IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Rep. John Lewis TRANSCRIPT: 6/5/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Mara Gay, Susan Page, James Craig, Michael Osterholm, Alvin Tillery, John Della Volpe

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: As we come on the air tonight at the end of this difficult and long and emotional week for our country, marches and protests are under way for the 11th straight night since the death of George Floyd.

Today, our President said this was a great day for George Floyd because of today`s economic numbers. More on that comment later. Today, the city council in Minneapolis took a major step toward remaking the police department there, starting with a vote to ban chokeholds. In Louisville, people remembered Breonna Taylor, fatally shot as she slept during a police raid on her home back in March. Today would have been her 27th birthday.

Police departments around the country are responding to violent confrontations with protesters. Tonight, the NYPD suspended two officers seen in protest videos, one pushing a woman to the ground, another seen pulling a person`s face mask down and then pepper spraying him.

In the nation`s capital, huge yellow letters, 50 feet tall, visible from space, now spell out "Black Lives Matter" on 16th Street, which leads right up to the park where peaceful protesters were pushed aside to allow the President his photo op in front of the church five days ago now. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has officially renamed that part of the street Black Lives Matter Plaza. And her actions didn`t go unnoticed. It earned her an attack from the President today.

First for us tonight, a look at what`s happening at this hour. The 11th night, as we said, of protests in American streets. To begin, let`s get the latest from Gadi Schwartz out at City Hall in Los Angeles. Gadi.

GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brian. We saw a pretty remarkable scene out here. You see this crowd here. This is about 1,000 people. And just a little while ago, they found out about a press conference that was happening down there at LAPD headquarters. That`s the building over there.

So this entire crowd started marching down to LAPD headquarters where the chief was speaking in front of the HQ, and they basically started chanting to the point that the chief came over and spoke to the protesters. It was almost like the protesters were able to hijack that press conference with community leaders. The chief met with some protesters, promised some reform, responded to allegations of brutality over the last week or so.

Some of the videos that we`ve seen of police waving batons here in Los Angeles. And some of the protesters said that they were empty words until they actually see it from the rank and file. And, Brian, I got to tell you, speaking of the rank and file, during that press conference we were listening very closely, and something specific happened where I saw two officers wearing uniforms look at each other when the chief of police here in Los Angeles called what happened in Minnesota murder. Several times he used the word "murder." Those officers kind of uneasily looking at each other.

Again, this is the police chief in the second largest city in the country calling what happened in Minneapolis murder. It is a case that is still not adjudicated. So we`ll see how that plays with the rank and file. Brian?

WILLIAMS: Gadi, thank you. Just as impactfully, the head of the NYPD said this week he stands with the Floyd family as does his department.

To Washington we go. Garrett Haake on duty there again tonight. Garrett, what`s tonight been like thus far?

GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Brian, another entirely peaceful day of protests here in D.C. A smaller crowd today but they may have to do something with the torrential rain that we had this afternoon. The other big noticeable thing today, this entire plaza has been demilitarized. Gone are the little green men with no identification. Gone are park police with helmets and shields.

The only police presence we`ve seen all day have been some NPD police officers on bicycles. Even tonight they`re doing traditional protest things in D.C. like bringing out the snowplows so they can safely block off the street and keep it open for protesters to stay out here all night long if they want to. The curfew has gone and I suspect they will want to.

Also tonight, the mayor has gone beyond her pre-painting of the street here and continuing a back and forth with the President. Tonight the President tweeted calling her incompetent. I want to show you some video.

Also tonight, the mayor had installed on some of the buildings down here these projectors projecting "Black Lives Matter" onto some of the buildings. She wrote on an Instagram post that she`s leaving the night light on so that he dreams about Black Lives Matter. No love lost between these two political figures here in Washington, Brian.

WILLIAMS: It`s clearly on between the two of them. Garrett Haake, the snowplows are out on the streets --

HAAKE: Yes, it is.

WILLIAMS: -- of Washington tonight. Thank you very much.

The economy was reeling before these protests got under way as we all know. Millions of jobs evaporated as the pandemic spread from coast to coast. That`s why today`s numbers from the Labor Department were so surprising. The overall unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent in May. That`s down from just north of 14 percent in April, still the highest since the Second World War.

The nation also added 2.5 million jobs. Yet the jobless rate higher for Black, Latino, Asian-Americans.

The President celebrated today`s numbers as a sign of turnaround, and he seemed to suggest the worst of the pandemic was over. As we mentioned, Trump also linked the monthly jobs report numbers to the man whose death ignited this nationwide demand for justice.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We saved millions of lives, and now we`re opening, and we`re opening with a bang. And we`ve been talking about the "V." This is better than a "V." This is a rocket ship.

Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that`s happening for our country. It`s a great day for him. It`s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.


WILLIAMS: And about this being a great day for George Floyd, the late George Floyd, there was this response from trump`s Democratic opponent.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He was speaking of a man who was brutally killed by an act of needless violence. George Floyd`s last words "I can`t breathe. I can`t breathe" have echoed all across this nation and quite frankly around the world. For the President to try to put any other words in the mouths of George Floyd, I frankly think is despicable.


WILLIAMS: Our Washington bureau tells me, though the night is young, the President set a record for his presidency at 197 tweets and re-tweets just today though, again, we have less than an hour to go. As for the President, he spent the rest of his day in the state of Maine, touring a company that makes equipment, mostly swabs for coronavirus testing. There, he continued calling for the reopening of the U.S. economy while taking a broad swipe at the Democratic Governor Janet Mills.


TRUMP: Why isn`t your governor opening up your state?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know. We don`t know.

TRUMP: All these states are being opened. They`re making a lot of money. That`s why we had the good numbers today. You have a governor that doesn`t know what she`s doing, and she`s like a dictator. You know?


TRUMP: Why isn`t she opening up your state?


WILLIAMS: "The Portland Press Herald" today made clear how they felt about the President`s visit. This morning, the largest newspaper in the state of Maine called on Donald Trump to resign.

Here for our leadoff discussion on a Friday night, we`re awfully happy to have back with us Mara Gay, former New York City Hall Bureau Chief at "The Wall Street Journal," these days a member of "The New York Times" editorial board, who also happens to be a coronavirus survivor. And Susan Page, "USA Today" Washington Bureau Chief.

Mara, it`s great to see you. I follow you on social media, so I know you have gone back to running, logging your first mile back on the road today. So we`re happy to hear that. Speaking of out on the road and the streets of your city, how do you describe this moment and this movement?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, first of all, thank you for having me, Brian. It`s great to see you. Yes, you know, the protesters were walking outside my apartment building earlier today in Brooklyn, and it is a moment of both great pain for New Yorkers and Americans and especially black Americans, but also one of great pride.

I think that what we`re witnessing right now is a movement for justice, not just for black men killed by the police, which is at the heart of the movement, but also a movement for democracy. And I just have to say that seeing the diverse crowd, there`s so many white Americans who are out there putting their bodies on the line in peaceful protest alongside black and brown brothers and sisters. And it is just extremely moving, and I think it`s going to make it powerful and hard to ignore. And I think that, you know, local police departments and officials across the country are going to have to respond.

WILLIAMS: Susan, what`s Washington been like this week? Not every day you have secret police and columns of armored vehicles in the city streets, say nothing of low-hovering military helicopters designed to disperse crowds by using dust and the rotor wash they give off.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: It`s been a shocking week. Monday was a shocking night when we saw Lafayette Square, the people`s park, cleared of peaceful protesters quite forcibly before the President then would walk across the park and pose in front of St. John`s Church. And the helicopters -- I mean, it looked -- it seemed like a war zone, not like the U.S. capital. So I think it was shocking.

And we then saw this battle between the mayor and the President over what law enforcement officials were going to be on the streets where the active- duty military going to be -- protests which had been largely peaceful. I think it`s been difficult. End of the week looks a little calmer, and I`ve got to say the mayor has shown a certain amount of moxie by painting "Black Lives Matter" on two blocks leading right up to the front door of the White House.

WILLIAMS: Moxie is one word for it. It is going to get more and more interesting from here on out. Mara, I want to play you something that the President re-tweeted tonight, this exchange. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guy with a very long record and a very long criminal record. He was said to be cleaning up his life by his family. I hope that was true. But he was also high on fentanyl and dropped a bag of drugs that he was carrying at the time. Is this really the guy that black America -- I mean they were very careful to pick Rosa Parks. Is this the symbol of black America today?


WILLIAMS: Mara, the President having started the day saying this was a great day for George Floyd, what does it say to you that he distributed that?

GAY: Well, the President is a racist, and so he is, you know, behaving as a racist, as the white supremacist that he is. But what I think it shows is a certain desperation because I think that his message is not getting across to much of his usual base and his coalition. I think when you see evangelical leaders like Joel Osteen and the NFL commissioner tonight reverse course or speak out more forcefully for justice and for the lives of black Americans, President Trump knows that he`s losing the cultural war and it`s only a matter of time before he loses the political one as well.

Americans are seeing with their own eyes what`s happening on the streets, and I think it`s different in every city, and I want to give a lot of credit to the police chiefs and the police officers out there who are doing a very difficult job with respect for American citizens and their right to protest. But unfortunately, we`re also seeing widespread incidents in which that is not the case, and the right to peacefully protest is being abrogated by local police departments across the country, including here in New York City with use of force, that Americans who are black know all too well. And other Americans are seeing themselves and their children being beaten in the streets for peacefully protesting, and that`s what makes this different.

WILLIAMS: Mara, indeed we have the police chief in Detroit, Michigan, standing by to talk to us a bit later on in the broadcast. Susan, we`ve talked about the President insisting this was a good day for George Floyd. Just regarding the politics that you and I have been around longer than we care to admit. When you`re limited to your base, most politicians would feel in their gut and be counseled to reach out and try to convert suburbanites, moderates. That`s not what`s happening here, is it?

PAGE: No. And that has not been President Trump`s practice from -- at all in politics from the time he started to run for president. His appeal has always been to harden his base, not to broaden his base. It`s to make sure that the people who are with him are going to be with him and then to attack his opponent as unacceptable by discourage the vote for his opponent. But he has had a base strategy from the start, and he is not deviating from it now. And this will be a test.

You know, we`ve seen appeals -- this kind of appeal to law and order, to cultural wedges, he`s work in some elections. It worked in 1968. It worked in 2016. And one of the things that have been interesting in watching these demonstrations is the size of the demonstrations, the durability of them. They`re getting bigger, not smaller, as we head now well into the second week of demonstrations.

And the diversity of them, Mara mentioned. I think these protesters seem to be getting more diverse, not less diverse as time goes on, and that has been really interesting. Is there something fundamental going on, a shift in our politics in these past two weeks? And I don`t think we know the answer to that, but I think it`s possible.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it sure looks like it may be possible. Mara Gay, Susan Page, two friends of this broadcast, great to have you both back on. Thank you so much for spending part of your Friday night with us after the week we`ve all had.

Coming up, caught on camera, not the protesters this time, the police. To Mara`s point, we will ask Detroit`s police chief how to solve this problem, how to begin to solve this problem.

And later, protesting shoulder to shoulder doesn`t leave a whole lot of room for social distancing. How worried should we be about what the CDC now calls seeding events for the spread of coronavirus? "The 11th Hour" is just getting started on this Friday night.


WILLIAMS: A story that got a lot of play today. Prosecutors are investigating the now viral violent confrontation involving police in Buffalo, New York. The video remains tough to watch. 75-year-old protester approaches the cops and then is shoved to the ground. Instantly he is left motionless, and we can see blood start to flow from his head as the officers involved walk by him.

He is in serious but stable condition. Two officers as a result of this suspended without pay. But then all the other officers, 57 of them, have left that unit to show solidarity. It`s one of several violent confrontations recently posted on social media.

There`s another from a protest last Saturday in L.A. Not clear what led members of the LAPD to use their batons against the protesters. Tonight Philadelphia`s D.A. charging a police department staff inspector -- that`s a high-ranking police officer -- with aggravated assault after a college student was struck in the head with a baton while protesting on Monday. But police departments argue the violence goes both ways. Cameras have also captured images of NYPD cops appearing to be struck with bricks and projectiles and then some.

With us tonight to talk about all of it, chief of police for the city of Detroit, Michigan, James Craig. Chief, thank you very much for coming on. And the chicken/egg question to you, is it happening more or are we seeing it more?

CHIEF JAMES CRAIG, DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT: You know, it`s happening more. Brian, I can tell you I`ve been a practitioner now for 44 years. I was on the front seat of the unrest in Rodney King after the acquittal of the officers and the riots. So this is a very different time. I`ve not seen anything like it, and certainly the video you show of the Brooklyn officers is just so troubling.

I mean, it`s one thing to push someone. I don`t know the circumstances that led up to that. He certainly appeared not to be resisting. He was certainly up in age. And then once he hits the ground, he`s bleeding from his head, just to walk by and not render aid.

That`s the one thing that, you know, when I think about Detroit police officers, there have been armed confrontations with violent suspects that our officers have had to use deadly force, but quickly transition from trying to protect themselves and the community and then rendering aid right away. And then in instances, transport them to the hospital. So to see that, it was troubling. That`s not what we`re here for. It`s sad.

WILLIAMS: So many of the protesters have said some version of, "you try living our lives with the threat we feel to our lives every day." Friends of mine who are on the job in police departments have contacted me to say, you try working a 12, a 12-hour shift, getting yelled at, and being in equal measure fearful and angry on a protest line. And there we have the equation, don`t we?

CRAIG: We absolutely do, Brian. I was out on the front lines with our officers, and certainly fortunately over the last several days, we`ve had peaceful protests. There have been no confrontations. But day one, two, and some of three, we`re talking about projectiles being thrown at the officers. In one instance, a --

WILLIAMS: Railroad spikes, correct?

CRAIG: Railroad spikes. And I mean if you`ve seen -- I mean this is a weapon that if used in a certain way, can cause great bodily harm. And so I got to tell you, those officers that were on that frontline were professional, resilient. I mean some of them were being spat upon. The names that they were calling, they maintained.

You know, I started in 1977, Brian, and it certainly was a different day. So my hat goes out to the vast majority. But certainly this is not to say that those who step across the line -- I`m talking about the men and women -- we have to take a higher ground. But also, you know, dealing with violent protesters, and I`m not talking about the peaceful protesters because the vast majority of them have been peaceful. They just want their voices heard, and we support that here in Detroit. And it`s worked out well, but there have been a few violent encounters.

WILLIAMS: And you`ve made this point locally in Detroit so well, that these peaceful protests and what happens at night are literally like night and day. Do you have a percentage on the arrests you`ve made at night? How many of the percentage of arrestees are from Detroit and how many are not?

CRAIG: 70 percent. Brian, 70 percent are from outside of Detroit. The metro area, and then we`ve arrested a few from out of state. Three from California. So we`ve had three from California, several from Ohio, Kentucky.

And so the million dollar question is why are you here? Why are you in Detroit? There are protests going on all across the country. You can stay in New York and protest. Why come to Detroit? I mean I have -- I can speculate, but certainly those are the ones that are really triggering.

But here`s the magic that`s going on in Detroit right now, Brian. The fact that the African-American community stands with this police department, stands with this police chief, and several days ago, they said in a resounding way, go home. We don`t need you here. You`re not going to burn our city.

And I remember as a young man growing up here in Detroit in the 1967, I was a boy, and I remember the riot. And I remember what it was like. And I remember the racism and the beatings. And I said then I would never be a police officer. So now here I sit many years later, and so excited to be back home and certainly leading one of the finest police departments in America.

WILLIAMS: Anyone who has ever counted out Detroit, Michigan, has lived to regret it. Chief James Craig of the Detroit Police Department, we greatly appreciate the time you spent with us tonight. Thank you very much. Stay safe to you, your men and women.

CRAIG: And thank you, Brian. Appreciate it. You have a great night.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, sir.

We are keeping an eye on tonight`s protests on city streets across our country. There`s Los Angeles in the shadow of City Hall.

Just ahead for us, the choice between social justice and social distancing. Here we are in a pandemic after all. Why the experts tracking the virus are still quite concerned about the virus.


WILLIAMS: As we continue to check in on cities across the country, let`s check in with Cal Perry in Louisville. And, Cal, how close are we to being able to declare that the mood perhaps has lifted in that very tense place?

CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We`re there. The mood has lifted. A week ago tonight I was introducing you to my favorite bus station that was providing me with cover. The next night it was my favorite tree providing me with cover. And tonight there`s music. There are kids out here. And it`s all really because the police force here in Louisville as well as the National Guard have disappeared.

They are out of view. That started about 72 hours ago. They lifted the curfew, and it has made all the difference in the world. There was basically a birthday celebration for Breonna Taylor. It would have been her 27th birthday. She was of course killed in mid-March. And tomorrow we`ll see more of the same. We`re told there will be vigil. We`ll see balloons going into the air. It is a party-like atmosphere here, Brian.

WILLIAMS: It`s nice to see little kids behind you while you talk, playing around the fountain. Cal Perry in Louisville, we`ll take it. Thank you very much.

As these large protests continue across our country, the CDC is warning -- common sense -- the gatherings could spark new coronavirus infections. The CDC director told lawmakers this week, protesters in areas where the virus isn`t controlled right now should highly consider getting tested. Good advice.

He also said the demonstrations have the potential to be what he called seeding events. This as the A.P. is reporting there`s growing fear in the White House the protests may bring about a resurgence of, of all things, the coronavirus.

According to "The New York Times," 18 states have now seen an increase in newly reported cases over the past two weeks. Right now over 1.8 million cases have been reported in the U.S. That`s entirely testing-dependent, with over 109,000 deaths now. We`re still losing about 1,000 people a day in our country.

Back with us again tonight, Dr. Michael Osterholm. He`s professor and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He`s also the co-author of the recent book "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs."

Doc, I have to ask you to begin with a negative. What`s the chance we don`t see spikes in all the big cities where these big mass gatherings have taken place day and night for days on end? And if we don`t see spikes, are you going to declare it safe for all of us to go back outside?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, thank you first of all for having me, Brian. We`re undergoing right now a very unfortunate experiment. That`s what`s happened this past week with all of the crowds that we`ve seen, the protests and so forth. And we don`t know what that`s going to do.

The good news is that it was outdoors largely, and that we`ve seen typically -- the virus just actually floats into the air, doesn`t become a problem, and so from that standpoint, the risk is lower.

On the other hand, we had people who experienced tear gas, smoke, and yelling, all things that would either cause coughing or projectile of the virus out of one`s throat by yelling. And so that could enhance transmission.

And then of course we had the people who were detained by law enforcement, were put into buses, booked at local jails, and held in jail cells, which also could enhance it. So you`ve got some things that say it could be a problem and some that said it might not be. We`re going to have to find out in 10 days to 14 days what really happened.

WILLIAMS: And I was actually thinking of you at the height of this. Here you are a disease specialist and a frequent guest on this and other networks, in the middle of the twin cities, in the epicenter of the violence night after night. Talk about the tug-of-war between social justice and social distancing because so many of the protesters will tell you this, to them, is as existential a threat to them as any COVID-19 you can bring on.

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think we all recognize we`re in a period of our history right now that will be written in a way, just as we read the 1918 pandemic. Again, I come back and remind people that 85 days ago, COVID-19 was not even the top 50 causes of death in this country, and many days last month, it was the number one cause of death in this country. We haven`t seen that since 1918.

We also have had economic disruptions to the point of where we haven`t seen it since the great depression. And now we have the riots associated with race issues that we haven`t seen since the 1960s.

When you put this all together, it`s a very dangerous mix, and we are very concerned about the social interactions that would enhance the transmission of COVID virus. And again as I pointed out, we`re in a very unfortunate experiment right now, how all this mixing after having come off the distancing will actual apply play in terms of virus transmission.

WILLIAMS: And you can look at the chart on a city like New York and see that people really did get the job done. They followed instructions. They flattened the curve, and of course New York City among the leading places where we have people in the streets as recently as tonight.

You have never failed to try to illustrate where you think we are in this virus, which you`ve pointed out time and time again does not respect boredom. It doesn`t care about our plans. It`s predatory. So, where do you think -- and of course I`m asking with an eye toward a possible second wave. Where do you think we are in this virus?

OSTERHOLM: Right. Well, thank you for that setup. It was well done. Let me just say that, you know, I`ve said for over a month and a half to two months, we`re still in the second inning of a nine-inning game. And I`m getting people saying, boy, that`s a long inning.

What I`m waiting for is to see if we do in fact have a first wave, meaning about three months` worth of cases around the world, and then it starts to tail off regardless of what we do. And that would indicate that this is acting much more like an influenza virus pandemic than coronavirus, which we don`t know. We`ve never had one before so we don`t know how that acts.

If that happens, the virus goes away, I will see many claiming victory that we won, and it`s the worst possible situation I can imagine. No one wants anyone to get sick, particularly seriously ill or die. But if we see a real reduction in cases, I can almost promise you we will see a very substantial second wave either later in the summer or in the fall. We don`t know that yet. We`re still all waiting to see what this virus is going to do. But as I`ve said on this show before, don`t forget for one moment we are not driving this tiger. We are riding it. And we have a long ways to go yet.

WILLIAMS: That is why we pay very close attention when we have you on, and you speak to us and along those second inning lines, I hope your twins get to play some baseball this year. Everyone`s hoping to see something at least. Dr. Michael Osterholm, thank you very much for joining us.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: From Minneapolis again tonight.

Coming up for us, a review of this consequential week for the presidency and our country when we continue.



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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that your bible?

TRUMP: It`s a bible.

It was a false report. I wasn`t down. I went down during the day, and I was there for a tiny, little short period of time, and it was much more for an inspection.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, why don`t you have a plan for systemic racism? Mr. President, why haven`t you laid out plans to address system racism?


WILLIAMS: Just a snapshot of the president`s leadership style this week. With us for more this night, Alvin Tillery, Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, where he focuses his studies on the intersection of American politics and race and ethnicity. Happens to be the author of "Between Homeland and Motherland: Africa, U.S. Foreign Policy and Black Leadership in America." Also with us, John Della Volpe, Director of Polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. It`s a great pleasure to have both of you gentlemen with us tonight

Professor Tillery, I`d like to begin with you. With your definition of this movement that doesn`t have a Dr. King, it doesn`t have a John Lewis, but it has a George Floyd.

ALVIN TILLERY, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: Yes. Well, I mean the Black Lives Matter movement predicates itself and prides itself on not having charismatic central figures at the helm. They see themselves as grassroots activists that stimulate change from the bottom up. They do this intentionally. And to some extent, this is what, you know, has captured the hearts and minds of the millennial generation.

WILLIAMS: And that`s where our statistician and our polling expert comes in. Please talk, John, about the demographics of this, and because we live in a political world and this broadcast normally covers politics, the demographics that politicians had better pay attention to at their own peril.

JOHN DELLA VOLPE, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL DIRECTOR OF POLLING: Exactly. And if you don`t believe Gen Z and millennials matter, you can ask Hillary Clinton last election. I`ve been studying this generation now for 20 years, first millennials and now Gen Z. The way I think of it is it`s been this battle between this irresistible force of young people, incredibly active in their communities, making their cities and towns and communities better every single day. And they`ve been fighting against this immovable force of baby boomers in Washington, D.C.

And I think what we`re seeing for the first time is the ground move and the irresistible force is beginning to take hold. That`s what we`re seeing. There is more them than us. Millennials are the largest generation in the history of America, in the history of the world. There was record turnout in 2018 on the heels of the Parkland movement. And we should be prepared for something very similar happening in just a few months.

WILLIAMS: And Professor Tillery, I want to play for you something given your knowledge of history, you`ll enjoy this. Here is the White House press secretary from this week.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Through all of time, we`ve seen presidents and leaders across the world who have had leadership moments and very powerful symbols that were important for a nation to see at any given time to show a message of resilience and determination, like Churchill, we saw him inspecting the bombing damage. It sent a powerful message of leadership to the British people. And George W. Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch after 9/11.


WILLIAMS: So, professor, just on my own light reading, I know that the Brits didn`t have to use chemical dispersants on the people in London`s east end prior to Churchill`s arrival. And I`m guessing the word "Churchillian" hasn`t occurred to you this week?

TILLERY: No, certainly not, Brian. As a scholar of presidential leadership, you know, I`m really saddened by President Trump`s behavior but also by his staff`s attempt to gaslight the entire nation. I mean we know what normal presidential leadership looks like, and it is certainly not clearing peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park using military or paramilitary forces that we really are not even sure which unit they belong to, with tear gas, attacking journalists.

It is really something that a lot of my colleagues and I -- I`m sure John hears about this at Harvard as well. We`re worried that the country is sliding toward authoritarianism. And this was probably one of the most, you know, sort of visible displays of this authoritarian potential that I`ve seen, you know, ever in the history of the republic, in the modern era so to speak. And that`s very, very troubling.

WILLIAMS: Think of what we`ve seen this week. We have seen, in effect, secret police, in effect barricades going up around the presidential palace, and columns of armored military vehicles on the streets of our capital city. We`ll just pause right here. Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us. We`ll continue this conversation on the other side.



REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Today I feel more lucky, more than lucky, more than blessed, but to be here to see the changes that have occurred, to live to see a young man, a young friend like President Barack Obama become president of the United States of America. It was worth the pain, and that`s why I believe that we cannot give up, cannot give in, become bitter or hostile.


WILLIAMS: Note the message of hope from John Lewis for the protesters out there fighting racial inequality. He`s a man who speaks from experience, having stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. King, having been beaten to within an inch of his life as police fractured his skull in Selma in 1965.

Our guests remain with us. Alvin Tillery, John Della Volpe. Professor Tillery, I`ve had the great good fortune in life to get to know John Lewis a little bit. And when you sit with him, once you get over the disparity in moral authority, what bowls you over is the hopefulness of that man, who is now by the way in the fight of his life against cancer. I just hope cancer knows what it got itself into.

TILLERY: Yes. I mean I think, you know, Mr. Lewis is a symbol of hope and freedom for us all to follow, and I hope that the protesters that are in the streets today can borrow the model that he and Dr. King and Ms. Rosa used to translate their activism into change at the polls and in policy. And if that can happen, it will truly be a transformational moment.

WILLIAMS: John, with a shout-out to my home county in New Jersey, I saw a poll today from Monmouth asking people if they`re more worried today in effect about racial inequality than they were five years ago. Well, there`s your result. Over three-quarters of us believe discrimination is a problem. And, John, there`s your driver. You were just talking about the generations that came up after us gently opening the door and saying, what`s your hurry? There`s your change driver right there.

DELLA VOLPE: Absolutely. And it`s a different generation. The values -- I call them the values generation, Brian. And what`s happening is i think COVID matters because I think COVID has brought some families together. And I think even before the last couple of weeks, there was a lot of shared communication and conversations where perhaps for the first time older Americans had the same level of stress and anxiety that younger Americans have every single day, the struggle, the concern about inequality. So many younger voters go into the voting booth not just representing themselves but representing those without a voice.

And I think perhaps some of that conversation might be one of the reasons we`re seeing these polls tip like they are.

WILLIAMS: That is positively Lewisian optimism to hear from you. I`ve struggled night after night to find the good in this pandemic. And what you`ve settled upon, though, is fascinating that this might have just had a cross current of understanding about it.

DELLA VOLPE: I think to the degree that there is any silver lining or any bright side, when we ask people in polls, what impact it`s had, it`s brought people closer to their family, closer to their friends, and we saw a little bit of this in 2008 when younger people inspired their grandparents to take a look at Barack Obama. And I think the same thing could be happening tonight, not just about politics but about the future of the country and resetting where we`re headed.

WILLIAMS: Wow, I know a note to end on when I hear one. With great thanks and a request to do this very same conversation again to Professor Alvin Tillery and to John Della Volpe, thank you, gentlemen, at the end of a long week, this is what we needed.

Coming up for us, a critique of the president from abroad and one from here at home when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, perhaps not the transition to greatness the president was hoping for, Der Spiegel is on the board with a vivid front cover calling the president an arsonist. "Fire Devil" is the German phrase they use. They also said a president sets fire to his country. So there`s that.

Indeed the walls have gone up, and the people have been pushed further away from the people`s house. As the threat of violence briefly forced the president, his wife, and son into the basement bunker known as the PEOC, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, something the president denied, but that was all Mike Murphy needed to hear. The Republican political strategist and frequent guest of ours, and his group called Republican voters against Trump are out with a blistering new ad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where`s the president in a time of national emergency? Hiding. Hiding in a security bunker, watching his shows, afraid, alone. Not a leader.

TRUMP: Supposing you brought the light inside the body.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not a president. Just a scared incompetent --

TRUMP: Within a couple of days it`s going to be down to close to zero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- embarrassment. You know that. Those who have worked with him know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former Defense Secretary James Mattis accusing President Trump of being a threat to the constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our allies know that. And our enemies know that. Everyone knows that. It`s time for a competent president. Let`s elect one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Defending democracy together is responsible for the content of this advertising.


WILLIAMS: Let`s call it unambiguous. Republican voters against Trump playing us off the air tonight. And that is our broadcast for this evening at the end of this long week. Please have a good and safe weekend and thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night from our temporary field headquarters. We continue now with live coverage.

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