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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, September 16, 2020

Guests: Ashish Jha, Pramila Jayapal


MSNBC continues its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Congressman Pramila Jayapal is interviewed.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Matt Miller, thank you so much.

That is ALL IN for this Wednesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Let's -- let's just jump right in. There's a few things that are coming together in the news right now that are connected to each other, and I think it's worth sort of being clear about the picture that is emerging from those stories that are all emerging in the news right now..

I will also tell you that the bottom line when you get to it is pretty unsettling, but all the more reason to take it seriously and to look at it clearly.

So let's just start straight in.

First of all, you may have seen today that the odd, very odd, Trump campaign guy, the old Roger Stone protege, the guy who worked for Paul Manafort in Russia when Manafort was servicing Russian oligarchs close to the Kremlin, this very odd duck who's turned up in all sorts of weird fringey ways in the Trump universe for years, Michael Caputo, the man who the Trump administration put in charge of the CDC, the Trump administration installed him as the top spokesman at the Health and Human Services Department.

He then took it upon himself to try to block the CDC from publishing its scientific reports on COVID. He and some guy who he appointed to be his scientific adviser, even though he was just a spokesman, came in and said that they were overruling the entire CDC. They actually successfully got CDC to change wording in some of their scientific reports. They forced delays of other CDC studies about coronavirus, which Michael Caputo decided he didn't like and so they got held back for weeks.

You may have seen today that Michael Caputo, today, is out. He announced that he is taking a leave of absence after the publication last night by Yahoo! News of a Facebook Live video from this past weekend in which Michael Caputo seemed to be going kind of nuts talking about how hit squads were coming to get him and everybody needs to buy ammunition and there are assassination drills happening all over the country and he's sure they're all coming for him and he was scared of the long shadows he could see on the ceiling of his apartment.

That was first reported by "The New York Times." It was first published last night by Yahoo! News, and now, today, Michael Caputo is gone. He says he is taking a 60-day leave of absence. The election is in 48 days. We'll see if Michael Caputo comes back 12 days after that.

But when Michael Caputo's leave of absence was announced, Health and Human Services also announced his so-called science adviser, the guy who was literally writing to the CDC demanding that he and only he could decide what would be published as scientific findings, Michael Caputo's science adviser is not taking a leave of absence like Caputo, he has actually been fired or at least let go from Health and Human Services whether or not Michael Caputo ever comes back.

And, you know, it's a little weird that as spokesperson had hired his own scientific adviser, anyway, right? He's a spokesperson for a scientific agency. You don't need your own scientific adviser to tell you about the science when you are supposed to be the spokesperson for an agency full of scientists. It was weird from the outset.

I mean, it wasn't clear who this guy was who Michael Caputo had hired to work with him, to overrule the entire Centers for Disease Control during an epidemic that's already cost 200,000 lives. The man had been described in press reports as an assistant professor at a college in Canada. Late yesterday, that fell apart, too, or sort of.

The college in Canada put out a public statement pointing out that the man who was working as Michael Caputo's scientific adviser doesn't actually work at that college. He did have an assistant professor contract gig a while back, but he doesn't teach there now. He does not speak for the university and the university was like, did we mention the dude doesn't even work here? Stop associating him with us.

So that's happened within the past 24 hours, and that -- that is becoming a little bit of a theme because around the same time that the White House installed nutball Michael Caputo to go become the spokesperson for the health part of the U.S. government, even though he has no background in health whatsoever and he, you know, picked up this random, unemployed, low-level academic from Canada to become the new voice of scientific authority for the U.S. government on COVID, overruling all the scientists of the CDC, around the same time the White House was installing this clown show, atop the Centers for Disease Control, they were also bringing this guy onboard at the White House, itself, reportedly because the president liked seeing him on the Fox News Channel.

He is not an infectious disease doctor or an epidemiologist or any kind of expert or scholar or even a trained person in any kind of public health. He is a doctor. He's a radiologist. Specifically, he specializes in taking MRIs of people's heads.

But in March of this year, as the epidemic was taking off in this country starting to kill Americans by the boatload, in March, this conservative radiologist started publishing op-eds like this one in right-wing newspapers where he said there's no reason, really, to worry all that much about coronavirus. He said in March that it was only likely to kill about 10,000 people total in the U.S. before it was gone. And really who cares about that. Compare that to the flu.

Well, tens of thousands more deaths down the road, this same doctor, Scott Atlas, built himself into a TV pundit arguing, improbably, but insistently, that the more Americans get infected by COVID, the better.


DR. SCOTT ATLAS, HOOVER INSTITUTION: We like the fact that there's a lot of cases. That's exactly how we're going to get herd immunity, population immunity.

These people getting the infection, it is not really a problem and, in fact, as we said months ago, when you isolate everyone, including all the healthy people, you're prolonging the problem because you're preventing population immunity. Low-risk groups getting the infection is not a problem. In fact, it's a positive.

This total isolation policy prevents broad population immunity.

There's really no risk to young people. It doesn't matter if children get the disease. It's actually good news that the virus spreads widely because that means that we have a better chance of developing population immunity.

It's fantastic news that we have a lot of cases.


MADDOW: It's fantastic news that we have a lot of cases. That's what we're going for. It's good news if the virus spreads widely. That's exactly how we're going to get herd immunity. The more infections, the better.

So the White House -- these things come together, right? The White House puts Michael Caputo and his nonworking assistant professor friend from Canada to control what the CDC is allowed to publish in terms of science about COVID, and at the White House, they installed this guy from Fox News to tell the president what national policy should be on COVID. President sees him on Fox News, likes what he's saying, brings him into the White House to advocate it there and to make national policy.

And now, simultaneously, just as that college in Canada is letting us know that Michael Caputo's science adviser doesn't work there and he should stop telling people that he does, now simultaneously, we've got Stanford Medical School Faculty publishing an open letter letting the country know no matter how much President Trump loves to describe this guy, Scott Atlas, as a Stanford doctor, he hasn't actually worked at Stanford Medical School in years and, by the way, his former colleagues there think at least on this object, he's kind of a quack

Dear colleagues, as infectious disease physicians and researchers, microbiologists and immunologists, and epidemiologists, we have both a moral and ethical responsibility to call attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered by Dr. Scott Atlas, a former Stanford Medical School colleague. Many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science.

The dozens of undersigned Stanford faculty members point out that the use of face masks and social distancing and other public health measures have been shown to reduce the spread of COVID, even though Scott Atlas has by and large denounced them. They point out that asymptomatic people, including kids, can transmit it to others, despite the fact that Scott Atlas, has said that's not true. They point out that kids, themselves, can get infected with serious consequences for themselves despite the fact that Scott Atlas denies that, too.

And then here's the, ahem, please pay attention part of what his former colleagues are warning about him. They say, quote, encouraging herd immunity through unchecked transmission is not a safe public health strategy. In fact, this approach would cause a significant increase in preventable cases suffering in deaths.

In other words, oh my God, how is it possible, how is it possible that this guy's in the White House? He's a quack on this stuff. He's advocating stuff that is totally contrary to established science and that is very dangerous.

He's at the White House? Using his Stanford credentials to try to shine up his reputation here and the president's bragging on that all the time? I mean, so warned Scott Atlas' former colleagues from the medical school from which he is no longer.

And by the way, he was a radiologist anyway, not somebody who actually worked on infectious diseases, before the White House plucked him from obscurity/Fox News to bring him into the White House to run the response to an infectious disease epidemic, something on which he has zero expertise.

So these things are coming together in the news right? Caputo today is out as the Trump guy, riding herd on the CDC, his so-called science adviser has been now exposed by the academic institution he tried to associate him with meanwhile, the White House top COVID doctor is also exposed by his former colleagues at the institution the White House has tried to associate him with.

But this isn't a personnel story. What this is about now, thanks to the president being unable to contain himself and having to say everything that crosses his mind all the time the moment it first occurs to him, this is a personnel story. What this is now is a window into what guys like this have actually done to the country, because the Trump White House, and the president personally, has brought in these way out of left field substitute experts to replace the real experts and to control what's said by the government, what scientific data gets out from the government and the way the White House leads policy on the pandemic. What has been the effect of them doing that?

Well, here's the other piece of this. Today, there's this -- from Congressman Jim Clyburn, who runs the Select Committee set up in the House to run oversight on the coronavirus crisis. Today, Clyburn's committee told the White House that they need to start publicly releasing their advice to individual states about how to handle the pandemic at the state level, because the White House has been advising individual states for a couple of months now.

But while the White House has tried to keep those documents secret, some of them have leaked to the press. Some of them have now been obtained by the committee. The committee has now made them public and what they found is nutball.

And, again, this isn't wrong person being charged with the policy. This isn't person who shouldn't be anywhere near the levers of policy, miraculously getting hired and how did that happen, how did that slip through the cracks. This is actually what we're doing.

See if you can see what went wrong here, see if you can see the impact that work, the impact on our country of the Trump White House deciding they're going to go with their own experts who they found like on TV, or in bars, or whatever, instead of the people who know what they're doing. All right?

Watch this. Start in Nebraska. This is White House guidance for the state of Nebraska, August 23rd.

Dear Nebraska, you're in the yellow zone. You have the 24th highest rate of new cases in the country and it's getting worse, you need to act.

Recommendation from the White House to Nebraska as of August 23rd, quote, a mask mandate needs to be implemented statewide. OK, that's August 23rd. A mask mandate needs to be implemented.

But then look at this, two weeks later. September 6th, more advice from the White House. Dear Nebraska, eke, you are no longer in the yellow zone like we told you two weeks ago. You're to longer the 24th highest rate of new cases in the country. You're now 14th highest. You're no longer in the yellow zone, you're in the red zone, this is bad.

But, then, look, inexplicably, despite Nebraska getting that much worse over those two weeks, in the second recommendation, the two weeks later recommendation when things are that much worse, the White House drops recommendation for Nebraska to require masks. They said two weeks before, a mask mandate needs to be implemented statewide. Two weeks later, things are way worse than Nebraska but no more recommendation that there be a mask requirement.

Same in North Dakota. This is White House guidance for North Dakota on August 16th.

Dear North Dakota, you're in trouble, you're in the red zone. You got the 13 highest rate of new cases in the country. You need to make some changes. Recommendations from the White House, as -- OK, recommendations, right?

North Dakota, you need to strongly encourage masking statewide. You need to mandate masks in the worst of your counties. You need to limit occupancy levels and operating hours in restaurants and bars. You need to close bars in high-transmission parts of the state. That's August 16th.

Three weeks later, September 6th, here's the White House again. Whoa, whoa, North Dakota, two weeks ago you were the 13th highest rate of new cases in the country. Now you're number one. You're the worst in the country. You are in the red zone with an exclamation point.

North Dakota, you are literally the highest rate of transmission in the United States and our recommendation to you now is, ah, forget it.

It's that much worse. North Dakota's at this point the worst in the nation, but the White House drops the mask recommendation, says nothing on restricting restaurants and bars, let alone closing them. That stuff from three weeks earlier just goes away, even as the situation in the state over those three weeks got so much worse. That's North Dakota.

South Dakota, same deal. From August 2nd to August 9th, to September 6th, South Dakota went from 64 cases per 100,000 population, 64, to 71, to 235.

And the White House tells them they're going from the yellow zone to the red zone, right? Oh, my God, by the time the White House is wrapping up its recommendations to South Dakota, oh, my God, you're now the second worst state in the country, but yet, the White House drops its recommendation on masks.

The White House started out when things weren't that bad in South Dakota with this stern recommendation that South Dakota should, quote, require face masks in indoor settings.

And then as the state of South Dakota got worse and worse and worse, they just dropped that recommendation. All this exposed in previously private, secret, White House documents, White House advice to individual states that have now been made public by Clyburn's committee. What's going on here, right?

You see this pattern right? I mean, we are at 200,000 dead Americans. We are stuck every day at tens of thousands of new cases every day.

And now we know that the White House is recommending not just publicly but privately that states ease up on trying to stop this thing the White House no longer even recommending that states do things to stop the spread of this virus things that just weeks ago they were telling the states they needed to do, what's going on here?

Why would you tell them as things are getting worse in these states, why would you tell them, you know what, stop trying to slow this spread? We told you masks before, don't worry about it, don't do masks. We told you to close bars, don't worry about it.

All these things are emerging at once in the news. Well, here is what's going on here.


ATLAS: It's actually good news that the virus spreads widely because that means that we have a better chance of developing population immunity

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: It would go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: With many deaths.

TRUMP: And you'll develop -- you'll develop, like, a herd mentality. It's going to be -- it's going to be herd developed and that's going to happen. That will all happen.

ATLAS: We like the fact that there's a lot of cases, that's exactly how we're going to get herd immunity, population immunity

TRUMP: Well, once you get to a certain number, you know, we use the word, "herd," right, once you get to a certain number, it's going to go away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It will go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time, it goes away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.

TRUMP: And you'll develop -- you'll develop herd -- like a herd mentality.


MADDOW: This is very, very, very bad. But let's just talk about this for a second. Let's just do the math on this for a second.

I mean, the president saying in this ABC town hall last night, herd mentality, it goes away without a vaccine. What he's trying to say -- I mean, it's hilarious in its own level that he's saying herd mentality when he means herd immunity. But -- setting that aside, what he's trying to say is herd immunity.

Now, the president used to reference the idea of herd immunity publicly. He used to say he was against it, that it was a terrible idea. It would kill way too many Americans.

But now he's got this new adviser, not an expert, not somebody who is steeped in the science here, according to his own colleagues. But this new expert who the president has brought into the White House is apparently now convinced the president on herd immunity and so this is now what we're going to do.

And this has been written off as some of the president's nonsense, it's not worth paying too much attention to because he has such a hard time spitting the words out, right? But don't just watch what he says, watch what he's doing. We can now pair these almost laughable, he can't remember the right words, can't spit it out, words from him with what he's actually doing.

And when -- it's not just what he's saying, it's what he's doing, we have to recognize this as a huge deal because what the president is letting us know, is that what's going to happen in our country, with or without a vaccine, to his mind, the way it's going to go away is that we will aim for herd immunity. Not just saying it, we now know he's doing it.

And let's do the math on this, right? This will keep you up at night I'm sorry. Let's do it. Let's be super rosy in our assumptions, right?

The idea behind his cockamamie theory which is apparently our national policy now, this is why North Dakota isn't being told to mask up anymore, the idea behind this cockamamie theory is that in the absence of a vaccine, maybe enough people will get infected by this disease and survive it and become immune from it that their very existence will help slow down the spread of the virus in the future and that's how it will come to a halt right? That's the theory.

With this disease, we really don't know if it works that way. We don't know if getting infected with COVID actually prevents you from getting it in the future.

I mean, look at the WHO's latest advice on the subject. They're super clear about it question, does the presence of antibodies against COVID-19 mean a person is immune and protected from being infected again? Answer, no one knows yet.

If you don't like the WHO, ask the Mayo Clinic. They're just as straightforward about it. Quote: It isn't yet clear if infection of the COVID virus makes a person immune to future infection.

So, scientifically, we don't know if getting it one keeps you from getting it again. We don't know, right? This is not the sort of thing you'd like to guess about.

If it turns out you can get it once and get it again, the whole premise of this goes out the window in terms of it having any benefit to infect a lot of people whatsoever. But let's assume for the purposes of trying to figure out what the president is doing here, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume the science goes his way on this. Let's assume that getting you infected does make you immune.

Again, this is not at all supported by the science, but let's just say, let's just grant him that, and then let's let our next assumption be just as rosy. Per the Mayo Clinic again, the expert estimate of how much of the population you'd need to be infected in order to make this work is about 70 percent of the population.

Quote, experts estimate that in the United States, 70 percent of the population would have to be infected with COVID-19 and recover from it to be able to halt the epidemic. So, 70 percent is the expert estimate for how this plan would work.

Again, let's -- let's give the president even more of the benefit of the doubt. Let's be super generous and rosy in our assumptions and say that, "A," definitely everybody who gets it is immune. And let's also say it's only -- it's not 70 percent, it's only 65 percent of the country that needs to get infected in order to make this new White House plan work.

And, again, what's the plan?


TRUMP: We use the word, "herd," right? Once you get to a certain number, it's going to go away.

ATLAS: We like the fact that there's a lot of cases that's exactly how we're going to get herd immunity, population immunity.

TRUMP: We'll develop -- you'll develop, like, a herd mentality.


MADDOW: This is the plan, right? So the herd mentality, the herd immunity, let's say to be super rosy in our assumptions, let's say in order for this to work, since this is what the president says is going to happen here, it's going to go away without a vaccine, it's going to go away with the herd, right? He means herd immunity, he says herd mentality, forgive him.

Let's forgive him all the false assumptions here, right, that aren't supported by the science. Let's just give him everything he says is going to happen. Let's say it's only 65 percent of the population you need infected, let's say everybody who gets infected is immune, let's just grant it to him.

Well, do the math. We're 330 million people in this country. Under this plan, they'd need 65 percent of 330 million people to be infected. They'd need 215 million Americans to be infected that's what they would aim for, for herd immunity.

Well, right now, we've got roughly 6.6 million people infected in this country and roughly 200,000 Americans dead, which means our fatality rate cumulatively in this country is just under 3 percent. It's 2.97 percent of all people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in this country have died with it.

If that fatality rate stays the same and we go for herd mentality, I mean, herd immunity, if 2.97 percent of all the Americans who get infected die from this thing, which is what we've had so far, then what he's aiming for is 215 million Americans dead, excuse me, 215 million Americans infected, 2.97 percent of them dead. That is 6,385,500 Americans dead. That would be what he's aiming for here -- 6.4 million American deaths.

Now, let's rosy up our assumptions a little bit. In terms of the fatality rate, right, this is a president that keeps lying about treatment, about hydroxychloroquine being a criminal cure, maybe a miracle preventive, or who knows? It's just definitely solution, right?

And the CDC is warning about how that probably does more harm than good. The Michael Caputo who the Trump administration put in charge of the CDC delayed the release of that report by weeks while presumably bad doctors around the country who watch Fox News actually put their freaking patients on that stuff, right?

This is a president and administration and conservative media universe that has lied all the time from the very beginning about whether there's a treatment for COVID or even a cure for COVID. No hydroxychloroquine, isn't it.

Convalescent plasma, even when they forced through the approval of that so they'd have something to brag about at the Republican convention -- no, the science isn't there on that, either. There is no cure, there is no treatment.

But let's be rosy about it, again, let's give him the benefit of the doubt right now the said the United States' overall cumulative death rate is nearly 3 percent of all people who've tested positive in this country have been killed by this disease. If that holds for this next stage of the Trump plan, that would mean the Trump White House is planning to kill off more than 6.3 million of us.

But, again, let's be therapeutic come around like they keep saying on Fox News and the president says at the Republican convention. Let's say the death toll drops cumulatively to -- not 3 percent, but let's say drops to 2 percent. You know, let's be wildly optimistic. Let's say the U.S. cumulative death toll for people infected with COVID drops all the way to 1 percent.

Even still, with this herd mentality, herd whatever, herd it will go away plan, the president is planning best-case scenario, even if we triple our cumulative survival rate thus far, he's planning on killing off 1 percent of the population he wants to get herd infected right? How does that math work out? He's planning on killing off 1 percent of 215 million Americans who he wants to get infected.

Which means the White House plan with all of the rosiest assumptions you can factor into it is to kill off 2.15 million Americans, which is considerably more than ten times the number of us who have died already, 2.15 million dead. That's the best-case scenario. That's if everything goes great. That's the plan.

The 1918 flu killed 675,000 Americans. World War II killed roughly 400,000 Americans. World War I killed roughly 115,000 Americans. The Vietnam War killed nearly 630,000 Americans.

The new plan, what they're actually doing now, not just talking about but doing now, is to stop trying to contain the virus, to let it just run through us as a population because the more people are infected the better. And honestly because trying to stop infections has proved to be too hard for this president.

I mean, all the other civilized countries on earth can handle it and are handling it, and have lost a fraction of the people that we have, but it's too hard for him and he doesn't want to try. Not when he's running for re-election.

So he's planning this new plan -- it will go away, George, without a vaccine. It will go I way you get the herd, the herd mentality, we call it.

He doesn't want to contain it anymore. So, he's planning on letting it run through us while he doesn't do much of anything in terms of intervention.

Open everything up, open the schools, don't bother with masks. Let's hold indoor rallies.

Let's spread it all over let's just stop the testing, right? Demand the return of college football. Bring everything back full speed, transmission unabated.

Because he says it will stop on its own. He says this thing will stop on its own with or without a vaccine. Because of this herd thing somebody explained to him once that he can't quite remember


STEPHANOPOULOS: It will go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period time. Sure, with time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.

TRUMP: And you'll develop -- you'll develop herd -- like, a herd mentality. It's going to be -- it's going to be herd developed and that's going to happen. That will all happen


MADDOW: This is a real thing the president is bumbling through here. We now know based on documents exposed by the Congress, we now know that this is not something he is just saying. This is something that he is doing and his administration is putting into effect.

And in this scenario, under this theory that he is using as his operative theory for how the country is dealing with COVID now, in this scenario the best-case outcome is 2.1 million of us dead. And that's if our cumulative fatality rate comes way down from where it has been thus far.

That said, if things stay the way they have been so far, plan on maybe more like 6 million just here. Just here, just in the U.S. That's what this herd mentality thing is that he can't even bother to memorize or learn to pronounce. That is the herd immunity idea that Sweden tried for a while which gave them the worst death toll in northern Europe until they panicked and stopped. It's what the U.K. tried to do for a hot minute until they realized it was going to give them the worst per capita death toll in Western Europe.

When the president started sidelining the actual epidemiologists and infectious disease doctors in the government because he instead wanted to go with the guy he saw on Fox News who likes the herd immunity idea, even though he's not even this kind of doctor, when the president dropped the real public health doctors and instead put this guy in charge, and then all of a sudden the U.S. government, the U.S. government stopped recommending people get tested and the government started saying who cares if everybody gets infected in schools and they rescinded their mask recommendations even to red zone states where they previously told them to do it.

When we started copping to the fact that this wasn't some viral Facebook meme that the president was repeating without even able to pronounce it, that this was actually the policy he's turning this country toward.

Former colleagues of Scott Atlas at the medical school he used to be affiliated with tried to sound the alarm, warning that this guy who appears to be running U.S. policy now really doesn't know what he's talking about.

And specifically on the herd immunity idea, he fundamentally doesn't know what he's saying. Which is, you know, interesting in personnel terms, it's kind of hilarious about Dr. Scott Atlas and his career as a Fox News Channel contrarian radiologist. But this is also the plan that the U.S. government is following now under this president and this adviser who he likes better than the real doctors.

This president can't figure out how to say it. He can't figure out how to pronounce it. He can't remember all the syllables. But this is what he's trying to do and this is what he's trying to say.

I thought the first time he burbled it out it was some sort of random admission when he said this a few weeks ago in an interview.


TRUMP: Well, once you get to a certain number, you know, we used the word, "herd," right? Once you get to a certain number, it's going to go away.


MADDOW: That was a couple weeks from him. And that seemed crazy, and I thought maybe he was just random generating syllables that he heard out of context and he didn't know what they attached to. But now, he's repeating it.

And from what we've learned about how his administration has shut off its previous private recommendations to states to try to slow down the spread, now we know this is not just what he's saying and repeating, this is what he's going with.


STEPHANOPOULOS: It will go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure with time. It goes away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.

TRUMP: And you'll develop -- you'll develop herd -- like, a herd mentality. It's going to be -- it's going to be herd developed and that's going to happen. That will all happen


MADDOW: It is one thing to have somebody in the job of president who doesn't know what he's talking about and doesn't know that herd mentality and herd immunity are two different things, it's preposterous. But he does mean herd immunity is what we're going for and that does, if it works, it does aim for between 2.1 million and 6.4 million Americans dead on purpose, because he'd rather do that than do what every other country in the world has done, and implement policies to contain this thing.

Policies to contain this thing, that's too hard for him. So, he'll go with millions dead instead.

Forty-eight days until the election.



SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Last evening, the president once again disparaged the importance of wearing face masks. Is the president providing appropriate leadership when it comes to this critical issue?

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I'm not going to comment directly about the president, but I am going to comment as the CDC director that face masks, these face masks are the most important powerful public health tool we have, and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings.

I've said it, if we did it for 6, 8, 10, 12, weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control.


MADDOW: CDC Director Robert Redfield testifying today in the Senate.

Joining us now is Dr. Ashish Jha. He's dean of School of Public Health at Brown University.

Dr. Jha, thank you so much for joining us tonight. There's a lot going on in the news and it's a pleasure to have you here.


MADDOW: Let me start by getting your reaction to what we just heard there from Dr. Redfield. If we all wore masks for 6, 8, 10, 12, weeks, which is a range, we would bring this pandemic under control, calling masks the most important public health tool that we have right now.

Is that fair for him to put it that way?

JHA: Yeah, it's clearly a very important public health tool. So, if everybody wore masks, 90 percent of Americans wore masks let's say for sort of, like, 10 to 12 weeks, it would make a massive difference. We could prevent a vast majority of the deaths that are likely to occur.

So I largely agree with Dr. Redfield. This is a really important prevention

MADDOW: This comes at the same time that we have learned that the White House has dropped its private recommendations to states that are in trouble, states that are having rising infection numbers, even as recently as a few weeks ago, the White House was telling those states that in order to stop transmission, they needed to institute mask requirements. They've now stopped doing that and they appear to have softened a lot of their other recommendations to states even as those states have worsening epidemiological circumstances.

I find that very disturbing because I feel like that means the White House is stopping trying to get states to contain the virus.

How do you view that news, particularly in light of that clear recommendation from Dr. Redfield there that masks work?

JHA: Yeah, so a couple of things are going on. One is the arrival of Dr. Scott Atlas. So, you know, there's plenty of disagreement and discussions within the public health community about the right way to handle the pandemic, but Dr. Atlas holds views that are not within the mainstream. Nobody believes in the things that he believes in.

So, he's not -- he's not a contrarian. He's just completely out of the mainstream in his views.

His arrival to the White House has meant that these really sensible guidelines that the White House was secretly sharing with states, which states were, by the way, passing out to many of us and saying these look pretty good, don't you think they're right? All of a sudden changed.

And I suspect basically what has happened is that Dr. Atlas and his team are now getting to put in the recommendations and Dr. Debbie Birx and Tony Fauci who really are experts in this, their voices seem diminished to me, at least in those recommendations.

MADDOW: Why would you tell a state to stop -- a state that where the infection rate is getting worse right now, what is the conceivable rationale for no longer recommending to that state that they use masks?

JHA: Well, there is this group of people, as we said, these are not in the mainstream, they're not even just contrarians that we look at and say, whoa, they have some unusual views. These people, I think they don't know what they're talking about. They really do believe that the idea here is let's get everybody infected.

And, you know, we have robust debates about whether 1 million or 2 million or 6 million people would die from a herd immunity approach, but everybody agrees, it would be awful. It is a terrible strategy. There is no one I know who is a serious person in this area who actually thinks that anything resembling herd immunity is even remotely reasonable.

My sense is Dr. Atlas believes it and that's what's driving the White House recommendations. I obviously don't know for sure, but that's what I'm guessing

MADDOW: But the fact that -- the fact that the White House isn't just talking about it, that they are appearing to act this out in terms of what they're telling states to do and states that, like the White House are going along with these change recommendations, I find this -- I find this turn in the news very disturbing.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, Dr. Jha, thanks for being with us and being so clear as always.

JHA: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: We covered an upsetting story here on the show last night about allegations arising from a whistle-blower complaint out of an ICE detention facility in Irwin County, Georgia.

According to the complaint, immigrant and refugee women who are being held at this federal facility were routinely sent to a gynecologist who performed unnecessary procedures on them, including hysterectomies. One detainee quoted in the complaint says she's talked to five different women who were held at that facility between October and December. All five said they were given medically unnecessary hysterectomies by this same doctor. And at least some of these instances these women allegedly had their reproductive organs removed without them giving proper informed consent.

Now, for the record, ICE is denying these allegations. The doctor in question says he vehemently denies the allegations. The private company that operates this facility also says it refutes these allegations.

We have not independently confirmed whether these allegations are true. This story was understandably met with horror and revulsion from the public, including from a lot of you guys, our viewers, who we heard from after last night's show.

But it's also now raising the alarm in Congress, and that is shaking loose more information. More than 170 congressional Democrats have called for an immediate investigation into these claims by the inspector general at the Homeland Security Department.

One of those lawmakers is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She says she has spoken with three lawyers who represent some of the women making these allegations and today said based on those conversations with those attorneys, she thinks this is a bigger problem than what we knew last night.

She says, quote: It appears that it may be at minimum 17 to 18 women who were subjected to unnecessary medical gynecological procedures from just this one doctor often without appropriate consent or knowledge and with the clear intent of sterilization.

According to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, she says her preliminary investigation indicates this is at least 17 women.

The congresswoman joins us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal spoke to several lawyers who represent women detained at an ICE facility in Irwin County, Georgia, women who say they were forced to undergo gynecological procedures without their consent while in federal custody. Congresswoman Jayapal says after those conversations, she believes that it may be as many as 17 women who are forced to undergo these medically unnecessary procedures, she also has anecdotal information about specific women's experience that's almost unbelievably horrifying.

She says, quote, one woman, Pauline, who was nearly deported this morning consulted the doctor simply about her menstrual cycle. She was put under for what she was told would be a simple procedure to wake up and found out that the doctor removed part of her reproductive organs without her knowledge or consent.

Joining us now is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you doing this investigative work already and helping us understand it.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Thank you, Rachel

MADDOW: I know that you are on the relevant subcommittee here in terms of oversight of these matters from Congress. But let me just ask about your initial reaction and how you pursued trying to learn more about these claims.

JAYAPAL: Well, when I heard about it, I heard about it through the whistleblower complaint, and immediately read that complaint, was quite disturbed by what was in there, but unclear about, you know, are we -- how could we verify this?

And so, immediately, felt that it was necessary to have an investigation because the charges were serious. And, of course, you know, I have been working on the ICE, sort of medical issues in detention for a long time. It was not beyond the pale that this would be happening.

But then in the meantime, I was able to talk last night with three attorneys who represent a number of women. And what happened is that when the story broke, these attorneys started talking to each other. You know, in the past, they have had individual clients, but they weren't necessarily talking about what their clients were experiencing.

And I think that when the story broke, it really led them to start to talk to each other and realize they each had clients with similar experiences. For example, one -- one set of attorneys said that, you know, often what might happen is that a woman is told she has ovarian cysts and she goes in to the doctor to get those ovarian cysts drained and then she ends up with a medical procedure that is either a partial for full hysterectomy.

And this was stunning to me. And so, at least 17 to 18 women represented by attorneys have had these unnecessary medical procedures, according to these attorneys who are extremely reputable. I know them, have worked with some of them, really do trust what they are saying.

Now, in addition to that, Rachel, as you know, many of the people who are in immigration detention are pro se. They're completely unrepresented. They don't have attorneys.

I think that if this was happening to these individuals that have attorneys and were just finding out about it, it is possible that this is even larger than just the 17 or 18 that we know of.

MADDOW: I just described one anecdote that you shared today publicly, talking about this woman Pauline who said she consulted a doctor about her menstrual cycle. She was put under from what she was told to be a simple procedure, only to wake up and find that the doctor had removed part of her reproductive organs without her knowledge or consent.

You also note there, though, in telling her story that she was very nearly deported this morning. I have heard over the course of the day that you and some of your colleagues in Congress had to intervene to prevent her from being sent out of the country while she's now potentially an important witness in this investigation.

JAYAPAL: That's right. Yesterday, when I heard about all of this, I immediately worked with Chairman Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Judy Chu. We got 173 members on a letter calling for an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General at DHS.

And then I hear from these attorneys last night, this was probably 9:00 last night, that they had just been told that Pauline was going to be deported and she's one of the individuals, and that she was going to be on a flight 8:30 this morning from Texas.

She had been transferred from Georgia to Texas about a year ago. She's been in detention for three years, Rachel, two of those in Georgia.

And I immediately called my colleague Sheila Jackson Lee and said, we have to stop her from being deported because we need her for this investigation, and I am troubled that she is suddenly being deported.

And so, Representative Jackson Lee did a fantastic job. She got a written confirmation last night that the stay would be for 72 hours. But then this morning when we checked, it turned out that Pauline had still been put on that plane. And again, Representative Jackson Lee, working together, she was able to call and get Pauline taken off the plane in Chicago.

This was a commercial flight. Pauline had already been flown from Houston to Chicago by the time we were able to get her off. But it was on the runway in Chicago, she was -- she was pulled off that plane. She is now being returned to Texas. She must be there by now.

And we are -- we intend to make sure that we get to hear from Pauline as part of our investigation, and we're also calling on ICE immediately to stop deporting any other women that might be a part of this investigation that we need to talk to, because we do know from these attorneys that some of their clients were already deported. They are in touch with them.

For example, one woman in El Salvador who had a procedure done, she's going back to get her medical record and making sure that we have that information.

MADDOW: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, this is obviously a very live and developing issue. Keep us apprised and thank you for helping us understand.

JAYAPAL: Thank you so much, Rachel, for covering this terrible, terrible issue.

MADDOW: Of course.

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


MADDOW: It is now time for me to get out of the way and quickly because Lawrence O'Donnell has Bob Woodward tonight. I am out of here.

Go, Lawrence, go. I cannot wait to see this. It's all yours.


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