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Dr. Birx TRANSCRIPT: 5/22/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Jon Meacham, Irwin Redlener, Anne Rimoin, James Carville

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: The President denounced it as if it wasn`t true and denounced her for having written it and Christi Grimm was sure enough soon pushed out of that supposedly independent job at HHS.

But here`s the thing, they can`t just disappear these people. On Tuesday, the first day back from the long weekend Christi Grimm is going to testify live in public session at the House Oversight Committee, which is going to be absolutely worth seeing, worth looking forward to.

That`s going to do it for us tonight and since we`re just calling it normal now for me to be on for an hour and a half, now I will also play it off as normal that after me tonight, it`s time for the 11th hour with Brian Williams. Sure why not?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening as Rachel works late and we come on the early, while we will still air a full live broadcast as the top of the hour just like every night, let`s just say for the record, this was day 1219 of the Trump administration.

165 days to go until our presidential election. As we head into this Memorial Day weekend, all 50 states are at least partially reopening as we approach as a nation, a grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths and as we are heading into a holiday weekend, that is supposed to include time for reflection about all those we are indebted to for the lines we enjoy as a society.

Those we are missing this time of year. We thought we would ask two of our smarter friends to talk about where we are right now. Presidential historian, Pulitzer Prize winning biographer John Meacham is with us tonight. He is the host of a very thoughtful new podcast called `Hope through History.`

It`s a 5-part audio documentary series, exploring other trying times in American history. How the nation dealt with those crises and presidential historian and biographer Michael Beschloss is back with us tonight. Two men with the best words and an extensive cannon of works between them.

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us tonight. Hopefully, you`ll have better luck talking than your humble host. Michael Beschloss, as we head into a Memorial Day weekend in America, where do you put your country right about now? Who are we and where are we?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, NBC NEWS: We are a country that`s been through all sorts of calamities and difficulties and challenges all the way from Valley Forge to the first year of the civil war to depressions and natural disasters but what we usually have is leadership of the country is confident in them and I think what people are going to have to answer is this question about Donald Trump and his leadership through this in the last four or five months.

Did he do everything he could to orchestrate the full power of the federal government to make sure that the casualties of this terrible COVID food crisis were minimized? Did he do his best to unite the country and did he make sure that when he called on the country to make sacrifices or do things to protect themselves, for citizens to do things to protect themselves, did he do so in a way that people believed him and followed him?

I think the answer to a lot of that is mixed at best and that`s something that we haven`t had for most of history.

WILLIAMS: And Jon Meacham, the usual caveat out about pulling, it is merely a snapshot in time but having established that. The polls have Trump under water by 20 percentage points to Biden, when asked which man cares the most about the average American. Notable because Donald Trump ran in part for as he put it, the forgotten American.

We`re lowering flags this weekend before Monday of course, for the victims of the coronavirus. Is that going to have to suffice for an expression of national empathy and or sympathy?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENT HISTORIAN: Well, you know one of the things and Michael and I talked about this at the very beginning of the Trump ear. You know question was could we sort of tune out for a while? Could the presidency be seen as not so central to our lives and would the people, the Congress, the press, could they fill the republican, lower case r space and the answer is no.

You can`t outsource presidential leadership and John Adams said in 1790 that the first character the President would be the object of all eyes, would be the object of all attention and you can`t get away from that. The crisis itself, these particular prices is exactly why we have a presidency. It is the place to be as President Kennedy, said the vital center of action and Michael`s being predictably gentlemanly and polite by saying mixed at best.

I think it`s - it`s almost a universal negative vote.

BESCHLOSS: Trying to be nice Jon.

MEACHAM: I know it and it`s - we`re - and Brian and I need to take a lesson from you but we struggle. So I think that didn`t surprise me at all, I guess the 41 - I guess what surprises me is I want to meet that 41 percent who think that President Trump is more empathetic to their concerns than Vice President Biden.

A last point is what`s on the ballot in November really is a question of hope versus fear. A question of is our character which is always going to be slightly regressive, we`re always going to miss the mark, we`re always going to be sinful, we`re always going to be falling short.

But by and large do we want to be a country that leads with hope and leads with opening our arms as opposed to wagging our fist at other people. That`s what this election`s about in many ways.

WILLIAMS: Michael, at this time when we are off balance because we have lost so many souls in this thus far, remind us what are the examples you look to, what does consolation look like starting with the executive of the president? Who have the consolers, the best at it been?

BESCHLOSS: Well, in modern times, we look to a President to do that. Franklin Roosevelt on the day of D-day as John Doe spoke a prayer over the radio that he had written himself. Lyndon Johnson as you and I have talked about Brian, you know was wonderful at going to the side of a hurricane and consoling the victims and making sure they had the sense that they were going to be taken care of.

Especially in modern times, that`s what we depend on a President for. In 1840, it wasn`t necessary because people didn`t know what a President looked like or sounded like. They were not looking to him for those emotional things. Nowadays they do and since 1932, when there is a disaster like the great depression or World War or a pandemic such as what we`re suffering through right now, we naturally say let`s depend on the President to have a coherent plan, explain it to us and stick to it.

Donald Trump has done none of that over the last couple of months.

WILLIAMS: Jon, I was particularly interested in the episode of your podcast that dealt with the polio epidemic. I found it particularly gripping and a great review of history. What did you find yourself relearning by researching and telling the story all over again?

MEACHAM: Science matters. Science - science - science. Facts matter. I`ve got John Adams on the brain for some reason tonight. Facts are stubborn things as John Adams said. Salk and Sabin, they drove their processes in a search for a vaccine that would alleviate an enveloping national gloom that was not simply emotional but physical and ambient.

And they did it by being by pure research and unfortunately right now and Michael posted a picture of this the other day. You have President Eisenhower in a very rare moment. I can only think of two moments Michael, where I cried publicly. One was the polio vaccine and the other was 1964, when he was at D-day with Cronkite. I think that -

BESCHLOSS: And also 52 when he was talking to a group of D-day survivors but that really brought it out.

MEACHAM: Right, so you have you have that remarkable moment and - and then you - you have this - today our problem is as it seems to me is you have a President who is not - at least staying out of the way of science. He`s actively interfering with it because of political and economic short-term indicators.

When everything, every person who knows what they`re talking about tells us is we have to be so careful about how we reopen and the President, who as our colleague Joe Scarborough likes to say, he`s a day trader so he wants to open up now to make today better for him and then he figures, he`ll clean it up later.

WILLIAMS: Michael indeed as -

BESCHLOSS: And also -

WILLIAMS: Sure, go ahead, go ahead.

BESCHLOSS: I was just going to say and also running for re-election and governing his responses to this crisis, I think a lot of people think that he does care are put off by that. Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, Hitler was on the March, the Japanese were on the March. Roosevelt, if he were going to be helping his re-election would have said I`m going to an isolationist because most Americans don`t want to get involved in a war and lose you know members of their family.

Instead he said we`ve got to rearm and we also have to have a draft and he did that just a few days before he ran for re-election. It was not helpful to him but he knew that that`s what the presidency is.

WILLIAMS: I was about to compliment you as another dedicated follower of yours on social media, I was a, stunned to remember that picture of Eisenhower crying, not the guy we tend to think about it and memorialize as Supreme Allied Commander and President. This was your posting today.

The holiday that used to be called Declaration Day Memorial, Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery during the influenza pandemic. This is May 1919. Michael, talk about all of the ways we were so very different.

BESCHLOSS: Well, look at that picture. There was no social distancing that was at least a year into the pandemic and you also had a President who was a very cold hearted and selfish person which was Woodrow Wilson who wanted to run the war for most of his, the time of the previous year, wanted to stay popular, didn`t want people to be upset by the idea that there was a pandemic and so never spoke in public about the fact that 670,000 plus Americans were dying of this influenza.

That`s the opposite of what you want from the President. You want to President with a heart so that even if he makes mistakes, people will say it`s not because he`s indifferent, it`s because he`s human.

WILLIAMS: And Jon Meacham, let`s talk about grievance. Has grievance ever marked a presidency as much as grievance marks this presidency?

MEACHAM: You know, I`ll offer this to be fact-checked by both of you. I didn`t think we would ever see a level of self-pity and rage more than what we heard on the Nixon tapes and -

BESCHLOSS: Right. That used to be the gold standard.

MEACHAM: Donald Trump made Richard Nixon look like a family therapist. I mean it`s just, it`s - it`s a whole different the Mr. Rogers. You know, it`s just a whole different level and yes and so much of it is for us all to see.

You know I think that - that to me in many ways, is the - there are two essential points about Trump. One is confidence which is mediocre and at best and the other is because he is unwilling as Michael was just saying, to admit that he made - he`s made a mistake because he`s unwilling to climb out of a superlative, self-referential bubble on testing is the thing that comes to mind.

You know whenever testing comes up, well we have more in the world which Brian as you pointed out, is not true so it`s not true and it doesn`t matter because it`s not a race in that sense, it`s about the health and - and security of the nation and - but he falls back on this because he seems to be congenitally incapable of acknowledging that anything could be done better, much less that a mistake was made.

And I think we`re going to study this presidency forever with a particular focus on what you just raised. Why is it - why was it that he was not only unable or unwilling to learn on the job but that he was unable to admit in the face of something that is threatening his re-election, right?

So let`s just not say it`s the best thing, it`s the right thing to do. We`ll leave that aside. His re-election is dependent on his management of this crisis. He has not managed this crisis well because he`s unable to do what everyone since the enlightenment has done, which is respond to data in a rational as opposed to a reflexive way.

WILLIAMS: You leave us with a lot to think about gentlemen. Our friends John Meacham and Michael Beschloss, we wish you both a good holiday weekend, a safe holiday weekend with your families. Thank you both and coming up for the remainder of this hour, prior to the start of a new live 11th hour at the top of the hour, we`ll talk to the mayor of a beach town about what he expects this holiday weekend to look like doing during a pandemic.



DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: As you go out this weekend, understand you can go out, you can be outside, you can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls. You can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart but remember that that is your space and that`s the space that you need to protect and ensure that you`re social distant for others.


WILLIAMS: Despite the insistence there of Dr. Birx there is concerned over how well people will be able to properly distance themselves on beaches for example, as more Americans venture out for the holiday, while hoping not to reverse the progress we have all made over these dark weeks as a country.

Earlier today, Delaware`s beaches officially re opened for exercising, sunbathing, swimming. To talk more about the preparations there and a prediction on this coming weekend, we are joined tonight by the Mayor of Rehoboth beach Paul Kuhns. Mayor, thank you very much for being with us.

What`s it like when you run a beach town, you can`t control where people are coming from to visit you, where they`re headed back to or God forbid, what they`re going to leave behind when they leave?

MAYOR PAUL KUHNS, REHOBOTH BEACH DELAWARE: Well, it`s not an easy situation by any means. We`re expecting much less crowd this - this Memorial Day weekend than we`ve had in the past. Typically, at this time of the year it`s one of the busiest weekends of the summer. It`s the opening of the summer. However with the restrictions that have been put into place, the social distancing, I believe that we`ll have much lower amounts of crowds here on Rehoboth and I think it`ll be a manageable situation.

We opened up the beaches last weekend. They`ll open up more for swimming and sunbathing this weekend as you mentioned and I think more people will be here this weekend, although the weather isn`t that - the forecast isn`t that great. So I think it`ll be OK but nothing like it normally is.

WILLIAMS: Mayor, on a usual Memorial Day weekend if you and I walked the main drag, what`s the percentage of out of state license plates you see on a big weekend in Rehoboth and how do you think that will defer this weekend by percentage?

KUHNS: Well, I would say at least 50 percent of the license plates are from out of Delaware on a normal weekend. Many of our property owners here in Rehoboth as well as along the coastal communities are from other states and they typically will come down on the Memorial Day weekend but we`ll have a lot of visitors coming down, staying in hotels, rental homes.

And I would say this - this weekend, it`ll be a lot more Delaware plates and a lot fewer out of state plates because many of the restrictions that have been put in place by the governor were to allow Delawareans to take advantage of the beaches and not so much out of state.

WILLIAMS: As you walk around town prior to whatever influx you`re going to get and I`m sorry about the weather, as a Jersey Shore person, we`re all upset that it`s getting off to a rainy and grey start this week. What`s the percentage of mask wearing? Are you satisfied with where they are?

KUHNS: Last weekend, it was a little bit disappointing for the first weekend that we had to require masks or recommend masks. I was out on the boardwalk today even though it was raining a little bit and I was very impressed by the number of people that were wearing masks today on the boardwalk as well as walking around on Rehoboth Avenue.

So my feeling is with the new recommendations as requirements that the governor has put into place for the beach and the boardwalk as well as social distancing along Rehoboth Avenue, I think more people will be wearing the masks, a much larger crowd than we had last weekend.

WILLIAMS: Mayor of a great place, Rehoboth beach, it`s part of the summer tradition of so - so many east coast families, Paul Kuhns, thank you very much. We wish you a healthy and safe Memorial Day holiday weekend and let`s shift our focus now to the Midwest and this will be a strange Memorial Day weekend in Indiana.

Think about it. The 500 has now been pushed to August 23 but elsewhere in the state, they`re moving to Phase 3 of their reopening plan. NBC news correspondent Cal Perry is on the road for us. Tonight finds him in Plymouth Indiana at the Tri-way drive-in theatre. Cal, what`s it like.

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we`re talking about that 5 phase plan. This is Phase 3 as you mentioned, really the recreational phase. Baseball fields, basketball court, R.V. parks, campsites, movie theaters at a 50 percent capacity. The outdoor drive-in theaters have been up and running for about a week.

This is all part of the governor`s plan to get back on track. All of the counties except for 3 went into Phase 3 today but to give you an idea of how devastating this COVID outbreak has been on Indiana, the state has lost 100,000 hospitality jobs. That`s a state with only 6 million people, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And what - what data are they going on? You say it`s Stage 3 out of 5. Case work, case numbers, numbers of deaths, what are they using to guide their decisions?

PERRY: Infection rate`s number one. Number of deaths is there but really what we`re talking about a hospital capacities and those ICUs. A state like Indiana, again only a population of 6 million people. There`s not that capacity that you have in some of these other metropolises.

The governor`s giving great credit to people wearing these face coverings when they`re around other people, saying that`s what`s possible to get to a phase 3. He`s put phase 4 on June 12 but again, he`s saying only if people where these face coverings, wash their hands and a lot of these openings come with all the caveats about social distancing you know cleaning the spaces more often and some of these places just things staying close like at movie theaters, the bathrooms remaining closed.

The same thing going at campsites and RV sites as well, Brain.

WILLIAMS: Cal, in your travels, are you finding what some folks have lamented on this broadcast that as you were just discussing mask wearing has devolved like everything else in our society becoming increasingly a kind of blue state versus red state view.

PERRY: Yes, I`m finding exactly that and take this drive-in theatre for example. We can show you some video of it when we got here today.

People were milling about, that`s kind of I guess what you do at these things as the sun goes down and the owner of the drive-in theatre David has of course putting restrictions in place that when you`re in there, you have to have a face covering and some people just - just weren`t wearing them.

In order to go to the concession stands, you have to have a face covering and he`s told us they said they threatened to kick some people out now. This drive-in theatre of course is bucking the trend a little bit. They`re actually preparing for more business this summer. Take a listen to something he said.


DAVID KINNEY, OWNER, TRI-WAY DRIVE-IN THEATRE: You never expected anything like this to happen but hopefully it`s going to be a very profitable summer for us, not only are we planning to show movies, we`ve got things lined up for concerts, you know, whether they be live or on screen.

We have comedy acts that are planning on coming in here so that we can have a wide variety of entertainment over the summer.


PERRY: You know, that red state-blue state thing, we saw that in Pontiac Michigan at the GM plant where the workers were having this debate about whether or not to wear it. Here in Indiana at places like this drive-in theatre, they`re saying if you don`t do it, you`re not going to be able to take part in that recreational activity.

As somebody who comes from a metropolis and grow up near what I just want to say to our viewers, if you do come to drive-in theatre, don`t park facing the screen, that`s amateur stuff. You want to back your car open the back and watch it that way.

Brian, if you have a pick-up truck, that`s clearly the way to go here in Indiana.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. And by the way, drive-ins were supposed to be among the businesses that were going to do OK during a pandemic. It sounds like he is well on his way to figuring it out as you have the science of drive- ins Cal Perry, our thanks for that live report tonight from Indiana.

Much more ahead for us tonight. Up next, what`s behind the President`s push to reopen places of worship. Three veteran journalists join us to break it all down when the 11th Hour actually comes on the air, at the top of the hour. We`ll see you them.


WILLIAMS: Good evening, and as we come on the air for this Friday night`s The 11th Hour, a reminder, today was day 1,219 of the Trump administration, leaving 165 days to go until our Presidential Election.

And this President`s campaign toward the so-called reopening of our country, even in the face of climbing case rates in almost half of our states, faces its single biggest challenge yet this weekend. That`s because millions of us are determined to do something that feels vaguely like the traditional start of the summer season.

What happens this weekend and really starting now will be seen inextricably through the lens of the President`s messaging about reopening, which we heard again today, this time with an emphasis on November.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to win the White House. We`re going to do great with our economy. We`re going to see -- you already see it starting to happen. We`re trying to get some governors. They`re not opening up, but they`ll be opening up pretty quickly.


WILLIAMS: The White House had hoped we would be further along in the effort to combat the virus and move on. You may recall this moment, the prediction the Vice President made to Geraldo.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think by Memorial Day weekend, we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.


WILLIAMS: It is not behind us. That has not happened with over 1.6 million confirmed cases, again, that we know of in the U.S. and the death toll right now at 96,368.

The New York Times reporting tonight Trump has started questioning the death toll numbers in meetings with senior health officials. "Suggesting the numbers, which have hobbled his approval ratings and harmed his re- election prospects, are inflated." They go on, "There is a suspicion that data compiled by state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include people who have died with the coronavirus but of other conditions." We should also note here others have expressed the opposite view, that we have undercounted the deaths caused by the coronavirus.

Also The Washington Post reporting this alarming news that the virus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, especially in the South and Midwest. "Researchers at imperial College London created a model that incorporates cellphone data showing that people sharply reduced their movements after stay-at-home orders were broadly imposed in March. The model, which has not been peer reviewed, shows that in the majority of states, a second wave looms if people abandon efforts to mitigate the viral spread."

The latest ABC News/Ipsos survey indeed shows 39 percent of Americans approve of Trump`s handling of the coronavirus. That`s the lowest percentage for the President since they started polling this back in March.

In today`s briefing room appearance, Trump pressured states to allow places of worship to open immediately even though a lot of public health officials continue to warn against group gatherings.


TRUMP: I`m identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogue and mosques as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It`s not right. So I`m correcting this injustice

I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now. If there`s any question, they`re going to have to call me, but they`re not going to be successful in that call. The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend. If they don`t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.


WILLIAMS: Widely a greedy, he has no legal power to override the governors. Shortly after that, the CDC quietly released its recommendations for religious gatherings. Then Trump`s Press Secretary was asked about his authority to demand that houses of worship reopen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President said he`s going to override the governors. Under what authority would he do that?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think you`re posing a hypothetical, and I think we can all hope that we see governors --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he would override the governors.

MCENANY: You`re posing a hypothetical, though. You`re assuming that the governors are going to keep churches shut down and keep mosques shut down, and keep synagogue shut down. It`s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worships stay closed. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President said that he has a --

JEFF MASON, REUTERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Clearly, I object to that. I mean, I go to church. I`m dying to go back to church. The question that we`re asking you and would like to have ask the President and Br. Birx is, is it safe?


WILLIAMS: The Washington Post brings us the facts here, reminding us, "Commanding places of worship across the country to open is not something Trump can do. When to open public venues of all types is up to the governor of each individual state."

However, just last month Trump`s Attorney General set up a flare about all this, signaling his concerns about limits state officials had put on worship services and other activities in order to contain the virus.


WILLIAM BARR, TRUMP`S ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have to be very careful to make sure this is -- you know, that the draconian measures that are being adopted are fully justified. We`ve seen situations even up until now where some jurisdictions have imposed special burdens on religion. We jawboned at the local governments at that point saying they really couldn`t do that. Whatever they were doing to churches, they had to do to everybody.


WILLIAMS: And indeed tonight our own network is reporting the Justice Department is backing a lawsuit challenging stay-at-home restrictions in Illinois and warned L.A. officials about the legality of long-term lockdown orders. That as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer extends Michigan`s stay- at-home order past its scheduled 28 March, now expiring June 12th, adding that theaters, gyms, casinos would remain closed.

Meanwhile, a new study of 96,000 seriously ill COVID-19 patients find that those who were treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous heart rhythms. As you know, the President has promoted the drug, and he did one better. He`s been taking it to ward off the coronavirus, a power the drug does not have. Dr. Birx was asked today about the study`s findings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you comment on the latest study on hydroxychloroquine? The President`s obviously said that he`s been taking it. What`s your recommendation?

BIRX: I think it`s one of our clearest studies. From are still control trials going on looking at in a hospital setting how these drugs do, and I think those are still pending.


WILLIAMS: Birx also noted the task force is keeping an eye on virus outbreaks in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Nebraska, Illinois, and Minnesota. We should also note the task force has been all but silent publicly. This is all happening as well as reported increases in other states, and it has heightened the focus on efforts to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Earlier today Dr. Fauci talked about the U.S. Development Project and whether a vaccine could be created before the end of the year.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Yes, I think it is conceivable if we don`t run into things that are, as I say, unanticipated setbacks, that we could have a vaccine that we could be beginning to deploy at the end of this calendar year, December 2020, or into January 2021.


WILLIAMS: On that note and here for our leadoff discussion on a Friday night, the eve of the holiday weekend, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times. Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor at Politico. And A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor and Columnist for RealClearPolitics.

Good evening and welcome to you all. Anita, I`d like to begin with you. Here we have again -- maybe you can explain this. Trump setting himself up against the governors. And what story have we been covering that increasingly people in the individual 50 states have driven up the polls and approvals of their governors who now loom much larger in their lives as health and safety have been paramount?

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What we`ve been seeing the last three months really is this back and forth between the President and the governors. And what his role has been has just depended on what has been advantageous for him.

Today he really wanted the governors to open the places of worship, so he was saying he could control them. But as you`ve seen many times before, he said, well, I`m going to leave it up to the governors. So he`s had this really back and forth relationship with them, but they have not changed. They say -- and they are correct by all accounts if you look at the law that they do have the control both to shut down their states and also to reopen their states, and they`re continuing on that.

Now, you have seen some Republican governors that have looked towards the President for some guidance. But overall they`re kind of doing what they want to be doing and what they think they need to do for their states. But you`re exactly right. We`ve seen this back and forth and we`ve seen a lot of governors come to the White House. The President`s inviting them over, having these nice conversations with them, praising them, and then they`re finding that the praise of him, this back and forth, is showing up in the Trump campaign`s ads. So when it`s good for him to be next to them, praising them, he is. And when it`s good for him to be telling them what to do, he is. The reality is the governors can reopen their states as they wish.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, since the President does not have the power or enforcement ability to override state governors to throw open the doors of houses of worship, since this is not Eisenhower sending federal troops to integrate schools, what is this about?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the things it`s about is that number you showed earlier, 39 percent of Americans approve of the President`s handling of the coronavirus. Well, among the groups that have soured at least a little bit on the President is his core constituency among evangelicals and other conservative religious voters who have, in fact, begun to question his leadership as well.

Now, he still has a lot of support in those communities. Those are communities that have been strongly for him in the past. But in the last few weeks, you`ve seen numbers begin to slip even there. Six points lower among self-described white protestants, evangelicals who associate with the Republican Party. Catholics two months ago supported -- approved of his handling of the coronavirus, now don`t approve of it.

And these are constituencies that are important to him if he`s going to win in the fall. So I think you see him running out in front of an issue that`s important to them. Basically planting a flag. He doesn`t have the legal authority to do anything about it, but he does have the bully pulpit, and what he`s trying to do is use that bully pulpit to stake a position in which he says I`m in favor of these churches and other places of worship and against the people who are trying to keep them closed.

WILLIAMS: A.B. Stoddard, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. There was a fear around about midweek that this White House was trying to paint the CDC somehow as the enemy of the American economy. They`re straight up and up front about painting the Democrats as the enemy and the enemy of a robust American economy. Will that work? Will that stick?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: I was so surprised to see after he blamed the media, he blamed Democratic governors, he blamed the Chinese eventually in May, that he would turn to an intelligence briefer from a meeting he had on January 23rd, to foist some blame on her and then also turn it onto the CDC. It`s pretty clever how long he`s able to make this list of people that he`s going to sic the blame on come November.

I think actually what Peter described in terms of telling his evangelical base and Catholic voters they have actually polling thresholds in the campaign where he needs to meet a certain level of support with both those groups.

If he just looks like he`s fighting for this issue and then it turns out that the governors loosen restrictions, open the churches too soon and they become hot spots like happened at churches in Arkansas, in Texas, California, and Georgia, that opened and had to close up again after they reopened because pastors have died. People are concerned about even with social distancing, the fact that singing could actually pass the virus around, and there was an outbreak in a church in Washington state in early March when they were taking precautions and knew about the virus and did not touch each other.

So this is one of those things where I don`t think he can lose. If there are outbreaks in churches, he can say the governors made their choice. I don`t know what`s going on with those CDC guidelines that we issued for the churches. Maybe they made a huge mistake. At the same time, he can voice support for this and live to see another day. That`s how he fights this battle. He just basically comes up with a different talking point every five days, sticks to it, moves on, recycles it seven weeks later, and this is what we can expect all summer and into the fall.

WILLIAMS: Anita Kumar, it`s all very scary stuff. In making your rounds on your beat, how much fear, genuine fear, is there about their chances in November in light of all this?

KUMAR: Well, it goes back and forth, but obviously if you`re looking at the polls, the polls are showing that the President is down. There is one glimmer of hope during this whole coronavirus for him politically, which is that he sees both an internal polling that the campaign has done and some public polling that`s been out there recently that the one thing that voters are saying that they trust him more on than Joe Biden is the economy by double digits in some of those polls. And so that`s why you`re seeing him push so hard to reopen everything.

He thinks if he runs on this campaign of, you know, I restored and rebuilt the economy once in 2017 when he came into office, and I can do it again, that`s really the goal for him. He thinks that there`s a chance there if he pushes that message. But that message has to go along with the country opening up. And so they feel like they`re pushing ahead on that. The campaign is working on that. His advisers have told him that is the way to go, and that`s why you`re seeing that, because there is starting to be fear now about what November might look like.

WILLIAMS: And, Peter Baker, who at the White House thinks it`s a good look to start rolling out doubt that the death toll is perhaps inflated?

BAKER: Well, I think that comes straight from the President. He has always distrusted the agencies that work for him. He has distrusted information that comes from the government that he oversees if it conflicts with his own preferences or his own world view or his own assumptions about things. We`ve seen that time and again for 3 1/2 years.

You know, just the other day when he was talking about this study on hydroxychloroquine involving, you know, patients from the V.A., he said, well, that study must have been done by Trump enemies. Why would he assume they`re Trump enemies? Because they produced information that was contrary to his preferred outcome. That`s his mind-set. His mind-set is to look for conspiracy, to sow doubt, sow suspicion, to say, look, maybe it`s not nearly as bad as they`re making it out to be. It`s the deep state once again that`s after me, whether it be the intelligence agencies or the FBI or the State Department or now even the CDC and the public health officials. And that works to a certain extent with a certain part of his political constituency. And as long as it kind of muddies the water a little bit, it gives him something to say to people.

But we`re going to hit a number this weekend, Memorial Day weekend of all weekends, likely to be 100,000 deaths, and it`s an extraordinary milestone, something that he himself had said we wouldn`t get to. He thought we would get to 50,000 at one point just a month or so ago. 100,000 is the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined. That`s a hard thing to get past even if the numbers are slightly off.

WILLIAMS: Indeed it is. And, A.B. Stoddard, as a purely political equation, what`s the real chance the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate is in doubt?

STODDARD: Oh, this is now a 50-50 toss-up. They are looking at potentially losing senators from North Carolina, Colorado, Maine, and Arizona. But Democrats have now expanded the map and Republicans are worried about two seats in Georgia, potentially Iowa, potentially Kansas. They`re spending a lot of money because suddenly Governor Bullock is ahead in some polls or tying with Senator Daines. So it`s really suddenly nine or ten seats and a real threat to their majority, which Trump continues to make far more difficult with each passing day, shoving new investigations on the Senate majority, talking about, you know, miracle cures, and Nancy Pelosi`s mental problems.

Every day they wake up, it`s another problem for them, another liability out in these swing states where they`re seeing polling that he`s really in peril in places, you know, like North Carolina, but also in places like Georgia, too close to Biden in Texas. They`re very, very worried, and they really have figured out that they cannot escape him. They can`t be independent him. They can`t put any distance, and so they are tying a scarf around their neck with Trump, and they`re hoping it works out well by November. But right now the feeling is really, really grim.

WILLIAMS: Wow, it`s a lot to think about. Thank you all for your reporting and for helping us do this on a Friday night as we say, on the eve of the holiday weekend. Peter Baker, Anita Kumar, A.B. Stoddard, our thanks.

Coming up for us, Dr. Birx, her unusual appearance in the briefing room today. We`ll talk about that.

And later, a veteran campaign adviser, a Pulitzer Prize recipient weighing in on Joe Biden`s comments and his subsequent walk back today, whether it will leave a mark, whether any of it measures up to the current President as The 11th Hour just getting under way on this Friday night.



BIRX: There`s a lot of healthy people out there with COVID that look healthy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regarding places of worship being essential and having them all reopen, what guidelines and encouragement do you have for pastors, rabbis, imams as they prepare to reopen?

BIRX: There`s a way for us to work together to have social distancing and safety for people so that we decrease the amount of exposure that anyone would have to an asymptomatic. And I say it that way because I know all of and all of Americans, if they didn`t feel well, they wouldn`t go to church that day.


WILLIAMS: In the same breath, Dr. Birx also warned that there are a lot of asymptomatic people that look healthy but are infected with the virus. As the CDC says now, upwards of 40 percent of transmission is occurring before people show any symptoms. It was an unusual appearance today by Dr. Birx, a withering flurry of words and graphics and some came away believing she`d been spun, pressured somehow into putting the best face on the progress in this pandemic.

For more, let`s bring in two experts, Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrics physician, Clinical Professor with the School of Public Health at Columbia University. Also happens to be Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness with an expertise in this kind of illness. And Dr. Anne Rimoin, a Professor of Epidemiology at UCLA, where she also runs the university`s Center for Global and Immigrant Health, specializing in emerging infectious diseases.

Dr. Redlener, starting with you, what did you make of Dr. Birx`s outing today?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Well, the -- which part are you talking about? The church attendance and all of that?

WILLIAMS: Yes, any of it.

REDLENER: Yes. So the whole thing was very unusual, and I think both Birx and Fauci seem to be to be slipping a little in terms of their independence from the President and what the President`s trying to say.

Look, the idea about going back to church, Brian, first of all is sort of preposterous if the President is attempting to be the spokesperson for that or somehow the person able to command all churches to be opened. But the fact of the matter is until we have testing that`s able to be done rapidly, reliably on-site we`re go to have a continuing problem with people going to the large gatherings whatever it might be including a church service and spreading the disease.

I can imagine, you could have very significant physical and social distancing and, you know, everybody wearing masks, et cetera, et cetera. But it`s still a high-risk operation at this point when we still do not have control over the spread of this SARS-CoV-2 virus. So it`s a risky thing to say. I think there`s -- you know, I don`t quite know what`s going on with our public health official who are representing the President. Are they getting spun? Are they fearful for their jobs? I have no idea, but I think there`s more to this story than meets the eye, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And, Anne Rimoin, this is a tough one. We know what environments the virus likes and thrives in. We know -- we`ve already seen hot spots that go back to church services. And yet this is something about which there is an intense longing. People want to get back to their houses of worship.

DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR: Well, of course. People are getting very tired of staying home, and, you know, we`re all feeling the effect. But the fact of the matter is, as Dr. Redlener just said, we are in a pandemic. These facts have not changed. The virus is still there. It is just as infectious as it was. We do not have herd immunity. We don`t have good testing in place. We don`t have a therapeutic to protect us if we do get sick and we don`t have a vaccine to keep us from being sick.

Unfortunately what I see here is an acute infection of politics in the public`s health. And I really think that what is important here is to remember that whenever there is uncertainty, what we see is gaps being filled with politics and not good science. And everything here needs to be led by science, not by hopes, dreams, and wishes.

WILLIAMS: And, Dr. Redlener, you mentioned Dr. Fauci, and I want to go a little bit deeper. He talked about it being conceivable that we`ll have a vaccine by the end of this year or just slightly into 2021. This has not been your position in past interviews. Knowing that the answer could be a lot, what does he know that the rest of us don`t?

REDLENER: You know, I don`t know, Brian. And I will tell you that Dr. Fauci is one of the most respected public health experts in the world. And so people pay attention to him. But I have no idea how somebody is proposing a shortening of the length of time it`s going to take to test this -- whatever new vaccine there is out there for both effectiveness and safety.

You know, in 1976, President Gerald Ford was the first to get his, you know, injection of swine flu vaccine for, you know, to prevent and control the swine flu at that time. But it turned out that that vaccine a couple years later was shown to have very serious neurological complications.

This is just a process we cannot rush and still feel like we`re being safe. We already have a big anti-vax movement in the country in terms of measles and other vaccines, Brian. So if we have something happen, a mishap with a new vaccine, even if it`s six months, a year later, that will be devastating for our attempts to get the -- really the world vaccinated to prevent the coronavirus. It`s a very tricky situation and I have no idea what why Dr. Fauci is promoting the idea that we going to have a vaccine ready for the world by the end of this year. It`s out of the question, and I stick to my previous remarks about this, Brian.

WILLIAMS: I get it. Anne Rimoin, final word. Masks until further notice. Help people figure out what they`re -- how they present to the wider world when they leave their homes.

ANNE RIMOIN, PROFESSOR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF EPIDEMIOLOGY AT UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Masks are going to be a critical strategy going forward. We are opening up without all of these things we`ve discussed, without vaccine, without therapeutics, without adequate testing. We do know that there is a large proportion of individuals who are going to be asymptomatically infected. And what that means is I don`t know if you`re infected. You don`t know if I`m infected.

And in that case, the best way that we can go forward is if everybody keeps their droplets to themselves. And the way to do that is to wear a mask and to be socially distant, and of course that in complement with hand hygiene, washing your hands and doing all of the things that we have been saying all along. It`s the blunt public health measures that are going to make the difference and save the day here as we open up. Please, everybody wear a mask. Keep your droplets to yourself.

WILLIAMS: In other words, I`ve heard it said that we should all act as if we know we have it every day and let that inform our associations with people on the outside. Dr. Irwin Redlener, Anne Rimoin, thank you both so much for coming on this Friday night.

Coming up for us, Biden`s quick backtrack after a morning stumble. Carville and Robinson are with us tonight. We`ll hash that out along with other topics.



CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, ARTIST: The statement he made was interesting, you know, because that`s something I hear from other black people. You know, it`s very interesting to see that an old white man looks at black people in that way. That question what makes somebody black, that`s a discussion for black people to have, and a white man is certainly not qualified to have that discussion.


WILLIAMS: That was Charlamagne tha God on CNN tonight reacting to these comments from Joe Biden on his radio show earlier in the day.


CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: IT`s a long way until November. We got more questions.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You got more questions, but I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you`re for me or Trump, you ain`t black.

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: It doesn`t have anything to do with Trump. It has to do with the fact I want something for my community.


WILLIAMS: The former vice president was quick to apologize for what his campaign said that was a joke.


BIDEN: The last thing I want to do -- and I haven`t have been such a wise guy. I haven`t have been so cavalier in responding to what I thought was -- anyway, it was - I don`t take it for granted at all, and no one, no one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background.


WILLIAMS: And while we`re at it, here`s Donald Trump from just this week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I happen to be taking it. I happen to be taking it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hydroxychloroquine?

TRUMP: I`m taking it, hydroxychloroquine.

So when we have a lot of cases, I don`t look at that as a bad thing. I look at that as, in a certain respect, as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better. So I view it as a badge of honor. Really it`s a badge of honor.

If people mail in ballots, there`s a lot of illegality. They send in ballots that -- they harvest ballots. You know all about harvesting, and they do lots of bad things.

Yes, I tested positively toward negative, right? So, no, I tested perfectly this morning, meaning I tested negative. But that`s a way of saying it. Positively toward the negative.


WILLIAMS: It`s a lot, but these two gentlemen can handle it. With us tonight, James Carville, veteran democratic strategist who rose to national fame with the Clinton presidential campaign happens to be co-host of the 2020 politics war room podcast. And the gentleman on the right is Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post." Good evening and welcome to you both.

Eugene, is there perhaps a false equivalence, a double standard for how the world views Joe Biden? You and I have joked before. You can`t get your journalism license without having an F8 key on your laptop that stands for "Biden gaffes." And it seems to me that might be in total dissonance with who the current president is.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It totally is, Brian. First of all, as you`ve heard me rant about in the past, I have a thing about the word "gaffes." What are we talking about? Actually what is gaffe? Have you ever heard of, you know, somebody say, I ran into somebody in the supermarket the other day he made a gaffe. I mean it`s just a word in journalese, not in the English language.

But in this case, Biden made a presumptuous wise crack that was ill advised, that he realized was ill advised, that he apologized for and then moved on. And anybody who tries to draw any kind of equivalence, I think that the (INAUDIBLE) they`ll probably agree with me on this, that anybody who tries to draw an equivalence between, you know, Biden`s slips of the tongue or whatever they happen to be and the nonsense and lies and distortions that we hear from Donald Trump on a daily basis is just crazy. There is no comparison. And so let`s not go there. I mean, you know, let`s not pretend that this is equal.

WILLIAMS: And, James, there`s another element to this that I`ve heard you rant about, and that is the Democratic Party`s propensity for a purity test. And that`s fine, but too much purity testing can leave no one standing at the end of the day.

JAMES CARVILLE: Look, it was kind of a dumb thing to say. He said, I`m sorry. I said it. This is him. The effects of this are through the weekend, all right? This is not going to be mean diddly squat in the long term. And Gene is right. You`ve got him telling people to take Clorox and taking a drug that, you know, ill advise that gets.

And this not (INAUDIBLE) but the Democrats, we love to oh, god, Biden is terrible. He messed up. What are we going to do? He said something he shouldn`t have said. It happens all the time in politics. I mean it`s hardly anything mean about it. It just kind of came out the wrong way. I hope he doesn`t get so nervous that he doesn`t stay himself at some level. I mean (INAUDIBLE). He apologized for it right away, which is the correct thing to do.

But there`s no equivalency here. You know, all this democratic hammering it is just silly. I mean this is not going to help anything.

WILLIAMS: James, I note the Trump campaign is already raising money or trying to off Biden`s comments from today. Is it possible they`re better at this kind of thing?

CARVILLE: I don`t think so. Look, raising money, Mike Pompeo is raising money for his 2024 campaign as NBC News pointed out, having dinners at the state department. He`s poaching Trump`s 2020 donors right now.

I mean if you look in Florida, DeSantis and Rick Scott are fighting each other over who`s going to get the 2024 nomination. Marco Rubio is trying to get into that. I mean look at his polls. He`s going nowhere. He`s going nowhere. How are you going to raise money on a kind of goofy thing you said on radio in the morning. I mean it`s just not that the scheme of things, all the problems they have and everything else, this is just not that big a deal.

I mean he said it. He shouldn`t have said it. He said, I haven`t have said it. The Democrats just got to move on and just keep hitting Trump. Just keep hitting him. Just keep hitting him. Don`t worry about this. And that`s what`s going to happen. He`s now turned on Fox News because Fox News knows he`s going to lose. They`ve got to have a business model going forward.

WILLIAMS: I noted that earlier this week, unless that was a gaffe on his part. Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us. We`ll take a break. More from two friends of this broadcast right after this.



TRUMP: And I say it. What do you have to lose? I`ll say it again. What do you have to lose? Take it. Try it, if you`d like.


WILLIAMS: Still with us are our guests James Carville and Eugene Robinson. Eugene, I`m sitting here. It occurs to me FDR promoted the March of Dimes for childhood polio. This president has been promoting a drug found in a study again today to be fatal in so many cases. I asked this question to the great A.B. Stoddard. What do you think Republicans in the Senate are saying when they can be candid, Eugene?

ROBINSON: I think - I think some of them are probably, you know, packing their bags really, the endangered ones. And the others are looking over their shoulders and with good reason. I just -- you know, James knows a lot more about politics than I do, but I don`t think even James can figure out how it`s good politics to put the lives of the people who most support you in danger by trying to get them to take a drug that messes with their heart rhythm and causes them to keel over and die or to go out without masks and to go in large gatherings and liberate their states and once again put their health and life in danger.

I don`t think that`s good politics, and I don`t think that`s going to serve the Republican Party well in November.

WILLIAMS: And indeed, James, these are the stakes. This is the guy your party has to run against, and I presume if you were the coach, you would be preaching no unforced errors and Biden`s V.P. choice has to be excellent and not a clunker.

CARVILLE: All right. So what`s happening is he is going to lose. He knows he`s going to lose. He`s desperate. So he`s trying to sell snake oil. He`ll do anything because every time you turn around, there`s another poll. There`s more evidence that he`s going to lose and he`s going to lose bad. So he`s going to keep trying every desperate long shot that he can.

The Republicans know that. They know they`re saddled with this guy. They know the way this election is going. And, look, Vice President Biden, he`ll pick a very highly competent person for V.P. He`s going to do fine. He doesn`t need to get rattled by a gaffe that he made today. He`s just got to lay it out. He`s got to be aggressive. They got all kinds of stuff going on in the Democratic Party even without the Democratic Party that are good things that are getting ready to happen.

Trump knows this. His people know that. They`re trying to make as much money off of this thing as fast as they can and all the rest of them are trying to line up for 2024 because they know 2020 is dead for them. That`s the reason he`s doing this is because he`s behind.

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

CARVILLE: Fourth and 72 and he`s on his two. What the hell are you going to do? Stand back then and throw hydroxychloroquine. That`s it. You don`t have (INAUDIBLE), you know, third and fourth.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks to these two gentlemen. It`s never boring, guys. James Carville and, by the way, Eugene Robinson is the one in a necktie on the right. Thank you both so very much for joining us.

CARVILLE: Clean gene.

WILLIAMS: Enjoy your weekend if that`s possible.

Coming up for us, some of the reporting from some of the places where they`re just now gearing up their defenses for what we`ve been living with.


WILLIAMS: This is important. We have a vivid reminder for you here tonight that this virus, it`s just getting set up in some areas of the world, including a big surge just starting to take hold this week in South America. New numbers from Johns Hopkins show Brazil second only to the U.S. now with the most cases at over 330,000. NBC`s Bill Neely has our report tonight on the struggle to provide health care amid their soaring death toll.


BOB NEELY, NBC REPOTER (voice-over): On brazil`s front line, the casualties are mounting horrifically. Tens of thousands of new cases every day. This intensive care unit, like most, full.

(on camera): What`s striking is how young people are in here.

DR. ROSANA RICHTMANN, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Yes. It`s incredible because most of people is around 40 years old.

NEELY: 40?


NEELY: Some are in their 30s.


NEELY (voice-over): The death toll is doubling so fast, they can`t dig the graves quickly enough. These are the most vulnerable, living in Latin America`s most densely populated area. Their poverty turbo-charging Brazil`s death toll.

(on camera): People live here sometimes six or seven to a room, so social distancing is impossible. And if they don`t go back to work, they don`t eat.

You`re worried. It`s difficult. And they`re scared. Most people don`t wear masks. They can`t get them. They`ve lost jobs, so they`re fed by aid groups.

In the center of Brazil`s richest city, the newly jobless line up for food. Their president announced billions in aid, but he wants lockdowns to end and Brazil to get back to work.

At a soccer stadium, a new field hospital ready for the next wave. Brazil, say experts, still weeks away from its peak of infections. Bill Neely, NBC News, Sao Paulo.


WILLIAMS: What an incredible situation there.

Another break, and coming up, what a long, strange trip it`s been, and we`re just talking about one U.S. senator.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, no one`s ever going to be able to say Lindsey Graham is resistant to change. As we have chronicled here, he has gone from vicious Trump critic to enthusiastic Trump supplicant right before our very eyes. And there`s a new ad out from a group trying to make him a former U.S. senator. It`s designed to remind South Carolina voters just how much their Lindsey Has changed.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I want to talk to the trump supporters for a minute. I think he`s a kook. I think he`s crazy. I think he`s unfit for office.

You`ve been a damn good president. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you more than anything else for putting up with the never- ending bull [ bleep ] you have to go through.

He`s a jack [ bleep ]. Every time I turn around, I`m being asked about Donald Trump saying one dumb thing after another, and I`m tired of it.

President Trump deserves the Nobel peace prize and then some.

He`s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.

No, I don`t think he`s a xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot.

I`ve never known an impeachment trial without a witness. That`s frankly not fair.

I am clearly made up my mind. I don`t need any witnesses.

Yes, well, boo yourself.

Trump`s the best golfer. I don`t give a [ bleep ]. Over our dead body.

If you don`t like what a politician`s doing, fire them at the ballot box.

TRUMP: This guy Lindsey Graham, he`s one of the dumbest human beings I`ve ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Lindsey Must Go PAC or LMG PAC responsible for the content of this communication.


WILLIAMS: The many faces of the senior senator from South Carolina to play us off the air tonight. That is our broadcast for this Friday night. Thank you for being here with us. Have a good and safe holiday weekend. Make time to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day made more poirngnant this year by the staggering death toll in our midst.

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