IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

WI Supreme Court TRANSCRIPT: 5/13/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O. Donnell

Guests: Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, Tom Steyer, Dr. James Hildreth, Howard Koh, Ron Klain, Nannette Barragan


And I watched your interview with the governor of Wisconsin and he said the state is the Wild West now that the Supreme Court there has struck down his stay-at-home order, and all of the counties might just be trying to make their own decisions. Dane County has said --

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST, "VELSHI": Seventy-two of them.

O`DONNELL:  Dane County has said they will continue the stay-at-home order, Madison is the big city in Dane County, the mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, is going to join us in this hour. So we`ll find out what she says is going to happen there tomorrow in her city and her county. We don`t know yet.

VELSHI:  It`s going to be an interesting situation. A lot of people around the country, including Michigan, are watching to see how this plays out. It doesn`t seem like the best thing for public health but we shall see, Lawrence.

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

VELSHI:  All right.

O`DONNELL:  Well, Donald Trump who will never buy or ride in an electric vehicle that is not a golf cart is now a big fan of Elon Musk because Elon Musk called California`s government, quote, fascist, for issuing a stay-at- home order that closed Elon Musk`s Tesla manufacturing plant in California. Elon Musk who knows as much as viruses as Donald Trump had predicted that there would be zero cases of coronavirus in the United States by the end of April. April, the month that turned out to be the deadliest month in our lifetimes.

This week, Elon Musk decided to defy California`s stay-at-home order and forced his workers to come back to work at his Tesla plant under threats of possibly losing some of their benefits and possibly losing their eligibility to collect unemployment benefits. "The New York Times" reports tonight that Tesla is now negotiating with county officials about how to compile with new safety regulations as the plant resumes production.

None of what Elon Musk has done is typical of what businesses in California have been doing under these stay-at-home orders. The people of California and California businesses have been very supportive of Governor Gavin Newsom`s approach to contain the coronavirus and we`ll be joined later in this hour by the person who Governor Newsom appointed to a new task force to find the safest way for California businesses to reopen.

He was a very successful businessman himself, now concentrating on climate issues and you will recognize him from the debate stage as former presidential candidate Tom Steyer. He will join us later in this hour with his plan to keep the coronavirus contained as California gradually reopens and if he has one, his plan to contain Elon Musk.

And so we are once again back to where it all began with the Trump administration lying about the numbers. That was the first order of business for the first Trump White House press secretary who was ordered to lie about the number of people who showed up for Donald Trump`s inauguration. Donald Trump couldn`t bear the shame of drawing a much smaller crowd than the inaugurations of President Obama. And so, the solution of Donald Trump with numbers he doesn`t like, whether they be associated with measurements of his wealth or his income or his crowd size or his IQ score, the Trump solution is always to simply lie.

"The Daily Beast" reports President Donald Trump and members of his coronavirus task force are pushing officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change how the agency works with states to count coronavirus related deaths and they`re pushing for revisions that could lead to far fewer deaths being counted than originally reported according to five administration officials working on the government`s response to the pandemic.

Lying about his non-existent billions of dollars or his crowd sizes, that`s one thing. Lying about these deaths is something else entirely. As of tonight, the United States now has 1,397,416 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

In his Senate testimony yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed with Senator Bernie Sanders the real number is significantly higher because we have only tested about 2 percent of the American population. When Senator Sanders suggested that the real number could be 50 percent higher, Dr. Fauci did not disagree.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES:  Most of us feel that the number of deaths are likely higher than that number because given the situation particularly in New York City, when they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system that there may have been people who died at home who did have COVID who were not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital.


O`DONNELL:  And so, as of tonight, the United States has suffered 84,506 reported deaths from coronavirus, and now, Donald Trump wants to deny that number. The modeling that has so far proved relatively accurate on the coronavirus spread in the United States says that on August 27th, the day Donald Trump is scheduled to be officially renominated as the Republican Party`s candidate for president, the United States of America will have double, double the number of deaths from coronavirus than it has tonight.

On Donald Trump`s renomination day, the model now projects that we will have about 160,000 confirmed deaths from coronavirus and we can be guaranteed in Donald Trump`s acceptance speech that night that that number will be ignored or lied about. Donald Trump has lied about deaths before. The most loathsome lie Donald Trump told as a presidential candidate was that he lost hundreds of friends on 9/11.


DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center -- the World -- excuse me. I lost hundreds of friends.


O`DONNELL:  When Donald Trump said that in the South Carolina debate, I immediately tweeted he was lying. The next day, Donald Trump changed the hundreds of friends to many, many friends. He said he lost many friends on 9/11 and I immediately tweeted that was also a lie.

The truth is that Donald Trump lost zero friends on 9/11, zero. He did not attend a single 9/11 funeral, not one.

And what he was trying to do for his political gain was to steal the grief of thousands of people who lost family members and loved ones and friends on 9/11. Donald Trump was trying to steal their grief and make it his own and turn it into political currency. And that same Donald Trump is now trying to steal the grief of the thousands of American families who have lost a loved one to coronavirus, the thousands upon thousands of Americans who lost a friend to coronavirus.

Donald Trump wants to steal their grief and make it disappear just throw it away, just pretend that that grief and those deaths do not exist. It is impossible for Donald Trump to dishonor the American dead in this pandemic more than denying the truth of their deaths, to pretend their deaths did not happen as to pretend their lives did not happen, it is to pretend that their lives did not end in a previously inconceivable way, in a hospital bed alone in a room, no family allowed, no hand holding at the bedside on that final day, in that final moment, and then no funeral, no memorial service of any kind where the grieving could gather, where they could wrap their arms around each other to try to contain that grief.

Donald Trump is going to dishonor all of that. Moral cartographers have in the past believed they mapped the extent of the depravity of Donald Trump but there`s always more, always. Now that Donald Trump`s reelection plan is to lie about the number of deaths from coronavirus, Donald Trump knows that he is going to have to publicly disagree with the government`s leading expert on the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

And so today, Donald Trump decided to do that more forcefully than he has in the past. Donald Trump using absolutely zero scientific authority or intelligence, today tried to contradict this statement that Dr. Fauci made yesterday in his Senate testimony about reopening schools.


FAUCI:  The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far. Even at the top speed we`re going, we don`t see a vaccine playing in the ability of individuals to get back to school this term. What they really want is to know if they are safe, and that`s the question that will have to be do with what we discussed earlier about testing.


O`DONNELL:  And today, here`s what Donald Trump had to say about that.


TRUMP:  I was surprised by his answer, actually, because, you know, it`s just -- to me, it`s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools. The only thing that would be acceptable is professors, teachers, et cetera, over a certain age should take it easy for another few weeks, four weeks, five weeks, who knows, whatever it might be.


O`DONNELL:  Not an acceptable answer. That`s from the person who said this country was going to go from 15 cases of coronavirus straight down to zero in response to a reporter`s question. Not an acceptable answer.

That`s from the person who America and the world and history must never forget said this.


O`DONNELL:  And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. You`re going to have to use medical doctors. It sounds interesting to me.


O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion tonight, Ron Klain, a former senior aide to President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who served as the chief of the Ebola task force during the Obama administration. And Dr. Howard Koh, he is the former assistant secretary for health in the Obama administration. He`s a professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

Professor, I want to get your reaction to the Trump administration trying to force the CDC to recalculate the number of dead from coronavirus.

DR. HOWARD KOH, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION:  Well, as a physician and a scientist and former assistant secretary for health, I find these developments very disturbing. In a crisis like this, we need the best science and the best data and the best information possible to guide us into the future.

Everybody knows that the number of cases and the number of deaths right now are an estimate. Everybody agrees that they`re undercounted actually. We haven`t had accurate numbers on the cases because the testing has been slow to ramp up.

As Dr. Fauci mentioned, the number of deaths have been under-counted, as well, because there are people who have died at home without testing, died in nursing homes without testing, so these are issues of data and science that are critically important to address. Right now, we are wrestling with how to reopen schools and businesses going forward and in the fall, we may yet have another wave of COVID along with seasonal flu.

So, right now, data and science and facts are critically important that got us into the future.

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, here is the president trying to get the number of dead to change to be pushed down. Obviously, he is intent on lying about it from this point forward and at the same time, suppressing CDC guidelines about how to manage different avenues of reopening and what thresholds you need to meet for example to reopen a school or to reopen a business. They don`t want any of those guidelines going out because they`re stricter than Donald Trump wants.

RON KLAIN, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION EBOLA CZAR:  Yes, I mean, Donald Trump is launched a war on the facts. He`s launched a war on Dr. Fauci. I wish he was fighting as hard as against this virus.

Tens of thousands of the 80,000 deaths are unnecessary due to the administration`s bundling of this, and the more they try to sweep it under the rug, the more they try to deny the existence of the virus, deny its extent, deny its consequences, the less likely they are to get the response going forward. That`s how we got into this mess in the first place.

The president spent January and February denying this was a problem and so, we`re behind. And now, he wants to downgrade the problem so it won`t ramp up.

The things we need to do remain the same, Lawrence. Whether the president admits or denies them. We need testing ramped up, we need contact tracing ramped up. We need to accelerate work on therapeutics and accelerate on vaccines.

The president can lie about facts all they want. People are feeling this in their lives. And there`s one final fact that even his own government is being honest about, which is that 35 million Americans have lost their jobs, because of the bungled response here. And that fact isn`t going to go away and Americans know if they`re employed or if they aren`t employed. It would be very hard for the president to spin that.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Koh, I want to get your reaction to what, basically, this dispute between Anthony Fauci and Donald Trump, and Anthony Fauci`s statement about reopening schools and his concerns about that and the fact that we will not have a virus when it comes time for the fall late August to -- I`m sorry, a vaccine late August to reopen schools with the benefit of a vaccine and that they`re going to have to be very, very careful steps.

State schools in California announcing they will not be welcoming students back. And Donald Trump saying we absolutely have to reopen schools in the fall.

KOH:  Well, I have the great honor of working closely with Dr. Fauci when I was assistant secretary for health, and Tony is universally respected as an outstanding researcher and scientist and health expert. He has guided our country through so many health threats in the past whether it`s HIV, or Zika or Ebola.

And so, in a time like this, he offers outstanding experienced, high-level scientific advice and he`s always very careful and very cautious. He served a number of presidents from both sides of the aisle. So at a time like this, all officials, the president and all government leaders should be listening carefully to Dr. Fauci`s advice. It`s the best science available to us as we move forward.

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, how much more of this -- you worked with Dr. Fauci in the Obama administration. How much more of this can Dr. Fauci take, the president of the United States saying Dr. Fauci`s answers are unacceptable?

KLAIN:  Well, I think as Dr. Koh noted, Dr. Fauci serves since the Reagan administration and I think he`ll continue to serve because he does his duty and he believes that what he`s doing and it`s true is saving lives every day. I think that -- so I think he will take it.

I mean, look, he understands that this is a life or death struggle for many families and while the president trying to publicly ridicule him and criticize him can`t be pleasant, what he`s doing, which is standing up for the truth, trying to give the Americans the best medical advice is saving lives, and I don`t think Tony Fauci will walk away from that post.

But I think a lot of Americans will suffer needlessly because the president is doing whatever he can to suppress the truth about what Tony Fauci thinks, to deny it, to negate it, and most importantly, to not make it the policy of his administration. And so, I think Tony Fauci is not going to give up on this job, not going to give up on this fight. But I wish it wasn`t a fight, I wish the president would do what five predecessors, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, has done, which is to take his advise as the best advice on infectious disease that our government has.

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain and Dr. Howard Koh, thank you both for starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

KLAIN:  Thank you, Lawrence.

KOH:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  Thank you.

Programming note, tomorrow night at this hour, we will present a LAST WORD special, Joe Biden with Stacey Abrams. Presidential candidate Joe Biden will be with us for the entire hour. And in the second half of our discussion, we will be joined by Stacey Abrams who has been working to ensure fair voting practices in the 2020 election, which has become much more of a challenge in the year of the coronavirus pandemic. It will be Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams first ever joint television appearance.

And you viewers at home will have a chance to participate, go to to submit a question for Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams tomorrow night, at 10:00 p.m., right here on MSNBC.

And up next, what is likely to be another devastatingly bad hearing for Donald Trump in the House of Representatives will start tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Washington Time, when a whistle blower from the Department of Health and Human Services will describe how he believes Donald Trump`s failure of the pandemic will lead to, quote, these are his words, the darkest winter in modern history. That the next.


O`DONNELL:  Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Washington time, Trump administration whistle blower Dr. Rick Bright will testify to Congress that the United States is running out of time to prevent what he calls his words, the darkest winter in modern history. That is in his opening statement, which was released today.

Dr. Bright mourns: Our window of opportunity is closing if we fail to develop a national coordinated response based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. Without clear planning and implantation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history.

Dr. Rick Bright, the government`s top vaccine expert says he was ousted from his position because he resisted efforts to push unproven drugs supported by the president, he will testify that his correct predictions about the threat of the virus and shortages of medical supplies were dismissed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other administration officials.

In an interview with CBS News last week, Dr. Bright gave a preview of what we might be hearing in tomorrow morning`s hearing in the House of Representatives.


DR. RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DIRECTOR, BARDA:  We see too many doctors and nurses now dying, and I was thinking that we could have done more to get those masks and those supplies to them sooner, and if we had, would they still be alive today?


O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congresswoman Nanette Barragan of California. She`s a member of Energy and Commerce Subcommittee that will hear Dr. Bright`s testimony tomorrow.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

What -- what are you planning to question Dr. Bright about? What angle of this will you be going at?

REP. NANETTE BARRAGAN (D-CA):  Well, Lawrence, I think when you read Dr. Bright`s complaint, what`s striking is the difference between what public health experts along with him were gathering and saying behind the scenes, and what the president and the administration was publicly putting out in the huge disconnect.

So I`m going to ask him about that and of basically try to make sure that we understand -- that Congress understands what the administration knew and when.

And we need to be able to get to the facts. This is something that Dr. Bright`s opening testimony says. It`s very important we get to the truth and that we make sure that we base our decisions on science.

That`s not what was happening if you take a look at Dr. Bright`s complaint and I think we`re going to hear more about that tomorrow.

O`DONNELL:  I just want to make clear for the audience. It`s a standard procedure with congressional committees that opening statement testimony is released the day before. The witnesses are required to submit it to the committee the day before. That`s why we have it now.

So, Congresswoman, it gives us a pretty strong idea of the outlines of what he`s going to say, but there is a lot of possible detail we can find out tomorrow about exactly what Alex Azar did, what other named officials in the various departments did or did not do in response to what Dr. Bright was saying.

BARRAGAN:  Absolutely, and I think that`s going to be the heart of the testimony tomorrow that many of us who are going to go through, I say many members of Congress are concerned about, whether he`s raising the alarm bell early on about the need to get more protective equipment and more masks. He goes into a whole conversation in his emails about the need to ramp up to -- to get the syringes and the needles we need so when we do get a vaccine.

The entire time, it seems like given his testimony and given the complaint, that they just weren`t taking him seriously. So, the two things here that I think are the big points are, the truth and science were being silenced with politics.

I think that`s something needs to be clear, that the one of the big points and that he`s giving out his contracts to people based on cronyism, based on connections, and they weren`t basing it on science and experts like him, and that`s a concern we`ll get to the bottom of tomorrow.

O`DONNELL:  We can probably bet that there will be some kind of Donald Trump distraction he tries to throw up tomorrow, something histrionic, to take people`s attention off of this hearing.

But with Dr. Bright testifying at this point, at exactly the same point when we`re getting other corroborating stories like administration obviously suppressing CDC guidelines for reopening of schools, reopening of businesses, Dr. Bright is not going to be there without corroborating information coming from other sources as we`ve learned.

BARRAGAN:  Well, his complaint is in a lot of emails, and certainly, we have a second witness who`s going to back up the testimony of Dr. Bright and we can`t be distracted by what the president puts out there. The president will do something to distract. We know that, that`s his M.O.

What we have to focus on is what Dr. Bright has to say about what we need to do to prepare.

As you mentioned in the introduction, Dr. Bright is concerned that if we don`t prepare looking forward and do what we need, we are going to have the darkest winter of this year and modern history, and we can`t allow that to happen. And that`s why I think it`s I`m imperative that Congress have this hearing tomorrow and not be distracted and hopefully the media isn`t distracted either and focuses on what Dr. Bright is saying, so that Congress can take a look at what he`s saying and we can implement things and have the oversight that really we need to hear from him on what needs to be done.

He -- in his opening testimony as well, Lawrence, ties (ph) Dr. Fauci and the importance of Dr. Fauci and his testimony on making sure that we`re doing things appropriately based on science. And so, here you have the medical experts, the people who know what they are doing, we`ve got to listen to them and not to the politics of this administration and what they`re trying to tell the public because there`s no doubt they have been misleading the public and that`s where I am (AUDIO GAP) on my line of questioning.

O`DONNELL:  Congresswoman Nanette Barragan, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We will be watching the hearing tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

BARRAGAN:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, the Wisconsin Supreme Court controlled by conservatives struck down on a 4-3 vote the Democratic governor`s stay- at-home order today but it`s not clear what that will actually mean in Wisconsin tomorrow. At least one county announced they will not lift the stay at home policy. We`ll be joined next by the Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin to find out what`s going to happen there tomorrow.


O`DONNELL: Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Democratic Governor Tony Evers` stay-at-home order which had been extended until May 26. It was a 4 to 3 decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Included in the four deciding votes was conservative Judge Daniel Kelly who last month lost his re-election campaign to the Supreme Court to liberal Joel Karofsky who will be sworn in to that position on August 1.

The Milwaukee journal Sentinel reports the ruling "will force the democratic governor and Republican controlled legislature to work together on the state`s response to the ebbs and flows of the outbreak - a dynamic the two sides have rarely been able to achieve before."

A poll released yesterday by the Marquette University law school found that 69 percent of Wisconsin registered voters think the stay-at-home order is an appropriate reaction. Ali Velshi interviewed Governor Tony Evers tonight.


GOV. TONY EVERS (D) WISCONSIN: People in Wisconsin have stuck to it. Staying at home, making sure that they`re doing the physical distancing. We`re doing the right things and unfortunately in this one failed swoop four judges who didn`t really care about what the statutes talk about, have thrown our state into chaos.

We`re the Wild West Ali. There are there are no restrictions at all across the state of Wisconsin. The Cavan League in the state has sent messages, emails to their members saying, we`re open tonight and we`re going to have more cases, we`re going to have more deaths.

And it`s a sad - it`s a sad occasion for the state. I can`t tell you how disappointed I am.


O`DONNELL: After the court`s ruling, Dane county announced that it will not lift the stay at home restrictions in that county. Madison is the largest city in Dane county. Joining us now the Democratic Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, Satya Rhodes-Conway. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

You just heard the governor call it the Wild West, your state of Wisconsin, which we think of as more mild mannered than that usually but what is going to happen tomorrow?

MAYOR SATYA RHODES-CONWAY (D) MADISON, WISCONSIN: Well, you know it really is disappointing this ruling. The Supreme Court here has thrown us into chaos without a plan and but as usual, local government is on the front lines of this pandemic and here in Madison and Dane county, we are continuing on with the safer-at-home orders.

So at least in Madison tomorrow morning is going to be just the same as it was this morning.

O`DONNELL: And so do the counties now have the authority, did the Supreme Court in effect just leave it open so that the counties do still have this authority to exercise if they want to.

RHODES-CONWAY: That`s county`s authority is based on a different statute than the Health secretary`s so we do still have that level of local control.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at some polling about what is really happening in Wisconsin, the way people really feel about the governor for example. Governor Evers has a 64 percent approval in Wisconsin. Donald Trump has a 44 percent approval in Wisconsin. 51 percent disapproval in Wisconsin and - and so it`s very clear that the majority of voters support the governor across the board on this.

And so what do you expect the behavior to be given that most people are now internalizing these rules for their own safety? What do you expect to see generally in Wisconsin tomorrow being on Madison?

RHODES-CONWAY: Listen, the safer-at-home order has been working. Now we have been effectively flattening our curve, certainly here in Madison but we do have problems across the state. We have hot spots and so I`m actually quite worried that we`re going to see an increase in cases because of this order and it`s really irresponsible.

You know this is the same Supreme Court that thought it was a good idea for us to hold an election during a pandemic and as a result dozens and dozens of people have gotten sick. The court didn`t learn from that experience and they`ve opened up the state without a plan. Lawrence, this is what happens when you mix politics with pandemic planning.

O`DONNELL: Yes and the Milwaukee paper saying that the governor and the legislature are going to have to work together. There`s polling information on that. 53 percent in Wisconsin support, they trust the governor and only 33 percent trust the legislature so he`s far ahead on that. We`ll see how they work it out. Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

RHODES-CONWAY: Thank you. It`s a pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Coming up the leader of the world`s fifth largest economy is trying to manage a careful and gradual reopening of businesses and possibly schools. California Governor Gavin Newsom has asked our next guest Tom Steyer to help, guide that reopening of businesses in California where so far everything has been going very smoothly except in the view of billionaire Elan Musk who has called the shutdown of California his word, `fascist.` That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Two months ago, the world`s fifth largest economy had an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent. Now it has unemployment rate of 18 percent with government officials estimating that it could go to 25 percent. The place we`re talking about is of course California.

California has lost more income and more jobs than any other state because California has more income and more jobs and more people than any other state. It is impossible to reopen the economy of the United States successfully without California since California is by far the single largest contributor to the American economy of the 50 states.

California`s Governor Gavin Newsom issued the first stay-at-home order in the country statewide and Governor Newsom has now outlines the gradual steps California will take out of the state carefully, slowly reopens.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D) CALIFORNIA: I know others are more eager to move more quickly and we will work with every county, with every city, in a practical and responsible way but here`s the caveat. This is the health driven conversation. It`s not because we don`t want to, it`s not because we would not like to, it`s not because we want to be particularly oppressive in terms of people`s desires and needs, it`s because public health dictates that we do this and we do this in a thoughtful way.


O`DONNELL: Governors Newsom has appointed a business recovery task force which is co-chaired by California philanthropist and former democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer and joining us now is Tom Steyer who is the Chief Economic Recovery Adviser to California Governor Gavin Newsom. He`s also the co-chair of California`s task force on business and jobs recovery.

Mr. Steyer, welcome back to the program. You last time you were here, you were a presidential candidate. I have a feeling that that was a lot easier than the task in front of you right now.

TOM STEYER, ECONOMIC ADVISER TO CA GOV. NEWSOM: Well Lawrence, it`s great to be back. And there`s no nothing I`d rather be doing than giving advice to a governor who has had a great - is doing a great job so far of protecting California lives and of outlining a careful way to reopen our economy so that we do it in a safe, health-driven way as you just heard. This is exactly where I`d like to be Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: You know, I mentioned the incident with Elon Musk and Tesla because it`s an outlier in California. I`ve been in California for the last several weeks of this pandemic and I`ve seen the behavior in California businesses, the people of California.

Very, very minor you know kind of disruptions here and there, very small number of people. Most businesses have been completely in agreement with the way the governor has approached this. What can you tell us about the situation of the Tesla plant with they`re not - they`re now in negotiations with the county about how to operate safely. Is that going to work out?

STEYER: Well, let me start by saying Lawrence, what you said is true. The people in California realize the kind of careful, phased reopening of the economy that Governor Newsom is described actually is the best way to open the economy, both to preserve the health and lives of Californians but also to have the most robust recovery.

And in fact when you look at what`s happened between Tesla and the county of Alameda, the system has worked. I think there`s a natural tension between people who are running companies and are desperate to get their workers back to work, are desperate to start the business again and the authorities who have to make health their number one issue.

But I think the reason I said that this system has worked is people running businesses in California including Tesla are also very, very serious about protecting the health and lives of their workers. And the people on the health authorities are also very serious about getting Californians back to work as fast, as safely possible.

So what happened here was a normal natural tension with people communicating and trusting each other and working out a system so that both of the issues can be dealt with at the same time cooperatively. That`s success.

O`DONNELL: Yes and the county officials were negotiating with the people who actually run the plant. They didn`t have to deal with the Elon Musk in the room so it might have been a more reasonable conversation. I want to talk about the link between education and the business sector that your concentrating on because the challenge of reopening and - and having workers come back to work is what happens to the kids if they`re still at home unable to go to California schools.

So there`s an overlap of interests there that you have to deal with, don`t you?

STEYER: Absolutely Lawrence. I mean I think there`s no question that a condition precedent to use a couple fancy words to reopening the economy fully is having kids at school because that frees up their parents to go back fully to work but I think there`s another issue here that I think Governor Newsom was absolutely focused on long before the coronavirus pandemic and that is the so-called digital divide.

Having every family in California have access to high speed internet. That is something he talked about in his state address in January as something that`s an equity issue because we want to have California come out of this crisis more just, more sustainable and forward looking.

But having this crisis and knowing that education is going to be partially dependent on every family and every kid having access to high speed internet means it puts a different urgency and a different time frame on bridging that digital divide and that`s what this - this pandemic is doing.

It`s pointing out inequities in the system, it`s pointing out where injustices have been and it`s really putting feet to the fire to everyone to make sure that as part of this crisis, we address the inequities for the communities - the under resourced communities, mostly black and brown who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic but who are also have been systematically treated unjustly in the past.

O`DONNELL: Tom Steyer, as you develop - help, develop California`s guidance on how to step through the reopening, please come back and join us and lay out those steps for us as they`re developed because I`m sure you`re going to discover some things in it that none of us have anticipated and maybe you know weeks from now, things that you haven`t anticipated as of tonight.

And so I think it`s going to be fascinating to watch the giant state of California in the reopening because as California goes, so goes the nation. We`re going to have to watch it closely. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

STEYER: Thank you for having me, Lawrence. Let`s come out of this better than we went into it.

O`DONNELL: Thank you very much. And when we come back testing, testing, testing. We`ve all been concentrating on testing, it`s all about testing but what`s good is testing without effective contact tracing. Immunologist Dr. James Hildreth will join our discussion next to explain why testing needs to be backed up by contact tracing and how difficult it is to do an adequate job of contact tracing in this country. That`s next.



DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CDC: I think contact tracing is critical. It`s going to be the difference from succeeding and containing this outbreak from once again - widescale community transmission or not.


O`DONNELL: That was the director of the CDC in Senate testimony yesterday. Here`s Dr. Tom Inglesby of Johns Hopkins in House testimony today.


DR. JOHN INGLESBY, DIRECTOR, HEALTH SECURITY CTR, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Isolation and contact tracing have been crucial for countries that have gotten the Covid-19 epidemic under comparatively better control.

And identifying those at high risk of getting infected and intervening to stop that chain of transmission. If we fail to contact trace effectively, we`ll continue to have new cases appearing in completely unpredictable ways, numbers and places and our epidemic will grow more quickly.


O`DONNELL: Joining us once again tonight, Dr James Hildreth, the President and CEO of Meharry Medical College and an infectious disease expert. Dr. Hildreth, when I hear about contact tracing and - and we keep realizing that we don`t really have the people to do this. There`s estimates you need at least 100,000. What it - what in your view do we need for effective contact tracing and what are the challenges assuming we do have the personnel to do it.

DR. JAMES HILDRETH, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MEHARRY MEDICAL COLLEGE: First of all Lawrence, thank you for having me again. I`m happy to be with you. Contact tracing is essential just as all the other guests have said and it`s going to be challenging in some communities because technology is going to be important, having smart phones where you can load apps and be able to contact people that way.

In a lot of communities there`s a technology gap and you won`t be able to do that so we`re still going to need a small army of individuals to do the kind of investigation just to track people down and this becomes more challenging when you have a large group of individuals who been around someone who`s a positive.

That means the number of individuals that need to be contacted or traced, it`s going to be really large and as you can see, that presents a lot of challenges so we`re going to need a small army of contact tracers in this country to be sure.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, is there a challenge in the American sense of privacy and people who`ve never really been exposed to questions like this, who have you seen in the last two weeks? Who have you talked to? Who have you been close to? That`s going to be an odd experience for a lot of people.

HILDRETH: Yes and we`ve gone through this before because you might recall that in the earliest days of the HIV epidemic in this country, we have to identify the sexual contacts of the positive individuals to try to let them know that they have possibly been exposed to HIV.

And of course when you`re talking about sexual intercourse and things like that, the privacy becomes even more apparent and even more challenging so you`re right. There`s going to be an issue with privacy and not wanting to reveal a lot of information. And that`s going to be one of the problems with the apps that are being developed where that person might not be able to know, they`re being traced because you know, the phone data is being used to do that.

So that`s one of the problems we have to solve, the ethical issues around contact tracing. But we got to do it because without contact tracing, we`re not going to put this virus back in the box. We just have to have contact tracing.

O`DONNELL: So Doctor, testing without contact tracing, all that ends up doing is dealing with the person who tested positive but not dealing with all the all the possible people that that person infected and so the virus continues to spread without contact tracing.

HILDRETH: Correct. Testing, in and of itself will tell us where the virus is but our goal is to control the spread of the virus so if you do testing without the contact tracing, you will know where the virus is but there will be no way to keep it from spreading.

So you`re absolutely right. Contact tracing goes hand in hand with testing. For example, smallpox was eradicated by vaccine but people don`t really understand that contact tracing helped us to eradicate smallpox because what they did was, they would identify a positive individuals and then selectively vaccinate the people in that community as a way to keep the virus from spreading.

And I would argue that when we get a vaccine, we should think about doing exactly that. Make sure we use the vaccine where it`s most needed.

O`DONNELL: Dr. James Hildreth, thank you very much for joining our session again, tonight. We really appreciate it.