coronavirus in US TRANSCRIPT: 3/23/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Ashish Jha, Vin Gupta, Chris Murphy, Zeke Emanuel, Jose Andres

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good morning, Rachel. 

And one of the most difficult things about us being separated, me on one  coast, you on the other, and the technical implications of that is that I  didn`t get to see the doodles. I`m assuming that the doodles just went up  on the screen and I can`t see them from here. 

So, I`m going to have to watch the rerun of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW." 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  I will email you -- I will personally  email you all the doodles. I will take care of you, Lawrence. You have an  aunt.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. Thank you very much.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you.

Well, how important are cooks, chefs? Ask the United States Army if they  could have won World War II without an adequate food supply for our  millions of soldiers.  One of the world`s most famous chefs will join us at the end of the hour  tonight. 

Jose Andres says that we are going to need a massive food delivery system  to people who can`t otherwise get food as this pandemic continues in the  United States. You might have enough food to get through it. But many  elderly people, many poor people will not be able to survive without  government action on food and without the private sector`s help on food  delivery. 

And Jose Andres will outline his plan on how to do that at the end of this  hour tonight. And he is already tonight being cheered on in that mission by  Michelle Obama. Jose Andres will get tonight`s LAST WORD. 

Senator Chris Murphy will join us later in the hour with the latest  developments in the Senate as the Congress continues to work out an  economic and medical aid package. 

We begin tonight with the numbers. As of tonight the United States has  43,151 reported cases of coronavirus and 533 reported deaths from  coronavirus. Today, the president said repeatedly, quote, we cannot let the  cure be worse than the problem. 

Donald Trump said that on Twitter. We can`t let the cure be worse than the  problem. He then said it repeatedly in his White House coronavirus briefing  that substitutes as his new version of a campaign rally. Dr. Anthony Fauci  had no comment about what the president said at that briefing today because  Dr. Fauci was not present at today`s briefing. 

Donald Trump droned on repetitively and meaninglessly at the White House  briefing today to the point that live broadcast of the briefing was  actually abandoned by this network and all the cable news networks and all  of the big broadcast networks, NBC, ABC, CBS. They all abandoned live  coverage of the president`s briefing today.

And so, not as many people as the president hoped got to hear him say, we  cannot let the cure be worse than the problem. The problem with coronavirus  is death. That`s the problem. There is no cure that is worse than death,  except apparently in the imagination of Donald Trump. 

The White House press corps today chased the idea with the president that  he was giving the very clear implication that maybe a week from now the  president will declare America all ready to go back to work. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  America will again and soon  be open for business, very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months  that somebody was suggesting, a lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse  than the problem. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  The problem for Donald Trump is that he`s not in charge of this  one. Donald Trump has not closed down anything inside the United States.  Donald Trump has not closed a single business in this country. Not a single  school. He hasn`t closed anything. It`s America`s mayors and county  officials and governors who have done that, mostly the governors. 

The governors of New York and California have both closed down their states  and there is nothing Donald Trump can do about that. The governors of New  York and California control more economic activity combined than most of  the rest of the United States of America put together. And they are not  going to reopen their states because of anything that Donald Trump says.  Donald Trump didn`t shut down anything. And so Donald Trump cannot reopen  anything. Donald Trump is not in charge here. The governors are in charge. 

And that is good news and that includes Republican governors who have shut  down their states. Governor Gavin Newsom, whose state controls more  economic activity than any other state, and has more people than any other  state, the governor of California will not be listening to anything Donald  Trump says about when Gavin Newsom should begin returning California to  normal. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has more coronavirus cases in his  state than any other state, and in the biggest city in his state, Governor  Cuomo has a street named Wall Street. And it will be Andrew Cuomo and not  Donald Trump who decides when New York state and New York City and Wall  Street get back to normal. 

And luckily for New York, Andrew Cuomo is smart enough to not listen to a  word Donald Trump says about that. But Andrew Cuomo has said publicly many  times that he is guided by the medical professionals including Dr. Anthony  Fauci, who was not present at today`s White House briefing and rally for  some reason. 

"The Washington Post" reported today that Dr. Fauci is telling Donald Trump  that it is too soon to think about sending people back to work. Quote,  Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious  Diseases and a member of the president`s coronavirus task force, and other  leading public health experts have told administration officials and  Republican lawmakers that prematurely scaling back social distancing  measures would hamper efforts to mitigate the virus and would devastate  hospitals, according to the people with knowledge of the conversations. 

In an interview with "Science" magazine, published this weekend, Dr. Fauci  was asked what it`s like to be standing there in the White House briefing  room when Donald Trump says something that is not true. Dr. Fauci said, I  can`t jump in front of a microphone and push him down. OK, he said it.  Let`s try and get it corrected for the next time.

In that same interview, Dr. Fauci said he will never refer to the  coronavirus as the China virus, which is Donald Trump`s preferred term. And  in that same interview Dr. Fauci was asked if he has been criticized within  the Trump administration for a moment at last Friday`s press conference  when he put his hands over his face when Donald Trump referred to the deep  state department. When asked in the interview if he was criticized within  the administration for that moment that went viral, Dr. Fauci`s answer to  that was, quote, no comment. 

Also in that "Science" magazine interview Dr. Fauci was asked what happens,  what happens, before each of those Trump press conferences in the briefing  room? And Dr. Fauci said, we`re in the task force. We sit down for an hour  and a half, go over all the issues on the agenda. And then we proceed from  there to an anteroom right in front of the oval office to talk about what  are going to be the messages, what are the kind of things we`re going to  want to emphasize. 

Then we go in to see the president. We present our consensus to him. And  somebody writes a speech. And then he gets up and ad libs on his speech.  And then we`re up there to try and answer questions. Today, the medical  professional on the stage with the president was asked if they would be  recommending that people be encouraged to go back to their jobs just a week  from today, which would be the end of the Trump administration`s announced,  quote, 15 days to end the spread, which is really just a public relations  campaign that had absolutely no laws or rules or regulation in it. 

Dr. Deborah Birx said that they will still be collecting data for the next  several days and she couldn`t say what recommendation she would give a week  from now. She would never do that, she said. Donald Trump was asked  repeatedly if he would follow the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci at the end of  that 15-day period, which will be next Monday. And Donald Trump repeatedly  refused to answer that question. 

We begin our discussion tonight with Dr. Ashish Jha. He`s the director of  the Harvard Global Public health institute. Dr. Kavita Patel, an internal  medicine physician and former Obama administration official. She is now an  MSNBC medical contributor. And joining us from Seattle is Dr. Vin Gupta, a  pulmonologist and global health policy expert. 

And, Dr. Jha, I`d like to begin with you and open it up to your reaction to  what you heard from the president today and the possibility, although it  might have no real effect since the governors are in control of this, the  possibility that a week from now, the president might be recommending that  everyone just go back to normal. 

DR. ASHISH JHA:  Yes, Lawrence, look, we are in the middle of the biggest  public health cries crisis in a century. And we need federal leadership  that moves the country forward that brings us together. 

The idea that we`re going to start rolling back these physical distancing  measures a week from now, I don`t know any public health expert who thinks  that`s remotely a good idea. We actually need to be pressing forward on the  national pause to stop all unnecessary activity. We`ve got to ramp up  testing. We`re still not there yet, and really understand the burden of  disease. 

And then we`ve got to make a decision about how to slowly unpause and let  people get back to work and get back to school, in areas where it is safe  to do so. Look, this is a very difficult problem that we are facing.  Simplistic solutions like, next Monday everybody goes back, it`s not going  to work. We`ll all be stuck with high levels of disease, hospitals will be  overwhelmed. This is not the way to move forward. 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Patel, one of the most difficult treatments that I`m aware  of that a patient can go through, and I`m sure there are many I`m not aware  of, is chemotherapy, it`s very difficult, in so many ways that many people  know. But it`s not a cure that is worse than the problem, since the problem  for people with chemotherapy is that if they don`t get it, they will die,  the consequence is death. 

And here is the president standing up there saying something that I do not  comprehend and I don`t know if there`s a case that it can apply to. And he  said this repeatedly. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem. Did  that make any sense to you, with your medical training? Is there something  I`m missing there? 

DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNB CONTRIBUTOR:  No, Lawrence, and look, President  Trump is looking a lot more like President Hoover in terms of being out of  touch with the people and what Americans are going through, not only kind  of cytotoxic or, you know, chemotherapy, when I started training in medical  school, we were still dealing with the outbreaks of gay-related infectious  disease and HIV. And you can`t tell me there`s a single person now who  wouldn`t take the triple cocktail or other medications despite their side  effects. 

We talk about how hard it is to stop smoking, Lawrence. We would never  think to say, well, that`s jut too difficult, we`ll just let people smoke  and die. I mean, this is irresponsible, unethical. And he is just fiddling  away while Americans are scared with no message of hope. 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Gupta, if you were up there on the stage as a public health  professional, medical professional, and you heard the president say we  cannot let the cure be worse than the problem, and by the way, say it  repeatedly, say it time and time again, as if they were the magic words  that we should all live by. What -- what would you have wanted to say to  people if you were allowed to after hearing the president say that in that  microphone today? 

DR. VIN GUPTA, PULMONOLOGIST :  Thanks, Lawrence. I think I would do my  best Tony Fauci impersonation. I think he`s been a beacon of hope and  somebody that we really revere in the public health community. I just want  to echo what Dr. Jha and Dr. Patel have said, which is we need to do what  we should have done three weeks ago, pursue a national lockdown. 

As an ICU physician who actively been caring for patients with COVIC in the  ICU, that having Washington state and California and Ohio pursue one  strategy and other parts of the country pursue an entirely different  strategy makes our job harder as front line professionals. It does not  allow us to bring this to a resolution. And we know that the one thing that  did work in Wuhan, in South Korea, elsewhere, is strict, up-front control  measures at the very beginning so that personal protective wear does not  run out, so that we`re not talking about surge capacity in the ICUs and  mobilizing the military. 

This is a -- we are pursuing a middle of the road approach and we`re going  to get a middle of the road outcome. 

O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to how Dr. Birx responded to this reporter who  pressed on, do you agree with President Trump that we are ready or on the  verge of being ready to reopen the country. Let`s listen to her response to  that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Just to be clear, do you agree with the president`s push to  reopen the country? He said some of his doctors that he`s talking to about  this remember says "I think they`re OK with it." Are you OK with that? 

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR:  What the  president has asked us to do is to assemble all the data and give him our  best medical recommendation based on all the data. That`s what he`s asked  us to do. So that`s what we`ll be doing this week. 

We were going to have to do it this week anyway, because we had to make a  decision come Monday about the 15 days to reduce social spread. So this is  consistent with our mandate to really use every piece of information that  we can in order to give the president our opinion that`s backed up by data.  Not our other perception, but our opinion that`s backed up by data. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Jha, the question at the end of the setup there was, are  you OK with that? And we did not hear a yes or a no. 

JHA:  Look, I think we have to understand that both Tony Fauci and Debbie  Birx, these are two incredible professionals. They are the leaders of  global public health in the United States. They have incredibly difficult  jobs. 

So they are walking a tightrope. If they upset the president, they`re going  to be out, and the country is going to be much worse for it. So what Dr.  Birx did today I thought was masterful. She stuck to the facts and the data  and she did not say that she would make a recommendation that would go  against the president. 

Look, I am very sympathetic to what both these guys are going through and I  am just thankful every day that they`re there. Even if their opinion isn`t  always listened to, at least they`re in the room and have a chance to  influence a conversation. We`re all better off for it. 

O`DONNELL:  And, Dr. Patel, another extraordinary moment with Dr. Birx was,  Donald Trump asked her a question in the middle of it all, saying will we  ever be able to have all of the reporters filling all of the seats in the  briefing room again since they`re now leaving a lot of empty seats for  social distancing? And he pressed her on it and said, will we ever be able  to allow all the reporters back in? And she refused to answer that  question, and actually ignored the question, and then just made another  statement of fact to the reporters in the room there. 

And obviously, Dr. Patel, the question is a lot of implications. If you can  sit together like that in that small briefing room, that means you can sit  together like that in movie theaters and Broadway theaters and in Super  Bowl stadiums. 

PATEL:  Absolutely, Lawrence. Again, she`s really trying to thread a needle  that is very difficult. And it wasn`t lost on many Americans that Dr. Fauci  wasn`t on that stage and what that could mean. So we do need her to be part  of that task force, to be part of that briefing room. 

I do worry, however, that, again, we have a president who might not even  listen to even his most trusted experts. And what will the implications of  that be for our country? It`s very disturbing. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, he was repeatedly asked if he would follow the medical  advice on this and he refused to say that he would. 

Dr. Gupta, quickly, before we go, what`s the latest from Seattle, where you  are tonight, I think we all have friends there, I do, who are very worried  about the situation in Seattle. 

GUPTA:  It`s evolving, Lawrence. I can tell from you at least the inpatient  side that ICUs, we`re managing right now. But we`re worried as well. I have  to give credit to our elected leaders who are thinking ahead of the curve.  They`re building triage capacity outside, in hospital tents right here in  King County. So we`re preparing for a worst case scenario which all  modeling forecasts from Dr. Jost`s (ph) team at Harvard suggests we`ll be  needing more ICU beds, more capabilities. But our elected leaders are ahead  of the curve. 

And that`s what we`re managing right now, but it`s tight. 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you for joining us from Seattle tonight.  Dr. Ashish Jha, Dr. Kavita Patel, thank you all for starting us up. We  really appreciate it. 

And when we come back, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Senate  Democrats are working through the night at this hour on a legislative  package of economic aid and medical aid to replace a failed Republican bill  that read as if it was written by corporate lobbyists in Mitch McConnell`s  office. Senator Chris Murphy will join us next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump has refused to say that the economic relief  package being pushed by Senate Republicans includes money that the treasury  secretary will be allowed to use to bail out Donald Trump`s hotel business,  which is doing very badly these days, including the hotel that he lives in  in Florida. Earlier this evening, Donald Trump said Democrats are being  very, very foolish for trying to find out how much money Donald Trump  personally expects to pocket from the Republican version of an economic  relief package. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Well, I think the Democrats want a deal and I think we want a deal.  So it will be very foolish if they didn`t make a deal. The American public  is demanding it. I can tell you the Republicans want to make a deal and we  want to make a deal that`s good for the workers and good for the country.  And I really believe the Democrats want to make a deal but they have to  stop asking for things that bear no relationship to what we`re talking  about. That are actually bad, that are actually not good for the country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  And here is what the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer  said tonight. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  The Senate is going to adjourn shortly. But  that doesn`t mean negotiations are slowing down one bit. Secretary Mnuchin  just left my office. We`ve had some very good discussions. And in fact the  list of outstanding issues has narrowed significantly. We are going to work  on into the night. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of  Connecticut. He introduced a bill today that would force the president to  use the Defense Production Act to address shortages in medical equipment  and supplies needed to protect health care workers. 

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

What is your understanding of the status of progress, if we can call it  that, in the Senate? 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Well, I think we`re getting closer to an  agreement. But this is really a matter of a bill that was drafted by Mitch  McConnell and his lobbyist friends that was going to be a gift to a lot of  industries, a lot of folks who already make a lot of money in this economy,  but wasn`t going to solve the problem. The worst thing we could do is to  spend $2 trillion in a piece of legislation and not have that legislation  actually get the job done. And the job, first and foremost, is stopping  this virus. 

My worry is a lot of my Republican friends see this only as an economic  crisis and don`t understand that if you don`t support the public health  workers that are on the front lines, if you don`t give states and  municipalities what they need in order to fight the epidemic, then there`s  no amount of stimulus, $2 trillion, $3 trillion, $4 trillion, that will  solve your problem. 

So, what we said when we looked at the initial draft of the bill, which by  the way we were given by lobbyists, Republicans didn`t give the bill to us,  they gave it to lobbyists on K Street and they shared with us, what we said  to Republicans is, you`ve got to get serious about the epidemic, put enough  money in here to stop the virus, and make sure that if you`re going to  spend any money to bail out companies, that it`d be done transparently and  it`d be done in a way that protects workers. 

We don`t want any money going to pad the pockets of CEOs and shareholders  if workers are going to be laid off. And I think, tonight, at 10:30, we are  getting closer to a product that achieves those goals. 

O`DONNELL:  Senator, one of the big items in the Republican version of this  that you`ve been trying to get rid of is this slush fund, this $500 billion  that the treasury secretary can just do with whatever he wants. No one  would find out what he`d done with it until six months after he had done  it. There`s a lot of speculation that he would use that money to help  Donald Trump in his hotel business. 

Let`s listen to what Donald Trump said tonight about the oversight for the  use of that kind of money. Let`s listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We`ll take back stock for the United States. At the same time, most  importantly, we`ll keep those companies healthy. But we can also make  incredible deals for the country so that that number will increase  exponentially. I mean -- 

REPORTER:  The criticism about the fund is for lack of oversight, for the  treasury having this unilateral authority to dole out all this money. 

TRUMP:  Look, I`ll be the oversight, I`ll be the oversight. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL:  Senator Murphy, Donald Trump says he will be the oversight for  that money being used responsibly. 

MURPHY:  Right. And remember, President Trump thinks that if he`s doing  well, then the country is doing well. And so, it is not hyperbole for us to  worry that a portion of this $500 billion slush fund could be used to bail  out the president or the president`s family`s interests. 

And so, what we are asking for is, yes, flexibility to a certain degree for  the treasury secretary to put money where it needs to be in order to  protect workers, workers, not CEOs, not shareholder investments, but  workers. And so, what we`ve said is if you`re going to take this money, you  have to make a commitment to keep your workers on board. And if the  treasury secretary is going to give any of this money out, it`s got to be  transparent. Within days, the public has to see what happened. There`s got  to be an inspector general who can make sure that there`s fraud and abuse,  with subpoena power, so we can actually get to the facts. 

I think we`re making progress on all those demands. But they`re demands  that come from our constituents who watched the 2008 bailout money go to  save Wall Street. It turned out it saved a lot of CEOs. It saved a lot of  billionaire shareholders. But a lot of people got hurt in the process. We  can`t have that mistake repeated again. 

O`DONNELL:  Senator Murphy, I spent a few hours today watching the Senate  floor after this network and others cut away from coverage of Mitch  McConnell`s speeches and things like that. I went over to C-Span 2 to just  keep my eye on the floor. 

And I noticed something that, you may correct me on this, you have a better  view of what goes on there, but I was watching, for example, two senators  sitting side by side, Republican senators, right behind Susan Collins when  Susan Collins was speaking and then still sitting there when Susan Collins  sat down. I was noticing much less social distancing on the Republican side  of the Senate floor than on the Democratic side. And we discovered that  Rand Paul has tested positive and that he was kind of irresponsible about  it. 

Knowing that he had been tested, he still went to the Senate gym, a gym  that you all use. He went in the swimming pool there, knowing that he was  awaiting the verdict on a test. 

Is it your sense generally that one of the reasons the Republican Senators  aren`t emphasizing health care in this bill is that they are themselves  personally, individually less concerned with this as a health care crisis,  which is what I seem to be seeing in the way they physically handled  themselves on the Senate floor today? 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, listen, I think we all have to be careful  to model the right behavior. And of course, the President consistently has  not been doing that in his public appearances. 

I don`t know that my Republican colleagues take the health care crisis less  seriously than Democrats do. But what I know is that for the last three  years, Republicans have been attempting to destroy the American health care  system. A million less people have health care today than did at the  beginning of the Trump administration. 

And there is a lawsuit right now pending before the federal courts that  would strip health insurance away from 20 million Americans. And so it has  been true from the very beginning of the President`s terms that Republicans  have been hell-bent on trying to take health care protections away from  people. 

I think my Republican colleagues are really concerned about stopping this  epidemic. And that`s why I think we are going to come to an agreement later  tonight, as we did in the previous two versions of this bill. 

I think we`re trying to act like adults in the Congress because the  President has made such a mess of this response. He`s put us in a position  where we have to find bipartisan agreement or catastrophe will strike this  nation. And so I hope we`ll get that agreement later today. 

O`DONNELL: Senator Chris Murphy, thank you very much for taking the time on  this difficult day to join us and help explain this to our audience. We  really appreciate it. 

MURPHY: Thanks. 

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, he`s a former Obama  administration official. He will join us to tell us what he would be  telling Donald Trump tonight if he still worked in the White House. It`s  probably something very similar to what Dr. Anthony Fauci is trying to tell  Donald Trump. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Donald Trump`s golfing weekends in Florida have been ruined by  the coronavirus pandemic. And today, Donald Trump showed that he is now  very, very impatient. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: At the end of the 15-day  period, we`ll make a decision as to which way we want to go, where we want  to go, the timing, and essentially we`re referring to the timing of the  opening, essentially the opening of our country, because we have it pretty  well shut down in order to get rid of this invisible enemy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The President was then asked if he would follow the advice of  Dr. Anthony Fauci, and he refused to say that he would follow Dr. Fauci`s  advice. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we get to next week, we`re deciding - you`re  deciding what to do with these guidelines, whether to ease them or  reinstate them for another 15 days. Will you follow the advice of Dr. Birx  and Dr. Fauci if they say you should maintain them for--

(CROSSTALK) 

TRUMP: And others, yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --four weeks. 

TRUMP: And then ultimately I have to make a decision. But I certainly  listen to them. I listen to a number of people. But I have a lot of respect  for Dr. Fauci and for Dr. Birx. And I`ll be listening to them and others  that we have that are really doing a good job. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He is an oncologist,  bioethicist, and Former Obama White House Health Policy Advisor. He is also  Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Emanuel, what is your reaction to what Donald Trump had to say today  about this possible, what he calls, reopening the country and the specific  refusal to say he would follow Dr. Fauci`s advice? 

ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER HEALTH POLICY ADVISOR, OBAMA WHITE HOUSE & VICE  PROVOST, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, last Sunday, he saw the modeling  from the Imperial College, London, that predicted 2.2 million deaths in the  United States. The tone changed very radically in the early part of the  week. 

And then you have seen some kind of backlash in the media about, well,  maybe we don`t have to close the country, maybe that`s too drastic, we`re  tanking the economy. We could do it more surgically, I think has been the  word that`s been used, and Donald Trump has latched on to that and  basically said, well, Tony Fauci doesn`t know what he`s talking about. He  didn`t come out and say that, of course, because he can`t, given the power  of -and respect that Tony Fauci has gotten in the country. 

And he says, but, you know, we`re going to reopen for business or we`re  going to consider reopening for business and not have this physical  distancing, closing of schools, closing of businesses, curtailing of  transportation. 

And I think he made quite clear, Tony is one voice, he is not the -  necessarily the most important voice. He`s going to listen to others. The  problem here is that the others, at least in the public health community,  are pretty uniform that you really do have to have this physical  distancing, you have to shut down spread and contact because that`s the  only way to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Once we reach a peak and  then come back down, then you can begin slowly opening up businesses and  other things. 

But it sounds like the President is going to do it prematurely. There is no  way in 15 days that you are going - especially because it`s not systematic  around the country, it`s haphazard that you are going to reach the peak of  spread and come back down. And the consequence of this is going to be  pretty clear. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people will get  this virus, and tens, hundreds of thousands of people will die. 

O`DONNELL: Dr. Emanuel, Governor Cuomo in New York today said it could be  four months, he said, it could be six months, it could be nine months, and  he said, we just don`t know. And it`s Governor Cuomo who`s actually in  charge of closing down or reopening New York. All Donald Trump can do is  make a recommendation. It`s really up to the governors. 

EMANUEL: Well, Lawrence, yes and no. It is true Governor Cuomo has New  York. He can control closing and opening New York. But if the rest of the  country or other states like Florida are not doing it and people are still  transmitting the virus in Florida and then they come up to New York,  Governor Cuomo`s efforts are going to be less - much less effective, and  yet the economic pain is going to be experienced by people in New York. You  need this uniformly across the country to really make a big impact. And  that`s what Donald Trump has so far been inhibiting. 

O`DONNELL: Doctor, I want to continue this conversation, but I have to  squeeze in a commercial break. When you come - if you could stay with us  when we come back, I`d love to ask you about--

EMANUEL: Yes. 

O`DONNELL: --what the Affordable Care Act means in this situation and the  fact that the President is trying to basically have the Supreme Court  repeal the Affordable Care Act. If you could stay with us, I`d love to  bring that up after the break. 

EMANUEL: Yes. 

O`DONNELL: OK. Great. We`ll be right back with Dr. Zeke Emanuel after this  break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded America that right  now, tonight, and tomorrow, Donald Trump is trying to take health care  coverage away from over 20 million people. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Now we find ourselves in the depths of one of the  most serious health and economic emergencies our nation has ever faced. The  protections of the Affordable Care Act are more important now than ever.  But right now, in the middle of the coronavirus, the Trump administration  is in court suing to tear down the entire Affordable Care Act, every last  protection and benefit. 

Today, therefore, I`m calling on President Trump to abandon his lawsuit  seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Instead, the President  should urge the 14 states who have refused to expand Medicaid to do so. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Back with us, Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He helped write the Affordable  Care Act in the Obama administration. Dr. Emanuel, your reaction to what  Nancy Pelosi had to say, that here we are in the middle of this pandemic  and Donald Trump is still, still trying to kill the Affordable Care Act. 

EMANUEL: Yes. There is this suit by attorney generals from a number of  states led by Texas that has gone through the Appellate Court and that has  said, you know, you can strike down the Affordable Care Act, it`s  unconstitutional because the individual mandate has gone away, you can`t  just strike down one little part of it, the whole bill. And Donald Trump  and his Department of Justice have sided with Texas. 

First of all, let me tell you, everyone in the whole health care world,  insurers, hospitals, doctors, whether they`re Republicans and Democrats,  think this bill has really improved the health care system. It hasn`t made  it perfect by any stretch of the imagination. There are many complications.  There are many inadequacies. But it`s gotten 20 million more people  coverage. It`s actually brought some costs down. It`s tried different ways  to paying to improve the quality of care and decrease the costs of care. 

And we know also that it`s actually saved people`s lives that, in fact,  giving them - giving people insurance has actually reduced the mortality in  the country. And Donald Trump wants to take that away from people. It`s  simply ideological and not about benefiting the American public. 

And in this moment, when we have huge threats of infectious disease with  large costs potentially for being in the intensive care unit, maybe needing  new drugs, and we have serious mental health stress, he wants to get rid of  all that. It makes no sense if you really care about the American public. 

O`DONNELL: And it`s the Republican states led by Republican governors  primarily, who did not accept the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care  Act that is now - would now today be so important in their states, as it  already was, but even more so now. 

EMANUEL: Absolutely. Led by Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, 14  states have refused to expand Medicaid. We thought they all would expand  because the bill is so generous in giving them money to expand Medicaid.  And yet those states have millions of people who need coverage, who don`t  make as much as a 100 percent of the poverty line and are typically working  hard at jobs that just don`t provide health insurance. And they don`t want  to expand coverage for them. 

Again, it`s despite these hard working, poor people that these states have  not expanded Medicaid. And again, we know that expanding Medicaid has led  to improvements in health, decrease in stress, better nutrition by people.  There are just a myriad of benefits. Again, it`s not a perfect law, but it  has been a huge step forward for the American health care system. With this  law, we have - we`ve had 10 percent uninsured as opposed to 16 percent  before the law was enacted. 

O`DONNELL: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you very much for sharing your expertise  with us tonight. We really appreciate it. 

EMANUEL: Thank you, Lawrence, for having me. I really appreciate it. 

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, world renowned chef, Jose Andres, will  join us because he is not just a great chef. He is more than that now. He  is now one of the world`s most important and valuable crisis activists who  always knows who needs food to survive the latest crisis and how to get  that food to them. Chef Jose Andres will get tonight`s "Last Word."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: "An army marches on its stomach." Jose Andres wrote those words  in a "New York Times" op-ed piece, advocating a new emergency food program  during the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, an army needs ammunition and military  equipment, but before all of that, an army needs food. 

And in a country where we are all now called to do our part as soldiers of  sorts against the coronavirus, what happens to Americans who don`t have  enough to eat, people who cannot afford to pay for food now that they have  no income and their savings has been exhausted? What about elderly people  who cannot leave their homes to buy food? 

Jose Andres is now much more than a great chef, although that was a great  achievement enough. Famous chef. He is the world`s leading crisis activist  whose mission is feeding people. When he sees a natural disaster, he sees  people in need of food. And that`s why he brought food to Puerto Rico after  Hurricane Maria. That`s why he delivered 400,000 meals in California during  multiple wildfires. 

In a "New York Times" op-ed piece outlining the food crisis facing millions  of Americans, Jose Andres wrote, "Today an army of American cooks stands  ready to serve our most vulnerable citizens at a time when those cooks are  themselves in desperate need of support. They are our food first- responders. 

With the full support of the federal government, they can serve the many  while saving so many jobs." 

And it is an honor now to have Chef Jose Andres join us. 

Chef Andres, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Your program is  being supported by Michelle Obama, who tweeted tonight. I just want to read  this. She tweeted, "I am so grateful to Chef Jose Andres for his inspiring  work to feed those in need in our communities. We are in this together. And  we`ll get through it by stepping up and doing whatever we can to help each  other out." 

Chef Andres, what`s the basic outline of your plan? 

JOSE ANDRES, FOUNDER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Well, this is very simple. We  call it "America eats now." This comes inspired from the WBA times, which  is probably is the last time America really ran through this amazing  hardship, putting aside obviously everything, went through World War II.  But this is simple. Every single restaurant in America pretty much is  closed. Right here, the chefs of America, the food people of America, we  are ready to be food first responders. 

We need to make sure that we understand that food is a national security  issue. Food is not the problem. Food is the solution. And we need to make  sure that we think that in the next few weeks, Americans going to have to  eat, especially those people, the forgotten people, the people from low- income areas, elderly, homeless. We need to make sure that as we go through  this virus, as this crisis, we need to make sure that food gets to  everybody in need. And that`s very much the plan. 

We need to take care of the elderly. We need to be taking care of all our  health care that they`re going to go right now almost to war. We need to  take care of the homeless. We need to take care of the children. We need to  take care of those people who are (inaudible) sometimes, believe me, is  (inaudible) everybody (inaudible) this moment. 

O`DONNELL: And everyone is trying to figure out - everyone in Washington -  one of the industries, they`re trying to figure out how to help is the  restaurant industry, which has been basically wiped out in the last couple  of weeks by this pandemic. This is a way of putting those people to work,  isn`t it? 

ANDRES: Well, it`s going to take a village. Obviously, the food people of  America, more than 600,000 restaurants across, we should be the first food  service responders. In every corner of America is restaurants, but we need  to remember one thing. 

More than 90 percent of all the income that restaurants make goes into the  economy. We pay our employees. We pay the farmers, the fishermen. We pay  the distribution companies. We pay the wine companies, the architects, the  pay the PR and the market, and we pay the health care workers. Every time  you spend a dollar in a restaurant benefits entire local economy. 

So if Congress needs to invest in America today so we have a good future  forward, restaurants is the right way for Congress to start looking at the  future in a good way. Every dollar they are going to be putting into the  restaurant industry is going to trickle down all around. We can make sure  that America will keep running even as we are going through a crisis. 

O`DONNELL: And many restaurant workers, the people working, the dish- washing part of it, and many restaurants, low-priced restaurants out there,  these are very low wage workers, and many of them live on tips. Those tips  have gone to zero. And so there`s a - there`s a whole world of help that  you are addressing, a whole world of need that this idea of yours goes  straight to help everyone involved. 

ANDRES: What I want to make sure is that if we really go through mayhem,  that Congress is thinking about that, we are talking about this is a health  crisis, this is an economic crisis. But we need to be talking that this is  a humanitarian crisis, and we need to make sure that Congress is on top of  this. 

Yes, as Congress is going to help the food industry to move forward, also  the food industry can be a partner with the federal government to make sure  that we take care of every single, every single person in America in need  of a plate of hot food. 

Brillat Savarin, a Frenchman in 1826, he said, "The future of the nations  will depend in how they feed themselves." We need to make sure that  Congress, through this idea that I`m putting forward, America, it`s now, we  take care of feeding every American in need right now. 

O`DONNELL: Jose Andres, I admire your generosity and kindness so much. It`s  really an honor to have you join us tonight. Really appreciate it. 

ANDRES: Thank you for having me. The first person I ever sent (ph) a meal  in Washington, D.C., the first week and I was helping Sen. Patrick Moynihan  on (inaudible). He told me, if you love America, America will always love  you back. There`s many immigrants like me ready to keep loving America, the  country that has given us so much. The good (ph) people of America, we`re  going to be there for the American people. 

O`DONNELL: And as you know, I worked for Senator Moynihan and I know you  have an item on one of your menus named after him. And I -- we all  appreciate that. Thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it. 

ANDRES: Thank you for having me. 

O`DONNELL:  Well, that is tonight`s LAST WORD and MSNBC`s coverage of the  coronavirus pandemic continues. 

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