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Cuomo strike back TRANSCRIPT: 4/17/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Nicholas Kristof, Ron Klain, Richard Besser, Zeke Emanuel, Richard Besser, Christine Todd Whitman, Debbie Dingell, Joaquin Castro


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That`s going to do it for us tonight. Now, it is time for "The Last Word" with Ali Velshi, filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Have a great weekend. We will see you on Monday. Just ahead, is the president trying to "incite division" in the midst of a growing pandemic? That`s what a growing number of Democrats believe after Trump supported anti-lockdown protests in democratic-run states. I`m going to discuss that with Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. She is from one of the states that Trump is calling on to liberate.

Plus, hospitals and state officials say they don`t have enough supplies or funding to ramp up coronavirus testing, and the president has all but refused to help. What Trump`s refusal is going to mean for fighting this pandemic. And at the end of this hour is some potential good news to report. We`re going to show you the promising data on a possible treatment for coronavirus patients.

But let`s begin with tonight`s numbers. The numbers of deaths linked to coronavirus worldwide has now passed 151,000. As of tonight, there are more than 2.2 million reported cases of coronavirus around the globe. And here in the United States, there are 698,366 known infections. Thirty-six thousand and five hundred fifty-nine people have died from coronavirus in the United States.

And as the numbers continue to climb, Trump is looking to blame anyone but himself for the disastrous federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. And who better to blame than the officials who often stepped up when the federal government let down its citizens? It`s the nation`s governors.

In a series of all caps tweets, the president tweeted, "Liberate Michigan, liberate Minnesota, and liberate Virginia." These are three states whose democratic governors have issued stay-at-home orders. Forty-two states in total have issued stay-at-home orders. And now, those governors are doing their best to keep the coronavirus from spreading in their states. But instead of supporting the governors, Trump sided with protesters, who have been pushing back on those stay-at-home orders.

Governors are warning these protests could make the virus spread faster but Trump has in effect given the green light for people to put their lives in danger, go out, protest, and stand up to their governors, who are doing things to try and keep them safe. Of course, the president is trying to blame the governors for anything he thinks isn`t going his way during this pandemic, like the testing issue.

Testing is one of the most important measurements for how quickly this virus is spreading and how effective efforts to stop its spread are working. But the president is almost nowhere to be found on the testing issue. There is no national plan for testing Americans. Let`s make that clear. There is no national testing plan in place.

The Washington Post reports "Trump`s buck-stops-with-the-state`s posture is largely designed to shield himself from the blame should there be new outbreaks after states reopen or for other problems."

So far, about 3.5 million people have been tested in the United States. That`s a significant improvement from early testing stumbles, but it`s still far short of the millions of tests per day that experts say is needed to begin safely reopening the economy.

And some leaders are now at their whit`s end, "a dereliction of duty." That`s how independent Senator Angus King of Maine described the lack of a national testing plan on a phone call with Mike Pence and Democratic leaders. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also went on the offensive on the testing issue.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Don`t ask the states to do this. It`s up to the governors, up to the governors, up to the governors. OK. Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No. That is passing the buck without passing the bucks.


VELSHI: Minutes later, Donald Trump hit back, tweeting, "Governor Cuomo should spend more time doing and less time complaining. Get out there and get the job done. Stop talking."

Now, he tweeted this in the midst of Cuomo`s press conference and a reporter read Trump`s tweets to governor Cuomo. And his response typifies the frustration that many officials at the state and local level are feeling with the federal government.


CUOMO: First of all, if he`s sitting home watching T.V., maybe he should get up and go to work, right? I don`t know what am I supposed to do. Send a bouquet of flowers? The only thing he is doing, let`s be honest, well, it`s up to the states to do reopen. By the way, it was always up to the states.

What, are you going to grant me what the Constitution gave me before you were born? It`s called the Tenth Amendment. I don`t need the president of the United States to read the Constitution for me. Maybe he should have read the Constitution before he said he had the power to open the states.


VELSHI: All right. What`s maybe most remarkable about Cuomo sounding off is what didn`t happen next. President Trump didn`t respond. He didn`t tweet, like some of the governor`s remarks hit a little close to home. It`s hard to say, but we couldn`t help notice how unusual that kind of response is for Trump.

Of course, the back and forth between Cuomo and Trump isn`t just a war of words, it`s a war of ideas, ideas about who is responsible for the lives of Americans, when should states take charge, and when should the federal government step in.

It`s critical that there is a unified plan of action right now. The less cohesive a plan is, the greater the chance of a resurgence of the virus. And we stand all the more likely to see a second surge of coronavirus in the United States the longer the states and the federal governments are at odds over how to combat this pandemic.

Maureen Biddenger-Grisius is a nurse at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan. She has been keeping a video diary of her experiences in treating COVID-19 patients. In one entry, she described her fears of a second coronavirus surge.


MAUREEN BIDDENGER-GRISIUS, NURSE, BEAUMONT HOSPITAL: I think my biggest fear, of course, is another surge. Those first couple weeks were a war zone and that`s not the case right now. I feel confident in our -- you know, that our health system is able to continue to accommodate patients at this rate. But a second surge, I don`t know what that would look like, and it would be devastating in so many ways.


VELSHI: All right. Leading off our discussion tonight, Ron Klain, former senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama, served as the Ebola czar during the Obama administration, and Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times. He has been covering the coronavirus pandemic and recently went on the frontlines inside two New York City hospitals that are treating COVID-19 patients.

And Nick, I want to start with you and I want to start there, because that`s where this battle is being fought. Donald Trump thinks he`s in a battle with governors and talking about liberating states. But the real fight against coronavirus is going on in these hospitals where they continue to be short in some cases of protective equipment, where people are working multiple shifts. What did you see when you went to those hospitals?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, boy, I should say that, you know, I would love to escort President Trump into some of these hospitals, and I think he might have a somewhat different tone if he did visit them.

So, the two hospitals that I visited were overrun. They were overwhelmed. The staff is completely heroic. They don`t have good tools. They have been trying things like hydroxychloroquine. They have not been terribly effective. Intubation and ventilators likewise have not been terribly effective.

And so the doctors and the nurses and the respiratory therapist, they go around every day. They are scared. They are not sure if their PPE is adequate. They`re reassuring patients. They`re assisting them. They`re encouraging them. And one young doctor told me that she goes home at night and then cries because she isn`t able to do what she was trained to do, which is to save lives.

And to see that kind of heroism and their determination to do everything they can to save lives, and then, you know, they describe being felt feeling like they were let down by Washington, which wasn`t attacking the problem with the same determination.

VELSHI: Ron, these even in Ebola, in any of these things, the nurses, the doctors, the frontline workers, the EMTs are the heroes in Ebola. We thought we had lost that nurse in Dallas and she was sent to the Washington area on an airplane. I remember the whole nation watching that. We know that they are the heroes. What we didn`t have during Ebola was this nonsensical battle going on between Donald Trump and certain governors.

Donald Trump knew the other day when he said it`s his decision to reopen the country. I mean, I don`t know if he`s read a pamphlet about the Constitution, let alone the Constitution. But he would have known that wasn`t within his power.

It does seem like every 48 hours or so, the president decides to embark on a fully counterproductive endeavor rather than work with the people who are fighting this disease.

RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, Ali, it is a great point that President Trump the other day asserted power that he doesn`t have, power to shut down and open the economy, but he`s not exercising the powers that he does have. That`s the powers to get the medical equipment to the kind of people Nick saw working in New York and at hospitals all over this country right now.

They deserve face shields. They deserve the appropriate protective gear. They deserve the gloves and gowns that will really work. That was something we did during the Ebola response. We took control of the supply chain. We got the equipment to where it needed to get to protect the people on the frontlines. And the fact that we`re not doing that is a double tragedy, Ali.

The first tragedy is the human tragedy that Nick reported on, the horrible impact on our doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians, all the health care workers in the hospitals. The second is we`re going to see these health care providers get sick at the moment we need them on the job. We should protect them because it`s the right thing to do. We should protect them because it`s the smart thing to do if we want them to take care of us when we need medical care.

VELSHI: Nick, you know, we`re not mathematicians nor we`re scientists or medical people, but one thing we know is that determining the rate of infection and determining the mortality rate are based on a denominator and that denominator involves understanding how many people have this infection. And unless we test enough people, we don`t know that. If we`re talking about reopening the economy, we have to be able to test to see if people have the antibodies.

Dr. Fauci was asked about this at the White House briefing today. Fauci, again, I don`t know how he stands there next to the president because he always has something to say that seems to be at odds with the president. Listen to what he said to us.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I want to make sure people understand not to underestimate the importance of testing. Testing is a part, an important part of a multifaceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this outbreak.


VELSHI: But ultimately, Nick, this is weird, because from the beginning, this has been the thing the president has been fighting about. He used to say anybody who needs a test can get a test when we had evidence that wasn`t actually the case.

We have doctors on our shows saying we don`t even have the materials for the testing, we don`t have the swabs that you put in people`s nose to undertake the testing, we don`t have the ability to meet the criteria to have testing. Here in New York City, if you`re not sick enough to get hospitalized, you wouldn`t be able to get a test even if you have the symptoms of coronavirus.

Something this basic is holding us back. We`re not going to get a handle on this thing and we`re not going to be able to get to the White House`s phase one, two and three to reopen the economy unless we can ramp up testing and it sort of -- it`s befuddling that we can`t.

KRISTOF: Yeah. I mean, look, this is hard and I don`t think that many people had anticipated the shortage of swabs, for example, or a reagent. But the need for tests is one of the most basic things that people were talking about in January.

And, you know, there is a legitimate debate now about how we reopen the country, to what extent we can reopen schools in some places, but that depends on our understanding of community transmission in those cases. And that, as you suggest, is going to depend on a large amount of both diagnostic testing and also serological testing to determine antibodies.

Right now, we don`t -- we have virtually no capacity to do serological testing in any way and we probably need five or ten times as much diagnostic testing as we have. And so, you know, when the president talks about liberating these states without giving people the tools to actually figure out what they can do, you know, that`s not policy formation, that`s policy vandalism.

VELSHI: Policy vandalism, indeed. Ron Klain, what, if anything, has to happen now? Fauci and other people keep on saying reopening the country is not a date certain thing. It depends on where the virus is and how it`s going. The president has now capitulated to the Constitution and told governors it`s in your hands now. It does become confusing in a matter of this magnitude to not know who is in charge and when we are getting back to work.

KLAIN: Well, of course, there should be clearer science-based leadership in Washington. I think the president made his intention very clear. He sent the signal to his supporters. He sent a signal to allied governors in red states. They should just reopen as soon as possible without regard to testing and without regard to the state of the disease.

I mean, that`s essentially what he`s saying when he tweets out liberate Minnesota, liberate Michigan, liberate Virginia. It is essentially what he`s saying when he basically makes it clear that he`s not going to get the testing in place. Without testing, we are opening line. The president needs to fix that.

VELSHI: Worth noting that more Americans died from coronavirus yesterday than during the entire Iraq War and we haven`t gotten a handle on this yet. Thanks to both of you, Ron Klain and Nick Kristof.

Coming up, we`re going to dig a serious look at the state of coronavirus testing with two doctors, how the Trump administration failed early on and still failing states, and what needs to happen now for the United States to succeed.


VELSHI: One thing that experts agree is key to getting back to life as we knew it and that is testing. Only about one percent of Americans have been tested for COVID-19 and testing has plateaued at an average of about 150,000 tests daily. Take a look at this, countries with populations of more than five million and where we stand.

But public health experts tell NBC News that testing "would have to at least doubled or tripled from its current levels to allow for even a partial reopening of America`s economy. Without diagnostic testing on a massive scale, federal and state officials and private companies will lack a clear picture of who has been infected, who can safely return to work, how the virus is spreading and when stay-at-home orders can be eased."

Now, hospitals and state officials say they don`t have enough supplies or the funding needed to substantially ramp up their testing and Donald Trump has refused to help. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo voiced frustration about the lack of coordination from the Trump administration today.


CUOMO: He said 11 times, I don`t want to get involved in testing. It`s too complicated. It`s too hard. I know it`s too complicated and it`s too hard. That`s why we need you to help. I can`t do an international supply chain. He wants to say, well, I did enough. Yeah, none of us have done enough. We haven`t because it`s not over.


VELSHI: Joining me now, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former Obama White House health policy advisor and NBC News and MSNBC senior medical contributor, and Dr. Richard Besser is the president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He was the acting director at the Centers for Disease Control where he coordinated the response to the H1N1 virus. Dr. Besser was just named by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to serve on the multi-state council to reopen the region`s economies.

Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being with us. Dr. Zeke Emanuel, you have been talking about testing. We have been talking about this on MSNBC for several months now. You have been talking about testing because with the testing, other things don`t fall into place.

You do not -- you cannot understand rates have changed, you cannot understand rates of infection, you cannot understand rates of mortality, and you can`t understand what is working and what is not working if you don`t know who has got this infection.

ZEKE EMANUEL, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC SENIOR MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISOR: That`s absolutely right. We`re testing, as you pointed out, 160,000 cases. The minimum, experts say, is 500,000 tests per day. I`ve estimated that we probably need around two million to start with and we`ll need to expand as we open up more of the economy. We`ll have to test more people going back to work and who are interacting broadly with the public.

The problem is that the CDC recommendations for testing are still heavily focused on people who have symptoms, trying to diagnose people who have illness. What you need to open up the economy is to diagnose the spread of the disease and that means you need to diagnose people who are intersecting with lots of other people, frontline health workers, frontline transit workers, bus drivers, people in grocery stores, police officers.

When you add all those people up, you quickly come to we need to test seven or eight million tests per week just for that group. Forget patients, forget people who are intersecting and you want to make sure that they are not spreading the virus like that woman who had a 40th birthday party in Connecticut and the Biogen meeting in Boston.

So, you need to test a lot more people. This idea that all we need is 4.5 million tests a month is ridiculous. That`s if you want to focus on symptom, but we want to focus on limiting spread and that requires many, many more millions of tests per day and per week than the government has predicted. By the way, as you point out --

VELSHI: Now --

EMANUEL: That`s only step one. That`s not the whole chain of what you need to do to open up the economy.

VELSHI: Right. It`s the basis, but it`s the basis unfortunately that we`ve been arguing about or jostling about for a long time and is the thing we needed to do right in the beginning.

Dr. Besser, there is some thinking that there are serological tests or test that can determine whether you had the infection. Maybe you thought you had it and you got past it or maybe you`re asymptomatic. But we should be able to on a very, very large scale get tested to determine whether or not you had that infection.

Now, non-scientists, non-medical people like me would think, OK, if I get this and I get a relatively fast result and it shows that I have antibodies, meaning I had the infection, I`m good to go back to work. Is that naive?

RICHARD BESSER, PRESIDENT OF ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: Well, you know, a lot more work needs to be done to determine what level of protective factors or antibodies in your blood would indicate that you`re protected from future infection and that you`ve had this and are safe to go back to work.

I want to get back to that issue of testing and why it`s so critically important. What we`re talking about is moving from a strategy where everyone is social distancing to one where public health system needs to identify people very quickly who are infected and sick, isolate them so they can`t spread it to other people, identify all the people they have in contact with.

That`s called contact tracing. It is one of the oldest methods in public health. And then get those people into quarantine. That means isolated from other people so they`re not able to infect people if they become sick.

That kind of strategy can prevent the big outbreaks from occurring when we start to loosen some of the social distancing measures and it would mark a dramatic shift in the approach to this, but the one that would have to come for the next phase in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I`m not hearing you.

EMANUEL: We are not hearing you.

BESSER: We don`t hear you.


VELSHI: All right. We`re back. I hope everybody can hear me now. Dr. Richard Bresser is there, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, and you guys are out there. As you know, we`re in a new era right now. We are broadcasting from our homes. Every now and then, we get some technical gremlins into the system. So, we are back. Thanks, gentlemen, for your patience.

Zeke Emanuel, I want to ask you about this report that came out that suggests that there was a test that was conducted at the University of Chicago with an existing drug and that 133 people were tested. All but two have recovered from serious coronavirus. Two people perished. What do you know about this test and what should we make of it?

EMANUEL: So, remdesivir is an anti-viral agent that works to disrupt the reproduction of the virus once it`s in the lung cells. It was developed, I don`t know, about 18 -- 17, 18 years ago by Gilead. It has never found a home for use. It`s been tried in several different conditions. And there is some - has been some early data that it`s promising and working.

Now, the big problem in all these trials where you don`t have a randomized trial setting and you don`t randomize patients is what`s called patient selection. Are you using this drug on some patients who are likely to do better and not on patients who are likely to do worse, or what other criteria suddenly play on you? And so until we have randomized control data, it`s going to be very hard to know whether this drug works. And that, I think, is the major problem where - with evaluating all these studies.

On the other hand, in this moment, we`re under - the government is under huge pressure to get a treatment. And I might say we`ve been here before. It was hydroxychloroquine just a few weeks ago. That is gone by the wayside. For lots of reasons, it didn`t seem plausible. This may be more plausible.

Let me say one other thing, though, that I think the viewers need to keep in mind.


EMANUEL: In viral infections like HIV, like hepatitis C, one of the things we`ve learned is that, you know, one drug isn`t going to work. You need multiple drugs to work at different stages. And in the case of COVID-19, maybe you need an anti-viral and maybe you need an immune modulating drug or maybe you need two anti-viral drugs. So it may work. Remdesivir may work, and it may be great.


EMANUEL: Your audience should remember it`s not that easy to give. It`s not a pill. It`s an infusion. It takes five to 10 days, depending upon the regimen that people are using. This is not something for mass production. It may be good for people who are very, very sick to bring them back. But remember, you don`t want to get a lot of people very, very sick. So it`s not going to save us or open up - make it easier to open the economy with lots of people getting sick and then going in to get this drug because that`s a very poor way of operating.

VELSHI: And Dr. Besser, there is news out of France that Sanofi, the drug maker, partnering with GlaxoSmithKline to produce what they say is 600 million doses of a vaccine by 2021. Now, vaccines are complicated things to develop. So I don`t know if that`s an entirely aspirational statement or that`s a statement that says if we get the vaccine, we have the capacity to create 600 million doses by 2021. What`s your understanding about what our timeline is to a vaccine?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ABC NEWS MEDICAL EDITOR: Well, I like to be cautious when it comes to promising vaccines or drugs on a certain timeline. It`s better to under-promise and over-deliver. There are many viral infections for which we`ve been trying for decades to develop vaccines without success.

I worry that a lot of the announcements about vaccines and where they are in trials is more about stock price than it is about truly the likelihood those vaccines will make it through. These are vaccines that haven`t been tried in people.

One concern I have is that there`ll be such public pressure and governmental pressure that vaccines will be given to people on a large scale without adequate safety testing. And we have the FDA for important reasons to ensure that all of the drugs and vaccines that are given to people are safe and effective. And we don`t want to shortchange that process. We want to make sure that we`re using public health measures to control this until we have safe and effective therapy. But let`s not rush to vaccinate before we know we have something that truly works.

VELSHI: Yes. I think you make a very interesting point, because yesterday afternoon when the word of this Gilead treatment came out of University of Chicago, was leaked out by a - to a newspaper, the shares of that company shot through the roof, and it actually turned the stock market around. And I was thinking to myself, might be an interesting drug, but, boy, did all of us who own stock suddenly become brilliant about medicine and infectious diseases. I think your caution is a wise one.

Thanks to both of you, gentlemen. Dr. Richard Besser and Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thanks to both of you.

Zeke Emanuel and I are going to be back right here next Friday night for a special "Life in the Time of Coronavirus." We`re going to focus on the science of this. We`re going to focus on the medicine of this, and we hope you`re going to join us.

Coming up, Donald Trump isn`t just failing governors on testing. Today, he was egging on protesters in some states to violate his own administration`s guidelines on social distancing, putting everyone at risk. That`s next.



GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): If it makes people feel better to take their frustrations out on me, that`s fine. All I ask is let`s not get overly political here. There is a price that`s paid, and I know that there are a lot of businesses and people that are hurting right now. But the fact of the matter is, it`s better to be six feet apart right now than six feet under.


VELSHI: That was Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer this morning with an arresting visual about social distancing. "Better to be six feet apart than six feet under." Her remarks were in response to protests in the state capital on Wednesday. Shortly after Whitmer said that today, Donald Trump tweeted - just two words in the tweet, all caps - "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!"

Trump issued the same tweet scream about Minnesota and Virginia. During a conference call with the White House today, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, one of the three states Donald Trump called to liberate today, challenged Mike Pence about those tweets, asking why Trump was trying to incite division in the midst of a global pandemic.

Of course, we all know why. All three states, Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia have Democratic governors and all three states are swing states that Donald Trump hopes to win in November. And even though the protesters are clearly violating social distancing guidelines, putting themselves and others at an already overburdened health care system at risk, Trump is supporting them because--


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They seem to be protesters that like me.


VELSHI: Wow! There have been a series of protests popping up around the country featuring Trump flags and paraphernalia and hats. Here is video today from Orlando.

Today, Former Republican Governor of New Jersey and former Bush, 43, cabinet minister, Christine Todd Whitman tweeted this. "This President is now truly getting out of control. In talking about liberating the states, he`s using language that could well lead to rioting. No one has done more to undermine our Constitution and destroy our country`s values than Donald Trump."

Joining me now, the Former Republican Governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman; and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. She`s the Senior Democratic Whip and a member of the House Democratic leadership.

Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being with us.

Governor, you were cabinet secretary, a governor of a state. We have spent a week in which the President said he`s the one in charge, in violation of the Constitution. He`s then backed down from that and told governors they`re in charge. And now he is feeding this idea that people should protest. There were people who went to the Michigan State House and protested, next to each other, no social distancing involved in this whole thing. What do you think is going on here?

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: It`s all about reelection. And that`s the thing that is so extraordinary. This man plays politics with every single issue. And these - what we`re facing today is much too important. There seems to be this idea that he is promoting. The governors somehow don`t want to reopen their states. They like this, particularly Democrat governors. That`s the furthest thing from the truth.

Governors, first of all, really feel the economic impact. So, in fact, many of them have a constitutional requirement to balance their budgets. They`re also much closer to their constituents than those who go to Washington and never come out. They care about their people and their people`s lives, and they care about their economies. They want to reopen, but they want to do it in a reasonable way.

And that - for that, they need the help of the federal government to get the tests and get the protocols that they`re required to be able to understand when it`s safe and who can be next to whom. And to have a President undermine his very own words when he says social distancing, and then he encourages people to go out, and tweeted. Frankly, his one on Virginia about free Virginia, protect the second amendment. What guns have to do with the coronavirus, I have no idea.

VELSHI: Yes. I think you make a really, really, really important point here. State governments cannot print their own money and, in many cases, cannot assume debt at least for operations. So, for governors losing - having their states shut down is a very, very expensive matter.

Congresswoman, your governor gets picked on by the President almost as much as the Governor of New York does. Governor Cuomo seems to be his favorite punching bag. But Gretchen Whitmer is a very close second. He seems to have a beef with her in what she`s doing. But to what Governor Whitman just said, she`s following federal guidelines that are outlined by Fauci and Birx and the CDC and in the President`s 15 days to recovery plan, which we`re past.

So what do you think is behind this and what are you worried about?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): What I`m worried about is the politics and how we`ve got to dial this down. I`m living in a state that`s still got high death rate today. We`re - it`s still depending which day it is, it`s not a contest you want to win. We`re the third or fourth highest state in the country with the number of cases of COVID.

Right now, we`ve got to worry about keeping each other safe. I`ve been in my house - OK, everybody knows me. I`m not exactly a stay-at-home person. I have been in my condominium for 34 days. I have not physically been near another human being, which isn`t - but I`m doing it because it`s what we have to do.

I have had more than 20 family and friends die, die in the last six weeks. I don`t want anybody else to die. And that`s why she is doing this. She`s not doing it to make people feel like prisoners, which, quite frankly, many of us probably do. And I think we`ve got to - both sides, we can go back to campaigning in a few weeks, but let`s work together to save lives right now.

VELSHI: Governor, again, you have been someone who has been a governor and you`ve been a cabinet secretary. You`ve worked in government. It is really hard for us outside to understand what`s going on in the White House and in the administration right now because it does seem to vacillate from day to day.

Once in awhile, the President comes out and gives a press conference, and it`s got stats and it`s got data and it`s got plans, and the CDC and Fauci and Birx seem to have a central role. And then other days, he goes strangely political and attacks people.

For regular people out there who are watching TV, who are trying to get past this, they are looking for leadership and they`re very confused when their governors are fighting with their President.

WHITMAN: I don`t blame them. I mean, that`s the problem because the President does have the bully pulpit, and he gets the most press. So when he starts saying things that are contrary to what he said the day before, that just sows confusion in everybody`s minds.

When the governors are trying to be reasonable, and that`s why it`s so good that you have those six northeastern states that are banded together. You have the Midwestern - some of the Midwestern states have come together, and three of the western states have said we`re going to coordinate how we reopen and how we do this because this coronavirus doesn`t care about geopolitical boundaries. They could care less about one state or the other, and people travel between them. So it really is critically important if we want to get behind this, so we can get back to the politics of an election year.

But as the Congresswoman said, this should not be about politics and the President`s reelection. And all these actions is pivot from "I`m in total control" to "no, actually it`s the governors," but then don`t pay attention to the governors in certain states is all about politics. And that`s just wrong right now.

VELSHI: And Congresswoman Dingell, you come from a state where not only does the shutdown affects you directly but you have massive trade with Canada and that border remains close to non-essential work as well.

Let me just ask you this, Congresswoman. We ran out of money for the $350 billion for small businesses yesterday. The President has dangled this idea of Congress adjourning. We may need two to three times the money for small businesses to keep their employees on payroll. What do you believe the next step looks like in at least staunching some of the economic bleeding before we get back to work?

DINGELL: We have to do two things. We should have last week - late last week, have passed a bill to have gotten immediately more money into this program. I cannot - Ali, in the last two days, I`ve had more businesses. I`ve probably had 100 phone calls between yesterday morning and this evening. I was still on the phone an hour ago with businesses and small restaurants that are just scared to death about what`s going to happen. Michigan didn`t even - we were 35th in the country in terms of the amount of money that came to our state. There is a need.

We need to get more money into it and then we need to get busy on care two package. Tweak what was not great in care or is not - the first care package, help it work, and we need to make sure that Americans across the country know that we know what`s happening to them right now.

They`re afraid about their job. They`re afraid if they have something to return to. How are we going to get the American auto industry going again? It`s still the backbone of the American economy. And we have to work to stimulate this economy when it`s safe to go back to work. And how are we going to make sure we`re safe to go back to work and workers are going to feel safe back at work?

VELSHI: These are good questions, and we are craving the answers to them. Thank you to the two of you for joining me tonight. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, thank you for joining us.

Coming up, black and Latino communities have been hit disproportionately hard by the health crisis caused by coronavirus, but they also stand to be very hard hit by the economic crisis.

Up next, we`re going to look at what`s happening in the Latino community and how much of the federal aid is actually getting to them.



ARMANDO ELENES, SECRETARY TREASURER, UNITED FARM WORKERS: Right now, farm workers are still working for the most part as usual. They live check-to- check. They don`t have the safety net that others do. They don`t even have access to unemployment insurance because a lot of them are undocumented. They want to be treated with dignity. They`re just trying to do work, and it`s dignified work that they`re doing.


VELSHI: Millions of Latinos are among the essential workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. When I say frontlines, they work so we can eat, we can function. And they`re in urgent need of protection. Latino communities are set to suffer a massive economic blow as they face wealth disparities that are rooted in generations of inequality.

A new national poll released today found that 65 percent of Latinos have lost their job, seen their hours or wages reduced, lost substantial business revenue, or have gone out of business altogether. NBC News Senior Writer Suzanne Gamboa reports, quote, "Coronavirus could decimate Latino wealth, which was hammered by the great recession. The crisis has either erased or is threatening to erase Latinos` decade-long climb back to financial stability."

Joining me now is Congressman Joaquin Castro. He`s a Democrat from Texas and the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He represents San Antonio where today thousands again lined up for miles at a food bank. That image is unbelievable.

Congressman, I want to talk to you, and it`s a bigger conversation than we can have right now about Latinos in general and wealth and challenges to them. But I want to talk to you about agricultural workers because they make up a massive proportion of our agricultural workers.

I`ve got a quote from a farm worker organizer named Lupe Gonzalo - he`s with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida - in which he says something quite poignant. "In non-coronavirus times, farm workers are already silent; they are not able to ask for drinking water or other basic human rights. Now, farm workers are not going to be able to demand that their bosses have additional places for them to wash their hands or ask for protective gear."

That`s even before we`re talking about $1,200 checks and extended unemployment, Congressman. We have a whole bunch of people in this country who are working under the radar, who are qualifying for nothing.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes - no, that`s right. And he`s absolutely right. This pandemic has not only exposed, but it`s exacerbated a lot of the inequities in American society. And you take farm workers as one example.

For many years, these were folks who were often ignored, not thought much about. There was a reluctance to bring them into the fold of American citizenship, for example, and yet they`re out there, during this pandemic, working probably longer hours than even they have ever worked to make sure that our grocery stores are well stocked.

And so I hope that not only will they get the protective gear that they need and the workplace protections that they need right now, but they`ll also get the economic relief that they deserve and, in the long term, that we will take into account the fact that when we needed them most, they came through for this country in a big way.

VELSHI: Yes. It`s kind of incredible, because if you didn`t think they were essential workers, you`re learning now when you have to eat that they are. You`re asking for some specific things. You and 36 other lawmakers have asked for legal protections from deportation for essential agricultural workers, direct financial assistance to agricultural employees to give them some things they don`t qualify for, food assistance to them, expanded child care for them.

And you`re asking for something Governor Murphy of New Jersey asked for the same thing, for the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS to extend work permits for immigrants, including those on DACA.

CASTRO: Yes, that`s absolutely right. There`s no reason that these folks - some of that workforce is undocumented. And there are four or five major American industries that would not exist the way that they do but for immigrant labor and some of that undocumented immigrant labor.

And there`s no reason during this pandemic when these are essential workers that we should even think about deporting them. They also deserve, as other workers do, like health care workers, sanitation workers, truckers, I think -they deserve some kind of hazard pay for making (inaudible) to be out there and to continue to work and to put themselves at risk.

VELSHI: When I look out the window here in Manhattan every night at 7 o`clock, we applaud the frontline workers. We`re talking about EMTs and police and doormen and delivery people. And some massive percentage of those delivery people are Latino. They`re Hispanic. They`re out there. They sometimes, in most cases, cannot make a choice not to be there, but they`re dropping off our food. They`re delivering our food. They`re opening people`s doors. They`re taking care of people on the street.

And there are a number of people in this country that are of mixed status in their family. Some of them have social security numbers, some of them have tax identification numbers because they actually pay tax, but they don`t qualify for the rebate.

CASTRO: Yes, that`s right. And this was a big debate during the CARES package. In the House version of that bill, the way that money was going to be - financial assistance was going to be distributed was under what is called individual tax identification numbers. Some people who are undocumented or other workers don`t have Social Security numbers, but they`re still out there either working hard or have been working hard. And they`re getting nothing.

But more than that, if you have somebody who is undocumented, who is married to a U.S. citizen and has U.S. citizen children, they are also getting nothing. The whole family gets nothing just because you have one person who may be undocumented. And that is also an incredible injustice.

VELSHI: Congressman, thank you for joining us. Thank you for your work on this front. Congressman Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.

That is tonight`s Last Word. I`m going to see you tomorrow morning starting at 8 a.m. right here on MSNBC for my normal weekend show.

And a big programming note for tomorrow. Watch Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt, Lizzo, Billie Eilish and more join forces for "One World: Together At Home," a global entertainment special to support the World Health Organization and the global fight to end COVID-19.

The event is going to be hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel. The pre-show starts tomorrow at 2 p.m. Eastern on NBC News NOW, and watch the special broadcast at 8 p.m. Eastern on all the networks of NBC News.

"The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" begins now.