Meet the Press - July 5, 2020

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ANDREA MITCHELL:

This Sunday: A growing pandemic.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY:

We can't be under any illusion that this virus is going to go away on its own.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

More than 50,000 new cases a day.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

States shutting down. Reversing or delaying reopenings.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

We've gone through hell. The last thing we want to do is go through hell again.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

President Trump says the virus is being handled.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I think that at some point that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And focuses instead on the culture wars.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

They are determined to tear down every statue, symbol and memory of our national heritage.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

My guests this morning: Governors Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and infectious disease expert Dr. Nahid Bhadelia. Plus, about face. Allies of the president now urging people to wear face masks.

VICE PRES. MIKE PENCE:

Wear a mask.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP:

Wear a mask.

STEVE DOOCEY:

MAGA should now stand for masks are great again.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Governor Abbott of Texas orders it.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT:

I am issuing a face-covering requirement for all counties with more than 20 covid cases.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Also, did President Trump ignore warnings of Russian bounties on Americans --

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

It is dereliction of duty.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- or was he not told?

SEN. JIM INHOFE:

He didn’t know about it. And I’m convinced of that.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I'll talk to former national security advisor for President Obama, Susan Rice. Joining me for insight and analysis are: former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute and NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander. 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.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Good Sunday morning and I hope you're having a happy and safe fourth of July weekend. Chuck Todd is away this week. But for the second consecutive night on this holiday weekend, President Trump gave a divisive speech, referring to opponents, among other things, as Marxists and looters, while downplaying the surging pandemic. The coronavirus is exploding across much of the country, with nine of the worst days for new cases happening in the last ten days. With 17 states recording their single-day highs this week, many are closing down bars, restaurants, beaches and gyms -- some for a second time -- while others have delayed re-openings. Even as President Trump says that he thinks -- or hopes -- the virus will just disappear. Health experts are pleading with Americans: wear a mask, avoid parties, stay at home, this is serious. At the same time the administration is scrambling to explain why the president did nothing about intelligence indicating the Russians were paying bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops. Mr. Trump has claimed he was not informed, he has attacked the news media and is calling the story a hoax. The issue has raised again the old Watergate question -- what did the president know and when did he know it -- and prompted a new one. Now that he knows, what will he do about it? We'll get to all of that, but we begin with the growing pandemic and a president spending the Independence Day weekend hoping to divide americans against each other:

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Stoking divisions during a national crisis - President Trump hosted two days of crowded celebrations, with social distancing optional and few masks, leaning on the culture wars in an attempt to reboot his campaign. Last night on the White House south lawn --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- and at a fireworks display Friday at Mount Rushmore. The president continues to make inaccurate claims as he plays down the pandemic.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We have tested almost 40 million people. by so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Even as many fellow Republicans join a chorus of public officials urging Americans to scale back their Fourth of July plans.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT:

The virus is spreading so fast, there is little margin for error.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE:

This should be a wake up call to all of us that we are in the fight of our lives.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Reported cases are up more than 20% in 34 states over the last two weeks, even topping 55,000 cases a day overall.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But the President is denying those facts.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I think that at some point that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

The last month has been a tough one for the president, with self-inflicted wounds on the virus --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

So I said to my people, slow the testing down please.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- on race and policing --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

If there’s looting, there’s probably gonna be shooting.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- retweeting a video of a supporter shouting “white power” --

FLORIDA RESIDENTS:

"White power! White power!"

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- and a widening scandal over his handling of intelligence about a Russian plot to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I think it's a hoax.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Nearly two-thirds of voters disapprove of Mr. Trump's handling of the virus. Public polls show the president trailing Joe Biden in a number of battleground states.

KARL ROVE:

When you are in the barrel, when you're getting a lot of bad press and the polls are moving against you, you need to do something that says you are moving in a different direction.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Now - after months of mixed messages on the pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: learn to live with it.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We have some areas where we're putting out the flames or the fires and that's working out well.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But around the country - many states like Texas are making it clear it's not "working out well" - issuing mandatory mask orders. And even the president's allies are shifting their tone.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY:

Arm yourself with a mask.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

The stakes are too high for this political debate about pro-Trump, anti-Trump masks

STEVE DOOCEY:

People are saying you know, I wish the president would put on a mask every once in a while, just because it would make him look as if he’s taking it seriously.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And joining me now is Democratic Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey. Governor Murphy, welcome to Meet the Press. I see you are the Jersey Shore. And the beaches behind you look empty. But there are people going to the beaches and many of them are not wearing masks. What is your message to people in New Jersey? And should there be a mandatory mask order?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

Hi, good morning, Andrea. And indeed, we're on the gem of the Jersey Shore here. Most of the beaches are quite crowded. Yes, the answer is unequivocally wear a mask. The virus outside is a lot less lethal than it is inside. But when in doubt, when you're going out, put on a mask.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

The president downplayed the pandemic in his speeches this weekend. And in fact, said that 99% of the cases show no harm. What is your response to the president's messaging?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

Listen, this thing is lethal. New Jersey's paid an enormous price. We've lost over 13,000 confirmed fatalities from COVID-19. We're starting to see small spikes in reinfection from folks coming back from places like Myrtle Beach, as well as in Florida, other hot spots. To me it says we need a national strategy. We're only as strong as our weakest link right now. As you mentioned, in the onset of the program, I said we went through hell. We cannot afford to go through hell again. We need a national strategy I think right now. And masking has got to be at the core of that.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And you and your neighboring states, Governor Cuomo notably in New York, the governor of Connecticut having quarantined against people coming in from hot spots. How do you enforce that?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

Well, at one level it's difficult. We have to ask people to do the right thing. To be responsible. And by the way, New Jerseyans, by the millions have done the right thing since the get-go. So if folks are coming back into our state, if they've been traveling to a hot spot or they're visiting here, as you also mentioned New York and Connecticut, we're doing this with them as well, we're asking folks to self-quarantine. We have contact tracers that take their information down. And we try to run every one of these cases to the ground. But it's mostly a personal responsibility that we're asking folks to do the right thing.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Have your contact tracers come up with any evidence so far?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

Well, I mentioned there was a wedding in Myrtle Beach. And we absolutely have evidence of folks who were at that wedding who came back up to New Jersey. Jersey folks who were visiting there. And we've got other cases that we're running down. That's the one that's most recent and most prevalent.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And do you think that there should be a national mask requirement?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

I do. I do, Andrea. It's become almost not even debatable. Certainly when you're going out and absolutely indoors. As I mentioned, this virus is a lot more lethal inside than outside. But if you're leaving your house put on a mask. I think it ought to be a national, a national requirement.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Now with very little warning last week you delayed the reopening of restaurants. And I have to tell you, I don't need to tell you because I'm sure you've been hearing it, that people, restaurant owners, are really upset. Amy Russo, a restaurant owner, told The New York Times -- she's in Asbury Park, not that far from you, that it's appalling. Especially now, we've done the buying, we do Sunday for Monday delivers. We've got the food in. It's insane. They're taking a huge hit having bought all that food, the cleaning supplies. What do you tell those people?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

Listen, we have nothing but sympathy for them. Believe me. It's why we need direct federal cash assistance to states so that we can help those restaurants and small businesses out. But the choice is either we open inside and -- or based on the data that we saw, and as I said, the lethality of this virus inside, or we lose people. We literally lose lives. When you combine indoors, lack of ventilation, sedentary, close proximity. And by definition you have to take your mask off to eat, those are bad facts. And we're just not there yet. We'll get there, I hope. But we're not ready for it.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And are you concerned that after this holiday weekend you're going to see a spike in New Jersey the way we've seen spikes elsewhere after the Memorial Day holiday?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

Yeah, Andrea, we're already seeing a little of that. It's less because of folks being on the beach and looking at fireworks. We've begun to open up the state slowly but surely. We knew there was some risk associated with that. So it's partly that. It's partly this coming back to New Jersey from hot spots. So yeah, we're not out of the woods yet, without any question.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, seeing you there, down there in the Jersey Shore makes us all want to get out there as well. But not to be this year for us. Thank you very much though. Thank you for interrupting your holiday.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

Thank you, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Safe holiday to you. And there is still a great disparity among regions, with the South and the West getting hit the hardest while the northeast is doing a lot better now. Joining me now is the governor of a southern state, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson, welcome back to Meet the Press. Thank you for being here.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Good to be with you, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, I don't need to tell you that there is a spike happening now in the South and in Arkansas is also seeing a rise in cases. What do you intend to do? Should you be requiring mandatory mask and face covering use?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, we all should be wearing a mask, face coverings when we go out in the public or you can't socially distance. We actually entered an executive order yesterday, Friday, in which allows the cities to pass an ordinance that mandates face coverings. And we wanted to have a model so that everybody could have the same standard if they choose to adopt that mandate. We are leading by example. I wear a mask when I'm out in public. This is important for us because when you want to grow the economy, whenever you want to bring people off the unemployment rolls, the way you do it is to stop the spread of the virus through covering yourself, protecting others and protecting yourself.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, you're showing by example when you're out in public and other Republicans now are. The president is not. And he not only is not wearing a face covering in public, but he held these huge gatherings over the weekend -- South Dakota and again in Washington D.C. against local objections in Washington. What example is that?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, in terms of the gatherings themselves, you know a lot of them were canceled here in Arkansas, 4th of July celebrations, just trying to minimize that exposure. But when you look at a national level, I think it is good that we celebrate our independence. That's a controlled environment, it was outside at Mount Rushmore. I think it inspired many. Obviously, I would like to have seen more face coverings there in order to set an example. But you have to, what you have to do on this virus, and there is a virus fatigue in our country right now. And you have to live life, you can't stop every activity, but you have to be in a controlled environment in which you do protect yourself and others and take it seriously. So there's this balance of reflecting to America how serious this, and a big a fight that we're in. But at the same time, let's manage our way through this so that we can continue to live life even though we're all very, very tired of --

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But --

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

-- this virus.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- governor, there was absolutely no social distancing in South Dakota. There were thousands of people there, sitting absolutely crowded in and no face coverings as well.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

There should have been face coverings. They should have followed guidelines there. You know, I know that it's a controlled environment, so it's really more about setting the example. But I know how important this was to Governor Noem. She has been asking the president about this months ago. This is not something that was set up at the last minute. It was planned. And it was a controlled environment.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

With all due respect though, if the president wanted to come and hold a rally in Arkansas, as he did in Tulsa indoors and in Phoenix, he had a big gathering there. And we've seen Secret Service agents and other members of his advance now sick, and also from the vice president's advance in, in Arizona. Would you let that happen in Arkansas?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

There would have to be social distancing and wearing of masks if you can't social distance. You have to follow our guidelines and that's what we would insist upon.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Let me show you that Governor Abbott and several of your other Republican governors are now changing what they had originally said. Let's watch.

[START TAPE]

GOV. RON DESANTIS:

We have flattened the curve.

GOV. RON DESANTIS:

Now, people understand this thing doesn't just go away.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT:

Our goal is to find ways to coexist with COVID-19 as safely as possible.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT:

COVID-19 is not going away. In fact, it's getting worse.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY:

I want to encourage people to get out and about, to take a loved one to dinner, to go retail shopping.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY:

Our message to Arizonans today is clear. They are safer at home.

[END TAPE]

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Governor Hutchinson, if Greg Abbott can change his mind, how about requiring masks for everybody in Arkansas?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, I think that's what's unique about the governors leading and showing flexibility in their states. You look at how we've gone through this in Arkansas. You know, we have tightened restrictions, then we had a targeted release. Whenever we see an outbreak, we tighten the screws again because we have to be able to respond and make sure people are following the guidelines. But governors have to be able to adjust to what is happening with the virus. We've done that in Arkansas. We were flat for a long time. We had a small increase. We went back down, and now you see it going back up. And we're responding to that. That's what governors do, that's what we have to do. And let me just say that whenever we are testing people you're having more cases, but we're also watching the hospitalization. We're doing our contact tracing. It's a strategy that we have to stick with, and we can see results from it that will help us to fight that virus.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Thank you very much. Thank you for being with us today. And thanks for, thanks for being with us on a holiday and enjoy your holiday weekend, Governor.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

All right. Thank you, great to be with you.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Joining me now, infectious disease expert, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia of Boston University. Dr. Bhadelia, welcome back to Meet the Press. What's your reaction to what Governor Hutchinson just said and the failure of a national strategy on face coverings at these rallies?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA:

Well, Andrea, thanks for having me. We've done this natural experiment a couple of times now. We know that when we go back to living like we don’t -- we're not living in a pandemic, we end up with more cases. And those end up in more hospitalizations which lead to more deaths. As you might have seen, Texas, Arizona and South Carolina are seeing their seven-day average of deaths now pointing upward again. So how do we move forward, right? The other thing that we've noticed is when we overwhelm the system with too many cases we, by necessity, start having shortages, inability to respond. In states that are hard hit what you're seeing is, you know, delays in testing. You are seeing inability to get enough personal protective equipment. So our system is not responsive enough. And not only that, but then we're leading to a fallout on everybody else's health. When hospitals get overwhelmed, when health care workers get overwhelmed it basically affects everybody else's health. How do we move forward? We need this national strategy. The strategy has to be we need to drive the cases down. As you heard Governor Murphy say, as you heard Governor Hutchinson say, we have to coexist with this virus. We need to create that buffer space. It's a point system. Every activity, almost every activity we take during this pandemic carries risk. When we don't wear masks, when we have large gatherings, we're taking away from that social tally. We're basically increasing society's burden of this disease. And so we as a society have to make those choices. What do we value more? You know, fall is coming, schools are opening. We're having this discussion. That carries its own risk. We're looking at providing care for patients whose care has been delayed due to the pandemic. We now have to divert those resources again to COVID-19 areas that are hot spots. We have to make a choice as a society about where we're going to expend that energy, where we're going to allow that buffer so that we can continue the important aspects of our culture, our, our civilization.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And the European Union is such a great contrast, they have more than 400 million people, a greater population there than we have. Yet take a look at this graph and the fact that theirs has come down. They have about 3,500 daily cases. We're now up to 500, 55,000 rather daily cases. What are they doing right? Particularly in places like Germany and France, highly industrialized countries compared to us.

DR. NAHID BHADELIA:

Well, they started off with a strategy that we pursued at the very beginning but we seem to abandon after Memorial Day which was the point was to drive the cases down to such a level that then you can track every chain of transmission. So New Jersey's doing that. Right? They're able to find any new cases, hopefully, that are coming into their state. That's the way that you move forward. You put the resources in for testing. You put the resources in for contact tracing. But to begin with, you need to start with a place where you have so few cases that you can do that. Because once there are too many cases, contact tracing can't keep up either. And, you know, and so -- and the other strategy is because we didn't pursue that initial stop, getting to a point where there are lower cases so we can break chains of transmission, we're now in a position where we've opened and we have to close again. The counties that are hardest hit, they have no option but to close again. And that's even more painful for the economy, it's even more painful for those businesses, as you mentioned.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

The president keeps talking about the fact that we have massive testing. Yet the Harvard experts say that we are testing only half as many people as we need to be testing as well as he's pointing to the fact that these cases are producing fewer deaths and that younger people are being affected. Is he wrong?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA:

Yeah, well, he's wrong in the fact that testing leads to more cases. Let's start there. I think that, that we are not testing enough. And the reason we know that is CDC has estimates that we're basically catching one in ten patients who might have had this disease looking at serology studies, studies that look at, you know, whether or not you had immunity and were exposed in the past. So if you take it from there, what does testing do? If this was a war, we wouldn't say we don't want the intel. We don't want more intel. If this was a flood we wouldn't say we don't want the survey of the land and to try to figure out how bad the damage is. Testing allows us to find more people in the community. More people lead to more cases. It's as simple as that. Finding those cases allows us to break those chains of transmission. But look at the advantage that it has with individual patients. If you get diagnosed early and you're somebody who's high risk you're able to come to care early. Maybe we can improve the mortality. Yes we are testing more and so thankfully we are finding younger people. But younger patients do not exist in a vacuum. They work alongside, they live alongside people who are vulnerable. We need to keep younger patients who are vulnerable safe as well. So testing is an advantage both as a national strategy but also for the individual patient and we can't forget that.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Dr. Bhadelia, thanks so very much. Thanks for being with us. And when we come back --

DR. NAHID BHADELIA:

Thank you.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- did President Trump ignore evidence that Russia placed bounties on the heads of American troops? Or was he never told? My interview with former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. That's next.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And welcome back. Well, there are so many questions about the story that Russia offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American service members in Afghanistan. Among them, did President Trump ignore the intelligence, or was he never told? If he was not told, why not? And now that he does know, will he do anything about it? Joining me now is the former national security advisor under President Obama, Ambassador Susan Rice. She is also the author of “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For.” Ambassador Rice, welcome back to Meet the Press, and a happy holiday weekend to you. Thanks for being with us.

SUSAN RICE:

Same to you, Andrea. Good morning and happy 4th weekend.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Thank you. And on this 4th of July weekend, the story of the Russian intelligence, the intelligence that Russia organized bounties for, to target American soldiers and coalition officers in Afghanistan. The president has now referred to this as a hoax. What message does that send to Vladimir Putin?

SUSAN RICE:

Well, Andrea, the message to Vladimir Putin is, "You can kill American servicemen and women with absolute impunity." This is an extraordinary revelation. The president of the United States has demonstrated absolutely callous disregard for the safety and security of American forces in a war zone. And there's no explanation for this. Why, ten days after the story was first published and the president's claiming he hadn't been briefed, has he not come out and said to the American people, "My top priority is to protect our men and women in uniform. And I will get to the bottom of this intelligence. I will figure out why it is that Russia appears to be targeting our forces. And I will give the American people and the soldiers the appropriate response that it deserves"? He's said nothing. And, Andrea, I don't buy this story that he was never briefed. I believe that over a year ago, when the information first came to light in 2019, that my successor John Bolton would have walked straight into the Oval Office, as I would have, and informed the president of this intelligence. You don't wait until you have 100% certainty. You tell the Commander-in-chief what he needs to know when he needs to know it. And so now they're claiming, "Well, he wasn't told." Well, if that's the case, then maybe these advisors in 2020, when the information came back, again failed to tell him. I wouldn't doubt that because they're scared of him, I believe. But the point is our servicemen and women are in a war zone, vulnerable. We have credible information that suggests that the Russians and maybe Putin himself are trying to kill American service members, and the president calls it a hoax.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Let me show you some of the responses from the White House officials trying to downplay the reliability of this intelligence. Let's watch.

[BEGIN TAPE]

ROBERT O'BRIEN:

We were dealing with something that was unverified, uncorroborated. There was no consensus in the IC.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

For us, for the professionals, we like to see verified information.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY:

Until it is verified, it is not briefed up to the president of the United States. That's how intelligence works.

[END TAPE]

ANDREA MITCHELL:

"That's how intelligence works." The intelligence on Osama bin Laden being in that hideaway in Pakistan was 50/50. 50/50, and President Obama went, went after bin Laden, and you know the result. Is intelligence ever 100% or most likely --

SUSAN RICE:

No.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- 100%?

SUSAN RICE:

No, Andrea. Look, I was national security advisor. I can tell the American people with certainty that we don't ever or very, very rarely have 100% certainty. And that's not what we're aiming for. We, in this business of protecting the American people and our servicemen and women, have to do so often with imperfect information. But what we just heard out of my successor, Mr. O'Brien, and the press secretary is a clown show. That's not how intelligence works, and that's not how the national security advisor and the top Cabinet-level officials who are there to support the president are supposed to behave. They are supposed to be on top of information like this. They're supposed to run it to the ground. It shouldn't be months or years before we figure out whether something of this significance is actually something we take seriously. In fact, the intelligence community did take it seriously. We know that because it was written in the president's daily briefing, the most important and exclusive product of the intelligence community. The president didn't read it. And what's extraordinary is that the people around him didn't bring it to his attention, allegedly.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Why -- if this intelligence was important enough to have an inter-agency meeting on it and it be in the presidential daily brief, as you point out, February 27th -- why did he subsequently have six phone calls with Vladimir Putin, and didn't raise this issue, and nobody briefed him that he should bring the issue up?

SUSAN RICE:

Andrea, it makes no sense. None of this adds up. And if, in fact, the president is surrounded by such cowards and incompetents that even when he's trying to invite Putin into the G7 and has these six phone calls nobody has the guts to say to the president of the United States, "Mr. President, we still, I want to remind you, have credible intelligence that the Russians are trying to kill U.S. servicemen and women in Afghanistan. This is not the time to be handing Putin an olive branch. This is the time to be working at options to punish him." And yet, that's not what happened. So, you know, this is really extraordinary. We have a president who's doing our arch adversary's bidding, it would seem, and he's surrounded by sycophants and weaklings who aren't doing their jobs, who don't have the confidence in themselves and in the mission that they are there to carry out, to bring the president the tough messages he needs to hear. Andrea, that's the job of the national security advisor. It's not an easy job. Often, you have to walk in and tell the president of the United States what he doesn't want to hear and then own responsibility for bringing back to the president options for dealing with that bad news. That's the essence of the job.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Let me ask you about the president's rhetoric this weekend, going after his enemies, what he terms his enemies, the news media, protesters and also a new ad that they have come up with against Joe Biden on defunding the police. Let me watch.

[BEGIN TAPE]

FEMALE VOICEOVER:

For all other crimes, leave your name and number and someone will get back to you. Our estimated wait time is currently five days.

[END TAPE]

ANDREA MITCHELL:

That misstates Joe Biden's position because he is also against blanket defunding of the police. But what about the president's rhetoric on race?

SUSAN RICE:

Well, Andrea, it's not -- it’s his rhetoric on his race but it's his rhetoric broadly. The president went to Mount Rushmore and then stood at the White House yesterday on our independence weekend and decided that he was going to stake his legacy and his campaign on preserving Confederate monuments and the relics of slavery, rather than uniting this country at a time when we need it so badly, rather than laying out an agenda for a second term. He is running away from reality, running away from 130,000 American souls who have died of coronavirus, running away from a tanking economy, and providing no positive agenda. His whole approach is to pit Americans against each other.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Now, you are also, of course, being mentioned as someone on the vice presidential list for Joe Biden. Obviously, you have the national security credentials. But how, how should Americans feel about voting for someone who's never had any, any experience in electoral politics, never run in a national campaign?

SUSAN RICE:

Well, Andrea, let's not get ahead of ourselves here, right? Joe Biden needs to make the decision as to who he thinks will be his best running mate. And I will do my utmost drawing on my experience of years in government, years of making the bureaucracy work. I've worked on multiple campaigns, presidential campaigns. I've been on the campaign trail as a, as a surrogate. And I'm going to do everything I can to help get Joe Biden elected and to help him succeed as president, whether I'm his running mate or I’m a door knocker. I don't mind. I just want to get Joe Biden elected and see the Democrats control the Senate and retain the House because, Andrea, we are at a moment where our democracy is at stake, where our leadership role in the world is at stake, where the lives of tens of thousands of Americans are on the line, lost to incompetence and callous leadership that could care less. We've got to change that. This country is a tremendous place, but we have work to do to perfect it. We have work to do to unite it. And this president could care less. We need new leadership. And so in whatever capacity I can serve to support Joe Biden and support this country, that's what I'm going to do.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Ambassador Susan Rice, again, thanks for being with us on this holiday weekend. Our best to you and your family for a safe, safe holiday. Thanks.

SUSAN RICE:

Thank you, Andrea. You too.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And when we come back, President Trump had a terrible June, with COVID spreading and the Russia bounty story emerging. Can July be better? The panel is next. Stay with us.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And welcome back. The panel is joining us from their remote locations. Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute and NBC News White House Correspondent Peter Alexander. Welcome all. Jeh Johnson, first to you, the president's divisive rhetoric over the weekend. Two rallies, no social distancing, few masks at all. And the rhetoric on race, on the monuments, on America on this July 4th weekend.

JEH JOHNSON:

Andrea, I listen to the president's rhetoric and I ask myself what happened to American leadership that doesn't just curse the darkness but offer a candle? It's very, very depressing to me that there are apparently those advising this president that the path to reelection is to demonize and to divide the American public and create this image of gremlins running around our communities called Marxist anarchists, terms that I haven't heard in years. And the American people really do listen to their national leaders. They really do listen to their president. The president, particularly this one, we hang on his every word, his every tweet, does have the ability to set the tone to define the terms of the debate. And while all of this is going on we have to recognize the fact that we're the nation with the mightiest health care capability but we've had the poorest health care response across the world to COVID-19. And I believe that much of that has to do with what our national leaders are saying to us right now about what to do and what not to do in terms of wearing a mask. And frankly, at the national level, our president has encouraged what Asa refers to as virus fatigue. And he's left it to the governors to manage this problem.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Peter Alexander, the message that you and your colleagues at the White House for NBC are reporting, the message now is going to pivot to we have to learn to live with it.

PETER ALEXANDER:

Yeah, Andrea, that's exactly right. I'm struck by the clips you played earlier in the broadcast of those Republican governors in states who have had to reverse their reopenings or halt them all together. You'll remember in the early stages of this pandemic the president sort of cast himself as a wartime president. That we were fighting a war here. If he's the commander, in effect, these Republican governors in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas are his generals. And right now they are in retreat. As it relates to the president, you're sort of seeing the different stages of grief. You've seen denial, you've seen anger and now it appears you're going to be seeing more acceptance. White House officials telling us that they will focus on this sort of acknowledgement, this recognition that the virus is not going to be going away. Certainly not before the election. The challenge is whether they can communicate that message that we have to learn to live with it given the fact that from the president, this last week, as you've noted, he said he hopes it's just going to disappear. And in recent days he said he believes it is under control and, quote, being handled, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And he talked about it being, in 99% of the cases, harmless. Danny Pletka, let me play something also that he said. He seemed to be softening his opposition to face coverings this week in one interview on Fox. But here's how he phrased it. It was all about him.

[START TAPE]

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I mean, I'd have no problem. Actually, I had a mask on, I said I like the way I looked. Okay? I thought it was okay. It was a dark black mask. And I thought it looked okay. It looked like the Lone Ranger. But no, I have no problem with that. And if people feel good about it, they should do it.

[END TAPE]

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Now I don't want to point out that if he was wearing the mask the way the Lone Ranger did, it would be over his eyes, not his face and nose. But he only once appeared in a mask and it was not in a public moment. It was a private tour in that Ford Plant in Michigan. And so he has not modeled wearing a face covering.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

No. Donald Trump is sort of the opposite of a virtue signaler. He doesn't like wearing a mask. We know he's a narcissist. We know that he feels uncomfortable wearing it. And he has sent a bad message. I think there's been a lot of confusion nationally about this. A lot of Americans don't like to be told what to do. A lot of governors like to think that they're speaking for their people. And they're learning lessons. Governor Cuomo learned a very harsh lesson in New York when he sent elderly Coronavirus sufferers into nursing homes. I think our southern governors are learning that as they've opened too quickly they may be suffering from not wearing masks.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Jeh Johnson, the president last night also seemed to be conflating the fight against Nazism with somehow the Civil War. He talked about Iwo Jima and the Marines in the same sentence as he talked about celebrating those who fought in the Civil War. And he said it was not against racism as the left wing critics suggest. So he seemed to be celebrating the confederacy at the same time as our World War II heroes.

JEH JOHNSON:

Andrea, make no mistake about it, the Civil War was over the issue of slavery. The Civil War was over the issue of whether or not my ancestors, my great-great grandmother should remain a slave for the rest of her life. That was the reason the battle was fought. That was the reason the states sought to secede from our nation. And you cannot conflate that conflict with World War II, with the battle against Nazism. This president likes to create these images and use vocabulary that conjures up a broad brush of good versus evil, white versus black. And I think the American people, frankly, are smarter than that and will recognize what this is.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Danny, let me ask you about Russia and Vladimir Putin because the president is now calling that intelligence a hoax. It was important enough to put it in the PDB and to brief the allies, not Congress, at the time. If it was important enough to put it in the presidential daily brief, there was enough credibility to that intelligence to act on it.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Look, there are two things that are important to understand here. The first is that whether the president was briefed on this or not, that was a dereliction of duty on the part of somebody inside the White House. That was a big mistake. We need to understand a lot more about the president's response. The second thing though that I want to say is we've done a lot of talking on this show and elsewhere in the country about classified issues like this. This is an unbelievably damaging leak. Yes, on the one hand we want more accountability for this president. We want to know what he's doing and why he's making decisions. On the other hand, when I see this kind of highly classified information on the front pages of the national newspapers, it makes me worry for our intelligence community, for our sources, for our methods, for the people who are trying to help us in this world.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Danny Pletka, Jeh Johnson, Peter Alexander, don't go away. We will return but when we come back where do we go on vacation during a worldwide pandemic? The data download is next.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And welcome back. It's data download time. It's also summer time which is usually vacation time. But COVID-19 is likely to have serious economic and possibly health implications for travel hot spots. Going into the summer the numbers did not look good. A U.S. travel association outlook for the industry released in mid-June was grim, forecasting total spending would fall from 40% in 2020 compared to 2019. Business travel looks set to drop by more than 1/3. With leisure travel not far behind with a decrease of close to 30% predicted. It gets worse. Average spending per trip was expected to be down by almost 15%. And the way people are getting where they're going is different. Car trips, that staple of the family summer vacation, are predicted to decline by about 27% while the number of plane trips is set to fall by more than 50%. But the data suggests there may be one winner in the summer of COVID. Short-term summer rental properties, houses and cottages available through platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. Data from AirDNA, a firm that tracks more than 10 million rental listings around the world show that bookings first took a hit around mid-March and hit their lowest point the week ending April 12th. But since then the numbers have risen steadily in May, in June rising to more than 900,000 per week. Counties that aren't home to big cities are seeing the biggest increase. Brazoria County, Texas, home to Galveston along the Gulf Coast is seeing a 94% increase. McCurtain County, Oklahoma, a rural area with a fish and game reserve that's driveable from Dallas and Oklahoma City is up 145%. And Garrett County, Maryland where Deep Creek Lake offers fishing and boating to nearby Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, that's up 579%. This is great news for these communities for now. But a continued spike in COVID cases could change everything. And when we come back the growing debate over history, culture and renaming sports teams. Stay with us.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Welcome back, the panel is now back with us. Take a look at one of the things that the president had to say last night or rather Friday night in Mount Rushmore.

[START TAPE]

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American revolution. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol and memory of our national heritage.

[END TAPE]

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Peter Alexander, the president announced last night this new executive order for some sort of a park with statues with all sorts of American heroes. Is he actually moving ahead on that? What does your reporting tell you?

PETER ALEXANDER:

Well, we wait to see. That was the first we had heard from the president on that very topic. But what was striking in the president's remarks both on Friday and again on Saturday was that it appeared to be a sort of a redux of his inaugural address, that American carnage speech. Then he was attacking immigrants and foreign countries. Now he's going on the offensive against other Americans. And what I've sort of been struck by is and the remarks for the president continues to focus on these confederate statues and these memorials and the protesters who are trying to take them down is that he's really sort of devoted his attention to that topic and taken the focus away from what the fundamental issue was from these protesters at the very start, the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions that we saw, which is on the issue of police brutality and systemic racism. An issue that the president really has not extensively addressed. Certainly the topic of systemic racism. And on police brutality he hasn’t done much more, despite Capitol Hill sort of seeing a halt in the conversation, after his modest efforts in terms of police reform with that executive order, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Danny Pletka, he was talking also about left wing fascism. That's new to me, left wing fascism. But in using this and in talking about these monuments, where would you draw the line?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Look, I think when the president talks about left wing fascism he's talking about something that's familiar to a lot of Americans, frankly. It is people feeling, sensing that there are lines being drawn about how they need to behave that they object to. You know, one of the problems with all of this is that we fool ourselves into thinking that some of the things the president says don't resonate.The questions of rule of law, the questions of mobs tearing down statues, not just of confederates where I think a lot of people really find it hard to understand why we still have confederate statues, but of George Washington, of Abraham Lincoln, in some cases of religious figures. In California we saw that. Again, it's important to divide up what Donald Trump says. In one case he's very much speaking to a base that is angry about a sense that there is no rule of law anymore. On the other, he's not talking about the things he doesn't want to talk about, whether it's police reform or it's the coronavirus.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Jeh Johnson?

JEH JOHNSON:

Yes. So where is the line drawn? That's a very good question. I believe there needs to be a reassessment of our history by someone who is sensitive to our history, all of our history. I believe there needs to be a reassessment when it comes to statues of confederate generals, but there's a point where it gets complicated. I have family named Washington. They're proud of their name Washington. They're not changing their name Washington. On the other hand, I think changing the name of the Washington Redskins is long overdue. I'd say to my friends in Washington who are Redskins fans, imagine if the emblem of the team were a blackfaced lawn jockey. I think we know that that sort of thing would have been done away with a generation or two ago. And is this not the same thing?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And I'm a big Washington football fan. Peter, I know you are as well. Where do you stand on that?

PETER ALEXANDER:

Well, I mean I think what we've seen, obviously given what happened with FedEx this last week and Nike as well appearing to pull the Redskins merchandise from their website, it's not just the sort of protest in the streets but the corporate sponsors that are having a real impact in this conversation as well. Broadly, the conversation is a consideration of discarding these relics of the 19th and 20th century. Remember it was just within the last several days that Mississippi now retired its flag that included in the corner the confederate battle emblem on it right now. And it is that pressure that we're seeing from those corporate sponsors and from others that are making this appear to happen very quickly. Just this weekend, the head coach of the Redskins, Ron Rivera, saying that he and the owner who has promised he would never change the name have actually been having conversations about what the new name would be. And he said it would be, quote, "Awesome if it happened by the start of the 2020 season." This is happening very quickly, Andrea.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And Jeh, very quickly, what about the political effectiveness of this? As a Democrat, do you think Democrats should be concerned?

JEH JOHNSON:

I have faith in the American people to see through the effort to demonize and divide us. I believe our president underestimates the wisdom of the American people, and if he looks at his own approval ratings he'd see that they've dropped dramatically in the aftermath of George Floyd and the president's own reaction to it.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And we've got to leave it there. Thanks so much for a great roundtable. Thanks to all of you, Jeh Johnson and Peter Alexander and Danny Pletka. And that's all for today. Thanks for watching. Have an enjoyable and a safe holiday weekend. Chuck will be back next week. And remember, if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.