George Floyd's death TRANSCRIPT: 6/4/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Maya Wiley, Jonathan Lemire, Jill Colvin, Neal Katyal, Nick Kristof

  BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 1,232 of the Trump administration. 152 days to go until the presidential election.

Several marches and rallies are under way across our country, the tenth night that Americans have taken to the streets following the death of George Floyd. This day we also witnessed the first of what will be several memorials for George Floyd. Hundreds gathered in Minneapolis to remember his life, to call for racial justice. Our colleague, the Reverend Al Sharpton, offered a riveting eulogy today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: The reason why we are marching all over the world is we were like George. We couldn`t breathe, not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but you wouldn`t take your knee off our neck. We don`t want no favors. Just get up off of us, and we can be and do whatever we can be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: At the same time, just a few blocks away from there, the three other officers charged yesterday in Floyd`s death were making their very first court appearance. All are being held on a minimum of three-quarters of a million dollars bail apiece.

Shaquille Brewster starts off our coverage tonight. He is back in George Floyd`s neighborhood, the neighborhood where George Floyd died. Shaquille, sad, emotional day in Minneapolis, a proper home-going brought a lot of people into that city today.

SHAQUILLE BREWSTER, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: A really emotional day, Brian, that really started with that memorial service. And in that memorial service, we heard from the brother of George Floyd. We heard from his nephew, talked about what it was like growing up with him, the nicknames that they called him and told different stories about growing up and experiencing and living with the memory of George Floyd.

And then we also heard from Benjamin Crump at that ceremony, who talked about the impact of that video. He called it torture what George Floyd had to go through. And then you mentioned the eulogy by Reverend Al Sharpton. In that eulogy, he called for a national march on Washington in August. He wants to capture this activism, this spirit that we`re seeing after George Floyd`s death. He wants to capture that and lead that to get tangible police reform.

And, Brian, that`s to continue that mood, that spirit is what you see here at the site where George Floyd was killed. That memorial service earlier, it was a private service for family, friends, and invited guests. But you had hundreds of people outside of that service, and then you had hundreds of people here all day long. The family actually came by and visited the memorial and spoke to people here, thanked them for their support. And that`s the feeling that you continue to have.

As that was going on and as that emotional moment was having, just before the memorial service as you mentioned, we saw the officers in court for the first time. Three of the four former Minneapolis police department officers charged for their involvement in the death of George Floyd were arraigned in court. Their bond, as you mentioned, was set at a minimum of $750,000. Brian, it`s a lot going on. So many developments in this case, but definitely an emotional day for not only the George Floyd family but people in the community who wanted to pay their last respects before he goes on. We`ll have other memorial services in North Carolina this weekend and he`ll be laid to rest in Huston on Tuesday. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Shaq Brewster, starting us off on this warm early summer night in the twin cities.  Shaq, thank you very much.

As we continue to check around, let`s check in with the city of New York tonight. Chris Jansing out and about in the middle of it. Chris.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It`s been an incredibly intense last three hours since curfew here in New York City, Brian. There have been widespread police operations to get protesters off the streets. The most recent here on the corner of 59th and Fifth Avenue right across from the iconic plaza hotel. Police coming in, hundreds of them surrounding these protesters and making sure that they didn`t make their way into central park. They moved quickly. They moved aggressively. We saw at least half a dozen protesters put on the ground, their hands them cuffed, although we`re told many more were indeed arrested.

It`s the kind of activity that`s caused a lot of concern, a lot of criticism from Mayor de Blasio and the police saying they`ve been way too aggressive. These are peaceful protesters. But tonight the police commissioner said it`s actually some of the protesters who have been too aggressive, that they`ve been throwing things at police. Some of them have been injured. What a stark contrast that is, again, to what we see during the day.

We were down by Gracie Mansion earlier today. The third day of protests there. Most of the time spent in quiet. Half an hour of silence for George Floyd, and many of those protesters decided to go home after that. But about a third continued to march. When we followed them, we saw several dozen of them being arrested. I asked one woman before it started, why, Skyler? Why are you willing to be arrested? And here`s what she told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANSING: What`s the message you want to send?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That you can`t time the aggression. You can`t time the pain. We have to wake up with this. We have to go to sleep with this. So after 8:00, I still have to be a black person. I still have to think like, oh, am I going home? Am I going to get pulled over? Am I going to get murdered? Is this my last day on this earth? So --

JANSING: That`s how you have to live your life?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s how I have to live my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JANSING: Is that my last day on this earth? Some very powerful statements from these protesters. And yet Mayor de Blasio said earlier today enough is enough, is enough. When the curfew comes, you should go home.

One final thing to remember, Brian, we have almost 1,700 coronavirus deaths here in this city. He`s making the argument that they need to have the time and attention to move to that because Monday is when New York City is supposed to be reopening. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Chris Jansing, in this time of coronavirus and nightly protests on what is usually a bustling corner in New York, New York. We appreciate the live report.

Ellison Barber covering things in Washington, D.C. tonight where a strong line of thunderstorms did dampen the crowd a little bit. But for the most part, I understand, Ellison, they stayed in place. They kept on marching.

ELLISON BARBER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That`s right, Brian. The rain did send some people home as you would expect. There was a lot of lightning, a whole lot of heavy rain. But you can see a small, medium-sized, but resilient crowd is still here in front of Lafayette Square. A lot of them stayed through all of the rain, all of the storm, and they continued to chant and make their voices heard.

There is no curfew in effect in D.C. tonight. This is the first night in the last couple of days where there has not been a curfew. Remember D.C., it is a federal city, so D.C. police, they have jurisdiction over a lot of the city, most of the city, but not all of it. If we walk a little back this way, I want to show you some of what we`re seeing happen on federal grounds in Lafayette Square, in Lafayette Park over here.

So if you look a little through this fence, it`s hard to see because of the lighting, but you will see a line of officers in riot gear just past those trees back here. For the most part in this area, we have seen park police in the last few days, but at times it`s been very difficult to identify exactly who the federal law enforcement officers are out in D.C. We know that the ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals, the Bureau of Prison, as well as the FBI, they have sent federal law enforcement officers on the ground to assist at the direction, at the request of the attorney general. But all of this -- this has been a source of tension, increasingly a source of tension among protesters as well as elected officials here in D.C. Because so many of the federal officers that are out interacting with these crowds and forcing crowd control. They often to do not identifying markers to say what group they are with. We`ve seen lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  Issue of legislation, announced legislation today to try to make it mandatory that we know exactly who all of those officers are.

But tonight again you can see back there it`s hard to tell who is out here. But the protesters, they`re planning to stay. We`ve seen them stay well past midnight the last few days. We expect that to happen again tonight. Brian.

WILLIAMS: You mentioned that new tactic, shining bright lights out from their position helps shield who they are. Ellison Barber, thank you very much for that.

And let`s continue on this point that Ellison started. As demonstrations continue across the country, in Washington there, the people are allowed nowhere near the people`s house anymore.

There is now this new ring of high fencing installed yesterday and today, four-to-five by concrete barriers at the base. They have extended out from Lafayette Park, an extension of the crowd removal effort really that started with chemical dispersants and weapons and clubs on Monday. Well, today the Attorney General, Bill Barr, who ordered this move to allow for the President`s photo op in front of the church originally tried to defend the action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The President asked me to coordinate the various federal law enforcement agencies. We decided that we needed more of a buffer to protect the White House and to protect our agents and secret service personnel. There were projectiles being thrown, and the group was becoming increasingly unruly. And the operation to -- they were asked three times if they would move back one block. They refused.

I think the President is the head of the executive branch and the chief executive of the nation and should be able to walk outside the White House and walk across the street to the church of presidents. I don`t necessarily view that as a political act. I think it was entirely appropriate for him to do. I did not know that he was going to do that until later in the day after our plans were well under way to move the perimeters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So you heard the man. Chemical dispersants aside, the President should be able to walk across the street. The A.G. also said the government is now investigating those who he accuses of sparking violence at various protests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I do think it`s important to point out the witch`s brew that we have of extremist individuals and groups that are involved. We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: On another front tonight, another prominent retired military officer is speaking out against Trump`s response to the protests and raising alarm about his legacy as president.

Retired Four-Star Marine Corps General John Allen once commanded all U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He has written in foreign policy that Trump`s actions in recent days, "may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment."

Former Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis broke his silence, as you know, yesterday with that strong rebuke of the President, accusing him of dividing Americans, being a threat to our constitution in fact.

In an interview with The Washington Post, former Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly also happened to be retired marine corps general, defended the former, defend secretary and refuted trump`s claims that he fired Mattis, who actually resigned back in 2018.

Tonight Trump responded saying Kelly, "Didn`t know I was going to fire James Mattis, nor did he have any knowledge of my asking for a letter of resignation." He went on to say his former chief of staff was not in my inner circle. There was some support on Capitol Hill today for the Former Defense Secretary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Well, General Mattis` letter was stunning and powerful. General Mattis is a man of extraordinary sacrifice. He`s an American patriot. He`s an individual whose judgment I respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski took it a step further.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I thought General Mattis` words were true and honest and necessary and overdue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you still support President Trump, then? Is that something you`re struggling with?

MURKOWSKI:  I am struggling with it. I have struggled with it for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As you might imagine, that caught the President`s attention. Tonight he posted in part, "Few people know where they`ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the great State of Alaska, which I love, campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski." He said it doesn`t matter who the candidate is as long as they have a pulse, and that may be why most of the rest of the Senate Republicans had so very little to say on this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: General Mattis called the President a threat to the constitution. Do you agree?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I respect General Mattis, he has every right to express his opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I ask you a couple questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you agree with Mattis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually haven`t read it yet, so.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): I haven`t seen it.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): I think the President is actually working towards uniting the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think by just blaming the President, he`s only looking at half of the equation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Despite let`s call it continued Republican Senate support, The New York Times reports growing along with the Trump campaign about plunging poll numbers and concerns about his standing in critical states like Ohio and Iowa, states that he carried by pretty wide margins four years ago.

NBC News reporting Trump met with his top political aides and advisers in the Oval Office this afternoon. One person familiar with the conversations, as they say, said the discussion was about the very concerning internal polling in what should be reliable Republican states.

Time to bring in our leadoff discussion group on this Thursday night. Two White House reporters for the Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin. Also, with us 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, now with the new school here in New York.

And, Maya, I`d like to begin with you and press you into further service for this network. You were with us for our live coverage of that very sad service in Minneapolis today. And in the intervening few hours since I spoke to you last, you`ve been out in one of the protests tonight. Tell us about what`s happening in the streets.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Thank you, Brian. It was wonderful to spend that time with you today. It`s such an important moment, and it was really important to be with demonstrators in the street, in New York City tonight, the night of that funeral, the night after we heard our Reverend Al, our New Yorker, call on us to continue to push for justice. And what I saw were certainly protesters who were committed, who were vigilant, who were calling to the police, saying we`re peaceful. Why are you wearing riot gear? It was peaceful. The police were peaceful, very respectful. It was exactly what, you know, we know that peaceful protests can be.

My daughter was in the Bronx, and we were getting very different reports from the Bronx about what was happening there, including hearing -- and I don`t know this firsthand, but lawyers who were there to observe and ensure and protect rights were themselves being, you know, told that they couldn`t do what they were doing with police. So I think one of the things that`s complicated here is that it`s not necessarily the same all over the city in terms of the experiences that people are having with the police.

WILLIAMS: Maya Wiley, who I should mention is a second-generation product of the struggle raising now a third-generation product of the struggle.

Jonathan Lemire, here`s a quote from you today. "The White House is now sew heavily fortified that it resembles the monarchical palaces or authoritarian compounds of regimes in faraway lands -- strikingly incongruous with the historic role of the executive mansion." Jonathan, is there any chance the President thinks it`s a good look, a good visual, or is this, as some have said, the visual manifestation of fear that this thing will get beyond their control?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Brian, we`re such a polarized country right now, I think it depends which camp you`re in, team red or team blue determines how you view the White House right now.

I do think that for a number of Americans, the White House, the President hidden behind newly fortified barriers, higher fences, we know he was rushed to a bunker on Friday night when the protests sort of caught secret service by surprise. It`s an act of the President perhaps hiding. The President doesn`t want to face reality here. It should be noted that the FAA put on an advisory today.

The President was scheduled to go to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, this weekend, which would meant that he would have escaped town as protests still filled Washington Streets. That advisory was eventually taken down. The President`s trip there has been canceled.

Of course there are those who support the President, who say the armaments, the show of force that we saw on Monday when the federal agents cleared Lafayette Square is reminiscent and evokes the strength of the White House, that the President there is doing the people`s business and it has the needed fortifications to do so safely as chaos reins on the streets around him.

This much is clear. We heard not a word from the President today about George Floyd on the day of his memorial service in Minnesota. Instead tonight we`re hearing more political attacks. He went after Mattis. He went after Senator Murkowski. He went after his former chief of Staff John Kelly, and he certainly went after Joe Biden.

I think there is a sense of real concern in the Trump campaign about his standing. Now, look, we`re still five months off. Things can change. But they know right now they are losing, and they are down in the battleground states where they expected to have to contest, places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida. The fact that they`re even concerned about Ohio and Iowa, that`s trouble because if they have to spend a lot of time there, if they end up losing there, that means the race as a whole is probably already lost.

WILLIAMS: Jill Colvin, I think that most Americans of age, the first time people heard of it`s an acronym-crazy town, so you`ll forgive me, the PEOC, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, was on 9/11, when Cheney and Rice were first taken there and President Bush and Mrs. Bush, even after his arrival back home, were taken there for at least one false alarm. The reporting is solid that the President, his wife, and son were indeed taken there. So he`s in that house. The people are outside. Is anyone on the inside telling you it`s a visual they like?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Look, there are certainly individuals (inaudible).

WILLIAMS: Hey, Jill, forgive me. We`re getting every other word as if you`re inside the bunker yourself. We`ll try to work out the bugs. I apologize, but we can`t quite understand what you`re saying.

Maya, let me move on to you with a question. Did Barr give you -- Did Barr give us any reason to doubt today that he still remains the attorney general this President thought he deserved?

WILEY: He has certainly demonstrated that he remains the attorney general that this President wanted. He has his defense attorney. He has an attorney general who on the day of the funeral of George Floyd, brutally murdered, we stood and felt what it felt like for eight minutes and 46 seconds that former Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd`s neck, just how long that was.

And the attorney general mentioned Antifa as a problem, which is essentially a distraction and a tactic that we have heard from Donald Trump to distract us from the actual problems we have as a society on race because the far left that they keep trying to use as the, you know, fear that all of this country should have rather than paying attention to our actual problems is something that we heard just two days ago. The FBI had not found evidence that Antifa, that the extremist left were somehow operating in some insidious conspiratorial way in these demonstrations and otherwise.

And we know from the FBI`s own data that the majority of murders committed in this country by "domestic terrorists" are actually white supremacists and Neo-nazis. You didn`t hear those words out of Attorney General Barr`s mouth today of all days. And all that tells us is he has chosen and picked the facts and also some things that don`t appear to be true that serve the distraction of the tyrant in chief that is in the White House right now, trying to get the military to do local law enforcement`s job in ways that our constitution does not anticipate. And I think that`s something we should all be concerned about.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, it may speak to sensitivity on the President`s part, Mattis, Kelly, Murkowski all kind of stuck their heads up. The President took shots on Twitter. Tell us how worried this re-election campaign is. We talk about the number of days every night at the top of this broadcast. We`re at 152. Sooner or later, we`re going to have a presidential election here.

LEMIRE: We are, Brian. We most certainly are. There is real concern. I don`t think we`d go quite so far to say panic just yet. There are five months to go. And I think that a lot of the President`s advisers, some of whom are veterans of the 2016 campaign, remember all the twists and turns that we saw down the stretch in that race and feel like there are many chapters to still go in this particular book of the 2020 election. But they`re down. They know that. If the election was held today, they would lose. They`re clear-eyed about that.

The President is certainly very angry about it. I think there`s a sense from the reporting that we`ve done the last few days, Jill, myself, and our colleagues at the A.P. have done. There`s expectation they will try to go that much more negative on Joe Biden right now. They feel like they can`t really move the President`s approval numbers, but they can try to increase Biden`s negatives, try to bring him down to the President`s level, sort of where we were in 2016 when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both had very high negative numbers, and we`re seeing a little bit of that tonight for the President on Twitter when he talked about Biden`s support for the crime bill, trying to link some of the unrest we`re seeing in America`s streets over the last week.

There`s something else, Brian, I want to flag. The President for weeks now has been trying to change the subject, desperately trying to change the subject from the coronavirus pandemic. He threw out conspiracy theories about President Obama to our friend Joe Scarborough. None of that worked. Finally we`re not talking about the coronavirus because we`re talking about the murder -- the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

The problem, though, is though the White House is glad not to be having that conversation, the very subject that has knocked the coronavirus off the front page, these protests, could be a breeding ground for the coronavirus. We reported today there`s an increased concern in the White House about exactly that.

Dr. Birx, part of the coronavirus task force, this is her focus right now, trying to monitor these protests in these metropolitan areas, and there is a real concern that in a few weeks, whether it`s the protesters themselves who are, to be fair, outdoors, wearing masks, many of them younger, but are they bringing the virus home to their families? Will we see a surge in infections across the country in a few weeks? And if there is an increase in infections, surely that will slow the country`s ability to reopen, hurt the economy further, and therefore hurt Donald Trump`s re-election chances that much more.

WILLIAMS: Got a whole segment on that coming up. Sad to admit that a Wi-Fi provider has done what no president has ever been able to do, they`ve stopped Jill Colvin in her tracks. Please come back and let us make good on this. To Jill Colvin, her colleague Jonathan Lemire, Maya Wiley after a long day`s coverage into night, our thanks. We`re keeping an eye on this tenth night of protests across our country.

Coming up, the Justice Department role in this militaristic show of force in our nation`s capital, around the people`s house, and other places.

And later, the unprecedented challenge of protesting in the middle of this pandemic as Jonathan was just talking about. We have an update on the coronavirus crisis, a crisis still, let`s not forget, as The 11th Hour is just getting started on this Thursday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: In a "Washington Post" op-ed piece, four legal experts warn this. Trump`s authoritarianism in the streets is being matched in the courts. They write, quote, real courts, where every legitimate party gets to make every legitimate argument, are the last bastion against authoritarianism. As President Trump, your president of law and order, threatens to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, Americans may find themselves needing robust, independent courts more than ever, closed quote.

One of the co-authors of that piece has been kind enough to rejoin our broadcast, Neal Katyal, veteran of the justice department, who as acting solicitor general was the Obama administration`s top lawyer before the Supreme Court, where he has argued 39 cases as a lawyer.

Neal, it strikes me these dismounted infantry, in addition to covering their insignias in some cases are using the cover of coronavirus to further cover their faces. It doesn`t look like us. It doesn`t look like our country. What happened to normal? And back to the piece you have co- written, how in your view has the justice department set us up for this conflagration of issues and circumstances?

NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOCILITOR GENERAL: I mean it`s so sad, Brian. I mean the one time I`ve ever seen police with their names blacked out was when I went to Guantanamo, but I certainly haven`t seen it in the United States. And indeed the Justice Department has traditionally had consent decrees and other things that requires police to have their names and so on so they can be identified and so you can prevent the kind of police brutality we`re seeing or at least go after the bad apples.

And, you know, I wrote that op-ed, Brian, that you mentioned with my co- authors because we`re worried if there`s an authoritarian streak not just in the streets that we`re seeing playing out, but in the justice departments filing to the courts.

And, you know, most fundamentally this week they filed something in our nation`s second highest court in the Michael Flynn case that really takes the cake. I mean, normally the justice department, A, defends prosecutions, and, B, defends trial judges because they don`t want defendants running to an appeals court.

And in this astonishing brief, the Justice Department said a judge is not allowed to even inquire into why the Flynn prosecution was dropped. And they said that the criminal defendant could run into the appeals court to stop that inquiry. What`s the grave harm, Brian?  The grave harm was they said the judge might find out what would happen? That Americans would find out what really happened in the dropped prosecution of Michael Flynn.

And this just shows, you know, Trump -- there`s one law for him and one law for everyone else. And, Brian, I thought that the clip that you just played from the attorney general defending his action on the tear gas, he said, well, the president should be able to walk in the streets outside of the White House.

Well, I just have one question for the attorney general. What about the rights of everyone else to walk in those streets? Why does Trump, Trump everyone else`s rights as a U.S. citizen to be in those streets outside the White House? Why did they get teargassed, you know, and Trump gets a photo op?

So I think those are the questions we need to be asking. We have a terrible leadership at the top, the president and the attorney general in these matters.

WILLIAMS: So on the matter of George Floyd, do you have any optimism that the DOJ can run what people our age grew up knowing as a traditional swoop in and conduct a civil rights investigation as the feds? Do you have any remaining confidence that that can happen properly?

KATYAL: That is the historic role of the justice department. In my lifetime, that`s what they`ve been doing. This justice department has no credibility when it comes to it. You know, there are career official who`s are great, who I think would like to carry that out.

But, look, the justice department, Brian, has two traditional tools available to it to prevent police brutality. One`s called a pattern and practice investigation, and the other is a criminal prosecution against law enforcement officers.

With respect to pattern and practice investigations, that`s when they go and look at the whole operation of a city police force. Obama launched 25 of them and had 15 consent decrees, which have monitoring and all sorts of other things over city police forces. How many did Trump have -- has he had in three years? One. And even that was super narrow and that was in Springfield. How many cannot consent decrees has he had? Zero. Obama has had 15.

And, you know, Jeff Sessions` last act as attorney general, he was so proud of it, was to gut consent decrees for the future. Obama had 2,500 criminal prosecutions of law enforcement officers. I don`t know the number that Trump`s had but I suspect, you know, it`s not going to be anywhere near 500. So I`m very worried about this justice department carrying out its traditional roles, roles that, you know, Congress has asked, you know, the justice department to perform for decades.

WILLIAMS: Counselor, thank you as always for spending some time on our broadcast tonight. Neal Katyal our guest.

Coming up, we`ll head to L.A. for the latest on the protests on the west coast and also update you on the other pandemic hitting our nation right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Welcome back. And because we have to cover these two issues at the same time, as promised, we are also tracking some important developments in the coronavirus pandemic tonight, still continuing uncontrolled.

According to "The New York Times," California just one of 16 states across the country now that have seen an increase in newly reported cases over these past two weeks. Over 19,000 new infections reported in the U.S. on Wednesday. That`s entirely dependent on testing, of course.

Back with us again tonight is Dr. Vin Gupta. He`s an ER doc specializing in these kinds of illnesses, also an affiliate assistant professor with the University of Washington, Department of Health Metrics Sciences.

Well, doc, here`s the thing. It takes a fierce urgency to march all day in Washington, D.C. through a line of thunderstorms and then stand in Lafayette Park all night. Social justice has trumped social distancing. We`ve seen it every night on our broadcast. We know it`s happening.

In your line of work, do you now wait two weeks because I also read that for the top 25 coronavirus cities, all of them have had outdoor protests.

VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Brian, good to see you. You`re touching on an important question and something that people have picked up on. How can somebody, in my case for example, advocate a strict lockdown of everybody and the economic catastrophe that resulted and then also say it`s okay to go protest.

Well, here`s the thing, Brian. We as doctors, as nurses, as respiratory therapists, what we value more than anything else is prioritizing risks by how deadly they are. And that`s why all of us are saying it`s OK to protest, because the social inequities propagated by elements in our law enforcement institutions, by our health care system writ large, are simply put deadlier to the most vulnerable in America than the coronavirus is. The statistics bear that out. Poverty alone causes at least 300,000 deaths a year in America, and we know who bears the brunt of poverty across racial lines.

So that`s why we`re saying it`s OK to protest, but do so carefully. Do so outdoors ideally with a mask. Keep infection control at the top of your mind, but let`s tackle the deadlier risk here and that`s social injustice as you just outlined.

WILIAMS: So the cause of survival in 2020 against all the forces that might be arrayed against several different communities, those living in poverty, various communities of color in this country, are so vast and so grave that we take -- we assume a risk by going out, picking up a sign, and being next to people?

GUPTA: Of course we do, Brian. And I think that`s what we`re saying here. We`re trying to be internally consistent. Let`s tackle the biggest challenge while also being mindful of secondary challenges. No one`s saying that coronavirus -- in supporting the protesters, that coronavirus isn`t something we need to be alarmed about.

To your point, to that figure you`re just showing right now, there`s over 130,000 deaths a day right now on average worldwide. Most of those are born in the global south, in places like Brazil, across Latin America, Africa and Asia, and that`s problematic because that means that fall resurgence is probably going to be a midsummer resurgence exacerbated by these protests.

But now coronavirus has found a ripe home in the south, it`s going to cause a problem again in the fall. But that does not mean we don`t take on the biggest risks in front of us to people writ large, and that`s social injustice. That`s why we`re saying it`s okay to protest.

WILLIAMS: And one more time, the virus doesn`t respond to boredom the way humans do. So you see this notion of social distancing, where appropriate, where applicable, as a part of our lives certainly while the calendar reads 2020?

GUPTA: Brian, social distancing, mandatory masks in public, and Purell, regardless if you`re celebrating, if you`re working, if you`re protesting, do what you can because coronavirus is with us for the foreseeable future, and that`s years, not months.

By the way, we don`t have a vaccine on the horizon by the fall. The president just outlined five companies that are nowhere near testing for safety and efficacy of vaccine. So we need to dispel with this myth that we`re going to get a vaccine for the fall wave. We need to keep infection control at the top of mind while we`re also doing the right things when it comes to supporting social justice causes.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Gupta, thank you for your expertise and your candor always. Dr. Vin Gupta, our guest again tonight.

We promised our viewers we`d check in with the west coast. We`ve been watching the situation in Seattle, but let`s go to Los Angeles. Gadi schwartz just outside city hall, Gadi?

GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that`s right, Brian. You can see there`s still a very large, spirited crowd out here. They have been out here for over a week, and own though what happened is a half a country away, they are still demanding accountability.

Here at city hall, you can see this is the iconic city hall and concessions continue to be made here on the local level. In fact you`ve got police officers here tonight. There is no curfew and a much more relaxed environment. You`ve got police with no -- yesterday they were wearing riot helmets. Today they`re not wearing the riot helmets. We should probably point especially after that conversation you just had, many of them are not wearing masks. Some people in this crowd are not wearing masks too.

But for the most part, I`d say 70 percent to 80 percent of the protesters that come out here are wearing masks, but their main concern is about police accountability. They have demanded reform here in LAPD. LAPD and the city has agreed to cut the budget for LAPD by about $150 million, but these protesters say there is still a long road to go. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Gadi Schwartz, let`s hope it stays peaceful tonight in Los Angeles. Thank you for that.

Coming up as we keep watch over tonight`s demonstrations, these days of Americans taking to the streets provoking comparisons to another uprising for democracy in a different time. In fact, 31 years ago today. Nick Kristof was there. He`s here tonight with us to talk about it.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.

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WILLIAMS: The president`s promise there or threat to deploy the military on American citizens immediately called to mind for many the violence in Tiananmen Square. On this, the 31st anniversary of the massacre there. Our next guest, who was in China in the square when the military opened fire, writes this. No, United States troops won`t massacre protesters as Chinese troops did, but Trump`s deployment of troops for political purposes would betray our traditions, damage the credibility of the armed forces and exacerbate tensions across the country.

And so with us again tonight, the aforementioned Nick Kristof, columnist for "The New York Times," a Pulitzer prize winner for his coverage of the massacre. And so, my friend, we have secret police in Lafayette Square. We have new barricades around the presidential palace and columns of military vehicles on the streets of the capital city. Are we there yet?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": We`re not there yet, but, you know, especially on this anniversary of what I saw in Tiananmen Square and feeling that revulsion for watching a modern army turn tanks and machine guns on its own people, then the idea that we would even talk about bringing in active-duty military on the streets for -- to deal with civil unrest, when these are soldiers who, you know, bring 50 caliber machine guns to kill, it`s just astonishing to me that we`ve come to this point where we`re even talking about this.

WILLIAMS: Except for maybe ike and the ten other former generals we have elected president, we generally like our generals to stay out of politics though I must say yesterday Mattis` words were greeted so warmly by so many. We can tell it was a little bit of a trigger for the president, however.

KRISTOF: That`s right. And, you know, there`s a real -- I`ve been talking to senior military officials in the last few days about this, and there`s a real debate among themselves. There is a point of view that, you know, that they -- that one of the great traditions of the American military is to be nonpartisan, to be above the fray.

And so when some go on Fox News or on other channels and parlay their stars into a role as commentators, there is some nervousness about that. But I think there`s -- there is also real delight that General Mattis, that Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepped up and kind of said what had to be said, that the idea of using United States Armed Forces against the people of the United States is -- is just an atrocious idea. It`s a betrayal of everything the military stands for.

The U.S. military is the most admired institution in America today, and it is so admired precise by because it is above politics, because people understand that those machine guns are pointed at our enemies and not at our own people.

And, you know, the idea also, it just kind of feels that President Trump isn`t -- he`s never been interested in policy. You know, you talk to him. But he likes the pump of the job. He likes, I think, the idea of ordering troops around, pointing their guns. And so fundamentally it feels like this is one more photo op, one more celebration of a narcissistic personality in a way that uses the armed forces as props.

WILLIAMS: Donald Trump, Playboy magazine, 1990. Quote, when the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak, as being spit on by the rest of the world. Isn`t that all the viewer`s guide you need?

KRISTOF: Nobody who was there that terrible night 31 years ago would have seen that as a sign of strength. It was a sign of weakness in a regime. What I remember isn`t strength but blood, kids crumpling, deafening gunfire and sound, and a population that had to be subdued at gunpoint. That is not what we want to relive in this country.

WILLIAMS: Nick Kristof, a man who lived to tell the tale and write about it, thankfully for the rest of us. Nick, thank you very much for always coming on. We greatly appreciate it.

KRISTOF: Thank you

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, an incredible moment from today`s George Floyd memorial when we come back.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, if you`ve been paying any attention at all to the movement that`s been overtaking the streets, then you know the importance of the names of those who have died, the black lives that are no more.

Today at the George Floyd memorial in Minneapolis, the civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump gave proper and important and extemporaneous voice to those names as the mourners came to their feet.

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BENJAMIN CRUMP, CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER: We fight for the George Floyds of the world, but more importantly, when we fight for the unknown George Floyds of the world, when we fight for the Trayvon Martins of the world, when we fight for the Terence Crutchers of the world, when we fight for the Michael Browns of the world, when we fight for the Stirlings of the world, when we fight for the Philando Castiles of the world, when we fight for the Jamar Clarks for the world, when we fight for the Eric Garners of the world, when we fight for the Sandra Blands of the world, when we fight for the Ahmaud Arberys oft world, when we fight for the Briana Taylors of the word, when we fight for the Natasha McKinnis (ph), when we fight for Stephon Clarks of the world, when we fight for the least of these, what we are really doing is helping America live up to its creed.

What we`re really doing is helping America be the great beacon of hope and justice for all the world to marvel. But most importantly, brothers and sisters, what we are doing is helping America be America for all Americans.

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WILLIAMS: Benjamin Crump at today`s memorial service in Minneapolis to take us off the air tonight. And with that, that is our broadcast for this Thursday evening. Thank you so much very much for being here with us. On behalf of all of my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night from our temporary field headquarters. Our live MSNBC coverage continues next hour.

 

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