FBI TRANSCRIPT: 5/26/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Kavita Patel, Steve Schmidt

  BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,223 of the Trump administration. 161 days to go until the Presidential Election.

All day long we`ve been on the precipice of that gruesome benchmark of 100,000 deaths in this country. As of this hour, 99,638 Americans have died of the coronavirus. All the lives lost, have been lost in 12 weeks-time. And amid the loss, the President remains focused on moving the country further along on what he likes to call reopening and today predicted we would soon see breakthroughs and treatment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I think we`re going to have therapeutic remedies, and I think we`re going to have vaccines very shortly. I`ve been saying it, very shortly. I think I`ll be proven correct. We`re safely reopening our country while aggressively protecting the vulnerable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meantime, the presumptive Democratic Nominee Joe Biden did weigh in on the pandemic`s death toll this afternoon with his own assessment of Trump`s response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: 100,000 deaths. 100,000 deaths and at least 35,000, 50,000 were avoidable but for lack of attention and ego. Columbia`s study is showing we could have -- if you just started a week earlier, it would have saved thousands of lives. I mean these are -- this is a tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Former Vice President interviewed by Dana Bash on CNN. Earlier today Trump did seek to defend his handling of the virus even amid this escalating death toll. "If I hadn`t done my job well and early, we would have lost 1.5 million to 2 million people as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number. That`s 15 to 20 times more than we will lose. I acted very quickly and made the right decisions."

Even as we try to get back to life as we knew it, COVID-19 cases are tonight in the rise in those red states. There are over a dozen of them. The entire southeast has become its own hot spot. This holiday weekend large crowds gathered at a number of places across our country, including Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, where officials have had to warn those who visited Lake of the Ozarks to quarantine for two weeks or until they have tested negative for the virus now that they`re back home.

At the White House, Trump was asked for his reaction to the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m sure you saw the images from over the weekend of people out on Memorial Day weekend. They were crowding pools, crowding board walks. Do you have any message for those people?

TRUMP: Yeah, always be safe. You want to be safe. We`re opening up, but you want to be safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the CDC offering new and updated guidance on antibody tests used to discover if someone has already had the virus and recovered. The agency says the test might be wrong up to half the time and that they`re not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions like whether to return to work or school. All but ignored amid the noise this weekend, the President called for schools to reopen though parents, school districts, and the calendar get to determine that.

Even amid the continuing health crisis, Trump is ramping up another giant distraction, using mistruths and made-up assertions to try to discredit voting by mail in our country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should somebody who is afraid of getting coronavirus, going into public places, standing in a line, et cetera, why should they not be allowed to mail in?

TRUMP: First of all yup. When you do all mail-in voting ballots, you`re asking for fraud. People steal them out of mailboxes. People print them, and then they sign them and give them in. People don`t even know whether they`re double counted. People take them where they force people to vote. They harvest. You know what harvesting is. They take many, many ballots, and they put them all together, and then they just dump them, and nobody has any idea whether they`re crooked or not.

We`re not going to destroy this country by allowing things like that to happen. We`re not destroying our country. This has more to do with fairness and honesty and really our country itself because when that starts happening, you don`t have a fair -- you have a rigged system. You have a rigged system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: No evidence to support any of those contentions. Trump also has been spreading falsehoods on social media. Although starting late this afternoon, Twitter started adding links to fact-check the posts by the President.

Tonight Trump responded with this accusation, "Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential election. Twitter is completely stifling free speech and I, as President, will not allow it to happen.

Finally, there`s this exchange at the White House today. It touches on several topics. It nicely sums up the President`s thinking and his choice of words. On the topic of face coverings for starters, but also Trump`s continued public trafficking in a debunked conspiracy theory involving a host on this network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, two questions about a couple things you`ve tweeted about in the last few days. Were you meaning to criticize Vice President Biden for wearing a mask yesterday? And can you explain why you`ve been tweeting about a conspiracy theory that has been proven to not be true?

TRUMP: No, Biden can wear a mask, but he was standing outside with his wife, perfect conditions, perfect weather. They`re inside, they don`t wear masks, and so I thought it was very unusual that he had one on. But I thought that was fine. I wasn`t criticizing him at all. Why would I ever do a thing like that?

And your second question was? I couldn`t hear you. Can you take it off because I cannot hear you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll just speak louder, sir.

TRUMP: OK. You want to be politically correct. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir. I just want to wear the mask.

TRUMP: Go ahead. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The second question was about your tweets about the woman who died who you`re suggesting that Joe Scarborough was responsible?

TRUMP: Yeah, a lot of people suggest that, and hopefully someday people are going to find out. Certainly a very suspicious situation, very sad. Very sad and very suspicious. Question, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- asked you not to tweet anymore, sir.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, have you seen the letter that was written by her husband begging Twitter to delete your tweets, talking about how hard it`s been for his family, for him?

TRUMP: Yeah, I have, but I`m sure that ultimately they want to get to the bottom of it, and it`s a very serious situation. I also saw a clip with Joe and Imus where they were having a lot of fun at her expense, and I thought it was totally inappropriate.

Now, it`s a very suspicious thing, and I hope somebody gets to the bottom of it. It will be a very good thing. As you know, there`s no statute of limitations. So it would be a very good thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That`s how conspiracy theories get perpetuated.

Here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday night, Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, co-author along with his Post colleague Carol Leonnig of the best-seller, A Very Stable Genius. Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for the Washington Post. Also happens to be moderator of Washington Week on PBS. And Dr. Kavita Patel, former Senior Aide in the Obama White House advising on health reform, financial regulatory reform, and economic recovery issues. Also happens to be a clinical physician and among our medical contributors.

And, Doctor, indeed I would like to begin with you. In your line of work, do you look for and almost predict hot spots that stem from large gatherings? Let`s take Lake of the Ozarks, a place where I`ve been many times and have enjoyed many times. It draws people from all over Missouri, parts of Kansas, and other places as well. Are there now worries that the people who were together, if among them was one positive case, about where they went home to and who they`ve had contact with?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT IN THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Absolutely, Brian. It is actually like kind of a classic equation for a public health crisis. Crowded spaces, even though you`re outside where the air circulation is obviously better, you`re still kind of close connected. And if you`re talking to each other, which they clearly were, or even shouting, you can have respiratory droplets, so.

And it`s not just one person to one as you alluded to. It`s one to several, which is exactly what we`re afraid of. We know this virus is pretty infectious, so it`s a setup for disaster. And unfortunately it just sets a precedent, Brian, that this is OK. And we want people to reopen and come out safely, but that`s the key word, safely. And I think consistency is key, masks, hand hygiene, some distance. And those pictures just violate all of those recommendations.

WILLIAMS: And, Doctor, other than the feeling of a sharp blow to the chest to all of us who were born with feelings, what is the importance to you of this awful milestone that we may pass into while we`re on the air tonight of 100,000 souls lost?

PATEL: Yeah, no. Thanks for taking the time, and it`s been important to acknowledge where we are. It`s not only deeply personal to all of us as Americans but especially as health care workers. I`ve had colleagues who have passed, and I think all of us know somebody who has been affected by this. And it could have been preventable as I think Vice President Biden alluded to. And that`s what probably stings the most. I just hope that our country unites and tries to actually do what we can to protect each other. We`ve been trying that over the last three months, and I hope we can continue into the summer months.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, we heard the President straight up there say the wearing of a mask on the part of journalists was political correctness. What of his behavior do you think is directly attributable to this terrible milestone that we are about to pass, and are they going to let it pass unmarked at the White House?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, so far, Brian, it has been unmarked at the White House, and we`ve seen the President not only, not really talk about the death toll over time but in fact create other news stories to distract from the climbing death to create other headlines that would draw attention away from the 100,000, from the debunked conspiracy theory about Joe Scarborough to the discussion about masks to some strange comments he made in the Rose Garden today about insulin and whether he himself might take them, to any number of attacks that he launched on Twitter over the weekend. You know, it speaks to a President who is under siege and who is not really able to handle this bad news, this onslaught of bad news that`s continued for the last three or four months. And as the number reaches past 100,000 this week, you know, it`s telling to see what the President`s focused on. He`s going to be in Florida tomorrow for a space shuttle launch, Elon Musk`s space shuttle company, which is exciting and a great visit for the President, but it is not a way to mark the death toll.

WILLIAMS: Just for the record, the quote about insulin today, this is from the President. "I don`t use insulin. Should I be?" Then he says, "Huh? I never thought about it." He was later asked about it and had the surgeon general come up and in a roundabout way, he later said that healthy human bodies create their own insulin, and someone without diabetes would not need to inject it.

Robert Costa, I don`t mean to take you into analysis, but was it a given that the wearing of masks and face coverings would become not in all places or in all ways yet another red and blue issue in this country?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That question, Brian, is also tied to your comment about insulin because you see inside of this White House at this moment a politicization of so many different issues, a President who spent April in some ways more focused on the pandemic, now is all eyes on his own campaign, being told by his aides that the polls don`t look good in many swing states. And so he`s gone from -- and many of his advisers have gone too from focusing so much on the pandemic to focusing on how to revive his presidential campaign prospects.

And that`s changed everything about how this administration responds in terms of making it a political and culture war over the masks and tangling with reporters about it, the continuing to reopen the country and encourage that despite the death toll nearing 100,000.

And the President, as Phil said so well, looking for distractions, different grievances, different targets, anything about talking about the day-to-day health and economic issues that are facing this nation. And even the insulin event was political in part, I`m told by my sources, in the sense that he was trying to appeal to senior voters with that event because he sees his numbers with senior voters going down.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Patel, indeed let`s try to put the public back in public health. Where`s the information? Why has the task force been silent? Are we under vague orders to continue mitigation while all hopes are now shifted and focused on a vaccine?

PATEL: That`s a great question and one that unfortunately all local officials and states and employers, schools, and churches are being forced to try to deal with themselves. We are not getting the clear guidance. We`re hearing things like, well, we hope Americans just stay safe. But we need to have just very clear direction and leadership, which is exactly what we`ve been asking for during a crisis.

Now you do have unfortunately, you know, governors in adjacent states offering different guidance. You have local health authorities that then have a huge burden on their shoulders. But ultimately, Brian, as you`re seeing now, you`ve got restaurants, small businesses, and people who are trying to do the right thing, but they have the unmandated kind of -- they have the burden that they never intended for and unfortunately will have to continue to bear the responsibility of.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, the President accusing Twitter of stifling free speech, saying he won`t allow that to happen. Can he invade twitter, A or B is it more likely that he will sign onto some Twitter-adjacent product and try to foment competition or controversy?

RUCKER: You know, there may be an option C, Brian, although it would be interesting to see what a military invasion of his social media platform would look like. But, look, the President I think is unlikely to leave Twitter only because it`s been his favorite platform for years now, and it`s been a place where he has found a lot of political success by galvanizing his supporters there. So I assume he`s going to continue to use it as his own town square. That said, you know, he`s creating a foil here in Twitter for his re-election campaign. He`s going to be running against the Twitter police and saying they`re trying to stifle his free speech, to edit his commentary, and I think that`s another thing he can talk about on the campaign trail that his supporters that the creates this idea that it`s -- you know, all of them, everybody out in the country, against the elite and the people in charge and the institutions with power, and that was so successful as a political ingredient for the President in 2016. And he`s trying to recapture that feeling again in 2020.

WILLIAMS: And finally, Mr. Costa, because we`re in a political world, let`s talk about the transition to greatness that has a kind of unintended sub meaning that we`re not great right now. Can greatness be achieved without another tranche of economic aid, and how is it all going to fly if you have an R after your name on a ballot in November?

COSTA: Well, right now based on my latest reporting, Congress remains deadlocked when it comes to coming up with any kind of stimulus package, the so-called phase four. You have republicans like Larry Kudlow, the President want to see the payroll tax cut, different kinds of tax cuts. And Democrats are looking for more money for states. And you see the President at every turn fighting with Democratic governors in blue states, threatening maybe even to move the Democratic -- the Republican convention from North Carolina, which has a Democratic governor and Roy Cooper.

And so there is no real answer or clarity at this moment about what the economic answer is. And the big divide in this country -- and candidates know it on both sides -- is between Main Street and Wall Street. Wall Street`s feeling pretty good. The stock market is up, yet unemployment is so high. And how that plays out politically will be something on everyone`s minds in the coming months.

WILLIAMS: If it isn`t a mess, it will do till the mess gets here. Phil Rucker, Robert Costa, Dr. Kavita Patel, our thanks to our big three to start us off tonight.

And coming up, Las Vegas is about to find out who really wants to gamble?

And later, four officers fired. The FBI is now investigating the death of a black man in Minneapolis who was heard on camera saying he couldn`t breathe. That was right before he died in the street with a knee on his neck. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way on this Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Nevada`s casinos are preparing to reopen as early as next week. Some of the casino owners on the strip have been more eager than others to reopen. And while even those of us who love that town can`t quite imagine social distancing on the strip at night or on the casino floors, the beating heart of Vegas is the hospitality industry. It`s the biggest industry in the State of Nevada, and in something of an irony tonight, the governor canceled his in-person press conference out of caution because he recently visited a workplace where there was a COVID-positive case.

To talk about all of it, we welcome back to our broadcast Jon Ralston, veteran newspaper journalist who is the Founder and Editor of the Nevada Independent. We have also asked Dr. Kavita Patel to stick around for this topic as it is truly public health.

John, you tell us how is this going to work? What`s management telling the unions? What are the unions telling their employees? Who`s going to get tested, how often? How have they figured out a craps table? How have they figured out a roulette wheel, any of it?

JON RALSTON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I answer just as many of those questions as I want? Can I pick and choose, Brian? What are the rules here?

WILLIAMS: Sure.

RALSTON: So here`s what`s going to happen, and this is the real issue is that nobody knows. It`s interesting that you mention the unions because they`re not buying into what this plan is for the casinos to reopen on June 4th without more protections for their workers.

The governor, as you mentioned, canceled that press briefing, but just as you came to me, he released his prepared remarks, and he`s going to have a press briefing in a few minutes. Because of my loyalty to Brian Williams, I am here telling you what those remarks are and letting my reporters cover that briefing. He is going to say that the gaming control board, which regulates gaming in this state, is going to present guidelines tomorrow.

We already pretty much know what those guidelines are, Brian, and they`re what you might expect. Social distancing, so many people in the place at one time. They`re going to have thermal monitoring. But, you know, ask yourself this question. I`ll just leave you with this for the first part of this, Brian. It`s going to be 110 in Vegas in the summer. You walk into a casino. Your temperature`s going to be up. They`re going to then have to test you again and find you and see if your temperature is still up. And so let me end where I began. Nobody really knows how this is going to work, but all of the casinos are preparing to reopen. They have to present plans to the gaming control board, and if they fit those guidelines, it`s going to be come to Vegas next Thursday.

WILLIAMS: And, Dr. Patel, if you were health commissioner in the city of Las Vegas, what would you want to see? What standard would you ask to be met before people from all over the world came into these casinos and before all of these employees, the beating heart of Las Vegas, they all have to go from home from their jobs to their families. Is there anything that we don`t know yet?

PATEL: Well, Brian, you phrased it correctly. I think there`s a lot that we don`t know, and for that very reason, if I were in charge of that COVID response, I would want pretty -- I would actually want what we could call tabletop exercises, kind of doing almost a run-through of what these worst- case scenarios would look like because it`s true. We`ve got 100-degree-plus weather, and we already know that just temperature monitoring alone is not enough.

The CDC didn`t want to do it at airports, it`s such a minimal kind of screening requirement. So I would actually encourage that we have as many exercises to actually scenario plan and primarily focus on keeping people safe. You mentioned it`s a worldwide destination, and I would argue that Las Vegas has been successful in keeping at least its caseload down because it simply closed down the casinos. So you would have to, number one, kind of run through the traps of what could go wrong because it will go wrong. And then, number two, think about how you could approach this incrementally very cautiously. We`re talking, you know, 10% of the space occupied because if one thing happens, you have to start back from zero. And I think that needs to be the mental mind-set for all of the casinos.

WILLIAMS: And, Jon, here`s the problem, where the rubber meets the road. We already know not everyone`s going to want to wear a mask. We already know Las Vegas is a big town with small interactions -- tipping the bellman, tipping the valet, tipping the cocktail waitress, ordering from the cocktail waitress, ordering at dinner. Buffets make the city go around. You tell me how any of these transactions are going to happen in this new era.

RALSTON: Well, the mask-wearing is an interesting one, Brian. They`re going to be required to wear masks. All the staff will be, and the real question is can you force guests to wear masks, and will they abide by that? You`ve already seen so much misbehavior by people in not following simple instructions to wear a mask, and it`s become a symbol of protest and, you know, they`re like Patrick Henry if they don`t wear a mask now. There`s that segment of the populous.

But the question is are the casinos going to enforce this? I think they are because there is so much at stake for them, and they are not going -- the good doctor is correct. They should, if there are problems, they should shut it done, go and start all over. But I don`t think that`s what`s going to happen, Brian. Hospitalizations here have declined for 35 consecutive days. They feel pretty good that they`ll be able to handle whatever happens. There are going to be cases. Things are going to happen. The question is to what degree, and that is going to be on the casinos.

The governor is giving them a green light, and I assume when he`s giving them the green light, he is saying, go slow at first. Be careful. Don`t make me look bad for letting you go back into business. Remember, that was a very bold move for him to shut them down very early, more than two months ago. That probably saved a lot of lives, and there`s been all kinds of pressure for him to let them open up since then. They`re already, but I think they`re all going to be very careful. But there`s so many -- as you mentioned, there`s so much entropy inside the casino, it`s going to be very difficult to predict what will happen, Brian.

WILLIAMS: I can`t believe no one has used this line, so I will. The worry here is that what happens in Vegas won`t stay there and will go home with all those good visitors who are lighter by a few bucks. Jon Ralston, our man to see in Las Vegas, Dr. Kavita Patel, our woman to see when the topic is public health, thank you both so much.

And coming up, how a health precaution turned into what Trump today labeled political correctness. Steve Schmidt weighs in on that and assorted other topics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He`s trying to belittle you for wearing a mask, making it seem like it`s a sign of weakness. Is it?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way. I mean every leading doc in the world is saying we should wear a mask when you`re in a crowd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That was Joe Biden responding to the President re-tweeting something Brit Hume of Fox News first posted, and here it is. This might help explain why Trump doesn`t like to wear a mask in public.

This afternoon, the president appeared to sarcastically say he wasn`t criticizing Biden at all, would never do such a thing, then called the reporter politically correct for keeping his face mask on. E.R. Dr. Vin Gupta treats coronavirus patients. Today, earlier this afternoon, he offered up this stark comparison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. VIN GUPTA, PULMONOLOGIST AND CRITICAL CARE DOCTOR: Is it more convenient to wear a mask, or is it more convenient to be on a ventilator? And the reason why I`m saying that is it`s extremely like -- this virus is coming for us all whether we like it or not. It`s coming for us all. I`ve seen young individuals with a stroke in the setting of COVID-19 who were previously healthy 48 hours, on a ventilator. Their parents can`t even see them because we don`t visitors to actually be in the room. This can come for us all regardless of your political beliefs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Back with us again tonight, no shortage of things to talk about. Steve Schmidt, a veteran political strategist who led the McCain `08 effort, has since left the Republican Party but certainly has stayed in politics. Steve, what does the wearing of a mask mean to you? What is it a marker of? Is it a marker that you`re a sheep? Does it say you`re weak? Does it make a statement about your role in public health? And on some people, is it a marker of leadership in your view?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, the mask is the protection that we`re all called on to give to each other. It is an inconvenience to wear the mask. The mask is uncomfortable, but we have to wear it to protect each other, and that`s what we`re all called to do.

And so once again we see Donald Trump ignoring medical advice, endangering people with his terrible example. And Joe Biden is exactly correct, I think, to use the word "fool." It is foolish advice, and this country is plagued by the reality that we have a fool sitting behind the desk, the resolute desk in the Oval Office, who told us the Chinese had this contained, who told us this would magically disappear when there were 15 cases. His incompetence and ineptitude, Brian, has made coronavirus in the United States -- made the United States the leading place in the world for death, for suffering, for misery because of this virus. It`s just astoundingly poor leadership on Donald Trump`s part, who continuously demonstrates that he`s unfit for his job and has no capacity intellectually, mentally, or as a moral leader to guide the nation through this dangerous hour.

WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, what do these social media companies do in the course of today, in the course of the weekend the president tweeting out a conspiracy theory involving a colleague of ours, tweeting out straight-up misinformation about voting by mail? Some have said the social media companies, Twitter, Facebook and the like, have been on a long journey to realize that they are, at the end of the day, in the publishing business. What are they to do when faced with not just misinformation but from the very top?

SCHMIDT: Well, Brian, all of these companies have policies that say they don`t tolerate misinformation. So we`re not sitting here having a debate about whether they should have a policy or not. The question is should they follow the policy when it applies to the president of the United States, who happens to be the most prolific liar in the country. And with regard to his vile smears against our colleague, Joe Scarborough, the pain he`s inflicting on that young woman`s family, his continual lying, smearing, the viciousness of it all, they don`t have an obligation to print that. It`s in violation of their policies. They ought to follow their policies. It`s just as simple as that.

I will say this. It is a profound threat to democracy in this sense, that if you look at the great threats to the country`s security in the 20th century, fascism and communism, both of those ideologies were premised on big lies. Our system relies on inalienable truths. There`s a profound danger posed to democratic institutions by these companies whether they`re by sins of omission or sins of commission because they obliterate the line between reality and truth -- excuse me -- between truth and lies, between reality and an alternate reality.

And it`s simply the case that a democracy can`t function if you can`t tell the difference between lies and truth because there can`t be any accountability in the system. Democracies rely on an informed citizenry, and that informed citizenry can`t look at a blue chair and half the country say it`s red.

And so we have a profound problem with all of the lunacy in our politics and the degree to which conspiracy theories, many of them peddled by the president himself, have infected our body politic like a virus and have so profoundly confused the American people in terms of being able to know what`s up versus what`s down, what`s right versus left, that it`s profoundly disorienting and disillusioning, and it`s dangerous. And it`s not a sign of health. In any democratic system in the world, can you find anything that approaches what we`re dealing with in the United States? It`s very bad.

WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, it`s always a pleasure even when the topic is as dark as this one. Thank you very much for finding time for us on a Tuesday night as we start a shortened workweek.

Coming up for us, a big city reacts to tragedy, now finds itself in the middle of a larger and urgent conversation about racism. We`ll talk about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Thousands of people protesting in Minneapolis tonight following the death of an unarmed black man on Monday. Police fired tear gas late today after protesters damaged a police precinct among some other property. Four Minneapolis police officers were fired today for their role in the death of George Floyd, and the FBI is now in on this case.

The altercation was captured on video, and fair warning, it`s tough to watch. In effect, the video shows human life draining from a man while he`s on the pavement. George Floyd died after being taken into custody for what officers say was a report of a possible forgery. An officer can be seen kneeling on Mr. Floyd`s neck for at least seven minutes. Witnesses say Floyd repeatedly cried "my neck hurts" and "I can`t breathe" while bystanders pleaded with the officer to let him go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE FLOYD, VICTIM: Please! Please, I can`t breathe!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Floyd eventually stopped moving, but the officer kept his knee on his neck for several more minutes. At one point someone almost casually enters the frame and checks for a pulse. We have not yet seen the body camera video that`s now in the FBI`s possession, so we can`t see what happened before this particular video was rolling.

In a statement, the police department in Minneapolis said this. Quote, he was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance, where he died a short time later. At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.

It`s a lot, and back with us again tonight is Maya Wiley, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a veteran of the New York City Mayor`s Office. She is now with the new school in New York. My friend, I`ve missed you, and I`d give anything for a different subject matter to talk with you about tonight. In a desperate attempt to find something good to come out of this, Maya, is it a good thing that the FBI is there and on the case at least?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, Brian, I miss you too, and I wish we were having this conversation in person because I know you would take my hand, and that would mean a lot to me right now.

We don`t know if it`s good yet, and let`s back up and say first of all, what is good is that these officers were terminated. That is unusual to see happen so quickly, and I think that is a testament to the fact that there is additional information that we have not yet heard as a public, not because the video was not disturbing enough, but that that actually caused them to take that decision without having a longer investigation.

The point about the FBI involvement and the reason I say we don`t know is because frankly after Eric Garner, after the other "I can`t breathe," after the other devastating trauma of a video that this so reminds us of, we neither saw a grand jury indict Officer Pantaleo, who was finally let go by the police department.

We literally had the Federal Government say that it was not going to charge the officer in that case. I was the chair of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board when we sent that case to the New York City Police Department and said that Officer Pantaleo must be charged with your highest administrative offenses and terminated. And our team handled that trial.

I say that because unfortunately that`s what it took because the law is -- for a whole lot of reasons, we need due process for officers, but it is extremely difficult, extremely difficult to get these types of civil rights cases. But that is why people are protesting. It is not enough to have justice as a sword used against people of color. It must also be a shield.

WILLIAMS: Three names. Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Christian Cooper. Three African-American men who, during a pandemic, have focused intense attention, in many cases long overdue attention, on racism in 2020, two of them with their lives. What does that tell you, if anything?

WILEY: What it tells me is that video unfortunately has been both a traumatizing but a necessary tool to have black people believed. When black people talk about the experiences that frankly have been -- experiences in black community for generations, for decades, now James Baldwin said it best when he said to be black in America is to be perpetually angry.

And, you know, the reason for that is not because black people are angry by nature. It`s because injustice over and over and over again is angering. And the fact is that when many people who are black assert that some injustice has happened, like a Christian Cooper who was birdwatching, who sees a woman who was violating park regulations, something he might be ticketed for, instead she threatens to call the police, announce his race, and lie to them and say that he was threatening her.

I mean that is the kind of thing that without a videotape, who knows if anyone would have believed him, and that is something that we should be deeply concerned about. But these incidents are not new. They are just documented in ways that become undeniable.

WILLIAMS: Counselor, stay well. Stay healthy. We will live to do in-person segments again, and dare I say hold hands while we do it. Maya Wiley has been our guest at long last again tonight. Maya, thanks.

Another break for us.

WILEY: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: And coming up, consider it this way. A nation with a president trying to diminish the coronavirus, comparing it to the flu, talking up hydroxychloroquine, and it`s not the United States. But we will take you there when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: There are exceptions to it just like China. But a new so-called ban on visitors from Brazil to the U.S. is going into effect really minutes from now at the top of the hour. More people are now dying in Brazil from the coronavirus every day than in any other nation in the world. NBC News correspondent Bill Neely has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today like every day, dozens of virus funerals in Rio. American Oscar Sterns was 64 and from Boston and lived here all his life. One of 800 victims in one day. Brazil now has the highest daily death toll in the world.

Today one city with a high death toll and a shattered economy ended its lockdown. Tens of thousands poured onto the streets.

(on camera): The mayor of this city, who`s had the virus, ordered it to open up. He doesn`t support the lockdown. Across Brazil, the battle between saving the economy and saving lives is raging.

(voice-over): One American already in financial trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a travel agency, and that travel agency, I don`t think, is going to survive the next couple of months.

NEELY: Like the economy, hospitals are at breaking point. People too. Brazilians looking to come to the U.S. now unwelcome.

(on camera): Unwelcome as of midnight. Well, Brazilians are now braced for more pain, not just economic pain but more record death tolls because most medical experts I`ve spoken to here believe that Brazil has not yet reached the peak of deaths and of infections. Brian.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS: Bill Neely in Brazil for us tonight. Our thanks.

Coming up, what we are hoping is a break from the drumbeat that we can`t seem to escape when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, the news tonight is heavy, and these days it is just about every night. The majority of us are trying our best to stay out of circulation. Somebody on social media has taken to calling every day Blursday. Even some of our usual distractions are still missing. Sports channels are flickering to life. NASCAR, thank god, is back but with no fans. Some soccer, some golf, Korean baseball with vinyl pictures of fans in the stands. a lot of sportscaster and play-by-play types remain idle, like our friend Andrew Cotter of the BBC, who has found a new event to announce.

(BEGIN VIDEO CIP)

  ANDREW COTTER, BBC SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Welcome to Phillip Island, Victoria in Australia. What a setting we have for this great sporting contest. The little penguin sea to dune race. Nervous moments always as they gather on the beach, the tension mounting, and away they go. There`s the defending champion wearing his familiar navy blue and white, great waddling style.

Another pre-race favorite losing touch with the pack. Maybe that`s why. A few too many fish in the day`s feeding. There`s a familiar face. Skip McIntyre, eight times a champion back in the `90s. A very successful coach now, keeping a keen eye on proceedings.

This the leading group. One or two still able to put on a show for the camera. Others just plowing straight over it. Ah, some resorting to shortcuts. Sad that cheating has crept into this beautiful sport. The judges will have a look at that. But up at the front, the pace is relentless, closing in on those sand dunes that will offer a bed for the night. The fatigue starting to tell. Who`s got the finishing kick on the outside? What a turn of pace of that one, whichever one it is. No answer from the rest and he takes victory. What a win.

There we are, into a burrow. Building an extension with his winnings and back tomorrow to try to defend his title here on Philip Island.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And great to see the cagey old veteran Skip McIntyre. Our thanks to Andrew as always for playing us off the air in style. That`s our broadcast on this post-holiday weekend Tuesday. Thank you 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