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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, September 17, 2020

Guests: Anthony Fauci, Ian Bassin, Charlie Pierce


Former Vice President Pence's advisor denounces President Trump's handling of the pandemic and says she will vote for Joe Biden. There is now a formal investigation into allegations of unneeded medical procedures on immigrant women in the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General. Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wrote an op-ed in New York Times saying the American democratic experiment is at stake in this year's election. Attorney General William Barr disparages career prosecutors in a constitution day speech.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: I'm going to be joined by comedian and talk show host Larry Wilmore. I'm excited about that. You do not want to miss it. That should be a fun conversation. And that is tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, on ALL IN. 40,000 plus new cases a day, 200,000 Americans live lost. Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci on the federal government's response to Coronavirus, where this country is headed, and what the general public should really expect when it comes to a vaccine.

Then, a dire warning from Donald Trump's former Director of National Intelligence that American democracy is in danger, the new investigation into claims of unnecessary medical procedures at an ICE detention facility, and just what is going on with Attorney General Bill Barr.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.

HAYES: When ALL IN the starts right now.


HAYES: -- in America when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, according to polling, is Dr. Anthony Fauci. He's the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And there's good reason for that, right? I mean, he's a legend in the field of infectious diseases. He served six presidents, both Democrats and Republicans. He played a major crucial role in helping contain the HIV AIDS epidemic. He was personally treating Ebola patients as recently as five years ago.

His entire career has been building to the battle we are now in with a once in a century pandemic, and he's been a voice of scientific reason throughout. He's the guy you want the room at this moment. There's no denying the U.S. has had a disastrous response to the virus. The numbers don't lie. We are now on the cusp of hitting 200,000 deaths due to the coronavirus in this country.

That horrific death toll represents a far higher per capita mortality rate than most of the rest of the world. And while we have come down from our peak of cases in the summer, thank God, we look to be now plateauing at nearly 40,000 new cases per day, a huge number. We're also losing almost 1,000 Americans every day still.

I mean, today, seven months after this began, we still have a ton of concern about community transmission, along with what's happening right now at colleges, for instance. And while there has been -- there's been good news out of a lot of places, like New York, for instance, we are also now seeing spikes in the Midwest and elsewhere. The weather is getting cooler in most of the countries, so this is a pivotal moment.

We are heading into the fall and winter, which means a lot of people are heading indoors where transmission we know is much more likely. And then add to that the arrival of flu season, and things have the potential to get very bad. What the next few months are going to look like depends very much on what we do now.

And here talk about where things stand and what is to come is Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health. Doctor, it's fantastic to have you on the program. Thank you so much.


HAYES: So, let's start with where we are right now. I mean, when you sort of look at it in a broad view, it looks to me like we're at a place not that dissimilar from where we were before mid-summer when we had that big second spike through the Sunbelt, which is to say, you know, the spike has come down, we're plateauing at 40,000 cases, we still have 800 deaths. I guess my question is like, is that good enough? Is that is the status quo right now good enough?

FAUCI: It's not. We've got to do better. As you mentioned correctly, you know, it's a mixed bag in the country. There are a number of areas that are doing really well, hospitalizations downs, cases down, deaths down. But there are areas in which there's an increase in what we call the percent positive of the test, which is usually a predictor that there may be a surge.

So, although many areas are doing well, my concern is something that you pointed out just a moment ago. The baseline of where we have settled to 30, to 40, to 45,000 cases a day is something we've got to get that baseline down. And I think we can do it. It's up to us, and we want to do it really right now as we enter into the fall and winter season when most of the activities will then come indoors.

And it's not something that's undoable. We know from history, Chris, that if you do things like universal wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, doing things outdoors more than indoors within the timeframe that we have now before the weather gets cooler and cold, and then washing hands. We know if we do that, we can bring those numbers down.

So, what I would like to see is that baseline that you showed on the chart comes way down, so that when we enter into the coolest season, we're doing it from a much better vantage point than having that up. So, we're doing well in some cases. Let's get the entire country with a baseline down.

HAYES: What -- I mean, what's the -- I want to sort of follow up on that, but before I do, I mean, it's sort of your job to worry. And one of the things that we've learned about this pandemic, right, is like sunny optimism hasn't really been rewarded so much, since things started in January. I mean, what's keeping you up at night? Like, what's the thing you're really worried about right now?

FAUCI: Well, the thing that I'm worried about is that if we don't do what I just mentioned a moment ago, Chris, and we enter into a more challenging situation with the cooler weather, we could start having surges that will then go up. We want to open the economy. We want to open the country as it were to get jobs back to start approaching normal.

I think with a vaccine, which will be coming and I'm sure we'll be discussing in a moment, the fact is, if we do both of those things together, we can get to the point where we will be approaching normality. But it's within our power to do it. It's sort of, let's make the decision. We're going to do it. We're going to pull together as a country. And as we start to open gradually, we'll do it prudently and carefully, and according to the guidelines. It's not rocket science, Chris. We can do it. And we can put an end to this.

HAYES: So, let's talk about -- what adds up to suppressing the virus? It seems to me that the masks are one, right? Dr. Redfield testifying yesterday, even saying, look, this is almost as important as a vaccine in terms of mitigation. You agree with him on that, correct?

FAUCI: Well, I think there was some misinterpretation about that. What Dr. Redfield was saying that until we have a vaccine, masking, physical distancing, avoiding crowds is the public health proven way to go. I wouldn't want to be comparing efficacy of a vaccine versus a mask. They're two independent ways that we want to synergize with each other.

HAYES: So -- I mean, as I'm talking to you, I almost want you to break the fourth wall and say like, is there a Donald Trump on your shoulder that you're running this through because the president has said things --


HAYES: I mean, the President said like -- he says to a lot of people, mass don't work. And he's ridiculed people for wearing masks. And I guess my question to you is like the science does say mass work, right? Like this is really important that people wear masks. And when we see big, crowded events, and people not wearing masks, that's not good.

FAUCI: Chris, I have been crystal clear for a long time In what I've been saying.


FAUCI: I don't think there's any ambiguity of what I've been saying. Masks are important. They're effective. Combine it with physical distancing, avoiding crowds, and washing hands, and it works. End of story. It's true. No question about that.

HAYES: What about -- what about bars and restaurants though? Because you're talking about -- you're talking about behavioral interventions. Behavioral interventions, washing hands, masks, things like that. Those are things we could control and adopt adapt. Closing bars and restaurants is a policy intervention. And it seems to me the evidence from Arizona and Texas and from New York City and Dr. Birx reportedly has been telling owners is that, that would help us a lot if we kept those closed. Do you agree with that?

FAUCI: I totally agree, Chris. In fact, the CDC just came out, if you go onto their Web site, of a figure that's really telling. It shows the odds of risk of different types of situations that give you a higher risk of transmissibility. And coming right out at you from the figure is restaurants, bars, and gyms.

When you have restaurants indoors in a situation where you have a high degree of infection in the community, you're not wearing masks, that's a problem. And that's the reason why we are very, very clear when we make a recommendation, depending upon the level of infection in the community, you've got to look very carefully at things like bars are a really important place of spreading of infection. There's no doubt about that.

And that becomes particularly important If you happen to be in an area with a high degree of community spread. So those are things that are crystal clear, Chris.

HAYES: You mentioned the vaccine. I want to talk about the vaccine timeline. So, we've got a situation in which Dr. Redfield testifies and says, look, I'm thinking in terms of the logistics, in terms of phase three trials, approval of the FDA, and then getting it into the population, we're looking at second or third quarter of next year.

Mark Meadows -- the President says his mistaken, and Mark Meadows comes out and says we're thinking 100 million doses maybe by the election. What should we believe? Like, that timeline according the virologists and epidemiologists I've talked to is not realistic. What do you think?

FAUCI: Well, what I think is what the facts are, and have gotten the facts about, and I don't think there's that much if you make sure you're clear in how you explained it in the difference between what the President said and what Bob Redfield was trying to say. Right now, regardless of when a vaccine gets approved officially or in any way, number of doses of vaccines from multiple companies are been produced and are available.

And when you look at the availability of the doses, and I think here's where the misunderstanding is, Chris. What the President was saying is that, remember, first of all, we all have to realize that we don't know when and if there's going to be an approved vaccine. I'm cautiously optimistic that there will be. The timeframe of when you get enough data for the FDA to with confidence say that it's effective and safe, I have projected would likely be more likely November, December. It could possibly be October, absolutely a possibility of that.

Let's say it is. There will be doses available in the end of November, the beginning of December, into January and February, where if in fact, you want to vaccinate people, which we can and we will, you can start vaccinating people in December, in January, and February with a considerable number of doses. You want to prioritize.

You want to get the people who would benefit most than who needed the most, like healthcare workers, like those with underlying conditions, like those with the elderly. So, technically speaking, and theoretically, the President is correct. There will be enough doses in the first quarter that if you vaccinated everybody, you would be able to do that.

What Bob Redfield was saying, was not necessarily incompatible with that. What he was saying, is that what we know about what happens when you roll out vaccines, that people often hesitate.

HAYES: Right.

FAUCI: That even though the vaccines are there to be able to administer, people may say, well, you know, I want to wait until a number of millions of people get vaccinated before I decide I want to. What that means from a practical standpoint, is that when we talk about when do we have enough of America vaccinated that we can start to feel we're going to get back to some form of normality, that very likely will be, as Dr. Redfield said, somewhere in the third and early part of the fourth quarter of 2021.

So they were really both correct, Chris, in many respects. There wasn't that much difference in what they were saying.

HAYES: When you talk about the reticence, though, and I should know that Meadow seems to think by November that you could have 100 million doses. You're saying quarter -- Q1, which there's a little bit of a difference there. But you're going to be --

FAUCI: Yes, but by --

HAYES: Go ahead.

FAUCI: By November -- I have the numbers here. By November, there likely would be something like 50 million doses available in November. And then, when you get December, it gets more and more and more and more.

HAYES: Here's the key question to me, right. You and I both know that there is already sort of this sort of ambient anti-Vax, you know, sentiment, right, that's around. Combine that with the fact that polling indicates that people don't have a lot of trust in the pronouncements of the President on the Coronavirus, and we've seen the number of people saying that they are going to take the vaccine declining.

You're going to play a crucial role. I mean, people that are watching this program right now, people have said to me like, I'll take it if Anthony Fauci tells me it's safe. And so the question to you is like, do you assure all of us that if the corners have been cut, if there is something sideways or wrong with the process, that you will tell us and take the heat for that?

FAUCI: Yes. The answer, Chris is yes. There are multiple failsafe measures that are going to be pretty transparent. And let me just take a quick moment to explain that. There's what's called the Data and Safety Monitoring Board associated with the vaccine trial, an independent group, beholden to no one, not to the government, not to the FDA, not to the drug company, not to me.

They will look at the data, they will analyze it and they will determine is there statistically enough information there to say that is effective. And then obviously, the safety issues come up when you get an adverse event. Once that information becomes available, the company will go to the FDA and say we would like to either apply for an application for a vaccine license or doing emergency use authorization.

The FDA will make the judgment as to whether or not according to their criteria, that it's worth doing that, and there will be advisory bodies. And there will be people like me, like the director of the NIH who'll be looking at that. And I can tell you that there will be a degree of transparency.

Now, obviously, there's a lot of talk about political pressure. But the one thing we need to rely on, the FDA has made it very clear explicitly that they will not be influenced by political considerations. We at the NIH in the scientific community are very adamant about that. So if in fact, it looks like that vaccine is safe and effective, I can tell the American public that I will take the vaccine when it's available to me and I will recommend to my family that they take it.

HAYES: And I mean, that is genuinely reassuring. And I actually feel conflicted here because I want to play a responsible role in covering the story, right? Like, I've learned not to take things at face value pronouncements from the White House. At the same time, I don't want to stoke irrational fears about a vaccine. But just to sort of counter here, I mean, we have a story today the CDC's scientific vetting process was bypassed when there was a testing recommendation to not test people that raise symptomatically being exposed. That was put up on the Web site of the HHS bypassing it.

We have multiple examples of politicals bypassing scientific processes. So, you can understand people's fear and skepticism given that this is an established pattern that's happened.

FAUCI: Yes. I can understand what you're saying. A lot of that is just a bit of confusion. I think the testing issue was just not rolled out correctly. I can tell you right now that we should be testing more, and we should be testing asymptomatic people. Chris, take that to the bank. You can trust me on that.

HAYES: I'm just -- I'm going to let you go in a second. Just two more questions for you if you'll stay with us. One is about a woman named Olivia Troye who cut an ad today who worked on the task force that you're a part of, there's pictures of her in the -- in the West Wing with you in the Oval Office, you know, basically saying, look, I was so despondent, I left, and I'm cutting an ad saying, you know, that the President basically didn't listen to us. He didn't care about the Coronavirus. He only cared about his re-election.

And I know you can't get into politics, so my question is this. It's dispiriting to hear this woman's testimony. There are people in a lot of anxiety right now, trying to homeschool their kids, worried about elderly and immunocompromised folks they know. What can you do to reassure people who hear this and think that the person leading the response, the President of the United States, doesn't care?

FAUCI: You know, I -- you know, Chris, you're right. I really can't comment on that. I mean, I interacted with Olivia. I like that she was a good person. She was important to the team, as a staff person to the Coronavirus Task Force. But, you know, I don't know what to make about what just has come out recently. It would be very difficult for me to comment on that.

The only thing I can say is that there are a lot of people who are looking carefully and are driven by the truth. And I think the American people should feel confidence in that, that a lot of people are looking at this very, very carefully to make sure that there's not political things that drive what should be scientific considerations. I'm one of them, and I have a number of colleagues that are with me.

HAYES: Final question for you. You're a basketball player at Regis High School here in New York City, great place. We used to play them back in the day actually and they can shoot was what I remember. You were a Captain of that team. My -- there you are right there. My -- when you talked about gyms as places that are not particularly safe. My framework for back to normal is playing pickup basketball which I have not done for the pandemic, for obvious reasons.

So, the big question for you is, when will I be able to play pick-up basketball? That to me is the marker that like we are really back to normal. When can I expect that? When should I be planning for my first pick-up game?

FAUCI: Well, I will challenge you to one, Chris. But I can tell you when you can do that in one of the --

HAYES: You're on. Absolutely. We'll both get vaccinated and play.

FAUCI: Exactly. You know, it gets back to the question that you mentioned that's important, so I'm glad you brought it up. It gets back to the point when, when can we as a country feel that we really have degree -- have achieved a degree of normality with a combination of widespread acceptance of the vaccine, getting the country formally and predominantly almost completely vaccinated together with public health measures?

I think by the third or fourth quarter of this year, we can be up against each other one on one going for the board's with no trouble.

HAYES: Third or fourth quarter this year. That is more optimistic and I will -- if we do get there, then I'm taking you up on. I mean, we can find out if the Regis High School gym is open for us. Dr. Anthony Fauci, it's a great pleasure to talk to you. Come back anytime. Thank you for being with me tonight.

FAUCI: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate you having me.

HAYES: All right. Don't go anywhere. We're going to talk about what we just learned from Dr. Fauci. Plus, more on that former aide who worked in the Coronavirus Task Force denouncing the President's handling of the pandemic. What she witnessed next.


HAYES: There appears to be an open revolt in the government among both career civil servants and political appointees who have had enough on the President's insane mendacity. Today, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, who worked on the Coronavirus Task Force, denounce the President's handling of the pandemic and endorsed Joe Biden in a new ad.


OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I've been on the COVID Task Force from day one. I mean, the virus was very unpredictable at the beginning. There were a lot of unknowns. But when towards the middle of February, we knew it wasn't a matter of if COVID would become a big pandemic here in the United States, it was a matter of when. But the president didn't want to hear that because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year and how is this going to affect what he considered to be his record of success.

When we were in a task force meeting, the president said, maybe this COVID thing is a good thing. I don't like shaking hands with people. I don't have to shake hands with these disgusting people. Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about. These are the people still going into his rallies today who have complete faith in who he is.


HAYES: I just talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci who said there are a lot of people in the taskforce who were looking very carefully at the science and we're driven by the truth. For more on what we just heard from Dr. Fauci, I'm joined by Mara Gay, a former -- a member of the New York Times editorial board, who came down with Coronavirus earlier this year. We spoke to her about it. She's still recovering. And Zerlina Maxwell, co-host of Sirius XM's Signal Boost.

Mara, let me -- let me start with you just because it's so remarkable always to watch Dr. Anthony Fauci communicate and kind of walk the tightrope, right? Like, we all know the president who is horribly irresponsible and who says all sorts of bad things, and he just sticks to his guns, talks about the science, but you cannot but help notice the contrast between him and the person on the -- at the top.

MARA GAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, completely, Chris. Dr. Fauci is in a tough position. It's obvious to anyone who's been watching him. He needs to satisfy the president enough to stay in his current role, you know, serving the public. But yet he really does want to be honest as much as he's able to be with the American public about what's going on.

What I heard from him, that I felt was exactly right, was the emphasis on process, which is to say, being as transparent as possible with the American people about how the vaccine development is unfolding, when it will be available, which I think Dr. Fauci and Mr. Trump have some work to do on that front, but also about just the precautions that are being taken.

Dr. Fauci did say that he would stand by this vaccine. But I think Americans are understandably having trouble trusting in government right now and institutions in general. So the more transparent these companies like Moderna and Pfizer can be about their process -- today, they released some blueprints about, you know, kind of the behind the scenes workings. That's going to help people trust this vaccine, and it'll help us get to a safer place as a country.

HAYES: Yes, Zerlina, that -- this trust issue ends up becoming this enormous problem, right? I mean, it's -- you know, all of public health is about communication. It's all about trust. It's been screwed up and destroyed from the beginning. And now, like we have this remarkable vaccine process. It actually has gone very quickly, right. And the way to screw it up is to freak Americans out enough that they don't get it, so you don't get the benefit of it.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly, Chris. And I think that, you know, I'm quarantined with a scientist, so I've learned a lot more about the vaccine process and the timing of things than I ever thought I would know in my life. And what I've learned is that it's not just the transparency, but the fact that the open process allows for other scientists to check the work.

And one of the things that I think is critically important is that the reason why you need reliable science that the government is transparent in giving the information to the public, is because without a national and consistent message, you basically have individuals making risk calculations.

OK, well, I'm going to go do this activity, how can I best protect myself and my family? And when you have an individualized process, that's when you get the chaos, which is I think what we have now.

HAYES: That's such a great point. I mean, in some ways, the theme of America's Coronavirus response is essentially privatizing the response, right. I mean, we had -- we had big public interventions, right, during this the lockdown and the stay at home orders, but since then, it's kind of like everyone has to do their own risk calculations and things they're not -- they're not equipped for. And it's maddening and bewildering, am I right?

I mean, we -- particularly as we head into the fall, like we all -- when I asked Fauci about the bars, it's like, well, that's a policy thing. Like someone's got to make that call and not just tell people well, the bars are open, but don't go to them, which is basically what we're doing now.

GAY: Totally. I mean, one of the things that been frustrating to me on the ground here in New York is just this notion traveling a little bit this summer, even just in the Northeast region. Some places, it's acceptable by public health rules to eat inside, other places, it's not. At some places, schools open, other places, it's not.

And I think the tricky part is, we really should be guided by the science about what the science says. And because our scientists and our public health officials have been sidelined in this process largely, and not just in the White House, but across the country, to varying degrees, because of that Americans have been left to make these individual decisions which makes not only them less safe but they're neighbors and anyone they come into contact with.

So, it's almost hard to blame somebody for eating inside, for example, in a restaurant even if it's not safe if it's allowed in their county. Just thinking about --

HAYES: I completely agree. Zerlina, I want to finished with you on the -- on the -- just reacting to this Olivia Troye ad, which I have to say like we've become so inured to it. But this is a person who is in those meetings every day, left in August, she was there weeks ago, coming out and saying the president is a heartless and cruel man who only cares about his reelection and has contempt for his supporters, and you should vote for Joe Biden. I have never in my life covering politics seen anything remotely like it.

MAXWELL: Well, that on the heels of the other ad that was from the Department of Homeland Security employee. Those go to the heart of essentially Joe Biden's case for why he should be the president after Donald Trump, but also the fact that Donald Trump, his moral character, the man, you know, to the core doesn't have what it takes to do this particular job at this moment when we need somebody who's going to listen to the scientists and at the very least, cares about the health and safety of Americans.

His behavior demonstrates, Chris, that he does not care, because he's putting people in the opposite of circumstances that Dr. Fauci laid out our safe inside, next to each other, without masks. He's doing that in the face of his very own scientists. And so, it is very surprising to see people come out and so quickly turn on the administration. But I'm glad to see it because we need people to do that and continue blowing the whistle so that we know the truth.

HAYES: Yes, you got -- you got a few weeks left to do that. Zerlina Maxwell, Mara Gay, it's great to have you both. I really appreciate it. Still to come, what we're learning about the doctor who is allegedly behind a pattern of unnecessary hysterectomies performed on women held in an ICE detention facility. Those details next.


HAYES: We've been bringing you the story of allegations of medical procedures performed on immigrant women without -- many without consent at an ICE detention facility in Georgia. Now, there is now a formal inquiry into those allegations in the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General.

The investigation was initiated in part by a whistleblower, a nurse named Dawn Wooten who spoke with us on Tuesday about some of what she heard while she worked that facility which is run by a private company. There are now several women who've come forward making the same accusations in the whistleblower complaint or at least echoing.

One who we spoke to last night, a woman we are identifying only as B said, she's -- she said, I quote, "Felt like I had no right to say anything about a hysterectomy she underwent that was performed by a doctor named Mahendra Amin. She also told us about how Dr. Amin performed an unexpected vaginal ultrasound that she was, she says, not prepared for.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wants to do ultrasound. So, what I thought was going to be, you know, just on top of the stomach ultrasound, but instead he's like -- he didn't tell me nothing, he just -- instead he proceeded with vaginal ultrasound, I think. Am I saying it right? But I was not aware of that.

HAYES: So, you were -- you were not prepared for that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not at all. No. So I felt violated. And just, you know, keep doing the procedures, the ultrasound.


HAYES: Yesterday, through his lawyer, Dr. Amin send us this denial, "We are aware of the whistleblower's allegations as they relate to Dr. Amin and vehemently deny them. Dr. Amin is a highly respected physician who's dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk underserved population in rural Georgia."

But in evaluating the allegations of unnecessary medical procedures being undertaken on women in a systematic fashion at this facility in rural Georgia, it's worth taking a look at this 2013 complaint filed against Dr. Amin along with some others. The complaint was filed by two whistleblowers and it alleged that women at a medical facility he co-owned, were given unnecessary medical procedures to get more money out of Medicare and Medicaid through reimbursement. Many of them, the complaint alleges, were pregnant women.

The complaint said they were performing as many procedures as Medicare and Medicaid would reimburse for whether or not patients needed it, quoting the complaint. Dr. Amin has a standing order that requires that certain tests always be run on pregnant patients without any medical evaluation regardless of her condition.

For example, no matter what symptoms the patient might be exhibiting, the facility performs an O.B. ultrasound on every pregnant patient without consulting him, the doctor, or obtaining his or any other doctor's medical opinion for that particular patient.

Now, having gone through three pregnancies, my wife, Kate -- I mean, I didn't go through them but I witnessed them, I can tell you from personal experience, it's wildly anomalous to get ultrasounds on every visit, right. I mean, following a civil false claim suit, the Department of Justice settled with Dr. Amin, the Hospital Authority and other doctors involved for $520,000 in 2015 with -- and I should point this out -- no finding of fault.

Now, we reached out to Dr. Amin about this today. His lawyer said that the case was settled without any admission of liability and that none of the allegations were adjudicated in court and all of that is true. Obviously, this does not determine one way or the other if the current allegations are true. It does serve as a useful piece of context to allegations that are so horrific. We truly need nothing less than a full thorough, complete, and timely investigation. And we here on the show are going to be doing our best to make sure that happens.


HAYES: There are two central strategies the President's re-election campaign, if you can call that, cheating and delegitimizing the election results ahead of them. Today, he was at it again stoking dangerous false conspiracy theories about mail-in voting. Several of his tweets even under special Twitter label linking to actual facts about mail-in voting.

Right now, the biggest threat to election is probably I think not anything logistical, though those challenges are very real and very concerning, and we're covering them. But actually, the bigger challenge right now is the President's concerted effort to invalidate the results ahead of time if Biden wins. And even some former Trump administration officials are recognizing just how dangerous that is, even if they won't quite come out and say it's the President's fault.

Today, the former Director of National Intelligence under President Trump, Dan Coats, wrote an op-ed in New York Times, the American democratic experiment is at stake in this election. "Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. He calls on Congress to create a bipartisan commission to oversee the election, a group of people a group that people can trust to uphold legitimacy of the process as the president tries to destroy it."

I'm joined now by Ian Bassin. He's former Associate White House Counsel to President Obama, now the Executive Director of Protect Democracy, a nonprofit organization formed to prevent American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government. And I'll leave it to you, the viewer, to see how good a job he's doing.

Ian, it's good -- it's good to have you on. You know, this legitimacy question to me is a really powerful and upsetting one. I mean, the President is waging rhetorical war on the legitimacy of the election. All of the stuff about mail-in voting and Attorney General Barr seems to me designed to produce a situation in which 40 percent of the country that people listen to him don't think the election is legitimate. How dangerous is that?

IAN BASSIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: Well, it is, as Director Coats says, the very linchpin of our democracy. And right now, we're at a stage where somewhere close to almost 60 percent of Americans said they no longer believe in the honesty of the way the electoral process is conducted.

But I think there's something more in what Director Coats is saying. You know that he doesn't name the president in his op-ed, not by name, but read what he says is the threat. He says the threat is either foreign or domestic people who want to first say our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent. President Trump has done that. Say that the news media is perverting our discourse, President Trump has said that. That social media networks are operating with prejudice, President Trump has said that. And then our national security and law enforcement agents have been twisted and misused, and President Trump has said that.

So I think what's going on in this op-ed is that President Trump's own Director of National Intelligence is calling the President himself a threat to our democracy.

HAYES: The threat to the linchpin of our political culture and calling -- basically calling on some congressional check. I mean, and I thought this idea of like, will a bipartisan commission save us? My answer that is usually no, it will not. It just reproduces the problem, right? But in this case, like I really do worry about which institutions, entities, or sources of reputational capital, have enough left in the bank after an election to sort of pool and marshal together to have some sense of us rendering of a verdict.

BASIN: I mean, there's bad news and good news, right. The bad news is I like what Director Coats is suggesting, but it depends on Republicans in Congress doing something they've been unable to do for the last three and a half years, which is put country above party, and I wouldn't expect them to do that in the next 46 days.

The good news is first, the Founders divided authority for running elections to lots of different institutions around the country, including local election directors, who are real technocratic, nonpartisan experts. The other good news is that at the end of the day, you're right. It's not a bipartisan commission that saves the day, the greatest protection for democracy is us participating in it, right?

All of us go into a place like, finding out how to vote earlier by mail at our state and proving that the president is wrong, because he believes that everyone in America doesn't count and that every vote shouldn't be counted. And most Americans believe that everyone does count, that every vote should be counted. And if we stand together as a nation, and stand up for that principle, that is the greatest and ultimate protection for our democracy.

HAYES: You know, there's something always with these, like Dan Coats writing this op-ed or the John Bolton book or this woman Olivia Troye cutting this ad today. Like, there is something deeply and profoundly unnerving about people that have worked with the president, right, that have been in the room who like know him best as president issuing these extremely dire warnings.

BASSIN: Yes, it really -- you couldn't ask for anything more red alarm for the United States of America than the President's own handpick Director of National Intelligence, essentially saying we face threats to our democracy foreign and underscoring domestic, and pretty clearly referring to his former boss.

HAYES: You've also got the situation right now -- so you've got these two issues, right. There's like logistical administrative issues -- well, there's three issues. So there's the president sort of undermining legitimacy in advance, he's doing that every day. Then you've got like these kind of technical administrative issues which are not nothing right, like all these places are going to be processing probably more mail-in balance than they ever have. They've got to put a whole bunch of systems in place.

Everyone who worked at some workplace that tried to like transfer over work from home or anything like that, or is watching their school system try to do -- like we all know that the pandemic imposes logistical, you know, requirements that are difficult. Then, you've got the third thing, which is like act of lawsuits from the president and his allies to make it harder to vote.

And my worry is that the President essentially uses those last two things, right, the logistical difficulties and their own lawsuits, to then turn around and be like, well, this is a mess. And I hear people saying that, like, it's going to be a mess, and I think that's helping the president.

BASSIN: So, a couple things. One, we need to be expecting a couple of things and be ready for them. One, it's not going to be election night, right? It's going to be election week or several weeks. There's going to be a long period of counting ballots, and that's totally OK. The president wants to convince us it's not. It really is OK.

Second, the system can work if we all go and vote especially if we go and vote early and flatten the ballot curves, right. We've all learned how to flatten the curve with the pandemic. We need to flatten the ballot curve and spaced out voting. Now, we have a lot of early voting and mail-in voting and space out so there are long lines.

And third, we do expect that the President is allies -- we're seeing this from William Barr -- are going to pull stunts in the lead up to the election. William Barr is signaling he's going to do that, the Durham investigation, other things that are going to come out. We have to learn our lesson from 2016 when the Russians tried to stir up trouble and understand those are stunts, that see them for what they are, report them for what they are, understand them for what they are, and stick (AUDIO GAP) as citizens, which is cast ballots and do what we think is in the best interest of the long-term interests of American democracy.

HAYES: Ian Bassin of Protect Democracy, great to hear from you tonight. Thank you so much. Up next, the Attorney General of these United States thinks the stay at home order is instituted to prevent the spread of deadly infection right up there, number two behind slavery, and that is just the beginning. His comments just ahead.


HAYES: Yesterday, Michael Caputo, who posted this paranoid right-wing delusional monologue about the deep state had to take a leave of absence from his job as top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, probably because of how unhinged that rant was. But the Attorney General United States, William Barr, was at Hillsdale College in Michigan last night giving a performance not that different from Caputo's in substance or tone.

It was a full Breitbart common thread style speech. He claimed that national lockdowns, which again, actually never happened. There were no national lockdowns. They were state lockdowns. But he said they were the greatest intrusion on civil liberties since slavery.

He said government power completely divorced from politics is tyranny, and so it was right and proper for politics to take a role in prosecutions by the Department of Justice. And compared career prosecutors to Montessori preschoolers and headhunters. And he wants everyone to know that he, Bill Barr, has all the power.


BARR: Under the law, all prosecutorial power is vested in the Attorney General. And these people are agents of the Attorney General. And as I say to FBI agents, whose agent do you think you are?


HAYES: In a new Esquire piece titled Trump is a budding authoritarian, William Barr is the genuine article. Charlie Pierce writes that bar speech, quite simply, he went to war against the prosecutors at the Department of Justice he purportedly leads. And Charlie Pierce joins me now.

You know, Charlie, I love your piece. What was your sort of main takeaway from watching this speech?

CHALE PIERCE, WRITER-AT-LARGE, ESQUIRE: My main takeaway was at least John Mitchell committed his crimes and private. You know, at least at least he had the -- he had the good grace to obstruct justice and meddle in political prosecutions, you know, secretly.

No, this was appalling. And, you know, I hate to sound like a civics lesson because we all sound like civic license now, but this is fatal to our democratic republic, this kind of attitude. And with Michael Caputo, OK, its Health and Human Services, you know, that's one thing. This is a guy with - this is a guy claiming not only federal prosecutorial power, but federal law enforcement power, you know, who does the FBI work for?

HAYES: And also explicitly saying that it's fine -- you know, there's this inherent contradiction, right, that is a sort of unresolved contradiction which the Department of Justice and the sort of law enforcement capacities of the -- of the White House, you know, are -- they flow to the White House, they flow to the president. Democratically, like, he's the person who appoints that person and -- but at the same time, it cannot be the case, right? We all sort of agree.

And John Mitchell in Watergate made this very explicit, that if the president says, go prosecute the majority leader and the other party and these political enemies of mine, that we think that's fine. Barr was making the argument last night that that was fine.

PIERCE: Yes, absolutely. He was -- not only was he making the argument that it was fine, he was making the argument that that's the way the system was designed, which is crazy. I mean, he's, you know, he's making the decision -- he's making the argument that the Department of Justice should operate purely as a political arm of whatever administration is in power.

And I'm sorry, that's just not, OK. I don't even know what, you know, the many former U.S. attorneys and so forth that appear regularly, you know, on panel shows think of this, but as a citizen, I'm scared to death.

HAYES: Well, that's -- I mean, how many times have you heard it, right? We've heard from U.S. attorneys, former U.S. attorneys, people that work in those offices, right? Like, the culture of main Justice, particularly, I think post-Watergate, right, like Watergate was kind of the trauma here, is so powerfully about some degree of independence.

It doesn't mean like going rogue, but it means like, if you catch a senator taking a bribe, and even though he might be an ally of the President, you should be making that determination about whether to bring charges about fear or favor.

PIERCE: Right. Or if you catch, for example, a national security adviser getting too cozy with the Russians and then lying to the FBI about it. That should be something that, you know, the appointed attorney general stays out of. But I think we got -- you know, we have to remember, this is Bill Barr's, modus operandi going back to the first Bush administration. He was the one who advised Bush to pardon all of the people who might testify against him regarding the elder Bush's involvement in Iran Contra. This is Bill Barr.

Bill Barr is a Republican -- a Republican lawyer and has been a Republican attorney general at two times of major scandal. And in both times, he's decided to take the side of defending the executive branch rather than defending the American people and the Constitution.

I think, you know, our Republican friends, when this is all over, have to take a long, long look at themselves and try to decide how they created a party that would produce a Bill Barr over three generations.

HAYES: Final question for you. I mean, there's also the fact that he's doing this kind of gaslighting thing. He's saying, you know, we can't criminalize politics and it's crazy to investigate your political enemies on the day that we find out that he was trying to find charges -- instruct people to find charges to the mayor of Seattle and maybe officials in Oregon.

PIERCE: Yes. And we -- and we're still waiting for the Durham report to say nothing in the fact that he's out there doing interviews talking about how vote by mail is rife with fraud and how we're on the road to socialism. I mean, it's his way out of his portfolio.

HAYES: Charlie, Charlie Pierce, as always, great to talk to you. Thank you so much.

PIERCE: Good to see you. Glad to see you get out of Newport.

HAYES: Thank you. One last thing. You may have heard my -- so my final question in my interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, right, tonight. I asked him, when we would do things like play pick-up basketball face to face again. It's something I'm looking forward to, something that represents a return to normalcy for me.

Dr. Fauci replied by challenging me to a game, which game on, and said maybe we could do it in the third or fourth quarter of this year. Now, that sounded a little too optimistic based on everything else he said. We're almost through the third quarter. So,, we called him back for clarification. Yes, Dr. Fauci told us he misspoke.

He meant to say, as many of you intuited right, he meant to say that back to normal pick-up basketball style normalcy, third or fourth quarter of next year, right. The second half of next year, which just gives me a little more time to get in game shape for him which I'm sure I will need.

That is ALL IN on this Thursday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


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