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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, September 9, 2020

Guests: Tim Kaine, Adam Serwer, Ed Yong, Stacey Abrams


A new recording reveals that President Trump understood the threat of the coronavirus but lied about it to the public. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is interviewed about President Trump admitting to concealing true threat of the coronavirus. A top Republican election Lawyer, Ben Ginsberg debunks voter fraud claims in an op-ed.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Everybody, please check it out. And that is tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN. Donald Trump knew, Donald Trump lied, and Donald Trump covered it up.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It goes through air, Bob. It's also more deadly than your, you know, your -- even your strenuous flus. It's not just old -- older --


TRUMP: -- young people too, plenty of young people. I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.

HAYES: We now know the president knighted states lied to the country, covered up the mortal threat of Coronavirus, and 191,000 people and counting are dead. Tonight, why Donald Trump's failure is exponentially worse than we ever imagined, what it means for our fight against the pandemic, and what it means the race to defeat Donald Trump.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose.

HAYES: All that and Stacey Abrams on protecting the election when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I'm Chris Hayes. Well, he knew. He knew. He's lied to us. He's browbeat us. He's circulated insane conspiracy theories, and he has done the worst job managing a crisis of any president since Herbert Hoover. We already know the reality. We see it every day, every night, we documented on the show, and that is the United States has four $ of the world's population, and 20 percent of the world's Coronavirus cases and deaths. And we know that a large part is because the President has completely bungled the response, and then gaslit us all about it.

Well, Donald Trump, there's always the question, always, of how much it is sheer incompetence, and how much is malevolence. It's always a mixture of the two but the most charitable reading of the President's actions during this pandemic, this catastrophe as we raised towards 200,000 deaths is that Donald Trump is just in over his head in a fundamental way because of his psychological makeup. His narcissism, his short attention span, he is just constitutionally incapable, literally can't do the job that we need him to do.

It's like former First Lady Michelle Obama said last month in her speech at the Democratic Convention. He simply cannot be who we need him to be. It is what it is. And honestly, that has been a large part of the way I thought about it. Well, not all of it, but a big part of how I interpreted these actions as I've watched all this unfold.

But tonight, we have evidence that it is even worse, much, much worse than incompetence. We have proof, bedrock proof that he knew. We have tapes of him confirming our worst suspicions about Donald Trump and his handling the coronavirus pandemic. He knew what he was doing. He knew how bad the virus was. He understood it, amazingly, and then he lied and he covered it up and he made it all worse.

It's a scandal of epic proportions on the plane of weapons of mass destruction of the secret bombing of Cambodia. I mean, arguably the worst cover-up in American history. And we know this, thanks to the newly revealed reporting by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward, of course, famous for breaking open the Watergate scandal along with Carl Bernstein back in 1972.

Woodward conducted in 18 on the record interviews with the president between December and July of this year for his new book called Rage coming out next week. Today, he released some of the audio recordings of those interviews. And they are just infuriating, both in what's said, and also I might add, that we're just learning about them now.

Take a listen to what the President said on February 7th. Keep in mind. This is very early, very early in the crisis here in the U.S. It hadn't really penetrated American consciousness. There was still hope it could be contained in China at that point. Even the WHO thought that might be possible. This is when we should have been building a testing regime and preparing for the onslaught.

This is more than two weeks before Dr. Nancy Messonnier at the CDC famously warned us all to prepare our lives to be disrupted. Remember, she talked about remote schooling and we all went, what? And her warning drew a heavy rebuke from Trump's White House. Let's know what Trump had to say two weeks before.


TRUMP: It goes through air, Bob. That's always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch, you don't have to touch things, right. But the air, you just breathe the air, that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than your, you know, your -- even your strenuous flus.

This is more deadly. This is five -- you know, this is five percent versus one percent and less than one percent, you know, so this is deadly stuff.


HAYES: It goes through the air and it is more deadly than the flu. That's what the President was saying in private on February 7th. This is what he said in public to the American people the very same day.


TRUMP: I just spoke to President Xi last night and, you know, we're working on the problem, the virus. It's a very tough situation, but I think he's going to handle it. I think he's handled it really well. We're helping wherever we can.


HAYES: Not a big deal. It's what he said the exact same day he told Bob Woodward the virus was airborne and deadlier than flu. Here's what the President said just a few weeks after that.


TRUMP: I asked the various doctors. I said, is this just like flu because people die from the flu, and this is very unusual? And it is a little bit different, but in some ways, it's easier and in some ways, it's a little bit tougher. But we have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job.


HAYES: The President had known for weeks at that point that the Coronavirus was according to the estimates that he was told, five times deadlier than flu. Now, listen to this next damning piece of evidence from his March 19th interview with Bob Woodward.


TRUMP: Now it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old -- older people.


TRUMP: It's plenty of young people. I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.


TRUMP: Because I don't want to create a panic.


HAYES: Oh, Donald Trump never wants to create a panic about the Antifa super soldiers and Ms-13 coming to your door to kill you. No, of course, he likes to calm people down. No, he knows it's not just old people. That's March 19th. It's young people too. And he tells Bob Woodward that he likes to play it down and spend months since telling us all, including the last few weeks that young people don't have anything to worry about. Remember, March 19th, it's young people too. But no, Donald Trump wants young people back out on the football field. Get the college players back out there.

These statements of the president, it's like the flu, nothing to worry about, it's going to go away; they were lies. They weren't just mistakes. The President knew better and lied. Joe Biden summed it up pretty well this afternoon.


BIDEN: He lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat posed to the country for months. He had the information. He knew how dangerous it was. And while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life and death betrayal of the American people. It's beyond despicable. It's a dereliction of duty. It's a disgrace.


HAYES: He failed to do his job on purpose, pretty good bumper sticker. It's not just that Donald Trump's leadership has been absent here. I mean, this is the thing that is so remarkable. It's not just that he's been absent or that he's been incompetent or bumbling, right. I mean, that's what people said about Herbert Hoover.

I mean, the President has been actively working against public health, against American safety and well-being. He has been on the side of the virus. He has been colluding with what he calls the invisible enemy. It would have been better if he took a long vacation starting in February and just spent the rest of the year golfing as I suggested in March, or if he resigned, as I called for back in June.

But instead, he has willfully taken action to lie to us. And through those lies, to get tens of thousands of Americans killed. Tens of thousands of Americans killed and it's still happening. And there is no way around that conclusion as awful as it is to say.

And even though there really is no way around what the President did, today, NBC News White House Correspondent Geoff Bennett had to remind the White House that everything Donald Trump said is on tape.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So there's a long litany of praise from Dr. Fauci and you're referencing something he allegedly told Bob Woodward.

GEOFF BENNETT, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's on tape. It's on tape, Kayleigh. The president is on tape.

MCENANY: I'm reading -- I'm reading to you what Dr. Fauci has said.


HAYES: Allegedly. It's on tape. Yes, it is on tape. I'm joined now by Geoff Bennett. Geoff, how has this landed today? For someone that covers this White House and is in that room from time to time, how has this landed?

BENNETT: I tell you what, Chris, the thing that has stuck with me since these revelations since the Washington Post first reported that audio has been that for months, we have been reporting on what we've called the mixed messaging coming from this White House as it relates to the Coronavirus crisis.

And today we found out that no, it wasn't so much mixed messaging, it was deliberate deceit. The President today admitted that yes, I was trying to downplay the threat because I didn't want people to panic. It was more than that. It was unknowing, misleading. The president, according to Bob Woodward's accounting, was warned at the end of January by his national security adviser that this pandemic would be the biggest threat to his presidency. That is something to make alarm bells ring for any president.

But yet 10 days later, he's speaking in great surprising detail to Bob Woodward about how this disease is a highly communicable. It's dangerous. It's airborne. Two weeks after that, he's telling the American people, it'll go away like a miracle. Come April, when it's hotter out this disease won't be a thing. Don't worry about it. It's just like handling the flu.

And more than what the President said, really, the bigger issue here is what he did not do. We now know that February, when the President was saying these things, saying one thing to Bob Woodward in private on the record and saying a very different thing to the American people. We know that there was a disaster related to testing. There were the PPE shortages. There was an additional disaster with the -- this sort of stop and start contact tracing efforts. And there had been studies by Columbia University that if this administration had put social distancing measures in place just a week earlier that could have saved 36,000 lives.

And the things that the President said in private about children I think are particularly heinous and nefarious. To say that, oh, it's not just old people, it's young people too, in private on the record. But then to turn around and talk to his friends at Fox News and say, you know, young people are really immune to this.

There are now roughly a half a million kids in this country who have been diagnosed with COVID. At least 100 of them have died, Chris, I mean, that that that to your point, you're right. It is infuriating. There is no other word for it.

HAYES: You know, it's you raised such a good point here. You mentioned the reporting about Robert O'Brien who's the National Security Adviser on January 28th saying this will be the biggest national security threat you will face in your presidency. This is going to be the roughest thing you face.

What that highlights to me and what his communication highlights to me is, look, we know the president watches a lot of Fox News. We know that his information sources can be pretty dubious and sketchy. We know that. We also know his access to the entire power of the U.S. government to brief him on things, right? There are thousands and thousands of extremely sophisticated people inside the national security apparatus inside the public health apparatus who can go to the President and say, look, these are the reports we're getting from Wuhan. This is what we're learning.

And what's so striking about this is that it did get to him. It's not like it didn't get to them. It's not like he was just watching too much Hannity. Like, it actually did get to him. It actually landed a little bit, which is in some ways surprising. And then he actively covered it up.

BENNETT: Yes. And the other thing -- and that's a great point that you make, and I'll just build on that and say, today, the President was speaking as if this was all retrospective about how he handled in past tense the Coronavirus. Well, we are six months into this at least. And as I stand here and talk to you, there is still no national testing strategy, there's no national mask mandate, there's no national school reopening strategy. So, this is a persistent problem, right?

And one of the reasons why there has been this patchwork approach where states are doing their own thing and red states opened up quickly, and then we saw this resurgence in the virus, is because one, the president knowingly misled, but two, early on in this process, this administration made a decision that they didn't want to be held responsible for the problem, so it was easier to push it off onto governors. And that's not a partisan statement. That is a statement effect.

HAYES: Yes, that's right. And now, there's some more dimensionality to that in terms of understanding why they did that because they understood how bad it was going to be according to reporting at least and the tapes of the president. Geoff Bennett who's always doing fantastic work for us there in the White House, thank you for making some time with us tonight.

BENNETT: Good to see you, buddy.

HAYES: Now, to get his reaction to Donald Trump intentionally lying about the threat of the virus as it is sweeping the country and continues to rage, I'm joined by Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia. Senator, your reaction to hearing the president speaks so plainly some of the basic, most important and terrifying truths about the virus that early.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Well, Chris, I think we already knew this is probably one of the greatest domestic political failures in the history of the United States, the mishandling of COVID that has led the U.S. to have such a unprecedentedly high death toll compared to other nations and economic devastation, so much more damaging than other nations.

We were sort of chalking it up to a president who is an anti-science, narcissist ignoramus. But what we learned today is that he actually understood how bad it was going to be and decided to see if he could lie his way out of it. And that just calls to mind so many other fatal missteps in our history when presidents have tried to lie to the American public and there's been great suffering.

But it's one thing to do damage to institutions, it's another thing to do damage that causes the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. My wife and I both had Coronavirus. We know four people who've died of Coronavirus. The death toll is unacceptably high and the economic devastation is unacceptably high. And this president knew it was going to be bad and tried to sweet-talk his way out of it. It's infuriating.

HAYES: You know, one thing that has caused me to remember is the fact that, you know, in February, there were briefings happening about this. I mean, again, the American -- the U.S. government is one of the most powerful entities in the world, right? It's got incredible resources. There were briefings on Capitol Hill. I remember Chris Murphy coming out of a briefing and tweeting and saying, look, this stuff, there is no -- not adequate, sufficient planning. I remember of course, we know notoriously Richard Burr was in a briefing on it, and then sold a bunch of stuff --

KAINE: January 24th was the first briefing we had. And we had members in that briefing who then went out and said, the Trump team is doing great, but then they sold stocks. Richard Burr, Kelly Loeffler, they readjusted their portfolios to show that they were afraid of it. President Trump knew how bad it was going to be. And others of his cronies and enzyme circle knew how it's going to be, knew how bad it was going to be, but they were telling the American public, telling Congress, telling the press it's going away.

There's a few cases -- we thought it was in confidence. And we saw that at the time that it was at least incompetence because we never accepted him downplaying it. But what we now know is that it was lying.

HAYES: How does this change anything now? I mean, it does in some ways, but I guess the question is, what is your sense of what your job is as a member of the U.S. Senate over this next stretch? Because what I find maddening is watching us just go around on this disaster carousel where we sort of past the same landmarks time and time again. You know, now we're getting stories about the colleges. Look, there's outbreaks in colleges. Well, no doubt there outbreaks in colleges. Like, are we going to go through another wave of this?

KAINE: I mean, 250,000 people go to a motorcycle rally in South Dakota, and then they're super spreaders. Who would have thought it? I mean, it's the number of people who are willing to follow this guy like lemmings off a cliff is shocking. We had a hearing today in the health committee about vaccine development that was, you know, that was an informative hearing.

Obviously, no vaccine should be out until it's both safe and effective and a key competitor for one of the vaccines yesterday had to pull back because of some concerns about side effects for one of their subjects in this test. But we want the vaccine to be out distributed. But how can we trust a White House to do a fair assessment of the science and a fair distribution plan when they've been lying to the American public?

I pointed out at the hearing today, the White House has been unwilling to set a daily testing goal for the country. I had to drag out of our testing czar Brett Giroir in May that to reopen the economy safely, and school safely, by the beginning of September, we needed to be doing between 1.2 and 1.1 -- 1.3 and 1.7 million tests a day. At our best, we've done 900,000 tests today. We're 60 percent of the way there to what the administration has said we should be.

So, we just got to keep the spotlight on the testing gap and try to get it up with funding. And we've got to keep the spotlight on the White House basically lying to the American public. I mean this -- I was 16 when President Nixon resigned. It was an administration of lies. I saw a president lie our way into an unnecessary war with Iraq that did so much damage to our own troops, but also to peace in the Middle East, security instability in the Middle East. This is a set of lies that is -- that has killed 10s of thousands of Americans with no showing of remorse, you know, no showing of maybe we should have done it differently. I just hope Americans can understand -- we can make mistakes, but I hope Americans can understand that we can still look in the mirror and acknowledge when we've made a mistake and then try to improve upon it.

HAYES: Senator Tim Kaine of the Commonwealth of Virginia, thank you for your time tonight.

KAINE: Absolutely, Chris.

HAYES: Ahead, the president is on tape admitting he intentionally downplay the severity of the pandemic. What this moment means, as the country nears 200,000 lives loss after this.


Hayes: It was actually less than a week ago that we learned from multiple unnamed sources and in an Atlantic magazine piece of the president called Americans who died in war losers and suckers. Six days later, we now have this book by Bob Woodward, which paints an even more damning portrait in many ways and reveals exactly how he feels about the military brass.

Trump complained, "My effing generals are a bunch of -- using an expletive you can read there on your screen." Proving the case, the private Trump is well, very much who he looks like in public. Those are some of the revelations in this new book. But I got to say, the Coronavirus response is still the President's single biggest weakness and the most devastating condemnation of him as a president, and also as a person.

And that's why, to me, this moment feels bigger than almost any we will -- we have encountered up until now. I want to talk about what this all means with NBC News Correspondent Heidi Przybyla and Adam Serwer, a staff writer at the Atlantic magazine, who's got an amazing new piece out you should definitely read called the new reconstruction. It's out in the October issue.

Heidi, let me -- let me start with you. I mean, to me, there's so much about Donald Trump that's pre COVID and pro post COVID. And the -- and not that he's changed, but basically the critics of Donald Trump, and I would count myself among them, saying, basically, look, this person is not up to the task and all these character traits that we keep pointing to will make him particularly dangerous in a crisis if and when a crisis hits, and then our crisis hit.

And that's why I find the reporting in this book so maddening precisely because it sort of confirms those worst suspicions. What's your reaction to the Woodward reporting?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: When you mentioned in the opening, Chris, that he failed to do his job on purpose, it really took me back to all of the reporting that I had been doing at the time when the pandemic was just starting to spread unabated. You had the American Medical Association, the hospital associations, the E.R. doctors just beside themselves with why this president would not coordinate a federal response with the state's breaking out bidding wars and PPE shortages.

And now we know that it is not because he didn't know that it was extremely deadly, it was that he planned to blame those deaths on the states. And that's become really clear to me as a reporter who's been covering this from the beginning, Chris, looking at this to the prism of Donald Trump. Fomenting, you know, not just downplaying the virus, Chris, but actually fomenting rebellion in some of these blue states with his tweet saying, you know, liberate Michigan and trying to, you know not set an example by wearing a mask, and actually holding rallies.

So it wasn't just that he was downplaying it, it was that he was actually doing things that voters now have to decide whether they believe those things actually helped seed this virus all across the country because we are really unique, and that this can't be stressed enough, in the Western world in terms of our mortality rate. It is the highest in the Western world, with the exception of Spain, according to Johns Hopkins' data. And that is not a coincidence.

You did not have Western leaders who have been relatively successful in this like Angela Merkel, setting example by tweeting liberate Bavaria, for instance. You know, this really is a situation where the American people are going to look at this and decide whether the difference here was the leadership because certainly when Trump says he didn't create Cornavirus, it's not his fault. Well, that's true. But did he help seed it all across this country by having a major leadership void, in a plan to essentially punt the blame to the states?

HAYES: Yes. And there's -- Adam, there's always this instinct, I think, with revelations about this presence, sort of do a second order gaming out of what matters and what doesn't. And that seems to me sort of secondary in importance to just the -- just getting the record straight here about what was done, and what was -- what was -- what he failed to do, and what the effects have been for Americans across -- I mean, this is what's striking, disproportionately certain kinds of Americans, indigenous Americans, African Americans, Latinos, particularly in the Rio Grande Valley we've seen, but for everyone, for the whole country has had to deal with the aftermath of this.

ADAM SERWER, STAFFER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, this is a particular pathology of political journalism, Chris, which is you can make moral judgments about the president negligently making decisions that lead to the death of 200,000 people. So you have to game out how it's going to play. In this particular context, that sort of the moral nihilism of that approach is made evident.'

As far as you know, the way these two stories connect, the story about America -- what the President said about American servicemembers being suckers, and his handling of the Coronavirus, is that this President has no concept of public service at all. He does not think of himself as a public servant. He thinks of the federal government as his own property.

And moreover, his philosophy of life is that you exploit every single person you come across. You get what you want from them. If you don't get what you want from that person, you're a sucker. And how that's regulatory is that it is a philosophy that reveals his perception of his own supporters, which is that the more that they support him, the more that they think they're getting what they want for him, he is actually exploiting them and thinks of them as his marks, his suckers, because after all, he feels no obligation to protect them from the consequences of what has been one of the worst pandemics in American history.

HAYES: Well, and that, Heidi, that relates, again, to the sort of how important and how dangerous the President's messaging has been. Because I mean, we even see like Mitch McConnell, who's cutting these videos about wear a mask and things like that. Like the president, if a certain percent of the country listens to everything he says, if a message from him that was clear from the beginning would have absolutely saved lives, even independent of all the policy stuff, even if he mangled everything on the policy side, just the messaging could have saved a lot of lives.

PRZYBYLA: But you can't argue with the numbers. And the numbers show us that from the get go, unlike every other major western country, again, with the exception of Spain, we have never had this under control. And it wasn't just the President, it was also state leaders like Ron DeSantis who kept all the beaches open in Florida, and then at the time that that was happening, they were you know, downplaying the severity saying that it was going to go away in the summer and with the hot weather. And then sure enough, Florida emerged as a major hotspot.

And what we've seen is that play out over and over again, also in states, such as now, South Dakota, which had the motorcycle rally. Again, a lot of these people have, you know, been believing from the beginning, that this is a hoax, or that is overstated. And it's really hard to unring that bell, even though the president reluctantly, finally, you know, many weeks into the pandemic, started wearing a mask. You know, just the other day he was yelling at a reporter in the Rose Garden to take his mask off.

And so with that kind of messaging, going out to a third of the country, which are diehard supporters, a third of the Republican Party, that's going to have an impact in every state unless everyone is taking this seriously as it has been in other major countries like Germany that has been able to get this under control, that is sending their children back to school.

HAYES: Gosh, I wish we're all back to school. Heidi Przybyla, Adam Serwer -- Adam has got that amazing piece in The Atlantic about the parallels between now and reconstruction which sort of captures something I've been wanting to say and haven't figured out the way to say for a while. You should definitely check that out. Thank you both for coming on.

SERWER: Thank you.

PRZYBYLA: Thank you.

HAYES: Coming up, how the President's downplaying of the virus helped feed what my next guest calls a pandemic spiral of bad decisions and bad policies. Atlantic writer Ed Yong on what we can do to break out of it next.


HAYES: as we're now in the back to school phase of life six months into the pandemic, there's this feeling that kind of settling into a state of suspended animation, recurring deja vu. It's like nothing is quite fixed and Nothing is quite normal, and we keep making the same series of intuitive mistakes as a society, like somehow believing that things aren't as bad as they really are. The worst-case scenario will come to pass, whether it's motorcycle rallies with over 400,000 people, or tens of thousands of college students returning to tight spaces on campus and rushing to their fraternities.

In a new piece at the Atlantic, science writer Ed Yong, who's been one of the finest writers on this pandemic, has captured this sense of being trapped by a series of bad decisions with an interesting metaphor. "Army ants will sometimes walk in circles until they die. They have no coordinating force to guide them to safety. They are imprisoned by a wall of their own instincts. This phenomenon is called the death spiral." Guess which country is full of army ants.

Ed Yong, staff writer at the Atlantic joins me now. Ed, I didn't actually realize that that was the origin of death spiral until I read your piece. This idea that we're sort of trapped, trapped by our intuitions and that this sort of pandemic plays on them, has always seemed to me a key part of what has made it so difficult. Lay out what you mean by that.

ED YONG, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. So much of the discourse around the pandemic is focused around a lack of thing for tests, for leadership, masks, but it's also due to a lack of the right attitude. So, we keep thinking about the pandemic in the wrong way. For example, we keep on bouncing from one solution to the next expecting some big silver bullet to save us instead of putting in a web of measures that we need, test and mask and all of the rest of it.

We keep on longing to go back to normal without taking on the responsibility of carving out a new path ahead in this world that has undoubtedly changed. We keep on reacting; we keep on being several sets behind the virus instead of ahead of it. And we keep on falling into the complacency of inexperience where people who haven't felt the ravages of COVID-19 firsthand, pretend that the virus isn't going to spread, isn't going to reach them, and therefore, fail to adequately prepare themselves.

And this is -- these are mistakes that you and I make, that our listeners are making, and certainly that the person who's meant to -- who's meant to be in charge of all this, Donald Trump, has repeatedly made and exacerbated.

HAYES: Yes. This is a paragraph that stood out. I want to read this because it kind of captures this core thesis. "Many Americans trusted intuition to help guide them through this disaster. They grabbed onto whatever solution was most prominent at the moment bounced from one often false hope to the next. The country is now trapped in an intuition nightmare like the spiraling ants. Americans are walled in by their own unhelpful instincts, which lead them round and round in self-destructive circles. How do we -- how do we break out of that, I guess, is my question?

YONG: So I think the piece I wrote hopefully acts as a guide to that. I've laid out nine errors that we keep on making again and again. So the ones I've talked about, you know, we for example, keep on blaming individuals instead of looking at broken systems. You know, in the clip before I came on, we talked about college students partying. Why are we putting all the responsibility for those college outbreaks on the students instead of the administrators who open colleges without adequate plans to protect their faculty and their -- and their students?

So we need to shift the ways in which we're thinking about this problem, which is so huge, so vast, and so unfamiliar to most of us. We need to change our thinking to match the scale of the challenge in front of us. And I think if we do that, we can compensate for many of the problems of leadership that we've already talked about that clearly aren't going to go away for several months yet.

HAYES: Yes. Part of - part of what I keep coming back to which release it as the idea that this is a problem that can only be marshaled. It's a public governance problem and a public policy problem. And it can only be solved through coordinated collective effort. And we basically privatized it, right?

I mean, we -- in the same way that that sort of Trump kicked it to the governor's, like, everybody is now in this, well, can I have one person over for a barbecue if they stay eight feet away, and should I send my kid to school for hybrid or -- so everyone now, it's like a million distributed decisions are being made about risk assessment that no one is actually really in a great place to make judgments on and yet that's -- that is now what's being expected of everyone.

YONG: Yes, absolutely. This is why I use the army ant metaphor at the start. Ants are capable of incredible feats of collective action, but they don't have a guiding force to lead them and they are restricted by the information that's right in front of them. We can do better. We have access to more information about this -- about what is going on.

We have the ability to coordinate with each other and we have introspection. We can look it up on mistakes and chart a better way forward. And I think that's what we need to do. We need to understand that the world has changed, that this problem is vast. And I hope that the piece that I've written helps to guide people through what is one of the greatest challenges we have experienced -- we have experienced so far. And that sort of sets the template for so many big problems that we're going to face, climate change, you know, the ruination of the natural world.

HAYES: This is -- this -- I mean, we've been saying this for months now. This is our -- this is our small dress rehearsal for climate and we're screwing up left and right. Ed Yong, thank you so much for making time tonight.

YONG: Thank you.

HAYES: Do not go anywhere. Stacey Abrams is here to discuss her fight against voter suppression and how to avoid the worst-case scenario this November, and she joins me just ahead.


HAYES: One of the most prominent Republican election lawyers in the country is a guy named Ben Ginsberg. You may have heard of him or seen him. He's been a big name lawyer for nearly four decades. He's represented for the past six Republican presidential nominees, including, most notoriously George W. Bush.

In fact, Ben Ginsberg went to war for Bush in his presidential recount battle with Al Gore in 2000, and Ginsberg won that war. He helped put George Bush in the White House despite getting fewer popular votes, and thanks to a preposterously tortured partisan ruling from the Republican majority of the Supreme Court.

So this is a guy who's a very, very big deal in Republican election circles and no squish, which is why the op-ed he just put out is so important. The headline alone is pretty striking. Republicans have insufficient evidence to call elections rigged and fraudulent. But even that is an understatement.

In the op-ed, Ben Ginsberg effectively states the President and this fellow Republicans are lying and doing damage to the nation when they claim that voter fraud is a real threat. "The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there's no proof of widespread fraud. And most they're isolated incidents by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged."

The timing of this strikes me is really important. Judges have been evaluating numerous lawsuits that have been filed by the Trump campaign and Republicans all across the country grounded in Republican claims of widespread voter fraud. The point of these lawsuits broadly is to suppress Democratic votes and to help Donald Trump win.

And here you have the top Republican election lawyer in the country, very well respected, telling those judges looking over the cases, no, elections are not rigged in fraudulent. There isn't widespread fraud. Don't buy it. That's important. Perhaps even more important is the subtext here. It strikes me as a declaration by Ben Ginsberg who is part of the very small and powerful elite class that he will not be part of any attempt by Donald Trump to contest the election or sabotage its legitimacy.

The man who helped put George W. Bush in office is effectively saying, he will stand in the way of any of Trump's strongman tactics. We all know Donald Trump may try to ignore the results the election if he loses to stay in power. And it will really matter, I think, what people like Ben Ginsberg do in response.

Right now, we need to do everything we can to avoid that worst-case scenario. Stacey Abrams will be here to discuss exactly what we can do right after this.



STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: When I started running for governor, we anticipated the voter suppression was going to be instrumental in Brian Kemp's campaign, and we were right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been in line for five hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said you've already voted looks like several days ago. No, I would have remembered that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thousands of people were told no; it didn't have the authority to demand better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lines are insane. We had precinct consolidation, non-training of local election officials.

ABRAMS: I knew something had gone horribly wrong. The system is supposed to protect our democracy didn't work the way it was supposed to.


HAYES: That clip you just saw is from a new film out in theaters today on Amazon Prime next week about the fight for voting rights in the U.S. It's called All In: The Fight for Democracy. Excellent name, not connected to the show, but it is produced in part by Stacey Abrams, founder of the voting rights organization Fair Fight Action.

Back in 2018, she got an up-close look at voter suppression in Georgia when she ran for governor against Republican Brian Kemp, who of course, was also Georgia Secretary of State and he was overseeing the election. And he made it significantly harder for many Georgians, especially black Georgians to vote. And now Brian camp is the governor instead of Stacey Abrams. And it's now clear that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are basically drawing on the same Brian Kemp playbook blown up to scale for the presidential election.

And Stacey Abrams, Democrat of Georgia is here with me now. It's great -- it's great to have you. I wanted to sort of get your -- I want you to respond to a few things that have happened in the news, but I want to start with the Ben Ginsberg piece that we just talked about previously, because it does strike me that there's -- there are going to be important voices if we -- if we end up in a sort of contested post-election scenario. And I wonder what your interpretation of Ginsberg as prominent election lawyer coming out and saying there isn't widespread voter fraud, this is not true. How much that matters, how much that kind of validation matters, for sort of the battles and may yet to become -- to come?

ABRAMS: We know it matters a lot that we have trusted voices on both sides of the aisle debunking this myth of widespread voter fraud, but also filling in the gaps and saying, here's what's actually happening. And we know that there is -- it's a high likelihood that there will be a delay in counting the votes. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong. In fact, a delay means the system is working, because we know almost half of the ballots that will be cast by November 3rd will likely come in the form of mail-in ballots. And because of the inaction of the U.S. Senate Republicans, we don't have the machinery and the funds to speed up that process. And so it's going to be slow.

But the delay does not mean that there is voter fraud. Delay means the system is working. And I'm glad that Republicans and Democrats and Independents are debunking and pushing back on what we know is just a widespread discrimination tactic designed to scare voters out of using their rights.

HAYES: There is a report by the ACLU of Georgia that attempted to look in a comprehensive fashion at the results of many of the policies put in place by then-Secretary of State Kemp and successors in terms of purges to voter rolls. And this is -- this is after Kemp was elected governor, the current Secretary of State. And they found that 200,000 voters wrongly removed from the rolls just in 2019.

I mean, this is still very much going on. In fact, it feels like they sort of felt like it worked the last time around so they're intensifying in your state.

ABRAMS: Well, we know that voter purging happens around the country. There are nine states that have it on the books as a law. There are 44 states that use it as a practice and unfortunately, Georgia is a state that has it as one of its laws. The design early on was simply to make sure that we were keeping the rules clean, but it's become a weapon that's used against voters whose only crime is choosing not to vote in an election.

And unfortunately, because of the incompetence of the current Secretary of State and the former Secretary of State, we know that our voter rolls are not properly managed and that our databases are flawed. And unfortunately, people who are entitled to be on the rolls have been taken off repeatedly and methodically over the last decade.

HAYES: What is -- what's your thought about what the President and the Republican Party is doing right now in terms of the incredible array of lawsuits, sort of attacking it at many different levels, right, like filing to make sure -- the DOJ filing a statement of interest in Alabama to make it harder to vote by mail, and then you have to have like two signatories, and then the campaign getting involved in Texas to make sure that people can't vote by mail if they're scared of the virus, and then in Montana, and then trying to stop drop boxes in Pennsylvania. It is remarkable how much effort they're putting into this.

ABRAMS: They have said -- I mean, Donald Trump said it himself and Republicans have echoed it. If every person in America who's entitled to vote cast the ballot, they are desperately afraid that they will lose. That's not a function of democracy not working. In fact, they're afraid that democracy will work. And that's why it's so critical that we push back.

This isn't about Democrats or Republicans. This is about a fundamental process we have as a nation for choosing our leaders. And when you break that machinery, you break it for everyone. Unfortunately, Republicans refuse to see any other path forward like actually supporting access to health care, supporting the rights of the union, supporting communities that are trying to grow, supporting really dealing with the racial reckoning in our country. And instead, they're using a tactic that unfortunately has worked for many parties in the past and that is when you can't win, you block the people you don't like from casting their ballots and being heard.

HAYES: There's been a lot of concern about mail-in voting and voting in person. Interestingly, Zeke Emanuel, who's a, you know, health care expert and had worked in Obama ministration recently saying, look, if you go earlier, if you have a polling place that's not crowded or it's managed well, people lining up outside, like there's public health reasons I think -- like voting in person can be done about as safely as going to a grocery store, on the relatively low risk of side things.

I mean, what message do you think Democrats or just any politician would be sending to voters about how to go about the voting process this fall?

ABRAMS: We say, don't panic, make a plan, and make it early. If you have the ability to vote by mail, use it, in part because it is the safest and most accessible way to vote. And there are multiple ways to return your ballot, you can turn it -- return it through drop box, you can return it directly through the U.S. Postal Service. You can take it to your polling place if you -- to your county elections office. But voting by mail not only protects the voter, it protects voters who don't have a choice about being in line.

Number two, vote early. If you vote early, you have the opportunity to be in shorter lines, and then if you must vote in person on Election Day. But the reality is, unfortunately, doctor Emanuel presumes or I don't think he presumes this but we have to recognize that in places like Georgia, in Nevada, in Kentucky, in Wisconsin, we have seen hours-long lines, eight hour.

HAYES: Right.

ABRAMS: It's hard to maintain social distancing. It's hard to maintain your sanity when you have to stand in line for eight hours in overcrowded spaces to cast your ballot.

HAYES: Final question on the census, which is something that you've been very active in and making sure that everyone gets counted. We've seen a lot of indications from the beginning of the Trump ministration, trying all sorts of ways to sort of mess with it. There was a very sudden and surprising announcement they were going to cut back by I think several weeks the in-person door knocking. There's now been a temporary restraining order issued by a judge saying you can't cut that back. Are you --are you confident about where things stand in terms of the census right now?

ABRAMS: Not at all. We know that the Census Bureau said that they needed the full time to actually complete an accurate census. That there has been flags -- there have been flags raised by the GAO and the Census Bureau itself, saying we can't do this accurately and on time if we have this truncated process. And so they've asked for more time.

The Trump administration realizing that more time meant more accuracy, artificially cut it off, and now we're fighting in court. We need the census to be right but we need people to take the power into their own hands. Go to mycensus -- and fill up the census or visit us at for more information.

HAYES: Stacey Abrams, as always, great to talk to you. Thank you for being here. That is ALL IN for this evening Wednesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.


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