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Coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 4/9/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Jennifer Swiderek, Bennett Deboisblanc, Chris Van Hollen, Ron Klain, Oliver Brooks, Natasha Cacciatore

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel and I`m here and ready this time as opposed to last night.

Remember last night, we talked about the 7:00 p.m. celebrations of health care workers in New York City. One of our viewers who is on the other side of the country has an idea about how we can do that wherever we are. Don`t have to be in New York City to do it.


O`DONNELL: Yes, so we`re going to get to that later because it is one of the really most uplifting experiences in this is to see that or hear that celebration of the health care workers in New York City at 7:00 p.m.

As you`ve said, it`s a deeply moving thing.

MADDOW: Brilliant. I`m looking forward to hearing it. Thanks, my friend.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, Senator Chris Van Hollen will join us tonight. He has a peculiar job in the United States Senate these days that most -- now that most senators returned to their home states. Senator Van Hollen represents Maryland, which means he`s always close enough to Washington, D.C., to be on call to rush onto the Senate floor to block Mitch McConnell from suddenly trying to literally pull a fast one. And that happened today and Senator Van Hollen will join us with his after action report of how he blocked Mitch McConnell in the Senate today.

John Heilemann and Ron Klain will join us later in the hour to consider how Donald Trump is using White House briefing rooms, the White House briefing room for his daily reelection campaign event and how deflecting blame for his own failures has become a staple of his daily performance.

And we will be joined throughout the hour by the voices of the nurses and doctors on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus. Some will appear in video clips. Some will join us in our discussion, which they will be part of from the beginning to end of this hour.

We begin tonight with the numbers. The United States now has 462,385 reported cases of coronavirus. There could be millions more people who have the virus or have had the virus and have not been tested.

As of tonight, the United States has suffered 16,595 reported deaths from coronavirus but people now dying in their homes in New York City are not being tested even after they die. And so we don`t know how many actual deaths from coronavirus the United States has suffered or will suffer. Almost half of the reported deaths have occurred in New York state, 7,067 as of tonight, including 799 in New York state in just the last 24 hours.

New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo said today that there could still be hope in some of the developments that he`s seeing in the statistics over the last few days showing fewer new hospitalizations and fewer new admissions to intensive care.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The hospitalization rate does suggest that it`s coming down and we are flattening the curve. So far, our efforts are working, they`re working better than anyone projected they would work, that`s because people are compiling with them. We are saving lives by what people are doing today.

Our expression has been New York tough because every day is tough, on many, many levels. I get it. But every day that we are New York tough, we are actually saving lives.


O`DONNELL: On "The Today Show" this morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House task force on the coronavirus, said this about the total number of projected deaths from coronavirus in the United States.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I believe we are going to see a downturn in that and it looks more like the 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000. But having said that, we better be careful that we don`t say, OK, we`re doing so well, we can pull back. We still have to put our foot on the accelerator when it comes to the mitigation and physical separation.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has decided it`s time to take his foot off the accelerator when it comes to testing. The Trump administration will stop funding for coronavirus testing sites tomorrow. Some of those sites might continue but they will have to be financed by state or local government.

The president was asked about that today at his White House reelection campaign rally.


REPORTER: Mr. President, how could administration discuss the possibility of reopening the country when administration does not have an adequate nationwide testing system for this virus? Don`t you need a nationwide testing system --


REPORTER: -- for the virus before you --

TRUMP: We have a great testing system. We have the best -- right now, the best testing system in the world.


O`DONNELL: The president did not retell this lie that he told over a month ago.


TRUMP: Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That`s the bottom line.


O`DONNELL: Not true. It has never been true. I`d like to have a test but I can`t get one because I have no symptoms. I was on five commercial airline flights in the month of March alone, and we were told then that flying was dangerous at that time but I couldn`t get a test after all of those flights. Even though the president lied to the world and said that I could, anybody that wants a test can get a test. That`s what he said.

I have a dear friend tonight who is an executive producer of a TV show who`s had a fever for almost a week and he can`t get a test because he doesn`t have enough symptoms. He`s not struggling to breathe yet. He would love to have a test but he can`t get a test in the country where Donald Trump says we have the best testing system in the world.

Less than 1 percent of the country has been tested. Less than 1 percent, and there are millions of people out there tonight who have one or more serious symptoms of coronavirus including fevers, people who would love to be tested, people who would love to know what they`re dealing with, people who are loved by people who desperately want to know what they are going to be fighting with here. Are they in the fight of their lives just to stay alive?

The test would tell them that and they can`t be tested and they won`t be tested. Unless they obviously slip closer to the grip of this deadly virus and then maybe they can get tested.

Donald Trump says anyone can get tested, he means anyone named Trump. He means anyone who Donald Trump wants to get tested like the people near him on a daily basis, and he certainly means himself but he does not mean you. And he`s going to want you to go back to work at some point to a workplace where virtually no one has been tested. He`s going to want universities to welcome their students back in the next academic year without any testing.

Susan Rice served as President Obama`s national security advisor and his ambassador to the United States. Today, on Jonathan Capehart`s podcast, Susan Rice said this about President Trump`s handling of this pandemic.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: He has misled the American people to such an extent that lives have been lost in the process.


O`DONNELL: Anybody that wants a test can get a test. He said that.

Last night at this hour, we showed you one of the thousands of home made videos that are recorded every night in New York City at 7:00 p.m. when millions of people in New York City stop whatever they`re doing and go to their windows or their balconies or roofs or the sidewalks and they clap. And they cheer. And they give a rousing citywide standing ovation of deep appreciation to the medical professionals on the front line of the coronavirus war who are fighting to save the lives of those New Yorkers who are applauding them.

Rachel and I discussed that at the beginning of last night`s show as we did tonight about how moving it is. Rachel said last night that many of those videos have brought her to tears. It is a profoundly moving moment that many of us had thought of and described as uniquely New York thing.

It`s not. Not anymore. Dianna Meehan (ph) lives 2,500 miles away from New York City on the California coast. Dianna Meehan is a semi-retired educator who always teaches me something=.

And today she sent me this email saying: My friend Allen celebrates Passover every year. Although I`m not Jewish, I`ve been privileged to sit at my friend`s table for at least 20 years. Allen says that what`s important is not only that the rich will go back thousands of years and hopefully forward many generations, but all over the world in all kinds of places, it is occurring at sun down.

We`ve heard and seen accounts of people in apartment buildings in various cities applauding and cheering the medical techs, EMTs, first responders of their communities at 7:00 p.m. every night. It is a way to acknowledge and celebrate their sacrifice.

But I live in a rural area. My nearest neighbors are a half a mile away or more. There are no apartments here. There are only farms and ranches. The EMTs are miles away, too.

Then I remembered what Allen has said about Passover all over the world at sun down. So I went outside on my porch at 7:00 p.m. and for one minute I cheered and clapped. Last night, my nearest neighbor joined me. She told me this morning that she could hear another distant clapping and a whoop. Maybe tonight, someone else near enough to hear will join us.

So you can do it anywhere. Even if no one else can hear you and no one else can see you, and if you do it at 7:00 p.m. in America, you will never be alone. And when you join that standing ovation, you will be giving thanks to heroes like Maureen Biddinger-Grisius, a nurse at Beaumont hospital in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

Maureen has been keeping a video diary that she has shared with MSNBC.


MAUREEN BIDDINGER-GRISIUS, BEAUMONT HOSPITAL NURSE: Today, it is Saturday, April 4th. I feel like sometimes it`s hard to keep track of the days. That happens. I`m just wrapping up my shift.

We had another death today that the whole ICU took pretty hard. So that was tough. But I think -- I think what`s really important to talk about is my team, you know, one of the nurses I worked with today walked around and just told jokes all day because we`ve just been crying so much. She just wanted everybody to keep laughing and keep moving.

So that`s what we`re doing. And that`s what I got for today. We`re just -- we`re just going to keep moving.


O`DONNELL: They`re just going to keep moving. The heroes in this battle are just going to keep doing what they`re doing in the best way for us to help them is to stay at home. And now you know how to thank them wherever you are every night at 7:00 p.m.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Jennifer Swiderek. She`s the medical director of the ICU at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. And Dr. Bennett Deboisblanc, the medical director of the ICU at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.

Both of you heroes of the front line.

Dr. Swiderek, let`s start with you, what is the situation where you are in Detroit? What do you need? What are your biggest challenges?

DR. JENNIFER SWIDEREK, HENRY FORD HOSPITAL: Detroit at Henry Ford hospital at least, we`ve been in this for about a month now.

It was actually less than four weeks ago we opened up our first COVID specific ICU, and filled that unit with 16 patients over a single weekend. Since that time, we`ve continued to open up ICU beds across the hospital. We now have 150 COVID specific ICU beds.

So, whether it be the medical ICU that would typically take care of these patients or surgical ICU or the cardiovascular ICU at Henry Ford, we have all come together to take care of these critically ill COVID patients.

As we talk about personal protective equipment, I know that`s a big talk across the country. We have been fortunate at Henry Ford Hospital that we`ve been able to have that PPE for our health care workers since this all started. We just continue to need the support. We need to continue to have people staying at home to get through this.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Swiderek, I know that many hospitals have rehearsed the possibility of dealing with a mass casualty event, a mass shooting event, many hospitals around the country have had to anticipate that.

Have you ever anticipated something like this and done any drills in anticipation of something like this?

SWIDEREK: So we haven`t rehearsed a pandemic that comes from a virus in waves. Like you have mentioned, we`ve rehearsed, especially the emergency department has rehearsed mass casualties and those kind of things. But it`s the same amount of patients that keep coming in waves at first when we were having a rise in patients in the Detroit area.

O`DONNELL: And, Dr. Deboisblanc, what is the situation for you in New Orleans tonight as you fight this?

DR. BENNETT DEBOISBLANC, ICU MEDICAL DIRECTOR, OCHSNER MEDICAL CENTER KENNER: Well, over the last few days, we`ve seen things sort of plateau, which is I think a testament to all those people at home who have done exactly what I would ask them to do is stay in your home and distance yourself.

Like Jennifer said, the first week of this pandemic was exponential; growth. We went from one or two patients to an ICU full of patients within a matter of days. And this is something that you really can`t rehearse.

We, like Jennifer, expanded our ICU footprint all over the health care system and resources were strained, but we`ve had a tremendous outpouring of support from the community. We`ve had industry supply us with PPE. We have community members cooking for us so we`re not alone.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Deboisblanc, this is not the first time New Orleans has faced a life challenging crisis like -- well of a grand scale. I don`t know -- didn`t want to say like this because this one is so unique but hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has been through major crisis before.

How does this compare to any of those preceding disasters that New Orleans has suffered?

DEBOISBLANC: Well, I was at ground zero for Hurricane Katrina and the major difference is Katrina was a sprint. We had five days where we were hunkered down without resources caring for our critically ill patients. The outside world was intact and whole.

This time, it`s more like a marathon. We`re into this now a month and the entire United States and all of our sure rounding communities are suffering along with us. So it`s a very, very different experience than we had with Katrina.

The numbers of patients, we -- before Katrina, we evacuated as many patients as we had, as we could, so we only had a handful of people who were still in the hospital in our ICUs. I say a handful, maybe 50 in the hospital I was working in at the charity hospital, whereas this time, we have probably ten times that number of people in our ICUs around the region.

And it just goes on day after day after day. Just the last couple days is the first time we feel like maybe, maybe the worst is behind us.

O`DONNELL: And, Dr. Swiderek, where do you think you are in Detroit in terms of the possibility of the worst being behind you or ahead of you?

SWIDEREK: Yes, we`re actually seeing the same glimmer of hope. And that in the past couple days, we seen a plateau in the number of admissions to our hospital, the number of ICU admissions. Henry Ford health system, we were able to discharge our 1,000th positive COVID patient today and just hitting that milestone and seeing this plateauing is giving us that hope.

We know it can change at any time, though. But this is the first time we`ve seen that glimmer of hope.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Jennifer Swiderek and Dr. Bennett Deboisblanc, thank you both very much for joining us this discussion tonight but much more importantly, thank you for the work you`re doing every day in fighting this pandemic. We all really appreciate it.

DEBOISBLANC: Thanks to all of you.

SWIDEREK: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

When we come back, the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 17 million people have filed for unemployment in the last three weeks. Perhaps millions more have been trying to.

Senator Chris Van Hollen will join us next to describe how he had to rush to the Senate floor today to block Mitch McConnell`s attempt to pass another relief bill for business without any consultation with Democrats.


O`DONNELL: As Senate tradition has it, the senators from Maryland are expected to be the cops of the Senate floor. In situations when the Senate is still technically in session during what appears to be a recess period when most senators are back in their home states, senators for Maryland become very important and it became Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen`s job today to rush to the Senate floor to block Mitch McConnell`s attempt to add $250 billion to the fund the Trump administration can use to support businesses, especially small businesses, which the legislation defines as businesses with as many as 500 employees, so not necessary so small.

Here is how an owner of a small business described his experience trying to get financial help.


DIRK BORGSMILLER, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, WAITING ON LOAN FROM SBA: They`re saying it could be a couple days, it could be two weeks, it could be a month. There is absolutely no definitive answer on this.

In the meantime, you know, we`re all dealing, all small businesses around this country, millions of people are dealing with being closed and uncertain future. So, it just -- the frustration just kind of keeps building.

And I don`t know when it`s -- I`m hoping we`ll receive the money. I`m hoping it will come through soon. That`s my hope and prayer to get people employed and we can try to get back to normal.


O`DONNELL: The bill that Mitch McConnell was trying to slip through the Senate today was stopped by Senator Van Hollen who refused to give unanimous consent, along with Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. If no Democrats were present when Mitch McConnell called for unanimous consent, the bill would have passed and would do nothing for the unemployed, which now number over 17 million, now that 6.6 million more Americans field for unemployment benefits in the past week. We have no idea how many millions more tried to file for unemployment benefits and failed.


KELLY THOMPSON, SINGLE MOM STRUGGLING TO FILE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT: I`ve tried at 1:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m. I`ve set, you know, set my alarm to try to do different times. I did it at 8:00 a.m. before they open and there`s just no getting through.


O`DONNELL: Joining us is Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight after your rush to the Senate floor.

What did you -- what are Democrats prepared to see in the next round of legislation that was not in this bill Mitch McConnell was trying to slip through today?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Lawrence, it`s good to be with you.

And this was an effort by Senator McConnell to slip something by, so there was a bit of a fire drill as you`ve said today. Look, we all recognize that we`re going to need more money for this small business program but we all have to recognize that we have to fix it.

Right now, there are some significant problems in the program. You just described the fact that many really small business owners are having trouble accessing it and this morning, we actually received a letter from the National Restaurant Association that represents tens of thousands of small businesses saying, yes, we`re going to need some more money but equally important, we need to fix some of these provisions including, I should say, some provisions that Secretary Mnuchin, the Trump administration added that were not in the bill.

They added some conditions that take away some flexibility from small businesses and many restaurant owners and others were saying, we just can`t deal with it in this current form.

So, our arguments to Mitch McConnell was, hey, let`s -- yes, we`re going to need the money, but let`s also fix the program and, by the way, there are these also huge needs like helping those health care workers on the front lines that you were just talking to, helping emergency responders and others.

So, let`s come together as we have in the past and work on a bipartisan way instead of Mitch McConnell trying to sneak something through the floor in a pro forma session.

O`DONNELL: Did -- was it your sense that Mitch McConnell actually thought he might get away with this, that the senators from Maryland would not come swooping down?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, it was a very unusual procedure for him to do it this way and he must have known that at the end of the day, it would fail. I guess he thought maybe, let`s just, you know, try it. Let`s call their bluff. Let`s see if they really come down.

Of course, we`re going to come down. We`re not going to let Mitch McConnell essentially unilaterally push something through without fixing the overall problem and without addressing these other issues. You know, Mitch McConnell has tried similar things before, but this is the first time that I know of that he`s tried to go in a pro forma session without any consent from the Democrats.

And the good news for the country is we passed three bills on a bipartisan basis. Disappointing but not surprising I guess that Mitch McConnell try to pull a fast one today.

O`DONNELL: What can the federal government do about this problem people are having trying to file for unemployment benefits?

VAN HOLLEN: So, this is a huge issue and I`m hearing, of course, from Marylanders that both with respect to the unemployment insurance, as well as some of these small business programs. And we need to fix both.

With respect to the unemployment insurance, there are just so many people, of course, filing now because of the economy. So I was actually on the phone yesterday with my state of Maryland person who deals with the uninsurement (ph) pieces and what I was told was that they got to get a better interface number one with the U.S. Department of Labor. But also, they have to reprogram their computers because one of the good things we did with unemployment compensation was to, for the first time, say if you`re a gig worker, or self-employed worker, you`re covered.

And so, we have been trying to provide them with more resources to deal with it. This is done on a state level. Right now, we`re just going to have to keep doing our best to pull people together, and so, it`s a tough, tough situation.

O`DONNELL: And, Senator, the scale of the problem just keeps getting bigger and bigger. At -- where is the line where the problem, the income replacement problem is too big for the federal government to deal with?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we may, Lawrence, will have to extend a lot of these programs and one of the points that Senator Cardin and I made today on the Senate floor to Mitch McConnell is, look, yes, we`re going to have to provide more resources for small businesses. Let`s get it right at the same time that we do that, but we also have these other huge demands because of the high unemployment rate, because of the surge in needs at hospitals, and that`s why we also proposed additional resources today for our health care workers, for our emergency responders.

And I want to make it clear, it wasn`t just that we blocked Mitch McConnell`s proposal, but we then put forward a proposal that did pay (ph) -- provide additional resources for small businesses but fix the problem, and also provided (ph) additional resources to our emergency responders and health care workers.

And Mitch McConnell blocked that today in the Senate floor. And I think it`s important to know. Look, we don`t know how long this will last, but clearly, we`re going to have to do another round at least. We`ll see whether our Republican colleagues will support that effort.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, ANCHOR MSNBC: Senator Chris Van Hollen, always keeping an eye on the Senate floor. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Senator.

When we come back, Donald Trump is now trying to deflect blame for his own failures on the World Health Organization. He wants them to take the blame. World Health Organization declared we were on our way to a pandemic when Donald Trump was saying America was on its way to zero cases of coronavirus, zero. That`s what Donald Trump predicted.

John Heilemann and Ron Klain will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump holds a reelection campaign rally every day at the White House, which masquerades as a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. Donald Trump is there to entertain his voters, and medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci are there to squeeze in a serious word here and there when they get the chance.

One of Donald Trump`s missions every day is to distract from the lies he has told in the past, including his big lie, quote, "Anybody that wants a test can get a test." End quote. And that the United States was going to go from having 15 reported coronavirus cases to having exactly zero. Donald Trump said that.

And Donald Trump also said that the Governor of Washington is a snake. That`s the word that Donald Trump used for the Governor of Washington. When Washington State was the hardest hit by the coronavirus, someone seems to have convinced Donald Trump to stop calling governors snakes because they are trying to save people`s lives in their states, but the Trump deflection game continues and he has - he`s now taken to accusing the World Health Organization of being wrong about the coronavirus.

Donald Trump said, quote, "They also minimized the threat very strongly." Those are his words. "They also minimized the threat very strongly." No one minimized the threat more than Donald Trump. When Donald Trump was saying that 15 cases were going to go to zero, the World Health Organization was warning the world that the coronavirus, quote, "has pandemic potential."

And after the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic on March 11th, Donald Trump did not admit that until it - did not admit it was a pandemic until six days later on March 17th. And the day before the World Health Organization officially labeled it a pandemic, Donald Trump said to reporters after a private meeting with Republican Senators, "It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away."

Joining our discussion now, Ron Klain was a senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. He served as the Ebola Czar during the Obama Presidency. He is an adviser to Joe Biden`s 2020 presidential campaign. And John Heilemann is with us, National Affairs Analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is also the co-host of Showtime`s "The Circus" and the Editor-in-Chief of The Recount.

Ron Klain, Donald Trump versus the World Health Organization, which side do you want to defend?


RON KLAIN, EBOLA CZAR, OBAMA PRESIDENCY & FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VP BIDEN: Well, look, I`ll start here. I`ve been a long-time critic of the World Health Organization. They did a miserable job on Ebola when we were working with them. There`ve been some reforms, some new leadership since then. I think they`ve done a better job here. But they definitely have made mistakes. But Donald Trump attacking the World Health Organization is like an F student attacking a B-minus student. OK? It`s not that the World Health Organization has not made mistakes. They have. It`s that Trump has made worse mistakes.

And ironically, one of those horrible mistakes was saying on February 24th, the World Health Organization was very smart and doing a very great job. So what`s happening here, Lawrence, is not that Donald Trump has any legitimate criticisms in his eyes of the World Health Organization, he`s just trying to deflect blame from his failures on testing, his failures to act promptly, his failures to get the protective gear in place.

He wants to put the blame someplace else. He`s the President who stood in the Rose Garden and said I take no responsibility for this, and having failed in that defense, he`s now just trying to push the blame someplace else.

O`DONNELL: And John Heilemann, the United Nations has said they do want to take a look at how the World Health Organization has handled this after the fact once the dust has cleared, once they have the time to do that. Donald Trump doesn`t want anyone taking a look after the fact or now at how he has handled this.

JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, NBC NEWS & MSNBC: Right. And yes, Lawrence, I think that - as Ron - the things that Ron was saying will make a lot of sense I think on the face of them. I think that when the history of this is all written, what we see now, we now - it`s now April. If you look back at the first three months, the Trump - Donald Trump`s reaction to this can be kind of neatly characterized as being - as it`s kind of shifting from one mode to another.

The early mode, the January, February to the middle of March mode was the downplaying mode. And many people, including my colleagues at "The Recount" have done vivid examples shown by calendrically the number of days that Trump downplayed the virus throughout January, throughout February, all the way into the middle of March.

And then, as soon as he got to that point where he declared, OK, it`s a war, this is now a war, it`s now a pandemic, I`m shifting my strategy here. He moved from the mode of downplaying to the mode of blame shifting. And blame shifting has gone from - it`s not just the WHO, of course it`s the Chinese who`ve been blamed, it`s been other foreign actors who`ve been blamed. Many governors have been blamed.

You mentioned Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington, but he`s blamed at various times Andrew Cuomo, he`s blamed any governor of any state in which there`s been a substantial number of coronavirus cases, and occasionally, on the converse of that, thrown praise at states that have been lucky enough so far to have relatively low infection rates.

So this is a traditional - this is Donald Trump. This is - what he is going to do, he`s going to take credit for whatever he could take credit for. He`s going to cast blame on whoever he can cast blame on. And the WHO is just one in a panoply and a growing panoply of targets that he`s going to seek to try to cast a responsibility for anything that does not - anything that angers voters and particularly voters who he thinks he needs in the 2020 election.

O`DONNELL: Susan Rice, who was President Obama`s Ambassador of the United Nations, knows how the World Health Organization works, had something to say Jonathan Capehart today on his podcast about how she sees the way President Trump has handled this. Let`s listen to that.


SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: He has demonstrated utter lack of leadership, utter incompetence, and he`s been profoundly dishonest about the nature of the threat to the American people by downplaying it, by dismissing it, by comparing it to the flu. Whether that`s because he didn`t care or he was trying to downplay the problem and buoy his electoral prospects mistakenly or whether it was to buck up the markets or because he doesn`t care, I don`t know what it was. I just know he has cost tens of thousands of American lives.


O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, your reaction to what Ambassador Rice had to say?

KLAIN: Well, plain spoken as always. And I think Susan hits the key point. Look, I think we won`t yet know for awhile exactly how many lives were lost because of this period that John Heilemann described, of 70 days of essentially ignoring, downplaying, inaction in response to this threat.

The World Health Organization declared this a public health emergency of international concern on January the 23rd. OK? A month later, President Trump was still saying we`re 15 cases on our way down to zero. OK?

And so, that period, that lost 70 days that John referred to is going to be something that we`re going to be talking about for a long time. Historians will study it and wonder how this catastrophic failure was allowed to happen. We didn`t act promptly when we had this warning.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain and John Heilemann, thank you both for joining our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

HEILEMANN: Thanks, Lawrence.

KLAIN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we have new numbers tonight in California about who is being hit hardest by the coronavirus.


O`DONNELL: California Governor Gavin Newsom feels confident enough about the flattening of the curve in California that he has shipped 500 of California`s ventilators to other states facing a more severe crisis now, including New York State.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We thought it was the right thing to do, but I also want you to know it was the responsible thing to do as American citizens from a moral and an ethical imperative to save lives, all of us, Americans.


O`DONNELL: Today, California released preliminary demographic data on 37 percent of the state`s total confirmed coronavirus cases. Of that sample, 8 percent of the deaths were African-Americans, 6 percent of the state`s population is African-American. 26 percent of the deaths were Latinos, and they are 39 percent of the state`s population.

Partial data for Los Angeles County shows that 17 percent of deaths have been African-American in Los Angeles County where African-Americans are only 9 percent of Los Angeles County`s population. Governor Newsom committed to releasing demographic data for 100 percent of the coronavirus cases in California.

And joining our discussion now is Dr. Oliver Brooks. He`s the President of the National Medical Association and Chief Medical Officer at Watts Healthcare.

Dr. Brooks, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What is your sense and interpretation of what you`re seeing in the racial breakdowns of the data of coronavirus cases?

DR. OLIVER BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL MEDICAL ASSOCIATION & CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER AT WATTS HEALTHCARE: So I can speak to in general we`re seeing the disproportionate effect on the African-American community. Now, you also just noted the findings in California. I will say this. It is early on.

The wave - the tidal wave that hit New York is coming our way. It is predicted that it will hit California next week. So, as this surge, if you will, hits, we will have much more data as this plays out. So I would say right now what you showed is early data. You did show in LA County it`s twice as deadly for African-Americans. So we will need more data.

O`DONNELL: Governor Newsom said today that he expects the peak to, as he put it, extend into May, not just the next couple of weeks. Does that make sense to you the way you see it?

BROOKS: Oh, yes, because the curve has flattened somewhat in California. Governor Newsom implemented the stay-at-home order March 19th, relatively early. So I think what some people may miss, if you flatten the curve, you may still have a large number of cases, but what it does is it decreases the surge so that the hospitals and clinics can handle it.

That`s why I believe he was able to actually donate some ventilators because he flattened the curve with the early implementation of the stay- at-home - shelter-in-place, as they call it here. And so we should be able to handle it, but this is unknown at this time. It will extend further than the next couple of weeks.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, how did it feel for you to see 500 of California`s ventilators going out across the country? California still has thousands more, but you`re there on the frontline. You know the worst is yet to come. How did it feel seeing some of that medical equipment leave the state?

BROOKS: Well, there`s a bit of discomfort, I will have to say. I will have to trust that the decision was made with a lot of modeling, with a lot of epidemiological evidence, and also, it was stated that we want them back if we need them. So it`s not as easy to get things back once you give them away, but I will have to put the trust there. But I will say I have some - some unease.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Oliver Brooks, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Thank you for the work you are doing. And we want you to come back as we track the progress of this devastation in California. Thank you very much, doctor.

BROOKS: Thank you. May I say one last thing really quickly--

O`DONNELL: Please.

BROOKS: --Lawrence?

O`DONNELL: Please do.

BROOKS: Speaking to the African-American community, as President of National Medical Association and a Chief Medical Officer here in Watts in California, we need to advocate for ourselves. I keep getting the feeling that we look like helpless or something like that. The NMA has been advocating for decades about this issue with the disparities. So we need to advocate for ourselves. We can`t just wait for someone to do it for us.

So, for example, advocate by doing something in seven months. There will be an election. Look at the positions of those that are running state, local, federal, and make your determination. We need to advocate for ourselves as patients. If you have hypertension and the doctor says, well, your hypertension is out of control, demand that he gets your hypertension under control.

African-Americans, if you`re on one medication, you`re likely not under control. And then support the organizations that have your best interests at heart. That is how we can go past this and not just be a victim.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Brooks, thank you very much for overriding my questioning and telling the audience what it needs to hear because this subject is far more complex than any of us here at the anchor desk can deal with. I`m very glad you gave us that guidance. We really appreciate it, doctor. Thank you.

BROOKS: Thanks very much, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And we`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: Natasha Cacciatore is a critical care nurse in Boston at Brigham and Women`s Hospital in her Waltham neighborhood. Her appreciative neighbors gave her a hero`s welcome home from work while keeping their social distance in their cars as they drove by her front door.




O`DONNELL: Joining us is Nurse Natasha Cacciatore. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I have to say, that is the biggest traffic jam I have seen in many, many weeks anywhere in America. How did it feel to have the neighbors let you know how they feel about your work?

NATASHA CACCIATORE, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN`S HOSPITAL CRITICAL CARE NURSE: It`s amazing. The support for all of us in health care over these last several weeks has been outstanding. We`ve been getting all sorts of donations from various restaurants, from neighbors, be it masks, be it food. Everybody is willing to help, and the support has been amazing.

O`DONNELL: And what is it like when you come home? You have your child, and do you fear that embrace, that motherly embrace, that you could be bringing something home?

CACCIATORE: I`m terrified. I`m terrified from day one. We cut off ties with our family as far as physical contact from the beginning just because our parents are obviously at prime age to get sick from this if they do get sick. So we`ve been very careful about social distancing, and of course, we`re very thorough with how I leave work and how I come home. I make sure nothing from work comes home with me. I go right into the shower before I touch anything in the house. We`re very, very careful because I can`t lose these two people in that video or anybody else that we care about.

O`DONNELL: And Natasha, what is the fear like while you`re on duty? It`s one thing when you`re on your way home and you get to think about it and worry about what you`re going to do when you approach your front door. But in those long hours of your shift, moment-to-moment, do you feel the fear then?

CACCIATORE: You know, the fear, it creeps up on you. The more news I watch, the scarier it gets. Obviously, our colleagues in New York and California, New Jersey, all over, are feeling this pretty hard. We`re fortunate enough that we haven`t hit our surge just yet, and we`re also fortunate that we have a tremendous team working with us. The respiratory therapists have been phenomenal, the doctors.

Everybody has kind of pitched in and jumped - risen to the occasion to kind of get ourselves prepared as - as prepared as we can possibly be for something we really don`t know in very much detail. We`re kind of learning it as we go. So the fear of the unknown is probably the hardest at this point, but I think we have a pretty solid group of people ready to fight.

O`DONNELL: Nurse Natasha Cacciatore gets tonight`s last word.

Thank you very, very much for joining us tonight, Natasha. We really appreciate you giving us this time and letting people understand what this work is like. We really appreciate it.

CACCIATORE: Thank you so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: And thank you for what you do. Really appreciate it.

That is tonight`s Last Word. "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again.