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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, September 11, 2020

Guests: Frank Rich, Berit Berger, Jeff Merkley, Sarah Cobey, Tom Perez


The United States marks the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 as the Coronavirus deaths near 200,000. John Durham's aide resigns amid concerns about pressure from Attorney General Barr. Wildfires are closing in on suburbs of Portland and forces massive evacuations. Interview with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) about the wildfires in his state. Colleges and universities face outbreaks despite preparations and plans.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: It's called Food and the Pandemic. We'll explore the food related crises unfolding for Americans during this pandemic. It's a powerful hour and I hope you'll tune in. Food and the Pandemic airs this Sunday on MSNBC at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. And that's tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, on ALL IN. 19 years later, America mourns. Six months into a pandemic, the President demands we move on. Tonight, how national unity in the face of catastrophe is so elusive. My guest, Frank Rich.

Then, if you're worried the so-called Durham report is going to be a politically driven October surprise for Trump, you're not alone. Why John Durham's top deputy just walked out.

Plus, Exhibit A for why a return to college campuses is so problematic. A video you have to see to believe.

And why is a president who deployed armed forces to a Portland protest ignoring the historic wildfires in the West?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down because California didn't support him.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. Every year on this day for the last 18 years, since I was 23 years old, the nation stops to reflect and to mourn. We pay tribute to the people that we lost on September 11, 2001 of a lot -- all the people whose lives were affected, and all those who work tirelessly and selflessly to try to save and help others. Those who rushed into those buildings, and those who sorted through the wreckage and sustained lifelong damage their health they struggle with to this day.

It's a really important moment of civic unity and collective grief. And it is right and proper and essential, in fact, that we mark today that we do not forget. But this year feels different for a very obvious reason. As we watch these rituals that we go through every September 11th, rituals that began in the immediate aftermath of the attacks while they were still smoke rising from the rubble, and the faces of the missing were still displayed all over New York City, rituals to the loss of 3000 Americans 19 years ago.

Right now, we're in the midst of the largest mass-casualty catastrophe in recent American history. We've lost nearly 194,000 Americans to the Coronavirus. We are losing still about 1,000 people a day. And we have seen moments of civic solidarity during this crisis that recall the unity we saw after 9/11 like the nightly cheering for the health care workers in New York, some of whom came from all over the country answering the call, risking their lives to help, and kids drawing rainbows hung in windows signaling hope.

By and large, that natural sense of unity and grief and solemnity and tribute when it's happened has happened in spite of our leadership, not because of it, and often has been totally absent from this catastrophe to a shocking degree. In fact, even worse than absent, it has been continuously dismissed by the Trump administration.

As we know, Donald Trump lied about the severity of this virus from the very beginning. And we still have people from the President on down, his allies and his mouthpieces and propagandists on Trump T.V. engaged in a truly sick game of what about-ism. Something I keep thinking about is what it would be like after 9/11. What it would have been like to walk around New York in the days and weeks and months after that catastrophe, telling people well, you know, the flu kills 30 to 40,000 people a year, so this isn't really that big of a deal? Or, you know, a lot of people who died in those towers, they were -- they were pretty old or they had comorbidities so they probably were going to die soon anyway.

You would have sounded like a sociopath. In fact, you probably would have gotten punched in the face. I honestly can't imagine anyone would have even thought to say that. And I've been thinking a lot about the difference in the reaction to these two tragedies. I mean, on September 11th, we watched this mass murder happened in front of our eyes. And those of us who watch it will never forget it. It is seared into our memories until our dying day.

Whereas most of the deaths from coronavirus have been quiet and lonely, people on ventilators in the intensive care unit FaceTiming their loved one's goodbye if they're lucky. They aren't happening on camera. We're not seeing it on T.V. every day. And the 9/11 attacks were also an insult to our national honor. And there was an enemy to visit retribution upon. And here there is just a microbe with no ideology and no propaganda and no grand geostrategic games.

Now, a certain faction of American politics, American conservatives specifically, some of them, immediately saw hay to make out of 9/11, a way to marshal all that grief and that anguish towards a political end. They consolidated political power and they waged war abroad and culture war at home. Many people who describe themselves as liberals even cheered them on.

And the same right-wing movement that did that now looks at us losing 1,000 Americans a day fast approaching 200,000 lives loss, and they see there is nothing to be gained this time around politically. So they just snicker, or wave it away, or pretend it's not happening as if after 9/11 people said, no, no, the towers did not come down or buildings collapse all the time.

It's denial and a lie. And it can't help but make you feel a certain kind of rage. A rage that, frankly, I struggled to control and convey on this program every night, night in, night out, because it's not over. The pandemic is still happening right now and our president is not stopping it. He's making it worse.

Just today, more than 1,000 American deaths have been recorded, 1,000 today. Donald Trump is not even doing the smallest thing to help. Like, for instance, as we've noted before, authorizing FEMA to pay burial expenses for people who cannot afford them. They cannot even lift a finger to do that.

It's easy for our president and vice president to go to lower Manhattan, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania and give a speech and observe a moment of silence, and it's good they do that. That's what they should do. But that is not the hard work. The hard work right now is to stop more Americans from dying to prevent the 3000 deaths that may well happen over this weekend, and that they won't do. And so, everything they say right now is empty. All their words are meaningless.

Over the last 19 years, Frank Rich has chronicled the aftermath of September 11 attacks from the propaganda that led us into two wars, to the lies the American people were told and the fallout. And joining me now is Frank Rich, writer-at-large at New York Magazine.

Frank, it's great to have you on. I'm curious as you think about the aftermath and the sort of observation, reflection we have today, mourning and grief and this sort of, you know, national day of silence, kind of, how we are or not processing the grief we are in the midst of right now.

FRANK RICH, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: It's an incredible situation just, Chris, hearing you talk about it. It gets -- gotten me upset about it, I have to say. We have two situations. First of all, we have obviously this pandemic which is continuing to kill people by the thousands.

And then we have the most populous state in the country in the midst of incredible devastation along with its neighboring states, destroying the lives, livelihoods and homes of thousands of Americans. And this is going on in real-time right now, as we have this proper morning, of course, for what happened 19 years ago. But still, this is going on now. We have to deal with it.

We have a country where individual people heroically, including first responders, are dealing with it. But we have a government and certainly a president that's not. In fact, we even have a president whose faction includes people who embrace conspiracy theories that claimed that part of the 9/11 attacks didn't even happen. That's where we -- where we are. And it's extremely sobering, I guess, is the best word I can think of.

HAYES: You know, it's interesting you say that because I think a lot about the fact that in the aftermath of 9/11, there were a lot of conspiracy theorists about 9/11, the 9/11 truth movement and that it was an inside job. And that wasn't -- you didn't have to go far to encounter that. Particularly if you moved in certain left circles in those days, like they would be at protests and stuff.

And it was actually an important thing to happen in the coalition for that faction to be defeated and rejected and turned out. And it was a real -- it was a real fight. It was a thing that happened. It actually -- it was important to say, you're nuts, this is craziness, this is wrong. And I think about that now, as we watch the pandemic, as we watch these conspiracy theories sort of take soil and become almost kind of a mainstream view of many of the right of just how dangerous it is to let that grow inside a political coalition.

RICH: Absolutely. Of course, it's a very different culture now in terms of social media and how lies and crazy theories can spread. But we also have to face the fact that, you know, 40 odd percent of the country voted for and supports a president who misrepresented his own 9/11 record when he was running.

I mean, remember he claimed he saw Muslims cheering. He claimed to be some sort of first responder himself. And so, we bear responsibility for our culture. And it can't all be blamed obviously on the internet and, I mean, things are not adjudicated. Everyone is entitled to their alternative facts as we know now.

HAYES: Do you -- the other thing I think about at this moment on 9/11, and you talked about California, and you talked about, you know, the ways in which the President seems both unmoved, and we'll talk about this later in the show. In fact, there's evidence that he -- the last time California is burning, he basically said, let him burn, they didn't vote for me.

You know, one of the things that happened in 9/11 that was -- that was really powerful and profound was this sense of national unity that had to do with the fact that New York has always been, you know, viewed, I think, by a lot of people in the country, people's certain politics and backgrounds as kind of, you know, anathema and anomalous and weird and foreign and there was an embrace, right. Like New York -- New York and America sort of all as one, you know, prior to the sort of culture war red state, blue state cold civil war we have now.

And I do think that part of it I do long for. I mean that moment, that feeling of national unity that wiped a lot of that away feels really remote right now.

RICH: It does, because as you said, the incredible polarization that's going on. And the fact that we now have blue states and red states, we have so-called Democrat-run cities that are supposed to, in the view of the federal government, to be corrupt. And so, it can't really happen. The whole -- everything is divided into pieces. And there's no one -- there's no mechanism to make that happen to bring about that kind of unity.

And so, your point about, you know, today's ceremonies, there's -- they're mournful, they're -- they have some meaning, but they alone cannot replace what right is missing in our -- in our fabric.

HAYES: Final thing I thought I wanted to ask you about is -- because you've written about this is part of the legacy of that day or the wars that we launched into. And just a month later, an authorization of use of military force with only one lone dissenting vote in both houses. Barbara Lee, still serving, gave an incredible speech.

I remember being among a very tiny sliver of people at the time who thought it was a bad idea to go to war in Afghanistan, which we are now in 19 years later. I think it would have been hard to tell people back then in that October that 19 years hence, you will have us service members deployed in Afghanistan. I think people would have looked at you with shock.

RICH: They would have. Because first of all, there again, even in a much simpler time in terms of media and how things -- live can get out there, there was a very, very clever propaganda campaign conducted by George W. Bush administration, not only to say that these words were necessary in the way they did it, particularly the Iraq piece of it, but also it was a slam dunk.

People would -- you know, American soldiers would be greeted by flowers and chocolates and the troops would be home before you knew it. And a lot of people bought it. Most people bought it. Many Democrats, as you just said, bought it including the current candidate for president. And so -- and the last candidate for president. And so, people were bamboozled and never occurred to anyone that this would last, you know, longer than Vietnam, but it has.

HAYES: Frank Rich is writer-at-large in New York Magazine. Someone I've been lucky to read for yours now. Thank you, Frank. I really appreciate it.

RICH: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: Still to come, is Bill Barr trying to help cook up an October surprise to get Trump reelected? Why a stunning resignation is raising questions about what the Attorney General is up to exactly, after this.



TRUMP: And I say this openly. Bill Barr can go down as the greatest Attorney General in the history of our country or he can go down as just another guy. It depends. They have all the stuff. You don't need anything else.


HAYES: President Trump has made no secret. He wants his attorney general to prosecute officials serving in the Obama administration, maybe Barack Obama himself. And Attorney General Bill Barr, so far, has appeared only to happen to pursue the President's vendettas, announcing report investigating the origins of the Russia investigation back in May of last year.

And for that, he tapped a U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, a guy named John Durham to conduct the investigation. Attorney General Barr said there could be released in October. Well, today we're learning that a top aide to John Durham, a woman named Nora Dannehy, who has been working on this report has resigned.

From current report, she has quietly resigned from the U.S. Justice Department probe, at least partly out of concern in the investigative team is being pressured, pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its worked is done. This is remarkable because usually when people that high up resign, as we've seen in over the last few months, it's a pretty big flag that something's wrong.

One who knows the inner workings of the U.S. Attorney's offices is Berit Berger, who served as federal prosecutor for over 11 years in both the southern and eastern districts of New York. Great to have you, Berit.

I guess I'd start with the sort of fact of the resignation. I mean, we saw resignations from some of the line attorneys who took their names off briefs in Roger Stone, when that was -- when the sentencing recommendation was overturned. How big of a deal is it for someone to do that?

BERIT BERGER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SDNY: It's a huge deal and it's very rare. I think in the entire time that I was a -- as the Assistant United States attorney, I never heard of anyone resigning out of any sort of protest. So, this is not something that happens regularly. The fact that we've now seen it happen on multiple occasions in the last year is really startling.

HAYES: So, we've got this Durham report -- Durham has a good reputation, I should say. This woman Nora Dannehy has been his top aide for a while. And this is the Hartford current reporting that she has been concerned in recent weeks by what she believed to be pressure from Barr to produce results before the election. They said she has been considering resignation for weeks conflicted by loyalty to Durham and concerned about politics.

I mean, am I wrong, that there's essentially DOJ policy that you should not announce, big charges or anything like that in the run-up to an election if they can have an effect on it?

BERGER: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, that was one of the critiques of Jim Comey, right, is that you are not supposed to make big announcements about investigations or indict people, if it would have the effective influencing an election. Now, it's not a -- it's not a law. It's nothing in the constitution that says that, but it's a DOJ policy.

So, the idea that there would in fact be pressure for the opposite reasons to encourage a report is really against state of DOJ policy and the practice going back decades.

HAYES: It also seems to me that if Barr is pressuring them, like that itself is a red flag. That this is the kind of report that if you're going to have, you know, if it's going to be trustworthy and have integrity, and be able to like, you know, actually believe its results, that there has to be some kind of arm's length. If the Attorney General's essentially pressing on it, then you can't trust the actual final result.

BERGER: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, it really makes you question how independent the investigation actually is. And if in fact, the end of that investigation wasn't independent, then the results are really useless. I mean, look, as a supervisor, when I was at the U.S. Attorney's Office, there were often situations where we'd have to press team say, OK, it's time. You've been investigating this for a while. Let's bring charges. That in itself is not unusual.

What would never happen though, is to say you need to go ahead and file these charges because there's an election coming up and this could really help my guy. I mean, it seems almost too obvious to state, but you know, a prosecutor's duty is to the public, it's not to the president. And prosecutors are really supposed to follow the evidence and be completely above politics.

So the fact that we -- at least based on the reporting that we're hearing today, the fact that there is so much interjection of politics into what is supposed to be an independent apolitical process is so disappointing, but not so surprising at this point.

HAYES: Well, I guess my question for you is, I mean, look, we all saw this sort of, I think the somewhat credulous way that Barr's summary of the Mueller report was written up. And then later, I think, shown to be quite deceptive, quite misleading. Mueller himself thought so.

You know, how -- what is your advice for both reporters and news producers and consumers if and when a big report is released? I mean, they basically telegraphed right? There's going to be some big report they release in October meant to essentially alter the trajectory of the election.

BERGER: Chris, that's such a good question and it is really hard. I think it's hard for the media, it's hard for the public to know how much you can trust a report like this. I mean, the whole reason for having somebody like John --

HAYES: I think we just lost Berit's shot there. It's always great to talk to her. Berit Berger, thank you very much. Ahead, devastation in Oregon as more than 30 fires burn across the state. I'll talk to Senator Jeff Merkley about what he's seen along the fire trail and the silence from the president next.


HAYES: For weeks recently, the President was obsessed with Oregon specifically the City of Portland, mainly because a group of people protesting outside Portland's federal courthouse. So, he mobilized federal forces who scooped up protesters in the middle of night, and he talked about it non-stop, constantly ratcheting up tensions and posting video in his Twitter feed because he saw federal intervention and the ensuing mayhem as a political benefit to him.

And now, as Oregon burns, like really burns with more than 30 fires raging across the state consuming more than a million acres, the president is silent. 40,000 people have evacuated, half a million are in potential danger zones. That's more than 10 percent of the state's population.

Governor Kate Brown said that dozens of people have been reported missing and to brace for a significant death toll. And although emergency federal funding has now been approved for Oregon, the governor said yesterday, she reached out to the White House on Wednesday but hadn't heard back.

We know what the President's attitude is when it comes to helping the parts of America that don't vote for him. Here's how the former chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security describe the President's reaction to 2018 devastating wildfires in California.


MILES TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER DHS SECRETARY KIRSTJEN NIELSEN: On a phone call with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he told FEMA to cut off the money and to no longer give individual assistance to California. He told us to stop giving money to people whose houses have burned down from a wildfire because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn't support him and that politically it wasn't a base for him.


HAYES: Despite the President's absence of leadership, there are a number of people working very hard to get the states what they need. Among them, Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, who joins me now from an evacuation site.

Senator, thank you for taking a little time with us. And I wonder if you could just first just give us an update on how things are in your state right now.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Well, Chris, I started out this morning on the northern border of Oregon and Portland. And by this evening, I'll be on the southern border. And through the entire stretch north to south 300 miles, it's just this absolute fog of smoke. At times, you can't see 100 yards.

And to have so many fires burning at the same time, running down the side of the cascade, the Santiam Valley, Mackenzie Valley, the Medford Valley it is -- it's almost feels apocalyptic.

HAYES: Kate Brown talked about yesterday in her update the fact that there are some concrete needs the state needs, particularly people power, that you don't have enough firefighters right now. And I wonder like, are there concrete things the federal government can or should be doing right now that they are not?

MERKLEY: Yes. The governor had reached out and asked if we could get the funds for training two more teams of 125 National Guard members and got the response that that wouldn't be possible. My team spent yesterday working on that issue. We did get the funding approved.

But I'll tell you, here's the challenge. With so many fires across the country, the trainers are hard to get and the crew chiefs are hard to get. We got the money, but we still got some work to do to get that additional 250 National Guard up and running.

HAYES: So, I also have to ask about how you're managing this. I see folks behind you. You're in an outdoor area. Obviously, air quality is very bad, so being outdoors is not ideal. But we're in the midst of a pandemic. You can't be putting tons of people under one roof. How are you managing -- how is the state managing to deal with the people that are being evacuated?

MERKLEY: What the state is doing is trying to put everyone into hotel rooms. So, a lot of hotel rooms are empty because of the COVID crisis and that -- getting that distance. I did visit a very, very large government facility today that has widely spaced consonant. So, it is congregate capability there if they can't get a hotel room. But by and large, they're being able to get folks undercover into hotel rooms for right now.

If there was another surge of refugees from the fires, evacuees, then that possible, but for right now it is.

HAYES: What is your anticipation of the trajectory of this? I mean, is the expectation now that this is going to grow and get worse? I know there were two fires in Clackamas County that look like they might threaten to merge. Where is this going right now as best as you and the experts can tell?

MERKLEY: Well, so we had these tremendous winds come up last Monday evening and then on through Tuesday, and finally through Wednesday and Thursday. But by Thursday noon, yesterday noon, they pretty much stock. And the anticipation now if things are cooler, there's an inversion layer that's keeping things pretty quiet. And we're expecting the wind to reverse and start running from west to east, pushing the fires or keeping the fires away from the population zone that it's been approaching.

So, hopefully, if the wind's condition stay as it has been in the last 24 hours, we might be through the worst of the raging fires coming rolling down the valley.

HAYES: There was some concern about Portland. It seems to me like that's obviously -- my understanding is Portland has never been evacuated for wildfires before, and obviously, it's the largest population center in your state. Is the expectation that if the wind shifts in that way, that Portland will be able to not have to evacuate?

MERKLEY: Right now, we were thinking further, we'll be fine. The fire was approaching towns on the suburban outline areas of the Portland metro area, but that seems to calm down, so for right now, we're pretty hopeful.

HAYES: I want to ask you about a news story that there's been a few news stories about this about local law enforcement in various counties in Oregon having to issue notices to people about a viral meme that was going around that Antifa had set the fires and that -- or they were coming to loot. There's quotes from people saying they're not going to leave because I've already heard reports of Antifa is coming to town going down the streets looting. I'm getting texts.

How much -- how much of an issue has that been that this sort of viral rumor and what it's done to being able to evacuate people?

MERKLEY: That viral rumor went everywhere. And it's just so regretful that there are people who are setting up this effort to really divide people against each other in the middle of a crisis like this. We have Senator Wyden and I and Congressman DeFazio ask the authorities any evidence of any kind of extremist group setting these fires. Their answer was absolutely no evidence of any kind.

It is a complete conspiracy thesis, that someone just decided to stir people up, you know, fuel the -- fuel the hatred and division over the web. And so, I'm glad the law enforcement agencies are setting the record straight.

HAYES: Final question for you. You have been very outspoken on climate. And given the fact that we're seeing record set up and down the West Coast -- it looks like we may have actually lost you there. Senator Jeff Merkley there at an evacuee center in Oregon amidst those fires -- I think we have you, Senator.

Final question for you, just on someone who's been very outspoken on climate, what this urgency that you feel in the wake of this when you go back to Washington on this issue?

MERKLEY: Oh, this just puts an exclamation point on it all. We have seen the snowpack in the cascades just shrinking year after year, the fire season growing. We have fires that start in March, we have ones that come in November. In California, it's a year-round now.

It's affecting the farming, the fishing, the forestry, so this is not an urban issue versus rural. This is like attacking the foundations of the real economy. It's affecting the quality of life of the urban world. We've got to all team up together, put all party considerations aside, and really have an incredibly robust effort to pivot next year in 2021 have a massive national effort to take on climate and then put America back in the leadership of the world and bringing the rest of the world forward. Otherwise, the whole planet is a tragedy of the commons. Everybody will suffer and everyone will wonder why the hell people didn't act. We have to act.

HAYES: All right, Senator Jeff Merkley there in Springfield, Oregon making the rounds of his state, thank you for taking some time with us tonight, Senator. I appreciate it.

Next, is college towns become the new hotspots for coronavirus outbreaks? We stumbled upon a video that is a prime example of where the breakdown is happening. You don't want to miss it.


HAYES: In the middle of the summer, the country went through a wave of Coronavirus spread across the Sunbelt. It's now Friday on Labor Day week and we appear to be through that wave. But Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that we are not out of the woods yet. One of the biggest sources of concern right now are colleges and universities.

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign was heralded as having one of the most comprehensive Coronavirus plans in the country, which included testing more than 40,000 students twice a week. Researchers had anticipated 700 positive cases in the entire fall semester. But instead, in just under two weeks of classes, there have been more than 700 cases.

The University of Wisconsin and Madison was forced to move all classes online and quarantine students after their outbreaks surpassed 1,000 cases in just a matter of days. The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill went to all online instruction days after students returned after nearly 200 cases popped up almost immediately.

And the theme in all these cases is that while universities might have plans to control the virus, and control things in dorms and in faculty rooms and things like that, college students do a lot of socializing off campus.

Today, we got this truly mind-boggling video from the University of Miami in Ohio. It's a body cam footage from a local police officer was called to an off-campus house party in violation of the COVID restrictions. As many as 20 kids were in the house, including some who'd already tested positive for Coronavirus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen this before. There's an input on the computer that you tested positive for COVID?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a week ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you supposed to be quarantining?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's why I'm at my house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have other people here and you're positive for COVID? You see the problem? How many people have COVID?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all have it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what we're trying to prevent, man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to keep this town open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why I was staying home. I just walked out to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, but there were probably seven people -- seven or eight people that left your house when you told them leave? So, you're not quarantining if you're mixing with other people.


HAYES: Quarantining. I'm at home with 20 other people. Wasn't that -- as tempting as it is to want to shake some sense into that young man, the much bigger problem is at the policy level. As University of Chicago epidemiologist Sarah Cobey told The New York Times, the big picture here is that universities are providing opportunities for virus transmission on campus, and especially off-campus. Universities are not taking responsibility for the risks they are creating. And Sarah Cobey joins me now.

I really took to what you said, Professor, because I do think there's a fair amount of it. I mean, when you watch that video, there is a lot of, "oh, these college kids are being so reckless and irresponsible." And some of that's true. But everyone knew that going in. All the policymakers know the risk decision making of 19-year-olds. We all know what 19 and 20 and 21-year-olds do. It's a big problem. It's why their car insurance costs so much. Like, this is not new. The problem is the policy.

SARAH COBEY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Yes, I completely agree with that. It is very easy, of course, to get worked up over the kind of irresponsible behavior that you were just showing. But there's irresponsible behavior behind the scenes at the level of the administrators who I think were not sufficiently taking into account the risks that are pretty obvious.

HAYES: Well, I guess that's the question is what -- how did this happen? I mean, this seemed to me like such an obvious train wreck in slow motion. When University started saying we're going to bring people back into campus, it seemed to me like there were financial incentives, which is that they couldn't charge their tuition for a remote experience. What is your understanding of how we've ended up in this situation?

COBEY: Yes, so I also have the impression that financial incentives were the primary motivation behind the reopening plans from the earliest stages. So, I mean, there are a lot of things that universities have to get right to reopen safely, like a lot. There are technical challenges involved for instance in, you know, setting up frequent testing, getting those test results to people quickly, setting up a contact tracing infrastructure.

And, you know, potentially, it's hard to say it's easier to focus on those kinds of more technical and quantitative challenges and overlook the very fundamental social or behavioral challenges that are also total requisites for any plan to work at all. It doesn't matter how much you test people, frankly, if they're going to, you know, not social distance and have large parties and, you know, disobey isolation and quarantine orders.

HAYES: Yes, it's a -- it's a sort of -- it's that's a great point. It's a kind of like Titanic story. Like, I think that the idea that like, you're focused on all these tactical things, like we're going to get the -- we're going to get the testing, does that -- I mean, these are -- people are serious -- these are serious, smart, sophisticated people working very hard to come up with a plan.

I mean, the University of Dayton, which was in this new york times article, you know, they launched an aggressive testing and tracing program, and they were caught off guard when cases started going from a few a day to 30 a day, a blitz of tests soon covered 100 cases a day, mostly asymptomatic. I mean, we've seen this in university after university, which is that it does seem like the worst thing that you could do for this virus is get drunk and pack into tight spaces. And that's basically what college students love to do more than anything.

COBEY: Yes. That is probably contributing to extensive spread among these populations. But you know, another challenge here is that a lot of universities aren't even collecting what we would consider to be like good data for surveillance, especially universities that have voluntary testing programs, that again, don't have much contact tracing setup or compliance with contact tracing.

It means that, you know, they're still seeing a really kind of indirect and probably like, delayed picture of what's actually happening on campus. It means that they're not going to have the capacity to respond well, you know. I mean, so it's a microcosm of what's happening on larger scales in this country.

HAYES: Well, the final question, I guess, is like the scale of this problem, right? I mean, you know, the media tend to obsess before your colleges and universities, you know, and particularly like elite schools and things like that, or big flagship schools that have big football programs. I guess the question is like, what's the scale of this? Is this capable of actually starting to push national numbers back up --

COBEY: Yes, that's a good question.

HAYES: -- given how many kids there are out there.

COBEY: Yes, I mean, so I don't think we have a short answer to that yet partly, again, because surveillance is really fragmented across the country. And again, we don't have very fine-scale data often on where people have been when they do test positive and with whom they've interacted.

I wouldn't be shocked if somebody who's been modeling infectious diseases for 15 years now, if this did not have an effect on local, you know, spread within the community, especially communities where students are returning to potentially after they've been kicked off campus. So I think we'll be seeing a clearer and clearer picture of that going forward, but I'm sure there's an effect.

HAYES: All right, Sarah Coby, that was really, really enlightening. Thank you so much for taking some time with us tonight.

COBEY: Thank you.

HAYES: Next up, the move by Wisconsin Republicans that could cause chaos for mail-in ballots. DNC chair Tom Perez on what voters need to know after this.


HAYES: The most shameful election we've had this year was in Wisconsin on April 7th, you might remember it. The Conservative-controlled state Supreme Court and the state Republican Party essentially forced everyone in the worst teeth of the pandemic to vote in person. And now, guess what, Wisconsin Republicans are at it again.

After nearly 400,000 absentee ballots have already been sent out in the state, Conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked the mailing out of any more absentee ballots, while they now consider adding a Green Party candidate on the ballot, which would require a new round of ballots to be reprinted and sent out. And the election officials across the state are like please do not do that.

One county clerk telling the Associated Press, "This is potentially a huge disaster. Just the delay of a decision is deeply irresponsible and jeopardizes the integrity of our election." What's happening in Wisconsin is one of many examples of Republican efforts across the country to destabilize the voting process and suppress the vote.

Joining me now is someone charged with fighting against those efforts, Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Good to have you, Tom. Maybe we can start on Wisconsin. The Wisconsin high jinks never seem to end. Are you concerned about what the Supreme Court has done here?

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DNC: Well, listen, I don't know what they're going to end up doing. I hope that at the end of the day, they will conclude, Chris, that the Green Party candidate shouldn't get on. The ballots should be sent out. And here's why, here's one reason why. Under federal law, the MOVE Act, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, a bill that was passed in 2009, ballots have to be sent out to military and overseas voters no later than 45 days before the election.

That's next week. You can't possibly print out and send new ballots to overseas voters in the Wisconsin case within that period. So there -- I think the state Supreme Court is not going to move in that direction. Assuming I am wrong, though, Chris, we're going to move forward, OK. And we have a great Voter Protection team in Wisconsin. They tried to -- the shenanigans as you pointed out in April, it didn't work, and that's because we have a really robust Voter Protection team there and across the country.

And everyone knows. Make a plan. Go to And regardless of what happens, that's what you control, voters. And that's what we're going to work to make sure we do, replicate what we did in April, which was we won handily there in that state Supreme Court race because we were ready.

HAYES: Well, that's -- so the April -- it's interesting you say that right, because I wrestle with it myself in terms of covering this, right, which is that you don't want people to feel like, oh, it's all chaos and confusing, therefore I've maybe I shouldn't do it or my vote is not going to count. Like, you want to cover these efforts while also telling people they should civically engage.

In April, it was a remarkable thing that in the midst of that pandemic, Democrats actually won that statewide election.

PEREZ: Well, and just to put a slightly finer point on it, Chris. We not only won the state Supreme Court race, we kicked butt. In the previous two state Supreme Court races that were in the preceding years, I think they were won by somewhere in the vicinity of five to 12,000 votes.

The Democratic candidate won by over 140,000 votes. It wasn't close. Here's why. We've been organizing in Wisconsin starting back in 2017. In 2019, thanks to the leadership of Ben Wickler, a spectacular party chair and we were -- we were honored to work with Ben, we knocked down almost 300,000 doors. We built relationships.

When the pandemic started in 2020 earlier this year, we immediately got our virtual clipboards out. We ran aggressive program to educate people. We outhustled them. And we're doing this across the country. We have a 700,000 vote by mail advantage in Florida right now. In 2016, four years ago, we have something like a 10 or 20,000 vote by mail advantage, 700,000 now.

North Carolina, voting has already started. Democrats have a tremendous advantage in early voting. Arizona, another example. We control what we can control and we are doing a great job of building that voter protection infrastructure. But in the meantime, voters, get out there. Don't let the efforts to distract you and scare your work. Get out there and vote. Make a plan. Go to

That's how we've won in 2017, 18, and 19, and we're going to do it again in 2020. Courts be damned if necessary.

HAYES: Yes, control we can control is probably a good mantra for everyone in the country in these times of the quarantine and the election. I want to ask you about Biden and the Democratic Party and LatinX, Latino-Hispanic voters. There's been I think a fair amount of data now -- in the beginning, I was a little skeptical because often, under poll groups or sort of subsamples can be, you know, a little noisy -- that Joe Biden is currently it appears underperforming with Hispanic voters. Hillary Clinton's margins, there's some -- particularly in Florida, there's been some evidence in our own polling, NBC polling, that that's the case.

I guess my question is A, do you buy that? Does that show up in your data? And B, if you do or don't, what's the way to deal with that?

PEREZ: Well, listen, we -- the short answer is no, I don't buy that. I think Joe Biden is going to do really, really well with Latino voters. And the reason he's going to do really well with Latino voters is because for Latino voters, it's about family and faith, and Joe Biden is all about that.

Latino voters want a president who's going to save them from this pandemic. They want a president who's going to protect their health care. They want a president is going to protect small businesses. They want a president who's going to respect them. And Donald Trump, the moment he went down the escalator to run for office five years ago, was demonizing and disrespecting Latinos.

Now, I've seen some of these polls, Chris, and you know, one of the polls out of Florida, the sample size of Latinos was 100. There were virtually no Puerto Ricans. The mother lode of votes in Florida are Puerto Rican. There's over 800,000.

And again, let me remind all of our viewers. Donald Trump wanted to trade Puerto Rico for Greenland. Donald Trump was lobbying paper towels in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The disrespect he has shown for the Puerto Rican people, the putrid response to Maria, the failure to address the needs of Puerto Rican voters is something that they will remember every single day.

And the same is true for others. You know, the underreported stuff about Bob Woodward's book is Donald Trump talking about in the context of Erdogan, you know, I really -- these mean people, these mean leaders are the ones I like. So, when I hear these stories about socialism, socialism out of Florida and elsewhere, the person who likes to cozy up with authoritarian leaders is Donald Trump. And that's what we're telling folks in Florida.

We have Republicans for Trump. We have Cuban Republicans -- we have Republicans for Biden, I should say. We have Cuban Republicans for Biden because they see that Joe Biden is going to bring us together. Joe Biden is going to take on these authoritarian leaders and Donald Trump is a puppet for these authoritarian leaders. That's why I will do well with left you goes across the country. But we have more work to do. No doubt about it. We'll take nobody for granted.

HAYES: All right, Tom Perez, chair of the DNC. Thank you so much for your time on this Friday night. I appreciate it.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure.

HAYES: A quick programming note. Make sure you tune in this Sunday with my colleague Joy Reid along with Andrew Zimmer and explore the food-related crisis unfolding for Americans during the pandemic as restaurants and food workers struggle across the country. Watch Food and the Pandemic Sunday at 11:00 p.m. Eastern only on MSNBC.

That wraps up ALL IN for this week. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


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