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COVID-19 vaccine guidelines TRANSCRIPT: 6/30/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Clint Watts, Mario Ramirez, Steve Adler, Barry McCaffrey


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams. Day 1,258 of the Trump administration, 126 days to go until the Presidential Election.

Tonight the White House is caught between two crises and trying to keep them from spiraling out of control.

New coronavirus cases are escalating in more than half of the states, and there are more questions tonight about when the President knew about intelligence indicating Russia may have offered bounties to kill U.S. and coalition soldiers in Afghanistan.

A person with direct knowledge of that intelligence has now confirmed to NBC News that the White House was made aware of it over a year ago, in early 2019. And in a new report, three officials familiar with that intelligence tell the New York Times that American officials intercepted financial transfers from a bank account that was controlled by the Russian military to an account linked to the Taliban.

This afternoon the White House responded, criticizing the media for its coverage, slamming leaks, and defending the President.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Since before President Trump assumed office, damaging and oftentimes erroneous leaks seeking to undermine or delegitimize the duly elected President have been published. The President was never briefed on this. This intelligence still has not been verified, and there is no consensus. The President has been briefed on what is unfortunately in the public domain because of the New York Times and the irresponsible leaks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More broadly, you know, I would re-ask the question of whether it was in his material but ask you maybe to defend why the President isn`t necessarily reading his PDB when there are these type of issues that could arise?

MCENANY: The President does read and he also consumes intelligence verbally. This President, I`ll tell you, is the most informed person on planet earth when it comes to the threats that we face.


KORNACKI: The briefing then turned to the U.S. intelligence community, and the suggestion that some members may be targeting the President.


MCENANY: These are rogue intelligence officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of the I.C. are going after Trump?  Is that what you`re saying?

MCENANY: It`s very possibly could be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the Trump administration doing anything or taking any action, like an audit of the IC? Or what steps are you planning on taking to try to find the source of the leaks?

MCENANY: Well, make no mistake: The DOJ has done several criminal leak referrals, 120 in 2017, 88 in 2018, 104 on average, per year, under President Trump.


KORNACKI: Trump`s presumptive fall opponent has now weighed in as well. During his first news conference in three months, Joe Biden accused Trump of betraying his duty as President.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The Presidential Daily Brief is something I read every single day as vice president. The President read it every day. I was briefed every morning before I got to the White House. And then again, so the idea that somehow he didn`t know or isn`t being briefed, it is a dereliction of duty if that`s the case. And if he was briefed, and nothing was done about this, that`s a dereliction of duty.


KORNACKI: Democratic lawmakers are demanding answers from the administration. Early this morning, 11 Democratic members of Congress were briefed at the White House by the Chief of Staff, the National Security Adviser and the Director of National Intelligence, all of whom have been in administration for less than eight months. Afterward, the House Majority Leader in the Intelligence Committee Chairman spoke.


REPRESENTATIVE STENY HOYER, (D) MARYLAND MAJORITY LEADER: The President called this a hoax publicly. Nothing in the briefing that we have just received led me to believe it is a hoax. This was a red flag. It either was not waived for the President ignored the wave. President Truman said the buck stops here. President Trump says I never saw the book.

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: The right people to give the briefing really we`re not in the room. We need to hear from the heads of the intelligence agencies, about how they assess the allegations that have been made publicly.


KORNACKI: Seven Senate Republicans also got a chance to hear from the administration at another briefing this morning, was held right after that session for House Democrats. One of those Republicans later said he believed what the White House had to say.


SENATOR JAMES INHOFE, (R) OKLAHOMA ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIR: After a very long briefing, I`m confident that President Trump didn`t know about reporting. There`s confusion in terms of our own intelligence. And it just didn`t rise to the level of the President at that time.


KORNACKI: Our two sources tell NBC News that tomorrow the so called Gang of Eight lawmakers, the White House usually keeps in the loop on classified intelligence matters. We`ll be getting their own briefing on the bounty issue.

The Trump administration is also trying to navigate the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases throughout much of the nation, at least 36 states are now seeing a rise in new cases. California and Florida are being especially hard hit both recording over 6000 new cases each today.

On Capitol Hill, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave members of the Senate Health Committee this warning.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We`re going in the wrong direction, if you look at the curves of the new cases, so we really got to do something about that and we need to do it quickly. Clearly, we are not in total control right now. We are now having 40 plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.


KORNACKI: Today, the Vice President in the Coronavirus Task Force continued to press the importance of masks. Joe Biden today offered his own plane on the coronavirus as he criticized Trump`s response.


BIDEN: It seems like our wartime presidents surrender, waive the right flag. What white flag and left the battlefield. Today we`re facing a serious threat. We have to meet it. You call yourself a cheerleader. We don`t need a cheerleader, Mr. President. We need a President, Mr. President.


KORNACKI: Today the European Union officially barred travelers from the U.S. citing concerns about COVID-19. In this country, eight new states have been added to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut 14 day quarantine order for visitors to that area as a total of 16 states that now fall under that order from that tri state region.

Across the nation, governors are trying to control the latest surges by pausing or rolling back some of the reopening steps they had taken 17 states have now moved in that direction. One expert says we may need to do even more.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: We have wasted, I would say the last four six weeks and have not acted with the urgency we need. And now we`re finding ourselves in a difficult situation where I suspect we`re going to end up having states with shelter in place orders and having to lock down again, this is what we were all afraid of, but we`re running out of options.


KORNACKI: And here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday night, Clint Watts, a former FBI Special Agent, a distinguished research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and our National Security Analyst. His recent book is, Messing With The Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News.

Also with us, Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor for Politico, and Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times.

Thank you all for being with us. Peter, let me start with you. We played an exchange there from the White House briefing this afternoon with Kayleigh McEnany, the Press Secretary, she made a statement there that the President in her words, reads his briefing materials, these classified briefings that he`s given each day as the President. I know there`s been some discussion about whether he does read them. She`s also maintaining that he`s not been briefed on this at all or hadn`t been briefed on this before reports emerged in the press in the last few days. Is that the White House`s official position on this? Because there are reports out there, as you know, that this was in his presidential daily briefing, the White House`s position is that it was not in there?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, she didn`t actually answer that question. She didn`t say whether it was or was not in the President`s daily brief. He said he was not briefed, it may be a semantic difference where they`re trying to say that if it was simply in writing, but not orally, briefed and counted being briefed, I`m not sure. But she wouldn`t confirm or deny that was in his written materials. She simply says he does read in general.

Look, we learned from John Bolton`s book and we`ve heard from other people, of course, who worked with this president in the past, that he`s not a particular fan of the intelligence briefings. He doesn`t seem to -- he doesn`t want them as often as his predecessors. He doesn`t seem to pay as much attention as some of his predecessors, John Bolton wrote that intelligence briefings were often a waste of time, because they were often consumed more by President Trump, talking to the briefer rather than listening to what the briefer had to tell him. So it`s possible this was in his briefing package, and he simply missed it. He didn`t see it. Is possible that he was told this, and he simply didn`t remember to process it. It is possible, of course, that you know that this information is still being debated within the intelligence community.

But what we have not gotten, of course, is a sense of urgency from this White House about a situation that sounds so, you know, threatening to our own troops, especially given that, you know, this is a President who took action against Iran, for threatening troops in Iraq. So I think that that`s the, you know, the question, you know, you heard a lot more anger and umbrage at this White House briefing about the media reporting what`s going on with the Russians than you did at the Russians themselves.

KORNACKI: Yes, so Clint, again, there are lots of possibilities here about what exactly happened. The sort of chain of events here, but the possibility that this was in the President`s daily briefing, this intelligence, this material was in there, and that he didn`t see it, didn`t read it for whatever reason. Given as Peters saying that there`s been suggestions out there for a while, you know, layman, like me have heard that the President may not always read this material to the folks who put the briefing together, should they have put that into consideration and tried to find another way to get it to him?

CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: them. I mean, just look at this situation. It seems it`s been going on for months. And probably part of the reason why we know about this, we know about this in the public is a general sense of frustration within the intelligence community with how information is or is not received by the President. Bringing up things the President doesn`t want to hear, being challenged essentially by information coming in from friends or media reports that he likes that he watches on TV, or even in some cases, maybe Vladimir Putin himself providing the information to the President that he prefers over his own intelligence community. It is got to be a struggle to go in and try and cram all of this information about situations in the world.

You`ve got a pandemic, you`ve got Russia, you`ve got China, you`ve got cyber security, all of these issues in there, and you`re trying to get the President`s attention. And I`m not sure that the President even if he heard it would entirely understand what this intelligence is that`s being provided to him.

KORNACKI: Anita, I`m curious what you`re picking up from inside the White House from folks in the President`s orbit as this story sort of explodes into the public and is being discussed like this. All of the questions it raises, what are you picking up from folks around the President? Are they concerned about this?

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, obviously it`s another headache. Whether it`s going to be long lasting is, you know, we`re just unclear about they still are divided at the White House how to, you know, approach the pandemic, as you`ve mentioned, now that states are seeing the surgeon infection so they`ve got a multiple things that they`re looking at, and this is just another headache.

The strategy, as you mentioned so far has really been to be go after the media to go after leakers, different people, but really not to talk about the subject itself. And not to take that seriously, as Peter said, but also just not really to talk about that issue at all. What they`re doing is sort of deflecting that, you know, his campaign today, I had a conference call with reporters, this didn`t come up, they were talking about other issues, trying to hit Joe Biden on a variety of things. Actually, they didn`t have one message, they had about six messages. So I still think they`re really trying to figure out how to go about dealing with both of these issues and what that message is going to be.

KORNACKI: And Peter, I`m also curious how what your sense is of how this is landing with the President`s party, specifically with Republicans on Capitol Hill. We have that clip we played of Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma saying he satisfied with the administration`s explanation, but you`ve had a number of prominent Republicans, notably, Lee`s Cheney in the House, among others who`ve raised some questions, saying they want to get very clear answers here about the intelligence about what the administration knew when it knew the willingness of Republicans to stand with the administration here, as opposed to take a more aggressive posture maybe in trying to suss out some answers. What`s your sense of how this is landing with Republicans in Congress?

BAKER: Yeah, look, this is coming at the end of what has to be one of the worst, if not the worst month for President Trump of his presidency. It started off June 1, with the clearing of Lafayette Square for his Bible holding photo op. It, you know, proceeded through the month with the Tulsa rally that was kind of a disappointment to him. And that rise again of the coronavirus across particularly the south and the west, and now, of course, this bounty story.

And I think that a lot of Republicans are nervous. They`re nervous that this President is not leading them into the fall campaign from a position of strength. The -- he`s behind in the polls by double digits and they`re now looking not just losing possibly the White House but possibly even losing the Senate.

So there`s a little less of a reservoir of goodwill there on the part of individual lawmakers. There are still a lot of course you were standing by the President and they will because they either support him or agree with him or find him, you know, politically important, but you`re seeing a lot more nervousness I think about, among the Republicans. And I think the Republicans to, this goes to the heart of something that`s been a concern of theirs for three and a half years, the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has always been one that`s confused and perplexed his own party, a party that built its bones on being tough with Russia, and something that they`ve long struggle with. And here, you now have a situation where there are reports, the Russians may actually be targeting American troops, that -- and the President of the United States hasn`t shown any indication that he`s concerned about that only concerned about leaks about that.

KORNACKI: Clint, there`s also this question of what actually is in this intelligence? What is the nature of that information that in some way may have gotten to the President or at least been available to the President? Is it very clear cut in terms of establishing that Russia was paying these bounties are offering, these bounties where there`s more conflicting information in there? There`s certainly the possibility here, it seems that more will be learned that the intelligence community will be able to ascertain more But the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany today suggested that the fact that this has now emerged in public could hinder that. What`s your reaction to that? What`s your sense of what she`s saying?

WATTS: I think it`s pretty much nonsense, Steve. Look, all of the Intel agencies make assessments on the information that they have. But that doesn`t necessarily change the overall outcome from all of the parts. I think there is little to no doubt that the Russians were undertaking this program. I think they have been targeting the United States in many different ways.

You`re looking at the GRU, the Russian Military Intelligence, which has been at a breakneck pace attacking in the U.K., throughout Europe, Syria, Ukraine, if you look around the world, they have been aggressive in every step of the way. And this is just one more step that they`ve taken against the United States that they view is weak and a president that they believe they can manipulate.

So when you look at it in its intelligence fits not only in terms of what we might see from the Russians at payback, For what they probably feel from the 1980s in the fight with the Mujahideen, but also a pattern of them being aggressive around the world. They see America as weak and they pounce when they see us as weak.

KORNACKI: Anita, it`s come up here in this discussion. This has been politically, a rough month for the White House. It`s been a rough month for the President. He`s seen his standing against Joe Biden, in the general election polls start to slip. He`s now about 10 points behind nationally. Is there -- I`m curious, are you picking up any chatter in the White House about any kind of a concerted effort, any kind of a plan to change the trajectory, the political trajectory, is something they`re talking about? It`s something they think they can do.

KUMAR: Well, for some months now, we`ve been hearing actually, probably more than months, we`ve been hearing the possibility of a shake up over at the campaign to talk about how we can, you know, turn things around there. Now, we keep hearing that and that really hasn`t happened. There`s been a lot of criticism of the campaign manager and he`s still around. So I`m not sure that that is really, you know, going to happen. The President`s son in law, Jared Kushner is a fan of Brad Parscale. So it doesn`t look like that`s happening.

We have seen a lot of campaign officials coming back from 2016. And I think one of the reasons is that the President thinks fondly of that time, right? He won when no one thought he was going to win. And so he wants to bring back some of those people that helped him win in some of those states where they didn`t think they could.

But you`re exactly right, there is a sense that they need to get back on track. And there`s a difference of opinion on how to do that, both with the campaign and especially with the pandemic right now. Do they go about having more for the pandemic? Do they go about having more briefings like we saw a few months ago, do they stay on track with reopening the economy? There`s a divide so many times in this White House. There is a divide and they can`t decide what to do.

For the election, there is a sense that they need to coalesce around a message and they don`t have what that message is. A few months ago, before coronavirus, they would have said, oh, it`s the economy, the strong economy. Well, that`s wiped away and so they`re trying to figure out what to replace that with.

KORNACKI: All right, Anita Kumar, Clint Watts, Peter Baker, thank you all for being with us. I appreciate that.

And coming up COVID-19 is shattering hospitalization records. In some areas we`re going to ask a former White House pandemic expert, what if anything, can be done now.

And later, it`s still not clear whether American casualties in Afghanistan can be linked to reports of Russian funded bounties. But military families want answers. We`re going to speak to a retired four star army general who says in 50 years, he`s never seen anything like this, the 11th Hour just getting started on a Tuesday.



FAUCI: There is no guarantee, and anyone who`s been involved in vaccinology will tell you that we will have a safe and effective vaccine. But we are cautiously optimistic working with the companies in the investment made by this Congress. Hopefully that will be doses available by the beginning of next year.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: We will ensure that our high levels of standards for safety and efficacy are met.


KORNACKI: And to the commissioners point the FDA released new guidance on specific conditions that must be met for a COVID-19 vaccine to be approved.

From the Washington Post, "Any COVID-19 vaccine will have to prevent disease or decrease its severity in at least 50% of the people who receive it."

Politico reports, "One of the leading vaccine candidates, developed by an NIH and Moderna, is slated to begin phase three trials in July Moderna`s CEO has said that if early data is positive, it could begin dosing healthcare workers in the fall."

With us again tonight, Dr. Mario Ramirez, he`s an E.R. doctor currently treating COVID-19 patients. He`s also a former Acting Director for the White House Office of Pandemic and Emerging Threats, helping to lead the Obama White House`s Ebola response.

Doctor, welcome. Thank you for joining us. Let me start with a layman`s question here. I see a headline. I read a story that says the goal here is to get to at least 50% effectiveness with a vaccine. My reaction is, why I take the shot and it`s got a 50/50 shot of working, is that too low?

DR. MARIO RAMIREZ, WORKED ON EBOLA RESPONSE FOR OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: That`s a great question, Steve. You know what, I think what people should know is that that`s actually OK. Historically, our influenza vaccines that we use year over a year are only 40 to 60% effective. So that number of 50% is actually right in the middle of that. And I think that`s a reasonable estimate to get, to start with.

You know, I think as we have subsequent vaccines, assuming that we get there, you know, the second and third iterations will get better. But starting with a goal of 50% is in line with what we use for influenza on an annual basis. You know, I think the context there is whether or not, you know, things are being rushed through too quickly. And I think, using a goalpost like this, if that`s really what the FDA sticks to suggest that that`s not the case.

KORNACKI: So then we talk about there is this drug -- there`s a number of drugs being developed right now. I keep hearing reports from one or the other, but here`s this one from Moderna that`s about to enter phase three of its trials. First of all, this is the big one, phase three, I always hear what exactly does that mean?

RAMIREZ: It`s another good question, Steve. So, you know, whenever we move a therapeutic or a vaccine, through clinical trials, they go through three phases. So the first are phase one and two. Those are really designed to test safety and in the first phase, and whether or not you can give it to somebody and they don`t have any side effects. But the second phase is whether it actually elicits the response in the body that you want. So if you`re giving somebody a vaccine, does it actually produce antibodies? But phase three is really where we figure out in large groups of people, thousands of people, whether or not a vaccine or therapeutic actually has the clinical effect you want. So that`s what tells you whether or not getting a vaccine to somebody actually protects them from getting infected.

So one of the interesting things that I think we heard at the hearing today, as well as in the last few days, is that we have several therapeutics that are coming to market, people have talked a lot about monoclonal antibodies and fresh frozen plasma, and then you reference the Moderna vaccine. What`s important to realize is that none of those treatments have gone through phase three trials yet, so we don`t have good proof that they actually produce the clinical effect that we want.

KORNACKI: So what are the prospects? We`re hearing, you know, Dr. Fauci, say if all goes well, early 2021 could have a vaccine out there that`s widely available. Realistically, you look at this stuff closely, you understand it? What do you think the prospects are? That one of these potential vaccines that`s in development may be entering phase three right now, does work does, hit at least that 50% mark, and by the start of the next year, we`re looking at something that people are taking on a regular basis.

RAMIREZ: You know, I think on the whole, it looks pretty good that we`ll get there by next year. I think Dr. Fauci is right to issue a sort of cautionary note, you know, so that people have a context for understanding this. If we look at vaccine development, you know, over the last 40 to 50 years, the likelihood of developing a successful vaccine from phase zero is about 33%. By the time you get to phase three, you`re talking typically between 60 and 80% likelihood of success.

So at this point, we have you know, close to six candidates that are in phase two to phase three, we`re getting to a much higher rate and a much greater likelihood of success, but we`re not there. There are certainly viruses that we have been unable to develop vaccines for despite decades of trying. You know, HIV is a great example of that.

And then apart from the actual vaccine development process, you know, there`s the actual aspect of creating production lines and the packaging and distribution. You know, I think, Operation Warp Speed and BARDA and all these other sort of parts of the federal government are making good steps to create production lines, and take bets on some of these candidates ahead of time, so that if one of them works in phase three, we can scale up production really quickly. But it`s an educated guess.

KORNACKI: By the way, how important is there`s sort of, you know, remember the old space race or the nuclear arms race between countries now there`s a vaccine race playing out internationally. The significance, obviously, if it`s developed here, that`s great news for us as Americans. What if it`s developed in another country, does that raise some complications about the availability to Americans and especially, for instance, it was China that developed that where there`s an adversarial relationship with that affect the ability of Americans to have access to this?

RAMIREZ: Well, you know, Steve, there was a story in the news that sort of flew under the radar this week. I noticed you`re bringing up the Reuters study. But the Chinese government via one of their companies can see now decided this week that they were going to start vaccinating their military personnel with their vaccine candidate that had only gone through phase two trials.

Now, they didn`t issue a lot of information about how they`re going to deploy the vaccine, or how many people they`re going to give it to or whether or not this is a voluntary process. But what they`re essentially doing is rolling out the vaccine to large numbers of people and in essence running a phase three trial within their own military.

Now, there`s questions about whether or not the U.S. will have access to that data, I`d suspect not. But you`re right. In your point, there is probably no greater geopolitical contest that the U.S. has been involved with since either the sort of race to get to the moon or possibly the arms race with the soviets because the first country that develops the successful vaccine and in this case, the Chinese are trying to step out ahead is going to have enormous geopolitical leverage. They`re going to have the ability to both sort of price the vaccine, but also reconstitute their economy at a much greater scale than those of us who are lagging behind.

And so I think, you know, this question about the Chinese deploying this vaccine to the military should be, you know, a significant cautionary point for the United States.

KORNACKI: OK. Dr. Mario Ramirez, great information. Thank you for the time. I appreciate that.

RAMIREZ: Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI: And coming up Texas, hitting a new daily record in coronavirus cases and as the case count surges, so to the lines to get tested. The mayor of Austin Texas joins us to talk about the toll the virus is taking on his city when the 11th Hour continues.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t care who you are. You have a right as an American to earn a living. We have a governor who just keeps making whimsical orders and acting like a lone ranger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is illegal, and it is discrimination what he`s doing to us, us bars here in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He took away our right to earn a living and pay our employees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not let the government push you around. Do not let them close your bar.

The bars are not serving COVID and vodka.


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Bar owners in Texas protesting the governor`s decision to roll back the opening of bars as the state sees a spike in coronavirus cases. A group is suing for a reversal of that policy. Today the state broke its previous record for new cases, topping almost 7,000.

Back with us tonight, Steve Adler. He is the Democratic mayor of Austin, Texas. So your honor, thank you for joining us. I actually -- I`m going to start -- we`re talking about bars. Austin is a city, of course, that has plenty of them. It was a topic that was on those protesters` minds. It also came up at that hearing today with Dr. Anthony Fauci. Let me play what he had to say on this subject. Take a listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Outdoor better than indoor. Bars really not good. Really not good. Congregation at a bar inside is bad news. We`ve really got to stop that right now.


KORNACKI: Mr. Mayor, has that been your experience on the ground in Austin?

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN, TEXAS: It has been in several different ways. You know, we have a lot of people in a small space. People are not wearing masks. People are not social distancing. Kind of the activity in bars were counter to what we`re trying to do to stop the spread of this virus.

Our state found that out. We opened up bars, and it was a painful thing to watch.

KORNACKI: Does that mean realistically small space, lots of people, just the nature of a bar and apparently what we`re learning about the nature of transmission of the coronavirus -- does that mean realistically until there`s a vaccine, until there`s a way to treat this effectively and quickly, you can`t have bars?

ADLER: I think bars are going to have to, for this period of time, figure out how to reinvent or re-imagine how they operate. That`s going to happen in many different kinds of businesses. I think what we have learned here in Texas between May and June is you can`t open businesses the way that businesses were opened back in January and February.

We have to learn how to open businesses and at the same time have people masking and having people social distancing. We have to innovate and adapt, and if we don`t do that, we`re going to watch other places do what we`re doing in Texas right now, which is trying to go back to the way things were. It`s not going to work. So we just have to adapt and innovate.

KORNACKI: What do you -- I imagine it`s been a few months now, and maybe you`ve had a chance to think about and get some numbers on the long-term impact economically on your city. Austin obviously tourism. There`s some major events that are annually event there that haven`t been. We`re talking about bars. We`re talking about restaurants. When this is finally over -- and hopefully it`s in the relatively near future -- is Austin going to be fundamentally changed by this?

ADLER: You know my hope is in many ways we come out better than we went in. I hope we`re a more equitable, more -- we have a society that deals better with treating populations that are susceptible, that we`re more sustainable.

So I think there`s a chance for us to come out in a much better place. But I`ll tell you the economic impact is real severe on lots of people. As we go through this virus and we play all the scenarios for how it is that we can do this dance with this virus, the concept of shutting down, opening up, shutting down, and opening up and that kind of approach, I think is going to really compound the injuries that we face.

If we could come up with and what we need to come up with is the ability to be able to tamp down the virus and then be able to open up the economy in a way that can sustain itself. And that means that it has to be done differently than we do it in January and February.

The economy will be different, or our behaviors will be different, but we`ll be able to keep the economy open in a more sustainable way. That`s what this country has not found yet but what we have to find to do this virus in the best way possible.

KORNACKI: I want to ask you too about the other piece of what we played from Dr. Fauci. Bars, he`s say, very bad. Indoor restaurants could be similar. He said outdoor better. And we`ve been hearing that from a lot of experts, the idea that when you`re outside in the open air, there`s all sorts of factors there that apparently work to our benefit in terms of not contracting this.

I notice you`re not going to have city parks and pools open for the weekend. I`ve been seeing this around the country with the holiday weekend, a lot of beaches closing down. These are outdoor spaces, though. I`m just curious, given what we`re learning outdoor safer than indoor, folks feeling sort of, you know, cooped up at home, bars not being open to them. Is there an argument to be made? Do you see one for letting folks go outside and keeping those spaces open?

ADLER: No question but there`s an argument to be made for that. And back in March and April when we basically did our stay-at-home policy, we kept trails home and the ability for people to walk and jog and to be able to be outside. That`s important.

But, again, it`s a question of how you do it. We were concerned that on this July 4th weekend, if we left our parks open, we would have too many people gathering in groups, that we would see the kind of thing we saw back on Memorial Day.

So for this weekend, we`re going to close the parks and really frankly I`m encouraging people to stay home and watch fireworks on their TV because I`m concerned about this weekend. But on an ongoing basis, we`ll keep our trails open, and we`ll be trying our best to make sure that people don`t gather in groups, that you go out, you use the park by yourself or with people that are in your household.

KORNACKI: All right. Mayor Steve Adler, Austin, Texas. Thank you for joining us. Appreciate that.

ADLER: Steve, thanks for the invite.

KORNACKI: All right. And coming up, Joe Biden calls Donald Trump`s response to those reports of Russian bounties a dereliction of duty. We`re going to ask a retired four-star general what he thinks when "The 11th Hour" continues.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He should at a minimum have picked up the phone and said Vladimir, old buddy, if any of this is true, and it seems to me you`ve got a big problem, a big problem, and make it clear. Get to the bottom of this.


KORNACKI: Some more there of Joe Biden today reacting to those reports that the U.S. has intelligence saying that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. NBC News has not confirmed any link between specific attacks and any alleged offers.

Tonight defense secretary Mark Esper released a statement that reads in part, quote, although the Department of Defense has no corroborating evidence at this time to validate the recent allegations regarding malign activity by Russian personnel against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, I want to assure all of our service members that the department takes very seriously any and all potential threats against U.S. military personnel.

With us again tonight, retired four-star U.S. Army general Barry McCaffrey, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam and a former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf, West Point graduate and a former adjunct professor there.

General, thank you for joining us. Let me start just with your reaction to the news and the developments of the last few days starting with that initial report in "The New York Times" and what you have heard from the president and the administration since.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Look, Steve, I`ve been part of the National Security Council meetings for both Democratic and Republican administrations. With two other administrations, I was in and out of the White House watching national security interests. I have never seen anything like this in my life.

On a given day, there are a thousand national security challenges we`re facing. They don`t get discussed in the White House NSC. Maybe the top three do. So the allegation as reported by "New York Times" and corroborated by other media sources, said this went to a full NSC meeting in March.

There is absolutely no way that the president wouldn`t have been told about these emerging concerns. He had five phone calls with Mr. Putin. I`ve been present when the president of the United States makes a head-of-state phone call or meets a head of state in his office. We go in and brief him, everything about the background of the phone call. Nobody told the president, hey, you got to tell Mr. Putin we believe they`re trying to kill our soldiers in Afghanistan?

So I think it`s shocking. Mr. Esper`s statement is profoundly disappointing. This is an interagency conclusion. By the way, this isn`t eight guys. These are men and women all over Washington, CIA, Department of Treasury, State Department, Department of Defense, JCS, all of them trying to hammer out conclusions about a threat to U.S. forces. This is utter nonsense. A national security process is broken.

KORNACKI: You mentioned that statement from Secretary Esper. He mentions the men and women in uniform, and this story is ultimately about potentially at least U.S. military personnel being killed in exchange for bounties offered up by Russian military intelligence. The effect of a story like this and everything that we`re talking about right now, what is the effect of something like that on our troops?

MCCAFFREY: Well, look, I think, you know, staff sergeant and E-4 level and captain and lieutenant colonel and the commander major, they think have these people are trying to kill him anyway. Both the Afghan forces who can turn guns on them, the Taliban Haqqani network. So I would not think they would be shocked or particularly disturbed that the Russians put a bounty on their head. Just another threat out there on the horizon.

The people who are concerned about this right now is what the CENTCOM commander and his staff think about it. What about the Afghanistan joint commander in country?  The interagency all over? I assume that what went on in Mr. Trump`s mind was I`m trying to get Putin into the G8, re-establish the G8. I don`t want to confront him on any issues. The Russians think they can manipulate him and have been successful in doing so.

And so I think the word went out he doesn`t want to hear this. So maybe he wasn`t officially briefed, but there`s no way he didn`t know about this consensus emerging from the intelligence community. Mr. Esper shouldn`t have put that statement out.

KORNACKI: All right. General Barry McCaffrey, thank you as always for your time. Appreciate it.

And coming up, Mitch McConnell now knows who he`s going to run against in November. And, oh, by the way, just in the last few minutes, a major surprise. An upset in a Republican primary. An incumbent endorsed by the president goes down when "The 11th Hour" continues.


KORNACKI: All right. We have a winner. This is a primary that officially took place a week ago in Kentucky. Remember this one? This was the Democratic Senate Primary in Kentucky, the right to take on Mitch McConnell in the fall. It`s going to be Amy McGrath. She will be the Democratic nominee. She edges out Charles Booker by two points here.

This was a tale of candidates who each had momentum at very different points in the campaign, and that may have affected exactly how these votes worked out. Let me tell you what I mean by that. McGrath got in this race a year ago. She had been a rising national star for Democrats in 2018. She ran for the House back then. Remember she had this ad that went viral. She`s a former fighter pilot, got a lot of attention. She had a near-miss run in 2018, decided last year she`d run for the Senate against Mitch McConnell, got a lot of attention when she got in the race. Got a lot of money when she got in the race.

There was an assumption in Kentucky and nationally for a long time she`d be the democratic nominee. Then Charles Booker got in the race late. And then even later, like within the last couple weeks, Charles Booker suddenly started getting a ton of attention in Kentucky nationally. Big national progressive endorsements.

But here`s why I`m telling this. Because remember this was an unusual coronavirus pandemic election, and we`re going to see these all across the country in November in state after state. Here is what I want to show you.

The three biggest counties in Kentucky. This is like 40 percent of the state just from these three counties. This is last week. This is the in- person vote. This is a week ago today. This was the official primary day. Folks who actually went out and voted in person. The way we`re used to these things taking place.

Look at this. Booker won overwhelmingly in these three big counties. Remember he had the late momentum. The final week of the campaign. The folks who voted late, the folks who voted on the primary day responded to that, it looks like, and gave him overwhelming margins.

But mail-in voting, because of the pandemic, because the coronavirus, the vast majority of votes in this race were cast before the final days of this campaign. They were cast weeks ago in some cases. That`s back when McGrath was in a stronger position. And you can see here Booker`s margins were much, much smaller in these counties in the mail-in voting. In fact, in this county, McGrath won in a runaway on the mail-in voting.

And so it`s an interesting thing to keep in mind here. When the votes are cast, what`s going on in the campaign when the votes are cast, that can be crucial when you have extensive mail-in voting.

Also tonight coming in from Colorado, this is a largely mail-in primary. Democratic race here. This is the right to take on Cory Gardner in the fall. John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado, former presidential candidate, he got in this race. He will be the Democratic nominee running against Cory Gardner. This is one of those states -- there are two of them in the battle for the Senate the Democrats particularly had their eyes on where you have a Republican incumbent, Cory Gardner in Colorado, in a state that Trump did not carry in 2016. Clinton carried Colorado. So that could be an uphill fight for Cory Gardner.

Susan Collins in Maine, the other Republican running in a Clinton state for re-election this state. Hickenlooper versus Gardner. Keep an eye on it.

And then here is the big news, the surprising news. Nobody was talking about this before tonight. This is a Republican congressional primary in the third district of Colorado. This gentleman, Scott Tipton, is a ten-year incumbent. He was elected in 2010. The Associated Press says he has been defeated tonight by a challenger named Lauren Boebert. Lauren Boebert got some attention last year. Maybe you remember this. Beto O`Rourke had an event in Colorado. She showed up. He was of course talking about guns, taking away some guns. She showed up at the event. She confronted him.

It looks like she has ousted in a Republican primary incumbent Scott Tipton, who had run with President Trump`s support. So an interesting development here. An incumbent member apparently losing a primary in Colorado. That was the development we didn`t see coming but that`s what happens n elections.

Interesting things. "The 11th Hour" continues right after this.


KORNACKI: And the last thing before we go tonight, Mississippi`s old state flag is officially no more. Governor Tate Reeves signed into law today the bill to officially remove the confederate battle emblem that has been a part of that state`s flag for 126 years. But it`s not just in Mississippi where the old flag is coming down.

Right after that bill was signed, in Jackson today, back in Washington, our Capitol Hill team was there when the flag was removed from the tunnel in the Senate subway. The state`s senior senator, Republican Roger Wicker, was on hand as a temporary flag with the Mississippi state seal was put in place.

That does it for us tonight on "The 11th Hour." Thank you for being with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, have a good night.

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