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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, September 22, 2020

Guests: David Plouffe, Barbara Boxer, Jaime Harrison, Ashish Jha


The Republican Party is poised to pay a steep price on the Supreme Court Justice fight. Republicans appear to have enough votes to confirm President Trump's Supreme Court pick. COVID Task Force insider Olivia Troye said in an interview with Andrea Mitchell that President Trump is only focused on his personal agenda and not on defeating the virus.


SUNNY HOSTIN, AUTHOR, "I AM THESE TRUTHS": It's a story of aspiration. And I hope that I've been able to use my leverage my platform and the power that comes with that I think to tell the stories of those who's perspectives are voiceless. And that's what --

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Well, we appreciate you. Well, Sunny, we love you We love your book. I'm sorry, I'm going into Chris Hayes' hour, so I have to stop. But thank you Sunny Hostin. Everyone will be reading this. Thank you very much, Sunny. And "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN. Make them pay. The political price for the Republican Supreme Court power grab and how to make sure they pay for it. Tonight, David Plouffe and Barbara Boxer on how Democrats can expand the map.

Then, making sure the votes are counted, and new concerns at so-called naked ballots could cost Joe Biden Pennsylvania. We'll explain. Plus, as Europe enters a second Coronavirus wave, Dr. Ashish Jha on the flashing warning signs here in America. And the interview with the task force whistleblower who says she quit in order to speak the truth about Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to take a step back and realize he's not actually looking out for you. He's not looking out for these people. And the truth is he's putting those lives at risk.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. Amidst the grief and devastation over the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it immediately became clear to Democrats, progressives, and liberals, and the entire broad majority coalition in this country, the center-left anti-Trump coalition, that there was going to be this enormous fight over her potential replacement. The stakes are as high as possible. And the question has been well, OK, what is the plan?

And at first, the big focus was on trying to peel off the four Republican senators that would be needed to block a nominee. And there were some encouraging initial signs both Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine Senator Susan Collins saying they did not want to vote on a Trump nominee this late in the game.

But it became clear in the following days that most of the imperiled Republican senators seeking reelection, people that you would think under utter conditions would be subject to this pressure, Arizona's Martha McSally, and Colorado's Cory Gardner, and North Carolina's Thom Tillis, that all of them were not willing to break with their party, right? And that's been the way they are throughout. We'll all hang together, shortly we'll all hang separately.

And then there were the old-time senators, the sort of eminence creases, maybe they'll be institutionalist in this setting, retiring Lamar Alexander from Tennessee, or Iowa's Chuck Grassley who said back in 2018, he would not take up a nominee in this fashion. But of course, that was a lie, and they too fell in line.

And then the last hope was that Utah's Mitt Romney, who was of course, notably the one bipartisan vote for impeachment to remove the president from office would break with the present. But no, Senator Romney signaling today he will support a vote on Trump's pick.

So, Republicans probably do have the votes to do this. There is no magic trick, right? No procedural thing you can do as Democrats to stop them. I mean, you can delay. You can make it difficult, and obviously they should do that. But the real question becomes what to do about this if, in fact, they have the votes, which they appear to have. What is the plan?

Because if they are willing to pay any price for this seat, because it is so valuable to them, then the only option left is to make the price as high as possible. And that means you focus on one Donald Trump's nominee on the court can mean. Very concretely the loss of health care coverage for millions of Americans, the loss of the right to an abortion and reproductive freedom for women, the loss of clean air and water for everyone, the striking down of climate legislation, that's all on the table.

You make those issues stick to the Republicans who are responsible for putting that person on the court. What you do not do, and I strongly believe this, is focused on the actual nominee. Remember, back in 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell simply refused to hold hearings for President Obama's pick, Merrick Garland, whose credentials were Sterling, and kind of unassailable. He was seen as a compromise pick. He was 64 years old. He had a moderate record. And it was a very deft call by Mitch McConnell to basically say, well, he seems like a perfectly nice man, perfectly good judge, but we are not voting on him because the American people should decide.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): President Obama and his allies may now try to pretend this disagreement is about a person. The decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle and not a person.


HAYES: I mean, it wasn't about a principle, as we've seen, it was about power. We can stop this and we will. Democrats don't have the power right now to stop it, but they should take the same approach. It is not about the actual nominee. It is about what Donald Trump and his party are trying to do to the country through this appointment. So boycott the hearings, boycott the process, the same way Republicans do with Merrick Garland. Just say, we know who their judges are, right? They've got a checklist. We know what they stand for. It's not about them.

Republicans already know whoever Trump picks is going to check the boxes they want check. There's an incredibly intense vetting process to make sure that is the case. That is why South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, the chair of the Judiciary Committee can openly say this before there's even a nominee.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We've got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg's replacement before the election. We're going to move forward in the committee. We're going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election.


HAYES: There is no nominee. Lindsey Graham says we have the votes. We will confirm this person as yet named. You're not going to convince these Republicans to change their minds, so all you can do is make them pay.

Democrats and everyone else has to remind people what these vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election could be responsible for. For instance, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for a case aimed at utterly obliterating ObamaCare on November 10th, just a week after the election, which that's when the Supreme Court scheduled it to keep the temperature down.

If this new justice help strike down the Affordable Care Act, then 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions are no longer protected. Insurance companies can charge them whenever they want or keep them away from coverage altogether. 21 million people should suddenly -- could suddenly lose their health insurance. 12 million folks on Medicaid right now, the Medicaid expansion, thrown out the window. 800,000 people with opioid addictions could lose their treatment.

And this case is going to be heard a week after the election. And if they rule on this next spring, it would still be in the midst of a pandemic that's already killed 200,000 people and sickened seven millions. So, Democrats need to be very clear about the current bargain the Republicans are making. Democratic Senate candidates were already expected to potentially pick up seats in states like Maine and Arizona and Colorado, right, all states that had been trending democratic or that Hillary Clinton won.

The polling shows there are a lot of more legitimate races at play across the country. These are races people didn't expect. And I know it can be hard to see this right now, and people don't trust the polling and everyone's got trauma from 2016. But if you look at the picture, Republicans are not in good political shape right now. And doing this, this move which polling says people do not support by pretty wide margins that could lead to try and take away people's healthcare, it will not happen.

Look at this, in just the past few days, just the past few days, we've got poll showing Democrat Cal Cunningham up six points in North Carolina. Democratic candidate Theresa Greenfield up three in Iowa over Joni Ernst, John Ossoff, a Democrat up by a point in Georgia, OK.

Then it gets even more remarkable from there. Look at this. These are recent polls. We've got Democrat Jaime Harrison, who will be joining us in a few minutes, down just one to Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Democrat Mike Espy down just one in Mississippi. Democrat M.J. Hegar down just two in Texas. South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas, all with competitive Senate races, winnable races for Democrats, right?

Republican incumbents are favored in all those places. Of course, they're favored, but they're sweating. And many Democrats clearly view a battle over healthcare in the midst of a pandemic the President has bungled, leading to the unnecessary death of tens of thousands of our fellow Americans. They view that fight is being in their favor.

You know, Raphael Warnock, he's a pastor, a Democratic candidate, grew up in public housing. He's running for Senate in Georgia, right. There's two Senate elections in Georgia, this one for the special election that Kelly Loeffler currently occupies. Not gotten a ton of attention because it's a weird special election, a whole bunch of candidates on the top two is on to runoff. If no one gets 50 percent, it can be kind of hard to poll. But we're not getting a chance. And he clearly views the ObamaCare fight as a lifeline at this point. Check out this new ad.

RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE OF GEORGIA: Healthcare is an economic issue. It's a public safety issue. And for me, it's a moral issue too. I firmly believe that in our country, everybody, whether rich or poor, should be able to receive quality health care. Yet, even during a pandemic, my opponents are focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act and gutting protections for the 1.8 billion Georgians with pre-existing conditions. I'm Raphael, Warnock, and I know we can do better.


HAYES: So if Republicans are committed to forcing a conservative justice on the court 42 days before the election, someone who could destroy the Affordable Care Act and overturn Roe and strike down carbon pollution legislation the Democrats might pass in the future, then you just have to make those Republicans pay the political price, every single cent of it. Because every single vote makes a difference for what the universe of the possible is going to be going forward.

And that counts for election night. And whether election night is close, and they try to steal it through the courts, and the Supreme Court Justice they just confirmed, and that pertains to whether the Democrats can add justices at the Supreme Court after the election, or grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico, adding new senators or anything else, all of those discussions depend upon maximizing the short term political price over the next 40 days so that it can pay off in the long term.

That should be the plan. No one can lose sight of that. I'm joined now by former Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California who's a Teaching Fellow at University of Southern California. Also with me, former 2008 Obama presidential campaign manager David Plouffe, author of A Citizens Guide to Beating Donald Trump.

And David, let me just start on the sort of political landscape here, the combination of the polling we have seen at the state level, some of which as a political junkie for politics, I've been genuinely surprised by. That Iowa polling, for instance, has really been wild, that Joni Ernst is really in a fight for her life. And the stated intention by the Republican Party to jam this nominee through, what do you think that means politically?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BARACK OBAMA: Well, Chris, I agree with you, it's time to make sure they pay a maximum price, both in this election and then if the Democrats win back the Senate and the White House next year. So, let's look at some of those polls, whether they be Mississippi, Iowa, South Carolina. They are surprisingly robust for Democrats.

But you know, you're at 44, 45, right? And I think pre-Ginsburg, my view was we were going to lose a bunch of Senate races by a pointer two, just shy of 50. But this, I think, upsets the entire political applecart. You have an unpopular president ramming through an unpopular process to nominate and confirm someone who's going to join their colleagues on the Supreme Court to do wildly deeply unpopular things.

And honestly, if Democratic candidates can make this work for them, you know, over the next six weeks, it's political malpractice, because you've got health care on the line voting rights on the line, clean air and clean water on the line. And again, voters will sometimes excuse candidates who do things they don't agree with. But all these Republican senators who back in 2016 said, mark my words, when a Republican makes this nomination in their last year, we won't confirm. They look like weasels bowing down to Donald Trump.

And so, I think it's the policy reality of what's going to happen in the Supreme Court, but it's also them. They look so weak and so calculating, and they're doing this for the benefit of King Trump, not for the voters in their states. So for I mean, I'm deeply unsettled about what the court is going to do, but all you have in front of you right now is to make them pay the maximum political price, and I think Democrats can do that.

HAYES: Yes, I wonder, Senator Boxer, your former colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus, how they're sort of viewing this? I mean, I think there's a desperate desire to block this nominee, whoever it is, because of the stakes, because of the unfathomable duration and danger of a 6-3 conservative court. Is there anything to be done? Or basically with the -- with the announcement today of Romney, if they do have the votes, you could -- what do you do, you try to delay it? But it does seem to me that there's only so much you can do.

BARBARA BOXER, FORMER SENATOR FROM CALIFORNIA: This, at the end of the day, I agree with your analysis, and David's as well. I can tell you right now that no senator of either party likes to go against their leader. You pay a price for that. But there's also a bigger price to be paid here, and that is you're going to lose your seat.

Because this is very clear, it's easy for people to understand that the court is going to take up the Affordable Care Act, that before it was hanging by a thread, and regardless of who Trump puts up, and I think you're right, it doesn't matter who it is, we know they're going to vote to get rid of it. And that is going to impact almost every single American, not just those that get their health insurance at the exchange, but all of us who have won protections, who've been able to get health care, even with the pre-existing conditions, who have been able to keep our kids on our insurance till age of 26.

So not only did they look like hypocrites and double dealers, and they look weak, as David said, and David's one of the best. He got me through so many presidential races when I was nervous. Remember David, I'd always said, give me the news, and he was right. And so, I think you both have hit on something important. I don't think this can be stopped. Yes, delayed and we should delay. I like the idea of boycotting because why are we boycotting? If we do that, it's just saying healthcare. It's to save, you know, the court. So -- and to save the American people.

HAYES: Yes, let me ask -- I mean, it's interesting to me that you endorse that. I want to go back to you, David. One thing I would add, Senator, just as emanation, is that the actual case before the court that will be heard on November 10th is almost comically weak just on legal grounds. There's no actual injury, there's no standing the remedy is preposterous and ludicrous in parts of severability analysis going back decades, it's a ridiculous case that should get laughed out of court.

But we know that it hasn't and lots of Republican judges have said, oh, sure, yes, let's strike down the whole thing. But on the political side of it, Senator Boxer -- and David, let me ask you this, and I'll come back to you. The idea of boycotting or the idea of just saying, look, this is a principled opposition to something that is fundamentally a kind of transgression, right, fundamentally attacked by Trump and the Republicans, as opposed to sifting through the past opinions of like the sort of standard playbook. That seems to me to bring some peril politically for Democrats.

PLOUFFE: Well, listen, I like your idea of boycotting, Chris. Oh, sorry.

HAYES: No, go ahead, David, and I'll go to you, Senator.

PLOUFFE: I think it's an -- you know, you might say it's an extreme measure, but this whole thing is a farce, right? And Mitch McConnell, like he's not even a human being. He was a cyborg sent here from another world to destroy this one, OK. So, we can play by any normal rules here. So, I think boycotting making a strong political case centered on healthcare is right.

And then, Chris, you mentioned what happens if the Democrats win the White House in the Senate. And I think Senator Boxer will have great insights here. If the Democrats get rid of the filibuster, which I think they should, and they should expand the Supreme Court, they should add statehood to Puerto Rico, D.C., they should have a list of things on health care, on climate, on voting rights, and need to do them all because they're no use getting rid of the filibuster unless you're going to exhaust that list because you know the Republicans will do it.

So, grab the power, and then fully utilize it. I don't like the Republicans do it on behalf of most of the country, whether it's on health care, on climate, on voting rights. I think that I don't say that lightly, but we are -- we are not in normal times. I think everything we care about is on the line. And so, we have to use extreme measures both to win the election, but then afterwards.

HAYES: Yes. And Senator Boxer, my question to you is, you know, you know this caucus well, you know Dianne Feinstein who served with for years. I mean, a lot of them are kind of procedurally conservative. They're temperamentally small-C conservative, they're institutionalist. They don't like -- do you see this as a radicalizing moment for your colleagues in that caucus about being more procedurally maximalist?

BOXER: Instead of saying a radicalizing moment, I think it's a moment to really look at the world as it is today. We have been betrayed by the Republicans. The Democrats have been betrayed, but more importantly, the people of this country. They said, and we have it on tape, and we could listen to it over and over, they would never consider, you know, voting for a Supreme Court justice in an election year for the presidency.

So, they betrayed us. Everything has to be on the table. Use our power for the good of humankind. That's what we should do. I agree with that.

HAYES: Barbara Boxer and David Plouffe, it's good to have both of you tonight. Thank you. Thank you so much. All right, next, is Lindsey Graham sealing his own political fate with his push to replace RBG? A brand new polling in South Carolina, and Graham's Democratic challenger next.



GRAHAM: They're not going to intimidate me, Mitch McConnell, or anybody else. I'm getting outraised three to one, outspent four to one. If you want to help me fight back, go to Five or 10 bucks from half of your audience would fill in the gap that I'm facing.


HAYES: That was South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on Trump T.V. last night whining about his Senate race and begging for money. Senator Graham is behaving like a man who is in a competitive race, and that's because he is. The Democratic challenger taking him on is Jaime Harrison. There's yet another poll just out today. Morning Consult is showing the two are essentially tied with 46 percent of South Carolina voters for Graham, 45 percent for Harrison. And that poll comes on the heels of a Quinnipiac poll last week, showing both of them tied at 48 percent.

That Senate candidate, the guy who seems to be rattling, Senator Graham, joins me now, Jaime Harrison, Democratic of South Carolina and former state Democratic Party Chair. Jaime, I want to start on the notion I thought it was sort of somewhat humorous and bemusing last night to see Lindsey Graham say that, you know, he's getting outraised and outspent like. You are the Goliath in this race and poor Lindsey Graham is the David just trying to keep up.

JAIME HARRISON (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, Chris, as I told Lawrence last night, I'm living rent-free in Lindsey Graham's head right now. Lindsey can't get on a highway here in South Carolina without seeing this big round head smiling at him. We are all over South Carolina. This movement is something like I've never seen before.

But people are ready for change here in South Carolina. We're about closing the chapter on the Old South which Lindsay is a relative and it's about ushering in a new book called The New South. One that is boldly elusive and diverse. And I'm excited about it and it's going to be a sea change here in South Carolina.

HAYES: Let's talk about the Affordable Care Act and this -- and this case that will be heard by the Supreme Court and the way it relates to this confirmation battle. Are you confident the Affordable Care Act is above water in your state, that defending the ACA in the year 2020 as a Democratic candidate wins more votes than it loses?

HARRISON: Boy, it does. Health care is the number one issue here in South Carolina, as a result of Republicans like Lindsey Graham refusing to fully implement the Affordable Care Act, we haven't had Medicaid expansion here in South Carolina. We're one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid. And as a result, there are over 250,000 people in this state that don't have health care, but if they lived in 38 other states they would.

And as a result of that, we've had four of our rural hospitals that have been closed over the past few years. Now, if you live in one of those communities, Chris, it doesn't matter if you're a Democrat, Republican, whether you vote for Jaime Harrison or Lindsey Graham, but if you have a heart attack complications with diabetes, complications with your pregnancy, and you need to go to a doctor, instead of it taking you 10 minutes to get to the hospital, it now it takes you 35 or 45 minutes.

That's a death sentence. And it's not a Democratic or Republican -- you don't care if it's a Democratic or Republican solution, you just want a solution. You want the hospital.

HAYES: It is striking to me. I mean, you're speaking to me as someone who is running against a Republican incumbent on the state of South Carolina, leaning into the Affordable Care Act, and preserving and expanding it. I mean, 10 years ago, the Affordable Care Act in your state was probably polling, what, 35-65 underwater. Like, you would not touch it with a 10-foot pole. It would have cost you your political career. It is a striking testament to the trajectory of this legislation and the protections it's embedded, that that is now a win for you politically in this race.

HARRISON: That's exactly right. And part of it is just the protection for pre-existing conditions. So many people here in South Carolina have pre-existing conditions that they're living with or they're predisposed because of their family lineage. You know, I'm a borderline diabetic, my grandfather died because of diabetes. And so therefore, that is a pre-existing condition. That's really important.

There's so many people just like me and have been impacted by these diseases and the disparities. And so, we need someone who's going to fight for us, not somebody who's going to fight against us. Lindsey Graham offered a bill Graham-Cassidy which did not cover pre-existing condition, and so we need to do better. And I hope folks will join us at and just really, really help us change South Carolina and change the nation as a result.

HAYES: All right, Jaime Harrison, who as I said, is the Democratic candidate for Senate in South Carolina, thanks for making little time for us tonight.

HARRISON: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Still to come, an NBC exclusive interview with the former Coronavirus Task Force staffer who quit in protest because she said the President was more interested in his public image than he was in saving lives. You don't want to mess it.


HAYES: All right, right now, it looks like Pennsylvania is going to be the single most important state of the 2020 election. According to FiveThirtyEight projections, Pennsylvania is by far the likeliest state to be the tipping point state, the state that would divide either Joe Biden or Donald Trump with the decisive vote in the Electoral College.

Now, Joe Biden has been consistently in the lead in that state. He's up by 4.5 points in the latest FiveThirtyEight polling average, but that's still fairly close. And we all saw what happened in 2016, right. And a recent ruling by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court could really imperil Biden's chances, and it's about which ballots get counted, OK.

Now, in a lot of states, there are a few steps required to correctly send back your mail-in or absentee ballot. Here's how it works in Pennsylvania.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After you receive your mail-in ballot and complete all the ballot selections with a blue or black pen, seal the ballot in the plain white official ballot envelope and place the ballot envelope into the large return envelope. Then, sign date and complete the voters' declaration on the envelope. Now, that your ballot is ready to be returned, check to see if your envelope is pre-paid or if it needs a stamp and drop it in the mail.


HAYES: All right, did you catch that about the two envelopes. It is very important. In Pennsylvania and other states as well, you receive two envelopes with your ballot. You have to seal your ballot in the plain ballot envelope first, then you put that envelope inside the other one, which is the return envelope and you send it off.

Now, the reason this is done is to ensure that your vote stays anonymous. Election officials will check the outer envelope to make sure the information is correct. The vote is valid. And then they open it and they've got that inner envelope, right, that's still protecting your privacy contain the ballot, but no identifying information. And they put that in a stack to be counted.

It is however a bit complicated. I actually froze when I was filling out my absentee ballot in New York recently over this. Like, do I need them both? And sometimes people mess it up. They might think what do I need this extra ballot envelope for? And then they just put their ballot straight into the return envelope. They skip the intermarry intermediary step. And when that happens, it is called a naked ballot.

Now, back in June, during the primary, the Pennsylvania Secretary she advised counties to accept naked ballots as valid and count them because if they're filled out, they're fine, right? They're perfectly fine other than they're, you know, naked. But then, guess who wrote in to challenge that. Oh, you'll never -- you'll never guess. The Trump campaign and other Republicans sued Pennsylvania arguing that no, naked ballot should not be counted.

And last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in their favor. That means if voters do not include that second envelope, their vote will not be counted. Philadelphia's top elections official warned there could be tens of thousands of votes being thrown out. So, we are trying to do our part to make sure everyone's vote counts with this public education, but also, if there's a billion of air out there with some money burning a hole in their pocket and a belief in democracy, an educational campaign on this issue in Pennsylvania might not be the worst way to spend that cash.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why haven't you said anything about the U.S. hitting 200,000 deaths from COVID?



HAYES: The president is trying to ignore those types of questions and protect -- pretend the Coronavirus crisis doesn't exist, but there are 200,000 American families whose loved ones have been killed and they're harder to ignore.

Last night, Trump told the crowd at his rally, a rally not unlike the one Herman Cain attended in Tulsa, that the virus "affects virtually nobody." New York City E.R. doctor Craig Spencer, who has been treating Coronavirus patients stated the obvious today. "A virus that affects virtually nobody is the third leading cause of death in the United States."

People worked alongside the president know that this is true. Olivia Troye works as the top advisor on the Coronavirus task force. This month, she went public about what she calls Trump's flat out disregard for human life. She was a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence. She quit in July. Then last week, she appeared in an ad saying she will vote for Joe Biden.

The White House is trying to discredit her, but as Olivia Troye explained to NBC News's Andrea Mitchell in a socially distanced outside interview, she's got a good reason to speak out.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: So, you're a lifelong Republican, but you had been working in national security since you got out of college really. You worked at the Pentagon, you were in Iraq, you traveled to Afghanistan, worked at the Counterterrorism Center, worked at Homeland Security, you're detailed at the White House. What happened inside the task force that made you concerned? What did you see?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER TOP AIDE, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: There were -- there were numerous events, I would say, probably on a daily basis, to be honest, of things that were challenging and discussions and just dynamics that I felt were hard. And it was just very challenging to think that you've worked a really long day. You think you have come to a consensus or you have developed a strong effort on something such as you know, planning on what we're going to do.

And it was very hard to then come in the next day, and either something had happened, a tweet had happened, or suddenly the course of what we were doing had changed because that wasn't really what the President wanted. And it's very hard when you're trying to actually base things on facts and science and on the data to have a president that wasn't focused on that.

He was really focused on public image messaging. And it was really hard about, you know, his personal agenda than really the agenda that the taskforce had at hand, which was, how are we going to save and protect Americans.

MITCHELL: Bob Woodward writes about a January 28 warning. When the President was warned by his national security adviser that this was going to be the most serious national security crisis of his administration, were you aware of that?

TROYE: I was. I wasn't there when he was briefed on it, but we certainly had a taskforce meeting and discussion where we had this conversation that this was going to be big.

MITCHELL: That early, January 28?

TROYE: Late January, we knew.

MITCHELL: Yet, the President was saying a week later, it's going to disappear. It's going to go away. How did that make you feel?

TROYE: It was frightening. You know, when you're the president, words matter.

MITCHELL: When we see in the polling that Republicans by great numbers are more suspicious of wearing masks or more reluctant to wear masks, there's a political divide over something as simple as wearing masks. And the President did not model wearing masks, and held the indoor rally in Tulsa without social distancing. Were people inside the task force upset about that?

TROYE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we had staffs that were -- actually, I've had conversations with staff who were going on that trip who were -- who were scared. They were scared for their own well-being.

MITCHELLE: Scared to go to Tulsa for the indoor rally?

TROYE: Absolutely. We were in the middle. They were -- you know, they were hearing me saying you need to be careful. You need to be safe. And we were sitting there in meetings talking about the importance of social distancing, talking about how we were going to roll this out and making sure that it was done in a concerted effort.

And then we have this dynamic with the president who goes and does exactly the opposite of what the doctors and the experts are telling him to do. And it, you know, at that point, I mean, how are you going to manage that? How are you going to be successful in protecting the American people? Everything you're doing, I just don't know how you overcome that. If someone who has a national platform is standing up there -- I mean, Americans are watching that, Republicans are watching that.

And, you know, they have faith. They love him. His base and his followers are, you know, 100 percent in. But you need to take a step back and realize he's not actually looking out for you. He's not looking out for these people. He's not looking out for them. He just wants you in that audience so he can have the camera shot of, you know, his fanfare and the people around him. But the truth is, he's putting those lives at risk.

MITCHELLE: You've said to the Washington Post, you were quoted as saying that the President once said that COVID wasn't such a bad thing -- I'm paraphrasing -- because I don't have to shake hands with those disgusting people. Did the President of the United States really say that?

TROYE: Absolutely. I was sitting to the right of him in the room when he said it. And he said -- he said, he actually never liked shaking hands with people. And he was like, and you know, when you're a politician, you have to shake a lot of hands. You have to shake a lot of hands and these people are disgusting. It's gross. And so maybe COVID is probably a good thing, right? I don't have to shake hands. I don't have to do that anymore.

I couldn't believe he was saying that. I mean, we had a serious agenda, you know to go over. And he didn't join a lot of the taskforce meetings, but this was one of them, and so we were, you know, happy to have his attention, and we were hoping that we would make some serious progress on some things. But the last thing I expected was his focus to be on that.

I mean, even if you're thinking about that, I can't believe you would even say that out loud. I mean, these people are suffering right now, and you're worried about -- or you're happy about the fact that you don't have to touch them anymore.

MITCHELL: Are you aware of the recent interference in scientific reports, like the morbidity report and other CDC reports from political, public affairs people over there?

TROYE: I saw that increasingly happening towards the end of my tenure. And I can say that firsthand, I saw it happening while I was there. I was a part of that.

MITCHELL: How did it go down?

TROYE: There was a lot of -- there was a lot of political pressure internally to ward things in the right way.

MITCHELLE: Where did that come from, the pressure?

TROYE: It came from the fact that they were looking at political voting and I guess we were in an election year. And so, it was coming from how do you preserve the votes of perhaps, evangelical Christians and churches and, you know, perhaps companies, donors? I mean, I can't speak to that directly. But it certainly was very odd to be to be talking about, you know, meat packing guidance, or how to open up those factories or what to do or how to open up churches and flat out say your guidelines are too restrictive, CDC.

Well, it's the CDC. It's their job to know what to do. They're the experts. They've spent her entire life, you know, studying this.


HAYES: That's the person that worked on the task for saying the president doesn't care if people get sick and die. He does not care. He took steps so that more people will get sick and die. She was there. That's Olivia Troye. She's the latest insider to confirm what has been obvious from the start. The President has and continues to fail the fundamental duty to protect the people of this country.

We're going to talk about what actually is happening in this country as infections grow when we get to the colder months next.


HAYES: If there is a single maddening truth we have learned the hard way after the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans, is that having bars and restaurants probably open for business during a pandemic is fundamentally incompatible with public health. You know, Dr. Anthony Fauci told me as much when I interviewed him last week.

It also appears to be a lesson the world has to learn over and over again. Today, after spending months encouraging people to go back out there, the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson order British pubs and restaurants to start closing early probably for at least the next six months while the country goes through a pretty bad spike in COVID cases.

Spain is also seeing a big rise in cases, so as Israel which just imposed a second nationwide lockdown. The U.S. outbreak is still worse than all those other countries, and this is a relatively good point in our virus trajectory. And yet still in this country, we have lots of bars and restaurants open even as we're forced to close schools. As Dr. Ashish Jha testified to Congress this afternoon, that makes no sense.


ASHISH JHA, DEAN, SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: And I think about a third of the country could go back to school quite safely given the level of spread. In another third, we do need to bring it down a little. You could open up K through six quite easily now. But older kids, you'd want to have that virus level a little bit lower. Everybody has got to wear a mask. And then, some parts of the country, the virus levels are so high that we really do need to work on bringing it down.

And again, I would close bars and I would close indoor dining before I close schools. That's just a priority and values judgment that I would make.


HAYES: Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health joins me now after testifying for the Joint Economic Committee. Let's start on the U.K. and this sort of question, the problem of the bars. It's just become so clear. You know, this is it's a novel virus, information has shifted, people are learning, but it just seems to be covering this a day in day out now, like, it's pretty clear, bars are your enemy if you're battling this.

And I say this is a person who loves -- genuinely loves bars and would like to see them not go -- all go out of business. But it really does -- am I wrong, like bars are like public health enemy number one right now?

JHA: Yes. So, Chris, thanks for having me on. You know -- and especially birch pubs, which I love. But they are sort of almost perfectly designed to spread the virus, right, because you're indoors, you're not wearing a mask. And let's be honest, after a pint or two, people let down their guards and get -- start getting close and start speaking more loudly and singing and doing all the things that basically make it almost assure fact that you're going to spread the virus in that environment.

So as much as people may love bars, we may have -- not we may, we need to live without them for a year until we get this virus under much better control. And it just seems like we've not been willing to make that sacrifice.

HAYES: And you make the good -- the point. I mean, we can -- we can pay the revenue of every bar and restaurant. We could do it. It would be like $150 billion, if you include restaurants. It's only about $30 billion dollars if you include bars. Like, we could just do that. And that would, you think, materially impact how many of our schools we can open?

JHA: Absolutely. Absolutely. Look, the biggest predictor of whether we can have in class learning is community transmission. And now we have, I think, very good data from places that have done good contact racing, that the two biggest sources of community spread seem to be bars and indoor dining.

And, you know, obviously, other indoor gatherings are also going to get you into trouble. So, if you can keep other indoor gatherings to a minimum, pay the restaurants, pay the bars. I don't want them to close. I don't want those workers who lose their jobs. That would allow us to open up much more of our economy, would allow us to get our kids back to school. It feels like a no brainer to me from a financial and from a health and an economic well-being point of view.

HAYES: Let's look a little bit -- I mean, to me, what's happening in Europe is just a reminder of the indefatigability of this virus. Not to anthropomorphize it too much, but it just, you know, it's going to keep going. You start to go back out there; it's going to start to transmit. You know, we here are now in a sort of second plateau after that sort of sunbelt peak, but again, plateau at what, 38,000, 40,000 cases. We lost 100 - 850 people I think just today.

It just looks to me like we're about to go around the merry-go-round again. Like, this seems to me like where we were right before we had big outbreaks this summer. Is there a reason to think that's not the case?

JHA: There's two quick thoughts on this. I mean, first is, you know, the President has been talking about these big spikes in Europe. And I think it's worth a little perspective. Germany's big spike is about 1,600 cases. They're about a third of our population, so based on the U.S. population, that'd be like 5,000 cases. It would not even be a blip in our country.

So, our plateau is much, much higher than their big spike. That's point number one. Point number two, the one you're raising, is absolutely right, that we went into Labor Day with about twice as many cases as we went into Memorial Day. And the bottom line is that we're starting to see that little tick up that we see after every major holiday.

The problem is that we don't have a summer to look forward to where things can be better because people can be outside. In half the country, we're going to see people being spending a lot more time indoors, schools are opening or trying to, colleges are trying to open, all of that will put more pressure on this.

And then there's just a pandemic fatigue, people are getting tired of this. So I am very worried about what's going to happen in the weeks and months ahead.

HAYES: We've seen so much reporting about politicization at some of the key agencies, the FDA, and most worryingly, probably the CDC. I mean, you have political hacks, frankly, unhinged political hacks attempting to edit this sort of signature publication. You've got Olivia Troye talking about, you know, guidance on churches being struck down, because they want to win evangelical vote.

So, when the CDC says, like yes, it's probably not safe to all gather inside. I mean, how abnormal is that and what does it do to our response? How much is that the reason we are where we are, I guess, my question.

JHA: So, a couple of things. I mean, one is, you know, I've often thought of the FDA and CDC -- like when I talk about them on the hospital wards, I'll be rounding with my team and I'll say the CDC says, or the FDA says, that's shorthand for here's the gold standard for evidence and data, right? And that has taken decades to build up that level of confidence in the medical profession among doctors and nurses and others, and then, of course, among the American people.

This administration, over the last six months, has taken a hammer to that and really try to destroy that. That is going to take us a while to build back. I think it can. I do think it's hampered us because when I talk to public officials, mayors, governors, local officials, they tell me, well, the CDC guidance says this, you're telling me that. And it's very hard to walk them through the evidence and data and tell them that the CDC has gotten something wrong when we know that CDC is usually the gold standard.

HAYES: I guess on a final note, something -- some little silver lining which is we do know that masking works. It does seem quite clear. The President was making fun of people wearing masks and Joe Biden again today. That's what he does. He seems to be on the side of the virus. But the projections from IMHE show that like, if we could just do that, we're talking 10s of thousands of lives between now the end of the year, that difference between the projection and wearing masks equals tens of thousands of lives. If we could just do that, we can save a lot of lives.

JHA: Yes, absolutely. So, they're like two or three things, and we talked about bars and restaurants. Let's just wear masks. We got 80, 90 percent Americans who wear masks. And let's make progress on testing, which again, I've been talking about for six months. That feels boring. But if we can do those three things, we can get this under control. We can look forward to a much better 2021.

HAYES: Masks, masks, masks. Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you so much as always. It's always great to talk to you even if the context is tough. That is ALL IN for this Thursday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts, of course, right now.

Good evening, Rachel.


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