Meet the Press - August 2, 2020

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the surging Covid crisis.

IVAN MELENDEZ:

I’ve never seen anything like this in my 30 plus years in medicine.

CHUCK TODD:

The U.S. averaging roughly 65,000 new cases a day.

GROVER STREET:

This is really an apocalyptic time for us.

CHUCK TODD:

Twenty-one states in the so-called red zone. Amid the growing crisis, President Trump retweets discredited advice.

DR. STELLA IMMANUEL:

You don’t need a mask. There is a cure. It’s called Hydroxychloroquine.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning I'll talk to Admiral Brett Giroir of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia of Boston University. Plus, trailing in the polls, the president floats delaying the election, blaming -- without evidence -- increased mail-in voting.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

These elections will be fraudulent, they’ll be fixed, they’ll be rigged.

CHUCK TODD:

Many Republicans push back.

SEN. MITCH MCCONELL:

We’ll cope with whatever the situation is and have the election on November 3rd as already scheduled.

CHUCK TODD:

Why even Mr. Trump's allies say this time he's going too far. Also, while honoring John Lewis, President Obama takes on President Trump.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:

George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.

CHUCK TODD:

And who will Joe Biden choose as his running mate?

REP. KAREN BASS:

I am going to do everything I can to make sure that he gets elected and once elected make sure that he’s a successful president.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to a rising contender, Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. Joining me for insight and analysis are: NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Journalist and author Robert Draper and Heather McGhee of the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history. This is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. So much for that new tone. This past week President Trump retweeted a video of a doctor who said masks were unnecessary, Hydroxychloroquine is a cure for Covid-19 and that diseases are caused by dreams of sex with demons. Meanwhile, the number of deaths from Covid-19 passed 150,000. Nine states set one-day records for Covid cases, while 11 set single-day records for deaths. Among those deaths was former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. Cain was diagnosed shortly after attending the president's rally in Tulsa. We learned that economic output fell in the last quarter by the largest amount since records have been kept, at an annualized rate of 32.9 percent. And that was even before extra unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans ran out on Friday. And finally, President Trump made the most un-American and un-democratic of suggestions: proposing to delay the election, insisting again -- without evidence -- that mail-in voting will result in a fraudulent outcome. And remember, that of this was just this past week. Mr. Trump's delay-the-election gambit had the scent of a president who was seeking a distraction from the terrible economic news, a president whose desperation makes him even more unpredictable. In short, a president who expects to lose. Ultimately, Mr. Trump increasingly looks like a man who believes that the more the virus spins out of control, the more his presidency does, too.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

This is going to be the greatest election disaster in history.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump, escalating his efforts to cast doubt on the integrity of the November election which polls currently suggest he is losing.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Do I want to see a day changed? No. But I don't want to see a crooked election, this election will be the most rigged election in history if that happens.

CHUCK TODD:

Renewing his attacks on mail-in voting despite no evidence it leads to voter fraud. And suggesting a delay which he has no constitutional authority to enact.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

This is not something that the president can do.

CHUCK TODD:

Republicans race to distance themselves.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Never in the history of this country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. We will find a way to do that again this November 3rd.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election.

CHUCK TODD:

It's just the latest attempt by the president to sow seeds of doubt about the coming election results. With the coronavirus surging and death tolls up more than 20% in 30 states over the past two weeks, the CDC is now projecting the U.S. death toll could hit 182,000 in just three more weeks. And the president's testing czar is conceding a national lag in testing.

REP. ANDY KIM:

Would it be possible for our nation to have results for all Covid tests completed and returned within 48 and 72 hours?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

It is not a possible benchmark we can achieve today given the demand and supply. It is absolutely a benchmark we can achieve moving forward.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

It is an issue if you can’t get it within a 24 to 48 period.

CHUCK TODD:

In Florida, which marked its fourth straight day of record deaths on Friday, the president ignored the facts.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I think we're doing, really, a fantastic job

CHUCK TODD:

Instead, trying to create fear of a Democratic presidency:

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

If Joe Biden is elected president, the chaos and bloodshed will spread to every community in our land.

CHUCK TODD:

Some top Trump advisers believe the president's playbook isn't working. And are finding it hard to keep him on message. Earlier this week, he retweeted this video featuring doctors insisting masks don't work but Hydroxychloroquine does.

DR. STELLA IMMANUEL:

You don't need masks, there is a cure!

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

They are very respected doctors. There was a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

Hydroxychloroquine is not effective in the treatment of coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

CHUCK TODD:

And the president continues to share misinformation, tweeting again on Friday: "If we had no testing, or bad testing, we would show very few cases.”

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

If you do more tests you are going to see more cases. But the increases that we are seeing are real increasing in cases as also reflected by increasing in hospitalization and increasing in deaths.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the Assistant Secretary of Health, it’s Admiral Brett Giroir. He is also a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Admiral, welcome back to Meet the Press. And before I ask my first question, I do want to set things up with -- since the start of this pandemic, I've had quite a few members of the Coronavirus Task Force on. And I've asked in various ways where are we on testing and ramping up testing. And I want to play for you a sampling of answers dating back from April. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

We're going to continue to fully partner with states around the country to increase the supply, to make sure that they have the reagents and the test kits necessary to perform those tests.

PETER NAVARRO:

My job is to make sure the people of America have enough of what they need going forward.

AMB. ROBERT O’BRIEN:

So, we'll get this virus under control.

SEC. ALEX AZAR:

What we're doing now is we've got to test entire communities, find all positive cases, because this is a very different virus with this asymptomatic spreading. Get every positive case and get those people isolated.

(END TAPE )

CHUCK TODD:

Admiral, that last comment obviously was at the end of June. We're now at the beginning of August. We still seem to have the same testing issues. In this case, it's the supply issues and all of that, the lag issue, which you testified to on Friday. Four months now. Are we ever going to be able to get this testing strategy right?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

So, thank you, and it's good to be on again. And I do want to put some things in perspective. Of course, we've increased our testing by 32,000 percent. We're completing over 80 percent of our tests within three days, almost 90 percent within five days. Of course, we're going to improve that. We're continuing to improve that. By September, we'll have over 23 million point-of-care tests, so we are improving that. But I do want to get the opportunity to put testing in context. And I think that's very important. How we use it, how we rely on it, and how we fix the outbreak right now by using testing selectively the way we're doing it in all the southern states.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious, with this selective testing, is this because we just don't have the capacity to do these quick? I mean, for instance, the Abbott tests, why is that not something the DPA could have been used for to make this available across the country faster, to speed up manufacturing? It seems as if we've let these private labs dictate the speed with which we get the equipment necessary to complete the tests.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

So, that's really absolutely not true. We look every day for opportunities to use the DPA or other investments. And when it's possible to do that, we do that. We've made two large investments into swab production. Last week, you saw an investment into BD Veritor by the Defense Department, an investment in Quidel by the National Institutes of Health. That's why, in September, we'll have over 23 million point-of-care tests. The DPA is not a magic wand. It can't create something out of nothing. It can be used as an effective tool, and that's the way we're doing it. Now, let me talk about the testing. And this has been misconstrued a lot. Obviously, we want to increase testing, and we've done that. And I've told you how we've done that. But testing is a part of the strategy. We don't test our way out of this. We do smart policies with testing as an adjunct. That's why places like Arizona have had a two-week downward trajectory. They've gone from over 5,000 cases a day to in the hundreds of cases a day. Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas are all on a downward trajectory because they've instituted smart policies. And you know what that is. Wear a mask, avoid crowded indoor places, use good hygiene, and avoid crowds. And if we do those things, that will reduce the overall outbreak to levels that will go down significantly. And that's what we're seeing across the South.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask this though. It does seem as if we've got, sort of, two different challenges in front of us, right, which is this latest outbreak. It seems like it's too big to get our testing around. There's some that are advocating partial shutdowns in some of these worst communities. Is that something the task force is recommending in these sort of red zone states?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

So, both for the red zone states and the emerging yellow states, we have really good data now, both theoretical and data from places like Arizona, Texas, and Florida, that if you do simple measures like avoid the indoor crowded places, and a lot of times that are indoor bars, but you can't have a hundred people at your house either. Do less in dining, indoor dining, because that's another place. Wearing a mask is incredibly important, but we have to have like 85 percent or 90 percent of individuals wearing a mask and avoiding crowds. That is essentially -- gives you the same outcome as a complete shutdown. And why do I say that? Well, theoretically, we can go through the models, but look at Arizona, look at Florida and Texas, Louisiana. These measures are being implemented and that changes it. And the key is --- and that's why we're going to all the states. We're on local radio. We give specific instructions to every governor, by county, what they need to do when we start -- when those counties start tipping yellow because that's the time when you have to stamp it down. You've got to institute these measures because the virus will keep doing what the virus does unless we make an affirmative change.

CHUCK TODD:

It sounds like you just made a case for a national mask mandate. If you're saying we basically need 85 percent to 90 percent compliance, it sounds like a national mandate is needed. Is that a recommendation that's been made by the task force to the president?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

So, our public health recommendations are across the board, particularly in a red or yellow county, that you really need to have mask wearing at a very high degree. You know, there's a debate whether a mandate actually does an affirmative thing or whether people will rebel against that, but it really has to be voluntary by the American people, whether it's mandated by a city, like it was done in Phoenix, or certain states. But the public health message is we've got to have mask wearing. If you have mask wearing, you can reduce the R below one just with these simple measures and we can stamp this outbreak out. If we don't do that and if we don't limit the indoor crowded spaces, the virus will continue to run. And if you don't mind, let me just make -- we are very concerned, and this is a very serious point. And deaths will continue to increase for the next few weeks because it's lagging. But we have decreased the amount of infections over the last two weeks. The hospitalizations have gone down. Unfortunately, mortality lags by a couple of weeks. So, these measures do work, but they've got to be implemented rigorously.

CHUCK TODD:

One thing that seems to be scattershot is the issue of contact tracing. Now, it may take us back to our testing cul de sac conversation that we may go back to.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

And I know -- I don't want to get caught in that loop again, but it does look like the contact tracing -- is this outbreak too big now for contact tracing to be effective, especially since we don't have a national contact tracing army?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

So, you know, there's no black or white answer here, but in the very early parts of an outbreak or in the very late waning parts, or in selective times like a meat packing, contact tracing could be very effective. When you have a widespread, multi-focal outbreak, where many people are asymptomatic, testing and tracing are of limited utility versus public health policy measures like mask wearing, like closing indoor crowded spaces. So, yes, contact tracing is important, but it's much less important right now than the public policy mitigation measures. Once the virus gets down to very low levels again, then testing and contact tracing become much more important. Where we are right now with the widespread, multi-focal, across many states, just like many other countries, the solution was the mitigation steps, not the contact tracing.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, I know you're not a political person, but the president continues to advocate for Hydroxychloroquine. Is that a danger to public health?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

So, from a public health standpoint, at first Hydroxychloroquine looked very promising. There were not the definitive studies. At this point in time, there has been five randomized controlled, placebo controlled trials that do not show any benefit to Hydroxychloroquine. So, at this point in time, we don't recommend that as a treatment. There's no evidence to show that it is. But on the other hand, we have Remdesivir, we have steroids which reduce mortality by 30 percent. We still don't know about immune plasma, but it has worked in many other circumstances. There are many trials and you heard that national call for that. And a vaccine looks very promising as well. So, we have many things that do work. Right now, Hydroxychloroquine, I can't recommend that.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, I was just going to say, are you concerned though that because of this mixed messaging, that it continues -- it's going to continue to, sort of, create this fog, if you will, about treatments and misuse of this drug?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

So, Hydroxychloroquine needs to be prescribed by a physician. There may be circumstances, I don't know what they are, where a physician may prescribe it for an individual. But I think most physicians and prescribers are evidence based and they're not influenced by whatever is on Twitter or anything else. And the evidence just doesn't show that Hydroxychloroquine is effective right now. I think we need to move on from that and talk about what is effective, both from a public health standpoint. I told you the masks, the crowds, wash your hands, avoid indoor spaces. And for treatments, we know that if you get COVID now, your chances of dying are incredibly less than they were in April because our healthcare providers know how to treat it better. We have effective therapies like Remdesivir and steroids, promising therapies like immune plasma, and a vaccine really on the horizon.

CHUCK TODD:

Admiral Giroir, I have to end it there. I appreciate you coming on and sharing the perspective of the task force, as always, sir. Stay safe and healthy yourself.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR:

Appreciate that. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia. She's the medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit at the Boston University School of Medicine. She's also been a frequent contributor, expert contributor, to this program. Dr. Bhadelia, it's good to see you. Let me just get you to react first to our -- the testing, conversation that you heard from Admiral Giroir there. Is, is -- from your perspective, what should our testing strategy be right now?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA:

Chuck, thanks so much for having me. I will agree with Admiral Giroir that testing is part of a national public health response strategy to this Coronavirus pandemic. The trouble though is that there's so much disease activity in our community, is that just setting an absolute limit or number of tests that we need doesn't work because that's a moving target. We continue to need more tests as our outbreak grows bigger. And the quickest way to sort of talk about how we are both behind testing and the level of disease activity that we have is in the U.S. every time we test about 12 people, the thirteenth person may turn out to be positive. In U.K. it takes them 235 people to find a positive person. In Germany it's a little over 150 before they find a positive person. Just telling you how much disease we have in this country. And not only that, but we're about four percent of the world population and we account for about 23% of the Coronavirus, cumulative Coronavirus deaths so far in this pandemic. The trouble is that testing, our testing strategy, and public health strategy needs to, sort of, link with the lifestyle that we want to pursue in the middle of this pandemic. If we're looking to only test people who are sick then we have to kind of roll back re-openings and not, you know, create an environment in which asymptomatic cases continue to transmit this disease and we're always behind. If we want to contact trace, we need to not only increase the number of tests but actually bring down the disease activity, as you and the Admiral talked about, to be able to accomplish that. But here's what we want to do. We want to actually come back to some amount of normalcy. You want to go visit your grandmother, you need a test that comes back sooner than a week later. If you want to open schools and universities you need, not only more tests but you actually need tests that are closer to the consumer. Maybe rapid tests that, you know, people can do at multiple levels that may not be as accurate but immediately give you a sense. The trouble is that our aspirations of the type of lifestyle that we want to lead do not match with our current resources.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious, do you concur with the Admiral that if we had 90 to 95% compliance on mask wearing nationwide we'd get control of this virus?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA:

Absolutely. In conjunction with -- mask wearing in conjunction with avoiding crowded indoor spaces and keeping an eye on, sort of, the disease activity in the community, we could bring this, you know, this pandemic under control. The other things that might help are these rapid diagnostics, but also if we had some sort of big breakthrough in medical countermeasures or treatments, you know, that might decrease the mortality. I think that will go a long way in helping us control this pandemic before the vaccine's available.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Bhadelia, I'm going to have to leave it there. It just feels like -- let me ask -- it just feels like we're on a hamster wheel here with this virus. And it doesn't seem like anything's really going to change until there's a vaccine. Is that fair to say at this point?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA:

Well, I think that if we have more rapid tests, as I mentioned, and the countermeasures, it will help. But, you know, what we have -- we're at an inflection point. We're at a point where we're going to look at this moment the way we look at Memorial Day, where we're going to say, "We have a decision in front of us, whether or not we lock down partially or completely to allow for potentially schools and colleges to start." Which by all evidence so far says that going to lead to more cases. I do think that that's a decision we need to make more quickly than we are currently.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to leave it there. Dr. Bhadelia, as always, thank you for your expertise for our viewers. Up next, Joe Biden seems ready to pick his running mate this week or next. So who will she be? I'm going to talk to a fast-rising contender, Congresswoman Karen Bass, when we come back.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It's a quadrennial political parlor game, guessing who might share the ticket with the party's presidential nominee. Joe Biden has pledged to pick a woman and he's considered more than a dozen. Three names stand out right now as likely finalists. Senator Kamala Harris of California, former national security advisor Ambassador Susan Rice, and Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. Bass is the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and has been a leading voice on police reform. She's also largely unknown nationally. But she's now seen as among -- as a finalist among finalists, if you will, in the so-called VP race. And Karen Bass joins me now. Congresswoman Bass, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REP. KAREN BASS:

Thanks. Thanks for having me on, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask this. I know nobody runs for the vice presidency and that, you know, people shy away from that. But let me ask you the question this way. Why'd you decide to go through this vetting process?

REP. KAREN BASS:

Well, mainly because I am so concerned with where we are in our country right now. 154,000 dead Americans from COVID virus, our country ripped apart because of race. The policing issues, the economic devastation that we're facing, all of these issues is the reason why I submitted myself to a very interesting process, a trip down memory lane.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there something about the post itself that is appealing to you if you did end up as vice president of the United States?

REP. KAREN BASS:

Well, you know, to me, being a partner with somebody who I have deep respect for, with somebody who I believe is authentic, is genuine, has the capacity to have empathy, has tremendous experience, and working alongside of him, aside from being considered is a tremendous honor, but all of that is the reason why I would want to go forward with this.

CHUCK TODD:

You've not been somebody who, at least we in political circles, have known as someone with presidential ambitions.

REP. KAREN BASS:

Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. Why haven't you considered running for president before? And by agreeing to this, I know it doesn't mean you want to run for president in the future, --

REP. KAREN BASS:

Right --

CHUCK TODD:

-- but a lot of people certainly think you will.

REP. KAREN BASS:

Exactly. But you know what, Chuck? In my life, I have always been focused on the work and you can look through my past and I think it's pretty clear that I didn't set out in my life to run for president. I have focused on doing the work in a lot of different ways. My focus has been on trying to do everything I could to make our nation a more perfect union, especially for those people who are the most marginal. Those people who are often not included in our country. That has been what I have done for almost 50 years of my life.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you believe, what do you believe makes you prepared for the presidency in a heartbeat away, basically on day one?

REP. KAREN BASS:

Well, sure. Having served as speaker of the house in California, as you know, California is the world's fifth largest economy. The largest state in the union. I led at a time when we went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I led in a very bipartisan manner. I worked with Governor Schwarzenegger, worked well with my Republican colleagues. My background in health care, I've been in the emergency room. I have been in life and death situations. My experience in foreign policy. And over the years, what I'm the most proud of is my ability to bring people together because I think that our country needs healing. I do believe that President Biden will be a healer in chief, and we certainly need that now. And I have believed I've played that role too. I have worked across racial lines. I've worked across political lines. And I have focused on really my goal, which is to get work done on behalf of the American people. Which is why you find people like Paul Ryan or Kevin McCarthy who have worked with me and worked with me well.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me turn to the issue of Cuba. A lot of people have turned to this issue with you as they've dug in. You spent some time there in the '70s as a young activist, I believe working with a group called the Venceremos Brigade, building houses in Cuba. You have rejected the idea that you were somehow celebrating the Castro regime. But looking back -- do you look back on that and think you were a big naïve?

REP. KAREN BASS:

Oh, I think as any 19 year old would be, sure. In my early twenties, I went to Cuba to help the Cuban people, to build houses. But over the last 20 years, Chuck, I have been working -- one, I've always believed in bridging the divide between our two countries. Cuba's 90 miles away. But for the last 20 years, I've actually been working on health care related issues in Cuba. You know, the Cubans train U.S. doctors. And I've been recruiting those doctors to work in the inner city because they come in tuition free. The Cubans also have two medicines, one for diabetes, of which my mother died for, lung cancer, which my father died for, and I would like to have those drugs tested in the United States. Now, that doesn't excuse the fact that I know the Castro regime has been a brutal regime to its people. I know that there is not freedom of press, freedom of association. And interestingly, when I went in my late teens and early twenties, you know, one of the things that -- one of the reasons was to build relations with the Americans that were there, because there were over 100 young people that were there. And all of us worked on different issues. Well, what's interesting is that we had the ability to come home and protest against our own government. But the Cuban people most certainly cannot do that. They couldn't do it then and they can't do it now.

CHUCK TODD:

But Congresswoman, I have to say, you sound a lot tougher on Castro now than you did when you described him as “comandante en jefe” when he died. And then you said something that I found interesting. You said you didn't quite realize how sensitive folks were in South Florida about this still.

REP. KAREN BASS:

No. Oh, go ahead.

CHUCK TODD:

And so I'm just curious, sort of, that you thought, well, Californians wouldn't mind that description, but it might offend Floridians. Forget that a minute. It still seemed as if you had a soft view of Castro, if you will.

REP. KAREN BASS:

Yeah. And let me explain too because I think the use of the term “comandante en jefe” what I meant by that is is that clearly, in Florida that is a term that is endearing to him. I didn't see it that way. I was expressing condolences to the Cuban people, to the people in Cuba, not Cubans around the world. I don't think that is a toxic expression in California. But let me just say, Chuck, lesson learned. Wouldn't do that again. Talked immediately to my colleagues from Florida and realized that that was something that just shouldn't have been said.

CHUCK TODD:

But it’s not -- you said you were expressing condolences to the Cuban people. There's many people who believe that the Castro regime in general was keeping them confined, was stifling their freedom. That actually, getting rid of Castro might've been a celebration to some.

REP. KAREN BASS:

Yeah, maybe. And in the island, I think it's slightly different because, you know, they certainly didn't have the freedom and wouldn't have the freedom to celebrate that. So I think that it is just very important, the way the Obama administration had opened up relations with Cuba, I think the best way to bring about change on the island is for us to have closer relations with a country that is 90 miles away.

CHUCK TODD:

Just very quickly, I'm curious of your reaction. You were called “Communist Karen” yesterday by the Trump campaign. And Senator Marco Rubio said you would be -- essentially implied that there was nobody who has ever been considered for the vice presidency that was seen as so much of a Castro sympathizer. How do you react?

REP. KAREN BASS:

Well, one, don't consider myself a Castro sympathizer. Number two, my position on Cuba is really no different than the position of the Obama administration. As a matter of fact, I was honored to go to Cuba with President Obama. I went to Cuba with Secretary Kerry when we raised the flag. So there really isn't anything different. And then frankly, I believe the Republicans have decided to brand the entire Democratic party as Socialists and Communists. So I'm not surprised by Rubio's characterization of me or of a role I would play if I were on the ticket.

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from California, what do you think of all the extra scrutiny you're getting, all the extra attention? Good or bad?

REP. KAREN BASS:

Well, you know what, I mean, it's okay because really, my focus is about what this country is going through. I don't want to see another 154,000 Americans dead. And the reason for that is because the lack of leadership we have in the White House, we are 90+ days away from an election. And I am looking forward to watching President Biden raise his hand and being sworn in if I'm on the ticket or not. I will work just as hard to get him elected because I believe he has the leadership to get us out of this crisis that we're in right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman Karen Bass, really appreciate you coming on, sharing your perspective with us. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy.

REP. KAREN BASS:

Thank you. You too.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. When we come back, President Trump says the election will be fraudulent. It'll be fixed, it'll be rigged. Does that sound like someone who expects to win said election? The panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is joining us from their remote locations. NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, journalist Robert Draper, author of the new book, “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq,” and Heather McGhee of the civil rights advocacy group, Color of Change. It's good to see all of you. Andrea, I want to sort of start things off simply with this interesting quote from Alex Burns in the New York Times about the president's behavior, essentially referring to the president as a “heckler in his own administration.” Let me read the whole quote up here, if we can bring it up. And you look here, "Far from a strong man, Mr. Trump has lately become a heckler in his own government, promoting medical conspiracy theories on social media, playing no constructive role in either the management of the coronavirus pandemic or the negotiation of an economic rescue plan in Congress -- and complaining endlessly about the unfairness of it all." You know, Andrea, it seems as if the president's, like, given up on doing the job of being president.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Exactly. I mean, he was on the golf course for the second day in a row as the negotiators from his own administration are struggling with the Hill and a divided Republican Senate. So it's a four-way conversation now, but he's not part of it. And so the benefits have run out. He's not contributing. He's not only heckling from the side but he's creating misinformation, retweeting that viral video of the suspicious doctor and her miracle cures, which went around the world, if not, you know, and all over the United States. And so there's no message in the campaign. And they talk about after suspending, getting back on the air, but he keeps undermining the message, which he briefly tried to get back on track. And you can't cure the economy unless you cure the pandemic, and you can't cure the pandemic if the president is sending --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- bad messages and belatedly coming to masks but undermining all of the efforts and attacking Dr. Fauci and the other experts.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Heather McGhee, it's funny Andrea brings up this messaging issue. Let me play for you this clip of the president. He went to Florida on Friday. He didn't really talk about the crisis that's in Florida right now with the virus, but instead he read the following remarks trying to scare folks about a Joe Biden presidency. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PRES. TRUMP:

In Joe Biden's America you and your family will never be safe. Rioters and criminals will be totally protected. Law-abiding citizens will be totally disarmed, and American families will be at the mercy of the violent left-wing mob that you've been watching on television.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

There's both the reality -- the picture he's painting and the reality don't match. But also, what is he talking about there when he's not talking about the virus or the economic pain we're in?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

This is his playbook. But what we know now is that it's not working, and in fact, it's backfiring. Because of his ham-fisted and demonizing and divisive reactions to the peaceful demonstrations across this country, the Black Lives Matter movement, which seems to be the largest protest movement in American history, it looks like Donald Trump is on track to do something with white voters that hasn't been done since Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Republicans started their sort of racialized strategy, which is actually lose the white vote. Joe Biden is now leading with white voters. And why is that? It's not in spite of the Black Lives Matter movement. It's because of it. Because it's enormously popular, it's made a moral awakening in this country and he's losing the suburbs because of it. He's losing the suburbs because he's still trying to race bait and divide us at a time where, you know, you've got big suburban houses with lawn signs that say, "Black Lives Matter."

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Robert, going through your book and thinking about having you on this week and I'm glad you stuck with the Iraq theme, you stuck with what you've been working on for years and covering the Bush administration. I'm old enough to remember when Bush was the stubborn one, when Bush wasn't hearing what the public was hearing. Compare the two in crisis here. What do you see versus what you covered with Iraq?

ROBERT DRAPER:

Yeah, sure, Chuck. I mean, I think that what the two have in common is that both presidents were telling a story to the American public that was not grounded in the facts. Back in 2002 and 2003, what President Bush was saying was, "Saddam Hussein is dangerous, just like the people who attacked us on 9/11. And because he is evil, like the people who attacked us on 9/11, these evil doers will likely confederate and join in attacking us. Therefore, we must attack Iraq first." I mean, almost everything I said to you there didn't have any basis in facts. And, you know that in a way we're now at a kind of perverse evolution from that point in time to where we are now with a president who says, "We've got it under control, certainly more under control than other countries do. We're the envy of the world in fact. Now we need to reopen, and the Democrats don't want to reopen because they hate America." The crucial difference between these two is that back then President Bush had the trust of the American people. This president has forfeited that trust.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, Andrea, it is that trust issue, where you -- and I think it's leading a lot of people to wonder, you know, "What's left?" I think the fact that he's not involved on Capitol Hill, the fact that Senate Republicans have pretty much 20 different ideas of what to do, it seems as if elected Republicans are losing faith in President Trump right now.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, they certainly pushed back immediately on his suggestion about delaying the election, but I haven't seen them stand up against him on a lot of these other issues. Yes, the payroll tax cut, it looks like they don't want it, he still does. And maybe they're narrowing their differences as we speak, we hope, on Capitol Hill. But I don't think that elected Republicans are yet running away from him because they're so embedded with him. They really have no other choice except to hope that he can somehow discredit and undermine the election results and push down and suppress the Black vote and minority vote. That's their only hope in many of these places.

CHUCK TODD:

Heather, I know you wanted to jump in before we go.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Yeah. I mean, that's exactly right. McConnell, you know, pushed back against this delay in the election, but he's doing nothing to protect the Postal Service, which is what is actually going to -- the sabotage from within of the Postal Service by Trump's mega-donor is what's actually going to create delays and risk and chaos in our election. So they need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

CHUCK TODD:

And you just bring up a point, I mean, as we erode institutions we're now going to erode trust in the delivery mechanisms of the United States Postal Service too? Anyway, let me pause it here. We're going to do some veepstakes conversation when you guys get to come back. But when we come back immediately we're going to talk about the suburbs. Used to be the home office of the Republican Party, but as Heather McGhee said earlier, they're changing and they're changing rapidly. Up next: two suburban counties that could tell us what we'll be seeing in November.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Data Download time. This week President Trump used an old scare tactic, telling suburbanites he alone is what's standing between them and low-income folks ruining their neighborhoods. It felt pretty mid-20th century because the suburbs, they are a-changin’. We have reporters in two of the largely suburban “County to County” communities that we are watching through Election Day, Maricopa County, Arizona and Kent County, Michigan. Let's start with Maricopa, home to Phoenix, where the percentage of white non-Hispanic residents has dropped by more than 11 percentage points, while the percentage of Hispanic and Black residents has grown. My colleague Vaughn Hillyard is in Surprise, Arizona. It's a suburb of Phoenix. Vaughn, what do you see there?

VAUGHN HILLYARD:

Chuck, these changing suburbs of Maricopa County could upend the election in favor of Joe Biden. Just four years ago, Donald Trump won Arizona suburbs by 10 percentage points. Now, Joe Biden holds a 15 point edge. And just take this city of Surprise as an example. Since 2000, the population here has grown by more than 100,000 people. And voters here largely aren't buying into this idea that, quote, "Chaos and bloodshed is going to overtake their cities," as Donald Trump has suggested. Take Randy Pinner. He was a 2016 Trump voter, a maintenance worker at the local school district down the road, who's voted Republican dating back to Ronald Reagan. He told me about this idea of high crime, quote, "I don't see that happening here," and is now mulling voting for Joe Biden. And all of this is reflective in our polling. Right now, Joe Biden is leading among Arizona suburb voters 62 percent to 37 percent. Chuck?

CHUCK TODD:

Vaughn, a 25 point swing in the suburbs in just that county would be astronomical for Biden's chances. Now to Kent County, Michigan, home to Grand Rapids. It's seeing the same changes. Since 2000, the white non-Hispanic population in Kent has declined seven points, as the percentage of Black and Hispanic residents grows. My colleague Dasha Burns is in East Grand Rapids, and Dasha, what are you seeing there?

DASHA BURNS:

Hi, Chuck, good morning. President Trump won this state by less than one percent in the last election. Now he's campaigning on a law and order message in these suburbs. But the numbers, and what I'm hearing from the community here, suggests it's not resonating. In fact, it's turning some voters off completely. According to the latest Fox News poll, Biden leads Trump 50 to 41 percent among suburban voters in Michigan. And one 2016 Trump voter here that I've been following since last November, a mom of two named Katey Morse, says Trump is using scare tactics, and she's offended by some of his messaging. Now, when we first met she was still open to voting for Trump again, but now she says that door is closed and she's going for Biden. Chuck?

CHUCK TODD:

Vaughn Hillyard and Dasha Burns, both on the ground in those two key suburban counties that we will be tracking through November. When we come back: what former President Obama had to say about his successor without ever saying his name.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:

Bull Connor may be gone. But today, we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans. George Wallace may be gone. But we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Context is everything. President Obama eulogizing John Lewis happened to take place on the morning of that infamous President Trump tweet about delaying the election. Heather McGhee, you know, one of the themes of 2017, 2018 and 2019 in some Democratic circles are, "Hey, how come President Obama doesn't speak out about President Trump?" I noticed there weren't any of those comments after those comments this week.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

That's right. There was some pushback from the right wing. But I will say that President Obama was doing what any patriot would do in the face of these unprecedented threats, which is to stand up for his country. And to stand up for democracy. And I think what's interesting is what he did in that speech, eulogizing the great American, what I think is a future founding father of a new America, John Lewis. What he did in that speech was not just say that, you know, "It's about Donald Trump right now." It's also about the fact that our democracy has been unrepresentative and unfair for too long. He called for automatic voter registration. Making Election Day a holiday, giving statehood to our citizens in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. You know, Republicans are going to have to recognize that if they can't compete on an even playing field of a truly representative democracy without cheating, they're going to have to either get off the field or find a new strategy. And that's what he was calling out. And I think it was really important and powerful.

CHUCK TODD:

And Robert Draper, I know that you've covered a guy that was also there, eulogizing John Lewis, George W. Bush.

ROBERT DRAPER:

Yeah. Yeah, and the point that I wanted to make, Chuck, was that I think the most poignant articulation that took place in the church wasn't anything that was voiced at all. It was the sheer presence of three former presidents, one Republican as well as two Democrats, while the current president was not there. And to me, more than anything else, that served to underscore yet again just how much of an outlier this president has become. How divisive a force he is. And, you know, at moments like this when the nation is expected to put things aside, to come together, and by "moments like this," I also include John McCain's funeral. The president once again is a polarizing force.

CHUCK TODD:

Andrea Mitchell, I want to make a sort of harder turn here in our remaining minutes because we may get the answer to the question of, "Who does Joe Biden want as his running mate?" Our reporting indicates that if there is a short, short list, it is Kamala Harris, Susan Rice and Karen Bass. You're all over this reporting as well. Right now, it feels like everybody's focused on all their downsides. What are the upsides that the Biden campaign is looking at?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

There are a number of upsides. And I should point out that all the women on this list are better qualified than some of the running mates that have been chosen in recent years. So let's pause at that. My sense is that history and where the country is now indicates that it is going to be a Black woman. It just seems that this is an important choice, a choice that they've obviously been focusing on. And that's why we seem to be focusing on these three women as well. There's a lot of incoming right now and there's a lot of talk in California Democratic politics that there has been a big oppo dump on Karen Bass. And this Cuba thing is clearly going to be an issue. Florida is so important. I don't have to stress the importance of Florida. Florida has changed, but it's still important. Already Marco Rubio, as you pointed out, hitting on that. I was on those trips with Secretary Kerry, President Obama. Those were huge Congressional delegations. Pat Leahy, you know, Amy Klobuchar. That was not the piece that they're really looking at. But when she said she was expressing condolences to the Cuban people, that is more recent than the 1970s. And as you said, that that is going to be, you know, difficult in Florida. The upsides: These are all, in the definition of Jim Clyburn, these are passionate women. Susan Rice knows him best, has most experience, may be ready on day one, but has never been elected -- has never run for elected office. She certainly would be strong. They would all be strong in a debate. Kamala Harris, the only one, as he said some weeks ago, who has run a presidential campaign. Not well, but run a campaign, been in debates, very tough on him. I think it is true that that is forgiven because they want to see that against Donald Trump. And Karen Bass, I should point out --

CHUCK TODD:

Heather, really --

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- really does work well with Republicans in California and in the Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

Heather, very quickly, when Jim Clyburn told me on Friday that what he loves about Joe Biden is his compassion, but he needs a running mate that brings out the passion, he wouldn't tell me who that was. Who do you think that is?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

You know, if you look at the polls, the people whom the least enthusiastic lean-Biden folks want, a new poll from Avalanche, is Elizabeth Warren. She has young voters and sort of not so excited about Joe Biden. That's who they want.

CHUCK TODD:

Yep, alright. Finally, before we go, we want to share --

ANDREA MITCHELL:

One quick point. One quick point.

CHUCK TODD:

Andrea, yeah. I'm tight on time on this one. Go quickly, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Okay. Yeah. You got it. Just that there's a Republican governor, they don't trust that he would actually appoint a Democrat --

CHUCK TODD:

Right. An important point.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- to replace Elizabeth Warren.

CHUCK TODD:

Before we go, I want to share with everybody this great Atlantic Journal Constitution cartoon by Mike Luckovich. This is the tribute he published for Congressman John Lewis, showing Lewis making one final walk on a bridge, holding a sign that says simply, "Vote." Rest in power, John Lewis.