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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 10/22/21

Guests: Cynthia Alksne, Susan Page, Eugene Daniels, Steve Schmidt, Baratunde Thurston, Susan Del Percio

Summary

Hearing set for Trump suit against 1/6 committee. House Dems aim for vote next week on domestic bills. Shooting on Alec Baldwin set under investigation. DOJ weighs contempt charges for Steve Bannon. SCOTUS again refuses to block Texas abortion law. Biden, top Dems may be close to deal on spending bill.

Transcript

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS begins now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, as we bring another week to a close, day 276 of the Biden administration. Tonight, the January 6 committee appears to have scored a win and it`s fights against Donald Trump`s claim of executive privilege. That is to say a federal judge has signed off on an expedited hearing for November 4 about two weeks from now.

Trump had sued the committee. You`ll recall claiming materials that was seeking are covered by executive privilege and therefore confidential.

There`s also news tonight about former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, cited in a Senate Judiciary panel report as a key player in Trump`s effort to overturn the 2020 election. The report said he was in direct contact with the former president and willingly pushed other justice officials to act on Trump`s false claims of election fraud.

CNN reporting tonight Clark will now testify before the January 6 panel next Friday, a week from today. He`ll likely be the first Trump White House official to actually comply with a subpoena. One committee member says the panel`s eager to hear what led up to the insurrection at the Capitol.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Certainly has information about what was planned and what the intent was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meantime, the Justice Department is now weighing whether to charge the insurrection of Steve Bannon with contempt of Congress. That decision expected to take at least a week possibly longer. So far, Bannon remains the only witness to defy a committee subpoena.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D) MARYLAND HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6: The vast majority of people we`ve called up for interviews, or that we`ve subpoenaed have either come to testify in an interview or are engaged in good faith negotiations with the committee. We`re not trying to put people in jail, we`re just trying to get the information we`ve been commanded to do by statute about the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812. People who are ready to come to Washington to do violence to the Capitol.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This was also the day, an associate of another promoter of the big lie was found guilty in federal court of violating campaign finance laws. Lev Parnas, you remember him, ally of former Trump Lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was convicted of illegally following foreign money to Republican candidates in the 2018 midterms to advance his business interests.

Parnas now faces up to 45 years in the slammer. He worked with Giuliani in a search for dirt on the Biden`s in Ukraine during the 2020 presidential election

Also tonight, the legal battle over reproductive rights has escalated to a new level. Today the Supreme Court again refuse to block to a Texas -- block at Texas law that amounts to a near total ban on abortion. The court did agree to fast track its review of the law scheduling arguments for November 1, 10 days from now but importantly, this means the Texas law remains in effect over the months that will likely take the Supreme Court to rule on it. The decision came in an unsigned order and only Justice Sotomayor filed a dissent writing, "Women seeking abortion care in Texas are entitled to relief from this court now, because of the courts failure to act today that relief if it comes will be too late for many."

Over at the White House, President Biden spent much of the morning strategizing with Schumer and Pelosi on his sweeping domestic spending bill. After the meeting, the speaker hinted they were closer to a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: It`s going to be bigger than anything we`ve ever done for the American people. For moms and dads, who have family responsibilities, to children who take care of their senior parents, the women in the workplace. It`s remarkable. For the children, and for jobs, it`s remarkable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: House Democrats are now aiming for a vote on both the spending plan and that infrastructure bill next week. Stay tuned.

There are also signs tonight that COVID vaccines could soon be authorized for younger children. The FDA today released data from Pfizer showing its vaccine over 90% effective in children five to 11 years of age.

Late tonight, in fact, just before we came on the air FDA regulator said the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any risks of side effects in that age group. FDA advisory panel these things are all done a certain way meets Tuesday to consider whether approving the vaccine for kids then it`s on to the CDC.

We`re also following developments in the incredible story of the fatal shooting involving Alec Baldwin.

[23:05:02]

Officials say he fired a weapon on the set of an independent film he`s shooting in New Mexico, killing the film cinematographer, injuring the director. The gun had apparently been handed to him containing a live round and not a blank. We`ll have more on this story later on in this hour.

With that, we bring in our starting line on this Friday night. Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent for Politico, co-author of each day`s edition of Politico Playbook, Susan Page, veteran journalist and author, longtime Washington Bureau Chief over at USA Today and Cynthia Alksne, former Federal Prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. And counselor, I`d like to begin with you because the law is at the crux of so much of the news we covered today. The federal bench known for moving with the speed of molasses has fast tracked this executive privilege claim, which is really fast for them. What do you make of that decision?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think it`s great news. I mean, we need to have a ruling on this, I expect that we will have one relatively quickly and I expect that the court will find that the documents can be turned over to the committee after all this executive privilege under the Presidential Records Act, the decision really lies with Biden and Biden is said that should be turned over.

And the issue is not whether or not it protects Trump. The issue is whether or not it`s in the best interest of the country. And Biden has correctly spelled out in his letter to the court and his, and in the pleadings, that it`s in the best interest of the country that we find out what happened on leading up to January 6 and knowing exactly what was the President`s involvement in it. So, I would expect we would have a ruling, supporting, getting the documents to the committee as soon as possible.

WILLIAMS: Susan, let`s talk about this 1/6 committee, seems to me that committee has been out there and aggressive, down to almost each individual member making public comments early and often on cable news. Is this in your view, a reaction to the worry on the base that this thing is going to get tied up for months. The fact that the Democrats have been straight up played by the Republicans for years now and Charlie Brown repeatedly in terms of two impeachments and all of the Trump justices who strolled on to the Supreme Court?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yeah, we really see this January 6 committee trying to learn the lesson of the four years of the Trump administration when investigations were simply delayed until it was basically impossible to bring them to some kind of satisfactory conclusion, they`ve moved very quickly or you saw that quick vote on holding Steve Bannon in contempt that sent a message to the other people that they`ve subpoenaed. The idea that Mr. Clark is going to testify. That is interesting, and a way to get into the Trump side of things when it comes to January 6.

So, I think that it is urging to those who want to learn more about what actually happened in the days leading up to January 6, during the insurrection itself. Clearly this committee is concerned about not falling into some of the traps that democratic oversight has fallen into previously with the Trump administration.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Eugene, President Biden kind of stuck his neck out in voicing approval of going after Biden aggressively. They later walked back those remarks, it does indicate the sensitivity now. This is not Trump and his Justice Department. It`s Joe Biden and an actual Justice Department. So, this does put the investigation though on Biden`s plate?

EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, yeah, they had gone to pains to make sure that they`d given enough room, more room than we`d seen in years against the -- from the Biden administration, the White House, and the DOJ.

And, you know, Biden -- sometimes being Biden, you ask him a question, even if they`ve told him not to answer, you might answer it. And that`s what happened here. They`ve walked that back. I think they want to continue trying to -- try to put up a wall between the DOJ and the White House and that`s what they`re focusing in on now. But I mean, let`s be real. These are people who want to see this thing happen, right? Folks that work in the White House. They`re hoping that the January six commission first of all, finds out information, right? They are probed that investigation.

Jen Psaki said that the President has said that, and they also want to see it move quickly. They want to see them assert their power against folks who say they don`t want to come. So that is -- that`s kind of a no brainer at this point, knowing that those are the things that they want to see done. Whether or not they could say that we`ve obviously seen them now go back to where they were, making sure they don`t make comment on that. But this is about for them, not just, you know, we were a part of this 2020 election, we were a part of, you know, being accused of the big lie, stealing the election, which obviously did not happen. But also, more importantly, they really do see it about, see it as protecting democracy moving forward, finding out what happened. And then if there is some kind of ramifications that have to happen, hoping that that happens as well.

[23:10:24]

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, back to you. And back to the federal bench. Now when the Supreme Court says they`re going to fast track something that`s more like the Amtrak regional, that`s a euphemism for fast tracking, and they have the choice today to stay that Texas law, to take it off the books, to free up abortion access while they considered it. Sherrilyn Ifill tonight on social media begging people to read the Sotomayor dissent. Sotomayor is merely sticking up for what everyone assumed to be settled law. So do they send a signal in agreeing to consider it and this decision could take months, though the law remains in effect all this while.

ALKSNE: Sotomayor very effectively, articulate that this has -- when they don`t stop this unconstitutional law and going forward, that there are women who are harmed by that. It`s not -- this is not just a legal discussion, this is central to many women`s lives and whether or not they`re going to be able to control their own bodies, she was very effective about it

You know, there`s a lot of tea leaves about the way this was written. Here`s what`s important for the viewers to realize, the Supreme Court is going to take this case up on November 1, the SBA case, the Texas law, they are not going to decide, though, the meat of it, which is whether or not SBA is unconstitutional, they are not taking that up.

What they`re looking at is whether or not the lawsuit can go forward. And whether or not a state can actually use this little tricky way to get around enforcement of the law. But the meat of the case, the real seriousness about the right of a woman to control her own body is really going to come into Dobbs` case in December. And that`s what people need to know.

WILLIAMS: Susan, what an eventful week in Washington. We throw it on the pile of other eventful weeks in Washington. Does the Biden White House, in your view, and based on your reporting and your knowledge of Washington have reason to be more optimistic, as this week comes to an end about maybe the next week or two ahead?

PAGE: Yes, absolutely. You know, there`s been a lot of discouraging feeling at the White House and among Democrats about whether they were going to get this Biden domestic agenda through Congress, Democrats fighting with Democrats, no margin for error, Biden`s approval rating sinking down into the high 30s. And some solid national public opinion polls, that was very troubling news. But as we finished this week, they are on their way to a deal on this big social spending bill, the reconciliation bill that we`ve talked about so much, not as big as liberals, progressive said hope is going to be between 1.5 and $2 trillion, but they`re down to the brass tacks of actually talking about the specific content of a bill that would cost about that much.

So, I think, yes, I think it is, you don`t want to, you know, don`t want to bet against inaction with Congress that you see the safe bet. But Democrats are extremely encouraged it into this week that they are going to pass this bill next week, the infrastructure bill have at least a framework for the reconciliation bill they can deliver.

And it is true what President Biden said yesterday, he said, this is a very big deal that they do this, these pair of bills. This is a huge amount of money. It includes new programs on things like climate change, and childcare. He said it was bigger than the Affordable Care Act. And I think that just may be true.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, that`s exactly where I want to pick up with you. Judging from your reporting, and the mood of people you`re talking to inside the Biden White House, are their real hopes that a bill, any bill will be passed before Joe Biden leaves for Europe?

DANIELS: I think they are -- mechanism saying very hopeful. And but as we`ve seen over and over and over again, they`ve had the rug pulled out from under them by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. And so, they`re cautiously optimistic, right? I think they are pretty sure they`re going to get a framework on this reconciliation bill. And if they get that, it`s possible that progressives will go ahead and say, you know, we feel confident that we agree on this framework. We have the agreement of the, you know, the very important moderate conservative Democrats in the Senate. We`re willing to go ahead and vote on this infrastructure bill, this bipartisan infrastructure bill in the House. And that`s what folks want.

[23:15:07]

And President Biden, especially as he goes overseas, as they start having talks about climate change worldwide, he has to show that in this country, we take a justice seriously, as he says, right? And so being able to say, we have a framework with, you know, however many billions of dollars fighting climate change in this reconciliation bill, taking that to other leaders and saying, now you put up whatever you guys have, that makes gives him a stronger case. And I think that is something the White House does know, and that Congress is also helping work towards as well.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, before we scoot to a break, a quick closing question to you, while people in polite society may deny it, wherever people gather over this weekend, this subject is likely to come up and it`s a tragedy. Someone hands an actor, a loaded gun on a movie set, the actor believe that the gun contains a blank round, a woman is dead, a man is injured. Where to begin assessing where the legal culpability might be in this case?

ALKSNE: Well, it sounds like a civil case to me, number one. And number two, the local authorities are obviously they`ve already issued search warrants and they`re finding out who loaded that gun and how it happened, and whether or not their unrest on the set, had anything to do with what was put in that gun.

And at some point, there will probably be a civil negligence case. And I would -- it`s such a tragedy, I would hope that we never find out that there`s a criminal case that nobody ever did this on purpose. And I`m confident that Mr. Baldwin did not -- he apparently was told it was unloaded. So, my guess is this is going to civil route.

WILLIAMS: We`ll end on that note. Eugene Daniels, Susan Page, Cynthia Alksne, our starting line for this Friday night. Have a good weekend. Thank you all so much for helping us to start our conversation off.

Coming up for us, he`s sounding a dire warning about what he says is a deceptive new Trump venture under the banner of truth. Steve Schmidt standing by to talk to us tonight.

And later, more on the movie set tragedy in New Mexico, including new details on the lethal weapon fired by a 63-year-old movie star named Alec Baldwin. The 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Friday evening in view of the Washington Monument.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:21:06]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RASKIN: Speaking on the Democratic side that the post Trump Democrats are very different from the pre-Trump Democrats. We`ve come as close to fascism as we want to come in America and we`re not putting up with any of that nonsense anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: A warning from January 6 committee member, the Democratic Congressman from Maryland, Jamie Raskin, but the nonsense he refers to seems far from over.

The twice impeached retired former president attempting to amplify his reach with a new social media platform called TRUTH Social. As former GOP Strategist Steve Schmidt aptly put it, "Trump`s truth is a hideous deception, a mirage cloaked in cynicism and malice."

Indeed, back with us tonight is Steve Schmidt, longtime political strategist who led John McCain`s `08 campaign has since left the Republican Party is among the among the founders of the Lincoln Project, which set out of course to defeat Trump and Trumpism, a job that goes on to this day.

Great to have you with us. I`d like to ask you a dual question, both of which I`ve asked several guests this week. If democracy has a clock face, if it ends at midnight, what time is it now? The second part of the question is, are the Democrats in your candid opinion up to this?

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, let me ask -- let me answer the second part of that first, Brian, and it`s good to see you. Objectively, since the insurrection on January 6, the Republican Party is far more radical, far more committed to the lie that Trump has told, I`m fully committed to the authoritarian movement. And should the events repeat themselves. The Republican Party is much -- in a much different place than it was this past election with regard to being prepared to try to subvert the legal and lawful results, right?

The Democrats have done nothing since coming into office not on the question of voting rights, not on the question of ethics reform. They have done nothing to prevent any of the abuses that we`ve seen, done nothing to harden any of the infrastructure. And so, what the Democrats are going to have to do now in this next year, is to lay out the case about a danger. And it`s important to remember, there`s only been three elections in the last 120 years where the incumbent president party has picked up seats in the first part of the election.

The clock, Brian, there`s a moment on the second day, Gettysburg, where that clock moves within 15 seconds of midnight, within a few minutes of the Republic being extinguished. We are in trouble. We have a real-life autocratic movement alive and well in the United States. We have a political party that seems committed to the project of taking power, regardless of what the results are. This all rests on faith and belief. And that`s what`s been poisoned over the last year. So, we`re in trouble. But in the end, what is has always been the case is democracies rally late in defense faced with these type of movements, but it`s a serious moment.

WILLIAMS: Why, in your view, having heard your answer out just there, has there been such an appalling lack of consequences and is it the cost of good intentions as I always say is it because Democrats culturally tend to be former student council presidents who just happened to be involved in a gunfight with killers every day?

[23:25:10]

SCHMIDT: We`ve had some hardcore Democratic leaders in this country`s history who haven`t lacked for toughness in the moment in the aftermath of the Second World War when he was writing his memoirs, you know, Churchill described it as the unnecessary war. And when he talked about the rise of fascism, and retrospect, he said, the malice of the wicked, was aided by the weakness of the virtuous. None of this is unpredictable. We have hundreds of pieces of malice, legislation intended to deny people on the basis of skin color, the right to vote.

We have hundreds of pieces of legislation that have been filed aimed to nullify the results of a legal election, to declare the loser the winner, and other extreme politics and policies as we`ve seen this abandonment of a commitment to small illiberal tradition and policies, to the American Republic, to the idea of democracy.

And again, it`s important to understand democracy is the only moral form of government that`s ever been, because it`s the only system of government that`s ever been the places the individual, the human being, on top of the power of the state. All others place the state on top of the human being, and that usually ends with disaster.

WILLIAMS: Steve, what are we doing wrong that we could be doing better? I have noticed in the news media business, this false equivalence reporting is sneaking back in, like nothing ever happened. Like we woke up in 1978 all the old rules and all the old politicians were back in action. What can the media do to better enforce the idea, this was an attempt to change the outcome of a presidential election. And as one of your colleagues put it tonight, only one political party now remains in service to that democracy you just spoke of?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think it`s incumbent on the political leadership of the country to be able to speak out in favor of these values. The reality is, these ideas have sustained the country through all manner of crisis for more than 245 years. And they`re being challenged, they`re being contested. They need to be defended. The assertion of the values that build the country, and calling out the dividers, it`s an important moment. I mean, we have a real-life extremist moment in this country, a real-life movement in this country, it has to be confronted, has to be confronted directly and honestly, and contextually, understanding that this isn`t the first time we`ve seen movements like this arise. We`ve seen this before. And the fact of the matter is, turns out there were hot embers under these ash shapes that we thought were extinguished.

And so, this moment requires, as have previous moments, political leaders who can talk about, one, what we have in common, but the profound importance in defense of the governmental systems that protect human dignity, human life, the pursuit of happiness, that`s what`s at stake.

WILLIAMS: Democrats indeed may need to channel the energy of the steer over your shoulder in favor of the donkey, which is their longtime logo. Steve Schmidt, what a pleasure to have you as always, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Coming up for us, the President promises to get up to his ears and protecting voter rights, suggesting he could support tweaking the filibuster. It`s almost as if the White House has recognized its entire agenda is stalled.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:33:06]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: My greatest regret is I have these -- had these three major pieces of legislation that are going to change the circumstances for working class folks and African Americans as well, that I`ve been busting my neck trying to pass. But what is done is prevented me from getting deeply up to my ears, which I`m going to do once this is done in dealing with police brutality, dealing with the whole notion of, what are we going to do about voting rights. It`s the greatest assault on voting rights in the history of the United States for real since the Civil War.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Strong words they`re from the president during that town hall meeting last night on the need for voting rights legislation and then some, but this week`s failed Senate vote is just more proof there is no path forward for Democrats as long as the filibuster remains and candidly as long as Manchin and Sinema remain in their ranks.

Back with us tonight, Baratunde Thurston, author, activist, comedian, former producer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, host of the podcast, How To Citizen, he`ll also be hosting the upcoming PBS series, America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston, even though, to be honest, we`ve only seen the guy inside. And Susan Del Percio, MSNBC Political Analyst, and a Veteran Political Strategist. Welcome gang. We`re happy to have you.

Baratunde, it`s been too long since we`ve spoken with you. I`d like to start with this, did President Biden stack his priorities wrong? Devil`s advocate here, it was at the height of an uncontrolled pandemic and all the resulting economic damage. But as so many Democrats have pointed out, voting rights are ballgame. Voting rights are about the casting of votes and the counting of votes, where so many states have been quietly busy making sure perhaps the fix may be in for next time.

[23:35:04]

BARATUNDE THURSTON, AUTHOR, ACTIVIST AND COMEDIAN: Brian, it`s so good to be back. Susan, it`s nice to kind of meet you this way. I still love that you use Charlie Brown as a verb early on tonight show, Brian, I can`t quite get over that. And I do go outside. It`s where I get the clothes. So, thank you for the question. Thanks for bringing me back to here tonight.

I sympathize a lot with what President Biden is dealing with. We`ve all been dealing with a lot, you know, Delta, kicked, our butt, supply chains are twisted in knots, we`re burned and flooded and rained on and it`s been, it`s been hard. And he`s trying to push through this agenda. And there`s been some infighting, and I expect some of that. But there`s also been this faction of people, Steve Schmidt, just talked about it, this faction of people, I think of the folks who lied about COVID. They lied about the election. They blocked the investigation into an insurrection. And they`re blocking this freedom to vote act. It`s got the word freedom in it. It`s the one thing that unites us all, even across our divisions, we should focus on the freedom part, and remind ourselves of what we`re here to do in terms of self-governing.

And I think these people are very desperate. And they win only by cheating, they gerrymander, and they cheat before the election. They stack the deck with people who won`t count every vote and commit election sabotage, and they try to cheat after the election. So, I was glad to see last night that President Biden is aware of and has a handle on how dire the situation is. I`m hoping that these principal politicians that remain can push this through. And yes, let`s adjust this filibuster. Because without voting rights, without true legitimacy to the government, we can`t do all the other cool stuff that a majority of people want to do, 70% of people want this stuff. And we`re being held hostage by 40, 41 senators who represent 20% of the country. That`s not a functional democracy.

WILLIAMS: Susan, and then there`s the state of Texas, not content merely to restrict the right to vote, they moved on and restricted the right to an abortion. I want to play for you some of what Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett said earlier with Nicolle Wallace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASMINE CROCKETT, (D) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: It`s sad that literally I have to laugh to keep from crying, right? And so, what I am looking forward to is for aggression out of our U.S. Senate. We`ve got to expand the court and we`ve got to get rid of the filibuster. These are the only ways that we`re going to start to have some semblance of normalcy in this country. The fact that the Supreme Court is acting like this is an issue that we need to vacillate over, that they`re acting like Roe v. Wade didn`t take place like before I was ever like born, that is a problem.

WILLIAMS: So, Susan, here`s the question, provided votes will be cast and counted in 2022, can the Democrats get out of their own way and actually run successfully and congressional elections on the right to choice?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, a lot will depend on what the supreme court does say and how they rule on this case, as well as the other case that`s coming up in Alabama, I believe. It`s -- it is going to be central, but Democrats have never gotten their act together as far as using the courts as a way of voter turnout. This should certainly do it. If the courts rule against Roe v. Wade, it should make the Women`s March that we`ve seen look like a picnic and like a small turnout. There should be millions upon millions of women and men calling out that the courts and saying we need to have representation and follow the rule of law.

Every one of the nominees that got confirmed under Trump said yes, precedent is important. And that is what Roe v. Wade is. And I wouldn`t want to overturn it basically, without saying the overturn but -- and here they are, and they are literally causing so much pain and problems for women today, by not putting a stay on that. And these women are confronted with real life problems that are going to cause, that are going to affect them for the rest of their lives. Ten days is not soon enough, and we know they`re not going to give a decision after they hear the discussion.

So hopefully, the Democrats will use this, among other things, including voting rights, and saying we must fight for the rule of law. That`s it, full stop, go to the streets, get people registered to vote because turnout will be the thing that causes the Democrats to lose the House and the Senate.

WILLIAMS: Well, it`s that callousness you just talked about that is at the heart of the Sotomayor dissent. The lone voice of dissent on this court for now. Our guests have agreed to stay here with us this Friday night as we fit in.

[23:40:00]

And coming up, what the only twice impeached retiree in all of Florida has been telling people about trying to get his old job back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: On the likelihood of a Trump 2024 presidential run, Axios reporting the former president is telling almost anyone who will listen he`ll run again in 2024. "Almost every top Republican we talked to said it would take a severe illness, death or criminal charges sticking to stop Trump from walking away with the race before it even begins."

Remaining with us are our friends, Baratunde Thurston and Susan Del Percio. Susan, so let`s play this out. If you`re Abbott, if you`re DeSantis, if you`re Mike Pence, do you just say thank you, sir, can I have another fade away and it`s like you never existed?

DEL PERCIO: Almost, at least you do it probably for the next 18 months or so, because you`re not going to have any other choice Donald Trump will continue to dominate the Republican Party field in the polls, he will continue to cause trouble wherever he can. He loves raising money. And he will also use, I think the fact that he will run for office as a potential tool to help him legally, meaning Brian that some elected officials have actually agreed not to run using that as a cheat within the legal system, as to help deflect the amount of potential crimes he is charged with.

WILLIAMS: Baratunde, I want to talk about the Virginia governor`s race as a springboard into a related conversation. Here`s the quote from Politico. "Glenn Younkin is betting on parents` anger with local school boards to help them edge out a victory in the governor`s race against Terry McAuliffe. And if it works, it could be a playbook for Republicans to seize on frustrations over COVID school closures, paired with culture war fights over how race is taught in schools and the rights of transgender children to recapture suburban voters, potentially rocketing fights over education to the top of campaigns across the country."

[23:45:24]

Baratunde, there`s a larger issue here. I`ve always believed we should be more critical of ourselves. The press corps, the people we read, and the people we see all day long on cable news tend to live in blue dots, no fault of their own, it`s where their employers are located. But it helps explain why the press corps largely was shocked at the rise of the Tea Party, shocked at the election of Donald Trump. Out beyond the last exit for a Whole Foods, people have been listening to Steve Bannon and Trumpers have been running for town and city council and boards of Ed. And this is happening in town after town across what is still a very red country.

THURSTON: I will just acknowledge your analysis there, Brian. There wasn`t a question about, we`ll share some thoughts. I think that a lot of people are afraid. I think people have been sold a path to power through grievance. I think folks are feeling a little lonely and a lot scared when power shifts. And make no mistake, power is shifting. Virginia was the capital of the confederacy. And that taken down Confederate flags and the racial makeup of that state a change in the politics of that state have changed. It`s becoming youngers, becoming browner and all kinds of colors that aren`t white, and that makes certain people feel afraid.

What I want to see from the media is not to pretend that Steve Schmidt said earlier that things are like they were in the before times, and also want all of us to talk about some of these challenges, especially in schools through a different lens. I hear parents afraid of critical race theory. And I see a liberal or Democrat arguing on those terms. Well, no critical race theory, good. I don`t think about it in those terms. I think about it as being willing to teach American history. Are we willing to teach American history? Do we trust our children and our students enough to handle the truth? Can they handle it? Do they love? Do we love the country enough to see it`s less than attractive parts and paint a whole and more complete picture of who we are? I think in our personal relationships, we find that when we truly know somebody, that`s real love, and we`re stronger for it. I want us to approach our country that way. And I think whether in the media on a campaign trail, I want us to stop engaging on terms of defeatism and defensiveness and assert our love in a positive way. And whether it`s McAuliffe or an operative in some other state, I think we have a lot to gain from reminding people of what they have to gain and not just what they have to lose. We have to gain wholeness and strength. And that is a different way of talking about some of these "culture wars" not seen as doing.

WILLIAMS: Well, we`re stronger for knowing the both of you and before we reluctantly say goodbye to our guests, we want to note another project Baratunde is involved in of late, he`s a founding partner in POC, which is a new media company where he`s currently writing a series on race in America called After the Tide.

With that, our formal thanks to our friends, Baratunde Thurston, Susan Del Percio, have a good weekend, if you can.

Coming up for us, the stunning news, the story that broke last night at about this time, one dead, one wounded after a gun was fired by Alec Baldwin on the set of a movie, apparently containing a live round and not a blank.

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[23:51:55]

WILLIAMS: What a horrendous story this is, more disturbing details emerging tonight about that fatal shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin`s new independent film called Rust. The AP reports court records indicate Baldwin was, "handed a loaded weapon by an assistant director who indicated it was safe to use. The Assistant Director did not know the prop gun was loaded with live rounds."

And the LA Times says a crew member recently texted the unit production manager warning, "We`ve now had three accidental discharges. This is super unsafe." We get our reports tonight from NBC News Correspondent Miguel Almaguer.

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MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT MIGUEL (voice-over): Shortly after the fatal shooting, a distressed Alec Baldwin outside the sheriff`s department in Santa Fe. Investigators say the veteran actor fired a prop gun on his New Mexico movie set Thursday, killing the film`s director of photography and seriously injuring the director.

DISPATCHER: So, were they loaded with a real bullet or?

CALLER: I cannot tell you that.

DISPATCHER: OK.

CALLER: We have two injuries.

ALMAGUER: But just hours before the deadly shooting on this set of Rust, an independent movie in which Baldwin is also one of the producers. NBC News has learned several crew members walked off the set over safety concerns including multiple previous misfires of the prop gun. According to a source familiar with the matter, Baldwin who 63 expressing remorse. There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother, and deeply admired colleague of ours. I`m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred.

LARRY ZANOFF, HOLLYWOOD WEAPONS EXPERT: One of the things about firearms on set that that people don`t realize is that even if it`s set up the fire blanks federally it`s still a real gun.

ALMAGUER: Larry Zanoff, a Hollywood weapons expert who was not on the set of Rust says when strict safety guidelines are followed, accidents should never happen. The industry safety bulletin spells out, blanks can kill, treat all firearms as though they`re loaded, live ammunition is never to be used. No one shall be issued a firearm until he or she is trained.

ZANOFF: The way we handle firearms and the blank ammunition on set. That seems very difficult to imagine how a blank would do that.

ALMAGUER: In 1993 after Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee was killed in a filming accident involving a prop gun, industry safety measures tighten.

ALICIA HAVERLAND, IATSE LOCAL 44 PROP MASTER: To my mind, this accident happens because somebody missed some check that they should have done.

ALMAGUER: Hutchins who was 42 and posted photos of horseback riding near the set was quickly becoming a Hollywood star, Rust actress Frances Fisher posting this tribute, saying rest in Paradise Dear Halyna. Tonight, a tragic accident and now bouncing questions as to how something like this could ever happen.

[23:55:03]

(On camera): The production company says they were never aware of any safety concerns but say they are fully cooperating with investigators. Back to you.

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WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Miguel Almaguer for that report tonight. Another break and coming up, a preview of a tough conversation. It`s actually been going on for a couple 100 years around here.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, we wanted to alert you to something special having to do with an important topic, it`s about race in our country, what so many regard as our original sin. It`s a documentary airing here on Sunday night from executive producers Brad Pitt and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. It`s about how we portray race. It`s about geography and history and tradition. It`s about how we talk about the Civil War. What divides us to this day, and the stories we refuse to tell, here`s a portion of what to expect.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one on the civilian side on the Confederate presidency was ever forced to concede and repudiate what they believed, and we allowed a group of people that waged an arm insurrection against the government to build statues to their heroes, so that has kept it alive. We have never solved the core problem, the Civil War.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve never really had a racial reckoning. The problems started first, immediately after the war. If you want north and south to get together and get along again, you don`t talk about causes and consequences. You talk about the mutual valor on that battlefield.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The documentary is called Civil War, that airs Sunday night on this network 10 p.m. Eastern time.

That for us 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 other plans. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.