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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 10/1/21

Guests: Peter Baker, Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Evan Osnos, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Bill Kristol, Michael Osterholm


Biden tries to unite Democrats to save agenda. Speaker Pelosi forced to cancel infrastructure votes. Health officials urge vaccines as COVID cases decline. U.S. passes 700,000 confirmed COVID deaths.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 255 now of the Biden administration. The president probably hoped his visit to the Capitol today would be a victory lap, instead, it was a sales call. A Democratic president finds himself presiding over a fight in his own party, as he now attempts to rescue a critical part of his agenda.

Today, Biden made that rare visit to Capitol Hill to talk to the moderates, talk to the liberals about his trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed in the Senate, and his three and a half trillion-dollar proposal to expand social programs and tackle climate change. The liberal bloc wants to bring up the bigger bill first. The Speaker is now have been forced to put off a vote several times. And after today`s meeting, the President signaled his patience while promising victory in the end.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I`m telling you, we`re going to get this done.


BIDEN: It doesn`t matter when, it doesn`t matter whether it`s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We`re going to get it done.

HAAKE: Why has it been so challenging to unite the party, Mr. President? Why has it been so challenging to unite the party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why isn`t the party united?

BIDEN: Come on, man. Unite the party 50/50. I got it.


WILLIAMS: After the vote didn`t happen last night. We then learned the speaker didn`t want to try for one tonight either. And a letter to her members tonight, Pelosi acknowledge that even though progress was made on the President`s agenda, "more time is needed to complete the task."

House members who were in the meeting with President Biden say he was committed to passing both pieces of legislation. But he also gave them reality check about that $3.5 trillion price tag on the social spending bill.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL, (D) WASHINGTON JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He was very clear, the two are tied together. He said I support the bill entirely. If I thought I could do it right now I would. But we need to get this reconciliation bill. And, you know, it`s going to be tough, like we`re going to have to come down in our number, and we`re going to have to do that work. So, we`re going to get to work and see what we can get to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how much time is he, kind of giving you on this?

JAYAPAL: There was no timetable.

REP. MADELENE DEAN, (D) PENNSYLVANIA PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS MEMBER: The President was extraordinarily well received in our caucus, you never saw a more packed house standing room only. He spoke from the heart with great honesty about what we can do both with the infrastructure bill, but also with what he calls the human infrastructure bill.

He said instead of picking a number what I asked of you, this was literally his call to action for us. What I asked for you are the programmatic things that must be in the bill. And then we can do that math from there.


WILLIAMS: NBC News reporting Biden did tell Democratic lawmakers, this is interesting. They needed to come closer to a figure, "ranging between $1.9 and $2.3 trillion." That`s still over Senator Joe Machin declared cap of $1.5 trillion which nicely guarantees Machin we`ll get even more attention now. While Democrats try to work out their differences, the White House said the President will sell his agenda on the road.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Toward the middle of the week, the President will travel across the country to make the case for his Build Back Better agenda.

The President is going to have to continue to go out there and make the case to the public about what is in these packages, no matter when it passes.


WILLIAMS: The administration also says the President will be working with the Senate on raising the debt limit. Let`s not forget the Treasury Department says that`s got to be done before October 18 if we want to avoid going into default, that would be bad.

Senate Democratic Leader Schumer says he`ll seek a vote as early as next week on a bill already passed in the House to suspend the debt limit.

Meanwhile, the House Committee investigating the 1/6 riot and insurrection is making it clear. They are serious about the 15 subpoenas issued so far. Today the committee chairman had a warning for those who refuse to cooperate.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D) MISSISSIPPI JAN.6 SELECT COMMITTEE CHAIR: The committee will probably, for those who don`t agree to come in voluntarily, we`ll do criminal referrals and let that process work out.


WILLIAMS: The chairman added the committee has already started interviewing volunteer witnesses and that even more subpoenas are expected to be issued soon.

With that, let`s bring in our starting line, why don`t we, on this Friday night. Peter Baker, veteran journalist and author, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Kimberly Atkins Stohr, previously both WBUR in the Boston Herald, now a Member of the Boston Globe Editorial Board, also one of the co-hosts of the podcast, Sisters in Law with Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks, Barb McQuade. And we welcome to the broadcast, Evan Osnos, Staff Writer for The New Yorker. His newest book is Wildland: The Making of America`s Fury and is generating a lot of attention. We`ll get into that in just a few minutes.


Good evening, and welcome to you all. Peter, I`d like to begin with you and your beat. I`m told it`s the first time this President has paid an in- person visit to the Democratic caucus in the House, the majority caucus. Presidential power is a funny thing. You have to spend it wisely. When and how will we know if his trip down to the Capitol today was worth it?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that`s a great question. Obviously, as you said in the opening, it was not a victory lap, they would have liked. You know, when Nancy Pelosi said there was going to be a vote on Monday, there wasn`t a vote on Monday. Then she said, there`s going to be a vote on Thursday, there wasn`t a vote on Thursday. So, there`ll be a vote on Friday, there`s not a vote on Friday. Because in fact, I don`t have the votes.

And this is the, you know, the fundamental tension here between the great aspirations of the Democratic Party and the constrained majorities they actually have to work with, right? President Biden was quoted today, telling the Democrats in that meeting, that they have FDR and LBJ like ambitions, but they don`t have LBJ or FDR majorities, you know, they literally can`t spare a single member. When you have a 50-vote caucus as the majority in the Senate, we are relying on the tie breaking vote of the vice president. What that means is the one senator who was the most reluctant to go along with your agenda gets to control how far you`re able to go. That`s just the reality of politics.

So, will it matter for President Biden the long run? We don`t know the answer yet. If ultimately, they get something through, they get something substantial through, probably nobody will remember how messy it was to get there. That`s the nature of legislation in Washington, we don`t remember how messy it was to get to the tax cuts, that President Trump passed or, you know, even Obamacare back in 2009 and `10.

If in fact, though, they don`t get this through, then that`s a debilitating thing for a president who advertise his, you know, ability to make legislation work to be competent, to be effective as his main selling point and the election last year. That`s why it`s so important. What you`ve got right now is the Democratic party that`s holding its own president hostage.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely, indeed. And Kim to that last point, I want to read you what Mike Murphy said a few minutes ago on social media. What a 48 hours in the House. One story being missed, at least initially, is that the era of Nancy Pelosi unquestionably running the House Democratic caucus is now ending. Kim, do you agree?

KIMBERLY ATKINS STOHR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so. I mean, look Speaker Pelosi is certainly a talented political practitioner. But the -- I think one additional part, I think Peter is right. We are -- this is part just seeing how the sausage is made. But after weeks and weeks of us on here and other places, talking about and hearing about how Joe Manchin is running everything from his perch in the Senate because of that slim majority, just as Congresswoman Jayapal said earlier today, on the House, yeah, things are close over there. But what happens is, every member of the Democratic caucus in the House is Joe Manchin, and you need everyone to get on board. The progressives realize that.

And after Nancy Pelosi walked away from tying both the infrastructure and the reconciliation bill together, after it seemed that Joe Manchin was the one who was driving things, the progressives in the House said no, wait a minute, they dug in, and this is a victory for them.

Look, I think this is also a reminder to President Biden, yes, he wants to win. Yes, he wants to victory. Yes, he wants to notch an important piece of legislation. But who helped him win and who helped give control of both houses to the Democrats? It were -- it was voters who came out in droves in a pandemic, in the middle of an economic crisis, in the middle of calls for racial justice, in the middle of calls to end economic inequities, the big racial wealth and just wealth cleave in this nation and deliver policies that are important to them. That is why there are two Democratic senators from Georgia in the Senate. And that is one thing that the progressives are trying to make Joe Biden remember after this, yes, it`ll be a victory. But those folks will be saying OK, now do voting rights. Now do police reform. They are demanding the big agenda that Joe Biden and the Democrats promised and if they failed to deliver even the first piece of that, I agree it will be devastating for Democrats come 2022.

WILLIAMS: Evan, it`s great to have you on the broadcast. Don`t tell anybody but I enjoy your contributions over at CNN as well. So, I got to the point in the book, where you correctly chronicle what may have been the most patronizing, insulting and disastrous campaign outing by Hillary Clinton in the `16 campaign, and that is, you know it already, West Virginia.

Go ahead, tell the coal miners you want to take their jobs away, but then further insult them by promising mythical green jobs that they`re still waiting for today. My question goes to messaging because the three words today from Democrats are stop gap, top line and reconciliation. When did they lose that fight? When did they stop being able to speak American, as we always say on this broadcast in the red states, kale is a revered stock car driver, In the blue states, it`s an inedible green vegetable? Evan, over to you.


EVAN OSNOS, "WILDLAND" AUTHOR: Well, you`ve identified what is a gap that runs beyond politics, who really sort of runs to the basic core of our democracy, which is, do people feel as if the system is looking out for them. And Hillary Clinton, as you rightly described, she was kind of carrying that line around with her for the rest of the race, it was one line, but part of the reason why it dogged her so much in 2016, was that it was -- it fulfilled what people assumed, you know, underline this whole conversation, Brian, is an extraordinary loss of trust over the course of the last 50 years in government.

You know, in 1964 77% of Americans more or less believe they could trust the government. That`s collapsed to 18% today, and it`s -- it doesn`t just have one place or one piece of the population, it`s felt broadly for very different reasons. And I think even going to a place like West Virginia, part of what we`re seeing with Joe Manchin, kind of gumming up the works, is it from his perspective, his place, his state, is in a state of crisis. And the truth is, even though it looks to a lot of people like he is standing in the way of precisely the kinds of federal programs that West Virginians rely on, he is also facing a political reality where people in his state will say, you need to show that you extracted a price from the Democratic Party, because we don`t believe it anymore.

Look, when I moved to West Virginia in 1999, it was more or less all Democrats. Congressional delegation was all Democrats. Today, it`s down to that one member of the congressional delegation. We`ve got Joe Manchin and I`d say, Democrats in the Senate, you know, he drives them crazy. But they also say it wasn`t for him, we wouldn`t have the majority at all to be able to run with it.

WILLIAMS: A good point, Peter Baker, staying on this theme of messaging. Chris Matthews came on this show and reminded us, if Tip O`Neill was in charge, the bill manager on this, he would have assigned people to each of the 50 states, go have a press conference in front of a crumbling bridge. Every municipality has a crumbling bridge. Someone said today the Democrats need to tell our grandmothers what`s in this bill. So, Biden, at long last is going out on the road. And Peter, is there up? Is there a timetable at all and more important, is there a road schedule, which places he`s going to hit?

BAKER: Yeah, I haven`t seen one yet. But you`re right is rather late in the process to be doing this. What`s remarkable is this entire debate sounds as you say, you know, all jargon, right? The reconciliation bill, what does that mean? Reconciliation is a budgetary term, doesn`t actually mean by the way, bringing people together, which is what a common definition of the word would be. So, what are Americans getting on is? All they know about this bill really isn`t it cost $3.5 trillion, because that`s how it`s described all the time. It doesn`t have the kind of branding that you know, FDR did with a new deal, or the Donald Trump did rather successfully. Donald Trump was a master brander.

All the Americans are seeing today is a fight between progressives and moderates over $3.5 trillion, but they don`t know what`s in it. They don`t know that what Biden`s promising is, you know, free community college, healthcare expansion of Medicare, you know, pre-K and childcare help for people, climate change, the all of these things that are in the bill, really important things to debate whether they`re good or bad. Nobody knows what this is about, because all we hear are these other, you know, sausage making kind of conversation. And so, it`s rather late in the day and surprising that a White House that`s usually pretty smart about these kinds of things has taken so long to get around to telling American people why that they might want this to add in order to pressure the legislator to go along with it.

WILLIAMS: Kim Atkins as long as you promise not to mention Sunday night`s upcoming football game, I will promise to keep this in the Bay State by asking you to picture a Speaker McCormack or a Speaker O`Neill seeing the following on Twitter from New Jersey Moderate Democrat Josh Gottheimer. It is deeply regrettable that Speaker Pelosi breached her firm public commitment to members of Congress and the American people to hold a vote and to pass the once in a century bipartisan infrastructure bill on or before September 27.

So, the speaker would be within her rights saying with friends like these, why do we even have Republicans? I guess the love fest on the Democratic side, following up on your first answer is over.


ATKINS: Yeah, I mean, Speaker Pelosi didn`t hold that vote because she didn`t have the vote. She says so herself. And she was absolutely right. I don`t know if having that vote go down would have been helpful to the Democrats in any way.

Look, this is legislated. We`re seeing it happen. We`re seeing it happen in a party that is not monolithic. And sometimes this is what it looks like. I was actually a little surprised when the speaker promised that vote in the first place, knowing that those votes were not yet there. It`s difficult to lead a party that has different ideas, but we`re seeing that play out. We`re seeing Nancy Pelosi have a very difficult job. And I think that`s something that Tip O`Neill or anyone else would understand very well. By the way, I grew up a Lions fan. So, it`s all good.

WILLIAMS: OK, we`re good, then. That`s actually common ground.

Evan, to you, the book is his book ended from 9/11 to 1/6, and readers will all the places you`ll go along the way in service to that thesis, what gave rise to the contagion in our society that is, large part, nihilism, burn it all down, it`s no longer working for me.

OSNOS: You know, it`s the -- in some ways, it`s tempting for us to lay this at the feet of a single president, who was after all, let`s be clear, a malicious agent against democracy. I don`t think there`s any other way to put it. And yet Donald Trump was as much a symptom of underlying problems as he ever was a source of them. And part of this entire project was about my own experience of coming back to this country, Brian, after a decade abroad and realizing even before Donald Trump was in office, that people were breaking faith with the basic institutions that define us as a Democratic culture. They weren`t believing that the courts were going to deliver justice to people, they didn`t believe that there was a system that was going to deliver racial justice and fairness.

And fundamentally, they had lost faith in the idea that a child born in the United States was going to be able to, in out earn their parents. And that`s not an abstract fact. I mean, in 1940, a child born in this country ran a 90% chance about earning their parents. Today, that number is less than half as much. So, I said, I got to go to places that I know, places where I`ve lived in my life, three very different places. Greenwich, Connecticut, Clarksburg, West Virginia and Chicago, Illinois, and explain how did it come to be this way, in this country.

And what I was astonished to discover was that actually, as much as people are deeply furious to use the word that I use in the subtitle of the book, there is also this underlying belief in the possibility of fixing it. And you saw that in November 2020 when people turned out in record numbers, to say, all right, we`re going to push the pendulum back in a better direction. We`re not going to allow history to run its course here. We`re going to make things different, and we hope make things better.

WILLIAMS: By the way, there`s a quote in here from an Ansel Footwear hedge fund manager that will make everyone who was born with an ounce of humanity cringe, that is to say, again, all the places you`ll go.

Our thanks tonight to our starting line on a Friday night as we bring the week to a close, Peter Baker, Kimberly Atkins, Evan Osnos, greatly appreciate you guys starting off our conversation.

Coming up for us, the President`s biggest obstacle in getting his own agenda passed seems to be his own party, blue on blue, friendly fire. Will the President`s pep talk on the Hill today, possibly bring the warring factions together? We`ll discuss.

And later, it was a year ago tonight, and it was a stunner. The news came that the President had COVID that started its own drama. Meantime, the pandemic continues. A leading expert will join us tonight to talk about the good news that came out today. All of it as the 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Friday evening. Just don`t call it the white house tonight. Based in pink this evening for breast cancer awareness.




REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK: Can it be real? Are we going to deliver universal pre-K to this country or not? Are we going to expand healthcare to our seniors and include vision and dental or not? Are we going to invest in housing so that people back home in NYCHA can actually get hot water in wintertime or not? That`s what we need to know. And I know we`re all committed to the same goal.


WILLIAMS: NYCHA, by the way is the New York City Housing Authority and unknown entity to national reporters. But to sum up, why Democratic moderates and liberals are having a difficult time coming to an agreement. David Leonhardt of the New York Times writes that this way, "The left, unhappy about the compromises that needs to make has decided to use tougher negotiating tactics than in the past. And the moderates like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and the aforementioned, Senator Sinema of Arizona, have been publicly vague about what they`re willing to support in the safety net bill."

Nice to see everybody getting along here, to talk more about it tonight, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Professor and Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, in Austin, hook `em horns, and Bill Kristol, author, writer, thinker in Politico, he`s a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, editor at large at the Bulwark.

Professor, I`d like to begin with you. How much power truly do the liberals hold right now. And let me go a provocative step further and say that their detractors are calling people in the news media and pointing out that, in their view, the leading liberals of the House have safer seats. AOC wakes up every morning to a district that`s what, four to 15 to one Democratic, they don`t have the same concerns, the same skin in the game as the moderates who have to wake up every morning wondering how they`re going to sell this back home and get reelected. So, I posed the question to you.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right, the district that AOC has is very different than the one that Henry Cuellar has here on the border in Texas. It`s a very moderate leaning, almost leaning conservative district.

And, you know, what`s going on here is basic math. The progressive, have the numbers, right? So, the Progressive Caucus has been around for 30 years. They`ve been steadily growing. We really saw a bump after Trump`s election in 18. They`ve recently tightened their rules as a caucus to be more uniform. And Brian, they have readymade villains. They have Donald Trump. They have the caucus on the other side, the Freedom Caucus. So, they have such a powerful narrative. They have this narrative that they are fighting against the evil forces, and they have the numbers to do it and they`ve been propelled to do so. Especially with that juice of 2018, they also got it in 2020.


So, if you`re a moderate Democrat, yes, you`re wringing your hands. But at the end of the day, the numbers are, what the numbers are. And this is where AOC and the caucus and the squad and all of these voices that have really been amplified, have that our inner making folks listen, and that`s why we are where we are right now.

WILLIAMS: Bill Kristol, listening to the professor tell the story, it seems almost understandable. I saw your tweet from tonight. What do you think about the -- let me read it to our viewers, we should point out, man, where is it? I`ve just misplaced your tweet. You were reminding folks that the -- here it is, progressive seem excited by they`re supposed to process victory today. But they seem to have lost track and all the excitement that it now looks as if they`re going to end up accepting a reconciliation number. There`s that word again, of around $2 trillion, not their cherished $3.5 trillion. Bill, you stumbled on a big issue there.

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yeah, I mean, look, it`s hard to know how this plays out. And I think it`s, it is a messy process, obviously. Victoria is right. The party is very diverse. And I think of OCS` congressional district and Joe Manchin state, West Virginia, are there two more different places in the country, probably. So, no surprise that there are some differences.

But I do think there`s been a little too much hyping of the progressive`s alleged toughness and victory at the end of the day, it`s going to be the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which the progressives have signaling they`re going to need to accept. And then there`s going to be reconciliation bill, which is going to be closer to Joe matches number than to Bernie Sanders number, I think, and I think if it`s good P.R. for the progressives to say they`ve shown, you know, how tough they are. That`s fine. Josh Gottheimer, that one moderate Democrat, you quoted earlier, very unhappy at Nancy Pelosi about what, about some artificial deadline they set up on September 27.

So, a lot of this is a little silly, honestly. It is the Democrats being Democrats, and they`re going to end up with a victory I suspect in a month. I don`t know how crowded it will be, by all this very public infighting, you mentioned in the first thing. You know, John McCormack and Tip O`Neill and the old speakers, they didn`t have 24/7 coverage on Cable News, they didn`t have social media. A lot of these things were equally messy, but they were messy behind closed doors.

But I do think at the end of the day, the Democrats are in reasonably good shape, I think, actually, to come up with a win. And the only thing of the thing I would say is, look, they should keep some focus, in my opinion, when -- if they ever get tired of fighting each other, it`s kind of important for them to win the House again in 2022. And that does mean the moderates winning. It`s not the progressives who put the Democrats over the top in 2018. It`s Abigail Spanberger, and Elaine Luria here in Virginia and Elissa Slotkin in Michigan.

AOC has been Democratic for 40 years. You know, it`s going to be Democratic the next 40 years. So, they need to pay attention to the moderates. Biden, I think, has been pretty good at giving the progressives a lot of affection and respect and a sense that they`re doing a lot, but at the end of the day, I think they`re going to end up with a bill that the moderates can support.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, at the end of the day, too much fighting hurts the party certainly. Victoria and Bill have agreed to stay with us. We`re going to fit a break in.

Coming up, a reminder of who might be benefiting the most from all of this drama on the Democratic side, you may recognize that guy in the lower right-hand corner of your screen.



WILLIAMS: Amid all the divisions that have been exposed among just the Democrats this week, our friend Susan Glasser had this take in the New Yorker and we "while Democrats were fighting about liberal spending priorities and debates that at times, resembled a congressional version of fantasy football, they were neither passing Biden`s agenda nor bolstering the case for his presidency. The person who benefits the most from all of this, of course, wait for it, is someone who was rarely mentioned this week, but should have been Donald Trump."

Still with us, Professor DeFrancesco Soto and Bill Kristol.

Bill, I did hear from a National Democrat this week who said exactly that. Speaking broadly to the liberals. Do you -- did you like what you witnessed for four years? Do you want to have that back? Do you realize these are the stakes because it could happen?

KRISTOL: Yeah, we could if Democrats in my mind kept that a little in the front of their mind. They have, looked, entitled to debate, as Victoria said, the difference in policy issues, they should have it out. But they should remember to what the real threat is here, in my opinion, they should please some time to pass some democracy legislation and not just fight about different big spending programs, some of which are desirable. You know, over the next few weeks and months, the Biden administration should remind people that they`re making progress on the virus. Remember the pandemic kind of important issue mandates, controversial, Republicans against them, they are working. We`ve now got the booster. We`re going to have, I suspect, the vaccine for five to 11-year-olds by the end of this month.

It wouldn`t hurt to remind people how Trump handled the virus and how Biden`s handling virus and what Republican governors are doing. And what Republican members of Congress are saying about that and other issues. So, I think the Democrats, yeah, they should remember that the main enemy is, or main opponent.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. And you raise issues that go right to this messaging deficit that we`re seeing to the mandate question. Tonight, we learned American Airlines JetBlue, they had waited to see how it went for United Airlines and they`re going to follow through with making sure their employees are vaccinated.

Professor we continue to quote Susan Glasser, I have one for you. The Trump show, like it or not, is still running and even if you are not watching it anymore, big voting swath of America still is. Sadly professor, this is a badly needed reminder for the coastal mainstream media who get in the weeds seldom if ever venture into actual America, where I know you join us from tonight, from what is still a red state.


SOTO: Trump and Trumpism is here to stay. So, I think in Susan`s piece, yes, if absolutely nothing happens, Trump will be boosted up a little. But like Bill, something is eventually going to happen. It may not be next week, it may be in two weeks, three weeks, but something is ultimately going to happen. The Democrats are going to figure it out. And that is going to be a win for Biden, how big the win is, who knows but it is a win for Biden. But Trump is on a parallel track. He is still very popular in red America. He is growing in popularity among communities of color. We see that men of color, in particular, during the 2020 election grew their support for Donald Trump as compared to 2016. So, this is just a constant that these have to constantly keep in mind but in terms of figuring out what is in front of the Democrats right now in terms of the packages, the sooner it gets done. And the less time they`re airing their dirty laundry of, in party fighting, the better. So, I think here it`s more of a question of timing. Let`s wrap it up, but never losing sight of the constant of Trump.

WILLIAMS: Bill Kristol, 60 seconds remaining, it has been proffered that Mr. Carville would make a dandy short-term hire by the DNC, anyone else out there that can help this party with what has clearly become a dusty messaging operation when they have yet to inform or remind 50 states the money that could be coming what`s in it for them?

KRISTOL: Governing is hard, and they have a 50/50 Senate, a very narrow margin of the House. I think my only recommendation would actually be keep the president a little bit above the fray. Let Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer run this obviously is Biden`s agenda ultimately. So, you can`t walk away from it in any way. But Joe Biden by executive action, and by his bully pulpit, has made a lot of progress on the virus, that he`s doing other things in other policy areas that are important, and it`s a good contrast for the Republicans. So, I would keep a little bit out of the Congressional ways as much as I could if I were the White House and have a clearer message as, Peter Baker, said in the very first segment of what`s in this bill, childcare credit, do you like it or not, you know, not so much reconciliation.

WILLIAMS: It`s why for good reason, these are two friends of our broadcast to whom we wish a good weekend, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Bill Kristol, our thanks on a Friday night.

Another break for us. Coming up, a leading infectious disease expert is here to talk about the promising news out today in the fight against this pandemic.




WILLIAMS: President of the United States has tested positive for COVID-19. The statement just out, we will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. The President and First Lady have tested positive for the coronavirus. This puts us in all new territory.


WILLIAMS: That was one year ago tonight. It was actually after the top of the hour in the early morning hours of Friday, October 2 and we reported that President Trump, as you heard the nice man say on television had tested positive for COVID.

Back with us tonight, Michael Osterholm, the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, he was also a COVID Adviser to the Biden Transition Team as they were taking ownership of this pandemic, you might say.

And Michel, first and foremost, I want to hear you out on this oral medication, this pill from Merck. There`s a concern already that it`s going to be seen as some kind of vaccine substitute it is not. But what is it? What might it do? And how optimistic are you?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Well, first of all, it`s good news. It`s actually the first of what will be several drugs coming out. There a simple pill, what we call a small molecule drugs. And in this case, the in the Merck study was actually halted early because the results were so impressive, it cut down those individuals who might very well be hospitalized because their illness by over 50%. And among the group that took the drug no and died among the placebo group, the group that got the inert product, eight people died. So, it`s also likely to have some real impact on deaths.

But as you alluded to, we`re very concerned about the fact that first of all, this drug will not even be available really till towards the end of the year. And second of all, is the fact that it`s not a substitute for vaccines. We need to get people vaccinated. And just as we`ve seen recently with this issue with ivermectin, this drug that does not have any benefit in treating COVID-19. And yet there is a very large segment of our population out there that believes that`s the drug that would save them. So, I worry that we will see people deferring vaccine to say, well, I`ll just get this drug, if in fact, I get infected.

WILLIAMS: You emphasize the good news on the medication, you are correct to do so. The other good news this week is that average cases are going down. But I`m also looking at the death toll, which is almost stuck at 2000 souls a day. And I`m looking at the calendar and the temperature outside heading into the heart of fall and winter. So overall, where is your outlook going into the next couple of months?

OSTERHOLM: Well, this surge that we`ve been experiencing since early July, is actually one that has literally just swept through the country, week by week. And I, if you look at the original focus for this surge was in the southern Sunbelt states, and it`s almost like viral lava has flowed northward over the course of these weeks.

As of today actually, is a very hard statement to make. But the very worst of the pandemic in the United States of America is occurring right now in Alaska. They have 176 cases per 100,000 population, which is the highest number of cases we`ve seen it ever in this pandemic in the United States. If you`re in the upper Midwest right now, where I`m in Minnesota, we`ve seen 1000s of schoolchildren who are infected. If you`re in the northern northeast area of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, you`re seeing also a large number of cases.

So, surely has subsided in the southern Sunbelt states through much the Mid Atlantic, but we`re now seeing it in the northern end. In terms of where this is going to go, you know, Brian, none of us really know. These models that come out, have been wrong, so often.


And all we can tell you is that there are still 70 million Americans who have not been vaccinated, who are still susceptible to this virus that will be the wood for this human coronavirus, forest fire to burn in subsequent surges. So yes, we will have more activity, will it be the fall, early winter, it could be.

New York and LA are primed. They have missed this last surge. And we know that we have a large number of individuals in those two areas that have not yet been infected. So, I think we have to be prepared for why we -- not only need to continue to be vigilant and get vaccinated, but also not be surprised when this next surge occurs again.

WILLIAMS: I`ve got about 60 more seconds. How does living with this look differently? Do we -- we have to I guess, in your view, putting on a mask in tight situations, is going to become the way of the world for at least a good long while?

OSTERHOLM: Actually, I don`t think so. I think you really have two different worlds that will have to coexist. One will be the group that gets fully vaccinated. And I think these third doses you`re going to see with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and there`ll be a second dose, I`m certain for the J&J vaccine. And with that level of protection, I think we`re going to see people who can feel safe being in public places without even having to wear a mask.

These third doses are going to make a big difference. Whereas the people who are not getting vaccinated at all, they will continue to be the pandemic, it`ll be a pandemic of the unvaccinated. A lot of the breakthrough cases I think will go away with booster doses that we`re talking about. So, I actually feel confident, we can get back to a "new normal," where I don`t have to worry who I`m around. I don`t have to worry whether I have my face cloth covering or my N95 respirator on and I look forward to that day very much.

WILLIAMS: You actually brought a lot of good news to our broadcast tonight along the way during our conversation. Michael Osterholm, good luck to your Vikings as long as you promise to pray for my giants. Have a good weekend.

Coming up for us after another break, a story about justice that is a century in the making in our country.



WILLIAMS: I want you to pay attention to this story, almost a century after the fact reparations were finally made to the descendants of a black couple who were stripped of their land. The Bruce family owned a successful resort on the beautiful California coastline. It was back in the 1920s that is until their white neighbors and the local KKK chapter drove them off their own land. This week, their descendants were given back what is rightfully theirs. We get our reports tonight from NBC News Correspondent Harry Smith in California.


HARRY SMITH, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The allure of the sandy beaches of Southern California is undeniable, perhaps especially so for African Americans living in the very segregated Los Angeles of the 1920s.

(On camera): So where are we now?

ANTHONY BRUCE, BRUCE FAMILY DIRECT DESCENDANT: Right now, we`re in front of the lifeguard station, which is on top of the property that my family used to own.

SMITH: This is it, right here.

BRUCE: This is it.

SMITH (voice-over): Here was lodging, a cafe and a dancehall, a black paradise, developed by Anthony Bruce`s great, great grandparents, Willa and Charles Bruce.

BRUCE: They were doing quite well for themselves. And unfortunately, the community here they thought saw it as a threat.

SMITH: It was a time in America when people were proud of their prejudices. Manhattan Beach claimed it needed the land for a park paid the Bruces and others a pittance, and while there`s a park there now, the land sat vacant for more than 30 years.

BRUCE: When you`re robbed of your dignity, when you`re robbed of your integrity, when you`re robbed of your decent basic rights as a human being and mistreated like that. I mean, it sticks with you for a long time.

SMITH: Thursday, though, on the very land that Bruce family was run off of, they were welcome back. Through a unanimous act of the California legislature, the land is being returned to them. A bold act of reparation.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM, (D) CALIFORNIA: I`m absolutely convinced this will be catalytic. We`re changing the dynamic of the debate in terms of rights and wrongs.

SMITH: For now, the Bruce family wants to rent the lifeguard station back to the county, the property likely worth many millions of dollars. But don`t expect to see them back.

BRUCE: And my thing is like I believe if Anthony Bruce or anybody else in the Bruce family comes back here, we`re going to see the same exact thing. I don`t think it`s changed, Harry, I think it`s still here. And that`s why we`re not rushing to set up shop again.

Harry Smith, NBC News, Los Angeles.


WILLIAMS: Fascinating story. Coming up for us after 50 years, Pat Robertson is stepping down as regular host to the 700 Club. He was often wrong never in doubt, we`ll play for you some of the more unintentionally memorable moments he leaves behind.




PAT ROBERTSON, "700 CLUB" HOST: It`s been 60 wonderful years and at this point, I think it`s time for me to make the announcement that I will no longer be the host of the 700 Club after I think 54 years of hosting program.


WILLIAMS: There it is, last thing before we go tonight, there`s a wonderful song by Mark Knopfler called Ticket to Heaven. It`s about a lonely heart who sends every last cent to the preacher on the TV. One of the lyrics goes like this, I send what I can to the man from the ministry. He`s part of heavens plan and he talks to me, there`s nothing left for luxuries, nothing left to pay my heating bill. But the good Lord will provide, I know he will.

We were thinking about this song today in light of Pat Robertson making that announcement that he`s retiring. He`s 91. He graduated from Yale Law School, former Republican presidential candidate. He founded the 700 Club on TV, and over the years became a very wealthy man by selling well, mostly faith and hope. And along the way, he often revealed his thinking and philosophy, it might not have been exactly what Jesus had in mind.


ROBERTSON: There`s never been a civilization ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and has thrived. The Bible says if any man will not work, let him not eat. Now that didn`t say if any man will not work, let him go to the soup kitchen and let the government pick up the tab. Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, they got together and saw a pack to the devil. They said we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. The people of color have to rise up and overtake their oppressors. And then having gotten the whole panel if I can use that term, then to instruct their white neighbors how to behave. Now that`s critical race theory.

What is this mac and cheese? Is that a black thing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a black thing, Pat?

ROBERTSON: Well, you could become a Muslim then you could beater.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But in lieu of that.

ROBERTSON: You don`t want to go to Saudi Arabia?


ROBERTSON: I`m talking about the cheating. He cheated on you. Well, he`s at my end, OK. There are a bunch of people who were just bombed. And these people are out drugging themselves, well, I`m starving. You`ve got a couple of same sex guys kissing, do you the like that? Well, that makes me want to throw up. America, if you want to bring the judgment of God on this nation use keep this stuff up.


WILLIAMS: Pat Robertson leaves behind the Empire he built on comments like that retiring at the age of 91. That is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week with our thanks for being here with us. Have a good weekend unless you have any other plans. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.