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Coronavirus outbreak TRANSCRIPT: 3/5/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Ashley Parker, Jonathan Lemire, Philip Rucker

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: And isn`t that Elizabeth Warren`s story modest means and just scratch it together out of pure grip?

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Sure. And that`s what women have had to do for generations and they`re going to have to keep having to do until we really have truly equal footing and equal opportunity. So I think that is a uniquely women`s story that she`s telling, and it`s why she sees that admiration in Oprah, that she had to overcome some of the same obstacles in her profession that women politicians have to do.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter gets tonight`s last word. Thank you very much for joining us again tonight, really appreciate it.

POTER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And I want to thank all of the women who joined our discussion tonight. That is "Tonight`s Last Word." "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, it is a whole new dynamic in American life. The need to believe the public health experts and doctors over what the President`s been saying about the coronavirus as it continues to carve into the global economy and the U.S. economy and as new fear spreads with the new numbers that come out every day.

In the race for 2020, Elizabeth Warren today became the fifth Democrat to drop out in five days as the race is on between Biden and Bernie to gain her endorsement while the Sanders campaign is changing strategy on the fly to deal with the Biden bounce in the next round of states.

And another warning tonight about a potential pandemic of misinformation, especially on social media, we`ll let you guess as to who`s behind it as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on this Thursday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 1,141 of the Trump administration, leaving 243 days to go until the 2020 presidential election.

As the nation grows increasingly anxious about the coronavirus outbreak, our President`s focus is clearly on defending his administration and his fight to hold on to the White House. Fox News put on a town hall meeting for the President tonight, of all places in Joe Biden`s hometown of Scranton, P.A., more on that event later.

The Trump White House is under fire and under pressure for its response to the coronavirus. Right now the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. rising daily and region by region. There are now well over 200 confirmed cases in this country, but remember only 1,500 people have been tested.

Financial markets remain rattled by the relentless spread. Today the Dow lost about 970 points, largely erasing the big gains from earlier this week.

Both chambers of Congress have now approved an $8.3 billion emergency spending package bill to help fight the virus. The President is expected to sign it tomorrow.

At that presidential town hall on Fox News tonight, the very first question was about the White House handling of the virus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHERINE PUGH, WYOMING P.A.: At the outset of the coronavirus, your administration`s response seemed to some as being confusing or minimizing. What plans are being considered on a federal level for the possibility of a long-term disruption?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, actually, we`re giving -- I think really giving tremendous marks.

One of the things I did as I closed down the borders to China and other areas that are very badly affected. We have 149 cases as of this moment. This morning was 129, and I just see right now it`s about 149 cases.

It`s going to all work out. Everybody has to be calm. It`s all going to work out.

We could have a very long-term plan. We hope that doesn`t happen, but we have plans for every single possibility. And I think that`s what we have to do. We hope it doesn`t last too long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And a quick reminder here, this was seven days ago, a week ago today, when the President gave his prognosis for the coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It`s going to disappear one day. It`s like a miracle. It will disappear. And from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We`ll see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Just tonight he suggested a benefit of the virus is that people are no longer traveling, instead spending their money here in this country. Just 24 hours ago, Trump was asked about the World Health Organization`s latest assessment of the coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a report today the global death rate at 3.4 percent and a report that the Olympics could be delayed, your reaction to that.

TRUMP: Well, I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, this is just my hunch, and -- but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: His answer prompted this response from a key Trump ally in the U.S. Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Listen to the scientists when it comes to the numbers, and I would encourage the President, if he`s going to report things, to make sure that the science is behind what he`s saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Trump tonight also talked about having to change up his playbook going into the 2020 election, adjusting his strategy following Joe Biden`s Super Tuesday victories over Bernie Sanders and then Elizabeth Warren`s dropping out of the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I was all set for Bernie because I thought it was going to happen. You know how we get ready for things, right? So mentally I`m all set for Bernie. Communists, I have everything down. I was all set. And then we have this crazy thing that happened, right, on Tuesday?

Bernie would be tougher because he`s got a base.

I don`t think I`m running against Bernie. I think it`s going to be very hard for him to come back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: He of course stepped up his attacks on Joe Biden, vowing to make Hunter Biden`s work in -- wait for it -- Ukraine, a major issue in the general election.

Tonight he appeared to suggest the impeachment investigation was ultimately more damaging to Biden than to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Biden is damaged? Do you think he`s damaged?

TRUMP: I think -- I think that Biden has been damaged, yes. A lot of people -- I saw a couple of statements, very strong statements by very respected people in your world saying they aimed at Trump, and but they took Biden down. And really, that`s what happened when you think, because you look at the son. Here`s a guy, didn`t have a job, was unfortunately, sadly, the military was a very sad experience for him. He goes out, he gets $3 million plus $183,000 a month to be a board member of a company that a lot of people said was corrupt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And he had this to say when one Pennsylvania resident asked about dialing back the divisive rhetoric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They hit us. We have to hit back. I feel that.

Turning your cheek, but I wouldn`t be sitting up here if I turned my cheek.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: With that in mind and here for our leadoff discussion on a Thursday night, in Washington, two Pulitzer Prize winners both with "The Washington Post," that hardly seen fair, Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief, and Ashley Parker, White House Reporter. Phil happens to be co- author along with his "Post" colleague Carol Leonnig of "The New York Times" best-selling book "A Very Stable Genius." And here with us in New York, Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press. Good evening, gang, and welcome to you all.

And, Ashley, I`d like to begin with you. Is there any degree of fear that you`re picking up in the White House that the facts are going to supersede the plot line the President is giving the American people? Is there any degree of surprise that with all this guy has survived and put behind him to wake up every day, this is sitting in the middle of the road in front of him?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there`s certainly already a lot of internal infighting and finger-pointing and recriminations, and one of the things that`s notable is as you said, all this President has faced, a lot of those are crises of his own making. And this is a little bit of self-sabotage. And this is the rare crisis from outside, from abroad.

And there is a sense not necessarily in the White House but certainly administration-wide, that there was a period of several weeks from when we found out that there was this virus, this coronavirus in the Wuhan Province of China to when the President finally appointed, you know, Vice President Pence to head this task force, that that time was just squandered. And you can go through and pinpoint discrete instances of when the testing didn`t work, when the testing criteria was too narrow.

And there`s also talk of how the White House, especially the President, didn`t really take it seriously when it was a public health crisis. It took for it to become a political crisis. So that would be the stock market plummeting. That would be what the President viewed as alarmist rhetoric from his aides saying it`s not a question of if, but when. That that the President and the White House really got engaged, which frankly just started about a week ago yesterday.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, let`s keep going on this theme. The President worked the word "flu" into the Fox News interview last night. He has always been able to create this alternate universe, in some cases using his own stats and his own facts. But to Ashley`s point, these bumps against public health, which all of us have a stake in.

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Sure. His entire life as a celebrity real estate developer when he was calling in completely made up stories to the tabloids to his time as a politician and president. He tries to assert his own reality. And he often uses his own set of facts trying to create, try and create that reality, which is obviously sometimes flies in the face of what the rest of us are experiencing every day.

And certainly this is one where buy sheer force of personality, he has often gotten away with it. But this is a moment where, as you say, it may be harder. We`re seeing it already now.

He`s downplaying the crisis. OK, that`s standard for a politician. But he`s doing so in a case where he`s misstating the numbers here. He`s been consistently saying there are far fewer people affected by this than actually are.

He has, three times in the last few days, been publicly corrected by his advisers when he suggested that a vaccine might be on the market for Americans to use within a matter of months and had to be told, like, no, it`s going to be a year or more most likely.

He is, to Ashley`s point, he was slow to react in part because he didn`t want to publicly talk about it because he didn`t want to upset the markets or upset Xi Jinping in China, and obviously criticize their handling of this virus here because President Xi is someone he`s worked as an ally. They`re still working on a trade deal together. He didn`t want to be seen as embarrassing him.

But this is a moment where his supporters even, those who perhaps get their news from Fox News and other cable networks, who are inclined to believe the President over the more -- you know, the more, "mainstream media," who are inclined to take his word for it even when he`s contradicted by most other sources. If people around them are getting sick, if in their local newspaper, their stories about people are getting sick, if their local school district has to close, that`s going to be very different. And they`re going to be impacted by this. They`re going to see the markets perhaps continue to plummet and this is a moment where the President`s ability to create his own reality may really be tested.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, I want to play for you and our audience a moment that happened on CNBC, on live television earlier today. We`ll discuss on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTELLI, CNBC EDITOR: Think about how the world would be if you tried to quarantine everybody because of the generic-type flu. Now, I`m not saying this is the generic-type flu, but maybe we`d be better off if we gave it to everybody, and then in a month it would be over because the mortality rate of this probably isn`t going to be any different if we did it that way than the long-term picture. But the difference is we`re wreaking havoc on global and domestic economies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So, tell us where to line up for the coronavirus. That actually, as I said, happened on live television today. And let`s just take a flyer and dismiss the idea he`s floating there of giving it to everyone. But, Phil, as no one needs to remind you, when this guy goes out before a hometown crowd, he has two major talking points. Look what we`ve done for you on federal judges and look at the Trump economy. Does this mean, in effect, he`ll be down to the one talking point?

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, WASHINGTON POST: He might be, Brian, and that`s why the President is so concerned and rattled by this coronavirus story of the last couple of weeks. You know, it would be so easy for him to just stay quiet and say, you know, to the American people, here are the experts that I`ve appointed to take control of this situation. Listen to them. They`re going to talk to you every day.

I`m going to give them all the resources that they need, but I`m not going to comment on it. I want you to hear the facts from them. But the President cannot resist from adding his own commentary, adding his own false information. He is no expert in public health or infectious diseases, yet keeps weighing in, and it speaks to his insecurity and anxiety about the economy.

He`s watching that stock market. He sees it as a barometer for his re- election hopes. He knows if the economy dips over the long haul here over the next few months that that spells disaster for his re-election. And so he`s trying to use every tool in his tool kit, including his salesmanship to reverse the trends that we see playing out every day.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, I imagine they`d rather do an acclamation coronation-type deal and not run against anybody. But tonight he said he had his Bernie argument all set. He was going to run against him as a communist, and we just went through impeachment, which was about Joe Biden. So what have you gathered is closest to the truth? Who does he want to run against?

PARKER: Well, it`s a great question, and it depends on who you ask and when. But what`s fascinating is throughout this all, there were three people, three Democratic candidates who at various times the President was really, truly worried about. The first one on his radar was Joe Biden, in part because Joe Biden was beating him not just in public polls but in private polls, in one-on-one match ups and that`s something the President pays attention to. There was a sense that Biden could cut into his sort of working class base and win back those blue dog Democrats.

Then he was worried about Bernie Sanders. Yes, he and his campaign truly thought they could paint him, as the President said tonight, with a communist brush as liberal socialist, but the President privately said he worried about Bernie Sanders giving away free things. So look, it doesn`t matter what I promise. If Sanders is offering free college tuition, it`s hard to compete with that.

And then of course, he was worried and certainly irked by Mayor Mike Bloomberg in part because Bloomberg was in many ways the person Trump portrays himself to be, an actual self-made billionaire.

And he is now going to have to run against one of those two candidates, Sanders or Biden, it looks like, who he truly has been worried about. So it`s unclear right now if he`s more worried about Biden or more worried about Sanders. But these are two men that have occupied his psyche. You can see that in his public comments. You can see that in his tweets. And I think we will just see more of that and more of that angst going forward.

WILLIAMS: And Phil, this may require intel from the other camp, but Biden has chosen not to fight back on all things Hunter and Burisma. Is there any evidence they are planning now as a presidential campaign to fight back?

RUCKER: They are, Brian. My colleague, Matt Viser and I spent today reporting on this very subject and heard from the Biden camp that they are preparing to fight back aggressively should Trump do as he vowed in that interview with Sean Hannity, which is to make Hunter Biden`s work for that Ukrainian energy firm a major issue in the general election if Biden`s the nominee. The Biden campaign knows that they can`t afford to be silent on this, that they`re going to have to engage in some way.

And they`re also planning to try to use that corruption argument back on Trump, effectively saying -- and this is some of the Biden supporters by the way saying this -- that if the President`s going to go after Biden`s son, then Eric and Don Jr. may be a fair game. Look at the corruption. Look at what they`ve done at the Trump Organization. Look at the self-dealing within the Trump family, not only the Biden family.

WILLIAMS: Well, that`s a new kettle of fish. Mr. Lemire, is anyone in the Trump camp saying, maybe Burisma is a dead horse?

LEMIRE: No. It doesn`t seem that way. In fact, I received an unprompted text message from a person in Trump world this week who just said, get ready to have the words Hunter Biden be back in your life again. We`ve already seen Senator Johnson of Wisconsin moving toward investigations about Burisma. Even though this, of course, was the very thing that got the President impeached, trying to push Ukraine into probing Burisma and Hunter Biden. They don`t seem like they`re backing of it.

They feel like that`s still a winner. They feel like that Biden was damaged during those proceedings.

The President has given him credit for the comeback here in the last few days, and they`re worried about that he could reassemble some of the Obama coalition as well as those working class voters that Ashley mentioned. But they feel like Hunter Biden is a play they`re going to use. They still feel fairly confident.

WILLIAMS: Our big three on a Thursday night, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Jonathan Lemire, our thanks for coming on as always.

Coming up for us, separating science from spin when it comes to this coronavirus. We`ve got a doctor on-set.

And later, the race to the White House now minus Elizabeth Warren, now the remaining men scramble for her endorsement as "The 11th Hour" is just getting under way on a Thursday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: There are now over, as we said, 200 confirmed cases of coronavirus in our country today. Officials in Tennessee, Maryland, Nevada, Colorado all reported their first cases. Here in New York State, at least 11 new cases reported just today, bringing the total to 22. Eight of those new cases linked to one guy, a commuter to the city who tested positive earlier this week.

In the city alone, over 2,700 people are now in some form of quarantine. Washington State reported over two dozen new cases today, meaning at least 70 cases in all. Death toll there is 11. Amazon Seattle-area employees were told to work from home if they could as the virus spreads. It has had a visible effect on that city.

This was the scene outside the Space Needle in Seattle today, the usually popular tourist destination, a ghost town. On the upside, you can park again in downtown Seattle.

Off the coast of San Francisco, there`s a growing crisis at sea aboard this vessel, the Grand Princess. It`s not been allowed to dock because officials learned a previous passenger died of coronavirus. Twenty-one people onboard are showing symptoms. Today a military chopper flew test kits to the deck of the ship.

In a rare moment of candor, Mike Pence offered this warning today during a visit to Minnesota.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don`t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward. For those who we believe have been exposed, for those who are showing symptoms, we`ve been able to provide the testing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: We are happy to have with us here tonight Dr. John Torres, our NBC News Medical Correspondent.

Doc, I heard it said tonight only 1,500 Americans have been tested. Without being an alarmist, how can there not be a commensurate spike on the way in the number of cases we know about?

DR. JOHN TORRES, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And that`s what you`re going to hear about over the next week or two. And that`s why I`ve been telling a lot of people to not get too worked up over that number because we`re starting to test a lot more people. Those tests are starting to get out there. Like you said, there`s still a deficit of the tests but the ones you`re getting there. And so more people are going to get tested that weren`t tested before.

Like you said, people were getting tested if they had symptoms, if they have signs or they were hospitalized because of coronavirus. But now people who want to get tested because they think they might have it, and that`s a huge number of people, will start to get tested, which means we`ll start finding more coronavirus. And so we`ll start seeing more numbers.

That same number has been around. We just haven`t noticed it before, so you`re going to see a spike in it.

Again, part of that spike is because there are new cases. Part of that spike is because we`re finally detecting those cases that have been here all along.

WILLIAMS: We`ve never had a case where we`re getting in some cases misinformation or incorrect information from the President of our country. As I keep saying, local news will be the reality for people around this country from Denver to New York. If people are starting to get nervous, how should they change their behavior if at all at this early date?

TORRES: So if people are starting to get nervous, and I do agree with you that we need a lot of information, a lot of accurate information. When you`re getting that kind of miscommunication and hearing two different things, it`s hard to understand exactly what to rely on. The CDC is a fantastic choice to go to get the proper information you need.

But the main thing is people just need to do the same thing they would do, if you remember back in the swine flu epidemic that we had, you know, these bad flu seasons, we tell them the same thing. Social distancing, which means you want to be a few feet away from people, six feet in this case. You constantly wash your hands during the day. Don`t touch your face until you wash your hands or use alcohol gel on your hands to keep them clean. And do the best you can to stay healthy.

If you start getting sick or start having fevers, stay home, that way you don`t spread it to other people. And those are the best things we can do not only for ourselves but for everybody else around us. And if do you get sick, especially if you have respiratory problems, that`s when you want to be seen. But if you are being seen, call before you go in because you want to make sure that they`re ready for you. They`ll put a mask on you just like we did in the flu season and say, you know, let`s have you sit here for a while but not spread it to other people in the waiting room.

WILLIAMS: And when we hear about people in isolation or self-quarantine, does that mean they`re staying home because they may have it?

TORRES: There`s two different things. Quarantine is staying home because you were possibly exposed to it and you`re looking for signs and symptoms of it crapping up, mainly the fevers, the cough, the respiratory problems. If that happens and you start showing symptoms, especially if you`ve tested positive for coronavirus, then you become isolated. And that usually puts you at a hospital-based system, where you go in the hospital, you get put in isolation where you`re not around anybody else or the people that come near you are in outfits so they can protect themselves and then you get treated appropriately.

So quarantine is what we`re seeing a lot of. These self-quarantines, a lot of that is an overabundance of caution. A lot of those don`t necessarily need to happen, but people are getting really worked up and anxious about this, that are saying, you know, let`s be better safe than sorry. Unfortunately that`s having a huge impact on the country not just economically but psychologically as well.

WILLIAMS: Ladies and gentlemen, watching this is a busy guy, Dr. John Torres, our medical correspondent. Thank you for coming by.

TORRES: You bet.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, it`s now a crucial presidential campaign question. Who gets the Warren endorsement? Will there be one, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): It`s one of the hardest parts about this. All those pinky promises, all those all girls, we`re going to do this. It`s just going to be a little longer before we`re able to have a woman in the White House. And -- But it doesn`t mean it`s not going to happen. It doesn`t mean it`s not going to happen soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Senator Elizabeth Warren`s exit from this race leaves two white guys, ages 77 and 78, trying to replace a 73-year-old in the White House who happens to be our oldest President. And today "The New York Times" posed this question. "Was it always going to be the last men standing?"

While she`s declined to make an endorsement saying -- and she`s correct here -- there`s time for that, it will be sought after and already is. Earlier today "The Washington Post" Drew Goins posted this picture on twitter. It shows the Senator`s portrait at Harvard Law School where the portraits hang of the tenured professors surrounded by post-it thank you notes of praise for her.

Back with us tonight is Mara Gay, former New York City Hall Bureau Chief at "The Wall Street Journal," now a member of "The New York Times" Editorial Board. Since I just said "The New York Times" Editorial Board, it does remind me Warren and Klobuchar were your selections. How is a member of "The New York Times" Editorial Board viewing today`s news?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, both as a member of the board but also just as an American woman, I think is a little bit of a sad day in politics. You know, you got to be looking at this as an American woman and thinking to yourself, Elizabeth Warren was the most qualified in many ways, you know, experienced candidate in the race. She had the best ideas, which is why we endorsed her, and Senator Klobuchar`s were also very impressive.

And she really did her homework and I think there is a sense among a lot of women that you have to be twice as good, and even then it`s not enough. And I think that`s really what happened tonight. But there is a larger context here, and I just got back from a trip across the south with Michael Bloomberg and some of the other candidates as well. And the reality is that Senator Warren was running in the shadow of Hillary Clinton`s loss, and voters -- Democratic voters, especially black Democrats in the south who really spoke up so forcefully in favor of Joe Biden, they are so desperate and so intent on beating Donald Trump that they are looking for the least risk imaginable.

And I had voter after voter tell me, you know, we really like Elizabeth Warren, but we don`t know if our neighbors are going to vote for -- and by neighbors, they don`t necessarily even mean just Democrats. They don`t know if -- We don`t know if our neighbors are going to vote for a woman. We look at what happened to Hillary, and we think maybe it`s too risky.

And that`s heartbreaking, I think, to hear but I think that is the reality is that so many voters are looking for the least risk, and right now that`s Joe Biden. They know Joe Biden. So he may not be Barack Obama and as inspiring, but he`s somebody who they believe is the best bet to get Donald Trump out of the White House.

WILLIAMS: You have spoken with great knowledge about Mike Bloomberg on this broadcast and others, and so I want to ask you, do you take him at his word that he`s going to become a one-man bank, a one-man super PAC? In effect, will that make him the worst and most consequential presidential candidate in modern history?

GAY: I think money and politics in general is a serious concern and a serious problem. I don`t know that this is the election year to have that battle, and frankly, I think Democrats who voted for Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg understand that. I think that the need to restore our democracy probably by removing Donald Trump from the White House is the most important thing, and that, you know, Michael Bloomberg didn`t get what he wanted. But he still has an opportunity right now to put his money where his mouth is and to make a huge difference by helping Joe Biden. And that would be quite a legacy for him, and I think that`s what he`s looking at. So once he can kind of have a moment, swallow his pride, and get back to work, that would be the best thing for the Democrats.

WILLIAMS: But you see it as a possibility if he wants to spend a billion bucks beating this guy, he could do it.

GAY: Absolutely. Somebody tweeted recently that actually with the money he`s spent, he could have given every American a million dollars.

WILLIAMS: I`ve got it. Let`s put it up on the screen. When I read it tonight on social media, it kind of all became clear. "Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. U.S. population, $327 million." Don`t tell us if you`re ahead of us on the math. "He could have given each American $1 million and have had lunch money left over." It`s an incredible way of putting it.

GAY: It`s an incredible way of putting it. It`s true. It`s disturbing. It does suggest, you know, what we`re talking about here, which is there is too much money in politics. And it makes it difficult because what we want in politics -- the point is to have competition, and the point is to have the best candidates and have people from all backgrounds be able to run. And so that gives people real choice, not just super PACs and dark money flooding elections or even just a single billionaire with good intentions - -

WILLIAMS: Yes.

GAY: -- in this case. But that said, this is a huge election year. What is at stake is existential for the American Republic but also for many Americans on a personal level. And, you know, Michael Bloomberg still has an opportunity to make an impact and make it count.

WILLIAMS: Just back from her southern swing, our friend Mara Gay of "The New York Times." Always a pleasure. Thank you for coming in.

GAY: Thanks for having me.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, we`re five days away from the next round of contests, including the critical state of Michigan. We`ll talk to two of the best political reporters on the ground about what comes next for the two guys left at the top of the Democratic race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: We`re five days away from the next Democratic primary in six crucial states and it`s now a two-man race. After a disappointing Super Tuesday showing, really a shellacking, Bernie Sanders` campaign is already making course corrections for the remaining real estate. They`ve canceled a rally in Jackson, Mississippi tomorrow. They`re shifting their sights to Michigan instead.

Just today, the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, endorsed Joe Biden for president. Here is what she told Chris Hayes tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: When Michigan needed a champion, it was Barack Obama and Joe Biden that had our backs during the auto rescue. When we needed a champion who was going to turn their grief into a cause to expand health care to people, that`s what we got out of the Obama/Biden presidency and vice presidency. We know Joe, and more importantly Joe knows Michigan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Two of our favorites back with us tonight. Alexi McCammond, Political Reporter for Axios, covering the 2020 campaign, and Robert Costa, National Political Reporter over at "The Washington Post", happens to be moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. Alexi, you heard the commercial. Right there, she even ended her endorsement the way Congressman Clyburn did. More importantly, Joe knows us. Talk about the importance of Michigan.

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, Michigan is obviously a really important state for the 2020 election as it was for the 2016 election. In that election, Bernie Sanders won the primary over Hillary Clinton by just 1.5 percentage points, so it was a really narrow margin of victory he had then, which suggested he`s going to have a lot of work to do to win the state by a larger margin this time around next Tuesday. Joe Biden`s whole shtick has been about fighting for these working class voters who felt that they were left behind before Trump and then Trump came and swift them up. So he`s really going to try to use that message.

But we`ve already seen the message that Bernie Sanders is going to use against Biden in a place like Michigan, which is talking about Biden`s record on trade and NAFTA and pushing this argument and this narrative that Biden is not as solid on trade as Bernie Sanders has been in his record. It remains to be seen whether or not that will be helpful in a place like Michigan, but certainly with the automobile situation, that could be something that could be helpful for Bernie Sanders as he`s trying to overtake Biden in this next election.

WILLIAMS: And Robert, I was sitting there looking at the map of remaining states today. Depending on how you look at it, it could get really tight for Bernie from here on in.

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It could very well get tight for Senator Sanders in the coming weeks. When you talk to his campaign, they`re looking beyond to states like Wisconsin, which was strong for Senator Sanders in 2016. But Senator Sanders, as you remember from that time as well, he carried on nearly to the convention in Philadelphia. And because of the way -- this is now a two-person race, his campaign advisers believe he could take it all the way to Milwaukee this time around.

WILLIAMS: Alexi, Biden is closing in as an organization. There`s no debate how empowering it was to have no money, to open no campaign field offices, and be rewarded as they were -- California, of course, still outstanding -- to be rewarded as they were. They want very much to sew that into their kind of closing message. They want to seem inevitable.

MCCAMMOND: I think that`s exactly right, and the other thing about being inevitable is that, you know, Joe Biden wants to show that the country and Democratic primary voters are clamoring for a more moderate candidate than they see in Bernie Sanders. We saw this before the field winnowed down. We saw the total support that folks like Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden would amass, compared to the total support that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would get together.

And I think that Joe Biden is really using this to his strength to show that people want someone who is a little more pragmatic than the message and the ideas that Bernie Sanders is putting forward, especially in these states that are not only important to the electoral college for the presidential election but in states like Virginia that are really important for down-ballot races and were really important in 2018 for helping Democrats retake control of the House.

WILLIAMS: And, Robert, do you take -- I just asked Mara Gay this. Do you take Bloomberg at his word that he is willing to finance, in effect, the ground war or large parts of it from here on out, willing to become a one- person super PAC, especially given the infrastructure he`s already bought, paid for, and set up? In short order, he became a huge Trump troll just on twitter.

COSTA: For Vice President Biden, it`s not about taking Mayor Bloomberg at his word. Mayor Bloomberg is going to follow through based on my reporting. He wants to be seen as the political machine that elevates Joe Biden, that helps win him the White House, that gets credit for keeping the Democrats competitive in suburban districts. But politically, when you talk to the Sanders campaign and others in the Democratic Party, they wonder will there be a political confident to the Bloomberg wealth in this sense? Could Senator Sanders then try to target Vice President Biden as an ally of the billionaires like Mayor Bloomberg? Will he try to rally liberals around the idea that Vice President Biden is too close to rich people in the Democratic Party?

For Vice President Biden`s team, they want to have Bloomberg as an ally. But you`re going to see Senator Sanders continue to sharpen his critique as it is a two-person race on trade, as Alexi was talking about, and on Iraq, and now also on the preliminary hearing issue.

WILLIAMS: While I have you both and our audience paying attention, it turns out Mara and I got the same grades at math. I`m speaking of the tweet we both misinterpreted. He could give each American $1. Again, I didn`t have it in high school. I don`t have it tonight. Stand corrected. Sorry about that. The tweet is wrong. Garbage in, garbage out.

Alexi McCammond, Robert Costa, sorry to take your time. Thank you both for coming on. We`ll see you down the road.

Coming up for us, our next guest is here to tell us what happened 250 years ago today and how it affects us today, when we continue.

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WILLIAMS: As our next guest pointed out just this morning, today is the 250th anniversary of the Boston massacre. Legal Analyst Dan Abrams` new book offers an inside look at how the trial following the massacre and the role one John Adams played shaped our current legal system. He writes, the British soldiers trial, "Was as important in the development of American jurisprudence as it was in the political history of this country. The nation`s legal system was being born in this courtroom with John Adams leading the way, establishing the primacy of the rule of law. In fact, he risked his career for it".

Back with us tonight is our friend and author Dan Abrams. Did you know Dan was on the air here for many years? Did you further know he`s the former general manager of this network? Both true. These days he`s Chief Legal Analyst for ABC News, CEO and Founder of Abrams Media. I`ll be done with this. His favorite non-11th hour cable show, "Live PD on A&E. He is here tonight, however, as co-author of the new book, "John Adams Under Fire: The Founding Fathers` Fight For Justice In The Boston Massacre Murder Trial". It is such a treat to see you again.

DAN ABRAMS: CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Brian, it is great to be back with you.

WILLIAMS: I just came across my notes when I read the copy of the book you kindly hooked me up with weeks ago. My notes are, you get to meet Sam Adams before he was a logger. Kilroy is in the book. I mean, you`ll find Kilroy in the book.

ABRAMS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Branding irons are in the book.

ABRAMS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Tell the folks why in a time when by modern standards, life was horrendous in this country.

ABRAMS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Why it`s important today.

ABRAMS: Because John Adams took on a very unpopular case. No one liked the British soldiers. He took on the defense of them in this murder trial, and I think that has established the basic right of everyone to have an attorney, even if it`s an unpopular case. But from a legal perspective, the standard of reasonable doubt was established in this case. It was the first time the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt was ever set forth in a trial.

And I think what`s so important about this case is this incident, the Boston massacre, five colonists killed could have easily led to the American Revolution. It easily could have been the catalyst, but it wasn`t. And you know why? Because people had faith in the law and the rule of law.

The governor of Massachusetts at the time, who was a loyalist, stood up when people were about to demand revenge, and he said, we will live and die by the law. And as a result, people believed him. They calmed down. They waited for the legal system to work its way through, and John Adams represented the soldiers.

WILLIAMS: Who do we see about the fact that federal judges are under attack today, members of the Supreme Court are under attack today?

ABRAMS: I think it`s a real problem. I mean, I think, you know, Chuck Schumer`s comments I think were reprehensible. I think that Donald Trump`s constant comments about judges are reprehensible. And I don`t mean saying, I disagree with the ruling or this judge was wrong. That`s OK. That`s fine. It`s the personal attacks.

It`s, you know, it`s Schumer referring to the Supreme Court justices not as justice but by their last names and, you know, sounding like he`s talking about a threat. But, look, let`s be clear. This isn`t just about Chuck Schumer. Donald Trump has a long history here of doing this with regard to judges. And if we can`t trust our judges, then we`ve got nothing.

WILLIAMS: Do you agree that maybe Bush versus Gore was a watermark and a lot of people kind of smartened up to think, oh, man, was the political fix in on a case like that?

ABRAMS: You know, I understand that, I mean, in the sense that it was a five to four ruling divided along political lines. The Supreme Court pronounced that you can`t use it as precedent, which is sort of a crazy thing to say.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

ABRAMS: We`re issuing this ruling but you can never cite it again --

WILLIAMS: Right.

ABRAMS: -- in the future. I mean, that does sort of raise alarm bells. But you know what? We still -- I still believe strongly we have to accept rulings like that, whether you agree with it, you don`t agree with it, you think it was politicized, you don`t think it was politicized. You know, once we start breaking down the faith in our judges, call them the Obama judge and the Trump judge, and, you know, I think then we have no arbiters. We have no refs anymore.

And then we`re in big trouble. Whenever people say to me, you think we`re in a constitutional crisis? My answer is no, because people are still abiding by court rulings.

WILLIAMS: All I can say to people is if you want to know the role of a branding iron in what was the America of this time, if you want to meet Sam Adams before he was a Lager, this is your book, this is your author.

Dan Abrams, the new book is called, "John Adams Under Fire: The Founding Father`s Fight For Justice In The Boston Massacre Murder Trial. A great pleasure having you on.

ABRAMS: Sir, thank you for having me on.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, a warning about what you might be reading these days and where it might be coming from.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, a warning from the State Department, and here is the headline in "The Washington Post." "Millions Of Tweets Peddled Conspiracy Theories About Coronavirus In Other Countries, An Unpublished U.S. Report Says, the wrongful harmful posts floated a number of hoaxes, suggesting, for example, that the coronavirus had been created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or was the result of a bioweapon."

Another "Post" article goes further, names the suspect here and we quote. "A top State Department official said Thursday that Russia is behind swarms of online, false personas that sought to spread misinformation about coronavirus on social media sites, stressing the entire ecosystem of Russian disinformation is at play."

For that reason, on twitter, for example, when you search coronavirus now, there is a redirect that appears on the screen pointing you to the CDC. Their facts have been employed over the past few days to point out where the President has been shading the truth about the coronavirus. And this additional bit should be said. We even have to be wary of misinformation from our elected officials. There`s a predicate for this.

For starters, the Members of Congress willing to repeat Russian talking points in defense of Trump when the subject was Ukraine. Misinformation just needs the imprimatur of someone who seems reputable. Then it starts to look and sound like actual information.

And with that, that is our broadcast on this Thursday night. Thank you so much for being here with us. Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END