LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
It`s so striking the way the zeal is coming together with Nancy Pelosi and the treasury secretary. No Donald Trump involvement. No Mitch McConnell involvement.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes. And you know, Mitch McConnell right now in terms of his handling of the Senate, I`m sure that you can read the tea leaves much better than I can. They are taking their weekend. They are not taking their recess. There`s no clear signal from McConnell on what he thinks ought to be done about the crisis, let alone the strength of this deal that`s being worked out without him.
How do you read it?
O`DONNELL: I read it as Mitch McConnell has no idea what to do. Like none. Zero.
O`DONNELL: Totally lost.
MADDOW: I believe you.
O`DONNELL: Yes, every once in a while, it`s as simple as it looks.
MADDOW: Lawrence O`Donnell, thank you, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
Well, how much does it cost to get tested for coronavirus? It`s the kind of thing you should know if you`re an assistant secretary of health and human services, but it`s not the kind of thing that a Trump assistant secretary of health and human services would know. A Trump appointee.
Congresswoman Katie Porter demonstrated that today in one of her classic cross-examinations in a House hearing. You`ve seen it before, Katie Porter exposing the humiliating ignorance of witnesses from the Trump administration or from corporate America. But this time, this time she accomplished so much more than mere humiliation.
Her relentless line of questioning forced the Trump administration to agree on the spot in the hearing to make coronavirus testing free. You will want to see that classic Katie Porter video at the end of this hour and you`ll want to hear more from Congresswoman Porter when she joins us for tonight`s last word at the end of the hour.
We begin tonight the way we will probably be beginning our discussions for the next few months at least, and that is, of course, with the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the world including the United States, where 46 states and Washington, D.C. have now reported cases. There are now over 1,600 reported cases in the United States with 41 reported deaths. 21 states have declared states of emergency, and it should never, ever, ever be forgotten that just two weeks ago, two weeks ago, Donald Trump said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days will be down to close to zero, that`s a pretty good job we`ve done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We would all agree that if that were true, that would have been a pretty good job. That would have been a great job. But the most incompetent and uninformed president in history has led the federal government into the worst emergency response to a pandemic that we have ever seen in this country.
One of our guests will tell us that it`s one of the worst responses by any government in the world today. More people are sick in America tonight because Donald Trump is president. More people are dead and dying in America tonight because Donald Trump is president. More people are losing more of their life savings and retirement accounts today because Donald Trump is president.
As we will discuss later in this hour, the president`s ten-minute speech from the Oval Office last night directly provoked more loss of stock market value, which is to say retirement funds, than any other speech by any other president in history. If Donald Trump had just said nothing last night, where would we be today?
In an interview with Joe Biden on Monday, I asked the former vice president if Donald Trump`s comments were making the situation worse, especially with the stock market, to which Joe Biden said to me in his answer among other things, "I wish he would just be quiet."
Disneyland would probably be still closing if Donald Trump had remained quiet. The National Hockey League would probably be still be canceling the rest of its season. The National Basketball Association would probably still be suspending its season. Major League Baseball would probably still be suspending spring training games and delaying the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.
The NCAA would probably still be canceling its basketball tournament. And Broadway theaters would probably still be shutting down for at least a few weeks after the governor of New York ordered an end to all gatherings of more than 500 people. All of that might still be happening in this country as precautionary measures, even if we had a competent president.
But because Donald Trump kept lying relentlessly to America about what was happening and what was going to happen, and because people who work for Donald Trump who know better were afraid of saying things publicly that might get them fired, the federal government`s action response to this crisis is nothing like that we`ve seen in countries that have handled this pandemic the best.
After Joe Biden said he wished Donald Trump would just be quiet and stay quiet, he said, "just let the experts speak." Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of those experts, and he spoke again today to a House committee.
And the reason Dr. Fauci was testifying in the House today instead of the Senate is because the Senate is run by Republicans, the very same Republicans who when presented with legal and constitutional reasons to remove Donald Trump as president said no and voted to keep him as our president. Senate Republicans voted to keep him as our protector in chief in a public health crisis at a time when coronavirus was already quietly spreading across oceans on its way to this country, on its way to becoming the pandemic we`re living with tonight and trying to survive despite Donald Trump`s incompetence and rank ignorance.
The coronavirus was coming at us. While that impeachment trial was going on. And while those Republicans were saying yes, despite those offenses against his oath of office, despite those offenses against the Constitution, we`re going to keep Donald Trump in this position.
And now the lives of those Republican senators are actually threatened by Donald Trump`s incompetence after a Senate staffer tested positive for coronavirus yesterday, and while Senator Lindsey Graham now awaits the results of his own coronavirus test. Senator Lindsey Graham fought with every fiber of his being to remove Bill Clinton from the presidency in an impeachment trial and did exactly the opposite for Donald Trump and tonight Lindsey Graham is self-quarantining as he awaits the results of his coronavirus test because of something he did this weekend in the company of the most dangerous president in history.
Now, I stopped shaking hands early last week, and I don`t you have the information available to the president and Senator Graham but Senator Graham isn`t sure whether he shook hands with weekend, this past weekend with a Brazilian government official who has now tested positive for coronavirus. They were all together over the weekend in Florida, the president, Senator Graham and the Brazilian official.
And in that bubble of blissful ignorance that always surrounds Donald Trump, they`re not quite sure if they kept enough social distance.
Here is what the expert who Joe Biden wants to hear from and America wants to hear from, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said today about America`s capacity for testing for coronavirus, a test that has now been made available to Senator Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The system does not -- is not really geared to what we need right now. What you are asking for. That is a failing.
UNIENTIFIED FEMALE: A failing? Yes?
FAUCI: It is a failing, let`s admit it. The fact is the way the system was set up is that the public health component that Dr. Redfield was talking about was a system where you put it out there in the public and a physician asks for it and you get it. The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we`re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we`re not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion is Ron Klain, former senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. He served as the so-called Ebola czar during the Obama presidency. He is an adviser to Joe Biden`s 2020 presidential campaign.
Dr. Ashish Jha is the director of Harvard`s global health institute.
And Dr. Sheri Fink is a correspondent for "The New York Times" and executive producer of the new Netflix documentary series "Pandemic," which you must see. She is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning author for her reporting on hurricane Katrina and the Ebola crisis.
Ron Klain, how did it come to this, that we were not mobilized fast enough to be ready for the testing that would -- we would need to be doing at this point?
RON KLAIN, EBOLA CZAR, OBAMA PRESIDENCY: Well, Lawrence, I think it`s failure stacked on failure stacked on failure. First of all, the CDC made bad decisions about how to deploy testing in the United States. Then they got into a bureaucratic turf battle with the FDA.
And the White House, most importantly, didn`t take charge, didn`t make the decisions, didn`t force it. The president was distracted. He put no one in charge at all at the White House at first. Then he put Secretary Azar in charge, now he put Vice President Pence in charge.
And so, I think it`s a failure of execution. It`s a failure of leadership. It`s a failure of focus.
I`ll tell you from coordinating one of these responses, it is very hard to get the government bureaucracy to act quickly and effectively, even with the president putting his foot on the accelerator and demanding action. When President Trump put his foot on the brake and said no one bring me bad news, no one tell me the truth, don`t let the scientists speak, that took a thing that was already going to be hard and made it impossible.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Jha, what are we seeing around the world and how does the American response compare to the best versions of response that we`ve seen from other governments?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: You know, so our response is among the very worst in the world, certainly among all the major countries. Every major country has more testing than we do across Europe, South Korea, Japan. Even Vietnam and Iran until recently have been doing a better job testing than we have.
It`s really mind-boggling how badly we have done on testing and, you know, without testing, it`s really hard to get a grip on how many people actually have the infection, where the infections are, how widespread it is and what we can do to respond to it. So, I see this as just a catastrophic failure on the part of the federal government and the federal leadership.
O`DONNELL: Sheri Fink, how much time did the Trump administration have to get ready? When did the early warning go off for them?
DR. SHERI FINK, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think it was early January when the reports came out of China there was this suspicious cluster of pneumonia cases and that the likely culprit was a new coronavirus, coronavirus being the type of virus that has caused MERS and SARS, those other bad outbreaks in the past.
So, we heard about it in January. We had that sequence of that virus. I think it was January 10th. And that`s when, you know, around the world there were efforts to start to make the diagnostics that we`re talking about.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the president said today about testing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And, frankly, the testing has been going very smoothly. If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test. With that being said, as you know, millions are being produced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, apparently he was talking about Lindsey Graham, if you go to the right area you can get the test.
KLAIN: Yes, I mean, look, first of all it`s obviously unacceptable that only connected people can get tests, and it`s probably not even true to all the connected people can get tests. I mean, I think everyone who works in the field has got their email box filled with people who believe they have been in contact with someone, who are worried they may have it and symptoms and cannot get tests and that -- Lawrence, even just scratches the surface of what needs to be tested.
It`s not just the people raising their hands begging to be tested and the president`s out and out lying about that. It`s equipping our state and local health departments to go do surveillance to find out where the virus is. Is it in nursing homes? Is it in senior centers? Is it among vulnerable populations?
We need to not only be testing the people who are demanding to be tested and, of course, we should. We need to be testing the people who we should be looking out for and protecting from this virus.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Jha, if you could ask anyone in this government anything, whether to be the CDC or Health and Human Services, Mike Pence, what would you want to know from whom?
JHA: So I would like an honest answer of when are we going to get tests available to front line doctors and nurses? When are we going to finally be able to figure out how widespread this disease is?
By most assessments I`ve seen, there are likely many, many thousands of Americans who are infected tonight but we can`t figure out who they are. We can`t identify them. We can`t treat them. We can`t isolate them.
And I want an honest answer. And every week we hear from the vice president and from others that millions of tests are being shipped out. But I talk to state health officials on an almost daily basis. They don`t have the tests. They can`t do the tests. Doctors can`t do the tests.
I want to know when are we going to finally be able to test patients who need the tests.
O`DONNELL: Sheri Fink, is there anything in your reporting that indicates geographically what areas of the United States might be more vulnerable than others?
FINK: I mean, I think the important thing to do, as we`ve heard, there has not been widespread testing, so taking those measures that can protect your health and the health of your family and to help look out for society at this time is really the right way to go because we don`t know. We have perhaps better testing in some areas than others. But it`s, you know, very hard to know.
I think initially the government decided that it would focus on five cities that had a lot of travelers coming in, that those would be the priority areas for surveillance, but now we have the sense that the virus is much more widespread and has established itself in communities around the country. So doing those smart things, washing your hands, not touching your face, not going to work if you have symptoms that are common symptoms that can be symptoms of the flu or symptoms of this new coronavirus, fever, a cough, those are really smart things that I think people should be thinking about and, of course, paying attention to your local context, really listening to those local public health authorities.
I heard somebody saying listen to the scientists. Do that. Maybe forget about the sound bites from the politicians because what matters right now is listening to the experts and they are speaking.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what some Republican senators had to say today because it`s quite striking now that they are faced with a matter of life and death, including possibly their own lives and deaths, they have found a way to actually disagree with Donald Trump when Donald Trump says everything`s going great with testing.
Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): Well, we`re not the best equipped nation in terms of testing. That`s absolutely obvious. Every single senator who asked a question today expressed that.
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): We couldn`t get a good clear answer on when we`re going to get commercial testing out there, labs that can get faster responses, and when we`re going to allow every person that wants to be tested to be able to be tested.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Our system has not been you have to snuff, and I think a lot of people are frustrated by it. I`m one of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That, of course, Ron Klain, was after they had a closed-door briefing with administration officials. And let`s give Mitt Romney credit. He`s the only Republican senator who said no, Donald Trump should not continue in this job at the end of the impeachment trial.
But here we are, Ron. They`ve found at least a space where they`re willing to doubt the president.
KLAIN: Yes, I think look, this has been such a failure of competence by the president but also confidence by the president. His speech last night, which as you said at the outset undermined markets and undermined confidence, didn`t address what people were really concerned about, which is this testing problem and hospital capacity, didn`t have clear answers.
The Republican senators have to go home this weekend and have to face constituents who can`t get tested, who don`t know if the virus is in their communities, don`t know how widespread it is, don`t know what`s going to happen to their jobs, their kids, their schools, all these things, and they can`t just ignore that.
Trump`s Twitter feed cannot cover them from the reality of what is happening with this virus in this country.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, Dr. Ashish Jha, and Dr. Sheri Fink, thank you all for starting us off tonight. We really appreciate it.
KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we will have more breaking news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal, as Rachel told you at the end of her hour, say that they`re actually close to a legislative deal on a coronavirus legislation. Speaker Pelosi has been working with the treasury secretary on this, not the president.
One of President Obama`s former economic advisers will join us next with his thoughts on what the federal government can and should do right now.
O`DONNELL: Tonight`s breaking news from Capitol Hill is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she is close to an agreement, a legislative deal with the Trump administration on a package that could be passed tomorrow to deal with mostly the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Donald Trump has not been involved in the negotiations. His treasury secretary has done the job for him because the president is not in the mood to speak with Nancy Pelosi and reportedly believes that Speaker Pelosi would humiliate him if he involved himself in the discussions. This is, of course, one way of looking at it.
The other way of looking at it is that Donald Trump humiliates himself whenever he opens his mouth, as he did last night. While Donald Trump was addressing the nation last night for ten minutes from the oval office, stock market futures trading started to drop dramatically. And then when the market opened today, it proceeded to crash by the largest amount since 1987, losing almost 10 percent of its value today.
Harvard economics professor and former treasury secretary, Lawrence Summers, tweeted, "POTUS sets what I believe is a new world record for presidential market value destruction."
Joining us now is Jason Furman, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. He is now professor of the practice of economic policy at Harvard`s Kennedy School.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Professor Furman. What would you suggest the government action that could be taken now, what action could be taken to deal with what we`re seeing as the economic effects of this crisis?
JASON FURMAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Yes, Lawrence, this is the most serious economic crisis this country may have faced since the Great Depression, bigger than what we faced in 2008. 2008 was terrible. It was devastating. But most people kept their jobs. Many people kept spending.
Right now, everyone is cutting their spending. Large swaths of the economy, people`s jobs are at risk, and so once you start to think about that, the answer to your question of what we should do, the more we can do, the better.
O`DONNELL: So, you know, my next question was going to be -- is this 1987 or is this 1929, which you`ve already answered that it`s closer to that. Maybe about six months ago I reread John Kenneth Galbraith`s book "The Great Crash" about the 1929 stock market crash.
And when you read the things people were saying as it was already under way, as the crash was happening, there`s so many people who sounded like Donald Trump then, saying it will bounce back, as the president said today. The stock market will bounce back. Don`t worry about it.
Larry Kudlow the other day saying invest as it`s going down. You know, you`ll be very happy with that. And of course it`s dropped dramatically since Kudlow said that.
So just to set this for our audience perspective, you are comparing this now to the 1929 crash of the stock market?
FURMAN: Absolutely. And, you know, the difference is it depends on what happens. If, you know, we get through this virus in the next two months, then you know, maybe it bounces right back. If it takes us nine months, even at that point if we find a cure for the vaccine, a lot of damage, a huge amount of damage will be done to companies, to workers, to unemployment of a type that would persist and, you know, could take a long time to recover from.
So I -- you know, I`d love to have more reassuring things to say for you, Lawrence, but I am worried right now.
O`DONNELL: You`re confirming what I`ve been feeling in my amateur way about this. So this presents an enormous policy-making challenge because when you talk about things like payroll tax cut, which the president mentioned a few days ago and it died instantly when the Senate Finance Committee chairman said he wouldn`t even consider it, that could come back.
But a payroll tax cut to a person who`s no longer on a payroll doesn`t work the way it might -- in the stimulative way you may have wanted it to while that person was still on a payroll.
FURMAN: Yes, that`s absolutely right.
So what I think we should do is number one, everything we can do on health, free testing, which is in the House legislation, I think that`s terrific. We`re going to need a lot of hospital beds, a lot of ventilators. We`re going to need that fast.
Number two, anything we can do targeted at the people who most need it. That includes paid leave, unemployment insurance, assistance for states with their Medicaid programs, and nutritional assistance.
Once you`ve done one and two, that`s still not large enough. There`s still tens of millions of families you haven`t reached.
So, number three, I would send checks. I`d send cash. You get it whether you`re working, whether you`re not. A week ago I proposed $1,000 for an adult, $500 for a child. I would at least double it based on the events of the last week.
O`DONNELL: And this is one of those moments where from a policy perspective quite literally the last thing you can worry about is the deficit and the debt but unfortunately we are at a high point in both deficit and debt.
FURMAN: It`s the last thing you want to worry about. First of all, the real interest rate, that`s the interest rate adjusted for inflation right now, is negative. That means you can give somebody $1,000 today, the government can borrow that money, and a decade from now, you only need to repay $900 adjusted for inflation. So, you know, that`s one thing.
The second thing is let`s say you really were concerned about the debt. You care about the debt relative to the economy? If the economy craters, the debt is actually larger relative to the economy. Right now, we can`t afford from a fiscal perspective or an economic perspective not to do something, you know, as big as we possibly can.
O`DONNELL: Professor Jason Furman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I`m not sure. I`m not sure how I feel about you agreeing with at least partially and partially supporting my worst fears about where we are economically. I wish you could have contradicted what I was suspecting.
But thank you very much for joining us. And we`re going to need you on a daily basis on this. So we really appreciate your time.
FURMAN: Happy to be back.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Donald Trump`s Oval Office address last night was full of wrong information and of course caused panic for Americans overseas trying to get back into this country when they suddenly felt they were being banned re-entering their own country by this president.
Sara Nelson, the head of the Association of Flight Attendants, calls the president`s announcement irresponsible. She said it is sowing confusion. And Sara Nelson, one of the most eloquent labor leaders in America, will join us next.
O`DONNELL: The President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Ireland always meet around this time every year in the shadow of St. Patrick`s Day. And when reporters got to ask questions of the leaders of those two governments today this of course, was the very first question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, can you confirm Ireland was excluded from your travel ban, your European travel ban.
TRUMP: I think it was made very clear last night who is and isn`t and we`ll be discussing that. We`ll be discussing some other moves we`ll be making and I think it`s going to work out very well for everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: He didn`t know the answer. That`s why he said oh, it was made very clear last night. It was not made very clear last night. Here is exactly what the President read on his teleprompter last night and according to what you will hear him say, travel from Ireland would be banned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Trade and cargo? The White House later put out a correction saying that the ban would not apply to Ireland and that it would not apply to cargo from any country. As the President`s teleprompter last night said that it would. The Prime Minister of Ireland was not satisfied with Donald Trump`s failure in the room today to clarify the situation with Ireland in response to that report. So the Prime Minister jumped in and said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAOISEACH, PRIME MINISTER OF IRELAND: Just saying the President has excluded Ireland from the travel ban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The President has excluded Ireland from the travel ban as announced, of course, not by the President, but by the Prime Minister of Ireland. At least one of the people in that room today knows how to speak clear and accurate English.
Joining us now is Sara Nelson who is President of the Association of Flight Attendants and has been a flight attendant for 24 years. Sara, what does this travel ban, I`m not even sure what to call it now because I`m not sure how many exceptions there are to it or how it works? The President`s announcement last night, what does this mean to the airline industry generally and more broadly?
SARA NELSON, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT: Last night this created total chaos, Lawrence. We had flights that were waiting to take off for Europe and I got reports that passengers were getting updates from the President`s speech saying that all travel was going to be ended for 30 days.
The passengers started a, the crew started freaking out not knowing they were on a scheduled three day trip thinking they wouldn`t be able to get back home to their families. So it was pandemonium in the airports because there was no coordination with the airlines on the front end.
And then later, we get different information that the airplanes can still fly but there will be all kinds of restrictions. Those restrictions also have an impact on the travel. The inconsistency in the way that the information is delivered leads to more panic on the ground and a reaction from travelers and people who are making business plans and cancelling those plans.
And so this is having a ripple effect where we are not able to actually test, treat and isolate the virus, stop the spread and really get at that as Americans. This is having a ripple effect on our jobs on our experience at work and our entire industry and ultimately, for the entire economy.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the CEO of Jetblue had to say about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN HAYES, CEO, JETBLUE: In the U.S. industry, we saw about a 30 percent drop off in traffic around 9/11. This is probably even worse than that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worse than 9/11?
HAYES: What we`re seeing in terms of demand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sara, how can that be possible that this could be worse than 9/11?
NELSON: Well, because there is not clear leadership. We know what it`s like when there is a loud bang on the plane or a noise that`s unexpected or a jerking of the plane, passengers look to us. And we know that we have to provide calm, steady leadership and show them that it`s okay, explain what is going on explain the sounds and explain what we`re going to do about it.
And when you do that, people calm down and they follow your lead and you can actually put forward a plan that works to keep people safe. That is not what is happened here. There has been no leadership. There is been no coordination.
There has been no marshalling of resources listening to the experts and bringing the stake holders to the table and coordinate and again, identify where this exists, where the virus exists, treat it, isolate it and eradicate it as a threat to lives and our economy. This is what we need to have happen.
O`DONNELL: Sara, when you joined us last week, I asked you what you would tell the people who have to fly, I think we`re down to the point now where it`s really essential flying. People are stopping optional flying, the vacation flying. What has changed in the week since we talked about this for the flying public to consider?
NELSON: The problem here, Lawrence, is that now we`re talking about a state of emergency in many states and we have the virus in the communities and so it`s not just necessarily what we`re doing on the planes and I should note this, you know, preparation matters having a plan matters.
We are trained as flight attendants every single year in how to respond to commune disease and how to take actions to keep ourselves safe? How to respond when we encounter symptoms with other passengers and how to keep passengers around them safe?
And I should note that just today for the first time we had a crew member test positive when crews, U.S. crews have been dealing with this for two months and just today because we were able to take strict action with our airlines to have preparation to have the resources that we need to respond, we were able to keep our work space relatively safe and that of the passengers in our care.
But now, in just a week`s time, because we have not tested, because we have not been able to isolate, because we have not been able to treat where the virus exists, now we have the virus in the communities and so it`s not just a matter of getting on an airplane and whether or not you`re going to be safe on an airplane, people are taking into consideration whether they should even be congregating together in our communicates in numbers greater than 100 or 500 whatever it may be in those states.
So that`s where we are in a just week`s time because this has not been handled in the way it should have been.
O`DONNELL: Sara nelson, your experience and insights have been invaluable to us on this. We will want to hear from you again. Thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We really appreciate it.
NELSON: Thank you, Lawrence and travelers who are traveling, check flying with Sara for tips to keep yourself safe while you are in the air.
O`DONNELL: Yes, that`s your twitter handle. I follow it. I learn a lot from it. Just say it one more time because people really do want to get the latest information from you.
NELSON: "followflyingwithsara" and "nohonsara". Thanks Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Okay, thank you. When we come back, Katie Porter`s brilliant questioning in a House Committee hearing today reached a new high even for her because she did something we`ve never seen before. She forced a reluctant Trump appointee to change Trump policy on the spot under pressure from her questioning and decide to do the right thing for once.
And Katie Porter did something else we haven`t seen her do in a congressional hearing. She saved lives. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): For someone without insurance, do you know the out-of-pocket cost of a complete blood count test?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, ma`am, not immediately.
PORTER: Do you have a ballpark?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of - with a co-pay, ma`am?
PORTER: No, the out-of-pocket, just the typical cost?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You`ve seen this movie before but this is the most important version of it yet. I first showed you this movie the first time I saw Katie Porter ask questions in a House hearing last year when she was a freshman Congresswoman, first year in Congress.
Katie Porter became an instant star last year in her first year in the House of Representative by asking the questions in Congressional hearing that no one else was asking in a way that no one else would ask them.
Today she was questioning the conservative Republicans Donald Trump has appointed to jobs in which our lives now depend, depend on how well they can do those jobs and what decisions they make. You just heard her asking a Trump appointed Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services if he knows how much it costs to get tested for Coronavirus. He didn`t.
Katie porter added it up item by item and it came to $1,331. That was her consecutive estimate and then she turned to the Conservative Republican appointee who runs the Centers for Disease Control for Donald Trump and asked him to use the authority that is vested in him by law to instantly make testing free for everyone.
You don`t need legislation for this. This particular office is empowered to do it, to order it, to make it happen. This is one of those extraordinary powers that the law grants to the Head of the CDC and when Katie Porter first mentioned that law to Robert Redfield, the Head of the CDC, he didn`t know what she was talking about.
Katie Porter then revealed that she had told Redfield staff last night that she was going to ask him about this specific law and he still didn`t know what she was talking about and after explaining the law to him, Katie Porter zeroed in on his authority to make testing free right now for every American.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORTER: Dr. Redfield will you commit to the CDC now using that using that existing authority to pay for diagnostic testing free to every American regardless of insurance.
DR. REDFIELD, CDC HEAD: Well, I can say that we`re going to do everything to make sure everybody can get the care--
PORTER: No not good enough. You are spending my time. Doctor Redfield, you have the existing authority, will you commit right now to using the authority that you have vested in you under law that provides in a public health emergency for testing, treatment, exam, isolation without cost, yes or no?
REDFIELD: What I`m going to say is I`m going to review it in detail with CDC--
PORTER: No. Dr. Redfield respectfully I wrote you this letter along with my colleagues, Rosa DeLauro and Lauren Underwood, Congressman Underwood and Congressman DeLauro we wrote you this letter one week ago. We quoted that existing authority to you and we laid out this problem.
We asked for a response yesterday. The deadline and the time for delay have passed. Will you commit to invoking your existing authority under 42CFR71.30 to provide for Coronavirus testing for every American regardless of insurance coverage?
REDFIELD: What I was trying to say is that CDC is working with HHS now to see how we operationalize that.
PORTER: Dr. Redfield I hope that answer weighs heavily on you because it is going to weigh heavily on me and on every American family.
REDFIELD: Our intent is to make sure every American gets the care and treatment they need at this time of this major epidemic and I`m currently working with HHS to see how to best operationalize it.
PORTER: Dr. Redfield, you don`t need to do any work to operationalize. You need to make a commitment to the American people so they come in to get tested. You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow.
REDFIELD: I think you`re an excellent questioner, so my answer is yes.
PORTER: Excellent. Everybody in America, hear that. You are eligible to go get tested for Coronavirus and have that covered regardless of insurance. Please, if you believe you have the illness, follow precautions. Call first. Do everything the CDC and Dr. Fauci, God bless you for guiding Americans in this time. But do not let a lack of insurance worsen this crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And with that, Katie Porter saved lives today never seen anything like it. The Honorable Katie Porter will join us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PORTER: The fears of these costs are going to keep people from being tested. For getting the care they need them from keeping their communities safe. We live in a world where 40 percent of Americans cannot even afford a $400 unexpected expense. We live in a world where 33 percent of Americans put off medical treatment last year. And we have a $1,331 expense conservatively just for testing for the Coronavirus.
Dr. Redfield, do you want to know who has the Coronavirus and who doesn`t?
PORTER: Not just rich people but everybody who might have the virus?
REDFIELD: All of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter of California. She`s a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where she conducted that questioning today.
Congresswoman Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight, and I`ll never forget the first time I saw you question anyone in a House Hearing, and I wanted to get you on this program right away at that time because it was the kind of questioning I`ve always dreamed about seeing.
And I started to wonder then the Washington lobbyists are going to have a lot of trouble trying to anticipate Katie Porter questions in hearings. But this time, this time you actually told them ahead of time what you wanted to ask about, and it still seemed as though they weren`t ready.
PORTER: No. I`ve never tipped my hand like that before, but we wanted to get an answer, and so we gave the CDC every opportunity to think this through. My colleagues and I, Rosa DeLauro and Lauren Underwood sent a letter a week ago. We gave a deadline of yesterday.
And then last night, working with the staff on the Oversight Committee, my staff and I let the CDC know that we wanted an answer to this question. Having given both the question and the answer in advance, something I certainly never did as a professor, it was stunning see someone to still struggle.
O`DONNELL: I`ll just say from my own experience in Senate hearings when I was working there, it`s often the case that you actually tell them, especially if it`s the administration, you tell them ahead of time what you want to ask about because you`re really hoping to get an answer.
Usually when you do that, you do get something that`s clearly responsive because they knew this was the big question that was coming. So it`s a stunning thing to watch. But how do you make sure that they`re really going to deliver on this?
PORTER: We think you have to be prepared for exactly what we had happen here, which is an effort to delay, to dither, to obfuscate with words, and the stakes really here are life and death. And so he should have come prepared to give a clear answer.
If he wasn`t willing to use the existing law to save lives, then he should have had an alternate plan. And still what we heard was a bunch of mumbo jumbo about operationalize and intent and continuing conversations.
We need testing for every American who is symptomatic of Coronavirus without regard to insurance, and we frankly needed it several weeks ago. So I`m very glad that I was able to put the CDC Director, get that answer out of him, hold his feet to the fire, and I`ll tell you I intend to continue doing that and hold him to that promise that he made today because it wasn`t a promise to me. It was a promise to the American people.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and after you made it very clear, and said, okay, everybody, listen to what you just heard him say, you then got him to say it himself. And so you`ve got him right there on the record in that testimony saying, yes, we`re going to do this.
Now, there is some information tonight about the package Nancy Pelosi is negotiating with the administration that indicates this might actually get free testing might get written into law over and above where it`s already, as you`ve pointed out, written into law for the CDC. So it might - do you have any awareness of whether it will be in the legislative package released tomorrow?
PORTER: We`re told that it`s likely to be in the package. We spent all day today, you know, waiting to hear and hoping to vote on that package. But I think it`s really important for Americans to understand that the job here was done. A prior administration, the Obama Administration finalized this regulation contemplating, learning from past public health emergencies.
So while it`s great that the House is going to take action and very much a package has more in it than just free testing. It has other supports to help people. But the reality is we could have been promising people free testing regardless of insurance status long ago, using the existing law if only the people, the officials in charge of enforcing the law did their jobs.
O`DONNELL: The Honorable Katie Porter gets tonight`s last word. Thank you very much for joining us again tonight.
PORTER: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, a nation unsettled over drastic measures and financial fallout amid a crisis of leadership and a lack of faith in the ability of anyone to reverse its course.