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HHS Watchdog TRANSCRIPT: 5/4/20: The Last Word w/ Lawrence O. Donnell

Guests: Margaret Hamburg, Sharon Duclos, Dr. Sharon Duclos, Adam Schiff, Gene Sperling

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel. That is a great Pulitzer story and a great journalism story.

Rachel, I have to thank you for basically booking a very important guest in tonight`s show. Dr. Sharon Duclos who made an appearance on video from Iowa. Doctor in that very, very emotional press conference. She`s going to be with us tonight to discuss the situation there. But we know about her exclusively thanks to you and running that powerful video last week.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  Well, thank -- I`m really, really glad you`ve got her. I mean, the situation that she`s in, she and her colleagues are in Black Hawk County, Iowa is really illustrative, and the thing that makes -- I mean, there are a bunch -- there are a bunch of counties in the country right now who are dealing with huge numbers of cases without the resources to deal with them.

But Black Hawk County, her and her fellow local officials and health providers have been so eloquent and so outspoken in trying to explain the gravity of what they`re in, that it has attracted national attention and will change the course of how things go in Iowa because of it, just because she and her colleagues are so eloquent.

O`DONNELL:  And they certainly were living their lives where they didn`t think they would be in front of a national microphone in their lives, and suddenly, especially thanks to you bringing them to us, and not just the doctors, but others, the officials there, they really have told the story in a way that is invaluable and very hard to get from anyone else.

MADDOW:  Yes. They are brave and competent and clear-hearted folks. I`m really happy you got it. Well done, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  And Congressman Adam Schiff is going to join us, too, Rachel, with the latest on what the House of Representatives is trying to do. Congressman Schiff will be later in the show.

Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Excellent. Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you.

Well, John Kenneth Galbraith, President Kennedy`s ambassador to India, was the most famous economist in the world. By the time in the 1970s, he created a BBC documentary series entitled "The Age of Uncertainty." Professor Galbraith published a companion volume with the same title, "The Age of Uncertainty".

And the uncertainty that John Kenneth Galbraith was describing was the uncertainty created by science. The uncertainty created by knowledge. The uncertainty we`re living with tonight -- the uncertainty that surrounds the world tonight as we wonder what`s next in the coronavirus pandemic.

The uncertainty John Kenneth Galbraith was describing was the dramatic change in the previous 100 years or so in the relatively new body of knowledge known as economics. In the 19th century, Galbraith pointed out the economic theory was relatively simplistic and in the 20th century economic theory became more and more complex as our economic experience and our economic activities became more and more complex. And the increasing complexity of economic theory created increasing uncertainty about the effectiveness of economic policy. Which idea is better than the other?

Life was simpler centuries ago when the general consensus was that the earth was flat and Christopher Columbus sailed westward in the counterintuitive hope of reaching the east and suddenly the world was round, which meant the world was more complex. Scientists and scientists are attracted to the uncertainty. They venture off into the uncertainty to try to find some valuable certainties like vaccines.

Many people if not most of us are at minimum uncomfortable with uncertainty and in some cases utterly incapable of bearing any uncertainty at all. And so, when there is no certainty, they install certainty to ease their discomfort, some people turn to religion for such certainty.

The ever certain Pat Robertson said recently that God would end this pandemic if the American people would, quote, turn from their wicked ways. Robertson said, quote: You confess your sins and forsake them, and then he heals the land.

That kind of thinking had dominance for centuries until science got in the way, until science raised the uncertainty there might be something better to do in the face of a pandemic than confess our sins. Maybe we have to do more like wash our hands and not touch our faces and search for a vaccine and hope, hope in the face of the uncertainty that we don`t know if we will get the coronavirus even if we take every possible precaution that we can, the uncertainty that we don`t know how long we will be locked down in our homes, the uncertainty that we don`t know where we are tonight in the fight against the coronavirus.

Has it peaked? Is it generally trending down overall in this country, or are we just at a plateau? Is it going up? Is it going to go back up?

Dr. Anthony Fauci using his scientific knowledge and experience, has guaranteed us a second wave of the coronavirus, guaranteed it, removed uncertainty about a second wave. But is he right?

We can admire and respect Anthony Fauci and hope against hope that he is wrong about that second wave. We can hope that.

And so, even Anthony Fauci`s guarantee carries the mandatory uncertainty that all predictions must. No matter how authoritative because they are still just predictions.

And so, tonight, we wade deeper into the uncertainty again with new projections, reveal today showing dramatic increases in coronavirus cases and coronavirus deaths just when some states are increasingly loosening their restrictions on the belief that the worst is behind us. There is a limit to how much uncertainty each of us can bear before the strain of it just hurts. Ask any high school senior waiting for colleges to decide on their applications. The agonizing months of uncertainty, now ask the same high school seniors and their parents how it feels to be living with the uncertainty that the colleges they were accepted to might not actually be open to students in the fall.

We are all trapped in a maze of uncertainty, which has very little chance of being invaded by certainty any time soon. We are uncertain about everything in the coronavirus pandemic. We are uncertain about the number of people who have been killed by the coronavirus in America because the virus is killing people weeks before we knew it was in this country and because people have been dying at home without being tested for coronavirus either before or after death.

And so, I can report to you that the official reported number of coronavirus cases as of tonight is 1,182,994, but we are uncertain just how much that number understates the truth and I can report to you that we had officially 68,934 official reported deaths from coronavirus but we are uncertain as to how many more thousands of people have died from coronavirus in this country. And we are profoundly uncertain about how many more will die.

Professor Chris Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has been running a model of the coronavirus and Professor Murray`s model which has in the past been used by the White House has now been revised to project about 135,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States by early August.

Here is Professor Murray with Katy Tur today.


CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS & EVALUATION:  The big increase in our numbers is coming from taking into account the trends in mobility. People are out. They`re more active in the last week or 10 days and we`re seeing that there`s taking off of social distancing that has a direct impact how much contact and mobility that people will have. That gets factored into the model and that`s driving up the numbers.


O`DONNELL:  Professor Murray`s model predicted that we would be roughly exactly where we are today on the number of deaths and now, he`s predicting a dramatic increase.

"The New York Times" is reporting that the Trump administration has a model that it has not publicly released that projects that the death toll will double by June. The White House issued a statement saying that that model is a work in progress of sorts by some researchers and has not been used by the White House coronavirus task force.

Donald Trump himself has constantly revised his own imaginary model of the coronavirus death rate.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that`s a pretty good job we`ve done.

We have to be calm. It will go away.

Looks like we`ll be at about a 60,000 mark, which is 40,000 less than the lowest number thought of.

Look, we`re going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people.


O`DONNELL:  That was last night. The Trump model is now projecting 100,000 deaths and the Trump model has never been right. The Trump model has always under estimated what was coming.

The search for a coronavirus vaccine is filled with uncertainty. How long will that search take? How can that vaccine once discovered be manufactured and distributed to the world assuming we find a vaccine that really does work?

And in the meantime, we live with the uncertainty about antibodies, some antibody testing that`s already in use has been flagrantly inaccurate and proven inaccurate, and we are uncertain about how much protection antibodies provide to the people who have them.

If you get coronavirus and you then recover from it, are the antibodies there then going to make you immune from the coronavirus? We do not know.

Here is Dr. Najy Masri of Louisiana State University`s hospital. He has been keeping a video diary for us of life and death in New Orleans.



Currently at our hospital, we have two patients previously diagnosed and treated with COVID-19 and tested negative prior to discharge. They are now back testing positive. That`s scary.

Not only do we know that that virus is contagious, it`s deadly in a select population, now we have proof that what we thought was true immunity may not actually be protective. There`s a lot of people out there who subscribe to the theory that everyone should get this virus and therefore be protected from its effect. The so-called herd immunity theory which clearly doesn`t hold water if patients like this can get re-infection.

There`s other people that believe in immunity passports. That if you`ve been exposed to the virus, you should be getting a passport to roam around society freely. Well, again, that has holes in that theory if patients like these can be re-infected.

The only thing really that we know, the only thing that we are immune to right now is the truth, the honest truth, which is the fact that we actually don`t know enough about this virus to come up with a definitive plan on how to move forward.


O`DONNELL:  What we hope to do in this hour, every night, is give you as much guidance as we can to help you steady yourself in this age of uncertainty and begin tomorrow with hope.

Leading off our discussion tonight it Dr. Margaret Hamburg. She`s a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and former New York City commissioner of health.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

And I want you to take us right into the new uncertainties over these new projections that the death rate is going to keep going straight up.

DR. MARGARET HAMBURG, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER:  Well, you`re absolutely right. There is huge uncertainty that surrounds this unfolding pandemic and how best to control it. These new models tell us information that we should pay attention to.

Models, however, are simply that. They are models of different possible futures that depend on the assumptions that went into the models, what factors you choose to emphasize and how much weight you put on them, but it certainly gives pause when you look at the escalation in numbers and clearly, the escalation when you think about the relaxation of some of the social distancing that`s going on.

To me, it reinforces the message that we should not only pay attention to the models but we should look at the data that we have at hand, and we do know that there are certain criteria that should create the frame work for decision making about whether we`re ready to sort of begin to go back towards whatever the new normal will be and that is very important.

What is the rate of new cases? Is it coming down in your area and the rate of hospitalizations? Are your hospitals operating at full capacity or do you have some play in the system so that if you have more cases, you can manage them? Do you have adequate testing to be able to identify not only those who are clearly showing symptoms, but also looking at what are the rates in the community of as yet unrecognized spread of this virus, and importantly, in certain congregate settings like nursing homes or meatpacking plants where we know the risks of an intense explosion of new cases can occur rapidly and very seriously?

And then, do you have the public health infrastructure to track and trace those who are infected and make sure they are isolated and those who have been exposed that need to be quarantined while you determine if they are, in fact, going to get sick?

O`DONNELL:  I want to go to a point we just heard from Dr. Masri, which is this question of antibodies and there`s a lot of controversy around the testing because we`re discovering some of the antibody tests that have been rushed out don`t work, and I mean, in really big numbers, not a small margin of error.

But there`s the question of what antibodies, what kind of immunity if any do antibodies provide. When are we going to have certainty and how do we get to certainty about antibodies?

HAMBURG:  Well, it`s a critical question and it matters in our understanding of individual behavior, and this notion if you have antibodies you`ve been infected before and you`re somehow safe now to go back into either high risk settings if you`re a health care worker or frontline responder or, you know, a component of how we think about heading back into workplaces and other situations where there is larger gatherings of people.

It`s also very important as we think about what will make for a successful, effective, protective vaccine and it is an area where we need to drill down as deeply and as quickly as possible into the science. We need to look at the experience about infection and then risks of re-infection in other countries that have already been grappling with this coronavirus epidemic and we need to do very specific studies to understand, you know, sort of what does immune protection look like with this particular disease?

And important to both the research and our public health and medical care management is having quality tests that actually work. And I`m glad that today the FDA announced as I understand it that they`re going to be requiring all companies to submit data about the validity and reliability of these antibody tests. I think it was unfortunate that as we were in earlier stages of this outbreak, that a decision was made to exercise what`s called enforcement discretion and not require all companies to submit data about these tests because if you don`t know if they work, it doesn`t help you with managing patients. It doesn`t help you with actually doing the research needed to understand what antibodies mean.

O`DONNELL:  Let`s go to that uncertainty question about where we are in the timeline of this, which includes the timeline of how long we`ll be locked up at home, which can vary by region. And that`s the question of Dr. Anthony Fauci`s guarantee, his removal of uncertainty about a second wave. He has said unequivocally, there definitely is going to be a second wave.

Do you think we have certainty about a second wave?

HAMBURG:  Well, I think you`re absolutely correct that there is uncertainty about how all of this will unfold and a lot of it depends on what we do. Some of it depends on the virus itself and it`s clearly a very formidable foe. We might have the scenario where we have rising cases into the fall. I hope that`s not the case and we`ll continue to exercise, you know, good judgment and prudent public health practice in terms of managing social distancing and reducing opportunities for spread.

We may be successful at reducing numbers quite significantly and have another wave because that`s the nature of the virus, and it will come back as people become more mobile and interactive and the restrictions are loosened. We may have a series of waves. It may not be one large wave. It could be a bunch of, you know, smaller but significant bursts of disease in different places across the country.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Margaret Hamburg, as I thank you for joining us once again tonight, I also want to thank you as a physician for using your medical degree for public service. We all know there is ways your medical degree could have been used in many, much more financially rewarding directions and all of you physicians who have made this choice are very, very important to our public health tonight. So, thank you for that.

HAMBURG:  Well, thank you and thank you for the work you do.

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

When we come back, Dr. Sharon Duclos will join us. You first met her as I told -- as Rachel and I discussed on video last week on Rachel`s program when she made a deeply moving statement in a press conference in Iowa about what the coronavirus pandemic centered in the meat packing plants is doing to her community. Dr. Sharon Duclos will join us next.



DR. SHAON DUCLOS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, PEOPLE`S COMMUNITY HEALTH CLINIC:  I think about what would the person say to me who just died from this? How would they advocate helping other people not go through what they just went through? So that`s what I think about.

So, for the other businesses, churches, restaurants, think about your community and think about your actions and think about how you can best serve the greater good.


O`DONNELL:  That was last Wednesday when Rachel first introduced us to Dr. Sharon Duclos who will join us in a moment. She`s the medical director of a local clinic in Waterloo, Iowa.

And since Dr. Duclos pleaded with Iowans to keep social distancing, there have been 2,860 more confirmed cases of coronavirus and 40 more deaths from coronavirus in the statement of Iowa.

Dr. Duclos` clinic is in Black Hawk County which has not reopened for business as much as other areas but where at least 15 people have died of coronavirus including two reported yesterday. Since early March, Black Hawk County has seen a consistent increase in the number of cases. There are now 1,546 cases in a county of 130,000 people. In Black Hawk County, up to 90 percent of the cases have been tied to Tyson`s largest pork processing plant, which is in Waterloo. That plant is just four miles from Dr. Duclos` clinic.

Today, Tyson said the Waterloo plant will remain closed for now.

And joining us now is Dr. Sharon Duclos. She`s a family physician and chief medical officer of People`s Community Health Clinic in Waterloo.

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

And, first of all, to that concern you expressed last week, the worry about your own staff, how are you and your staff at the clinic doing and is everyone healthy?

DUCLOS:  We`re actually doing really good. The majority of my staff are healthy. We`ve been quite lucky that we have not had many positive COVID staff.

But we continue to be diligent about wearing our PPE as we take care of people, so that I gave -- I gave an order to all my providers and my order was you cannot get sick. That`s an order. So I`m your boss. You cannot get sick.

O`DONNELL:  Well, give me that order, too, doctor. I`ll take that order. I`ll appreciate it.

Doctor, what was the impact of your statement locally that it was televised locally, it was also televised nationally last week, and do you have a sense of what you -- that what you were trying to communicate to people in Iowa got through to people in Iowa?

DUCLOS:  So you hear a lot when you care for patients and you really feel for everybody right now because there is so much uncertainty. So as I`m working with one patient who has a family member who is struggling with the COVID infection in the hospital, then I move on to my next patient who is currently laid off and doesn`t understand why this has to happen.

So it`s either feast or famine for a lot of people. What we noticed was is because you always doubt yourself, God, is this really helping? Is it making a difference, this social distancing?

And then when, all of a sudden, we started to see our positives and we realized it was positive the person works at Tyson`s, positive the person works at Tyson`s, then you`re like, we have a problem, you know, 2,700 people. And our urgent care exploded just within the next, you know, week to two weeks it just exploded with the number of sick people.

What was even more profound is when you got those positive test results back, then you started to make the phone calls. So, tell me who all lives in your home? Where does this person work? And so, you realize it is an underserved population like we`re used to treating and then there is several people that live in the home, eight to 15 people.

So, Joe goes to work at Tyson`s, he comes home. He`s married. He`s married to somebody that works in a long-term care facility at another manufacturing plant.

And then that`s when the weight of what is going on that you realize, oh, my, here it goes. Here goes this spread. And that`s exactly what happened.

And so, our plea was is that social distancing is working, and just that one manufacturing plant -- I just remember thinking, oh my gosh, this is just one plant. We had people lined up outside. We were trying to do the social distancing, getting them in rooms as quick as we can, making them wait in their cars so they stay away from other people.

We didn`t want them to go to the pharmacy. We would run medicine to their car so they didn`t have to walk through our building. But it was explosive, and overwhelming.

And then again, the phone calls, and I think then to me the follow-up was - - is here Joe, I`m using Joe as just a generic name, he goes home. He`s trying to provide for his family. You know, he`s trying to make a living, and then what happens is he gives it to his parents who he`s been taking care of and now his elderly parents are in the hospital and they`re struggling and not going to make it. And I think that`s just the whole - he just feel that pressure and you feel for patients going through that.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Doctor, how do you handle it yourself when you talk about you feel that pressure?

DR. DUCLOS: I eat, which is not the best way to handle pressure. I exercise, which is better. What I`ve told my staff is doesn`t turn to alcohol because it only makes matters worse and then talk about it. I think it`s important for everybody to talk about it.

I think we can all talk about the numbers, the most important thing to realize today is uncertain. We don`t know how long this is going to go on? And we have to live with the uncertainty. So how can we live with the uncertainty and take care of ourselves?

And it is about the best we can do in the social distancing, washing your hands, wearing the mask out in public and not to protect yourself but to decrease the spread of germs so you`re not passing that on to someone else. So there are some things that we can do to help each other and right now I think that`s what we need to focus on.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Sharon Duclos, thank you very much for joining us tonight. You`re the hero in our lineup tonight and please come back from time to time to let us know how things are going there and help guide us through this uncertainty. We really appreciate it.

DR. DUCLOS: Thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. When we come back, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will join us. We`ll get Adam Schiff`s reaction to the White House forbidding Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying for Congress.


O`DONNELL: Dr. Anthony Fauci said today in an interview with National Geographic, "Everything about the step wise evolution over time strongly indicates that this virus evolved in nature and then jumped species".

That hasn`t stopped the Trump Administration pulling the President and the Secretary of State from trying to blame China for deliberately creating the virus in a laboratory and then letting it loose on the world first by killing China`s own people.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Anthony Fauci in this interview today has very little patience for any discussions about what might or might not have happened in Chinese laboratory?

He`s saying look, this was transmitted from bats. We`ve seen this pattern before. We know how to detect it. It`s not a mystery for him.

ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA): Well look, the President, as you know, a couple days ago said that he has high confidence that this virus escaped the lab. Secretary Pompeo said there is enormous evidence of that. If there is anything to have high confidence about in that regard or enormous evidence they have yet to share it with Congress.

And we are told that we are currently informed on the latest intelligence. So I don`t know where they`re getting this apart from either expressing their desire or they`re withholding information from Congress but I don`t see what would be gained by doing so.

I think what they are clearly trying to do is deflect attention away from the administration`s terrible mishandling of the virus and all of the false narrative that the President was putting out early on about this going away on its own, being no worse than the flu that we`re going to contain it down to zero and so they have chosen to go after China.

Look, there is a lot to criticize China about it I don`t want to make any mistakes about that. They should have been far more transparent about the human to human transmission and they did conceal things. But whether they can get the intelligence agencies to somehow search for the conclusion they want to reach, that`s not how the agencies are supposed to work.

And there is a danger in the administration either putting out theories that cannot be substantiated or deliberately provoking a fight during the middle of a pandemic.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Fauci also said today about that point that President Trump made that at a certain point, he said it was just going to disappear. Dr. Fauci said I don`t think there is a chance that this virus is just going to disappear. It`s going to be around and if given the opportunity, it will re resurge.

We`ll have a few months, May, June, July August to prepare. We need to not only have tests but to make sure the people who need tests get tested so that by the time we get to September, we don`t have this dialogue continually fixated on testing.

Shame on us if we don`t have enough tests by the time this so-called return might come in the fall or winter. These kinds of statements that Dr. Fauci is making to National Geographic are clearly against what President Trump is saying in the message President Trump is pointing out and it sounds like the kind of testimony you would get if he was not banned from testifying to Congress.

SCHIFF: Well, I think that`s exactly right and the President does a tremendous disservice to the American people when he precludes some of the foremost experts from testifying before Congress and sharing what they know.

Now it is clear why the President doesn`t want Fauci to come to Congress even though he`s allowing Dr. Fauci to speak at these White House propaganda sessions for the President. And it`s because a part, you know, and away from the glare of the President, he`s concerned that Dr. Fauci will be even more candid with the country about the dangers of this virus and feel more free to contradict the false claims that the President is making.

That`s a very poor reason to keep someone from Congress during a pandemic. But look, it is consistent, completely consistent with his efforts to replace Inspector General with his efforts to silence those who disagree with him and now hiss effort to deflect responsibility on to China for many of the administration`s own failings. So it`s part and parcel of the President`s modus operandi but a real disservice to - continuing disservice to the country.

O`DONNELL: Chairman Schiff, I would like to talk you about the President`s moves against Inspector General and including the Inspector General who started what became the impeachment process at effect by the Intelligence Community`s Inspector General.

If you could stay with us over the commercial break, we`d like to do that when we come back and including the Health and Human Services Inspector General that the President has gotten rid off. If you could give us a moment, we`ll be right back with Chairman Adam Schiff.

SCHIFF: Of course.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: Donald Trump continues to get rid of the Inspectors General who tell truths that he doesn`t want to hear. The latest was Christi Gram who was the Principal Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.

She assured a report saying that there was a severe shortage of testing and testing supplies in this country in hospitals throughout this country and that was enough for Donald Trump to get rid of her.

Congressman Adam Schiff is back with us and Chairman Schiff, we`ve seen this before, Donald Trump`s attack on the Inspectors General and it includes anyone who says the wrong thing of Donald Trump`s ear during this pandemic.

SCHIFF: That`s all too true and of course, this is very dangerous. The Inspector General system was a post Watergate Reform designed to deal with the abuses of that era and now those abuses are back.

The President has systematically gone through and got rid of the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community who reported to Congress that a whistle blower complaint was being withheld in violation of law.

He got rid of the Inspector General that was going to oversee the release of the pandemic relief funds that could hold the President accountable whether the President was using favoritism or cronyism in the allocation of relief funding or PPE to different states.

And now going after the Health and Human Services Inspector General who reported all too accurately that she was hearing from hospitals all around the country that they did not have the ventilators or the protective gear or the testing capacity while the President was saying that all of that was going perfectly well and because she contradicted because the facts contradicted his preferred narrative.

He views that as the ultimate disloyalty. But the result is a lack of accountability and one final point on this, Lawrence it doesn`t have to be this way. The Congress could stand up to this President but we have the confluence of a President who tramples on these norms and he is not guided by ethics or anything else except self interest apparently.

And a GOP in Congress that is too weak or too unwilling to do anything about it. If the Republicans would join us, we could put requirements into law today that say the President cannot remove an Inspector General except for cause.

I think when he`s gone, we`ll be able to do it but Republicans will not defend their own institutions right now and it means that there`s a real lack of accountability during a pandemic and that is deadly dangerous.

O`DONNELL: And we can`t act even slightly surprised by this because you told us this was going to happen in your argument in the Senate impeachment trial.

SCHIFF: Well, we certainly told the Senators that he was not going to change, and there was no way to constrain him that he is who he is and he would continue to operate the way he had. And indeed, that`s exactly what we`ve seen since.

The one thing I think we dramatically under stated is when we asked the question if you found him guilty, do you really need to remove him given that there is another election only nine months away how much damage could he really do?

We said a lot but little did we know just how great the casualties would be? Some days we lose the equivalent of the number of people we lost on 9/11 and, you know, I think that there is no way we could have foreseen just how tragic his damage would be in his remaining months in the administration.

O`DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff thank you for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, we are racing past a recession toward a depression. The likes of which we haven`t seen since the 1930s when Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt crafted the new economic policies necessary to lift us out of that depression.

This depression is very different. This depression pushes us into an economic age of uncertainty unlike any other. Gene Sperling was an Economic Adviser to President Clinton and President Obama. Gene Sperling will join us next.


O`DONNELL: We now have the largest number of claims for unemployment benefits in the history of the unemployment program. 30.3 million first- time unemployment claims have been filed just in the last six weeks.

And those unemployment claims understate the real unemployment that has hit America since so many people have been struggling to file and haven`t been able to file within their state`s systems that are overburdened.

And so we are in an economic age of uncertainty tonight unlike any other we have experienced. Joining us now is Gene Sperling. He is the Former Director of the National Economic Council for Presidents Obama and Clinton. He is also the author the new book "Economic Dignity" which will be published tomorrow, which means it`s available online for purchase at midnight tonight.

Gene Sperling, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And, gene, with these unemployment numbers, we`re racing past anything that we ever described as a recession before, and we are getting ever closer every day to what FDR inherited as President in the 1930s, an all-out depression, which is the ultimate robbery of economic dignity from a population.

GENE SPERLING, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISOR, PRESIDENTS CLINTON & OBAMA: Yes, absolutely. You know, I mean I think that obviously we`re going to be seeing shocking numbers this Friday on the number of jobs lost, on the unemployment rate, over 20 million, maybe over 20 percent.

But, you know, as you say, this is that moment. This is a moment of truth on economic dignity for our country. You know, Lawrence, you and I both - we both have one thing in common. We both really like Martin Luther King`s speech to the sanitation work - at the sanitation workers strike in 1968.

And what did he say? He said not only did all labor had dignity, but that the sanitation worker and the physician were both essential to our health, to our well-being, and that might have seemed kind of idealistic, but not now.

Right now it`s very real. And I think the recognition of what it means - of the value of farm workers and deliverers and home health aides and domestic workers has never been higher. But we are not having that FDR moment yet where we say that we recognize that dignity, and we`re going to treat people with that level of dignity.

And just take, for example, the discussion you were having earlier. You know, people working in the meat processing and poultry, those are among the most dangerous occupations. They`re poorly regulated. In the poultry industry, some people have had to wear diapers because they couldn`t have time for bathroom breaks.

And to have the President of the United States order you back to work as an essential worker and then take away the responsibility of your employer to ensure you are safe, that is an example of treating people without the kind of basic level of dignity.

And the question for us is going to be not just do we have the kind of essential workers bill of rights that Ro Khanna and Elizabeth Warren have talked about which we should, but whether this is going to make us rethink our economic compact, whether we`re going to have a greater economic dignity compact and have a new, new deal.

And I think if this moment doesn`t push us towards that, I don`t know what will.

O`DONNELL: Well, Gene, what strikes me is it did - the depression did push us toward our first major steps toward economic dignity through FDR`s new deal urged on him by Elizabeth Perkins. And that was at a time when the country was bankrupt and, you know, Republicans could argue Federal Government cannot afford this.

We cannot afford these interventions. We`re going to hear those arguments in this situation where we can - you know, we can afford to bail out certain corporations, but we cannot afford the kind of support for workers that you`re calling for.

SPERLING: Right. I mean, look, we can`t afford to spend any money that`s wasted, that`s on people who don`t need it, on large corporations that are going to give them unjust enrichment, where it`s not connected to them helping workers, which is exactly what President Trump and his team are calling for.

But believe me, we can afford every penny that helps make people whole, that gives them 100 percent replacement on unemployment, or that does the type of things Congresswoman Jayapal and Bernie Sanders and Mark Warner have been talking about to ensure that people who would be laid off through their company are kept on the payroll.

We can afford to do universal paid sick leave and to deal with the tens of millions who may be losing their health care not just because it`s the right thing morally, but because if we do those things, we will have - we`ll be safer.

We`ll have less community spread. And so I think we`ve seen some movements towards that new, new deal. We`ve seen gig workers getting unemployment insurance. We`ve seen some move towards universal paid sick leave and perhaps a greater impetus to the idea that there should be at least a $15 minimum wage and universal health care.

But I think the real fight is going to be are we going to get this now and then turn our heads, or is this going to - or are these temporary reforms going to be part of our larger and longer-term social compact?

O`DONNELL: Gene, what`s the basic takeaway you want readers to get from your book, "Economic Dignity"?

SPERLING: That our north star for economics shouldn`t be about a metric like GDP or productivity. It should be about what our ultimate aspiration is for lifting up human happiness, fulfillment. That`s what economics should be about.

And I wanted to define economic dignity in a way that it could be that North Star, that it means three things. It means the ability to care for your family, to be able to pursue your potential and purpose, and to be able to work without the type of domination and humiliation that we still see today even before our eyes.

O`DONNELL: That is the single best definition of governing policy toward economics that I have heard.