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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 1/19/2021

Guest: Pete Souza

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening, once again, day 1,461 of the Trump administration. This was the final full day of the Trump administration. 13 hours from now, Joe Biden will be the nation`s 46th President. In the intervening hours, however, Joe Biden and the rest of this country must first get through a highly unusual inauguration. Due to an uncontrolled pandemic, the American people have been told to stay away. Due to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, 25,000 troops will surround the proceedings because of the threat from our fellow Americans.

Tonight, Donald Trump is expected to issue his final set of pardons likely within the hour. We`ll bring you the information as soon as we have it indeed. This afternoon, Donald Trump, who has not been seen in public for seven days, released a videotape farewell message instead. He again condemned the attack on the Capitol without taking any personal responsibility while attempting to frame his administration as a success. And he started by offering well wishes to Biden, though not by name.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We inaugurate a new administration, and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck, a very important word. All Americans were horrified by the assault on our capital. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated.

Our agenda was not about right or left. It wasn`t about Republican or Democrat, but about the good of a nation. I am especially proud to be the first president in decades, who has started no new wars. Now as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning.


WILLIAMS: Trump also thanked his loyal Vice President Mike Pence, who he`d made a target for the mob that invaded the Capitol Building almost two weeks ago now. Pence not expected to be at Trump`s send off tomorrow morning, but he will attend Biden`s inauguration. Earlier today, Biden arrived in Washington, which has been turned into something of a fortress in the wake of that siege at the Capitol. Biden made the trip from his home state of Delaware, where the emotion of the departure and the send off got the best of it.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: To my fellow Delawareans and behalf of the entire Biden family that`s here today, I want to express how much you mean to me, to every one of us. I am proud, proud, proud, proud to be a son of Delaware. And I am even more proud to be standing here doing this from to Major Beau Biden solely (ph). Ladies and gentlemen, I only have one regret. He`s not here. Because he -- we should be introducing him as president.


WILLIAMS: This evening, Biden and Vice President-elect Harris held a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial to remember the now over 400,000 Americans lost in this pandemic. It was the first ever national gesture to honor and remember the dead, and uncontrolled pandemic, of course, just one challenge for the new president, the new administration.

Today, five of Biden`s Cabinet nominees were grilled during Senate confirmation hearings. Senator Josh Hawley of insurrection fame has declared he will object to quick consideration of the Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas. Hawley says he`s concerned about Joe Biden`s immigration policy.

Meanwhile, as the thousands of National Guard troops are on duty to protect the buildings where those hearings are going on as well as the inauguration, 12 service members have been removed from duty after an FBI screening. As we mentioned, this inauguration will take place exactly two weeks after the looting of our Capitol, which was fueled by the big lie that Trump somehow won the election.

Today, Mitch McConnell, loyal Trump water carrier who himself perpetuated the big lie for five weeks after the election, finally laid the blame for the insurrection that took over his beloved chamber.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER, KENTUCKY: The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our lead-off guests on this inauguration eve Tuesday evening, Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize Winning Investigative Reporter for The Washington Post, co-author along with Phil Rucker of the book, "A Very Stable Genius". Indeed, the duo have a barked on their next book on Trump`s final year in office. Kimberly Atkins, previously a both WBUR in the Boston Herald, now a member of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor and Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times. He is among the co-authors of the relevant again book called, "Impeachment: An American History".

Well, good evening, and welcome to you all. Peter Baker, because of your seniority on the beat, I`d like to begin with you with perhaps an unanswerable question. We`ve been told the list of pardons could be within this hour. What do you think the President has been doing on this last day, this last night in office?

PETER BAKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the pardon power, Brian, has been one of his favorites over the last four years because it`s uncheckable in effect, because it`s the one power he has, where he doesn`t have to ask anybody else for permission. He doesn`t have to win over any allies, he doesn`t have to convince a congressman or get an agency to issue a rule. He can simply sign a piece of paper, and he affects somebody like.

Now, the lives he`s affected for the most part, and people who either were close to him or were close to people who were close to him. He`s not used it in great measure for a lot of people. He didn`t know or didn`t have some connection with. And what we hear is going on right now, this last few hours of his presidency, as he`s going through that list in effect. He`s got a list of dozens, maybe even a hundred or so.

You know, possible recipients of these pardons, including the latest reports suggest. Possibly even Steve Bannon is one time chief strategist who was arrested for scanning Trump supporters, according to the prosecutor. So, he`s going through this list and deciding who`s going to give, you know, forgiveness to, if you will, who is not going to and I think it`s the last act of a presidency that has managed to find ways of keeping us on tenterhooks all the way until midnight, so many evenings.

WILLIAMS: And to our front four the usual warning that if news breaks out, we`ll have to break in with it and interrupt our own conversation. Carol Leonnig, over to your beat and -- is there a way of telling our audience what the feds are learning about the length and breadth and depth of the planning that went into the insurrection at the Capitol?

CAROL LEONNIG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Brian, my colleagues and I at The Post -- Washington Post have been hearing a lot about that. But you can also read some of it in our pages. There have been several members of a group called the oathkeepers that have been arrested, some of them charged with very specific and scary federal charges of inciting, of organizing. One of them Mr. Caldwell is described by his colleagues as the commander.

He said in messages to a group of about eight to 10 members that these are some hotels they should stay out. He made some suggestions and he said they were good places if they needed to, quote unquote, hunt at night. The oathkeepers, as you all know, and your viewers know, they have been very much at the forefront of an alt-right extremism movement and very pro- Trump, arguing that the election results were rigged in some way, though that is false. And they were at the forefront along with several members of QAnon, another far-right conspiracy organization in leading that seizure on the Capitol that ultimately led to five deaths.

WILLIAMS: Kim, indeed, Donald Trump today in his tape remarks did acknowledge the assault on the Capitol, he renounced violence, though toed that line without taking any personal responsibility. This is the way he has been communicating is kind of these released videotapes. We go days without seeing them. It`s all going to be over tomorrow. What else stood out to you watching this edited video tonight?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well, aside from it being heavily scripted and not in any way sounding like the Donald Trump we`ve seen for the most part. Over the four years, he is more himself when he is off the teleprompter and not when he is recording these videos. I thought that it was interesting. It was an attempt to sort of normalize and give a normal farewell speech for a presidency that was anything but traditional.

It claimed a lot of falsehoods. I mean, I was struck by him, saying that he was the only recent president to have started no new wars. I mean, Washington, D.C. where I live right now looks like a war zone with those national reserve men all over the city and you can`t get anywhere near the Capitol and it doesn`t look anything like a normal inauguration.

But one thing he did say that was true was that, we came what -- we did what we came here to do. If you look back on President Trump`s term, it says advertised with his campaign, he campaigned on fear, you know, calling for a Muslim ban, saying that people coming from Mexico where murderers and rapists. He campaigned on divisiveness, stoking that divisiveness, including racial divisiveness. He came in with an American first isolationist agenda.

Any had came in focus mostly on himself, and blaming others for anything that went wrong and failing to take accountability right up to the end, where he`s failing to take accountability for his part in the insurrection. So, in a way, if you look back on his legacy, nothing about it should be surprising, even though so much of it was shocking. But that video today bore no resemblance to what we`ve been watching for the last four years.

WILLIAMS: All of these, Joyce, brings us to you and the news we believe we`ll be getting at some point tonight, and that`s pardons that occurs to me. There are different kinds of pardons. And on the humanitarian grounds, the nonviolent offender who`s quietly been serving 30, 40 years has been a model prisoner, I don`t know anyone who is so cold-hearted, they would object to that kind of thing. On the other side, there Steve Bannon, talk about the kind of pardons that destroy morale and break the backs of the feds who work day and night to administer justice.

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You`re exactly right about that the pardon power is meant to permit the President to do justice and to offer mercy to people who really don`t have a legal option but deserved to be out of prison, reunited with their families, out from under the encumbrance of a conviction. But that`s not how this President has primarily used the party in power. He`s used it to forgive people who`ve engaged in fraud. The most recent commutation came sort of undercover of night just a few days ago. And it was the pardon of a wealthy businessman in Miami who had engaged in $300 million worth of fraud swindling investors in his company, not really a candidate for the sort of pardon that we all think of when we think about mercy.

And Steve Bannon is part and parcel of Trump`s -- his just utter abdication of the rule of law in issuing pardons this previous Troika of stone and Flynn and Manafort, pardons that were dangled, almost in an effort to prevent their cooperation with law enforcement, perhaps the almost no longer belongs there based upon what we know. Now, Bannon who faces a serious term in prison, he`s charged with fraud, he apparently defrauded many members of Trump`s base in connection with a project that was designed to collect money to build the wall, he`s under federal indictment. He`ll go to prison for a long time if he`s convicted.

One possible way he can reduce his exposure is by cooperating with information he knows and Bannon certainly has access to many of the President`s innermost thoughts. So we don`t know if the President committed any crimes. But we do know that the most difficult thing for prosecutors is to get inside of a defendant`s head to know what they were thinking and why they acted the way they did. Bannon might be able to offer evidence like that. And so a pardon, if it does come, will largely be perceived simply as this President`s utter contempt and abuse for the rule of law.

WILLIAMS: Indeed. If memory serves, Bannon was swept up lounging on the deck of a vessel owned by a Chinese billionaire off the coast of Connecticut as one does.

Peter Baker, as we are reminded that this is the closing hours, there is talk tonight in Washington of a new political party. Our friends over at the Wall Street Journal reporting it this way, "Mr. Trump discussed the matter with several aides and other people close to him last week. The President said he would want to call this new party, the Patriot Party. Peter, this opens a whole panoply of issues and questions.

BAKER: Well, it does, of course, and indicates just how deep the Civil War within the Republican Party is right now. What he`s basically saying is he no longer thinks the party is sufficiently behind him, and that`s perfectly fine with a lot of Republicans. Mitch McConnell, you saw in those remarks you played earlier, is basically wiped his hands of President Trump says that the party needs, in fact, purge his presence at this point and move on beyond him. This would be obviously a devastating blow to the Republican Party and probably split it apart in the same way that we`ve seen in the past when Teddy Roosevelt split off from the Republican Party in 1912, cost them the election to Woodrow Wilson.

But on the other hand, it would, in fact, I think, give voice to the idea that the Republican Party is not a unified, coherent organization right now that there is this schism between the ones who see Trump as their avatar, as their exemplar as the type of leader they want and those who find Trump, you know, loathsome and repugnant. And it`s a party that`s basically only held together these last four years with it`s -- everyone holding their nose at the, you know, club house meeting that effect. And so, you know, it`d be fascinating to see whether he could pull it off.

It will require an enormous amount of dedication, money, energy, organization, discipline to actually make work. Remember, we haven`t had a new party in this country since the 1850s. So, you know, Ross Perot tried it. He had a lot of money, didn`t go anywhere for very long. But I think it indicates again just how divided things are in Republican Party, and it`s going to be a test for them in these years to come.

WILLIAMS: Carol, I`m also remembering John Anderson, and if Peter hadn`t invoked Ross Perot, I was prepared to do so. Parties are hard, and this would be complicated, especially if Trump was unwilling or unable to serve as the titular head of that party on a ballot. Let`s talk, Carol, about the Mitch McConnell dynamic. How is he likely to receive news of a spin off party that comes out of his base and not say Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer`s?

LEONNIG: I think you can tell by Mitch McConnell`s body language that he`s reacting with ulcerous feeling. There are many people who have said that Republican leaders, McConnell among them, finally got their forehead smacked about what they had been enabling in Donald Trump for four years, when they began clambering along with their staff, or secure hideaways and tunnels, and a getaway exit as armed intruders broke through into the Capitol. That was a wake up call like no other.

And the idea of McConnell being saddled with Donald Trump for much longer is untenable to many of the people around him. So I won`t speak for the Senate leader, but I know that many of his aides would like to have this be the final chapter of Donald Trump. And we`ll see, I think it`s worth underscoring what Peter has said about the Civil War, it`s a civil war that Donald Trump has stoked. There`s no question there`s division in this country, but he has lit that match.

And our inauguration tomorrow is an illustration, a very sorrowful illustration of that Civil War. We have national guardsmen who are there to guard the perimeter. But a certain very small subset have been asked to leave because they have ties to groups that the national security teams who are in charge of making sure that Joe Biden doesn`t get shot tomorrow, they are concerned about any single individual who could be a tiny breach in that security perimeter, no matter how tiny. And it just tells you how ruptured our country is and that may be the legacy of Donald Trump.

WILLIAMS: Yes, indeed. As I said, at the top of the broadcast, when it occurs to you that the threat they`re protecting the Capitol from is Americans, it is bracing and still new, knock wood, Al Qaeda is not the threat tomorrow but an owl from upstate New York or an owl from Arkansas may very well explained 25,000 uniformed troops.

Let`s take a break in our conversation. We`ve asked all of our initial guests to stay with us.

Coming up as we continue, after trafficking for weeks in the big lie, as we said, Mitch McConnell now blaming the President for the mob that attacked the Capitol, along with several other powerful people. But does that mean Mitch McConnell is a vote to convict? We`ll talk about that a bit more.

And also, how they see it. Michael Beschloss, and Pete Souza, take us behind the pageantry, the intimacy of an inauguration day, for a picture of what it`s really like. All of it as The 11th Hour on this inauguration eve is just getting underway.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER, NEW YORK: The events on January 6th make no mistake about it. We`re not a spontaneous demonstration. So let me be clear. There will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate. There will be a vote on convicting the President for high crimes and misdemeanors. And if the President is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again.


WILLIAMS: So if there were ever any doubts that Trump would face an impeachment trial in the Senate, the incoming Majority Leader, let`s not forget, Chuck Schumer laid them to rest today.

We`re back with our guests, Carol Leonnig, Kimberly Atkins, Joyce Vance, Peter Baker. Kim, this one`s for you. I think if memory serves, Bill Kristol has a PhD in the classics from Harvard. So he`s established as loving a good storyline. He tweeted this today, "I think Mitch is looking forward to hanging back on the roll call, and then being the 67th vote for convicting Trump". Does this only happen in the world of Kristol and Sorkin?

ATKINS: Well, I am not that convinced, I am not as convinced as Bill is. We know Mitch McConnell. It does a very good job of keeping what he will do very close to the vest. And I was listening very closely to what he said today. He used words -- he said that the President provoked this mob is provocation the same as incitement, which is what the article of impeachment calls for. I don`t know. That`s up to Senator -- Leader McConnell.

He`d also talked about other people, also provoking it. Does that take culpability away from Donald Trump? I mean, as an attorney, this is how I`m piercing every word, because Mitch McConnell chooses every word very carefully and he understands very well how an impeachment trial works. So I didn`t get a definitive answer from that, but it certainly left open, the possibility that he could be a vote in favor of removal. And then that -- of that second vote, which would be very important that majority vote to prevent Donald Trump from keeping -- from ever running from -- for office again, and presumably being the head of this fictitious party.

But we don`t know yet. It`s still a big haul to get a lot of Republicans, enough Republicans to convict him. But if anybody can, Mitch McConnell can.

WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, waves of excitement tonight over at Fox News as Donald Trump on his last day and night banging around the residence and the Oval Office released a tranche of declassified documents having to do with crossfire hurricane. Especially for viewers who don`t know the ins and outs, can you give us the over brief and remind us what the case was, and then talk about the logistics ethics of tearing off the label on some of these documents once protected for a reason?

VANCE: We`ve all speculated about damage that the President could do on his way out the front door of the White House. And this purported release really falls within that classification. This is Donald Trump, at his worst trying to use the power of the presidency in order to insulate himself from any further historical damage down the road, because Crossfire hurricane is the story of his campaigns crossover with Russia in an effort to seek election. And this is the core of his allegation that the intelligence community came after him, which hunted him in a way that was inappropriate. And so this is a very self-serving sort of a release of documents.

It`s questionable whether any of those documents will actually see the light of day though. The FBI pushed back strongly, presumably on national security grounds. Any sort of a release like this carries with it the risk of revealing information about sources and methods that our government needs to keep confidential in order to protect our investigative mechanisms. And so, the FBI pushed back said, we don`t believe any of this should be released. But if it should, it should least be redacted. And the President has apparently caved to those demands for redaction.

So, even if this entire what`s being characterized as a binder full of documents was released, it would be incomplete. But this takes time, declassification is not automatic. And in the clock left running on this presidency, it`s not at all clear to me that this happens in a meaningful way. Perhaps, it could be countermanded or reconsidered and these documents never will be declassified. And the President won`t get the benefit of this last ditch effort to give himself some apparently some data that he might use for self-serving purposes.

WILLIAMS: Quick last word from Peter Baker who we started with tonight. Peter, deadline journalists like you and Carol, it says a lot about our news cycle, you don`t have the luxury of hitting send on that last sentence, your last take on the Trump administration, I guess until 11:59 - - 50 a.m.

BAKER: Look, he has made very clear he`s not very eager to see the spotlight he never has been that`s been characteristic of these last four years. We`ve been down this journey together, Brian, you and Kimberly and Carol and Joyce, all of us have been watching and chronicling this presidency. And we have seen a president who wants to dominate the conversation every state.

Now, one thing that`s really fascinating about this next 24 hours is his lack of ability to use Twitter. Imagine what we might see during an inaugural ceremony of his successor who he does not consider to be legitimate. If he had the access to social media that he has had for most of his presidency, he doesn`t have any more than suspended as accounts. Imagine what it would be like if he had.

He still need to talk to the public over these years to come, but he`s got to call up Fox News. He`s going to have to start his own media company, he`s going to have to put out press releases or whatever, give speeches or rallies. They won`t have that instantaneous ability to change the conversation with the stroke of a, you know, a send button on Twitter. And I think that changes these last 24 hours. So even as he`s trying to, I think, keep us in suspense all the way up until the end, it`s still a different feeling than it has been for most of his tenure.

WILLIAMS: He may look back with a combination of anger and surprise that he had a briefing room, 50 yards from his kitchen table all these years.

A big thank you to our fearsome front four tonight, Carol Leonnig, Kimberly Atkins, Joyce Vance, and Peter Baker. Appreciate it after the day we`ve had and considering the day we`re all going into.

Coming up for us, both of our next guests, chroniclers of our nation`s history, one in pictures, the other in words, Pete Souza, Michael Beschloss preview tomorrow`s historic inauguration day when we come right back.



BIDEN: So it`s deeply personal that our next journey to Washington starts here. A place that defines the very best of who we are as Americans. I know these are dark times, but there`s always light. That`s what makes this state so special. That`s what it taught me. It taught me the most, there`s always light.


WILLIAMS: Ready or not, Americans are about to get an emotional Irishman as our next president. His inauguration tomorrow will look much different from any other president in recent history. Perhaps most striking will be the National Mall typically filled with people, it`s instead closed by this massive security presence in D.C. right now. Nearly 200,000 flags are there instead to represent the missing crowd.

And as we mentioned last night, the Trump`s won`t be greeting the Biden`s at the White House. They`ll extend no such courtesy. One of our next guests captured this image of Barack Obama speaking to his successor on Inauguration Day 2017, a beaming Mike Pence. Is there any other kind in the background?

Back with us tonight, celebrated author and presidential historian Michael Beschloss. He have the wry smile. His latest work clearly visible on the shelves of so many of our guests when speaking from home, "Presidents of War". And we welcome an old friend to our broadcast, Pete Souza, former White House photographer under both President Obama and President Ronald Reagan. His work was the star of the extraordinary documentary, "The Way I See It", a joint presentation of Focus Features, and MSNBC films, which is now streaming exclusively on Peacock. In addition to the book of his work on President Obama, Pete is the author of the book, "Shade: A Tale Of Two Presidents".

Gentlemen, I couldn`t be happier to have you two on especially this night of all night, all of all nights. Pete, let`s talk about up close. Let`s talk about as close as you need to be to get what you have captured in your life and career. What are we missing watching inaugurations from home that we would see up close? What are we missing about Joe Biden from home that you`ve gotten to see up close?

PETE SOUZA, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHER: Well, I think that Joe Biden is one of the most compassionate human beings I`ve ever met. He`s got a lot of tragedy in his life. And I think he will be so much more empathetic than the current President we have. And I think that the inauguration is going to go off well, even without the crowds. And I`m really happy that they`ve gone ahead and decided to do with the west run of the Capitol. I think that`s an important symbol to continue that tradition.

WILLIAMS: Talk about what it was like, Pete, to see these two guys, Obama and Trump together. Obviously, no love lost between them. One of them spent years along with his wife, current First Lady for another couple of hours pursuing the birtherism theory.

SOUZA: That morning, when he got out of the limousine. I kept expecting Hillary Clinton to get out of the limousine. And when -- it was kind of a still a shock, even though we had two months to prepare for it. It was just there -- just been a strange morning, in the Blue Room with the incoming President and company Vice President, leaders of Congress. And it was -- I don`t know how to explain it other than there were these dual emotions that were going through to me. One, I was worn out after eight years of doing my job. But at the same time, I was really nervous about turning the keys over to this current President.

WILLIAMS: Michael Beschloss, I have a dual pronged question for you as well. How remarkable is it that the not yet President of the United States was the man who led the nation tonight in the first of its kind, National Remembrance of 400,000 souls gone? That`s question number one. Question number two, a brief primer reminder for our viewers, about all the firsts we`re going to be witnessing tomorrow, some of them good, some of them not so good.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, Brian, I heard some of you, you said earlier this evening, which is that you were so struck by the lights that were there on the mall that were there in memorial to the 400,000 plus Americans who have died of COVID. Many of them unnecessarily would not have died, I would say, if we had had a more decent and a more competent leader. And your idea, I think was that those, may be, a good idea to have those permanent as in memorial. And I think we should think really hard about that. That was the first time we`ve seen that.

What did the previous outgoing President say about the pandemic, he said it is what it is, that`s about as consoling as he`s been to the country and to the families that have been destroyed by this calamity over the last year. As far as other things that are different tomorrow, well, let`s start with the pandemic. This is the first time that we`ve had an inauguration take place at the height of a disaster like the pandemic of the last 11, 12 months.

And this is going to be a socially distanced event. You can`t look at this event and not know that we`re going through the trauma that we are. We`re going to see an awful lot of masks.

The other thing, Brian, is that, you know, we just went through what I think of as a near death experience. On the 6th of January, things had been a little bit different, you could have had the Vice President of the United States, you could have had the Speaker of the House and others assassinated. Others might have been taken hostage.

A pre-presidential election might have been overturned. Our democracy might have been fractioned or destroyed -- fractured or destroyed. And if that had happened, Brian, we tonight would be talking about the danger that Donald Trump would be in the process tonight, you know, either staying on or in some way, shutting down the free press and doing all sorts of other things that would shut down democratic institutions. You know, just because we`ve been saved, doesn`t mean we forget -- we should never forget. And I think the ceremony tomorrow will help us remember,

WILLIAMS: I have been quoting you on that topic for days and it`s just as chilling to hear it in your words. We`re fortunate both of these gentlemen have agreed to spend a few more minutes with us. We`ll stick in a break here. Our conversation continues right after this.



SOUZA: The job as the chief official White House photographer is to visually document the presidency for history. So when inauguration rolled around, I had in the back of my mind for the journey I was about to take, this thought make authentic photographs. Think mood, emotion context.


WILLIAMS: Again, part of that extraordinary documentary. Pete Souza on his role as White House photographer from the documentary, "The Way I See It". Michael Beschloss remains with us as well.

Pete, let`s keep going on that score. What do you know about what it`s been like for the current White House in-house photography team, their access, and their ability to move around, and what can you tell us about the folks who are going to be documenting the Biden presidency at least early on?

SOUZA: Yes, I don`t have any inside information about the current White House photographer and her access. There`s been very few behind the scenes pictures posted on the White House, Flickr`s Photo Stream. So that`s all I know, I know what everybody else knows.

In terms of the incoming team, Adam Schultz is going to be Biden`s photographer. I spoke to Adam a few days ago to give him my advice, most of which was, remember, the primary mission of your job is you`re visually documenting the president for history. Everything else, it doesn`t matter as much. That`s what matters the most. You are the guy in the room. When everything`s going down, just make sure you capture all those great moments.

WILLIAMS: Michael Beschloss, I am concerned that a bit of history is not going to get its due tomorrow. Talk about the list of firsts and what it will mean when Kamala Harris raises her hand and get sworn in.

BESCHLOSS: First, Vice President of the United States of African American descent, South Asian descent and at the same time, as I say, the first woman. Only the second Catholic in American history, amazingly enough, will be Joe Biden, of course. And the other thing is that we`ve got a President and Vice President coming in with a confluence of crises of a kind that I don`t think we have ever seen before in American history.

Abraham Lincoln had to deal with a civil war, Franklin Roosevelt with the Great Depression and whether we should stand up to Hitler, other presidents have had other problems. But all the things that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to have to start dealing with tomorrow, the pandemic, people are starving economically, and they`re out of their jobs, a crisis of racial injustice that has gone on for 400 years plus. And as I say, I think all of us have to be much more painfully aware of the fact that democracy is very fragile. We all have to preserve it.

And if I could add one thing, Brian, last four years, you`ve been doing a wonderful job. You`ve gotten our family through it. We`ve understand the almost hourly assaults on democracy that we`ve all been living through. So, my family asked me to say thank you for everything you`ve done to help us do this. And I know a lot of other American families feel the same way.

WILLIAMS: Well bless you and back at you. We have a dedicated Beschloss shelf in our house and a burgeoning Souza shelf while we`re at it. And that`s why it`s been such a joy and a blessing to have both of you, gentlemen, on tonight, and both of you along for the ride as viewers and friends.

To Michael Beschloss, to Pete Souza, for all the thoughts and emotions that will be coursing through everyone`s brain tomorrow, thank you for the -- tonight we`ll be thinking of you, if not talking to you along the way tomorrow.

Coming up for us, it is the immense and immediate challenge this incoming administration now faces showing care for American citizens by getting shots in American arms.


WILLIAMS: Tomorrow, noon eastern time, the moment Joe Biden takes the oath of office, his most urgent task will be fixing our country`s disastrous vaccination rollout effort. NBC News Correspondent Stephanie Gosk has our report tonight on the complications that lie ahead.


STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 1 million shots a day. It`s a goal within reach according to health officials. Last week, the country average roughly 700,000.

AL ROKER, NBC`S TODAY WEATHER ANCHOR: We`re ready to do this?


GOSK (voice-over): Today Al Roker joined the ranks of the vaccinated.

ROKER: That`s it?


GOSK (voice-over): But still only a third of the vaccines distributed have actually been given.

(on-camera): Where are the majority of those doses?

CLAIRE HANNAN, MANAGERS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASSOCIATION OF IMMUNIZATION: Yes. So, I mean, I think those doses are spread out many of them in the long-term care facility program, some of them in hospitals.

GOSK (voice-over): To fix the lag the country is shifting, widening the pool of eligibility and opening up public vaccination spots. Despite logistical hurdles, picking up the pace, and now running into supply problems.

Today, Florida`s Miami-Dade County temporarily closed a mass vaccination site, because it ran out of doses.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We`re now giving vaccines out faster than we`re getting it. And we have the capacity to do a lot more.

HANNAN: The production still going like this. It`s not going like this. I think we anticipated that when we scale off and we go out to larger populations, our production would go up. But it`s not.

GOSK (voice-over): And the cries for more are growing louder.

GOV. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: We need more vaccine. We need more vaccine. We need more vaccine. I mean, it is frustrating.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FMR. FDA COMMISSIONER: There just hasn`t been good communication and transparency around what the ultimate supply is.

GOSK (on-camera): Do you run the risk of opening this up to a larger population without enough doses to satisfy that demand, and people just getting frustrated with this process?

HANNAN: Yes, we don`t have the supply to meet the demand right now.

GOSK (voice-over): The hope is that another vaccine will be added to the mix soon. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb sits on Pfizer`s board.

GOTTLIEB: The J&J vaccine could be a real game changer in terms of additional supply in the market.

GOSK (voice-over): If all goes smoothly, he says, approval could come as early as February.

Stephanie Gosk, NBC News.


WILLIAMS: 53 minutes after the hour, we would normally head straight to a commercial break right now. But there is this from the New York Times, specifically, this early piece of journalism from Maggie Haberman tonight, President Trump has granted clemency to Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist, who was charged with defrauding people who supported building a border wall that Mr. Trump supported. White House officials said, the President made the decision after a day of frantic efforts to sway his thinking, including from Mr. Bannon, who spoke to him by phone earlier on Tuesday.

The pardon was described as a preemptive mood -- move that would effectively wipe away the charges against Mr. Bannon. Should he be convicted? He may not be the only one with pardon language like that, in effect, to wipe away charges that have not yet been either brought or proven. As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, you may recall the bust by the feds, it was a large vessel off the coast of Connecticut. Bannon was caught up in it and the gist of the allegation was that people were urged to give money which would make it to the construction of the southern border wall with Mexico. The allegation was that that money instead was funneled to personal use.

It was the feds who were involved. There was this rather triumphant scene outside what I think was his initial court appearance, a lot of media, a lot of supporters across the street. Of course, the border wall has been a signature issue.

Steve Bannon early on in the Trump days, use some bracing language at the Conservative Political Action Group when a whole lot of people who hadn`t had an introduction to him were taken aback by his use of language like, destroy the administrative state. That was unknown exactly at the start of the Trump years what that kind of thing meant. We got a better idea of what that meant as the Trump years went on, the Trump years that ended at noon tomorrow.

Thankfully and miraculously, our friend, Peter Baker of the New York Times has been summoned back to his home camera. He didn`t have anything to do anyway on the eve of the inauguration of the President. Peter, talk about what more of the blanks you can fill in here and what we know.

BAKER: Well, look, you know, the idea that he`s going to pardon Steve Bannon is actually really remarkable in a way. Because remember, while Steve Bannon had been his chief strategist in the White House, had been a key part of his 2016 election, they had a big falling out over that book that came out that quoted Bannon trashing Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the President`s daughter and son in law. And at that point, he was pushed away from the Trump circle, and he sorted that out of out of favor for a long time.

But here, the President decided that he saw in Bannon somebody like himself, right? He`s looking at these partners to some extent, through the victim of his own -- sorry, the prism of his own victimization, the idea that prosecutors came after him for political reasons, and therefore he feels sympathetic to those he believes or he`s telling himself anyway, for persecuted for political reasons, and particularly association with him that would be in this case, Steve Bannon.

Now, never mind. Steve Bannon is accused of ripping off Trump`s own supporters, which you would think might be, you know, a negative to the President. He was supposedly telling Trump supporters that the money they gave to his nonprofit was -- for his organization would be used for the wall, and a lot of it was used for other purposes, including their personal expenses. But the President seems to look past those kind of details and sees in Bannon, somebody like himself that he sees -- he believes has been unfairly treated by the authorities.

WILLIAMS: Peter, among the journalists at the New York Times of White House bead included, can you shed any other light on any of the other names that are clearly getting at least floated out of the West Wing to prepare people for a list that looks heavier than a hundred names?

BAKER: Yes, it does. I think a lot of these are going to be people who won`t necessarily be big names, people who will be, as we talked about in the earlier segment, folks who were on the wrong side of the drug laws that gave particularly heavy punishments to relatively nonviolent offenses, not people who`ve gone through the Justice Department pardon process who applied for them in the normal way, but people who`ve come to the President`s attention through friends or allies of his victory. Alex Johnson, who he had pardoned previously.

But I would -- in terms of the big names, you`ve heard, you know, the rapper Lil Wayne, you`ve heard some others who, again, have a certain celebrity status within his circle. He`s already, remember, of course, gotten some of his other aides who got in trouble like Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, they`ve already received their pardons. But we`re still waiting. We`re -- he`s literally, you know, finalizing, I think, as we speak.

WILLIAMS: And one last question and quick answer, please. And that is that this part of the Trump years is not uncommon. You and I were around when Bill Clinton departed office, we had that list of names as he was departing the scene. This being the ultimate power of a presidency domestically other than declaring war and naming people to the Supreme Court is something traditionally left until the very end.

BAKER: Well, it is and this does remind me of Bill Clinton`s last day in office right up until the inauguration of George W. Bush, the President was in the Oval Office signing pardons away and some of them are quite controversial. He pardoned his own half brother on drug charges, he pardoned Susan McDougal, who had gone to jail repeat because she refused to testify against him in the Whitewater probe. And most controversially, he forced Marc Rich, the financier whose ex-wife and contributed lots of money to Clinton projects and was seen as unrepentant in his -- having avoided tax charges by fleeing overseas.

So, that caused so much problems for Bill Clinton that he actually left on a real down note rather than an up note after eight years in office. And, in fact, there were investigations after he left office as to whether he had somehow committed a crime in abusing his pardon powers. So these kinds of pardons do come up at the last minute, and they can be so controversial.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, if your wife, the great Susan Glasser of the New Yorker, hadn`t just tweeted about the day ahead of you covering the inauguration, none of this would not have happened. So please tell her for me that this is on her. Thank you for your heroism and returning back to the camera in your home to help out our broadcast tonight.

Peter Baker of the New York Times, a guy we know we`ll be talking to along the way. We know something about the day ahead of him.

A quick update for our viewers, we`ve had the first, hence, the first look at what we believe to be a hefty list of pardons on the President`s way out the door. Quite literally. He is wheels up from the White House, 8:00 a.m. Eastern, to Andrews Air Force Base, a farewell ceremony, and then wheels up for Florida for the rest of his post-presidency.

I will be back to join our morning coverage with Nicolle Wallace at 9:00 a.m. sharp Eastern time, for what will become another long but a history- making day as we inaugurate the 46th President of the United States, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. of Delaware by way of Pennsylvania.

Katy Tur, taking over our live coverage right now.