BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 1245 of the Trump administration, 139 days to go now until our Presidential Election.
We have a great deal to talk about here tonight. Tensions are high this evening in the Atlanta Police Department now that an officer is facing murder and other charges in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. More on that story coming up.
President Trump moving full steam ahead with his Tulsa campaign rally this weekend even as coronavirus cases are spiking in Oklahoma and locally in the City of Tulsa.
But we begin tonight with Trump`s former national security advisor`s stunning allegations against his former boss. It all in a tell all book about his time in the Trump White House. NBC News among the news organizations that has and has seen the book.
John Bolton spent nearly a year and a half inside the Trump West Wing. Excerpts of his book The Room Where It Happened are now public despite ongoing justice department efforts to block its publication somehow.
The book will be officially released on Tuesday but today, excerpts were published in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times. The Times describes it as, "A withering portrait of a President ignorant of even basic facts about the world susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul- mouthed eruptions and snap decisions."
Among the host explosive allegations, Trump out right asked China to help him get reelected. John Bolton writes in June 2019 during a one of one meeting with China`s President at the G20 summit right there. Trump linked China`s purchases of U.S. agricultural products to a second term in the White House.
Bolton writes, "She said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him."
Bolton goes on to write, "He then stunningly turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election eluding to China`s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he`d win." You may recall Trump saying this about foreign interference in our elections back in 2019.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on an opponent, should they accept or call the FBI?
DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I think both. I would want to hear it. It not an interference. It information. It would take it.
China should start an investigation into Biden because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: John Bolton writes this, "I am hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn`t driven by reelection calculations."
The New York Times points out, Bolton also writes about House Democrats efforts to impeach the President for abuse of power for holding up security aid while pressuring Ukraine to public announce investigations into the Bidens. Bolton eventually offered to testify in the Senate trial. You`ll recall only if he was subpoenaed but the Republicans, of course, wouldn`t allow that.
Washington Post is reporting on a portion of the book where Bolton writes he was shocked by Trump`s limited foreign policy knowledge and that, "He recalls Trump asking then chief of staff John Kelly if the nation of Finland is part of Russia. In a meeting with then British Prime Minister Teresa May in 2018, a British official referred to the U.K. as a nuclear power and Trump interjects, oh, are you a nuclear power?"
Bolton also writes that during Trump`s 2018 meeting with North Korea`s leader, "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo passed me his note pad on which he had written. He is so full of the s word. I agreed." The former national security advisor is speaking out on his time serving the President. In one excerpt from his ABC News sit-down interview, Bolton talks about Trump`s relationship with Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOLTON: I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle. I think Putin is smart tough and I think he sees that he`s not faced with a serious adversary here. I don`t think he`s worried about Donald Trump. When you`re dealing with something like Putin who has made his life understanding Russia`s strategic position in the world against Donald Trump who doesn`t enjoy reading about these issues or learning about them, it`s a very difficult position for America to be in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: One more word on this front, the U.S. Justice Department, your justice department is seeking an emergency order to block publication of Bolton`s book, which again, has been printed and is in the hands and homes of a number of journalists, some of them guests on this broadcast.
The L.A. Times reports prosecutors are deciding whether to criminally charge Bolton with disclosing classified information. Indeed tonight Trump continued down that path during an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He was a washed up guy. I gave him a chance. He broke the law very simple. As much as it`s going to be broken, this is highly classified. The highest stage. It`s highly classified information and he did not have approval.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
The President still looking forward to his rally schedule three days from now in Tulsa. That`s expected to bring thousands of people indoors despite the alarming number of coronavirus cases in that city, in that state. Earlier today a state judge turned down a request asking that the company organizing the rally enforce social distancing protocols. Tonight Trump talked about the rally and the virus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s fading away. It`s going to fade away. There are lines of people now and we won`t be there for three days. There is a hunger for the rallies and I enjoy doing them but they enjoy them, more importantly, than me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Here for the lead off discussion on busy Wednesday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize Winning White House Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, co-author along with his Post collogue Carol Leonnig of the bestselling book, A Very Stable Genius about President. A.B. Stoddard, veteran journalist, Associate Editor and Columnist for Real Clear Politics and Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff at CIA and Pentagon, also happens to be Former Chief Counsel to the House Intel Committee.
And Jeremy because of your national security credentials, I`d like to begin with you. Tough to know where to begin, however, oh I know, how about the story in the book where the President solicits help from China to get reelected?
JEREMY BASH, FORMER, CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yeah, Brian, I think asking the communist party of China asking to interfere in an American election, I don`t think I`m exaggerating when I say, it`s a real low point in American history. I mean, this President has shown an interest, a desire to invite foreign interference. He did it with respect to Russia and welcomed Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. He did it with respect to Ukraine. He shook down the President of Ukraine to try to get Ukrainians to dig up dirt on his opponent Joe Biden. And we have a firsthand account from nobody less than the national security advisor of the United States that the President in effect did a quid pro quo in China.
He said, interfere in my election campaign. Help me and I`ll give you a sweet heart deal on trade. And that sweet heart deal, Brian, I think it`s important to note comes off the back of American workers and off the American economy. So when the President comes forward and says, oh I`m tough on China and when the Trump administration claims that it has a tough anti-China policy, don`t believe it for a second because as John Bolton makes clear, Trump was being played by China. He was playing to China and undermining national security the whole time.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, the President gave in addition to Fox News, an interview with The Wall Street Journal tonight, he talked about Bolton. He said he`s a liar. He said everybody in the White House hated John Bolton. Notably, the statement does not say, I never said that to China. As a chronicler as you are of life inside the Trump White House, as someone who knows the feeling of a piece of nonfiction work climbing on Amazon as Bolden is watching now, does this reporting hold up in terms of the bright light comparison to what you`re able to glean from inside this West Wing?
PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: You know, Brian, so many of the conclusions and the themes that John Bolton arrive that in his book are familiar to all of us who`ve been covering this presidency. But what is extraordinary and new is the level of detail and the new episode that further paint this portrait of a president who`s erratic, who`s ill-informed, who does not have basic knowledge of world affairs or world geography even, and who does dangerous decisions for the country. That`s been obvious now for three years based on all of our reporting, all of our inside accounts we`ve heard so far, but Bolton adds an incredible new layer to the story. And what`s interesting about the way the White House and the President are responding to this book tonight is their -- On the one hand thing Bolton`s lying and not telling the truth. But on the other hand, they`re saying no, no, this is classified information. And therefore he`s breaking the law by sharing it. But by definition, as we all know, classified information is actual, factual information.
So if the conversation that the President had with she is classified that he did a play, and the way Bolton described it is accurate. And despite the President calling Bolton a liar, there has been no effort so far by the White House to litigate or rather to fact check any of the specific allegations and contained in the book other than a blanket statement that it`s not true.
WILLIAMS: Hey, A.B, I have a dual question for you. First part is theoretical, second part practical. Number one, let`s just call what the President has assembled in the Senate, a red wall. And even when on the Susan Collins scale have troubled and concern they reach a nine. They`re all still dependable Republican votes for this President. They`ve all made that deal with their seats and their careers.
So first question wouldn`t have made any difference in history. If John Bolton had said any or all of this stuff, under oath in the Senate? Second question, what possibly can Mitch McConnell say now, when he is, if he slows down long enough to take a question from reporters? If he`s hit with what do you make of the story of our President trying to get Chinese assistance in his reelection?
A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: Brian, that`s the most amazing thing is that when these revelations of this kind come out, and you don`t need to have read A Very Stable Genius, supporters of President Trump today and those who believe that he`s unfit and corrupt, none of them were shocked about President Trump and these revelations, the shock comes from John Bolton refusing to come to the Senate, or the Congress, the House and testify on these matters and to do it for his country. For all of the disappointment and shock and disgust that he`s expressing in this book, he waited instead to sell books, but no one is shocked that President Trump will sell out or corrupt any person or system or strategic objective or national value that stands in his way.
What we are always shocked about is that every Senate Republican who is close to John Bolton likely knew all of this and refused and worked hard to make sure that he wouldn`t come tell it so that they would have to vote to remove the President. I think that this kind of testimony would have truly impacted the vote, I think it would be very difficult for them in large numbers to reject removal. And I think that -- I don`t know the answer to the last question and I`m stifling Apollo (ph) involved right now about what they`ll say tomorrow. But we are always surprised by his enablers never by the President himself that they continue. When they likely, as I said, knew much of this John Bolton is tight with Mitch McConnell, with Ted Cruz with Mitt Romney, see the tweets from the fall of 2019 when he left the White House from them. This is the kind of thing that is going to be very difficult for them to run away from tomorrow.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, think of where we are, and I know that you do the quote in the book that obstruction of justice was a way of life inside this White House. We are in the middle of a pandemic. We can read now tacit, if not direct approval, by our President of concentration camps in China as if that phrase doesn`t make every American able to fog up a mirror, nervous and deeply upset. We can read now that in front of Theresa May, the President expressed surprise that the U.K. is a member of the family of nuclear nations, a very finite group on this planet yet today. I`m tempted to repeat the protest phrase of the 60s to you and just say the whole world is watching.
BASH: That`s right. And when the President uses his office as this book documents, to intercede in criminal investigations to go easy on China`s ZTE, for example, or should go easy on Erdogan from Turkey`s Health Bank, which were both all of them under some sort of investigative lens by the Justice Department. And the President said, look, I`m going to do favors for dictators. Because of course they`re going to do favors for me. That just shows you how much the office of the President has been corrupted.
And I think, you know, it`s critical to note that these supporters of the President claim that he`s a genius and that he`s undertaken a foreign policy and broken a lot of totems. Well, in fact, he`s been taken for a ride each and every time. And again, it wouldn`t matter if it was just comical, or it was just a historical footnote. This is dangerous crime. We live in a very dangerous, uncertain, fraught world and for a President, not just to be ignorant, but actually to be malicious, and to undertake national security decisions with malice, undermining American national security is really a very, very challenging position for the United States to be in. And I agree that members of Congress should speak up against this, they should call John Bolton as a witness and they should continue to oversight pressure on this presidency and this administration.
WILLIAMS: Well, that`s how we`ll know if any of the usual norms and rigors of American life still survive this era I guess. Phil Rucker, what of this effort to stop publication of a book that`s been printed, is bound and is in the homes and hands, as I said, of so many journalists for starters.
RUCKER: Brian, the effort clearly is failing and will fail. And that`s no surprise to the legal expert because, you know, Bolton documented this time as the national security adviser. He actually went through a month long review process with the government to strip away information from the book that was being declassified according to Bolton`s attorney. He has met that review and the book is bulletproof, so to speak. And so here we are on the eve of publication we have in Donald Trump, a president who very upset about with his book and with the revelations that are contained inside of it. And I suspect that what`s going on at the Justice Department is an effort to respond to the President`s anger about the book as opposed to any sort of sound legal strategy. It`s unlikely that the Justice Department is going to be able to stop this book for example, it is already at the Amazon distribution warehouses, that book sort of everywhere and in many people`s homes and by Tuesday of next week, all those folks who pre-ordered it are going to have it at their doorstep.
WILLIAMS: A.B., this may be unanswerable, but I want to hear you out. Does this affect the election? I keep hearing from journalists that X&Y Trump related are, "baked into the cake." Is the cake really that baked that it can`t withstand damage from stories like these?
STODDARD: Well, I think Brian that in -- when people were watching the impeachment trial, they were busy with our lives. And when the pandemic hit and the economy cratered, they watched it administration unable to handle a crises or two. And you`ve seen, of course, the polling changed so rapidly in the administration, the President`s response to the demonstrations in the streets. And so I do think he`s on a really tender ground right now. And it is a place where Senate Republicans and House Republicans might be able to be more critical about what they learned from John Bolton`s book, than they would have considered being offended to come out, you know, two months ago, you see him losing a few evangelicals, Catholics, way too many seniors and lots of non-college white women. So his coalition is taking some hearts. It`s being challenged by his failure in these crises.
But it is interesting actually the most damning episode I`ve ever read about the Trump administration was in Philip Rucker`s book and that was in the tank at the Pentagon, when the President called these generals and top military brass, dopes and losers. And he continued to maintain support since that came out. So if it isn`t shaken by COVID and near depression, maybe it can`t be but his numbers right now look really terrible after these crises.
WILLIAMS: Three of the very best people we could hope to talk to after a day like the one we`ve had in this country, Phil Rucker, A.B. Stoddard, Jeremy Bash, great thanks for coming on. Thank you very much.
Coming up for us, that Bolton book not the only problem facing the President. There`s also the minor matter of the largest indoor gathering since the arrival of the pandemic. Why so many are saying the rally in Tulsa is a bad idea, unsafe at any size.
And later, stunning charges against the police and the death of Rayshard Brooks tempers still hot as Atlanta now wonders, what will happen in court? Will this change policing? And what about the family of Rayshard Brooks? THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BRUCE DART, TULSA HEALTH DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR: Today, we report 96 cases which is our highest report, since it started, our staff are overwhelmed. I recommend that it be postponed until it`s safer until the data tells us that it`s not as large a concern to have people indoors and I thought, you know, I personally like see happen. It`s here, so let`s focus on staying safe while it`s here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We can`t repeat that often enough. That`s the Health Director in Tulsa saying they`re overwhelmed right now three days before the rally. City officials there gave no assurances that the President`s rally this weekend wouldn`t turn into what`s called in the trade a super spreader event.
Washington Post shows Oklahoma`s just one of at least nine states reporting not just spikes record breaking highs in new cases. Meantime three states are on track to contain the virus. According to National Data Analysis, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and having flattened its curve. New York City is now looking to enter the second phase of its reopening plan. Next week though steady as she goes.
We are so happy to welcome back to the broadcast during this important time. Dr. Michael Osterholm, he`s a Professor and Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota. He also happens to be co-author of, Deadliest Enemy: Our War against Killer Germs.
Doctor, I`m going to start you off with the audio from the President tonight. Very optimistic update on the virus. Here he is on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re very close to a vaccine and we`re very close to therapeutics, really good therapeutics. And, but even without that, I don`t ever like to talk about that because it`s fading away. It`s going to fade away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, Doctor, you heard the man, it`s fading away, it`s going to fade away. I knew you`d want to hear that. This is troubling, however. This is Washington Post. "Some go so far as to raise concerns about an October surprise, in which the administration issues and emergency authorization for a vaccine right before the November 3 election, regardless of whether the research justifies it."
Doctor, perhaps judging from all this, it sounds like the virus has perhaps, weakened or faded since last we spoke, give us a progress report on this virus?
DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, there are three points to remember, as we hear all of this discussion going on. Number one, there`s only about 5% of the U.S. population has been infected to date, this transmission will continue in a major way until at least 60, or 70% of the population is infected. When you think about all the pain, suffering, death and economic destruction, it`s occurred to date, we`re just getting started.
Number two, this virus doesn`t pay attention to policy or rhetoric, it will do what it`s going to do, and we as scientists have to be prepared to act accordingly. Third is even if someone tries to make a policy surprise, I really believe the scientific community, this country will stand up. And without partisan labels without anything, they`ll just tell the truth. And I don`t think anyone in this country would dare bring forward a vaccine that wasn`t proven to be safe and effective. I think the outcry would be remarkable, and that would be enough to tell the story of what would happen.
WILLIAMS: Politics aside, is this gathering in Tulsa, remember, approximately 19,000 indoors in the main arena, and then an overflow arena and the convention center. Could I pay you enough money to attend this kind of thing? Is this public health malpractice?
OSTERHOLM: You know, with all due respect, Brian, if I could put this into perspective, if all four Beatles were able to be back tonight in a large indoor area concert in a place like Tulsa, I wouldn`t go, I wouldn`t want any my loved ones to go there. That`s how we have to understand this situation.
WILLIAMS: Masks available but not required. Is that a big mistake? Are you convinced that you and I are going to have a conversation in two weeks time about a spike, small or large that comes out of this mass gathering?
OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, Take a step back again. And we did have a conversation you and I just two weeks ago, and we were talking about what would happen with all of the protests and the number of people who were together in the outdoors area. And at that time I laid out of the what if and the what if, because it was outdoors, we know that the virus will dissipate much more quickly into the air. But yet people were closely together, they were subjected to tear gas and smoke, coughing. They were also shouting, all things that aerosolized the virus. They were detained in vehicles, like buses before they were taken to jails where they were processed, held overnight, all those things added up, and we said we didn`t know what would happen.
And right now, I can tell you tonight it looks like the outdoors actually won because we`re not seeing a big increase. I could not tell you for certain that an indoor event like this would cause a major super spreader outbreak, but I wouldn`t want to take the odds on that with my own loved ones. That`s how I would assess the situation. Indoors is a very different environment. And we know that that`s where we see these super spreading events. So I would not want someone I love to be at that event.
WILLIAMS: We will invite you back after this rally takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Meantime, let me know about that Beatles reunion. It`s something I`d be interested in. Dr. Michael Osterholm thank you so much for joining us. OK.
OSTERHOLM: It`ll be an outdoor event, but I`ll meet you there.
WILLIAMS: Maybe in the old Shea Stadium. Doc, thank you very much.
Coming up a closer look at the charges against the two officers involved in the killing of Rayshard Brooks, stunning new details about what happened just after the fatal shooting when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL HOWARD, FULTON COUNTY DA: Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat after he was awakened by the officer, he was corporative. Mr. Brooks allowed them to search him and the search yielded no weapon.
What we discovered is during the two minutes and 12 seconds that officer Rolfe actually kicked Mr. Brooks while he laid on the ground, while he was there fighting for his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: A powerful and methodical presentation in a local Atlanta courtroom today and containing some shocking new details we didn`t yet know about the killing by police of a black man in Atlanta late last week.
The now former officer responsible for the death of Rayshard Brooks now faces 11 counts including felony murder. That`s the big one. Fired police officer Garrett Rolfe could face life in prison without parole, possibly the death penalty, if convicted. His partner Devin Brosnan also facing three lesser charges but said to be cooperating with the District Attorney`s Office.
However his attorney disputes previous reports from this afternoon that he is formally agreed to turn states witness. Here to talk about this case and more, Mara Gay, former New York City bureau chief at the "Wall Street Journal", now a member of the "New York Times" Editorial Board and we`re happy to welcome to our broadcast Lorenzo Boyd, a criminal justice professor, specializing in police, community relations and the director for the Center for Advancing Policing at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. Welcome to you both.
Mr. Boyd, I`d like to begin with you. 11 charges against the former cop who fired the fatal shots sampling some of the coverage tonight as powerful a carefully laid out presentation as it was, I hear folks expressing fear that it`s over reach by the DA. What`s the danger of that in your view?
LORENZO BOYD, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAVEN, CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROFESSOR: If it is in fact over reach, that could be dangerous a lot of times is the district attorney tends to under charge a lot of things and that`s disruptive for the community. And again, from the perspective of the community, there`s a lot of people hurting because yet again, we see another black man, another unarmed black man that senselessly killed when there are other things that could have happened.
WILLIAMS: Mara Gay, do you think anyone is looking to Congress, actually looking to Congress the way we used to in this country for solutions or does your confidence come from being forced to believe that at a local level community by community across our country policing will get better?
MARA GAY, THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, I do think it has to be both. I share your concern about the current climate in Congress. I think longer term looking past November and past January, if Donald Trump is denied a second term in office, there is going to be a large national discussion at the federal level about things like immunity for police officers and other issues that have really not come to the table, things that could actually bring some uniformity and some I would say oversight to the way this process plays out at the local level but ultimately policing is a local issue, as well.
And so what is stunning to me in this case is that you have a Georgia DA That has actually brought 11 very serious charges against officers within just five days. You know, for folks like my dad that lived as a kid in the 1950s in South Carolina, I mean that`s a stunning amount of progress but the heartbreak is this incident, this death happened at all.
And so what you`re really seeing I think is things coming to ahead. It cannot be ignored. And there is a lot of questions we don`t know, innocent until proven guilty for this officer but I want to say it`s so true, you know, Mr. Brooks was not a threat so what went wrong here? Everything went wrong and we need to examine point by point from the encounter to the end what happened. There needs to be federal oversight.
It`s great to see Americans involved in understanding that this is a local process and by getting out in the streets and protesting and voting locally, they can make a difference, as well.
WILLIAMS: Lorenzo, when we are able to talk to an expert like you on a broadcast like this, I think about what it must be like to be you. Your life`s work is now topic number one across our country. So I`ll give you a free access to our audience, what should people know about how hard a job it is to reform policing across our country in the year 2020?
BOYD: One of the problems is the fact that we have over 800,000 cops in the country, and policing is very, very, very local. As much as we want to do nation reform, as much as we need national reform, it needs to come down to the local level. And officers need to understand the ramifications of their actions, and a lot of officers are going out and acting with immunity and we need to stop that, and look at the immediate stuff that`s happening, whether or not there is an imminent threat and we can debate that all night, you know, with Mr. Brooks running away.
Tennessee versus Garner tells us we can`t shoot a fleeing felon and if there is no imminent threat, why are we discharging a fire arm? That`s one side of the equation. The other side of the equation is it`s a split second decision and he gets a split second but the Supreme Court gets four or five years to decide 5-4 whether or not he was right. So we have to go back to training the police a little differently and we spend a little much -- a little too much time on qualified immunity and the test of (inaudible) that the doctor qualified immunity is that the police have to think at the time they`re doing something that`s the right thing to do. And it`s hard to justify putting bullets in somebody`s back whether it`s Walter Scott or whether it`s Rayshard Brooks. Shooting somebody in the back is questionable at any level.
WILLIAMS: Precisely why we wanted to hear you out tonight. Lorenzo Boyd, thank you so much for coming on the broadcast with us. We`ve asked Mara to stake with us to weigh in on a report from her newspaper after this break. More on that when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Researchers have shown tens of thousands of Americans have died needlessly because Donald Trump was slow to respond to the crisis and then when he did, he bungled the response.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Joe Biden slamming that response during a speech to socially distance reporters in Pennsylvania today. Former V.P. accused Trump of surerendering to this virus. Mara Gay of "The New York Times" remains with us.
Mara, here is a sampling from your colleague Maggie Haberman today. Quote, Trump doesn`t want to be seen as a loser, a label he detests. In the campaign against former V.P. Joe Biden and some advisors believe Mr. Trump`s taste for battle will return in the fall, but for now, they said the president is acting trapped and defensive in his self-destructive behavior has been so out of step for an incumbent in an election year that many advisors wonder if he is truly interested in serving a second term.
Mara, he`s going to love that.
GAY: Oh, you know, I`m interested to see what he looks like in Tulsa because I think the reality is that, you know, especially since COVID has hit American cities extremely hard, the president has been less and less visible and for the most part that is probably a good thing frankly for Americans.
The unfortunate part is it`s not because he is working to direct the response to this deadly pandemic. It appears to be based on my colleague`s reporting that he`s just feeling more and more sequestered, isolated, and embattled. It`s not surprising but it is a dangerous situation because this is a president whose behavior is extremely erratic, self-involved to say the least and it`s really not the leadership, obviously, that we need. Joe Biden has been able to begin to fill that void and if more Americans see that and respond well to it, it could bode well for him in November.
WILLIAMS: I want to talk to you about a story that was in the news today and I`ll put it this way. Tonight, if we wanted to, separated by six feet and wearing masks of course, you and I could walk into a grocery store and choose in the aisles among products named Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth and Uncle Ben. Aunt Jemima announced today they are going away. Of the three products, that product dates back to the minstrel era, the most pungent era of American racism aside from slavery itself. This, Mara, is America in 2020 and along with a lot of other changes, here comes another one.
GAY: Yes, you know, it took me back to my childhood in the `90s. I definitely used that syrup and I also used band aids, I saw Band-Aid last week said it was going to offer more skin shade. And so, you know, that`s interesting as well.
But, in all seriousness, every little bit helps and that`s great but I don`t want this to be seen as solving the problem. We need to address the far more systemic issues that you see with Rayshard Brooks for example. And that`s why I think the first thing that came to my mind was that we were joking about, friends and I. Well that`s really nice but how about reparations, right? I think that`s what a lot of black Americans are saying to themselves tonight.
WILLIAMS: No, to your point, you`re absolutely right. It solves nothing. It`s a step like everything else, including but not limited to having a band aid that looks more like you. Our thanks to our friend Mara Gay of The New York Times Editorial Board. Always a pleasure.
Coming up, a few tense moments on Capitol Hill that kind of accurately reflect much of the mood in so much of our country these days. We`ll play it for you when we come back.
WILLIAMS: We mentioned this before the break, something of a jaw dropping moment in the house when debate over police reform boiled over into shouting match about race. We`ll let you take in the exchange let`s call it, between Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and Republican Congressman Matt Gates of Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: I`m not interested in equality with all deliberate speed. This is a crisis, people are losing their lives. So if we have other things we want to fix, fix them in another bill, another time, but people are dying as we talk.
So I am not interested in moving at a snail`s pace. I am not interested in a watered down bill that mandates nothing. I`m not interested in studying Antifa, I`m not even interested in studying the klan or sovereign citizens right now. Because that is not the imminent threat that black men face on daily basis. And right now it`s too often it is law enforcement, those who were sworn to protect and to serve.
And so all we`re asking today is to deal with that. I don`t mind dealing with other pieces of legislation, I don`t mind dealing with other issues that you all may have. And what I don`t want to leave this conversation with, and why I`m speaking now instead of later is because I don`t want you all to leave here saying we didn`t know. We didn`t know that`s how you felt, Cedric, I want it to be crystal clear and I will give you the benefit of the doubt that is unconscious bias that I`m hearing, because at worst conscious bias and that, I hate to assume from any of the people on the other side.
REP. MATT GATES (R), FLORIDA: Will the gentleman yield?
GATES: I appreciate your passion. Are you suggesting that you`re certain that none of us have non-white children? Because you reflect on your black son and you said none of us could understand --
RICHMOND: Man, man, stop, I`m not about to get sidetracked about the color of our children. We`re talking about black --
GATES: You said --
RICHMOND: I reclaim my time.
GATES: You said that --
RICHMOND: I reclaimed my time. I know --
GATES: Do you want the discussion --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman reclaimed his time.
RICHMOND: I said reclaimed my time. I already know that there are people on the other side have black grandchildren, it`s not about the color of your kids, it`s about black males, black people in the streets that are getting killed. If one happens to be your kid I`m concerned about him too, and clearly I`m more concerned about him than you are. Let`s be clear about that.
GATES: You`re claiming -- you`re more concerned about my family than I do? Who the hell do you think you are?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the shoe fits.
GATES: You don`t know how much we care about family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend (inaudible).
GATES: You should take those words down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend.
GATES: I know you loved your family and love your family, how do we? Damn it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman will suspend -- the gentleman suspend the time belongs to the gentleman from Louisiana.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cedric would you yield?
RICHMOND: Was that a nerve?
GATES: Yes, you damn it was a nerve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I yield to the gentleman from Louisiana.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That`s about how that went. Coming up for us, what can charitiably be called a contrast in presidential style, substance and tone.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, something that happened five years ago tonight. A young white supremacist killed nine black members of bible study class at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, one of the oldest and most storied black churches in all the land.
It was as achingly sad as it was horrifically violent, and in the days that followed that whole community lived in sadness. President Obama spoke at the service for senior pastor Reverend Pinckney, it was a searing speech in which he called the confederate flag a reminder of systemic oppression, and then did something it wouldn`t hurt for us to see again.
We offer it here merely as a contrast in how to president. To many people watching the best part was and remains the clergy members behind him as they realized in realtime the president of the United States had chosen to sum up the moment, their anger, their sadness and the struggle by singing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I`m found, was blind but now I see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Fitting for these times, former President Barack Obama to take us off the air tonight. That is our broadcast for this Wednesday evening. Thank you so very much for being here as always. On behalf of all my colleagues at 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