intensify that.

So, what was interesting to me, Lawrence, is I think Trump tried to have a redo today to suggest that he was finally taking this seriously. But what`s so striking to me is Presidents, what is demanded by the American people is handle crisis, put us first, not yourself.

And he`s so nakedly narcissist that it is less our health, it is less even the health of the economy he`s worried about, it is his own political health. So actually I think if he`s not able out on the road, I worry about that from a management standpoint, because it is going to make him really upset like a chained animal. But listen, they`ve got plenty of money and sophistication to do really smart online organizing and that`s the other reason I think, once it`s clear who our nominee is, we got to start fighting that frontal battle from a general election standpoint right away.

O`DONNELL: David Plouffe, I can`t tell you what an honor it is for me to reach even a partial agreement with one of the wizards of Presidential campaign.


And for you to go along with my concept at all, I`m going to have to accept it as a victory. David Plouffe, thank you very much for joining us tonight and really, really appreciate it.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.