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Beirut explosion TRANSCRIPT: 8/4/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Stephen Sample, Paul Begala

  BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 1,293 of the  Trump administration leaving 91 days to go until the Presidential Election.

Tropical storm Isaias has left the Atlantic coast crumbled in its wake. It  landed in the Carolinas during this hour last night as we were on the air.  It landed as a full fledged hurricane then swept up into the northeast  almost following the I-95 corridor, unleashing powerful winds and heavy  punishing rain, including a wind gusts of 109 miles an hour at the Jersey  shore, higher winds in New York City than Sandy produced in fact, yet this  was not a category four hurricane wasn`t even a category three. In fact, it  wasn`t a hurricane anymore when it did all this. And tonight 3 million  Americans are without power as the storm sweeps on up into Canada.

And in the middle of all of this came what we`re going to show you today  devastating almost hard to believe video of an explosion in the midst of a  fire in Beirut.

At least 78 people were killed. Those numbers are changing. However,  thousands of people were injured, many of them wounded by debris inside  their own homes. The Lebanese government said ammonium nitrate was stored  at the explosion site.

Late this afternoon, President Trump weighed in with an assessment of his  own that went well beyond that.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I`ve met with some of our great  generals and they just seem to feel that it was, this was not a some kind  of a manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a seems to be  according to them, they would know better than I would, but they seem to  think it was attack. It was a bomb of subcon.


WILLIAMS: Now, it`s been reported that defense officials are now saying  there`s no indication of an attack. We`ll have much more on this just  ahead.

In this country, there`s no end insight to the health crisis caused by the  pandemic cases have not stopped rising, nor have the number of deaths.  Cases are on the rise in 32 states right now. Trump made a point of showing  the nation that he remains engaged in the pandemic fight sending out these  photos of himself with the Coronavirus Task Force including Doctors Fauci  and Birx`s meeting in the Oval Office, the only two seen wearing masks over  their face there. He did brief our country today as usual, emphasizing how  well he thinks his administration is doing.


TRUMP: We`re putting out embers. We`re putting out flames. We`ve also  dramatically accelerated the availability of plasma therapies, steroid  treatments, antivirals and other therapies to treat the illness. Since  March 12, we`ve increased daily testing by 32,000%. We do more testing than  anybody in the world.


WILLIAMS: But the comments that have gotten everybody`s attention are the  embarrassing moments that emerged from his interview with Jonathan Swan of  Axios.


TRUMP: Right now, I think it`s under control. I`ll tell you what -- 

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS REPORTER: How 1000 Americans are dying a day.

TRUMP: They were dying. That`s true. And you have -- it is what it is, but  that doesn`t mean we are doing everything we can. It`s under control as  much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us.

SWAN: You really think this as much as we can control a thousand deaths a  day?

TRUMP: Well, I`ll tell, I like to know if somebody -- First of all, we have  done a great job. We`ve gotten the governors everything they needed because  we are so much better at testing than any other country in the world. We  show more cases.

SWAN: The figure I look at is death. And death is going up now. It`s 1000 a  day.

TRUMP: OK. We`re lower than the world.

SWAN: Lower than the world?

TRUMP: We`re lower than Europe.

SWAN: In what? In what?

TRUMP: Take a look. Right here is case death.

SWAN: Oh, you`re doing death as a proportion of cases. I`m talking about  death as a proportion of population. That`s where the U.S. is really bad.

TRUMP: Well -- 

SWAN: Much worse than South Korea, Germany, et cetera.

TRUMP: You can`t do that.

SWAN: Why can`t I do that?

TRUMP: You have to go by, you have to go by where -- look, here is the  United States, you have to go by the cases.


WILLIAMS: Now, a chart created from the findings from the folks at Johns  Hopkins gives a more accurate picture. The U.S. leads the 10 nations with  the highest death tolls. This afternoon in an interview on Fox Business,  Trump appeared to be aware that the situation was not improving.


TRUMP: We`ve lost 160,000 people. We`re going to lose more.


WILLIAMS: Two developments reported by the Washington Post, also giving us  clues as to the state of things. Seven governors have now banded together  to pressure Biotech companies into ramping up production of rapid detection  COVID testing. And Dr. Birx has privately come out against Trump`s push to  reopen schools because of the current outbreaks across the country. Again,  begging questions about what keeps a public health specialist from going  public on a matter of public safety other than a fear of being tweeted  about perhaps.

Amid all of this, Trump is staying focused on his reelection campaign.  Today he revised his effort to discredit voting by mail, posting this,  "Whether you call it vote by mail or absentee voting in Florida, the  election system is safe and secure, tried and true. So in Florida, I  encourage all to request a ballot and vote by mail."

Florida, of course, is a battleground state and happens to be where the  President votes by mail. During today`s briefing, he added this.


TRUMP: Florida has got a great Republican governor, and it had a great  Republican Governor. Got Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott, they`ve been able to get  the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. Florida has been  working on this for years. Florida`s a very well run state, low taxes, low  everything. They`ve done a great job.


WILLIAMS: The other thing that caught our ear today during Trump`s earlier  event to sign a bipartisan conservation bill, a moment that launched 1000  memes on the spot, as the President apparently didn`t recognize the word  Yosemite.


TRUMP: When young Americans experience the breathtaking beauty of the Grand  Canyon, when their eyes widen in amazement as Old Faithful bursts into the  sky, when they gaze upon Yosemite`s -- Yosemite`s towering sequoias, their  love of country grows stronger.


WILLIAMS: On that note, here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday night,  Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Alexi  McCammond, Political Reporter for Axios and Errin Haines, a 10 year veteran  of the AP where she last covered race and society. These days Editor-at- Large for the 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom focused on gender,  politics. It happened to go live this week

Good evening and welcome to you all. Peter, because it`s your day to day  beat, I`d like to begin with you. President devoted about half the briefing  to non-virus topics. On things like Beirut, since the start of the modern  era, presidents have had confidential briefings in the Oval Office from the  generals as he calls them. They have not made a custom of going to the  briefing room and spewing the theories voiced in confidence in the Oval  Office as he did today.

Also, he is coming off the positively (inaudible) remark, it is what it is,  maybe not the best way to describe a death toll of 150,000 souls.

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it  seems like every single day he`s giving his critics ammunition. You know,  the Biden campaign, turn that interview. It is what it is into ad and  pretty quick fashion, it`s already online.

Because it`s it undermines the President`s argument that he does have this  under control. We have, as you put it, 1000 deaths a day, think about that  we`ve got 90 days until Election Day that could be another 90,000 deaths.  If it keeps it this pace that would be a total of 250,000 deaths this year,  an extraordinary number of and something that the President has yet to  really grapple with, he has yet to, you know, hold any kind of National Day  of Mourning to express in any meaningful way, empathy for the crisis that  people are undergoing. In addition to people who have passed away, there  are the families who were left behind without them. There are people who  have been sick and didn`t die, but suffered enormously from this virus,  while some people may have relatively mild cases. A lot of people have  pretty, pretty traumatic experiences with this disease. And I think that he  has yet to sort of show that he understands that in a human way and it  didn`t help himself. I think with that interview.

WILLIAMS: Alexi, we all have our burdens. You guys, of course, at Axios  have to now live with Jonathan Swan. I grew up in New Jersey where a local  axiom all my life was, it is what it is. And now that axiom has gone  global. To Peter`s point, though, the part of Jonathan`s interview that  will live in perpetuity now has the President summing it up using that  phrase.

ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, public kudos  to my colleague, Jonathan Swan, who, you know, it`s just a case study and  how to interview the President. But, you know, that was a really damning  line from the President himself that really kind of reinforces not just the  way the Democrats have been trying to characterize how the President has  been mishandling, they say the coronavirus, but what Americans around the  country have been watching and sort of getting glimpses up from his daily  coronavirus briefings but now sharing from himself this sort of complacency  that, you know, to Peter`s point, he`s not really showing any sort of human  empathy about the human death toll and cost of lives that has been caused  because of this pandemic.

It`s not only being turned into ads, but you know, that`s something that  people are going to think about when they also hear President Trump saying  things like, well, the virus will just disappear. You know, or in April, he  was saying that he wanted the economy to reopen, then it`s all a bit -- but  it`s all have been about speed with President Trump and getting over this  as quickly as possible without really stopping to acknowledge again, the  human toll that this virus has taken and how Americans are feeling which is  really scared heading into this election and into the fall when we`re  expected to have a second wave while we`re not even done with this first  wave.

WILLIAMS: Errin, you`ve covered the intersection of politics and society  for a long time. The President seemed to be saying today, mail in balloting  is good as long as it`s in Florida where he mails his vote in especially if  it`s absentee and not called anything else. But Errin, don`t you think some  down ballot Republicans who are up on that same election day as him are  realizing that an effort to delegitimize an election hurts both parties at  the end of the day?

ERRIN HAINES, THE 19TH EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think that`s right, Brian. And  thank you for your kind words about our launch. You know, I think it was  interesting. He was holding up Florida. I don`t think that those of us who  have covered, you know, presidential cycles in years past really think of  Florida when we think of smooth elections. And so holding them up as kind  of the beacon for smooth elections process needed, just I think, again,  speaks to raising the specter around voter fraud or somehow a corrupt  process to a mail in -- widespread mail-in balloting this November, as  well.

You know, I think that what -- the concern is, I mean it continues to raise  uncertainty around the pandemic, generally speaking, right? There`s  uncertainty around when we`re going to have a vaccine. There`s uncertainty  around, you know, when the numbers are going to go back down. And yet the  President continues to, you know, not really say that the administration is  not responding appropriately. But it`s saying that, you know, if China  hadn`t gotten involved in this never would have happened to our country,  which really is not the message that Americans are looking to hear,  especially if he is encouraging people to go back to work, to go back to  school. And I can say, you know, that our -- at our new site,  we are talking about the first female recession in this country where, you  know, women are grappling with the impact that this pandemic has had on the  economy, which is absolutely political, for a lot of folks and I think that  certainly Republicans down ballot are thinking about those issues as well  as we head into November.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, as Errin reminds us that the backdrop for all of  this, of course, is a slow rolling pandemic. For the folks watching tonight  who are hurting, who have family members who are hurting, what can we tell  them through you is the status of the next relief bill?

BAKER: Yeah, that`s a great question. This is dragged on now, so long that  millions of Americans are losing the $600 bump that they had gotten in  unemployment relief since the first relief package passed. And now they`re  feeling the bite of it. And these are people who may be out of work, who  may be soon out of their homes, who may not be able to pay their bills and  may not be able to, you know, will struggle to pay other medical bills that  might be coming in.

And the negotiations are plodding along without any noticeable progress.  There seem to be a little tiny bit of sliver of progress today. The  Democrats that came out saying that they have seen some movement by the  Republicans. You heard the President as briefing sailing the Democrats for  being too obstinate. And they have a deadline coming up. Friday is when the  Congress heads off for a month long, you know, recess, that`s a month that  people at home can`t live without some sort of understanding what`s going  to happen, some sort of relief, some sort of help. So that deadline is  coming up fast and furious on them. And I think that it may be one of these  things where we always see in the hill, everything comes up to the very  last minute. But, you know, there`s not a lot of reported progress at this  point is pretty significant gulf between them. And it seems to be  ideological and political as much as it is over, you know, basic policy and  numbers.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Alexi, because I have total confidence in you, no pressure,  but help us answer these two questions. Will there be debates? And who will  Joe Biden pick?

MCCAMMOND: I`m so glad you asked about this, Brian. I was thinking about  this today and tried to get the Trump campaign to give me an answer about  whether or not they`re going to do three debates with Joe Biden because a  Trump campaign spokeswoman said during an interview with Fox News that they  had confirmed with the debate commission that they will be doing debates  but then the campaign refuses to still say whether or not they will do the  three that they are -- that they`ve decided.

So, yes, we will see. I`m curious when they will actually start doing  debate prep. And then your second question, I`m sorry?

WILLIAMS: Who`s he going to pick?

MCCAMMOND: Oh, that`s unfair. You have to read Axios AM tomorrow morning.  Read Axios AM there`ll be some new reporting from my colleague Hans and I  about the VP search.

WILLIAMS: OK, colleague and friend of ours at NBC Hans Nichols and as  unfair as the question really was your answer is completely fair. And we  will -- we will do just that.

Hey, Errin, a bit of a turn in subject here. But I want to play for you  what the President told Alexi`s colleague Jonathan, about John Lewis.


SWAN: How do you think history will remember John Lewis?

TRUMP: I don`t know. I really don`t know. I don`t know. I don`t know John  Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. He chose. I don`t -- I  never met John Lewis actually, I don`t believe.

SWAN: Do you find him impressive?

TRUMP: I can`t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive.  I find many people not impressive, but no. But I didn`t -- 

SWAN: Do you find his story impressive?

TRUMP: He didn`t come to my inauguration. He didn`t come to my State of the  Union speeches. And that`s OK. That`s his right. And, again, nobody has  done more -- 

SWAN: Right.

TRUMP: -- for Americans than I have.


WILLIAMS: Errin, I wanted to ask you this question as a daughter of the  State of Georgia I want to remind our audience that John Lewis boycotted  the inauguration of Bush-43 who eulogized him at his funeral. So Errin  about that last claim and how much this President has done for African  Americans. What do you make of that?

HAINES: Well, I have to chime in on this beefsteaks conversation. I mean, I  work in a newsroom, focused on women in politics, and I will tell you,  Brian, Joe Biden`s going to pick the woman, just so you know.

But on John Lewis, what we know is that John Lewis had a reputation that  preceded, you know, Donald Trump`s presidency. You know, for decades, this  man built his life, fighting for civil rights, fighting for voting rights.  Here we are, on Thursday, celebrating the 55th Anniversary of the Voting  Rights Act, you know what he bled for on that bridge, the Edmund Pettus  Bridge in Selma.

And so, you know, for President Trump to just kind of dismiss Congressman  Lewis because he was not at his inauguration or State of the Union  speeches, really is to diminish his legacy and that is certainly not being  an either or those events are certainly not what Congressman Lewis is going  to be remembered for that was certainly not the first line of his obituary.  And it`s certainly not the first thing that comes to mind for the many  Americans who are very grateful for the sacrifice and continued work that  John Lewis gave to this country for more than six decades.

WILLIAMS: We`re grateful to our friends who made up our big three tonight,  Peter Baker, Alexi McCammond and with continued congratulations for a great  debut, Errin Haines, thank you, three of you very much for starting us off.

Coming up for us, President Trump says there is such a thing as too much  testing in the face of a pandemic. We`ll ask a doctor practicing in the  Midwest if that`s the situation where he lives and works.

And later, Paul Begala is here to break some furniture and talk about his  new book and what he thinks it`ll take for Democrats to fire Donald Trump.  All of it as "THE 11TH HOUR" is just getting started on this consequential  Tuesday night.


WILLIAMS: Well, we`ve heard Dr. Birx and the President run through the  list. Indiana, one of the many states experiencing an increase in new  coronavirus cases over just these past several weeks, states been averaging  about 800 new cases a day and that`s a lot. For the week ending July 28 the  positivity rate in Indiana was 7.3%. But five counties had a positivity  rate of over 15% and the county where our next guest practices medicine  leads the state at just over 19%.

So without further delay, back with us tonight, Dr. Stephen Sample. He`s an  ER doc at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, Indiana.

So Doctor, here is your county leading the state in positivity, not the  good kind, not opinion poll saying how did you enjoy our county? The kind  you don`t want? So the question to you is, given all the conversations you  and I had before it got there, what`s it like for you now in the fight?

DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Well, we`re  number one, right? So hey, Brian, it`s good to see you again. Look, yeah,  the numbers are terrible here right now. And the scheme of things this is  not New York City, we have to remember that. We`re a small county with  about 50,000 or so residents. But our numbers are definitely steadily on  the rise. And for the last couple of weeks, we`ve been leading the state in  positivity. We`ve ranged from 25% positive test to I think you said 18  today, it varies from day to day, but it`s still not good. When our targets  below 5% this just means that we`re in the dark with this virus. We don`t  know where it is.

WILLIAMS: Another part of the Trump interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios,  I came prepared to play for you in our audience. We`ll talk about it on the  other side.


TRUMP: You know, there are those that say, you can test too much, you do  know that, who says that? Oh, just read the manuals, read the books,  manuals, read the manual, read the books, what books?


WILLIAMS: Doctor, did they give you the manuals? Do you have the manuals?  And is anyone in your community complaining of the burden of too much  testing?

SAMPLE: So I`m glad you asked. I watched that interview just a little bit  ago and I actually got an advance copy of the manual. It`s called, How to  Rona by Science. And if you open it and you skip past the demon semen and  the hydroxychloroquine it`s you get to tell into the tea`s. First you see  the take no responsibility. And then you say, if you don`t test, maybe  they`ll just forget about it. That`s the manual as far as I can tell.

No, nobody`s complaining about too many tests, Brian, we don`t have enough  tests. That`s why we are where we are.

WILLIAMS: Somebody came to play tonight. Hey, on the topic of schools, I  know they are starting to reopen in Indiana. How do you feel about it? And  as an Indianan, what are you satisfied that protocols are being followed?

SAMPLE: No, I`m not satisfied with anything. You know, over the last  months, other than working in the Emergency Department, basically, my life  has been, ER Doc, whack a mole with internet trolls and trying to help my  friends and family navigate through this illness. And I get phone calls and  texts every day. What do I do? Do I send my kid my mom`s sick? Should I go?  Nobody really knows.

Our school system is opening next week, as we are the most positive test  rate in the state of Indiana. And from what I can tell, there just was an  email sent out today. No masks are going to be recommended in class so long  as they`re facing forward and three feet apart. So they`ll sit there for 45  minutes and breathe their teenager breath all over each other. So I don`t  expect this to be a terribly long school year. I hope I`m wrong, but not  optimistic.

WILLIAMS: Final question about your day job and your night job for that  matter, when someone presents at the ER with a broken arm from a baseball  game or a softball game or head trauma from a car accident, you usually  know it when the sliding doors open, but when they present with something  more mysterious these days, chest tightness, abdominal pain, whatever it  is, do you then -- is there a moment where you pause and get up PPE up and  bring in a different protocol for how that patient gets surrounded with  medical care?

SAMPLE: Absolutely. So because we are still coveting PPE and hoarding PPE  because during the last six months we don`t have enough PPE, we try to be  judicious. So certainly everybody has masks and gloves for every patient.  But if it even smells like it could be coronavirus, absolutely everybody  stops. They go into the hot zone of the emergency department. We put on our  ridiculous masks and our goggles and our gowns and our gloves. And we treat  everybody like they`re sick because now we have enough people in the county  that the broken ankle from the softball game could actually be coronavirus,  and you just don`t know where it is. So you have to pretend like it`s  everywhere.

WILLIAMS: Well, it`s enough for our viewers to want to schedule all their  emergencies for your county because nice people like Dr. Stephen Sample  will treat you there if you do, Doc. Thank you as always for your  generosity -- 

SAMPLE: Any time, Brian.

WILLIAMS: -- your time and for coming on the air with us.

Coming up for us, one former presidential adviser says when Donald Trump  jokes about being president for life, we would best listen up. Paul Begala  and his new guide for beating this incumbent, when we come back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we have a new phenomena.  It`s called in -- it`s called mail in voting, where you send where there is  no way you can go through a mail in vote without massive cheating. You  know, you could have a case where this election will be decided on the  evening of November 3rd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s wrong with that?

TRUMP: Absolutely selection was two months later.


WILLIAMS: While the President continues to undermine the election damaged  the legitimacy of mailing voting, our next guest makes this prediction in  his brand new book out today, quote, if the voter purges the voter  suppression, the misinformation, if all of that still fails, I would not  put it past Trump to try to cancel elections themselves. I know that sounds  alarmist but you should be alarmed. Trump has clearly and repeatedly stated  his desire to be president for a life. He`s not joking, folks. He doesn`t  joke.

We see what way too much of our next guest on another network. But we are  so lucky to have him with us tonight by dint of this new book he has  published and so we welcome to the broadcast. Veteran democratic strategist  Paul Begala. The new book out today is "You`re Fired: The Perfect Guide to  Beating Donald Trump."

Paul, thank you very much for coming on tonight and we`re happy to help you  roll this thing out. It started the first time it entered. My awareness was  a Bill Maher theory. He kept saying to his audience and his guests, folks,  he`s not going to leave. And I heard others like Michael Moore add to that  theory while appearing on Bill Maher.

Then came the theory that he was actually going to monkey with the election  date. Then came a rare attack by the President of the United States on the  U.S. Postal Service happens to be a heroic group of tens of thousands of  veterans, by the way, during a pandemic of all things. I know part of your  book as a sermon to your fellow Democrats just how seriously to take these  threats. You have the air?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first, Brian, it`s great to see  you again. My old friend, thank you for having me on, you`re very kind to  do so.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BEGALA: They tell me my veteran friends who served at Strategic Air Command  that the screensaver on the computers that goes across at Strategic Air  Command says, honor every threat. And I think that`s what Americans, not  just Democrats have to do that when this President was asked about Xi  Jinping, the Chinese Communist leader who was made president for life  without getting a single vote, because they don`t have a free society. He  didn`t say, what JFK or Reagan or Clinton or Obama, any real president  would have said. They didn`t say, well, we believe in freedom, we have a  better system. He said, Gee, I`d like to try that here.

And in fact, one of the things I found when I was researching the book was  in Trump`s first year of office, voters were asked, would you support Trump  if he called for suspending the elections and 52 percent of Republicans  said yes, that was three years ago.

So I do think is real. Now he doesn`t have the power under our constitution  to do that. But he undermined the election that he won falsely claiming  that millions of illegal votes were cast in California, which is nonsense.  He undermines every check and balance the Free Press, the federal  judiciary, the very electoral system as we talked about, so I do think that  this guy`s an autocrat wannabe.

And you`re right, Bill Maher gets the credit. He`s the guy`s been -- I`ve  been on his show many times. And he was the first one to say that to me in  the first year of Trump`s presidency. So, I`m usually skeptical about these  things, but I believe that Trump is an autocrat wannabe, he`s certainly not  joking. He`s not a jokester.

WILLIAMS: I want to see if you`ll engage in some tough love and I`m going  to hit you with some devil`s advocate theories, beliefs and fears about the  party you love and you`re a member of and here goes. The theory goes like  this. They suck at the fight. They`re not killers. They are purity testers.  In fact, they often allow good, great to be the enemy of good.

They are Charlie Brown in a Charlie Manson era. The best ads are being made  by the disaffected Republicans. And I myself have already had a quote  directed to me on background from inside the Biden campaign saying, in  effect, all we got to do is play mistake free baseball here on out, I would  posit that`s not the way to get elected Are any of the preceding points  true in your view?

BEGALA: Look, I always joke that the definition of a liberal is somebody  who`s afraid to take his own side in a fight. But, in the era of Trump,  Democrats have gotten their fight back. I think if you look at Nancy  Pelosi, who if there`s any hero in this book, it`s Nancy. Pelosi, she has  taken the fight to Trump every single day.

And the way to do it though, and I love these ads that the Lincoln Project  and other disaffected Republicans are doing. But what I think Democrats  pickney (ph) Biden needs to do is take the fight to Trump, not on Trump,  not on his character, but on what`s happening to the country that he  allegedly leads, right, under his watch.

Last year, we lost 71,000 dead to drug overdoses. We lost 38,000 dead to  gun violence. We`ve lost 156,000 dead to COVID. He`s in court right now,  trying to cancel the health care for 22 million Americans under Obamacare  and take 129 million more Americans who have pre existing condition and  allow health insurance companies to take that away from them.

So I do think very much I believe in fighting you covered me long enough to  know. But I think what they`ve got to do is make sure that the fight is not  on Trump`s terms. That is only talking about Trump. That`s what every  narcissist wants, but instead don`t make it about Trump`s life or Trump`s  family, make it about yours, make it about the voters. And I think that`s  something frankly I got wrong in 2016. I was so distracted by Trump`s sewer  level character that I forgot to focus on the implications in the lives of  a retiree in Pennsylvania or an office worker in Michigan, and I`m not  going to make that mistake again.

WILLIAMS: Every journalist in this country worth his or her salt recognizes  what you have and I love being invited into people`s homes. What you have  on the shelf behind you as a first edition, foil covered what it takes by  the late great Richard Ben Kramer, maybe the best modern work since  Theodore White on politics. What would an author like Kramer make of the  characters we are seeing today in this campaign?

BEGALA: Wow. In fact, in that book, there`s a terrific mini profile of Joe  Biden. It`s just an outstanding. I think it`s the best book about politics,  best nonfiction book ever read about politics. You`re right. Terrific  profile of Bob Dole in that book. It`s just a wonderful, wonderful book.

And what Richard, God rest his soul, was able to do is get into these guys.  It was all guys then. These guys heads. I don`t know that we need that now.  We still have Mary Trump`s book, which is an astonishing success. I think  we kind of know enough about Trump and what`s in his head.

And I guess I`m not even all that interested in what motivates him. I just  want to get to what he has done and what he has failed to do. And the cost  of those actions and inactions. I do you think that any reading of  politics, I think will tell you that the most important quality certainly I  think having worked in the White House, you and I had flashbacks, that last  segment when you and Peter Baker were talking, you guys used to make my  life hell when I worked in the White House.

The most important thing for a president to have is empathy. You can`t lead  a country you don`t love. And Biden has that in abundance and Trump has  that not at all, it is the greatest gap on the most important quality that  I think I`ve ever seen. And I think that that`s probably where the -- when  the era is written about it will be, I think this narcissist in the White  House who neglected. He didn`t even defend his own troops when putting put  a bounty on their head. I think it`s the worst thing that presidents done  in American history. So I think it`s that and I think that Biden`s empathy  actually matches up perfectly well with Trump`s narcissism.

WILLIAMS: Ladies and gentlemen, the book can be ordered starting today it  is called and we`ll show the cover again, if it was ambiguous behind the  author. "You`re Fired: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump." Our  thanks to our friend Paul Begala, we wish you health and safety happy  trails. And as always hook them horns. Go get him Paul.

BEGALA: Thank you, Brian. It`s great to see you.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, voters in several states did go to the polls  today. Steve Kornacki at the big board in New York. If you remember the big  board in New York with a primary update of all things, when we come right  back.



KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: We`ve had no excuse absentee  voting in Arizona for four decades. So we have a good track record. We know  it`s secure. My biggest concern is misinformation. We already knew  misinformation was a big thing coming into this election. And, you know,  the additional misinformation about vote by mail is kind of another layer  on top of that.


WILLIAMS: Well, we knew it was coming and now it`s here how the pandemic  and politics are straining the voting process. We can see it play out every  day. Arizona was one of five states to hold primaries today. Did you know  that? Who better to run us through what we need to know so far? But our  friend Steve Kornacki, who`s back at the big board tonight and Steve, we  desperately need you to kind of reset what you and I would normally be  talking about non-stop, where are our politics as of tonight.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this would be  a big one. Normally what`s happens night here in Kansas, in particular, a  big republican primary for the United States Senate, they could have  significant implications for the general election battle for control of the  Senate.

Let me take you through what happened here. This is the Republican primary.  And you see here the winner here, Roger Marshall, Congressman Roger  Marshall. Why is this so significant, because look who he defeated tonight  in the Republican primary in Kansas, Kris Kobach, the controversial former  Secretary of State. Kobach had run for governor in Kansas a few years ago,  he lost that race and that was the key.

Kobach had a real chance to win this primary become the Republican nominee  for Senate in Kansas. And Democrats believe that if Kobach could win this  primary that they the Democrats could get this seat in November. Democrats  were so convinced of that possibility. They put money here trying to prop  up Kobach in this primary, while national Republicans put money behind  Roger Marshall trying to get him across the finish line. It has been 88  years. Nearly a century since Democrats won a Senate race in Kansas. They  were hoping Kobach would win this thing. But Marshall has come through.  He`s won this primary tonight. He will be the Republican nominee in Kansas.  He will face Barbara Bollier is renamed the Democratic nominee.

Again, she still has plenty of money here. She`ll still put a campaign  forward here. We will see what happens. But the real hope for Democrats  tonight was that she would be facing off against Kobach and that this seat  in deep red, Kansas could be in play in November, with Roger Marshall  winning that nomination. I could tell you Republicans in Washington, Mitch  McConnell in particular, breathing a big sigh of relief with that result  from Kansas tonight.

Also a primary in Arizona tonight. Not a surprise here. Martha McSalley,  the appointed Republican incumbent in Arizona winning that primary she will  face off she`s got an uphill fight here. That`s what the polls say right  now. She`s trying to defend that seat. Democrat Mark Kelly is who she will  face in November. The polling has consistently put Kelly ahead in this  race. So McSalley trying to defend that seat. If she fails, Democrats flip  it. Democrats get a gain in Arizona, if they can knock off Martha McSalley.

Also news from Kansas tonight. Steve Watkins, he`s a Republican member of  Congress looks like he has been defeated. In his primary all sorts of  scandals around Watkins looks like he has lost in a Republican primary.

Michigan we`re keeping an eye on this one Rashida Tlaib. She`s got a  primary challenge from the city council president in Detroit. You see an  early big lead here for Tlaib, not a lot of votes, all that sort of  absentee ballots yet to be counted. We will see what happens there. One  other piece of news.

This is not a primary that took place today, not a primary that took place  this month. This is a primary that took place at the end of June for United  States House of Representatives congressional primary in New York, but  Carolyn Maloney tonight, was finally certified the winner of that race by  the board of elections in New York. It took them forever to get all these  ballots counted. There are still some legal questions there about what  exactly will be counted. But the board of election says that Carolyn  Maloney, longtime member of Congress there has survived for a primary  challenge again, that actually took place in June. Welcome to voting in the  age of the pandemic.

WILLIAMS: President said yesterday`s you just rerun the race. I guess they  didn`t follow his advice. Steve, that`s exactly what I missed. Someday  we`ll be back together in the studio. Steve Kornacki, our man at the big  board. Thanks.

Coming up for us, questions tonight about what caused that devastating  blast in Beirut. More on that when we come back.


WILLIAMS: The video is strangely fascinating and also absolutely tragic.  One of the greatest explosions you will witness outside of warfare. Early  theories were perhaps it was liquefied natural gas or weapons storage. You  heard our own president`s theory about what happened.

The Lebanese Prime Minister says over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate left  to unsecured in a warehouse for years. That appears to be the cause of the  deadly explosions in Beirut today. People were killed just walking on the  street. People were wounded in their homes far from the blast scene. The  Premiere has vowed to punish those responsible. NBC News correspondent Bill  Neely brings us the latest in his story tonight.


BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Extraordinary images  tonight of deadly explosions felt by millions in Lebanon. Blasts shook a  city and injured thousands. This was the first coming just after six in the  evening at Beirut`s main port, sending up a plume of thick smoke beneath it  fires raging and flashes of light filmed by nearby residents. 

None of them could have guessed what would happen next. A second massive  explosion that some described as like an earthquake, a mushroom cloud of  debris and sea water blasted into the air. That destination was hurt 200  miles away in at least two other countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw something flash and I put it here anymore. It was  raining glass all over the city of Beirut.

NEELY: On the ground doesn`t lay dead. Lebanon`s health minister says  almost 3,000 people have been injured. The port area destroyed. But what  caused it? Officials tonight say a warehouse has for years been filled with  dangerous explosive chemicals.

Warnings about the dangers they say ignored. Beirut so often a battleground  in war resembling a war zone tonight.

(on camera): This is a national disaster for Lebanon. Tomorrow a day of  national mourning and have many questions. If this was a warehouse for  dangerous chemicals, were the explosions accidental or sabotage.


WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Bill Neely for that report tonight.

Coming up for us, part of our occasional series of reports here to remind  everyone watching that elections have consequences.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the 2020 census? Every 10 years the census  records everyone living in this country. It`s written in the constitution  and comes with a questionnaire that counts everyone who lives at your  address on April 1. The data can be used to inform funding for services  like fire stations, schools, clinics and representation that affect your  community. Shift your future start here, visit 2020


WILLIAMS: So that is the topic of the last thing before we go here tonight  part of our occasional series of reminders and reports that elections have  consequences. We`ll let the New York Times tell the story of what`s  happening to your census. The headline reads, with census count finishing  early fears of a skewed tally rise and the story starts this way. With the  Trump administration`s decision to end the 2020 census count four weeks  early, the Census Bureau now has to accomplish what officials have said it  cannot do accurately count the nation`s hardest-to-reach residents --  nearly four out of every 10 households in just six weeks.

On Tuesday, four former directors of the Census Bureau issued a statement  warning that an earlier deadline would, quote, result in seriously  incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country. They urge the  administration to restore the last weeks.

Now they go on at the times to report that 63 percent of us have already  voluntarily taken part in the census. They on to the report that like other  things that Trump does to protect the GOP political base, like  delegitimizing mail in voting. This can also hurt the Republicans when they  stop and think about it. So we submit the story to you tonight again,  because elections have consequences.

That is our broadcast on this Tuesday evening. Thank you so very much for  being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues 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