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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 10/4/21

Guests: Philip Rucker, A.B Stoddard, Kara Swisher, Al Franken, Cornell Belcher, Celine Gounder


Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp shut down for more than six hours. Facebook whistleblower reveals identity, says company chooses profits over safety. President Joe Biden blamed Republicans for blocking efforts to raise or suspend the U.S. borrowing limit and avert a first-ever default on the national debt. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen claimed the company knows the ways in which its algorithm is harmful and perpetuate hate.




BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 258 of the Biden administration. That sound you heard earlier today that was life in America without Facebook. You also might have heard the sound of Mark Zuckerberg losing about $7 billion in the course of just today by one estimate.

That`s because Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all stopped working for most of the day, 3 billion customers worldwide, unable to access any of it, shares of Facebook down 5 percent in just one day.

Timing here was curious because it was just hours after a Facebook whistleblower broke her silence on 60 Minutes, saying its products are harmful to our children and harmful to our democracy. Frances Haugen walked out of her Facebook job with thousands of documents probably leaked to the Wall Street Journal. She`ll testify tomorrow morning before Congress after she agreed to blow her cover and tell her story last night.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: One of the consequences of how Facebook is picking out that content today is they`re just optimizing for content that gets engagement or reaction. But its own research is showing that content that is hateful, that is divisive, that is polarizing. It`s easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions.

Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site. They`ll click on less ads, they`ll make less money. Facebook over and over again is shown it uses profit over safety. It is subsidizing is paying for its profits with our safety.


WILLIAMS: Facebook has responded and you can make of this what you wish their statement says in part quote, every day our teams have to balance protecting the right of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place. We continue to make significant improvements to tackle the spread of misinformation and harmful content to suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true.

In her opening statement tomorrow, Haugen will urge senators to regulate the company saying quote, when we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms that caused, the government took actions. When we figured out cars were safer with seatbelts, the government took action. I implore you to do the same here.

The Senate is now also the scene of another drama battle to keep the U.S. from going into default before the October 18 deadline exactly two weeks from today while it used to be a virtually automatic vote. Not anymore and not with McConnell and his Republicans voting as a bloc today the president called out the GOP in fact.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Defaulting on the debt would lead to self- inflicted wound that takes our economy over a cliff and risk jobs and retirement savings, social Security benefits, salaries for service members, benefits for veterans, not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they threatened to reuse the power, their power to prevent us from doing our job, saving the economy from a catastrophic event. As soon as this week, your savings and your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republicans stunt.


WILLIAMS: McConnell sent a letter to Biden this morning, essentially blaming Democratic leaders Pelosi and Schumer for the delay. But Schumer insists his party is trying to move forward quickly.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We will need to get a bill extending the debt ceiling to the President`s desk by the end of this week. We aren`t asking Republicans to vote yes, even though it`s debt that they incurred. We are simply asking that they get out of the way.


WILLIAMS: And the White House pointed out this is to pay the bills the republicans ran up.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is their debt that they chopped up themselves. This is a period of time where we could easily solve this in the next two days. And easily do that through allowing Democrats to be the adults in the room despite the fact that Republicans spent like drunken sailors over the last four years before President Biden took office.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, there is encouraging news tonight about the latest surge in virus infections. CDC reporting new cases are indeed down 13 percent compared to the previous week.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: We are seeing a turnaround diminution in cases, diminution and hospitalization. And I fully expect if we keep going in the direction of a diminution in hospitalization in cases that the deaths will start coming down.


WILLIAMS: And Johnson and Johnson says it intends to ask the FDA this week to authorize a booster shot of its vaccine, about 15 million Americans received the J and J single dose vaccine. Later in this hour we`ll ask a doctor how soon that booster authorization could be in place.


And with that, let`s bring in our starting line on this Monday night. Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning senior Washington correspondent for The Washington Post, co-author with Carol Leonnig of the New York Times bestseller, "I alone Can Fix It, Donald J. Trump`s Catastrophic Final Year." A.B. Stoddard, veteran Washington journalist and Associate Editor and Columnist over at Real Clear Politics, and Kara Swisher is back with us, veteran technology and business journalistic contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, host of the times podcast called Sway and in her spare time, she also hosts the podcast called Pivot with our friend, Scott Galloway. Well, good evening and welcome to you all.

Kara because of today`s news, I`d like to begin with you. The writer Stephen King, I just saw on Twitter before we came on the air noted that the three evening newscast all led the with the Facebook outage, he said it was the definition of addiction. I would also argue this goes to national policy, it goes to things like possible regulation. It goes to an attack on democracy and so on.

But with that in mind and noting you know more about Facebook, then perhaps second only to Mark Zuckerberg, do you think today, do you think the aftermath of this whistleblower? The argument she makes on the document she presents is this different than what they faced in the past?

KARA SWISHER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CONTIRBUTING OPINION WRITER: Well, it`s always different, right? Every time fix was gets into one of these jams, and they`ve gotten into tons of them. They seem to get out of it. They have nine lives, 10 lives 12 lives. And so I`m not sure because even though their stock went down today, which was lots of different reasons, including the outage, they never seem to pay for doing what they do over the many years.

Now I do think a whistleblower who is from the inside carrying papers and documents out is much stronger than anything that they faced before. And their response has been extraordinarily defensive. And that statement you read was no one`s accusing them of creating hate, or causing insurrection. They`re accusing them of using their platform, which is enormous to amplify and weaponize hate. That`s very different, but very serious.

And so I don`t know, we`ll see what Congress will do. I just -- I never -- Congress has done nothing. Regulators in the United States have done nothing over the many years and the many abuses, so I don`t expect them to do anything yet until I see.

WILLIAMS: And yet, Phil Rucker hating on Facebook seems like a truly bipartisan issue, especially at a time when the administration is looking for any kind of distraction from things like, Oh, I don`t know the debt limit and the President`s agenda.

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It could be Brian and what we`ve seen in the evolution of the criticism of Facebook over the last few years, it`s gone from election interference and these issues of democracy straight into people`s homes.

We`re talking now about body image issues for teenage girls, for example, that`s something that hits home for a lot of voters around the country and could create potentially some pressure on elected representatives here in Washington.

But you`re right to point out that even as this Facebook story is a huge story tonight, even as the testimony will be tomorrow on Capitol Hill. The focus of so many lawmakers and especially the legislative leaders will be on the debt ceiling showdown. October 18 is coming close. We`re already seeing jitters on Wall Street, and among big business about the possibility that the U.S. could default later this month.

President Biden said he couldn`t even rule it out that the U.S. would avoid default. And that is a very serious admission. And I think a statement to how broken our political system is right here right now, in Washington.

WILLIAMS: And A.B., I said it`s potentially a bipartisan issue. But I do want to make a distinction. And my question to you How do Republicans approach Facebook? I know it`s in vogue for their party to tweet out attacks on big tech, but when you think about it, for some of them, it`s an insurrection information delivery system. Let`s face it.

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: Right. What`s interesting is that there has been a push from both sides, not abroad bush but from Senator Josh Hawley and Senator Elizabeth Warren and some others who are very, very diametrically opposed on every other issue to try to rein in big tech and they`ve focused a lot of their trained a lot of their fire on Facebook.

It`s just that now in this environment, very hard to see that they would form a united front and bipartisan coalition and take on this very, very challenging task of regulating these platforms that say they are not publishers, and they need to protect free speech.


And that these two that on two sides of this very polarized Congress, you`d see some kind of cooperation on this issue. I imagine also, you mentioned the instruction that this will become an issue of whether or not this is focused on people who came to defend democracy at the Capitol on January 6, and become part of the narrative the big lie, and 1/6 truth tourism.

So it`s, again, it`s discouraging this reckoning for Facebook is long overdue, but I`m with Kara, it`s very hard to see that it actually ends up in any material change. And I don`t think although there are very smart minds in Congress, who have ideas about how to regulate Facebook and the other platforms that they have the will to reach across the aisle, and actually do something that could get passed into law.

WILLIAMS: Kara, indeed, our friend and your audio partner, Scott was on another network tonight and he was wondering if this isn`t a kind of potential possible crucible moment for Facebook. He invoked the example of mothers against drunk driving. We all knew the risks and harms of driving drunk, but not until parents coalesced and brought only the attention they can.

I suppose if enough parents say, look, we`ve seen Instagram, everyone is skinnier, happier, wealthier than we seem to be their puppies are better looking. They take fantastic vacations. It is wrong for our kids in so many ways as their brains are developing.

SWISHER: You know, I don`t know. He said that today on our on our show, on our biweekly show. He calls it mothers against Mark and Sheryl, which is mams. I guess, I don`t really quite understand it. But it was funny. But I don`t think that`s going to be the case. I disagreed with them.

I think this company has shown themselves to be very adept at skittering out of problems, whether it`s sideling up to President -- former President Trump or trying to act as if we had no idea this was going on with President Biden.

What`s interesting is President Biden has brought together a few people, Lena Khan, Tim Wu, and not yet someone, John Cantor, who they`re going to possibly be the in the Justice Department on antitrust. That`s very powerful, but they`ve got to get something done. And the only way that they can get something done is through the courts.

Now the courts have shown themselves very in need of more legislation. So everything rests with the legislature. And in Europe and New Zealand and Australia, they`ve all shown, and Canada, they`ve all shown a means to getting to this.

But here in this country where these companies are located, are legislators. I don`t know if you can guess how much legislation covers the internet. Brian, how much do you think? How much would you go?

WILLIAMS: I read as much as I should for my job. Not much, I`m guessing is the setup here?

SWISHER: Zero, zero. There`s no legislation. There`s none. There`s one piece of legislation that protects them and gives them immunity. And so we don`t have adequate data protection laws for the internet specifically. We don`t have a prime national privacy bill. We don`t have an anti-hacking bill. You could go on and on and on and lots of things.

And so until we have just one piece of legislation that controls these companies, we`re going to have the same outcome. And we were out there, whenever they feel like doing we`re going to have to do. And the only power is the federal government to deal with this, and we`ll see if they will.

WILLIAMS: So Phil Rucker, back to politics and the president you cover for a living. Some Democrats are concerned at the lack of a sales job for the Biden agenda. Other Democrats are concerned at the abject lack of kind of anger and emotion behind what they need to pass. As far as you can measure, what`s the level of concern right about now with the clock ticking in the West Wing?

RUCKER: Brian, there`s a great amount of concern throughout the Democratic Party and there`s also growing distrust from different sides of the Democrats, because of the inability to get the Biden bill back better agenda passed in some form or fashion. We`re seeing progressives turn against the moderates and chiefly two of them, senators Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona.


Now the least reporting from Capitol Hill is that there`s a consensus now among Democrats that their target for that interest -- for that larger package is going to go down substantially from three and a half trillion down to somewhere between 1.9 to 2.4 trillion.

Remember, Joe Manchin wanted it to be in that $2 trillion range or below, those negotiations are ongoing, but they`re still at this hour does not appear to be any consensus among Democrats to say nothing of attracting support from any Republican voters for this package.

That`s a cause of concern for White House, for President Biden and vice president Harris, as they look ahead to next year, a campaign year when the Democratic majorities in the Congress are going to be on the line and up for grabs. And the Democrats want to have something big a big ticket item to say that they got done with their majorities that they governed competently and effectively and delivered for the voters back home. And without passing this bill back better agenda. They`re not going to have that big ticket item to run on.

WILLIAMS: A.B., games of chicken are always dangerous, because as the title implies, they need one person to be chicken, whether it`s a dark country road at high speeds at night, or whether it`s Mitch McConnell vowing to supply not one Republican vote for the debt ceiling. What is the danger of his Gambit here? And do you take him at his word?

STODDARD: Brian, I said last week that the Democrats believe Mitch McConnell, and they still do, what they will do is try to push through a Democrat only clean bill that if it bases a Republican filibuster, we`ll get more press and more rhetoric. But ultimately, the Democrats are going to find a way to do this on their own. And they know that he does not care if he is called a hypocrite or anything else. And they`re not going to breach the debt limit. They are also going to pass both of these bills.

I think we saw, you know, an interesting unforeseen development last week in that, while Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema will still determine the size and scope of the social welfare programs package. The -- The progressives were able to basically with the help of the White House sideline enroll Nancy Pelosi, ultimately President Joe Biden rolled the speaker and that was something that no one -- majorities of the of the Democratic Conference did not expect. And so that`s why we didn`t see a vote even though she held the legislative calendar from Thursday into Friday, from one month to the next in anticipation of a vote. On Friday, she saw the president come up and actually side against her.

So this is just as Phil mentioned, it created a lot of distrust a lot of anger. I still think they get it done. I don`t know when it will be. It`ll be by October 31. But in the end, it`s going to be what senators mansion and cinema determine in terms of size and scope. And I do believe that both of the bills are going to get passed.

WILLIAMS: With great thanks to our starting line on this Monday night to Phil Rucker, to A.B. Stoddard, to Kara Swisher, feel better. Thank you, three of you for starting off our conversation tonight.

Coming up for us. After our first break, he accuses Mitch McConnell of destroying the Senate when he was there by abusing the filibuster. Al Franken on the Senate standoff we`re facing today.

And later after a day of mixed messaging on holiday travel, some answers and advice from a leading expert on this virus and on this pandemic of ours. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Monday night.




SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The majority of age to stop sleepwalking toward yet another preventable crisis. Democrats need to tackle the debt limit. We gave them a roadmap and three month notice. I suggest that our colleagues get moving.


WILLIAMS: Again, all of that spoken with a straight face. The Senate expected to vote again this week to suspend the debt ceiling. And the vote is again expected to fail because Mitch McConnell`s Republicans continue to block it. Politico is reporting on Schumer`s gamble this way, quote, Democrats are betting that the needed Republican senators will eventually cave in order to stave off an unparalleled economic disaster, which could hit in as little as two weeks but the GOP refuses to fall. Democrats are running out of time to remedy the crisis on their own.

Great night to have back with us former Minnesota democratic senator Al Franken, who these days has the good fortune to host a podcast bearing his name.

Hey, Senator, what do you make of this McConnell threat? Are they really going to sit it out? And are the democrats doing enough getting angry enough making enough noise?

AL FRANKEN (D) FMR. U.S. SENATOR: He`s going to send it out. He`s, as he said, you know, before the commercial, he said he`s destroyed the Senate. He did that by -- he did more filibusters of executive nominees during Obama than been done in the previous history of the country.

And this is just him being ruthless. Merrick Garland was that we got to start doing that. One, we are going to have to do this. It would be insane to default. Absolutely insane. We can`t do it. The dollar is the default currency of the world. We can`t let it not be. So it will happen. I have confidence. So we will step in there. And Mitch will do exactly what he says.

But we started -- we have to start being as ruthless as him. For example, the Freedom to Vote Act, which was negotiated by Amy Klobuchar and Joe Manchin and others is a great bill. But we need to pass it because state legislatures have passed these voting bills, these election bills in these states that say that the state legislature can overturn the results. That`s kind of what Trump wanted them to do last year. We can`t allow that to happen.

So Joe Manchin says he will not get rid of the filibuster, but we can modify it and (INAUDIBLE) have a plan to do that.


Instead of 60 votes to stop the filibuster, you need 41 to sustain a filibuster and 41 senators have to show up on the floor. And they have to stay there. We need 41. And they have to debate, it`s a talking filibuster. They have 50. They can go back and forth. But the average senator could only be off the floor, Republican senator only be off the floor for five hours, and it won`t last long.

WILLIAMS: But to your call to action, from your fellow Democrats, you know better than most people the cultural difference between the parties. Democrats have always been and continued to be kind of culturally skewed towards Student Council presidents, increasingly whole foods and electric car enthusiasts, as Rick Wilson famously said, Democrats bring a soup ladle to a gunfight. Meantime, you`re up against stone cold killers.

FRANKEN: Yes, well, we have to stop it. We have to be stone cold killers. And this is we`re going to, by the way, I agree with A.B. Stoddard exactly. This is going to get done. She described it, I think perfectly. On the voting rights is this is an existential threat to our democracy. If we lose our democracy, it`s - we lose everything.

So we have to pass this bill and you can carve out and say for, you know, elections, this is our democracy. We can carve that out and pass it with 51 votes. Or you can do when I`m talking about which would restore the filibuster to what it was, which was something that was rare, when a minority cared about something.

And I want to -- I would love for them to debate these voting laws in the States. I would love to hear the debate and why you can`t hand somebody water in a line was been waiting for hours, who`s still waiting for hours to vote.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I`d show up for that debate, too.


WILLIAMS: If memory serves you, you served with Manchin but not Sinema, what generally do you make of the Mike Nichols and Elaine May have the U.S. Senate?

FRANKEN: Nichols were much funnier. Joe, I know very, very well. Look, he, I think this -- he -- there`s stuff he`s proposed, I think in the last day or so that they`re good things, for example, getting rid of give taxing carried interest as capital gains. There`s -- They`re going to -- we`re going to get there. We`re going to get there. And Sinema was very helpful on the bipartisan infrastructure package. She`s going to get there. They have to get there. And we have to start.

There`s so many great things in this package. There`s Medicare negotiating for pharmaceuticals. We pay three times as much for the same pharmaceuticals as Europe.


FRANKEN: And that`s because the biggest purchaser of pharmaceuticals on our country can`t negotiate. All their governments negotiate. That`s ridiculous. The child tax credit, reduce poverty by childhood poverty by half, biggest middle class, working class, tax cut, low income tax cut in the history of the country. People like the elements. We got to start talking about what the elements are. And I call it the reconciliation package.

WILLIAMS: Well, let`s call this segment a blueprint and a call to action from a guy who knows from the U.S. Senate because he`s been there. Al Franken, friend of this broadcast. Thank you very much for joining us from the news tonight.

FRANKEN: Thanks Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us new reporting on how the January 6 Committee is bracing for a collision and a legal fight with many of those who fought and thought that overturning the election was a good idea, including the guy who sent them down there.




STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I want to just warn people that once he takes office, if he were to win, he doesn`t have to worry about reelection anymore. He will be about revenge. He will probably have some pretty draconian policies that go on.


WILLIAMS: To that end, the Washington Post reports Donald Trump`s advisors convinced him to hold off on a 2024 announcement for now quote, some of his advisors were concerned that Democrats might use his announcement in their effort to frame the midterm elections around his candidacy potentially boosting their own turnout and hampering his plans if Republicans fall short next year.

We have two friends back with us tonight to talk about all of it Cornell Belcher, democratic pollster veteran of the Obama campaign, among others. And Susan Del Percio, MSNBC political analyst and a veteran political strategist herself. Good evening, and welcome back to you both.

Cornell, let`s start with you. And maybe there`s a quick way to dispense of this topic and this guy, do you by the post reporting and the reasoning as to why they talk Trump out of announcing early?

CORNELL BELCHER, VETERA DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I do but it`s kind of ironic the ideal that Trump announcing that he`s going to run for president again would somehow be a hindrance to Republicans. If the guy who you want to be at the top your ticket is problematic for you at the top of your ticket, maybe you should think about whether or not it`s a good idea for him to fact run again.

But I do think they`re right. I mean, you know, Trump announcing would reenergize you know, that 7 million plus Americans who was -- the difference between his coalition and Biden`s coalition and sort of energize a whole group of Americans who quite frankly don`t want to see Trump and don`t want to be Trumpism at the, you know, in the White House and empower and empower again.

But also the power of this, Brian is this, the moment that Trump announces he`s running for president again, it becomes really problematic for all those other Republicans who are quite frankly, you know, from DeSantis on who are angling for that office as well.


WILLIAMS: Yes, Nikki Haley, so desperate to be considered she came out in the last 24 hours against vaccine mandates. Susan speaking of Trumpism, how ugly will the one six committee get before it`s over? And as a percentage of what they want? How much will they get from these witnesses?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they`re going to get a lot more than they did from the impeachment hearings, mostly because a lot of people are afraid of criminal charges being brought up against them if they don`t comply with the subpoenas. And Trump is no longer in office, and they know that Trump will not be loyal to them, will not cover them, will not pay for their legal bills. So people are going to come forward.

When it comes to Trump specifically, that`s going to be certainly a challenge. But I don`t see people, you know, being there for him, knowing that he won`t be there for him when he needs it.

WILLIAMS: And Cornell, listening to Al Franken, one of the things Al said was in effect, wait till people learn what`s in these bills that the Biden agenda is contained in? And that is a criticism actually of the messaging. Why don`t people understand what they`re going to get, how their lives are going to be improved and enriched? Where`s the barnstorming? Where`s the PR campaign? Biden`s going to Michigan. But that leaves 49 other states that haven`t seen an itemized list of what bridges are going to get blown up and build back and what people are going to be served?

BELCHER: Well, the short answer, Brian is because Democrats are really good at governing. They`re really bad at messaging. And that`s nothing new. I mean, the guy I once worked for Obama, you know, a lot of his stuff that he was putting forward was really popular including, you know, the ACA, which right now is above water, and people really want to keep ACA, but the time that the messaging was off.

I mean, it`s, you know, politics one on one, if you`re explaining the process you`re losing. And to a certain extent, Democrats have been really bad at explaining the process. And even the ideal right now, if you look at the headlines, all the headlines are talking about Democrats can`t figure out how to, you know, avoid the debt ceiling crisis. Now, the story is, quite frankly, about Mitch McConnell and Republicans, you know, filibustering process of the process story.

My criticism would be simply this, it would be that I think, Brian, in the end, it is not about the debt ceiling, it is not about whether or not you`re going to tap child tax credit, that`s going to rally Americans, we got to get bigger than that. I think, to rally Americans, the next election really should be about what Franken -- what Senator -- the former senator was talking about his bigger ideals, like, do you want democracy, you know, to use suburban mom, you know, what is the future your children look like in an America that is no longer a democracy? I think there`s bigger, more profound, more fundamental ideals and values at play in the next couple of elections right now.

And I think that`s a simpler task for Democrats to try to message around, then get into all the details and policy positions of some of these bills which are very good. That`s not to say we shouldn`t do some of it. But I think we got to get bigger for the moment than simply talking about child tax credit.

WILLIAMS: And Susan, as someone like you, who knows all the mechanics of this, and literally how a bill becomes law, does Schumer have any cards to play on something like the debt ceiling that we don`t know about? Or we`re not smart enough to be talking about?

DEL PERCIO: He`s the majority leader, Brian, of course, he has cards to play. I sometimes wonder if he gets his rules confused with Mitch McConnell, because Mitch McConnell seems to be calling the shots in the Senate. I mean, along with Krysten Sinema and Joe Manchin, true.

But Schumer knew as well as the president three months ago that Mitch McConnell was not going to help them at all. As a matter of fact, he said he was going to get in the way of their agenda wherever possible. So the fact that he has done nothing should not be a surprise. You do not play chicken with Mitch McConnell. He sees this as a political game and he sees Chuck Schumer as being a weak Majority Leader, and when he sees weakness, he pounces.

So yes, Chuck Schumer can do a lot, but it doesn`t seem like he`s willing to or maybe the president doesn`t want him to, but boy should he step up his game.


WILLIAMS: I don`t know much Susan. But your comments just now should be clipped off and played all day during programming tomorrow because they`re important and there`s a verb for what we`re seeing, and that is the Charlie Browning of the Democratic Party. Cornell Belcher, Susan Del Percio, two friends of this broadcast with our thanks on this Monday night.

Coming up, after briefly being compared to the Grinch, Dr. Fauci tries to set the record straight about holiday gatherings this winter.



FAUCI: The best way to assure they will be in good shape as we get into the winter would be to get more and more people vaccinated. That was misinterpreted as my saying we can spend Christmas with our families, which was absolutely not the case. I encourage people particularly the vaccinated people who are protected to have a good normal Christmas with your family.


WILLIAMS: Dr. Fauci who yesterday warned it`s too soon to know how COVID will impact holiday gatherings forced into a little bit of damage control today. Tonight, new infections are on a steady decline. There`s been no similar decline, however, in the death toll. And experts warn that a winter surge is still possible. It`s a lot.

So we`re happy to have back with us tonight Dr. Celine Gounder, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the NYU School of Medicine in Bellevue Hospital in New York. She was part of a panel that advise the incoming Biden administration transition team. She also importantly hosts a weekly podcast on the impact of the pandemic called Epidemic.

So doctor, let`s put it this way, if you were putting together a pamphlet for how we should behave and family settings this coming holiday season and it had to go to the printer tomorrow so some of it had to require you looking into the future, what would your guidance be?


DR. CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Brian, my guidance would be number one, number two and number three, get vaccinated. If you are not yet vaccinated, please get vaccinated. This is going to be the best way for all of us to celebrate safely over the holidays with our family and friends.

Then a couple other things I would add to that list number four, number five, number six would be testing. Rapid testing is something that you can do at home. This was not widely available last year and really could be more available than it is even now. It is not affordable for everybody. But if you are able to get your hands on rapid test kits to use at home, test in the morning before you hang out with your family, as long as you`re negative, you can relax that day.

And then the other two pieces I would add is do as much as you can outdoors especially if you have more vulnerable elderly people or immunocompromised people in your household and have some mask on hand especially again, if you have some of those more vulnerable people in the household.

WILLIAMS: I also wanted to get you on the record on the J and J shot. What`s your read on the effectiveness of their shot and their booster and so many people are asking if they can mix brands. If people have had two Moderna`s, can they get a Pfizer booster? If people have had one J and J, can they get a Moderna booster? Can you take that on for us?

GOUNDER: So the data on two doses of J and J a second dose after the first one is looking really good protection well into the 90s for severe disease, hospitalization and death, and also very good protection against infection.

As to those mix and match options, the NIH has been conducting mix and match studies of every single possible combination of Pfizer, Moderna, and J and J. They have already collected the data on using Moderna as the booster. I believe they are completing collection of Pfizer as the booster as we speak. And we`ll have also soon data on J and J as the booster. So I think by mid to late October, we`re going to have that data to inform how best to mix and match.

WILLIAMS: Got about 45 seconds left, our death toll is stuck at around 2,000 souls a day, though, as we mentioned, new cases are down. What`s your degree of optimism going into the holiday season, which of course could be the middle of a winter wave?

GOUNDER: I do think we`re looking at an ending right now. Things are declining. I think we might hit that low point in mid to late October. And then we`ll see likely another rise again over the holidays. I`m hoping it won`t be as bad as last year since we`ll have vaccines and other tools at our disposal. But I would just urge everybody to be safe when you see your family and friends and do take precautions.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Celine Gounder, thank you every time you can come on our broadcast. We appreciate it as we do taking our questions and addressing viewer concerns.

Coming up for us. Millions of leaked documents revealing where trillions of dollars have been stashed by some of the biggest names in the world a report on what`s being called the Pandora Papers when we come right back.



WILLIAMS: Millions of leaked financial documents known collectively as the Pandora Papers reportedly expose hundreds of world leaders, politicians, celebrities hiding their wealth in offshore accounts as one does. NPR reports at this way, quote of 12 sitting heads of state implicated most are from low or middle income countries. Our reports tonight from NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell in Paris.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a leak of nearly 12 million confidential documents called the Pandora Papers analyzed by 150 news organizations including the Washington Post, heads of state and other major figures have deposited vast assets offshore to hide billions from tax authorities. NBC News has not been able to verify the documents.

Today the president responding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You decided to fight against corruption in the core of your national security policy. So what is your reaction?

BIDEN: We`re looking at it right now.

MITCHELL (on camera): Why should people care about this 12 million documents?

GREG MILLER, THE WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It means that the wealthy elite, and those who can take advantage of this are paying less in taxes if paying any taxes at all.

MITCHELL (voice-over): According to documents reviewed by the Post, an alleged former ministers of Vladimir Putin became the owner of a luxury apartment in Monaco, financed by Putin`s inner circle of oligarchs and loyal banks. The Kremlin tonight brushing off the claims.

JUAN ZARATE, FMR. DEPURTY NATIONL SECURITY ADVISER: So the big concern for Americans should be Do we know who owns assets in the United States? And what are they doing with that control?

MITCHELL: The paper is also revealing Jordan`s King Abdullah spent more than $106 million on luxury properties in Malibu, California, Washington, DC, and other countries. The purchases are legal but embarrassing given Jordan`s economic crisis.

Jordanian official tells NBC News the king is spending his own money, not public funds, or the millions his country receives in USA.

I asked Secretary of State Blinken about it tonight as he arrived in Paris.

Do you have any reaction to the Pandora Papers.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Welcome to Paris. Nice to see you here.

MITCHELL (on camera): And it`s not only world leaders, Elton John, Ringo Starr and Shakira are also named in the documents. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Paris.


WILLIAMS: And coming up for us when you hear the same voice every night for a couple of decades, that voice becomes a part of your life will remember one of the greats right after this.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From New York, we`ve got our backup generator. It`s the Late Show with David Letterman.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, for all those of us who could not imagine turning in at night without watching Dave first, that was the instantly recognizable voice of Alan Kalter. He was the voice of the Late Show for 20 years. He was the first voice heard at the top of the broadcast every night saying something along the lines of from New York the only city that makes its own gravy, and he was the last voice as he closed out the credits with the words Worldwide Pants.

Kalter had that classic announcer voice which of course was part of the gag part of the setup. And he was always in on the joke, always game no matter what sketches he found himself inserted in. He had a great and pliable comedy face and physicality in the tradition of Don Knotts.

He was classically trained as announcers go. He graduated from Hobart College. He studied law. He taught English and speech at the high school level on Long Island before moving into radio. He was the voice of hundreds of commercials over the years on a lot of game shows, including the $25,000 Pyramid and to tell the truth.

There was nothing better than when Dave called him TV`s uncle Jerry, and it should be said on behalf of all who were guests on that show. Every time felt like going to see the wizard appearing with Dave triggered its own unique set of nerves. But seeing the smiling face of a nice man like Alan Kalter backstage was always the tonic needed in that moment.

Alan Kalter was born in Brooklyn in the middle of World War II. He died just today in Stamford, Connecticut. Alan Kalter was 78 years old.

That is our broadcast for this Monday night along with our thanks for being here with us as we start a new week. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel`s got the night off.