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Stock Market suffers TRANSCRIPT: 3/12/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ron Klain, Ashish Jha, Sheri Fink, Jason Furman, Sara Nelson, Katie Porter

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. 

MADDOW:  Wow. 

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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 

FINK:  Thanks. 

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


TAOISEACH, PRIME MINISTER OF IRELAND: Just saying the President has  excluded Ireland from the travel ban.


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.


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.


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.



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?



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.


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.


O`DONNELL: And with that, Katie Porter saved lives today never seen  anything like it. The Honorable Katie Porter will join us next.



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.


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.