BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 1,244 of the Trump administration, 140 days to go now until the Presidential Election.
After nearly four weeks of protests in streets across the country demanding police reforms following the killing of George Floyd, the President today signed an executive order to encourage changes in policing. Importantly, the order appears to be more suggestions, guidelines than mandates for immediate action or accountability. Trump unveiled his order in a Rose Garden ceremony flanked by law enforcement and clearly messaging that they have his support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defend, dismantle, and dissolve our police departments. Americans want law and order. They demand law and order. They may not say it. They may not be talking about it, but that`s what they want. Some of them don`t even know that`s what they want, but that`s what they want. What`s needed now is not more stoking of fear and division. We need to bring law enforcement and communities closer together, not to drive them apart. Nobody is more opposed to the small number of bad police officers, and you have them. They`re a very tiny. I use the word tiny. It`s a very small percentage, but you have them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The order he signed today sets up a database to track misconduct. It promotes wider use of mental health resources among forces and provides funding as an incentive to raise the standards for use of force. It also addresses one of the more controversial issues, and that`s police use of choke holds.
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TRUMP: As part of this new credentialing process, choke holds will be banned except if an officer`s life is at risk.
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WILLIAMS: That caveat there, if an officer`s life is at risk, is key because often time it`s the word of the officer and because the order stops short of any kind of outright ban on choke holds, which many say needs to be part of any effective reform measures. The order also does not address the question of systemic racism. Before today`s signing event, Trump met privately with the families of African-Americans who have died during interactions with law enforcement. The lawyer for some of the families was also at that meeting and later said today`s executive order isn`t nearly enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE MERRITT, CIVIL RIGHT ATTORNEY: The executive order takes incremental steps, and we need radical change. It was a very heavy meeting. I let the families lead the way and tell their stories. There certainly were tears flowing in the room, but we`re hoping that beyond the emotion of it, that it will lead to significant policy change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: As they work on what are now competing police reform bills in the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats seem to be on a total collision course. Senate Majority Leader McConnell plans to introduce his party`s legislation tomorrow morning. Today he straight-up dismissed the democratic effort.
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SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MAJORITY LEADER: That`s a non- starter. The house version is going nowhere in the Senate. It`s basically typical democratic overreach to try to control everything in Washington. We have no interest in that.
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WILLIAMS: And that`s how that worked. Earlier on this network, Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired back.
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REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: For the leader of the Senate to say it`s going nowhere, we won`t even -- we don`t want any of that is really disgraceful. What the President had today was a photo op. It`s about making a big difference, taking a giant step forward and saying to the leader in the Senate, you call yourself the grim reaper. How aptly named you are when you see how many people have died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Of course all of this is still happening as the nation continues to battle a pandemic. As you saw, the President was in the Rose Garden today wearing no mask, very little social distancing. Not a mask there in that scene. We also saw the Vice President, the nominal head of the coronavirus task force. He was circulating with no mask among customers without masks inside a diner in Iowa today. The unmistakable message we are left with from the top of our government, no mask, no problem, which brings us to Trump`s upcoming campaign rally Saturday night, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It will be, in effect, the largest indoor event since the arrival of the pandemic, let`s not forget, in a city undergoing a spike in cases, in a state that has not flattened the curve even though the VP can insist that it had.
The New York Times reports several local officials are concerned about setting the stage for what`s called a super spreader event. They`re pleading with Trump to cancel the rally or hold it outdoors. Forbes says one lawsuit filed earlier today to try to stop the event cold has been denied.
Oklahoma`s governor Kevin Stitt is meeting with Trump at the White House later this week. And the Oklahoma Department of Health is advising anybody who plans to attend the rally to be tested before and after the event. Today Trump made no mention of the rally but offered this assessment of the fight against the virus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Before the end of the year, I predict we will have a very successful vaccine, therapeutic, and cure. These are the people, the best, the smartest, the most brilliant anywhere, and they`ve come up with the aids vaccine. I think we`re going to have a very, very good answer to that very, very soon. I always say even without it, it goes away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Just one minor fact check here at the end. There is no aids vaccine. Now, here with us for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for the New York Times. Melissa Murray, NYU Law Professor who clerked for Sonia Sotomayor when the now supreme court justice was on the U.S. Court of Appeals. And Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for the Washington Post, Moderator of Washington Week on PBS.
Professor, I am duty-bound to begin with you with an important question. Did anything the President signed today have the force of law, and have you any optimism that Congress will come up with anything substantial to address what`s going on in the streets and the ongoing loss?
MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: Well, an executive order obviously has the force of law as we`ve seen from other examples of executive orders like DACA, for example. But, again, the question is was this the kind of sweeping reform that individuals are expecting? Everyone felt that the President had to make some kind of response to the unrest that we`re seeing in the streets. But was this it? As Mr. Merritt said in the earlier segment, this is a very incremental, modest effort. There is no ban of choke holds. There are incentives provided to local police departments to eliminate the use of choke holds in certain circumstances. But, again, those are just simply incentives, providing federal grants for these new standards. So, again, these are modest reforms. They will have the force of law, but they may not shift policy. Congress could do more of that.
WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, I`m tempted to say there are people in the streets of states represented by Republicans in the Senate too, and they have children and grandchildren. And I am guessing they are hearing about these issues from them. What`s the real hope that something concrete might, god forbid, emerge from Congress before the election?
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: What we`re watching on Capitol Hill is a power play, a battle between the House Democrats and Senate Republicans. At this moment, Speaker Pelosi is taking the lead. You`re going to see the house judiciary committee this week move forward with its legislation that goes far beyond President Trump`s executive order. It would be a permanent ban on choke holds. It would be a national database. All of this would be enacted into law if the House Democrats` legislation ended up being signed by President Trump.
So the House Democrats are saying to the Senate, here`s our proposal. What`s your move? Then it`s going to be up to Senator Tim Scott working with Leader McConnell to see if they can work any kind of compromise. And it`s going to be a test because the House Democrats are putting pressure, as you said, Brian, on those Senate Republicans like Martha McSally in Arizona, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine will they feel compelled to move to the left as President Trump continues to slip in the polls.
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, your latest effort is headlined Trump dismisses criticism of law enforcement, unless it`s his. he is quick, Peter, to point out bad cops, as he calls them. It`s more convenient if they have names like Comey and McCabe. But he is much more hard pressed to point out examples of bad cops in the 22 days since the death of George Floyd.
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. You hear very dichotomous messages coming from this President when it comes to the subject of law enforcement in this country. For three years basically we`ve been hearing him talk about dirty cops. That`s the phrase he uses. You know, he talks about corruption in law enforcement. He talks about how police and prosecutors shouldn`t be allowed to flip witnesses, and people are being unfairly prosecuted. But when he`s talking about that, he`s talking about his own associates, himself. He`s talking about his campaign. He`s talking about anything that he has personal experience with, in which case he sees what he perceives to be anyway the injustices of the system.
When it comes to everybody else, you don`t hear a lot about that. The police, he said last week, are 99.9% good. Today he said the percentage of bad apples was, "very tiny." The message sent by today`s event in the Rose Garden surrounded by law enforcement officials was not one of reforming law enforcement but, in fact, defending law enforcement against its critics. And so, you know, you hear very different Presidents depending on who is, you know, at the targets of the law enforcement scrutiny.
WILLIAMS: Melissa, for starters the tableau in the Rose Garden was whatever the opposite of diverse is. On top of that, no talk of inequality. Of course, zero talk of systemic racism. What implicit message does the absence of any talk of those topics carry?
MURRAY: Well, I think the implicit message is complemented by the explicit message, which is very clear. The President said unequivocally that he was the law and order President, and he did not believe in efforts to defund or otherwise abolish the police. These were, again, complemented by his modest reforms. But, again, this didn`t seem like a full-scale effort to try and address the growing concerns that people have that there is a deep-seated problem in criminal law enforcement in this country, and he seems to have taken no notice of that and has made no efforts to address it.
WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, one of the founders of the Lincoln Project famously said that the Democrats bring a soup ladle to a gun fight. He found them socially and morally incapable of fighting the kind of tough turf wars in the world of campaign politics. The Lincoln Project was formed. They are doing tougher ads against Trump than any democratic group. Here is tonight`s latest effort.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something`s wrong with Donald Trump. He`s shaky, weak, trouble speaking, trouble walking. So why aren`t we talking about this, and why isn`t the press covering Trump`s secretive midnight run to Walter Reed Medical Center? Why do so many reporters who cover the White House pretend they can`t see Trump`s decline? The most powerful office in the world needs more than a weak, unfit, shaky president. Trump doesn`t have the strength to lead nor the character to admit it. We`re not doctors, but we`re not blind. It`s time we talk about this. Trump is not well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Robert, call it a hunch, but the group spent the money tonight to debut the ad on Fox News, what one of their founders called a psy ops, psychological operation. What kind of effect do they have on the intended target?
COSTA: Well, they`re doing two things at the Lincoln Project, and this has been a fledgling movement since 2016, the never Trump movement. What they`re trying to do is capture the President`s attention so they can amplify their group`s reach. This is a group that`s still trying to raise a lot of money across the country. But what their real target is beyond President Trump by airing ads on cable and Washington, D.C., they`re really trying to send the message to suburban Republicans, the Republicans who voted with their wallets in 2016 even if they didn`t like the President`s behavior or his personality. Those traditional Republican voters who liked it when the stock market was up, can they give those voters any pause, whether it`s on the President`s health. I`m not going to speculate on that. I am not a physician or a psychologist. But you do have the Lincoln Project repeatedly saying to those Republicans, do you really want to stick with this President for four more years?
WILLIAMS: And, Bob, while I have you, the attorney general seemed stunned to learn this week that John Bolton`s book has already, at least in part, gone through its print run. The book is sitting in the homes of reviewers and journalists who have signed an agreement to keep it confidential until its publication date. What`s with the effort on the administration to block a book that`s been printed, Simon & Schuster in a statement tonight told them to go pound sand.
COSTA: Brian, I`ve spoken to some of the President`s advisers about books in recent years and in recent days about the Bolton book. Everyone around the President almost to a T doesn`t want to be having the fight with Mary Trump, the President`s relative, with John Bolton, the former ambassador with his book. Would rather be focused on myriad other issues. But the President himself is driving this, driving it his own attorney general, and it`s something he has a grievance about. He demands loyalty from staffers. When he doesn`t see it from John Bolton, he wants to have that fight publicly. But as any book agent will tell you, the one thing they clamor for with any release is attention, and the President`s providing it.
WILLIAMS: And the book has gone to number one nonfiction on Amazon, I`m told, pre-sale. Peter Baker, it was five years ago today Donald Trump came down the escalator in the lobby of Trump tower in New York. His desire to be in front of a rally audience was quickly established. They were indeed successful events that launched his candidacy. Now we`ve come through the looking glass. His plans to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, may actually cause a public health event. What a long, strange trip it`s been.
BAKER: Yeah, to say the least. For five years, this is one person who has dominated our conversation, dominated our, you know, national discussion like none we`ve seen before to use a phrase he likes to use. I think more than any modern-day politician, you have somebody who understands how to drive TV coverage, how to drive political attention, how to change the subject when he wants to, how to say something outrageous and get people talking even when we think we couldn`t possibly be surprised again. He manages somehow to do something or say something that shocks us.
And so, yeah, he`s going to start getting back on the road with these rallies. And he`s picking a state where he`s way ahead, or at least there certainly has been -- way ahead, was ahead in 2016, was expected to be again, and yet is also way ahead in its infections. Like a lot of the country may be going down, but states like Oklahoma are seeing more infections rise by the day. And he`s basically going to test the theory about whether large-scale events really are, in fact, dangerous for COVID infections.
We saw the last few weeks of course large protests in the streets against Trump, for racial justice, against police brutality. The difference, of course is they`re outside. And one of the things that always struck me when I went to these rallies and protests is how many of them were wearing masks. They were rule followers. And what you`re seeing building from this Tulsa rally is no social distancing. Masks will be encouraged but not required. There will be some testing as people go in. But 19,000 people in a room inside, indoors, is going to be a real interesting test two weeks from now when we see the numbers of what resulted and came from that.
WILLIAMS: Yeah. It`s already being called the largest indoor event in the hemisphere during this time when we`ve been dealing with this pandemic. To our friends Peter Baker, Professor Melissa Murray, Robert Costa, thank you all so much for starting our Tuesday night effort off with us.
Coming up for us, as cities where this coronavirus is making a comeback rethink their own reopening strategy, we`ll talk to an infectious disease doc about the potential COVID treatment we heard about today and concerns about this second spike in our country.
And later, the story behind an indelible image that emerged from a black lives matter protest overseas in just the past few days. All of it as The 11th Hour is just getting under way on this Tuesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: We`re not shutting down, you know. We`re going to go forward. We`re going to continue to protect the most vulnerable, yet we`re going to urge, continue to advise particularly our elderly population to maintain social distancing, avoid crowds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Nothing to see here. While Florida`s governor refuses to roll back any reopening efforts as you just heard, his state just broke another record high today, adding over 2,700 new positive cases in the state that we know of.
The New York Times analysis shows at least 20 states continue to see spikes in new cases. Meanwhile, oxford university scientists -- this is the good news -- say an inexpensive steroid reduces death in the most severely ill coronavirus patients. The study has yet to be peer reviewed but scientists say, "This reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by a third and deaths of patients on oxygen by a fifth."
We`ll take the good news, and let`s ask a doctor. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia is back with us tonight. Infectious disease physician and the medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston University School of Medicine. She worked along with the WHO during the West African Ebola epidemic and is among our medical contributors.
Doctor, lord knows I`m not a doctor, but how different is the dynamic here? In January, I had an awful bronchitis was given a steroidal inhaler. Is the healing mechanism, the suppression of inflammation, the same?
DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN: Brian, that`s right. I think the thought is, you know, this virus has two ways in which it damages the body. First it does the direct damage through its own activity. Then it revs up the immune system and inflammation, and that`s what causes the injury to the lung. So what the study is potentially proposing is that what we`ve seen is in very sick patients and those with the immune system has already, you know, caused that damage, is starting to cause that damage, you could tamp down the immunity system and potentially decrease mortality. So the good news is this is a drug that`s widely available and is relatively cheap. But as you mentioned, I think for most of us physicians and scientists, we`d like to see the data. The good news is the NIH and WHO say they are looking at the data and they`re hoping to change critical guidelines if that`s where, you know, they see the data going. And so overall, I`ll take that as a win.
WILLIAMS: Doctor, I`m looking at a chart that must truly break your heart as a public health specialist, and that is nations around the world, some of them who have had the worst of is, Spain, the UK, Germany, Italy. You see the curve, and you see it getting crushed. There`s the United States, plateauing over a seven-day average and even on a slight uptick the last day for which data was available for this graphic. What are we doing wrong?
BHADELIA: I think, Brian, you see that right there on that graph. We never let our cases go down enough. So we`re already starting off when we started reopening, we`re starting off with a higher plateau. We already have enough disease activity, and then what that graph doesn`t also tell you, which you mentioned earlier, is that we`re seeing regional trends. Every state is on its own transgender trajectory with this pandemic. It`s a city by city, county by county fight. And so what you`re seeing in states like Texas, like the Carolinas, like Arkansas, like Arizona is that hospitalizations are going up, and those are late indicators which tell us that the outbreak is actually pretty strongly going in those communities, you know. And I think that for me, what that says is in those states, in some of those states, the governors are not following the White House gating criteria about opening further or rolling back reopening, and that`s not a good sign.
And what we need, I think, we don`t need our governors, we don`t need our leaders to tell us everything is OK when it`s not. We want them to tell us, hey, be vigilant. We`re still in the middle of a fight. We have some good news, but a lot of hard work ahead, and we see the fire. We see that there are places that we need to do the hard work in. That`s what I think brings the real confidence.
WILLIAMS: To that end, Dr. Fauci broke what has become a recent silence, certainly on the part of the coronavirus task force, certainly on the part of the CDC. He gave an interview to the Daily Beast tonight. Asked if he would personally attend this rally in Tulsa this weekend, he said, no. I`m in a high-risk category. Presumably he means his age. Personally, I would not. Of course not, he said. Adding that when it came to Trump`s rallies, outside is better than inside. No crowd is better than crowd. And crowd is better than a big crowd.
On the other hand, Politico reporting tonight, Ryan Lizza, "Pence abruptly reinvented himself as a coronavirus skeptic this week." We heard Mike Pence say yesterday falsely that Oklahoma had flattened their curve. We saw Mike Pence in Iowa today without a mask, greeting diner patrons without masks. Big White House event today. For most of it, not a mask to be seen in the picture. Doctor, where are the feds and, again, where is the leading by example public health responsibility because this virus is out there. It`s still out there, and it`s still gunning for us.
BHADELIA: That`s right. And hundreds of Americans are still dying of this disease every day. And even in countries, other industrialized countries where the disease activity is not that high, I don`t see any of those governments taking a victory lap. You know, and so why do we worry about outbreaks in Arizona or Tulsa or, you know, or Houston? We worry about it for the same reasons that we worry about the new outbreak that we`re seeing in Beijing. It`s because if there`s a fire in your neighbor`s backyard, we`re all concerned because we`re all connected because we don`t want it to become a blaze that affects much larger areas. And that`s what we`re doing by ignoring these small fires, by not being proactive about them. We`re potentially looking at trends that are just going to get worse. And that, I think, is irresponsible for most public health folks in my field would say that.
WILLIAMS: Thanks for mentioning Beijing. The stories are just starting to emerge tonight that they`re in the midst of another big, organized lockdown. This would be, of course, a second wave for them after Wuhan. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, great to see you. Thank you so much for coming on our broadcast one again.
Coming up, what one big-city mayor is doing after a spike in hospitalizations from the coronavirus? The mayor of Austin, Texas, standing by to take to us after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOT (R), TEXAS: The increased occupancy of hospital beds, it does raise concerns, but as shown today, there is no reason right now to be alarmed. The reason is because even though there are more people hospitalized, we still remain at the lowest threat level in our hospital capacity. We have plenty of room to expand beds. There are thousands of hospital beds that are available as we speak right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Second straight governor we`ve seen on the broadcast tonight saying some version of "nothing to see here, we`re good." That was Texas Governor Greg Abbott. May argue there are still plenty of hospital beds available as he just did, but his state has seen a 66 percent increase in new hospitalizations since Memorial Day.
Covid-19 hospitalizations in Texas are at a record high now. Today the state also reported its largest one-day increase in new cases. Over 2,600 new infections. Texas has seen 93,000 confirmed cases thus far that we know of and over 2,000 deaths.
In Travis County where the city of Austin is located, hospitalizations and new cases are both on the rise. For more we are happy to bring to this broadcast Steve Adler, the Democratic mayor of the great city of Austin, Texas. Mayor, yesterday your governor blamed people in their 20s. Yesterday our president, who had talked to your governor, blamed inmates. Maybe it`s a bunch of inmates in their 20s. We heard the governor just say there`s no reason for alarm. Are you alarmed?
MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN, TEXAS: We are alarmed here in -- here in Austin because we`re seeing the numbers that you`re describing. Our new cases in the last seven-day period, up 90 percent than the same number for a seven-day period in the week before. Hospitalizations in the last week up 60 percent from what hospitalizations were in the seven days prior. You know, we`re watching this -- this hockey stick movement in cities around the country, and we`re concerned we`re seeing the beginning movements toward that.
WILLIAMS: I just was reminded tonight it was March 6th when you canceled South By, and anyone who`s been paying attention for the last few years knows what South By Southwest means to your to your city and just how great your city is and what a wonderful host you are to all those thousands of people every year. How many times have you thought back and wondered what if it had gone on? We were in the early teeth of a pandemic. You could have risen to incredible heights as a hot spot.
ADLER: You know, and back when we made that decision -- and it was a hard decision to make because we knew what the economic impact was going to be for our city. And in the first week in March, not very many in this country were making those kinds of moves.
I`m feeling now a little bit like we felt back then because the warning signs are all around us. It is true, as my governor said, that we have lots of beds in our hospitals, but we had a 50 percent increase in new hospitalizations in this past week. If that continues, if this pace continues, it`s not going to take us long to get to the place where we`re having the surge in hospitals.
And quite frankly, the governor`s number for the number of beds available includes us doubling up in rooms and using space that are traditionally not used for patients. We saw that in New York, and that`s not something I want to have happen here. And I just wish the governor would give us the power and the authority to make masks mandatory in our city. People are getting mixed messages from the Federal Government, from my State Government. They don`t know -- they`re not taking the virus as seriously as they should, in part because of how we`re dealing with it.
WILLIAMS: If you and I took a walk tonight outside taverns and bars in Austin, if we took a walk in broad daylight tomorrow, what percentage of people are wearing masks, do you think?
ADLER: It`s pretty low. And, you know, back at a point when we were allowed to make them mandatory, we were having an increase in people in our city putting on masks. And I know it`s a pain, and it`s not -- doesn`t feel good, and it`s hot. But it stops the virus from passing the same way. It saves people from getting sick and others from dying.
But when the governor took away from cities the ability to make it mandatory, it sent a message to the community that it was optional. And on our governor went on a press conference today and said it`s probably the most important thing we can do in order to keep the economy open, and I agree with him right now.
I just wish we had the power as cities to be able to do that, not that we`re going to put people in jail or fine them, but it just sends a message that`s going to have more of the community participating in what has to happen.
WILLIAMS: We just hope that when this is over, people go out to Austin and eat good food and hear good music and visit the LBJ Presidential Library and do all the good things one can do there. Mayor Steve Adler of the great city of Austin, Texas, thanks so much for coming on the broadcast tonight and good luck to you and yours.
ADLER: Thank you, Brian. And we sure do want to have everybody come back and visit again. Thank you. Be safe.
WILLIAMS: OK. We`ll be there.
Coming up, the president insists he`s doing things his predecessor never even tried because they were too hard. We`ll run that idea past an Obama speechwriter standing by to join us next.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Obama and Vice President Biden never even tried to fix this during their eight-year period. The reason they didn`t try is because they had no idea how to do it. And it is a complex situation.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I`ve instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement. That means working with law enforcement officials to make sure their ranks are representative of the communities they serve. We know that makes a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So another way of putting it, what President Trump said Obama didn`t do, he had done six years ago. An NBC News further fact checkpoints out, quote, Trump says Obama didn`t reform policing, but he did and then the president ditched it.
For more we are happy to be joined tonight by David Litt, a former speechwriter for Barack Obama. Happens to be author of the new book "Democracy in One Book of Less: Who it Works, Why It Doesn`t, and Why Fixing It is Easier Than You Think."
Great pleasure to have you on. It is not yet normalized that when you see a live White House event, an audience in the Rose Garden, it includes kind of a cursory slam or dig into his predecessor, Barack Obama. And, number two, we`re still getting used to the tableau, the optic. When you enter the work world, you start hearing the phrase that diversity makes us stronger as a company, as an entity.
You spend time in the working world, you realize it`s not an H.R. phrase. It happens to be true organizations work better when they match the kaleidoscope of the country they`re in. I am imagining that was your experience in the Obama White House.
DAVID LITT, AUTHOR, "DEMOCRACY IN ONE BOOK OF LESS": Well, Brian, first of all, thank you for having me on tonight and to talk about this important issue. And I do think what you pointed out is exactly right. When I was a speechwriter in the Obama White House, we were incredibly careful about the distinction between political events and official government events. And that included there were trips that I couldn`t go on because when I was a speechwriter, I wasn`t authorized to write political speeches. I never could have written that speech as a so-called policy speech because of that one line in it. He was clearly trying to score political points for an election rather than trying to solve a problem that is plaguing America.
And I think that is the root of President Trump`s both political and policy difficulties right now, is he keeps looking at these crises, whether that is the crisis of coronavirus, whether it`s the crisis of systemic racism in America and the problems with our policing, and he`s treating these as political issues, not as urgent existential threats that we need to solve. And that means that he`s not doing his job as president.
WILLIAMS: Speaking of urgent existential threats, your book touches on election integrity. How worried are you that out of all our 50 states, meaning 50 electoral systems, that we`re going to have a proper, straight- up election?
LITT: One of the things about the way that the United States conducts elections is that our 50-state election process does make our elections more difficult to have. So in one way it is good that we run 50 different state elections. But on the other hand, one of the things that I learned when I was writing this book that frankly I didn`t know before that, because I wanted to dive deep into how our government really works, is that every state runs its elections quite differently. And sometimes that`s a good thing.
But as we saw last week in Georgia, that can be a really bad thing. And one of the things that scares me right now is that you see this trend among states of mismanaging their elections on purpose. I call it intentional incompetence. And Georgia is one of those states. And in the last -- between 2008 and 2016, more than 10 percent of American polling places closed, and those closures disproportionately hit non-white majority neighborhoods -- minority neighborhoods.
And so that`s one of the reasons you see these enormous lines popping up all over the country. The danger is what happens if on election day in November one or more states has a situation like Georgia because there was either incompetence or intentional incompetence. It`s going to make people start to question the results and lose faith in our political process itself, and we can`t have that.
WILLIAMS: Well, that gets our attention. So did this quote in your book. The quote is this, "Here`s what I discovered. The democracy I live in today is different, not just a little different, but completely different from the democracy I was born into." You wrote that quote pre-impeachment, pre- COVID, pre-George Floyd. As they say in Washington, anything you`d like to revise or extend in that quote now?
LITT: Well, Brian, I also said when I wrote the book, maybe by the time you read this, in between me writing it and you reading it, everything will be better now. And that was one thing I certainly got wrong. I think that what we`re seeing today -- and it`s true with COVID, and it`s true as we see these uprisings against racism -- is that what we, the people, want from our leaders is not what we`re getting. Our government is not doing what we want.
And that, I think, is the biggest change between the system of government that we have today and the system of government I was born into, which was certainly not perfect. But change after change from voting rights to campaign finance to our legislative process to gerrymandering -- and I could go on -- they`ve all made our government less representative and given a small group of people who already had a lot of power to begin with even more power than they had before. And so that`s one of the reasons it feels like our representative government isn`t representing us anymore, and we need to fix that. And part of what my book is about is that we can fix that.
WILLIAMS: To our viewers, if you could learn everything you need to know about democracy in one book or less, wouldn`t you take that deal? It happens to be the title of the book. David Litt, the author, has been kind enough to be our guest tonight. David, good luck with it. Thank you very much for coming on.
LITT: Thanks so much for having me.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, in London he`s being called a hero, but he says he just wanted to do the right thing. There`s a lack of that in our public discourse these days. The story behind the photo that was beamed around the world when we come right back.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back, and there it is. It`s an image that has resonated around the world. A Black Lives Matter supporter in London stepping in to carry a suspected far-right protester to safety just after the protest there turned violent. NBC News correspondent Helena Humphrey sought out the story of these two men and has our report from London tonight.
HELENA HUMPHREY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two men on two sides of a bitter divide. Patrick Hutchinson, a Black Lives Matter activist, emerging from one of Britain`s most violent protest in the wake of George Floyd`s killing. Hoisting over his shoulder an injured man from the other side of the protest, suspected of belonging to the far right. The moment captured an instantly iconic image. The motive, stopping the violence.
PATRICK HUTCHINSON, PERSONAL TRAINER: In essence we protected him. But ultimately, I was protecting our young, black children from being incarcerated for murder or whatever crime would have been committed.
HUMPHREY: Hutchinson along with his friends, Pierre, Jermaine, Chris, and Lee, calls themselves a band of brothers, fighting a peaceful war against racism that pervades the U.K. as it does the US. And coming together today to relive that moment.
PIERRE NOAH, BODYGUARD: I just felt like if I don`t go there and try and do something, it`s just going to look bad if anything goes wrong.
HUMPHREY: Looking beyond Britain, they have a blunt message for America.
JAMAINE FACEY, PERSONAL TRAINER: It starts with your leader, America`s leader. He needs to -- people need to address him. But it seems that you Americans are too scared to speak up to a man like Donald Trump and his behavior and his mind-set.
HUTCHINSON: It`s way too easy for a police officer to shoot a black man, an unarmed black man in America just because they fear us, you know? I don`t know why, but they just seem to fear us, and it`s got to stop.
HUMPHREY (on camera): Remarkably, Patrick and his friends shrug off the label "heroes," saying they were just doing the right thing. But the fact of the matter is they stepped up. They intervened, and they`re calling on others to do the same in the fight against systemic racism.
HUTCHINSON: Unity, you know. We`ve got to stand together, you know, to fight oppression and inequality. It`s not black versus white. It`s everybody versus the racists.
HUMPHREY: A moment now seen around the world as these men crossed battle lines and racial lines to save a life and do the right thing. Helena Humphrey, NBC News, London.
WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, after all we`ve been through together, what we learned about ourselves just today when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, these are real hard times. Our historian friends often come on this broadcast, and because we ask them to, they remind us that we`ve had hard times before. Assassinations, sneak attacks, the dust bowl, the depression, social unrest. But it`s also true that we`ve never had anything quite like this. We have more people out of work right now than at any other time in our history. Our economy has never come this close to a total shutdown, and a huge percentage of us remain at home.
For those of us who have avoided shaking hands or any outside human contact since the new year of 2020 was still young, it was so striking to see people shaking hands at the White House event today, of all places. And forget the quaint notion of our government setting the example for the people.
That went out with the quaint notion of the CDC giving a briefing or those old-timey White House coronavirus task force briefings, the last of which was 50 days ago. The normal wiring of government has been pulled out of the wall. Our politics are thoroughly broken now. We`ve lost so much of our standing in the world.
The Russians now get to tinker with our society at will and while we watch. And for the 22nd straight night, tonight there are people in the streets and for good reason. We learned something about ourselves today that, while depressing, is not surprising. Americans are more unhappy today than at any other time in the last half century. Only 14 percent of Americans in a new University of Chicago poll define themselves as very happy. 50 percent say they feel isolated. People say they`re stressed and angry and lonely. We are not optimistic about the world we`re going to leave to our children. The good news, though, is things will truly get better. That`s what life does generally.
And on top of that, we are resilient. We do respond to leadership. It has won wars. It has fought fires. It has defeated pandemics. It has accomplished impossible tasks. It may take a little bit. It will be uneven at first. But as the man once said, happy days will be here again.
That is our broadcast on this Tuesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. For all of us at the networks of NBC News, good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END