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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, August 28, 2020

Guests: Tom Frieden, William Sulton


RNC took a dark tone despite promise of positive message. MSNBC's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Pressing Mr. DeJoy, we need to see that mail delivery rate change. We need to see that chart go backup and show service is actually restored.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Congressman Katie Porter, as always, thanks so much for joining the show tonight.

PORTER: Thank you.

HAYES: That is "ALL IN" on this Friday night, the end of a very long week.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Chris. Did you really get an electric bike?

HAYES: I did. I got an electric bike, and you I think maybe like lovingly scolding me for that acquisition on Twitter earlier today, I could not tell your message.

MADDOW: I didn't scold you.

HAYES: It's a delightful, it's a -- it is a delightful and fossil-free -- fossil-free machine. And I really like it. It was a gift from my wife.

MADDOW: Oh, very nice. Well, if Kate does it, then I can't tease you about it, let alone scold you, which I would never do. But I just want to know in your own words, why is it better to have an electric bike than just a bike?

HAYES: Oh, I love -- I mean, I love a regular bike and I love cycling and I would never use it instead of a normal bike. It does get you to runner errand and load it in the back half the time. And it's very, very useful. It's good alternative for a car for those kinds of trips.

MADDOW: OK, so it's a mini car, it is not a mega bike is the way I should think about it.

HAYES: No, I would never replace my beloved -- my beloved Steve.



MADDOW: I was not scolding. I was just absolutely shocked. All right, man, I am glad to hear. Well-done, my friend. Thanks Chris. I appreciate it.

HAYES: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Happy Friday.

As Chris said, this week, as all of you know was 47 days long. So getting to Friday at a 47-day long week is an accomplishment on its own. We are all here together and super happy to have you.

And today was sort of a remarkable day in its own even whatever that's happening over the course of this week. Today was a remarkable day, particularly in our nation's capital in Washington, D.C.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arms length, social distancing, y'all. Put your arms out like that. We're going to be reminding you of this during the course of the day. Keep your arms spread out. This is a socially distant march on Washington. Amen.


MADDOW: This is a socially distance march on Washington. Amen.

Today on the anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington, people wore masks. It was a requirement to attend, that you had to have your nose and mouth covered by a mask. The chairs in front of the barricades closest to the stage for today's event that were all set up at least six feet apart. Of course that was just a small area of the march and its attendees. There weren't enough chairs for everyone.

But there were reminders throughout the day for people to stay socially distant on the grass or wherever they found a spot to sit. Everybody got hand sanitizer when they came onto the site of the march today. Everybody got their temperature checked before they came in. And I believe you got a wristband once you got your temperature checked to show that your temperature had been checked.

They were just as cautious as you can be about a thing like this, but that of course -- protocols like this led to long lines outside the perimeter of the march area, where people waited in very, very, very long lines so they could get screened, so they could get in to the site of the march. Thousands of people on site today for this march on Washington. They definitely did a lot to make it as absolutely safe as they could. But this really was thousands of people.


MARTIN LUTHER KING III, SON OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: We are marching together for time-honored goals and in timely ways, we are courageous but conscious of our health. We are socially distant but spiritually united. We're masking or faces but not our faith in freedom. The modern day incarnation of what my father called the coalition of conscience. And if we move forward with purpose and passion, we will complete the work so boldly began in the 1960s.

LETETRA WIDMAN, JACOB BLAKE'S SISTER: Black America, I hold you accountable. You must stand. You must fight but not with violence and chaos. With self-love. Learn to love yourself, black people. Unify.

BRIDGETT FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SISTER: I want you guys to ask yourself right now, how would the history books remember you? What would be your legacy? Will your future generations remember you for your complacency, your inaction, or will they remember you for your empathy, your leadership, your passion for weeding out the injustices and evil in our world?

My brother cannot be a voice today. We have to be that voice. We have to be the change.

WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I stand before you as the proud mother of Ahmaud Arbery. I'm carrying a very broken heart but also a grateful heart that God chose my son, Ahmaud Arbery, to be a part of this most huge movement. I want to share three words with you that I know Ahmaud would want me to share with you as well, and that is "I love you." I love you all for standing with us.

JAMAL BRYANT, BAPTIST MINISTER: What America has to know about the tenacity of black people is that even when you render us paralyzed, we still know how to crawl. And on November 3rd, no matter what you do, we're going to crawl to the polls.

If you take away the mailbox, we're still going to crawl. You take away the polling stations away from our community, we're still going to crawl.

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Be poll watchers to protect our vote. I want you that will be signing up. Early voting starts in two weeks. We're on a nonpartisan wave. They want to suppress our vote. We've got to have foot soldiers that will protect the vote and that will be out there.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): Make it plain. We are in unprecedented, uncertain times. We are challenged by the state of the nation and the crisis we face. But the state of our movement, it is strong, and another world is possible.

Yes, it is possible to legislate justice and accountability. People over profits. Joy over trauma. Freedom over fear.

Yes, it is possible to write budgets that actually value black lives. If it feels unfamiliar, that's because it has never been done in America.

We will meet the moment. We will work towards healing, justice, and collective liberation like our lives depend on it because they do. We will march on, clear in our conviction, rooted in our faith, grounded in our history, intentional as we build.

Let me make it plain. Black lives matter.


MADDOW: The march on Washington today, the last speaker there, Congressman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Among the other speakers you saw there was the sister of Jacob Blake, the man who was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, this week.

We will be checking in live this hour with the situation in Kenosha tonight and the developments in that case. Policing concerns and outrage in that community now encompassing new anger and new concern over the policing of the protests there.

Tonight just before we got on the air, we got the news that the president will think is the most important thing to know about the political conventions, which finally wrapped up last night, I think we know enough about him now as president to know that what he's going to think is the most important outcome of the competing Democratic and Republican conventions over these past two weeks is who got bigger TV ratings.

We now have that data. It turns out the Democrats got bigger TV ratings. I didn't necessarily expect this, especially because the Republicans got to go second, so they benefited from seeing what worked and what didn't work when the Democrats did it, when the Democrats held the first ever virtual convention. I thought that the Republicans would rate higher because they'd be able to work out more of the kinks and sort of let the Democrats be the dry run for them to do essentially a second draft of that kind of production.

But the Democrats outrated the Republicans on night one of their convention. Night one for the Democrats was bigger than night one for the Republicans. And then that held true for the whole week. The Democratic convention had a lot more eyeballs on it, millions more.

President Trump's long, long, long speech last night from the White House, that was the highest rated thing in the whole Republican convention. But the president's speech last night rated lower than his own previous convention speech in 2016. It rated lower than Romney's speech from 2012. It rated lower than John McCain's speech from 2008. It even rated lower than George W. Bush's re-election speech in 2004.

But the thing that will really bother the president is that the president's speech last night rated lower than Joe Biden's speech did last week during the Democratic convention. And you just know that is going to make him absolutely crazy as is this.




MADDOW: Great again, again. Make America great again, again is actually, I think, kind of a spectacular idea for a slogan for the Trump/Pence campaign because that wouldn't just be MAGA. It would be MAGAA.

But despite the fact that Vice President Pence actually did say that in his speech this week, make America great again, again, what we've seen more often as a chain slogan for the Trump re-election campaign is this. Keep America great. You see that on the signs, on the flags, on the hats and masks and all the rest.

But it's interesting. The whole "Keep America great" campaign slogan for Trump and pence is not on the website because the Trump campaign apparently forgot to buy the domain name even as they were putting "Keep America great on" all their signs and hats and flags and shirts. They didn't buy, so the Biden campaign bought it. Anybody going to keep America tonight will find what sort of looks like a Trump website, but it's actually a Biden campaign website about Trump breaking all his promises and messing stuff up.

I don't think the Democrats as being that nimble with stuff like this usually, but they did it in this case, and, again, that has got to drive the president nuts. Every time he looks out there and he sees somebody holding a "Keep America great" hat or shirt or flags, a little part his brain is going to go, Joe Biden has that website, and it's all terrible stuff about me.

As controversy continues to swirl around the president using the White House and using federal property and federal employees and federal resources to benefit his campaign, which is supposed to be illegal, some of the high-profile stunts that they pulled this week at the RNC are already unraveling before the week is even out. First there was that odd, long scene. It was like a ten-minute video clip where they acted out a naturalization ceremony, a citizenship ceremony at the White House. They filmed it, and they showed it at the RNC. It included both the president himself and the acting secretary of homeland security.

Well, it turns out at least some of the people who were sworn in as new citizens of that ceremony, they didn't know that was going to be used for the Republican convention. They weren't asked if they wanted to be part of the Republican convention. They weren't warned that that's what was happening. They didn't know about it until they were told after it was done.

That, we learned over the course of this week. Now, tonight there's more. Tonight "The New York Times" reports that in one of the anti-Democrat videos that aired last night, it was attacking the mayor of New York City as if Joe Biden is the mayor of New York City. It turns out three of the four New Yorkers, three of the four public housing residents who appeared in that video had no idea that that was for the RNC either.

Now, you might remember one early Trump administration scandal about President Trump appointing his son Eric Trump's wedding planner to be the top federal housing official for the northeastern United States. Trump really did that, and that is the official. That is the Trump appointee who apparently personally shot these videos with these public housing residents. She conducted these interviews herself and then used them in this film that was broadcast at the RNC to make it appear that these public housing tenants in New York were very pro-Trump and very against all Democrats.

Here's how "The Times" phrases it tonight. Quote, it started with an unexpected call last week from Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump associate who oversees federal housing programs in New York. Four tenants soon assembled in front of a video camera and were interviewed for more than four hours by Ms. Patton herself, by this federal official.

Quote, they were never told that their interviews would be edited into a two-minute video clip that would air on Thursday night at the Republican national convention. One of the tenants telling "The Times", quote, I am not a Trump supporter. I am not a supporter of his racist policies on immigration. I'm a first generation Honduran. It was my people he was sending back.

"The Times" says, quote, the episode represents another stark example of how President Trump has deployed government resources to further his political ambitions. Ms. Patton is head of the New York office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under the Hatch Act, she is barred from using her government position to engage in political activities like, say, shooting a video for the Republican National Convention with unwitting public housing tenants who weren't told they were going to be used for an RNC propaganda video.

I mean, it is one thing to try to showcase regular people as part of your convention. The Republicans bragged in advance of their convention that that would be a hallmark of what they did, and more power to them, except to the point where they did that by tricking regular people into being there without getting their permission and against what would have been their objections had they known that's what you were using them for.

But, you know, it's hard to know -- honestly, it's hard to know how to cover the election writ large in the context of everything going on in the country. It's also hard to know on a day to day basis what deserves attention in terms of electoral impact. I mean, nothing's normal. Nothing's normal right now.

There's no -- we don't have a number line on which we can calibrate the size of relative electoral stories. Literally thousands of Americans died over the course of the past week. Thousands of Americans died over the course of this past week while the Republican convention talked about COVID-19 in the past tense as if it's over and repeatedly declared victory and talked about all the lives that were saved by the president's decisive action, which is an alternate reality we would all love to have a chance to visit sometime. But it is not our reality despite what they put on television.

I mean in the real world, in Iowa tonight, the state of Iowa has just announced that the positivity rate for tests in the state of Iowa right now is 79 percent. Just to put that in context, there's been nationwide freak-out over various states hitting 15 percent or 20 percent positivity rates over the course of this summer. According to the World Health Organization, what you're shooting for ideally to be able to open schools and stuff is a maximum of 5 percent positivity for your testing. Iowa is at 79 percent.

Iowa's Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, who spoke at the RNC this week, she is nevertheless mandated that Iowa schools must reopen in person. Individual communities in Iowa that have really high positivity rates and really big numbers of cases have asked for waivers for that. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds as told them, no, you must open in person.

She's also refused any sort of Iowa rule for people to wear masks. Don't need it. Why would we need it? Seventy-nine percent positivity rate in Iowa and the highest per capita new infections in the country right now. There she is speaking at the RNC, which is, you know, writ large devoted to the idea that President Trump kicked that COVID thing. We're sure glad that's over. Boy, China did a terrible job there.

Today, the FDA fired two of its PR people, it's public relations people, one of whom the spokesperson for the FDA they recently got from the One America Network, which is the pro-Trump TV network that among other things airs the stuff that the intelligence community just warned is direct from the Kremlin to interfere with the 2020 election too. She worked for the One America Network, and that's what qualified her to become the spokesperson for the FDA during a global pandemic?

She was working as the main spokesperson for the FDA during this past week when this debacle happened over convalescent plasma with the FDA, including the FDA chief spouting wildly inaccurate, wildly exaggerated, just false information about the efficacy of convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19. You heard many of those wild exaggerations echoed this week at the Republican convention, including from the president himself.

The Republican convention basically bragged over the course of four nights that Trump had this thing cured. This convalescent plasma thing, we've got it cured. They do not have this thing cured.

The FDA has authorized emergency use of convalescent plasma, but what they said about its efficacy publicly was false and not at all supported by the data, including what was said at the White House by the head of the FDA. Rather than replace the head of the FDA who screwed this up, they've replaced the PR people instead. This is not a PR problem.

Meanwhile, the other public health agency that the world and our country ought to be depending on right now to find our way out of this, the CDC, they've spent this week trying to publicly eat their most recent recommendation that Americans shouldn't actually get tested if we've been exposed to somebody who's positive. The CDC quietly announced this new testing guidance which said -- which said that you don't necessarily need to be tested if you've been exposed to a positive person, which is insane, unless you're trying to just reduce the amount of testing we do in the country because you don't like all the positive test results because it makes us recognize that we've got a lot of cases.

As states and local health authorities have been announcing one after another all week long that guidance from the CDC is insane and they will defy it, meanwhile leakers from the CDC have been rushing to tell reporters that this insane testing recommendation didn't actually come from scientists at the CDC. It came from the Trump administration, and they just made the CDC put their name on it.

The CDC director, Director Redfield, is now sort of taking back that testing recommendation, saying testing, quote, may be considered if a person has had contact with somebody known to be positive for COVID-19. Oh, thank you. It may be considered now? You may consider getting tested if you've been exposed to somebody who's got this? That's the recommendation now, or are we supposed to go with what you said in print even though apparently the CDC didn't write that either, that just came from the Trump administration and you put it out under your own letterhead?

You're the CDC. You used to be the premier public health organization in the world.

Tonight, over 181,000 Americans are dead from COVID. The CDC says we'll have 200,000 Americans dead from COVID by the end of two weeks from now. The University of Washington says today to expect nearly 320,000 dead Americans from COVID by December.

We have the worst COVID epidemic on Earth. We have 4 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's deaths. We have the largest number of cases, the largest number of deaths, the worst national testing regime of any major country.

We have the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. We are rocketing toward quadruple the number of Americans killed in Vietnam before Election Day. Reopening schools isn't working, and there's no plan coming to make it make sense at the national level. And meanwhile here comes the election.

Like I said, this week was 47 days long. Every week from here on out is going to be even longer than that. Stamina, everybody. Let's get to all of it. Eyes open.

Lots to cover tonight. Steve Schmidt joins us next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make no mistake. No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats' America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crime, violence, and mob rule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crime ravaging our streets. That is what America would see if it allowed Biden/Harris to run this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump was elected to protect our families from the vengeful mob.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to abolish the suburbs altogether.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nightmares are becoming real. Cops killed, children shot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drug addicts, guns on the street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mob will try to destroy you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal, victim ideology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Burn down the foundations of our country to the ground.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You will not recognize this country or yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American way of life is being dismantled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anarchy and chaos on our streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This election is shaping up to be church, work, and school versus rioting, looting, and vandalism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police aren't coming when you call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to steal your liberty, your freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a horror film really.



MADDOW: That was just night one. That was nice.

We were all hoping that it would get slightly less terrifying over the course of the week, but that was pretty much the theme song all week long.



SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Socialists poisoning our schools and burning our cities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disrespect our flag, burn the stars and stripes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Murders, shootings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lawless destruction.

TRUMP: Left-wing anarchy and mayhem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overrun by violent mobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They close our churches but keep the liquor stores and abortion clinics open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People beaten, shot and killed, police officers routinely assaulted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good, hardworking Americans are left to fend for themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their radical, socialist agenda.

PENCE: You won't be safe.


MADDOW: It has been an unnerving week with what the Republicans sold to the country this week, but it's also been a radical week on its own terms, including these just previously unthinkable images of the White House being used as a Trump campaign soundstage for a televised pardon and a televised citizenship ceremony, which some of the people there being sworn in as new citizens didn't know they were going to be used this way. There were also the prime-time speeches from the president and the first lady and from his daughter, who he made a senior White House aide, all coming from the White House itself.

Former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt had this to say today. He said, quote: The desecration of the White House for Trump's perverse political use is an abomination. The question of whether voters care about the Hatch Act is beside the point. It's the law.

Trump's convention was a pageant of breathtaking dishonesty, racial incitement, and demagoguery. It was an exposition of lawlessness where the powerful symbols of state that belong to all of us were profoundly abused in the name of Trump's personal vanity and political narcissism.

Joining us now is my friend Steve Schmidt, former Republican strategist, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, and a man who does not mince words.

Thanks for being here. It's really nice to see you. I've been wanting to talk to you all week.

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYHST: Nice to see you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: I wanted -- I wanted to ask about this phrase from you today, an exposition of lawlessness.

What we've heard from the witness and from the campaign is, yeah, technically it's illegal but everybody expects to see political events from the White House. Anybody complaining about this is an elite beltway person. We're going to do it more and more because it bugs you. It's not a serious law.

But you're describing this as something that is basically showing off an ability to break the law in a way that's dangerous.

SCHMIDT: Of course it is. The president is constitutionally bound to faithfully execute the laws that are duly passed by the Congress and have been signed into law by previous presidents. It's the law. They're blatantly breaking the law.

So we saw three things this week, Rachel, that all come together. We saw breathtaking dishonesty. We have never seen at any prior political convention, any prior quadrennial convention, we've never seen such breathtaking dishonesty. We have never seen such lawlessness, such breaking of tradition, norms, and the law, the abuse of the United States Marine Corps, those young marines in dress uniform made into stage props for Donald Trump during the citizenship ceremony, a sacred event that was politicized.

And lastly, we see Donald Trump trying to co-opt these powerful symbols of the state, of the country that belong to all of us. We are a government of the people, by the people, for the people. The White House belongs to all of us.

He is a temporary resident, a custodian. He resides there because it's the greatest honor a citizen can receive in this country, having the presidency bestowed on them by the voters.

But what Trump is essentially saying this week is, I am the truth. I am the law. And I am the state.

This is dangerous in a liberal democracy. He is openly flaunting the law, and it will only get worse. And he will not stop until someone stops him, and the elected political class in the country is incapable of doing it, so it's up to the voters.

MADDOW: Steve, I think as a student of history and as somebody who looks at things often from a global and foreign policy perspective, I know that you know that one of the things that is a hallmark of electoral autocrats and electoral authoritarians is that they get re-elected. And the reason they get re-elected is they have no qualms whatsoever about using the fact that they hold power now to make sure that they get re-elected, using the power of the government and their control over the levers of power to ensure that the election goes their way by hook or by crook.

And that's true all over the world. We've seen that with modern authoritarian states all over the place where they have fig leaf elections but the bottom line is that the ruler always stays there.

If the political class as you describe it is incapable of stopping this, if the Hatch Act isn't going to be enforced, for example, do voters have the power to stop it as long as this president controls enough levers of power that he may be able to control the election that's supposed to be the referendum on him in the first place?

SCHMIDT: I can't believe I'm saying this out loud, but I'm legitimately worried about this country's ability to conduct a free and fair election. I think Donald Trump will do everything he possibly can to sow as much chaos, as much confusion, to try to do everything in his power to delegitimize the election. That being said, he will not be able to steal the election from the American people, and I think that the will of the American people is enough of this.

Every person that you showed in that clip rose in defense of a vile cause. They rose to defend the most inept and incompetent president of the United States. A man who's White House purposely and premeditatively made the decision we would have no national strategy on COVID because it was a problem that they thought they could stick on the blue state governors.

As a result, at least 130,000 Americans are dead that did not have to be. We have a wrecked economy that did not have to be. We've seen the ending of American life as we knew it. The schools are in chaos, and they'll close again. We'll have no football this autumn.

And the things that we once took for granted are gone, and they're gone because of Trump's profound incompetence.

And this is a really important moment, Rachel, for Joe Biden. It is a decisive moment. Donald Trump is a factional leader who's trying to pit the country against each other and stoke a cold civil war, and out of that confusion to eke out a narrow victory again, to pull that inside straight.

This is a moment for Joe Biden to lead. The cities of this country, nobody wants to see the violence. Joe Biden has to condemn the violence. He has to speak out for justice. He has to lead in a moment where Donald Trump is fueling hate and division.

He has to lead -- Joe Biden has to lead with love. He has to talk about the country. He has to talk about unity.

He has to offer the opposite vision. He should go to Kenosha. He should lead from the front. He should find where the trouble is in this country, the trouble that Donald Trump is stoking, the trouble that Donald Trump is making worse. He should go there and make it better.

That's what this election's going to be about over the next two months. We have two starkly different visions for the country, and what we saw over this past week was a dark, dark, dark message of division and hate that's really very dangerous for the future of this country.

MADDOW: Lincoln Project co-founder, former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt. Steve, you don't know this, but behind you, you had a very good dog who was helping you make those points even more effectively than you could with the power of your voice, and I commend your -- I commend your pooch. I don't know which one that was. Brown and white, up and down off the couch.

SCHMIDT: I think that's Layla.

MADDOW: Good dog, Layla.


MADDOW: Thank you, Steve. Much appreciated.

SCHMIDT: Take care, Rachel.

MADDOW: We've got much more to come here tonight including a former top U.S. health official who was sounding the alarm on what went very, very wrong with the nation's two major public health agencies this week. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Good morning, Davenport, Iowa, today.

Right at the top of your "Quad City Times" today, quote, Iowa breaks COVID-19 daily records. Also, "The Des Moines Register" led today with coronavirus with two stories. On the left you see Des Moines will enforce mandate with free masks. A local mask mandate in Des Moines.

On the right, Governor Reynolds shuts bars and clubs in six counties. Virus rates spiking in younger adults.

Yes, this is the morning paper after the president accepted the Republican Party's nomination for a second term in office and that got headline treatment all over the country. But in Iowa, that story is relegated to page A-4. It can't be on the front page, no.

In Iowa, the big newspapers have coronavirus up top because Iowa is back to having one of the highest infection rates in the whole country. Only South Carolina and Mississippi are up there right now with Iowa in terms of positivity rates. Earlier today, Iowa reported a 79 percent positive rate for its tests now, which is insane.

Part of what seems to be going wrong in Iowa is that they appear to have a screwed up testing system. In April, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed a $26 million no-bid contract with a company whose CEO said, quote, none of them knew anything about lab testing when they started up that company.

Nevertheless, the governor gave that company a no-bid contract for something called Test Iowa. This week in Iowa, the local news has been all about how messed up Iowa's testing is. Quote, Iowa can't track the number of positive, negative, or inconclusive tests performed by test Iowa. Quote, the state has no way of knowing if a specific test from any manufacturer is giving a disproportionate number of positives or negatives or inconclusive test results.

They can't track positives and negatives, and they have no way of knowing whether the testing is accurate. That doesn't help you control an epidemic, especially as schools and colleges start to reopen and as Governor Kim Reynolds has mandated that they must do so in person. Since Monday alone, the University of Iowa has seen 500 new cases reported among its students. Iowa cannot get its epidemic under control if the statewide testing is screwed up.

But if statewide testing is screwed up and that screws up one state's epidemic, you can say the same thing for the country. For months, nationally, the CDC has said that any American who has been in close contact with somebody infected with COVID should be tested. That's one of the reasons you should be tested, if you've had contact with somebody who's positive.

That's been their advice all along until Monday this week when the CDC quietly and inexplicably changed their guidelines lines to say people who have been exposed to someone positive, quote, do not necessarily need a test.

Why would they do that?

Since then the current CDC director, Director Redfield, has attempted to walk back those comments, saying, OK, maybe people who have been exposed could be tested. But the genie is already out of the bottle and confusion is failure when it comes to public health guidelines. There's already widespread backlash in the medical community, many states and local health authorities about these changes.

That backlash tonight includes some of the very people who used to run the Centers for Disease Control.

Joining us now is Dr. Tom Frieden. He's the former director of the CDC. He's now the president of Resolve to Save Lives, a global public health initiative.

Dr. Frieden, it's nice to see you. Thanks for making time for us this evening.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Good to speak with you again, Rachel.

MADDOW: The CDC is and has been a gold standard public health agency for much of its time on Earth. How unusual is it for the CDC to put out guidance that doesn't appear to have scientific support and for them to waffle then publicly on whether or not they really mean it?

FRIEDEN: Statements from people in Washington make clear that this was something that was imposed on CDC. This was a decision made in Washington, not at CDC's headquarters in Atlanta. And it's not based on science.

It's very important to test the contacts of people with COVID not only because they might have COVID themselves but because if they have the infection, you then have to find their contacts and make sure that they get warned so that they can be quarantined and not spread the disease further.

If you don't do that, you allow COVID to spread more.

MADDOW: If this was improperly delivered advice, if as you say this was advice that was generated in Washington, not at CDC headquarters, it was nevertheless put out under the banner of the CDC with all of the authority that should grant it. The backlash that we have seen not only from former officials like yourself but from people running health departments in states and cities around the country has been absolutely -- is loud and getting louder every day.

Can the CDC fix this? I mean, Director Redfield sort of softening it and saying that the guidance shouldn't necessarily preclude people who have been exposed from getting tested seems to me to just muddy the waters and make the guidelines less useful overall. How should they fix this? It feels quite dangerous.

FRIEDEN: It's not hard. They just have to change a sentence on their website. I'm sure CDC would like to do that, but they're not being allowed to by HHS and the White House, and that's really unfortunate because we need to follow the science. This is not about politics. This is about controlling an epidemic.

You do that by testing the people most at risk and stopping chains of transmission. Rachel, over the past couple of weeks we've gotten some good news that it does appear that people can develop immunity against the virus that causes COVID-19. But this past week we've gotten bad news that it doesn't look like the FDA or the CDC have immunity from the virus of politics infecting science, and that is really concerning because we have tough decisions coming up not just on plasma or testing but on vaccine.

And unless science rules, we're not going to be able to maintain and strengthen the trust that people have in any measure we have, whether it's a vaccine or a treatment or testing or the recommendation to mask up, which is so very important and not being done as much as it should be.

MADDOW: That's exactly right, and there's no -- there's no substitute for the NIH and the CDC. We can either believe them and turn to them for science-based, direct, no B.S. guidance on these things, or we can't. And they have to -- they have to repair themselves and their reputation for those difficult decisions coming down the pike as you say.

Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC, now the president of Resolve to Save Lives, Dr. Frieden, it's an honor to have you with us tonight. Thanks for your time.

FRIEDEN: Great to speak with you again. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. More ahead here tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: We're continuing to follow the developing story out of Kenosha, Wisconsin, after the police shooting of Jacob Blake there on Sunday. Mr. Blake is reportedly paralyzed after being shot in the back seven times. Nevertheless, his family said this week that the police had handcuffed him to his hospital bed while he continues to recover and be treated. That apparently changed this afternoon after widespread outcry. Mr. Blake is still in the hospital but he is no longer technically in police custody and he's apparently no longer shackled to his hospital bed.

Also today, the teenager accused of killing two protesters and wounding a third in Kenosha had a hearing today in his home state of Illinois where he was arrested the day after the shootings. A judge there delayed a decision on whether the 17-year-old should be sent to Wisconsin to face felony homicide charges. His extradition hearing will now be set for September 25th.

Meanwhile, the protests sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake are continuing for a sixth night tonight. Last night of course that meant peaceful demonstrations with protesters marching and singing as they called for justice.

Tonight, we go to Wisconsin to be joined by William Sulton, who's the president of the board of directors for the ACLU of Wisconsin. He's an attorney in private practice in Milwaukee.

Mr. Sulton, thank you so much for making time to be here. I appreciate your time.


MADDOW: From your up-close view of this matter in Wisconsin, I wonder if I could just start by asking you if you feel like there are things the national media is getting wrong, if this ongoing situation in Kenosha, the reaction to Mr. Blake's shooting, the protests since then, this apparent vigilante murder that -- double murder that happened at one of the protests -- are there things we're getting wrong from a national perspective that you can see better from close up in state?

SULTON: Well, you know, Rachel, my grandfather was from Kenosha. I never thought that he entire world would know where Kenosha, Wisconsin, is. And, unfortunately, what we're seeing happen in Kenosha is endemic to what's happening in Wisconsin, and the media has -- covered the story.

MADDOW: I know the Wisconsin ACLU has called for the police chief's immediate resignation in Kenosha. There's been a lot of outrage and I think observation and discussion about whether or not Kenosha police have in fact condoned and encouraged the kind of vigilantism that appears to have led to the killer of two protesters and serious injury to another this week.

SULTON: That is correct, Rachel. The ACLU of Wisconsin is calling for the resignation of the police chief as well as sheriff, both of whom have responded very poorly to what has occurred, and it is clear from the evidence that we have thus far that they have coddled the vigilantes that were responsible for the killing of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and serious injury to another person.

And we think it's critical that the Governor Evers removed the sheriff and that the entire police commission in Kenosha -- the chief of police.

MADDOW: In terms of the ongoing protests, does the ACLU and do you and other observers in the area have concerns about the way that the protests, the ongoing protests have been policed, especially in the wake of those shootings?

SULTON: Yes, Rachel. It is just unbelievable that peaceful protesters who are protesting police violence are being met with police violence. On Monday, we saw protesters shot with rubber bullets. One seriously injured and taken to the hospital. We're seeing protesters being teargassed. We're seeing protesters hit with -- munitions.

This type of affront to the First Amendment right of these protesters is just horrible, and it must stop.

MADDOW: William Sulton, the president of the board of directors for Wisconsin's American Civil Liberties Union -- I really appreciate your time tonight. The eyes of the nation are still upon Wisconsin and will be for a long time as this resolves and continues to develop. Thanks for helping us understand tonight.

SULTON: Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Something to keep an eye on over the weekend. Amid fears that the White House might have organized a super spreader COVID event last night at the White House for the president's speech, with over a thousand people closely packed together with no masks in sight, today, we learned the actual Republican convention, the Carolina event that preceded the stuff in D.C. this week where they formally dominated the president, today we learned that four people who showed up for that RNC event tested positive for COVID.

Amid lots of concern about how the RNC handled COVID concerns this week at their many events, one senior White House official today told CNN that none of it really matters because, quote, everybody is going to catch this thing eventually.

Well, that's true if we keep going to events organized by the Republican Party in the White House if they keep doing it like this.

Watch this space. That will be a developing story as we continue to see the is implications of what they organized in multiple occasions over the course of this week.

I'll see you again on Monday night.

Now it's time for "THE LAST WORD" where the great Katy Tur is filling in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Katy. It's great to see you.


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