COVID-19 TRANSCRIPT: 6/15/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Francis Suarez, Kavita Patel, Maya Wiley

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. Day 1,243 of the Trump administration, 141 days to go now until the Presidential Election.

We are now hours away from the President`s promised executive order on police reform. He is responding to a movement that took off across the country following the killing of George Floyd and that has gained more momentum now after police shot and killed another African-American man late last week.

Rayshard Brooks was killed in Atlanta on Friday night after officers responded to a 911 call, said there was a man asleep in his car who was blocking a Wendy`s drive-through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPERATOR: You need police, fire or ambulance out here?

CALLER: Um, the police.

OPERATOR: OK, tell me what`s going on.

CALLER: Um, I have a car -- I think he`s intoxicated. He`s in the middle of my drive-thru. I tried to wake him up, but he`s parked dead in the middle of the drive-thru.

OPERATOR: OK. Does he appear to have any weapons, ma`am? Ma`am, does he appear to have any weapons from where you can see him?

CALLER: No, no I think he`s intoxicated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That`s how it started. Atlanta Police Department video shows initial interactions between the officers and Brooks, who had been asleep in the car, were mostly calm, mostly civil. Police say Brooks failed a sobriety test. Then the encounter blew up when the officers attempted to place Mr. Brooks in cuffs.

Video shows the struggle between Brooks and the officers. Investigators say Brooks then took a taser from one of the officers. Here`s where the scene becomes more difficult to watch. Georgia Bureau of Investigations surveillance video appears to show Brooks turn and point the taser at the officers as he ran away.

One of the officers draws and fires his weapon. The autopsy showed Brooks was shot twice in the back. The medical examiner ruled his death was a homicide. The officer who shot Brooks was fired immediately. The other officer on the scene has been transferred to administrative duty. Atlanta`s Police Commissioner has resigned. This morning Brooks` widow asked protesters in Atlanta to remain peaceful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMIKA MILLER, WIDOW OF RAYSHARD BROOKS: There is no justice that can ever make me feel happy about what`s been done. I can never get my husband back. I can never get my best friend. I can never tell my daughter, oh, he`s coming to take you skating or swimming lessons. So this is going to be a long time before I heal. It`s going to be a long time before this family heals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Heartbreaking scene there. And at the White House this afternoon, the President was asked for his thoughts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I thought it was a terrible situation. I studied it closely. To me, it was very disturbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: It had been 21 days, of course, since the killing of George Floyd. His death in custody led to a nationwide call for police reforms. As we mentioned, Trump is expected to sign this executive order on policing tomorrow, wording TBA. The focus of the order said to be on tracking misconduct, officer training, sending social workers on some nonviolent police calls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The overall goal is we want law and order, and we want it done fairly, justly. We want it done safely. But we want law and order. This is about law and order, but it`s about justice also, and it`s about safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The President`s also expected at least to ask Congress to pass new laws. The A.P. is reporting Senate Republicans are preparing a measure that would at least include restrictions on choke holds.

Meanwhile, the nation`s public health crisis brought on by a still churning pandemic isn`t going anywhere. If anything, the outbreak is becoming more intense in some parts of our country. The U.S. now has over 2.1 million confirmed cases. Well over 116,000 people have died. Scientists out at the University of Washington predict more than 200,000 deaths by early October.

Virus still on the rise, still on the move, 22 states are showing an uprate including Oklahoma, where the President relaunching his campaign rallies on Saturday. The event`s taking place at the 19,000-seat Bank of Oklahoma Arena in Tulsa, a city in the midst of a full-on spike in cases. Trump says they`ll also fill a convention hall next door. Tulsa`s public health director says he`d prefer the President put off the rally because of the surge in confirmed cases under way right now in that city. But Trump made it clear today he`s going forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Oklahoma has done very well. I just spoke to the governor. He`s very excited about it. Oklahoma is at a very low number. They`ve done really fantastic work. We expect to have -- you know, it`s like a record-setting crowd. We`ve never had an empty seat, and we certainly won`t in Oklahoma.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As he has done in the past, Trump tried to link the increases in cases that we know about to wider testing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I can tell you on COVID or coronavirus or whatever you want to call it, plenty of names, tremendous progress is being made. A lot of cases that other countries who don`t even test don`t have. If you don`t test, you don`t have any cases. If we stopped testing right now, we`d have very few cases if any.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Bloomberg news reporting it the following way. Texas and Florida, two of the most populous U.S. states, reported record numbers of new COVID- 19 infections on Sunday. The recent surge in illnesses in those states and others has led to concern among public health officials that reopening the economy has come at the cost of spreading the new coronavirus. But today in what some instantly labeled blatant gaslighting, the President offered an almost completely opposite take, talking about how well things are going, specifically in the states that are in the midst of an upswing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I spoke with the governor of Texas where they`ve done a fantastic job, and he said they have had some outbreaks in prisons, and that`s where their numbers went out. And the numbers changed a little bit because of the prison population, but he`s got it in great shape -- Texas. Florida`s doing really well. Georgia`s doing well. We have tremendous numbers. We have hot spots as I said you might, and we take care of the hot spots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-Winning White House reporter for The Washington Post. 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 Dr. Kavita Patel, former Senior Aide in the Obama White House advising on health reform, financial regulatory reform, economic recovery issues. Also happened to be a clinical physician and among our medical contributors.

Good evening and welcome to all of you. Dr. Patel, I`m duty-bound to start with you. Today Mike Pence said that Oklahoma had flattened the curve in advance of the President`s rally. They`ve done nothing of the sort. A graphic of various nations in the world in the New York Times today shows Spain, Germany, Italy having crushed it. The United States still continuing at the same level of cases.

The President insisting Texas and Florida are doing great. They are not. My question is where`s the CDC? Where are the other elements of his government? Where would the CDC be in saying that maybe a gathering of 20,000 people in one arena, 60,000 in an overflow convention center may be what you, yourself, have called the ultimate tinderbox?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT IN THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Well, the CDC has been just silently -- they`ve either been absent, or they`ve just been releasing, you know, on a Friday afternoon some guidance that goes unnoticed in light of what I`m going to call kind of a triple pandemic. You`ve got the virus. You have the systemic racism that the leadership is promoting. And then the third is this pandemic of misinformation, saying that we`ve got it under control and that an increase in cases is simply from an increase in testing is just not true. We have an increase in the proportion of positive cases that is exceeding what we have had before, meaning we have had more cases that have turned positive despite increasing tests, and that`s unlike New York State or Italy, where we have triple the volume of testing but a much lower rate. So they`re just obfuscating the facts. And the CDC and other public health officials have either been silenced, or they`ve just not been allowed to speak up even despite knowing the facts.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, is the constant here in the playbook something close to stagecraft, telling us his own reality on coronavirus, wanting no seeming connection to coronavirus, wanting no seeming connection to the clearing of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah. The President has basically largely almost entirely stopped speaking about the coronavirus, right? He used to have those daily briefings. They got him in trouble, and now that they`ve gone away, in the President`s world it`s as if it almost doesn`t exist.

Going to Tulsa and holding a rally like that against the quiet guidelines of your CDC does not place the coronavirus front and center. I would add the same on the economy. The President and his team are offering a very optimistic vision of an economic recovery. And in talking to them, they say, look, they believe that the President, as he said himself repeatedly, is a cheerleader for the nation, that the nation generally elects the optimist, that they prefer a hopeful version especially when America is in such a grim place. But the risk for this is that people feel these things in their own realities. If you are one of those people who goes to -- again, we don`t know exactly what will happen. But if you`re one of those people who goes to the Tulsa rally and signs the waiver that you will not hold the campaign or the contractor to the vendor responsible if you catch coronavirus, and you catch coronavirus, you realize it`s still a threat. If you`re one of the people whose business is shuttered, who is struggling to pay their mortgage or their rent, you understand the economy isn`t doing well. So there is a risk if that optimism rubs up against in contrast with the grim facts of the reality.

WILLIAMS: Maya Wiley, 21 days since the killing of George Floyd. Three days since the killing of Rayshard Brooks. What could possibly be in that executive order that will address the anger out there right now, or is that not the purpose of this executive order?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I don`t believe it`s the purpose of this executive order. I think that there`s very little that this White House is likely to propose that will tell the American public that is demonstrating out in the streets that it is serious about taking on police brutality.

If it had been serious about taking on police brutality, we would have heard a lot more a lot sooner, including in relationship to a fairly, you know, thoughtful, comprehensive package that congressional black caucus in the House proposed to its leadership and that House Democrats are moving forward. This is an administration that made very little comment on that, and as you heard the President say, we want to be tough on crime but with justice. It`s like we want to beat you with a baton. We just want to do it justly. That`s the message. That`s not going to fly.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Patel, to double down on the point you were just making about if we didn`t do any testing, we wouldn`t have any cases, this is from the New York Times tonight. Vice President Mike Pence encouraged governors on Monday to adopt the administration`s claim that increased testing helps account for the new coronavirus outbreak reports even though evidence has shown that the explanation is misleading.

On a call with the governors, audio of which was obtain by The New York Times, Mr. Pence urged them to continue to explain to your citizens, the magnitude of the increase in testing in addressing the new outbreaks. He asked them to encourage people with the news that we`re safely reopening the country. Dr. Patel, you`ve been one of the consistent voices on this network, on this broadcast. To say this virus doesn`t respond to our words, it doesn`t respond to boredom. It doesn`t respect signs that say we are reopening safely.

PATEL: That`s right. It really only respects the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry, and then we`ve compounded upon that by creating these kind of misinformation, kind of messages that are unclear to the public. You`ve got Americans who are just confused about whether they should just stay at home or whether they can just walk out without any masks or any physical distancing. And what we need is really a clear message that, yes, we can reopen the economy, but we can do it safely by not having large indoor rallies, by being very honest about the data.

We actually have states that are not being transparent about the data, but we know the more testing you do, we should see a drop in the percent of positive cases. That`s actually when you know that you`re doing enough widespread testing. And what we`re seeing unfortunately, Brian, is that we`re doing more testing, and the positive cases are increasing, which means that there are more people getting infected with the virus. This isn`t something you can just slap a band-aid on. The virus knows none of those boundaries.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, the rally coming up in Tulsa actually fits the CDC worst-case scenario definition, a large mass gathering indoors made up of people who have all come from disparate and various places. Having accomplished that and this venue, this arena, sits 19,000 to 20,000 maximum. They`ve announced an overflow room at the convention center. Do you care to hazard an educated guess about what the President`s comments might be centered on in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

PARKER: I will stipulate that we never know what the President is going to say. There is times you think he`s going to go off script and he`s actually quite disciplined, but let`s just take a look at these circumstances. You laid out the backdrop of a deadly pandemic and the health risks. There`s then the controversy and the history of the original date of the rally itself, chosen on June 10th and in a city that was home to one of the worst instances of racial violence in the nation`s history.

The President changed the date, but there was that controversy. You`re expecting huge crowds of the President`s supporters. Even though he changed the date, there is still an expectation for huge crowds of protesters. There`s also the backdrop of the deep seated unrest that been roiling the nation. You also have the President`s supporters potentially following his lead and not necessarily wearing masks or proper covering. And with this all, you have to remember this is the President`s first rally since March, since the coronavirus. And the reason he likes to get out and do rallies and the reason his team got him out is he`s itching to get out there and blow off steam and feed off the energy of this crowd. And so we basically have the makings of a hot Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If I was hazarding a guess, I would say it is ripe for the President to go deeply off script, possibly in a controversial way.

WILLIAMS: If you didn`t already write for a living, I would at this point urge you to write for a living. Thank you for that imagery. And Maya Wiley, you get our final question. The killing of Rayshard Brooks, when compared to the killing of George Floyd, obviously no two are alike. No two victims are alike. Is there any mitigating about it where the police are concerned? Is there cover for police officers in the Atlanta case that there was not, under that grinding and fatal knee that we all saw in Minneapolis?

WILEY: What we can expect to hear is a defense that there was a public safety concern and a safety for the officers because we saw Rayshard Brooks struggling and because he had a taser.

What I would ask people to remember is you`re only allowed to use the force that`s necessary to protect human life, to protect the officers. He had a taser, not a gun. There was no indication that there was a gun, and the officers had tasers, which means they had the opportunity to use something that`s extremely painful, and I think there are concerns about, but that certainly are not as life-threatening as a gun. And in fact, that`s why police departments have started issuing tasers, is because there is a concern about the number of shootings, the number of people who die in encounters with police.

And if you are black in this country, police shootings is a pandemic because the rate of black deaths by shooting is larger than the rate of Americans` death from coronavirus. That`s a pandemic. And if I can just bring it back to Tulsa in one other way, this is a President who says he wants strong law enforcement, just not without justice. But at the rallies that we saw in 2015, in 2016, he encouraged and incited violence, and it was often racially driven, and there were black victims in the audience. And I think we have to remember that both these things come together for black Americans and for people who are white who care.

WILLIAMS: Three of our finest to start off our Monday broadcast and start a new week along with us. Our thanks to Ashley Parker, to Maya Wiley, and to Dr. Kavita Patel. We greatly appreciate you coming on.

Coming up for us, can police in Atlanta keep the peace there? What about every other major city this summer? Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton joins us next.

And later, why an attorney who`s argued before the Supreme Court over 40 times calls today`s landmark ruling on LGBTQ rights a huge, huge deal. All of it as The 11th Hour is just getting under way this Monday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced reforms for her city`s police department today following the death of Rayshard Brooks on Friday. Officers will be required to use de-escalation tactics and intervene if another officer is using unreasonable force.

A major change also coming up north to the NYPD. The department today said its plainclothes anti-crime unit, a hand-selected force that`s also been involved in its time in several controversial shootings, is being disbanded. About 600 officers are going to be reassigned to other roles in the department. The police commissioner in New York, Dermot Shea, said the impact will be immediate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DERMOT SHEA, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: Make no mistake, this is a seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city. It will be felt immediately throughout the five district attorneys` offices. It will be felt immediately in the communities that we protect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: We are happy to have back with us again tonight Bill Bratton, former commissioner of the NYPD, a veteran of the Boston Police Force, former Chief of Police in L.A. as well. He is now our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst.

And, commissioner, I have to ask a dual question. For people not from New York, not familiar with the NYPD, why is this a big deal, disbanding this plainclothes unit that New Yorkers, especially subway riders, are very, very familiar with?

BILL BRATTON, MSNBC SENIOR LAW ENFORCE ANALYST: Well, the anti-crime unit that Commissioner Shea is disbanding has been in existence for as long as anybody can remember. These are units of four or five officers with a sergeant that patrol in plainclothes and unmarked cars, and their purpose is to seek out crime. They don`t answer normal calls. They`re constantly seeking out crime. So the disbanding of these units -- there`s one of them in each of the city`s precincts, is a big deal because it in some respects flies in the face of the history of the department. The department has been very aggressive in going after crime and very successful in reducing crime.

WILLIAMS: Can you please assure our audience that there will come a day quickly in big-city police departments and small towns for that matter when de-escalation training becomes as important as firearm training?

BRATTON: Oh, I think nobody is going to argue with the idea that de- escalation training is great. It`s essential in today`s world and can be extraordinarily beneficial. I would point out, however, that in the videos that are being played about the Atlanta tragedy that none of that -- actually none of the reforms announced by the Atlanta mayor would have had any impact on that particular situation. Even the citizen crime commission that she`s talking -- sits review board would have been reviewing this incident after the fact.

One of the problems, Brian, with what`s going on in America right now is everybody`s got great ideas. Everybody`s coming at this in a different way, and that is one of the problems and frustrations in American policing. 18,000 police departments, 50 different states, god knows how many cities and counties, and everybody`s trying to come up with the perfect solution. And in some respects we may be just creating more confusion, all well intended, but we`re going to see how it all turns out. Good news is this is a historic movement, and some of these changes might be in fact what we`re looking for finally.

WILLIAMS: Let`s face facts here, and I know this is familiar to you. There is very little chance that a Brian Williams or a Bill Bratton is going to get killed after passing a counterfeit $20 bill knowingly or unknowingly at a convenience store in Minneapolis. There is very little chance that a Brian Williams or a Bill Bratton is going to get killed after falling asleep in the drive-up line at a Wendy`s in Atlanta. The question is how do we make sure falling asleep in the drive-up line at a Wendy`s in Atlanta is never a death sentence for anyone?

BRATTON: Well, we will always try our best to select our personnel to the best of our ability and train them to the best of our ability. But as we saw in Atlanta in that split-second, it went from 25 minutes of de- escalation conversation that was being handled very well, but as soon as they attempted to make an arrest, which under their protocols what they were required to do, it changed dramatically within seconds.

And even the pursuit changed dramatically in a second where the officer chose to -- and he`s going to have to defend why he chose to draw his weapon against an individual who was fleeing, who effectively, as best we can see in that video, was no longer a threat to him or his partner or, for that matter, other people in the area. That will probably be the basis of his defense. It`s going to be up to, in this case probably, because he will be criminally charged -- I`ll be surprise if he`s not, it will be up to a jury to make a determination as to his guilt or innocence.

So all the training in the world and all the best selection in the world still is not going to be able to predict with absolute certainty that we won`t have more of these instances. That`s the reality of the world that police exist in today.

You`re correct, it`s apt to happen to a minority, particularly an African- American, much more than it would to a Brian Williams or Bill Bratton, that`s the reality also. And that`s what all these marches, that`s what all these demonstrations, that`s what all these hope for a change will try to reduce and we do see definitively (ph).

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: That`s why all those Americans are in the streets 21 straight days and nights now. Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, thank you for coming on. Thank you for your candor. We appreciate it always.

And coming up for us on this Monday night, more on today`s landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme court. Our next guest filed a brief in support of LGBTQ rights for the plaintiffs in this case. The winning side. More on that when we come back.

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REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D), NEW YORK, LGBT EQUALITY CAUCUS CO-CHAIR: Not say -- first, it`s awesome. You know, millions of Americans for the first time in our nation`s history will have some recourse if they are unfairly discriminated against at work. I hope that the message is activism works. Engagement works. And it can be a long road, but days like this make it worth it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That was Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York on live television with us this afternoon following the decision, a landmark Supreme Court decision today, a huge victory for the LGBTQ community in this country. In a rare 6-3 decision, the court ruled that employers cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation and transgender status. Perhaps most stunning, two of the court`s more conservative justices sided with their more liberal colleagues, and notably it was justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, who wrote the majority opinion and in effect spoke for the court.

Back with us again, Neal Katyal, veteran of the justice department. As acting solicitor general, he was the Obama administration`s top lawyer before the court. He has argued 41 cases before the court and wrote a brief in support of the plaintiffs in this case.

Counselor, I thought of you today when the decision came down. You don`t have to be a Supreme Court justice or even a lawyer -- and god forbid I am neither -- to understand how he balanced this case. Let our viewers in on the basic legal crux of the finding.

BEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: OK. So first of all, here`s what the case is about because this is a Supreme Court decision that`s not abstract. This is like, Brian, you`re working for a county, and you`ve worked there for years as Mr. Bostock has, and you just happened to join a gay softball league. Your employer finds out about it and fires you.

In half the states, even in 2020, that`s a fireable offense. The law doesn`t protect you. What the Supreme Court said today is, uh-uh. Actually, it does. The Congress in 1964 forbade sex discrimination, and this is a form of sex discrimination because, Brian, if you announced your -- well, your relationship with a man, you`d be fired. But if you had a relationship with a woman, you wouldn`t be. That is what the court said in this 6-3 decision, sex discrimination.

WILLIAMS: In the America we`re living right now in 2020, I was reminded tonight that two days ago a Republican member of Congress in Virginia lost his primary in large part because he had presided at a gay wedding ceremony. Here now is John Thune, Republican senator, South Dakota. He is part of Mitch McConnell`s management team in the Senate, reacting to today`s decision.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: It demonstrated Gorsuch`s independence. The country obviously changed a lot on that issue. And I assume that he looked at the facts and the law and that`s the conclusion he came to. And that`s what, when we nominated him and confirmed him, we wanted him to do.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Neal, I said during our coverage today, gay marriage was the fastest-moving public issue that I`ve ever seen in my adult lifetime. Listening to John Thune, where do you think this lands with the American public and, interestingly because we`re in a political season, the Republican base?

KATYAL: Well, I do think that today`s decision is a loss for those haters and discriminators out there, and it`s a loss for the Trump administration to the extent those can be separated from what I just said in that they`ve for years tried to reverse all these protections for LGBT and went to the Supreme Court with their top lawyer and said these folks don`t deserve any protection under our laws, and they lost today resoundingly. It`s a victory for the rule of law.

And, Brian, as you`re saying, it`s also a victory for the trajectory of gay rights. So this all started about 15 years ago when the Supreme Court said that the protected same-sex sexual conduct and said you couldn`t be jailed for it. And then in 2013 in the Windsor decision, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.

And then three years later in Obergefell (ph) created a right to marry for same-sex couples. And now today there are protections in the workplace thanks to the Supreme Court. This is the trajectory. As Dr. King says, is the arc of justice bending. It`s bent slowly, and certainly, you know, lots of people have been hurt along the way.

But today is victory, and it`s total, and it`s complete, and it is the Supreme Court at its finest. This is a decision not of left versus right. This is six jurists including, as you said, Brian, Trump`s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, the chief justice of the United States, who was appointed by George W. Bush. This is law at its best. And at a time when people are disheartened about the Supreme Court, about what law is, about what politics is, this is a moment for us to come together and celebrate America because this is us at our best.

WILLIAMS: Well said. A big day in fact. Neal Katyal, counsel, thank you very much for coming on. Always great to talk to you.

Coming up, the mayor of Miami on the tough decisions local governments now face as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge now in the sunbelt.

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MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: We will not be going into phase three at this moment. Although we`re not going into phase three right now, we`re not going to be announcing any sort of rollbacks, nor will we be announcing an implementation or reimplementation of a stay-at-home order. Now it`s not the time to let your guard down. If we continue in this trajectory, we`re going to be put in a situation, we`re going to have to make tough choices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The surge in coronavirus cases in some cities forcing local officials to reconsider reopening strategies. Florida has seen record numbers of daily highs. Just this past weekend, the state reported over 4,000 new cases. Total number of confirmed cases now stands at 77,326. The state death toll now closing in on 3,000 souls.

For more, we welcome back the man we just saw, Miami`s Republican Mayor Francis Suarez. Also happens to be a coronavirus survivor. Mayor, just tonight I`m looking at the story out of Jacksonville. I know it`s not Miami. 16 women walk into a bar as part of a big party. 16 women have tested positive for coronavirus. Isn`t that all the reminder you need about how aggressive this virus still is?

SUAREZ: It`s extremely aggressive, and it is all the reminder that we need. What we use is three different forms of criteria that we analyze. One of them is the percent of positive cases, which is slightly increasing. The other one is total number of new cases, which is also increasing in the state. The third metric that we look at is hospitalizations, and thankfully that one is stable.

And so, you know, we`re going to continue to look at the data that we get every single day. We have epidemiologists that are analyzing it for us. We also have biostatisticians that are interpreting it, and we also of course consult with the Department of Health as we make decisions.

As I said, we`re not ready to go into the next phase of opening. We`re not scaling back. What we`ve allowed to open right now because, you know, we have to balance the very delicate balance of understanding that 42 million Americans and many Miamiens are out of work, and those are still in work, many of them have had their pay slashed dramatically, and government simply cannot, you know, sustain that for a long period of time. So we have to balance all those things, but it is incredibly concerning.

WILLIAMS: From that snippet of you we aired right before introducing you, it sounds to me like rollbacks are possible, like you have to reserve that right because of the public health.

WILLIAMS: You have to reserve that right. You know, right now like I said, the metric that is sort of our firewall is hospitalizations, which thankfully are somewhat healthy, between 62 percent and 66 percent capacity. But we don`t know what we`re going to do if that number, you know, unfortunately increases to a dangerous level.

And so all options have to be on the table. Right now we understand how devastating it would be to have to reimpose a stay-at-home order. We also know how effective it is. Prior to the stay-at-home order, we had an exponential growth of the virus in our community wherein creasing by 35 cases a day.

Once we implemented the stay-at-home order, we started decreasing by 13 cases a day. So we decreased by a slower rate than we were increasing prior to the stay-at-home order, but it did work. And so it`s a very draconian measure, but we`re hoping not to have to do it. If our residents choose a path of responsibility, you know, obviously wash their hands, maintain social distancing, wear masks when they`re in restaurants and indoors and do all the things that the CDC has requested.

WILLIAMS: Do you believe the state numbers?

SUAREZ: The state numbers have been at all-time highs in the last few days, so that is worrisome as well. I know we`re testing more than we`ve ever been testing before. That`s obviously, I`m sure, responsible for an increase in the cases. But when we started, the high watermark was 1,300 cases and I think just recently we`ve eclipsed 2,000 cases per day. So that`s almost double the high watermark that we saw when the curve first started bending. So that is certainly something that would alarm me.

WILLIAMS: Mayor Francis Suarez of the great city of Miami, Florida, thank you very much. Stay safe and good luck in the upcoming fight.

Coming up for us, the news that just keeps coming despite people in the streets for the past 21 straight days and nights across our country.

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WILLIAMS: Two families are calling for independent investigations into two separate deaths of black men found hanging from trees less than two weeks apart in southern California. Police say neither death indicates foul play to them. NBC News national correspondent Miguel Almaguer has the story for us tonight.

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MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bodies of Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsh were discovered hanging from trees in two public venues Ten days and 50 miles apart though police say neither death appears to be connected or shows any indication of foul play, tonight their shocking deaths are leading to calls for the state attorney general to investigate.

DIAMOND ALEXANDER, SISER OF ROBERT FULLER: We`ve been hearing one thing, then we hear another. We just want to know the truth.

ALMAGUER: 24-year-old Robert Fuller`s body was discovered hanging from a tree in a park near Palmdale City Hall. The L.A. County Sheriff`s Office first saying the scene appeared to be a suicide, then today deferring the official cause of death. Investigators will now examine the rope and knot to see how it was tied.

ALEX VILLANUEVA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERRIF: It is in our interest to make sure that we leave no rock unturned.

ALMAGUER: It comes as protesters demand an independent probe and a homicide investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want the truth. We want answers. We demand answers now.

ALMAGUER: When authorities found Malcolm Harsch`s body hanging near a local library and homeless encampment in Victorville, they indicated no signs of foul play. The cause of death still pending. But Harsch`s family says this was not a suicide.

DE`AVERY RICHARDSON, BROTHER OF MALCOLM HARSCH: I couldn`t believe it because I had talked to him a few nights before, and we had made plans to see each other.

ALMAGUER (on camera): The Harsch family also noted the current racial tension and protests in this country, adding the death of a black man found hanging from a tree does not sit well or make sense.

(voice-over): Tonight California`s attorney general and the FBI getting involved, looking into the death of two black men raising questions across the country. Miguel Almaguer, NBC News, Los Angeles.

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WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, this year`s West Point cadets will never forget their graduation for a number of reasons.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, did you see or can you remember a single quote from the president`s commencement speech at West Point on Saturday? If the answer is no, that may be because of what you likely did see out of that event -- the president`s failed attempt to drink water one-handed and his halting journey down a ramp. The day was quickly branded water gait, G-A-I-T, for the amount of news it generated.

First things first. Here is the first attempt at the water hazard. The president almost gets there before needing an assist from his other hand. Some folks who clearly haven`t been paying attention were shocked by it, but this is not the president`s first rodeo when it comes to two-handed drinking. It`s even been theorized that he often tries to get through remarks despite being parched because he doesn`t love drinking water in public. But sometimes he is forced to give in as he did twice just minutes apart back in 2017.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 17,000 jobs. Thank you. They don`t have water. That`s OK. What? Oh, it`s OK. Oh. -- that will create jobs in the United States.

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WILLIAMS: On the other front, it`s been said and talked about for years. The president has, let`s call it, an issue with ramps and stairs. It was on full display at West Point. The incident launched news stories about his age and health. It`s true that at 74, he`s older now than any other first- term president we`ve ever had, and his health reports are famously incomplete.

We know the incident got to him because he tweeted about it that night. His daughter-in-law on Fox News tonight blamed it on the angle, the lack of a handrail, and the fact that he was wearing leather shoes. The ramps and stairs thing could be a full-on phobia like his lifetime aversion to germs. Many of us remember the Donald Trump in the New York years who went years without shaking hands and often lectured people on how dirty a practice it was. He has since said that you can`t be a politician without it though he`s been trying to avoid it during the pandemic. It`s a lot.

That`s our broadcast for this Monday night as we start a new week. Thank you so very much for being here with us. On behalf of all 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