Scott Atlas, the random radiologist with no public health or infectious disease experience, who was somehow nevertheless leading the coronavirus response at the White House, has just resigned from the White House tonight. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman talked about the new economic team just announced by President-elect Biden. MSNBC continues its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Monday evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated it.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Got a big show tonight. Lots going on.
Scott Atlas, the random radiologist with no public health or infectious disease experience, who was somehow nevertheless leading the coronavirus response at the White House -- Scott Atlas has just resigned from the White House tonight. That is a big deal. It has occasioned a big sigh of relief across the field of public health. We will have much more on that coming up tonight.
We've got Laurie Garrett here tonight, Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist. We'll be talking with her on the Scott Atlas news and more.
We've got Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman here tonight to talk about the new economic team just announced by the president-elect, by President-elect Biden.
So we've got lots going on, a couple of really good guests, big show tonight. But I want to start tonight in Arizona because of a couple of things that happened simultaneously in Arizona today.
So in Arizona today in the state capital, Rudy Giuliani held another one of these things where he calls it a hearing, but it's really just a bunch of Republicans in a hotel room that he's rented. His hearing today was all about how Arizona is still very much in play in terms of the presidential election because definitely the presidential election in Arizona for some reason doesn't count this year. And by the power vested in him, Rudy Giuliani, he insists that Republicans in the Arizona state legislature should never mind what all the votes said in their state. They should -- those Republicans in the state legislature should just pick Donald Trump for president themselves and say that's the election result.
That is basically what whatever is left of the Trump team is arguing now. They are -- this is what they are reduced to. Elections don't count anymore. Republicans in all these swing states that just voted for Joe Biden, Republicans in those states should just get to pick that they want Trump for president, and they should just forget all the stupid votes counted in those states because the votes shouldn't count. Republicans should just seize power and declare Trump is going to get a second term.
So that little antithesis of school house rock was at play at one of these Giuliani things again. This one at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix today.
Just to get your bearings a little bit, the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix is there. It's that red dot there. It's right across the street from the parking garage for the Phoenix Convention Center. That's where Giuliani was holding his thing today.
But meanwhile, simultaneously, about 18 blocks west on West Adams Street, the actual Arizona election results which actually did give the state to Joe Biden, not Donald Trump, those results were being finalized for real.
I mean, the president's weird after-party following this election has sort of boiled down to this idea that wherever Republicans are in charge, if they're in charge of the legislature or the secretary of state's office or the governor's office, Republicans should just figure out some way to throw out all the votes, to throw out the election results and instead declare Trump the winner. That is what this is boiling down to for them.
Well, in Arizona, the governor is a Republican. His name is Doug Ducey, and just like almost all the other Republican governors, Doug Ducey has gone out of his way to make sure that his state thinks of him as a Trump guy, that his state, Arizona, thinks of Governor Ducey as being very, very close to the president.
Here's Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, for example, bragging this summer that President Trump and Vice President pence call him so often on his cell phone offering the state of Arizona help on COVID issues -- here's him explaining publicly that he, the governor, had to change the ring tone on his phone so when the president or the vice president called him on his cell phone, it wouldn't ring normally anymore. When they called, it would play "Hail to the Chief".
So when he heard that in his pocket, he could stop everything and take it because that's would mean it was President Trump or Vice President Pence personally calling him on the line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R), ARIZONA: Well, first I want to say that I've got a relationship with the president, and when there's a need in Arizona, I talk to him directly. I actually -- my senior staff knows this. We've had so much outreach personally from both the president and the vice president that I had to change the ring tone on my phone, and it rings "Hail to the Chief" because I didn't want to miss another phone call directly from the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The governor of Arizona's cell phone plays "Hail to the Chief" only when it's a call directly from the White House, directly from Vice President Pence or President Trump. He bragged that he had to make this change because otherwise he was missing those calls, and they're very important. You have to pick -- well, today while President Trump's legal team, Rudy Giuliani, was at the Hyatt arguing that Arizona's election doesn't count and Republican leaders in the state should just throw out all the votes, throw out the election results and pick Trump themselves instead.
While that was happening, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey was down the block officially certifying the results of the real Arizona election, which Joe Biden won. So he was in the process of assigning the state's electoral votes for Joe Biden.
And guess what happened in the middle of him doing that. You have to turn up the volume here for a second. Listen closely. But listen. It's like five or so seconds into this. Just listen to what happens in the governor's pocket, and then watch what the governor does.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: The governor is in the process of certifying the election results in the state of Arizona for Joe Biden when the vice president or the president calls him on his cell phone. And we know this because you can hear that it's "Hail to the Chief" that plays as the ring tone. He pulls the phone out of his pocket, briefly looks at it, silences it, and puts it face down on the table and keeps signing the certification.
Do you think that they knew that's exactly what he was doing at that moment and that he would send them to voicemail? Oh, go away. Not now.
It has been that kind of day. It's been that kind of a few days frankly. Over the weekend, the Trump legal beagles also tried to pull this same sort of trick in Pennsylvania, trying to get Republicans in the state legislature there to again just proclaim that the election never happened in Pennsylvania, trying to get them to say that despite the state voting for Biden, the Republicans in the state legislature were just going to insist that Trump won instead and that they would appoint Trump electors instead of Biden electors.
They tried the same thing that they're trying in Arizona. They're trying it in Pennsylvania over the last few days. Republican leaders in the legislature this weekend put out a statement saying, no, they're not going to do it. Lots of stuff they're busy with right now. Definitely won't have time to get around ending democracy in their state. No, we are not going to do it.
Arizona wasn't the only state to certify its election results today. The great state of Wisconsin also executed its state version of certifying the vote and officially appointing that state's Electoral College votes for Biden as well. With Arizona and Wisconsin both taking this step today, it means that of all the major states where the vote was reasonably close and the Trump campaign tried to cast doubt on the results, all of those states have now certified their vote now. They've all certified that Biden won. Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, and Arizona.
Biden now has not only one all of those states, he has officially won all those states. But yet in Trumpland, they are persisting with these increasingly not just hopeless but hapless legal claims that just -- I think this is important and maybe sort of isn't being focused on enough. The way these claims keep failing, they keep proving the Trump folks wrong, right?
These legal efforts that they have mounted and they have lost all of them -- they just keep showing in more and more detail and with more and more granular certainty that they really don't have anything on their side in terms of the facts to back up these wild claims that they're making.
After Wisconsin certified their vote tonight, that means the Trump campaign does have a five-day window under state law in which they can challenge the certification of that Wisconsin vote, and they say they will do so in court in Wisconsin. But if the past dozens of these things are any prologue, that new challenge that Trump is about to launch in Wisconsin will fail quickly and decisively and will show all the more conclusively that the vote was sound and that Biden won.
Just like the Wisconsin recounts that Trump paid for, that he raised gazillions from his supporters to pay for. Those Wisconsin recounts in the end showed that Biden not only won in Wisconsin definitively. Those recounts showed that Biden's margin of victory was a little larger than had previously been thought. The recount that Trump paid for found that Biden's victory was larger by 87 votes than what they had thought before the recount was done.
So did you get your money's worth there, right? Your fixed income great aunt who sends in 10 bucks every time the Trump campaign texts her, emails her, and tells her they're desperate for her money so they can litigate the election and win the second term for Trump. You think she's getting good bang for her buck? Do you think she's glad to pay for that Wisconsin recount for all these lawsuits?
Does your gullible Trump-supporting, QAnon-believing cousin get his money's worth when he pitched in money to help the Trumpy lawyers file their new lawsuit challenging the vote in Michigan? That's the new lawsuit, the new Trump lawyers lawsuit in Michigan where their expert testimony they've just filed with the court is all about how there was very clear fraud in Edison County in Michigan. They say they can prove it, this Edison County fraud in Michigan.
There actually isn't even a county by that name in Michigan. There is no Edison county, Michigan. But this is the Trump lawsuit in Michigan claiming grave fraud there. Yeah, it's very hard to find the fraud there if you can't find the county there because the county doesn't exist. But, hey, you know, looks good in the fund-raising letter.
In the long run, the whole idea here and the whole -- you know, the damage that's being done here is that they're creating an impression that Republicans and Trump in particular have some righteous beef with democracy, right? That Trump deserves to be installed in power again by some means other than an election since elections are bad and can't be trusted, since that's the means by which this was stolen from him when he was going for a second term.
I mean, in the long run, that's the damage they're doing. This is the latest death of the republic thing that Trump is going for here, and he doesn't care. In the short run, though, right -- the long run damage is very dangerous and very bad for the country. But think about how they're making these tactical decisions in the short run, right, in Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, in Arizona. Everything they're doing is just reifying and adding more factual detail to the record, the clear and increasingly inarguable record that Trump lost and by how much.
That said, even if it's pointless what they're doing or counterproductive to their aims what they're doing in all these other states, in Georgia, what they are doing is potentially quite consequential and not in a way that I imagine they like. One of the president's lawyers, the one who was just publicly disowned by the president's other lawyers, in Georgia, she's got a new lawsuit going there that is apparently intended to convince all Georgia Republican voters that there is no point in voting in Georgia at all because the whole election system is rigged there. The election machines are part of the vast conspiracy controlled by communists and maybe something with JFK Jr.? I don't know.
The whole system is rigged, and fixed and your votes, therefore, in Georgia don't count. Votes that are cast for Republicans in Georgia all get converted into Democratic votes by a system that is totally, totally corrupt. That's the point of that Trumpy lawsuit in Georgia right now.
The president has egged this one on even as he has supposedly disavowed this one lawyer, he has told Fox News viewers just this weekend that the Georgia runoff elections next month, those two Senate elections that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. Senate, the president has just told Fox News viewers that those Senate runoffs will be run on the same, quote, garbage machinery that he says was used to fix the presidential election November 3rd, to rig that election. That's the only reason that he lost. So that will be a garbage election run on garbage machines that aren't worth voting on because they'll change your Republican votes to Democratic votes.
You know, that one's going to have consequences because Georgia Republicans actually need Georgia Republican voters, including Trump-supporting Republican voters, to be motivated to turn up and vote in those Senate runoffs on January 5th. President Trump repeatedly telling them to not bother, that their votes don't count, the fix is in, it's a corrupt system -- I mean that may somehow serve his long-term prospects in terms of how he wants to come back to rule America in the post-election, non-Democratic future he imagines for us all. May be helpful to him, but it is putting the rest of the Republican Party in a bit of a pickle because they really do need Republican voters to go vote in those Senate elections.
And why would you if Donald Trump, if you revere and believe, is telling you there's no worth in voting in Georgia because it's all rigged? Those results can't be trusted. Those machines, they steal your vote.
This weekend, Republican Party chair Ronna Romney McDaniel went to an event in Marietta, Georgia, where she was shouted at repeatedly by Republican voters in the room, demanding that she explain to them why they should vote at all when it's all rigged, when alt the votes would be switched from Republican to Democrat just like Trump says and just like the election was rigged against Trump in the presidential election earlier this month.
CNN's Ryan Nobles filed this report from Marietta.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen to this exchange that we just saw a few minutes ago here in Marietta with these supporters of President Trump and the supporters of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler peppering the GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel about these allegations of fraud here in Georgia and around the country.
CROWD QUESTION: If they're switching the votes and we go there in crazy numbers and they should have won, but then it's still --
RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Yeah, we have to -- we didn't see that in the audit, so we've got to just -- that evidence, I haven't seen. So we'll wait and see on that.
CROWD QUESTION: How are we going to money and work when it's already decided?
MCDANIEL: It's not decided. This is the key.
CROWD QUESTION: How do we know?
MCDANIEL: It's not decided.
NOBLES: So the important thing to point out there is someone in the crowd actually asked the chairwoman why should we vote in this election when it's already been decided? That is a lot of impression that a lot of Republican voters have here in this state because of President Trump's consistent and overwhelming criticism of the way the election was run here.
The GOP chairwoman took questions for about ten minutes from these supporters. Every single question was about the election that already took place. There were no questions about the election that is still to come. They need the energy and the enthusiasm of these Republican supporters that passionately support President Trump, but they also need them to have confidence in the system, and right now it is year that there's at least a level of angst with these Republican voters and in a close election, that could be a very serious problem for Republicans here in Georgia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There are two U.S. Senate elections in Georgia on January 5th. If Republicans win one of those or both of those, they stay in charge in the U.S. Senate. If Democrats win both of those, Democrats will be in charge in the U.S. Senate.
Couldn't be more important in terms of what the new administration is going to be able to get done, what's going to happen in the courts, what's going to happen with his appointees and with policy. It's an incredibly, incredibly important thing. And in the lead-up to those two crucial elections on January 5th, president Trump's message to Republican voters in Georgia is that Republicans definitely shouldn't bother voting. And that message is apparently getting through, and you can see the frustration from the Republican Party chairwoman in the face of that.
That said, the president's message now can be a little bit hard to track, and maybe that will help them, his incoherence. The president is also now claiming, for example, that the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI were both part of stealing the election from him. He says even, you know, Attorney General Bill Barr and Chris Wray, the FBI director, both men who he appointed, they're both apparently in on the scheme to steal the election from him.
Presumably if he's right about that and the Justice Department and the FBI were part of this scheme, what is -- what's the end game there? In a second Trump term when the scheme is finally uncovered, what's he going to do? Abolish the Justice Department and the FBI? Have Bill Barr tried for treason maybe, you know? Lock him up?
If you think your own Justice Department and your own FBI set you up and stole the election from you, what exactly are you planning to do about that after you avenge your loss? You might have heard this weekend after the Trump folks got smacked out of court twice in two days in Pennsylvania, including an opinion written by a Trump-appointed federal judge -- you might have heard at least that case they were going to take all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court would fix it, and the Supreme Court will make Trump a second-term president.
Well, those election losses were last week. It's Monday night now. They still haven't even bothered to try to appeal it to the Supreme Court. They haven't filed anything with the Supreme Court.
The conservative "National Review" magazine is openly mocking that Supreme Court prospect from Trump now, saying today, quote, the idea, as the Trump team stalwartly maintains, that the Supreme Court is going to take up this case and issue a game-changing ruling is fantastical. Conservative judges have consistently rejected Trump's flailing legal appeals, and the justices are unlikely to have a different reaction.
But, again, the Trump team hasn't actually even asked the Supreme Court to take up the case except on Twitter, right? Which doesn't actually count. That's not how you file an appeal with the Supreme Court. They don't review your tweets to see if that's your intention. There is actually some paperwork you have to do.
Meanwhile, the transition is happening. You can see it in the fact that the Biden/Harris team today announced the creation of their new inaugural committee. The inauguration to inaugurate Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States.
You can see it in the fact that Biden and Harris both for the first time today received the full highly classified presidents' daily brief, intelligence briefing. They're of course weeks late on that because of Trump pretending he won the election for all these weeks, but weeks late is still better than never when it comes to those kinds of briefings.
You can also see it in headlines like this one from "The New York Times." EPA's final deregulatory rush runs into open staff resistance. Quote, with the Biden administration on the horizon, career EPA employees are becoming emboldened to stymie Mr. Trump's goals and to do so more openly.
Scientist who's have been holding on by their fingernails trying to keep the government together for the past four years, now they are refusing to go along with orders from Trump appointees to proverbially dynamite these agencies while Trump is heading out the door. They are emboldened to say no because they know that Trump is heading out the door. That's part of how you know that Trump is really heading out the door.
Here's another way you know. The news breaking late tonight that President Trump's disastrous COVID adviser, Scott Atlas, is resigning. This is the adviser with no background in infectious disease or public health. He's a guy who specializes in taking MRIs of the head and neck.
He nevertheless was brought on as a supposed expert guest by the Fox News channel to downplay the risks of the coronavirus and to suggest that it's fine. In fact, it's good if everybody gets it. That was the claims that Scott Atlas was known for. Those were the claims that he was known for when Trump decided to scoop him up from Fox News and hire him to come in and run the coronavirus response in the White House.
That's arguably how the Trump White House justified pivoting to the policies we are living under now that were really no longer designed to stop people from getting the virus because Scott Atlas said it's good if everybody gets the virus. That disaster has now come to an end tonight. At least Scott Atlas is finally out at the White House. He has posted his resignation letter online.
Oddly the resignation letter is dated tomorrow, but he released it tonight. Never was that good with the numbers. The important thing here, though -- and we're going to talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Laurie Garrett about this in just a moment. The important thing here is with Scott Atlas finally resigning, this does mean in the 50-plus remaining days of the Trump administration, he at least will not be there every day telling the president that we shouldn't tell people and that everybody should get coronavirus, and more coronavirus is somehow good news for the country.
It's been such a perversion and an inversion of public health at the highest levels of this administration. The otherwise disastrous response from this administration to this pandemic was made actively, actively counterproductive in a way that was so insidious with Atlas there. Atlas is now gone, so perhaps at least that part of the fever will break.
Again, that breaking news tonight, the random radiologist who President Trump hired off Fox to be his coronavirus adviser, who pushed for unlimited spread of the virus and less testing, Scott Atlas out tonight, resigning as White House physician.
Meanwhile, the incoming administration has now announced its incoming communications team, which will be an all-star cast of female talent, all female Democratic talent at both the president's and the vice president's communications shops.
Today, the incoming team also announced most of their incoming economic team with Janet Yellen as treasury secretary and Cecilia Rouse heading the Council of Economic Advisers.
Neera Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget even though that choice, for some reason, the Neera Tanden choice is apparently the one that has Republican senators all fired up and upset. It's kind of funny and weird, really? Like she's going to be your big fight? Really?
The grift shop is alive and doing a brisk business on the side of the outgoing administration. The Trump folks have sent almost as many fund-raising emails since they lost the election as they sent in the weeks before they lost the election, right? That's the time when they were supposedly trying to win the thing, and so you'd expect them to be sending lots of peoples trying to motivate their greatest supporters, trying to wring as much money out of people as they could.
The pace has kept right up since they lost. The grift is strong. They have turned this whole thing into a weird PR campaign for future Trump and a financial engine, I guess, for future Trump as well.
But this will end. The new president is on deck. COVID team, communications team, economic team, national security team all getting off the blocks, and lots of news upon us tonight about just how hard the task is ahead for them.
Stay with us. Lots to get to tonight.
MADDOW: Back in March when cities and states went into shutdowns to try to stop the initial spread of the coronavirus, when businesses and schools and whole industries were shuttered overnight, you might remember that "The New York Times" decided to bust out of the confines of their traditional front page layout to try to illustrate the magnitude of the economic crisis with this chart, along the bottom of its March 27th front page, they posted the weekly unemployment numbers from the year 2000 to the present.
And in the final bar there, that's not a margin marker. That's the final bar, reaching almost to the top of the page, representing the unemployment claims filed just that previous week, nearly 3.3 million. That much worse than anything we'd seen in decades.
Well, soon that number had doubled to nearly 7 million unemployment claims in a week. By May, the unemployment rate was the worst since the great depression with "The Times" rolling out another layout-busting chart to prove it.
And while unemployment claims in recent weeks have been nowhere near their spring highs, they are still higher than anything seen in pre-pandemic American history week after week after week after week. And as unbelievably bad as all those numbers are, turns out things might be worse than they appear because now we know that states have been so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unemployment claims that they've been pretty inconsistent in reporting their data.
So the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, has just reported that the Trump administration's weekly reports about unemployment claims, they shouldn't be seen as reliable numbers. If anything, they may have been understating the problem. A top Labor Department official admitting it's possible his department's reported numbers are understating the number of unemployed Americans. As bad as those numbers are, the real numbers may indeed be worse.
The GAO, the watchdog agency that discovered the flawed numbers, is urging the labor department to fix these problems because, quote, without an accurate accounting of the number of individuals who are relying on unemployment insurance and as close to real time as possible, policymakers may be challenged to respond to the crisis at hand. Yes, it would probably help make policy to help unemployed Americans if we had some roughly accurate real-time figures on how many unemployed Americans there are. Yes. That's just one of -- one small version of the many, many challenges that will confront president-elect Joe Biden's economic team when he takes office in 50-ish days.
We now know who the president-elect plans to put on that economic team, including former Fed Chair Janet Yellen at Treasury, Princeton economist Cecilia Rouse chairing the Council of Economic Advisers, Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden heading up the Office of Management and Budget. She was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act during the Obama years.
Jared Bernstein will also be on the Council of Economic Advisers. He was a key architect of the stimulus after the economic crash in 2008 and has long been an economic adviser to Biden.
What do these picks tell us about how the Biden administration is going to approach this economic crisis and should we see them as the right team to get the job done?
Joining us now is "New York Times" columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman.
Mr. Krugman, it's really nice to see you this evening. Thanks for making time.
PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Good to be on.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first about these weekly jobless claims, reports in the news that they may be underestimating the number of Americans who are out of work.
How consequential is that, and is it fixable?
KRUGMAN: Well, it's fixable but only if we start taking it serious. The U.S. unemployment insurance system works badly sort of by intent. I mean, states deliberately underfunded the whole system. They basically -- it's designed to make it hard for people to get coverage, and then confronted with this magnitude, there was a kind of a scramble to make it work.
And of course the numbers didn't keep up. A lot of people didn't get all the money they should have. But, you know, relative to the way the system normally works, we actually for several months did a pretty good job. We got a lot of money out to people, not to everybody who should, not all that they should have gotten.
But the really important thing is not that the numbers were off a bit. The really important thing is the expanded benefits were cut off way too soon, and there's a whole bunch of additional benefits they'll cut off in a couple more weeks.
So the problem is not some detail about the numbers being wrong. The problem is that we have not been sustaining aid long enough because the pandemic is still very, very much with us.
MADDOW: And it does seem like any re-upping of that additional aid, let alone any expansion of the aid that's on offer just feels absolutely dead in terms of Washington, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. I don't know if he's just waiting to see what the results are going to be of those Georgia runoffs or if he's waiting for something else, but he appears to have no fire in the belly to do anything further on COVID.
Do you expect that those programs that will expire at the end of the year on New Year's Eve will be a big new economic hit, or will that be a more subtle worsening of an already bad situation?
KRUGMAN: It will be a significant kick in the ribs to the American people and to the American economy.
Now, I actually have some thoughts that McConnell might actually take a look at this and say, you know, as things are terrible for the first couple of months of 2021, people are going to blame the outgoing administration, not the incoming administration, and might relent and allow a little bit of money to squeak through.
But, you know, it's going to be horrible. It's going to be horrible on the pandemic. It's going to be horrible, but basically it's all just a matter of now surviving until the vaccine comes along and of course waiting to see what happens in Georgia. Everything -- if the Democrats take those two seats, then it's an entirely different universe of economic policy than if they don't.
MADDOW: What is your reaction to the economic team that's been announced by the Biden/Harris transition? Were those the kind of names that you were looking to see? Do you feel like this team is the kind of team that's up to the magnitude of the task that's going to be confronting them?
KRUGMAN: I was actually much -- actually I'm a little nervous about my role as commentator and columnist because I actually know all of these people and like them. So can I retain my objectivity?
But, no, it's a fantastic team in terms of smart, qualified, serious progressive credentials as well, and one thing that I was worried about a little bit was that Biden was going to turn the clock back to 2013 and be deficit-obsessed, that there were going to be some people still thinking that public debt was the biggest problem out there, and that's not true at all. We have a very good set of people.
The only thought I have of this team is it's so good, that they feel overqualified. I mean, every one of members of the Council of Economic Advisers ought to be chair because they're all that good. There's such a depth of the field here that it's really good.
So, I have to say Neera Tanden, I was expecting Office of Management and Budget to be somebody much less of a progressive advocate, something more of sort of green eye-shade flinty type person. So that's actually -- that surprised me on the upside very much so.
MADDOW: "New York Times" columnist, Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman -- Mr. Krugman, it's always great to see you. Thanks for making time to be here tonight. Really good to have your insights.
KRUGMAN: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: All right. Up next here, something that we learned today about the coronavirus pandemic that sort of makes as clear as anything else I've seen where we are headed right now as a country.
Stay with us for that next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That first month way back in March, the U.S. recorded more than 186,000 cases of the new coronavirus. It seemed like an unimaginable catastrophe at the time, just unfathomable that our country could reach that many cases that quickly that first month. But it only got worse from there.
In April, May, and June, we were averaging 700,000, 800,000-plus cases a month, finally reaching that god awful peak in July, close to 2 million cases of COVID in the U.S. that month of July. From there, it did kind of level off. It crept back up to peak level in October, around 2 million cases again.
But now this is where we are. This is what just happened this month, that big scary bar on the right. That is the number of COVID cases recorded in this country this month, just in November, more than 4 million cases in the U.S. in the month of November alone. Those are not cumulative numbers. That's the new cases this month.
And with new infections rising to a rate that we have never seen before, that of course means patients are flooding into hospitals and out of control numbers too. Just in the last 24 hours, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, North Carolina, Indiana, Nevada all broke their previous records for COVID hospitalizations. Nevada broke their hospitalization record today for the seventh day running.
The entire St. Louis region has now broken their hospitalization record for three days straight. Rhode Island also set a hospitalization record today. The state of Rhode Island has now sent this alert to everybody's cell phone in the state.
Public safety alert. Rhode island government COVID alert. Hospitals at capacity due to COVID. Help the front line by staying home as much as possible for the next two weeks.
Work remotely if you can. Avoid social gatherings. Get tested. If we all decrease our mobility, we will save lives.
Rhode Island going into a two-week pause, they're calling it, asking for everybody to essentially shelter in place for two weeks in Rhode Island starting today.
In Minnesota, they've been trying billboards. Look at these highway signs in Minnesota right now. Buckle up. Save ICU beds for COVID-19. That's all over the state in Minnesota.
In other words, please don't get injured in a car crash right now. There's no spare room for you in our hospitals because they are full because of COVID.
We are in a critical time right now, a time where the number of hospital beds, the logistical headache of keeping track of where there might be an open bed for a patient who needs it -- that process is a matter of life and death all across the country. I talk to doctors and nurses and hospital administrators who are trying to find those beds, and it's not only exhausting. It's terrifying.
But that process requires logistical support and real data, and that appears to be something else that the Trump administration has made a right hash out of. Starting this summer, when inexplicably they decided that they would take away from the CDC the responsibility of keeping track of COVID hospitalizations. They took it away from the CDC and, for some reason, decided to give it to Alex Azar and the Health and Human Services Department instead.
That decision was widely criticized by public health experts at the time, who warned that it could compromise the accuracy of that incredibly important data. It could also shield it from the public. Well, now today there's reporting that those concerns seem to have been borne out, which is very bad, particularly with the crisis that we've got on our hands right now. But we've got more ahead on that in detail.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It was July when the Trump administration inexplicably took away the responsibility of tracking COVID hospitalizations from the CDC. What is it about the CDC you don't like so much? They took it away from the CDC. They gave the job instead to the Health and Human Services department, which had no experience tracking that kind of complex and fast-moving data.
Well, today, "Science Magazine" did a deep dive look at HHS's COVID hospitalization data, such as it is. They compared it to state by state data and other federal databases. Basically to check to see if this crucial data collection the Trump administration wrestled away from CDC now reflects an accurate picture of COVID hospitalization crisis on the ground.
The bottom line of what they found is we shouldn't necessarily think of the data from HHS on COVID hospitalizations as, like, science-based tool to track the availability of beds in the U.S. Instead, we should think of this data as garbage, a random jumbled collection of numbers that doesn't reflect reality at all at a time when it would be really good to have good data on this in particular.
The headline at "Science Magazine" is a little bit more polite than I'm being. Their headline is this. Federal system for tracking hospital beds and COVID-19 patients provides questionable data. Yes.
One CDC employee summing it up for the magazine like this. Quote: The HHS protect data are poor quality, inconsistent with state reports, and the analysis is slipshod.
Because this administration has for no reason ruined data collection around COVID hospitalizations, part of the challenge now is not just the scale of this problem and the number of states where they're running out of hospital beds and ICU beds to treat people. Part of the problem now, because of this failure by the Trump administration, is the fact that the government agency has been put in charge of telling us how big that problem is and where it's the worse, that agency can no longer be trusted to give us sound and useful information.
This was a totally avoidable problem and a disaster that public health experts saw coming a while away, including Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist, who at the time called this change in the data collection plans, quote, appalling. She said when they did this, stripping the CDC of its role ion collecting this information would make this data, quote, now useless. She was right.
Joining us now is Laurie Garrett. She's a health policy analyst and Pulitzer Prize winning science writer who's been a real voice of reason for us over the course of this crisis.
Laurie, it's really nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
LAURIE GARRETT, HEALTH POLICY ANALYST: Pleasure.
MADDOW: So you and a lot of public health experts called this back in summer when the White House decided they were going to take this away from CDC and have the Trump administration, have HHS collect this data. Instead, it really does seem to be born out in the months since.
How big a problem is this? How much better off would we be if we had real data we could count on?
GARRETT: Well, first, Rachel, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Charles Tiller who has doggedly covered this story for "Science Magazine" for the last three months, performed brilliantly.
And one of the really important things that he has -- sorry. One of the -- all of a sudden, you are coming on my television for which I apologize. But he --
MADDOW: I will send you a Nielsen box.
GARRETT: Yeah. And he one of the things that he revealed was that Deborah Birx was really behind this. She wanted more control of the data. She didn't trust CDC and claimed that data was sloppy.
By moving it in HHS, they farmed it out to two private companies. One was a private film called TeleTracking, biggest client they ever had. And the other was Palantir, which, of course, not much later with public in the stock market, Palantir was engaged to sort of massage and analyze the data.
The result was that the hospitals were thoroughly confused. Who do we send the data to? What forms are we supposed to fill out? How do we do this? What computers are we supposed to use?
And for a long time in the summer right after this all started, we really almost had no data to rely upon at all. Eventually, the federal starting pushing the hospitals around, and you are going to lose your contracts. We're going to take your Medicaid and Medicare patients and throw them at another hospital if you don't start reporting data to us.
Whoa. All right. All the hospitals start flooding data in, but what's the reliability of it, the relevance of it, what does ill really mean?
Now, here's where the crux of the problem is. If your job is to decide how much PPE needs to go to Arkansas or how much dexamethasone needs to go to South Dakota, if your job is managing the national stockpile and determining whether or not we're heading to a crisis level of shortages of protective gear for nurses, for example, you need to know what's the hospitalization rate. What the trends look like? What's the use rate like?
You don't have data to rely on right now. It's a total mess. There is no -- it's a mess at all levels. The federal numbers don't jibe with the state numbers. The state numbers don't jibe with the county numbers. The private hospital sector is reporting different way than the public hospital sector. I mean, this is just chaos.
MADDOW: Laurie, is this fixable problem? Or how fixable is this as a problem?
I know that it was a relief to a lot of people to see the list of names who have been advising the incoming president-elect on COVID thus far, and we heard sort of reassuring science-based statements from them in the transition thus far. But when they dig in and start to do the work, is it something that can be -- is it something that be undone? Will they have to build it from the ground up? Can the CDC essentially be put back in charge in the way that will sort of quickly rationalize this data and make it useful again?
GARRETT: Well, Rachel, we're really anxious to see who Biden is going to name as the next CDC director, and also the next HHS director. And that will go a long way to helping to answer your question.
We don't know because the transition team has only had a few days of access to get inside the CDC. We don't really know what the state of these kinds of programs is now inside. In other words, is it still in their computers? Are there personnel there who could reactivate the CDC's tracking system or was it utterly dismantled? We don't know the answer to that question right now.
MADDOW: Laurie, I have to get your reaction to the news tonight that Dr. Scott Atlas has resigned from the White House. I personally was not shy talking about the fact that I was alarmed to see him in the position he was in the White House, given his stated public views on the virus. What is your reaction to the fact that he has now resigned?
GARRETT: Well, I think it's great. I think that he had a very negative impact on affairs inside the White House and on our national response. And I'm not sure he's going to be welcomed back at Stanford, the Stanford faculty have voted to denounce him, and Condoleezza Rice, his boss, at Hoover Institute, has indicated some dissatisfaction with his performance.
What is interesting to me is the timing. Why now? Why did he put out a statement today dated for tomorrow? And I wonder if it's connected to the fact that Anders Tegnell, who was really the architect of this whole herd immunity approach for Sweden, was pushed aside this weekend in Sweden as that country's death toll and case numbers have soared.
And there's a strong believe in many sectors of the Swedish government that listening to Anders Tegnell was a mistake, and also, conversely, that Boris Johnson finally rejected the sort of herd immunity approach that many of his advisers had been advocating and three weeks ago started tough lockdowns and since they have been on three weeks of lockdown, they have seen the case load plummet by a third.
MADDOW: Laurie Garrett, health policy analyst, Pulitzer Prize winning science journalist, thank you for being here, Laurie. The first person I want to hear from when I heard that Atlas has resigned tonight. Thanks for being here.
GARRETT: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It's good to be back. Thanks for being with me here tonight. I will see you again this time, this place tomorrow night.
Now, it's time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END
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