BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 1,216 of this Trump administration, 168 days until the Presidential Election. Less than six months until Trump faces off with the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden.
Right now Trump is wrestling with a health crisis that is nowhere near under control, one that has left our economy in shambles. Tonight our nation`s death toll stands at 92,566. The number of confirmed cases in this country now north of 1.5 million. Yet today the President had this take on the numbers. While we may lead the world in deaths and coronavirus cases, the latter is a kind of badge of honor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: So if you`re testing 14 million people, you`re going to find many more cases. Many of these people aren`t very sick, but they still go down as a case. So actually the number of cases -- and we`re also a much bigger country than most. So when we have a lot of cases, I don`t look at that as a bad thing. I look that as, in a certain respect, as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better.
So if we were testing a million people instead of 14 million people, we would have far few cases, right? So I view it as a badge of honor. Really it`s a badge of honor. It`s a great tribute to the testing and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President was also defending for a second day his decision to take the anti-malaria, anti-lupus drug hydroxychloroquine despite warnings from his own government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FDA warned that hydroxychloroquine could cause serious side effects, especially with the heart.
TRUMP: Yeah. I`ve worked with doctors, and if you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old, almost dead. It was a Trump enemy statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Trump told reporters on Capitol Hill the drug gives you an additional level of safety as he put it. Hours later during a meeting with his cabinet, he doubled down on his explanation about the drug.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There was a false study done where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people that were ready to die. It was given by obviously not friends of the administration, and the study came out. I have a doctor in the White House. I said, what do you think? And it`s just a line of defense. I`m just talking about as a line of defense. I`m dealing with a lot of people. Look at all the people in the room. You know, I`m the President, and I`m dealing with a lot of people. It`s been out for close to 70 years for a couple of different things, right? Lupus and malaria and even arthritis, they say. But I think it`s worth it as a line of defense, and I`ll stay on it for a little while longer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: By the way, the study he`s talking about at V.A. Hospitals was partially funded by his government, by the NIH. While Trump continues to shrug off the research on the drug`s effectiveness in treating the coronavirus, no large rigorous studies have shown it to be effective in treating or preventing COVID-19.
And the FDA had warned about off-label use of the drug, but today the agency`s commissioner simply noted that, "The decision to take any drug is ultimately a decision between a patient and their doctor."
Vice President Mike Pence, whose press secretary tested positive for the virus, today told Fox News he`s not taking the drug. While the White House tries to deep keep this virus at bay, communities across our country are now emerging ready, or in some cases not, after a nearly two-month shutdown.
By tomorrow, all 50 states will have started lifting restrictions in some form or fashion. NBC News tonight confirming a new A.P. report that says Trump campaign allies are now recruiting pro-Trump doctors to publicly call for reviving the U.S. economy as quickly as possible without waiting to meet CDC guidelines for reopening.
Trump was on Capitol Hill today for a luncheon with Senate Republicans billed as an event to discuss the response to the pandemic. Our colleagues report the gathering was largely focused on poll numbers, Joe Biden, and warning senators they need to toughen up or they`ll lose in November.
There were also said to be brief discussions of future relief bills, but senators who were there tell NBC News that wasn`t the focus of the discussion.
Later at the White House when CBS News Correspondent Paula Reid asked Trump about economic recovery, this was the response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA REID, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, why haven`t you announced a plan to get 36 million unemployed Americans back to work?
TRUMP: Oh, I think we`ve announced a plan. We`re opening up our country. Just a rude person you are. We`re opening up our country. We`re opening it up very fast. The plan is that each state is opening, and it`s opening up very effectively.
Go ahead, that`s enough out of you.
REID: A lot of these jobs are not coming back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump`s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell did have to come up with responses about the economy during this morning`s hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. Their predictions were dire. The questioning at times was heated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We are continuing to see large unemployment and other negative indicators. There is the risk of permanent damage, and as I`ve said before, we`re conscious of the health issues, and we want to do this in a balanced and safe way.
SENATOR SHERROD BROWN, (D) BANKING COMMITTEE: How many workers should give their lives to increase our GDP by half a percent, that you`re pushing people back into the workplace? There`s been no national program to provide worker safety. The President says reopen slaughter houses, nothing about slowing the line down, nothing about getting protective equipment. Is -- how many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or the Dow Jones by 1,000 points?
MNUCHIN: No workers should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That`s how that went. Here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-Winning White House Reporter for The Washington Post, Sam Stein, Politics Editor over at The Daily Beast, and Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR News Station.
Good evening and welcome to all of you. Ashley, I`d like to begin with you. Shiny object or not, there are two sides to this hydroxychloroquine conversation. Number one is I note it is our first topic of discussion two nights in a row. Ergo the shiny object label. But isn`t there a danger of the President, whatever distraction reason might be behind it, a danger of the President, if you want to talk pure politics where polling is concerned, losing the grip on older Americans because of their health fears right now?
ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That`s absolutely right. That`s what the public polling is showing and the campaign`s internal polling is that senior citizens especially, he is slipping with this vote. And it is a demographic that he has to shore up to win in November. And part of that started back with those briefings. We talk about how the President has turned everything into a campaign rally, including his appearance on Capitol Hill today. Well, you had senior citizens like the rest of the country tuning in to these briefings to get health information. And, again, this is a group that is perhaps among the most vulnerable to coronavirus. And instead of getting usable, useful information, scientific-based information about what treatments might or might not help, they were treated to the President`s moods and whims and rantings, and it turned them off. And that is reflected in the current polling.
WILLIAMS: Sam Stein, as we`ve discussed on this broadcast, we have these dueling patriotic duties right now, and the country is split on them. One side determines that they`re going to stay indoors, and that is their patriotic duty, seen by the other side as their duty to get out. Ditto with the wearing of masks in a whole lot of areas in this country now, split along red and blue lines. Is the taking of a pill, hydroxychloroquine, about to take on the same contours?
SAM STEIN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s funny you should ask that. A story we assigned today to my colleague Will Sommer looks at that very question. Already you`re seeing sort of anecdotal cases where pro-Trump internet bands, including congressmen actually have come out and said they are proactively taking hydroxychloroquine as well like President Trump. So it`s becoming this sort of cultural symbol, an affiliation with the Make America Great Again agenda to take this anti-malaria medication.
In fact there`s a website, queue on (ph) website, where they teach you how to make your home brew hydroxychloroquine. So this is clearly taking root. I don`t think it`s taking root in the same way that a rejection of mask- wearing or demands that businesses open against stay-at-home orders is currently in terms of a political matter. But it does go to show you, Brian, that even debates around a global pandemic that has caused, you know, system-wide shutdown of our economy, a huge amount of loss of life, that these can be distilled through partisan lenses, and part of that is because this is how Trump operates. And in a way, this is how he wants the debate to be had.
WILLIAMS: Boggles the mind. Home-brewed hydroxychloroquine. What could go wrong?
STEIN: Home brewed, yes.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Kimberly, in the real world --
WILLIAMS: -- we have not heard from the coronavirus task force. We haven`t heard from the CDC. I`m assuming their work goes on. Is this vacuum in medicine, science, and facts, for all of us who are citizens and taxpayers, a kind of perverse victory for the Trump White House?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SENIOR NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think in this case as we`ve seen in many other cases, the President sees himself as the best messenger. He sees himself as his best chief of staff, his best communications director. And anyone who puts out information, factual as it may be, if it`s contrary to the President`s message, he sees that not only as a problem, but he often casts it as some sort of malevolent political enemy. Even medical studies that he refers to, he calls them anti-Trump. These are researchers who are trying to find treatments for a pandemic. I mean the idea that these researchers would purposely try to keep a treatment from America just to thwart the President is pretty astonishing, but that`s the way the President paints it.
So to the extent that these agencies are referring to facts or referring to the fact that we are seeing an increase in cases not just because we`re testing more, we are belatedly testing more, but the United States has less than 5% of the world`s population and about a third of the coronavirus deaths. I mean that`s a problem. And the President paints it in a way that looks like a victory. So this isn`t the first time we`ve seen him deny science and facts in the pursuit of its message. It`s just the latest example of it.
WILLIAMS: And, Ashley, bingo. Speaking of making something look like a victory, you have some fascinating reporting, I know, on why it is the Trump administration doesn`t think they will necessarily be forced to own any possible COVID-19 second wave in the fall or winter?
PARKER: That`s exactly right. The President, you can see in the past week or so, is painting himself as Mr. Reopen the economy, reopen the nation. It`s a simplistic message that he thinks could be a very effective one. Everyone wants the country and the economy to be reopened. That`s sort of like being in favor of puppies and grandparents. But the risk of that, of course, is the backlash where if a state or a community opens too quickly and there is a second outbreak, the President could get blamed.
But I was talking to people in the White House today, a senior White House official just several hours ago, who was telling me, look, at the end of the day, the White House has put out guidelines, but the President has left this decision up to the governors. And so if there is an outbreak in a state or in a community, that`s on the governor, not on the President. Now, it remains to be seen if the American public, A, if there will be an outbreak, B, if they will buy that as an excuse. But there is a sense by washing his hands and saying I`m Mr. Reopen but the logistics are on the responsibility of you, governors, he thinks he can sort of shift the blame if something goes wrong.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Sam Stein, official Presidential travel that happens to be battleground states and then some, anything the President does aimed toward his re-election campaign in a pandemic is going to and should raise questions. In a pandemic, however, my question to you, who`s calling him on any of this stuff?
STEIN: Well, you know, that`s a great question. Sometimes we know that he`s taking advice from Fox News personalities. That may have been in fact responsible for why he got so into hydroxychloroquine. His circle of advisers are -- they generally tend to be sort of names we`ve come to know. There`s conservative economic types, Larry Kudlow, Steve Moore or Laffer in his ear on this reopening push. But then on sort of logistical called bureaucratic stuff, there is Peter Navarro and Jared Kushner, his son-in- law, who have spearheaded both the domestication of the PPE supply line and also in Kushner`s case, trying to create a task force that will expand testing for coronavirus.
This is one of the sort of great undercurrents of the Trump presidency, though, is that when your circle of advisers that you trust is so tight and you`ve depleted the government or people have left the government, there`s been exodus of such brainpower, that in moments where you need a full, across the board approach, you kind of lack the bureaucratic expertise to get it done. You lack the ability to trust someone like an Alex Azar at HHS to oversee that operation. You don`t have top officials at FEMA or other departments that have the expertise in doing this type of thing. And so this is one of those things that has hampered the President, and it`s why we were so slow to get off the ground and why we`re still playing catchup today.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Kim, the question about the economy, the plan to get workers back after so much unemployment, sadly was asked by a non-male and so was dismissed by the President today. Let`s try answering it. Do you know of a plan?
ATKINS: There isn`t a plan, and this has by and large been left to state and local governments to try, to figure out how to bring the country back online. The fact that you pointed out at the beginning of the hour that all 50 states have some sort of reopening plan that is beginning by the weekend demonstrates the desire by governors and other state officials to resume the economy. This is killing not only businesses but also revenue streams for states and localities by the loss of taxes. So nobody`s more motivated to do this other than them, but they are doing it in a piecemeal way because the federal government and the President has failed to produce some sort of guidelines, some sort of overall plan to give them what they need to reopen. And the biggest -- there was a delay in the testing, and now there`s this desire to sort of push treatments and a vaccine, but the governors have been left primarily on their own. And that is, you know, in a way by design as Ashley pointed out. Anything -- we saw a tweet from the President this week that said, any success that these states have in reopening and keeping down their curve is going to be attributed to the White House. But any failure, of course, will be attributed to these governors.
So there is no plan, and when that is pointed out to the President, we see, as he usually does, him attacking members of the press. He seems to take particular zeal at doing that to the women of the press. That, again, is not something that is new.
WILLIAMS: Echoes of the letter Ike wrote on the eve of the Normandy invasion -- just kidding. Our great thanks to three friends of this broadcast. To Sam Stein, to Kimberly Atkins, and to Ashley Parker, thank you for a fireside chat that FDR himself would envy.
WILLIAMS: And rumor they will find impossible to ignore. We appreciate it all.
Coming up, the truth about hydroxychloroquine as we know it. Tonight we`ll talk to someone actually on the front lines searching for a coronavirus treatment.
And later, breaking news tonight, it`s about more trouble potentially for the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It`s an NBC News investigation into what else investigators are looking into as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way on a Tuesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Hydroxychloroquine is used by thousands and thousands of frontline workers so that hopefully they don`t catch this horrible disease or whatever you want to call it. Plus it doesn`t hurt people. It`s been out on the market for 60 or 65 years for malaria, lupus, and other things. I think it gives you an additional level of safety. Many frontline workers won`t go there unless they have the hydroxy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Contrary to the President`s claims, a spokesperson for the American Medical Association tells NBC News it does not know of any tracking of the drug`s usage among health care workers.
For more on this general topic, we want to welcome to the broadcast Dr. Thomas McGinn. He`s Deputy Physician in Chief for Northwell Health in New York. Most importantly, he`s the author of the largest U.S. study of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, chairs the medical department out at Hofstra University. His expertise notably is in evidence-based medicine ensuring the best available facts guide patient treatment.
Let`s talk about this patient, Doctor, by way of thanking you for coming on tonight. Are you aware of these thousands of frontline workers taking prophylactically this medication?
DR. THOMAS MCGINN, NORTHWELL HEALTH DEPARTMENT PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF: Yeah. Thanks, Brian. I`m not aware of that at all. Being a frontline provider myself and having worked in many COVID units, I`ve not seen or heard of that fact. Could be true. I haven`t heard of it.
WILLIAMS: What patients in what social strata, do you think, are getting it? Patients under a doctor`s care who may be symptomatic. Is there a percentage? Is there a socioeconomic marker for who is getting this thus far? This is before the President promoted it to a mass audience.
MCGINN: Brian, we have no data to support who`s taking this drug right now in any sort of fashion of that extent. The data -- the science on this medication, from the very beginning the French trial that was first done probably should not have been published, it was so poorly designed. But it was the only evidence we had at that time. And it became sort of the pressure as this crisis took place that we had to get something out. And I think that`s how it entered into becoming kind of baseline care. When the second trial came out, which showed no benefit and a possible harm, we at Northwell pulled it off and did not make it part of our day-to-day care for our inpatients with COVID.
WILLIAMS: Well, let`s get closer to your life`s work. Is there a treatment in your experience with this disease -- and I know it`s early yet, that you have found to be promising?
MCGINN: You know, Brian, we`re studying -- the key thing I want to emphasize in this, and we`re going to be running into this as we move forward in this crisis because we`re going to be in this for a while. Hopefully a vaccine will be helpful. We need to do science. We need to study things. We get very excited. We want to try something. We want to help our patients. But we need to really use these medications in scientific trials.
We do have trials using hydroxychloroquine right now, and we`re studying those. The only drug that so far looks good for acute patients has been the antiviral therapy remdesivir. But the benefits were minimal, just a reduction in time in the hospital. There was some hint that it might reduce mortality. We`re involved in many trials with famotidine, convalescent plasma, but those studies are ongoing, and we don`t have those results yet.
WILLIAMS: What about this South Korea study that suggests if you`re post- recovery and you test positive for coronavirus, you do not have the ability to give it to others? Is there hope or promise buried in there?
MCGINN: You know, this confirms what we all believe, that when you get through this episode with the coronavirus and you`re doing well, you`re weeks out, you may test positive, but you`re probably carrying what we could call like a dead virus. And if we put that in a culture and try to grow it, it won`t grow, which means it`s not infectious. So that confirms what we think to be true, and I think that`s a good sign because we really would like to say, well, you`ve had the infection. You`re a few weeks out now. You`re perfectly fine, and we`re not worried. Of course everyone has to practice social distancing and wear a mask even if they`ve had this virus because we really don`t completely understand immunity from this. And that`s why we`re checking serologies and following people over time to see, are you immune after you`ve been infected?
WILLIAMS: And back to where we started, and I only ask one more question because it is at the heart of the national conversation right now. As part of his justification for taking this hydroxychloroquine, the President said today he`s around a lot of people. We`ve never had a President promote a medication from the White House. We had FDR start the March of Dimes for childhood polio. Absolutely different. This President has promoted the Abbott test by brand name and now this medication. For those who think this gives them perhaps some invisible shield, one final warning from you, please, to the people watching.
MCGINN: So there`s no evidence that this medication is protective. We`re studying it. Right now if people need to practice social distancing. They need to wear the masks. They need to stand six feet apart, and we need to start building an infrastructure that can do case finding and tracing. In other words, we want -- the real important things going forward that we need to do is work together, city, state, state to state, so we can coordinate. If somebody is positive, we can find out who their contacts were, and we can track them down. That`s where the hard work in the -- if we`re going to open this economy, the best way to open this economy is set up a program that can track cases and monitor them so that we don`t get a spread again. That`s where the work is right now.
WILLIAMS: Doctor, thanks very much for taking our questions and for your expertise and your candor. We greatly appreciate it. Dr. Thomas McGinn, our guest on this topic tonight.
Coming up for us, as we mentioned, exclusive reporting on the elaborate dinners hosted by Secretary of State Pompeo, paid for apparently with taxpayer funds. One of the reporters who broke this story a few minutes ago is with us when we come back.
WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, we have a breaking news story tonight. It`s about fresh scrutiny surrounding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to an exclusive NBC News report that broke just before we came on the air here tonight, Pompeo and his wife have been holding private after-hours dinners on government property.
And we quote from the story. State Department officials involved in the dinners said they`d raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo`s political ambitions complete with extensive contact information that gets sent back to Susan Pompeo`s personal email address.
Here with us to talk about it, one of the reporters who broke the story, NBC News National Political Reporter Josh Lederman. So Josh, tell us about your reporting. Tell us about the dinners, and because we`re all free to have dinner in a free society, the question becomes about who picks up the check. Also some of the bold-face type dinner guests you`ve learned about.
JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. Well, you`ll remember from your days as a White House correspondent, Brian, covering state dinners at the White House where usually a foreign head of state is honored.
These Madison Dinners that were being held at the state department were kind of like a state dinner with all of the pomp and circumstance, a harpist brought in, photographers taking photos in front of the fire, except the guest of honor seemed to be Secretary Pompeo himself.
At all two dozen of these dinners that have happened so far before Coronavirus shut them down, a lot of pomp and circumstance, a lot of guest who had more political ties than they did any ties to diplomacy. And the concern here, Brian, obviously being it is you, the American taxpayer, footing the bill for these dinners.
We know from speaking to State Department officials for this story that they were concerned that those who were assigned to put these dinners together were essentially building a rolodex that Mike Pompeo could use for a future political run because all of the detailed names, contact information, personal assistant cell phones were all in this database for invitees for this dinner, then sent back to Mrs. Pompeo`s personal Gmail address. That`s raising concerns. We`re hearing tonight from congressional committees.
But all of this taking place, Brian, as Mike Pompeo is under increasing scrutiny as this Inspector General is removed. We are now also reporting that among the issues the Inspector General was looking into was the misuse potentially of a political appointee to do personal tasks.
As of tonight, NBC News is now able to report that political appointee is an official named Tony Porter, who was actually working directly on these dinners. But we`ve reached out to the State Department, Brian, and they are defending these Madison Dinners that Pompeo has been holding, saying they are a legitimate diplomatic purpose and saying that once coronavirus is over, the secretary plans to continue them. Brian?
WILLIAMS: Quick question, Josh, and then I have to let you go. Number one, did you say 24 dinners? And, number two, can you give us an idea of the prominent types on the guest lists?
LEDERMAN: Yes, it was about two dozen dinners that had happened when coronavirus stopped social gatherings. We also reviewed internal State Department calendars that showed that more dinners had been on the books through October of this year.
And as far as those special guests, we`re talking about major business leaders like the head of Raytheon, the head of Chick-fil-A, which isn`t really a company known to do a lot of diplomacy work, as well as major Republican donors who have been influential in the past and could potentially be useful for the secretary to have connections with in the future.
WILLIAMS: For our viewers who may not know Mr. Pompeo`s future political hopes, it is rumored that a Senate seat from Kansas might be on the list. Josh Lederman, nice work. Everyone can find the story on the web. We appreciate you making time to come on here after breaking it.
Coming up for us, a new book takes a closer look at Trump`s contentious relationship with the very few other members of what we like to call the most exclusive club in the world when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In this job, no decision that reaches your desk is easy. No choice you make is without costs. No matter how hard you try, you`re not going to make everybody happy. I think that`s something President Bush and I both learned pretty quickly. And that`s why from time to time those of us who have had the privilege to hold this office find ourselves turning to the only people on earth who know the feeling. We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was a gracious 44 introducing a gracious 43 back in 2012, doing what presidents do, at least until now. Our own Carol Lee reports the traditional portrait unveiling ceremony will not take place this time around between Trump and Obama and that Trump is unconcerned with shunning yet another presidential and political custom.
Our next guest happens to be the author of a new book about the current president`s rocky relationships with his predecessors specifically. Her latest work is called "Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump." The journalist and author Kate Andersen Brower writes in it, quote, Trump is proud of his ostracism from the presidents club and his contempt for his predecessors is obvious. The scorched-earth path he`s chosen has made it impossible to maintain any friendships or even civility with the men who once occupied the Oval Office.
We are pleased to welcome back to this broadcast tonight the book`s author, Kate Andersen Brower. And, Kate, I am a fan of listening to the recorded phone calls of both JFK, what`s available, and LBJ. And on them, of note, you can hear them talking to former presidents because JFK was in the Navy when Ike was supreme allied commander, he calls Eisenhower "general" as a show of respect instead of calling him Mr. President even though there was no love lost between the two guys. Hearing LBJ call Herbert Hoover on his birthday, call and talk to Harry Truman.
These are guys who worked so hard against each other politically in so many cases, yet it`s nothing short of affectionate. Why the antipathy, why the anger from this president who has now publicly stated he has nothing to learn from this club of four? It was five until the death of 41.
KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "TEAM OF FIVE": Times have changed, haven`t they? Very drastically. As you say, JFK called all three of his living predecessors. FDR had passed away by that time, during the Cuban missile crisis asking for their help. And during this enormous pandemic that we are dealing with here and the devastating consequences of it every day, you would think that President Trump would reach out to his predecessors, and he has not.
And I know from talking to people who are very close to them that Bush 43, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton would love a phone call, and they would love to be involved and help in any way they can as they did after the tsunami in Asia, after Hurricane Katrina.
Now would be the moment to avail yourself to their -- what they`ve learned in office. But Trump is a disruptor, and I interviewed him in the Oval Office and I asked him point blank, you`re sitting behind the resolute desk, the storied desk that every president since JFK, you know, has sat at, and do you feel empathy for these men who sat in this room before you and faced these decisions like 9/11 and the War in Iraq, and he just looked at me and said absolutely not.
So now we`re in a situation where President Obama has really a virtual war room set up in his post-presidential offices trying to figure out when to respond to President Trump and when to hold back. And it`s just a new era in the presidents club because of this animosity.
WILLIAMS: And I would argue it has had maybe the intended chilling effect. I think if Clinton and 43 showed up as part of a PSA during the pandemic, certainly if they did so with Obama, it might be considered, you know, to be an aggressive move by this current crowd. What`s your current reporting on President Obama since we can go ahead and declare the death of any relationship between those two men?
BROWER: Well, I think the fact that his vice president, former vice president, Joe Biden is running and Obama clearly wants Biden to win, the gloves are off. I think that, you know, President Obama said after Trump was elected that he would not do anything -- he would not put out public statements. He would not be involved in that way unless our core values were at stake.
And so I think what we saw over the weekend when he talked about the people in charge not really knowing what they were doing, that`s a sign that he thinks this is the moment where it`s time to speak up.
And, you know, in my reporting for the book, I learned that there have been certain times over the past 3 1/2 years when he was equally upset, the wiretapping allegation for instance that President Trump made infuriated President Obama because it was unprecedented to accuse the sitting president of wiretapping your campaign offices. And in fact Obama went and looked at the statement his office was putting out and said, I think we need something stronger than this. This is crazy.
So the fact that Trump is a disruptor, the fact that he doesn`t care whether he`s in the presidents club, I think is disturbing and it`s bad for our democracy. And when I was walking out of the Oval Office during our interview, he said, say hi to President Bush for me in a voice that was laden with sarcasm. You know, there is just no love lost between Trump and even his most recent Republican predecessor.
WILLIAMS: And in fitting with your reporting and writing, current presidents in a softer, gentler time used to regard former presidents as an asset to be able to get their advice and counsel as you point out. No more. Kate Andersen Brower, our guest tonight. Best of luck with the book. Look forward to reading it. Thank you very much for coming on.
Coming up, we`ll show you the issue that security types hope we are guarding against even during a pandemic, especially during a pandemic.
WILLIAMS: From us here in our temporary field headquarters to you in your temporary headquarters, wherever you are watching this tonight, life sure has been upended in this pandemic. That`s what pandemics do, and this is what people do when confronted by one. Until, that is, warm weather and the campaign to reopen perhaps get the best of them.
But here`s another aspect to this as well. It`s revealing how difficult it will be to protect people from any different type of biological threat, and hostile actors out there may be paying close attention right about now. We get our report tonight from London and NBC News correspondent Willem Marx.
WILLEM MARX, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hospitals and health care systems in crisis, a death count still rising, runaway employment, and a cratering economy. This pandemic`s impact already devastating. Now national security and public health officials from three different administrations on both sides of the Atlantic tell NBC News they`re concerned this vulnerabilities exposed during this outbreak show the U.S. like its allies is not ready for the intentional use of biological weapons by hostile individuals, groups, or nations.
ASHA GEORGE, EXECUTIVE DIR., BIPARTISAN COMMISSION ON BIODEFENSE: If they`re looking for our vulnerabilities and they`re looking to attack, now would be the time, or soon would be the time because we`re already drawing down in those resources that we would use to respond.
MARX: Current and former biodefense officials point to depleted stockpiles of protective equipment and testing kits, slow vaccine development, outdated surveillance systems, and major safety concerns about the growing number of the most dangerous biological research facilities with more than 50 now known to exist worldwide.
(on camera): With COVID-19 a neon advertisement for potential terrorists, here in Britain a specialized police unit inside MI-5, the country`s domestic intelligence service, is responsible for the laboratories that house the most hazard ours pathogens.
But the former director tells me he worries a dedicated insider would know how to steal and release harmful biological agents.
(voice-over): And as new technologies like gene editing grow increasing afford d fordable and available, a virus weaponized in a homemade lab becomes ever more achievable.
ALEXANDER GARZA, FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER AT DHS 2009-2013: It should give us pause that if this could happen in nature with, you know, a mutation of an RNA virus, it will become possible to genetically modify a virus to make it more virulent and use it as a potential weapon.
MARX: As threats transform nations like the U.S. must adapt too. The current administration had a biodefense strategy on paper, but officials say defending against future pathogens, natural, manmade, accidental or intentional will require more targeted funding, better technology, and improved coordination inside government. Willem Marx, NBC News, London.
WILLIAMS: Certainly gets your attention, doesn`t it?
Coming up, saying farewell to a national treasure who got to see the best years of our lives.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, Annie Glenn died today of COVID- 19 in fact at the age of 100. Her life spanned much of the great American century, and she had a front-row seat the last time we did something truly great as a nation and were the envy of the world.
She was born Annie Margaret Castor in Ohio in 1920, six months before women had the right to vote. As a little girl, she met a little boy named John Glenn. More on him later. She was a star athlete and musician who turned down a scholarship to Juilliard, and the only thing that ever got in her way was her way of saying things, things.
Like her own father, she was one of the millions of Americans with a stutter. Hers was so severe, there was a time her parents wondered if she could ever live independently.
In her later years, therapies and treatments for stuttering became part of her life`s work for Americans. So did this guy. She married John Glenn at the height of World War II. That meant military life for her. As her husband, the hotshot pilot, went off to war, then did so again in Korea, earning 18 air medals along the way. And then of course, the big prize, John Glenn selected as one of the Mercury Seven.
For Annie Glenn, that meant something she never sought, attention for herself, membership in The Astronauts Wives Club as it was called, the media pressure, the pressure to be perfect. It made overnight celebrities of all of them. The movie "The Right Stuff" showed us at least a portrayal of the Glenns` at home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s so much work to do, anyway. More tests, training, studying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: W-w-what about after?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After hours, I run a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: For the record, the Glenns never liked that movie. The rest of Annie Glenn`s story matches the history we saw pretty much. The White House ticker tape parade, her husband`s four terms in the U.S. Senate, a presidential run, and for good measure one last trip into space.
All the while Annie Glenn was raising two kids and serving people at the NIH on boards and charities and as adjunct professor of speech pathology after becoming an effective communicator herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNIE GLENN, AMERICAN ADVOCATE: I told everybody i have given him to our country for 55 years, and I was ready to take him back as mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It`s true Annie Glenn was married to a national treasure, and so was her husband John. John and Annie Glenn were married for 73 years and 8 months. He was buried on their wedding anniversary back in 2016.
While Annie Glenn never orbited the earth, she made sure that the first man who did remained down to earth. She changed a lot of lives in the process during her own life. Again Annie Glenn gone at 100 years of age.
That`s our broadcast on a Tuesday night. Thank you so much for being here with us. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night from our temporary field headquarters.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END