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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 12/3

Guests: Susan Page, Jonathan Lemire, Cynthia Alksne, Stephen Sample, Susan Del Percio, Don Calloway, Doris Kearns Goodwin


More states report cases of new Omicron variant. Deposition postponed for key witness in 1/6 inquiry. Jeffrey Clark indicated he will plead the Fifth. Biden focuses on low unemployment rate. U.S. Marshals, local authorities hunt for parents of Michigan teen charged in high school shooting. WH outlined plan to combat COVID this winter. Health officials raise concerns about community spread of Omicron variant.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Another record drop. All told, in the first 10 full months of my administration, the economy has created 6 million jobs, a record for a new President.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you for joining us this week. THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 318 of the Biden administration. White House and the administration at large on alert tonight as the new variant spreads into all corners of our country.

Sadly, cases of this latest strain have been confirmed in nearly a dozen states. New York Times reporting scientists in South Africa have found Omicron spreading more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, which has been considered the most contagious version of the virus. The Times adds this. It is not yet clear whether Omicron causes more severe disease than other versions of the coronavirus.

Tonight, the CDC Director said the variant could eventually change the nature of this pandemic in our country.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We have about 90,000 new cases a day here in the United States. And right now, 99.9% of them still are the Delta variant. It may very well be that Omicron is able to out compete Delta. We haven`t yet seen any symptoms that are unique to Omicron. The symptoms that are presenting are the very similar symptoms that we have seen with Delta.


WILLIAMS: Problem is, according to the CDC Director, COVID cases in all are rising right along with hospitalizations. We`ll talk to an ER doctor shortly who`s witnessing this firsthand.

There is also news tonight concerning the Capitol riot. The House Committee investigating January 6, says a former Trump Justice Department official will not give a deposition tomorrow as expected but will appear in person on the 16th of December.

The Chair of the 1/6 committee today noted Jeffrey Clark`s postponement was due to "a medical condition and that Clark provided ample evidence of his claim."

Clark, who the Committee says, trying to get the DOJ to act on Trump`s big lie and deny the Biden presidency had already signaled he intended to plead the Fifth.

This week, members voted to refer him for contempt of Congress after he refused to answer questions during his first deposition. Today, we learned another high-profile witness John Eastman, who wrote that memo outlining a plan to overturn the election has also invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.

Politico obtained a 10-page letter to the committee in which Eastman`s lawyer questions legitimacy of the subpoena, and the committee itself, probably not the best way to go. The Committee has requested Eastman to turn over documents and appear for his deposition on the 8th of December.

Congressman Adam Schiff, who sits on the committee says they are determined to hear from both Clark and Eastman.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA JAN. 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: He seems to be following Mr. Clark`s example. We have a great many questions for him. Some of those may, you know, implicate no Fifth Amendment concern, no factual basis for that. So, we will have to see when he comes in whether there is a good faith basis to assert the Fifth, or whether he makes it clear even as to questions in which there is no potential Fifth Amendment privilege that he still intends to refuse to answer questions.

What I find even more extraordinary is you have someone in Clark, who is at the senior most levels of the Justice Department, the Department of Justice, for crying out loud, who is saying that I can`t answer certain questions because it may implicate me in a criminal activity. That, you know, I spent almost six years in the Department of Justice that just takes my breath away.


WILLIAMS: On another front that day started with a mixed bit of news about the state of our economy. 210,000 jobs were created last month. A lot of economists however, expected that number to be well over half a million yet unemployment dropped last month to 4.2%. President says that number is the real indication of the state of our economy.


BIDEN: Today`s news means that unemployment rate has now fallen by more than two percentage points since I took office. That`s the fastest decline in a single year on record. That`s about three times faster than any other president in their first year in office. But we can reflect on an extraordinary bit of progress. Our economy is markedly stronger than it was a year ago. I`ve used every tool available to address price increases, and it`s beginning to work.


WILLIAMS: As you may have heard there, the President sounds awful. He`s fighting a cold. He says he caught from his grandson. White House went out of its way today to assure the press corps, it`s not COVID or anything related releasing a letter from the White House physician saying he had three tests this week that all came back negative.

One more story we`re following tonight, it`s out of Michigan concerning the parents of that 15-year-old charged with this week`s fatal school shooting. James and Jennifer Crumbley were charged with involuntary manslaughter earlier today but failed to show up for an arraignment. At this hour, they are still at large and considered fugitives unless they are found or turn themselves in. Four students were killed in that shooting, several more wounded.


With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests. Our starting line for a Friday night, Jonathan Lemire, Veteran White House Reporter, host of the 5 a.m. broadcast on this network, aptly named Way Too Early, he`s also Politico`s White House Bureau Chief. Susan Page, seasoned journalist and author and Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today. And Cynthia Alksne, former Federal Prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Susan, first question goes to you. What will this new phase of the pandemic do to the best laid plans of the Biden presidency, their domestic agenda?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, of course, Joe Biden was elected with a promise with a job one of bringing the pandemic under control. And I think there was a three-year brief shining moment earlier this year when we thought that was just around the corner. That`s not the case. Omicron is an unwelcome reminder that the pandemic is here, it`s here to stay for some time we`re learning to deal with it. Although we`re very weary of mask mandates.

It affects everything else. It affects the economy. It affects education. It affects the nation`s mood, which is turned pretty sour. It affects the President`s approval rating, which affect his ability to get things done. So, the idea that it`s going to be over anytime soon, we can just shelf that for good. We`re going to be living with this for some time. And that is I think sobering news for President Biden.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, this White House has had several different campaigns several different plans to fight COVID. Their latest may very well be dated by the slow-moving arrival of this apparently virulent new strain, where to go from here?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Brian, first allow me a personal note to say thank you for not just a brilliant show, but for providing such a platform for journalists. I know I will always value your friendship and support. We`ll miss you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you my friend, I got you.

LEMIRE: As for the virulent here and the presidency, the speed of this is it really an important point, as you just noted. In fact, the winter COVID plan that we heard the President outlined yesterday, frankly, was in the works before this new variant was in on anyone`s radar, due to the surge in cases that the U.S. has already seen from the Delta variant, which is still the dominant variant and deadly throughout the country, losing more than 1000 Americans a day to it.

And it`s still not quite clear how severe the Omicron is, although the White House and the administration rightly are preparing for the worst. Cases are springing up everywhere. We heard of -- there`s going to be insurance picking up the cost of testing. We saw the mask mandates on public transit, going to be extended until March, a renewed push for Americans to get vaccinated, get your boosters. And that, of course, has been the problem throughout, is that there`s so many of our fellow citizens refused to get the shots, particularly Republicans, particularly those who live in GOP strongholds, much to the frustration of the President as advisors.

But yesterday, he really tried to rally the nation together and say, look, this is not a time for politics. This virus is still with us. We are now facing another long winter, in its grasp, we need to get together.

But at a final point, they still have a few tools left in their toolbox they could use. There`s a possibility of an expansion of the vaccination mandates. The President left that door open yesterday, even as his current ones are tied up in court, and also the possibility at least not yet. And he said today he wasn`t willing to go there yet, of vaccination required for domestic travel airplanes, trains, buses, and so on. He said that right now he feels like that`s not needed. But he signaled to me later on the day, they`re not taking anything off the table just yet but wait and see how bad this is.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia Alksne, let`s jump into the mire of this 1/6 committee. I know what we`re told not to say when people take the Fifth, what it means and does not necessarily mean but this isn`t a great look, is it for two attorneys to both take the Fifth about their knowledge of 1/6? And the second part of the question is, what should the committee do?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, first of all, they should always have taken the Fifth. And I think they would have but for the political optics of it, right? Because they`ve danced around, and they`ve played games with all kinds of different privileges and excuses about the House Committee.


But at its core, it`s always been a Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment assertion. And Bannon should have taken the Fifth. I mean these are a bunch of people who were involved in a conspiracy to overthrow a legitimately elected government. They were hanging out in the War Room, at the Willard Hotel, they were talking to President Trump. They were talking to each other. They had their -- they`re all little rooms, they were calling different secretaries of state. And so, of course, they should take the Fifth Amendment.

As a lawyer, I tell them to do that. As an American, I`m dying to get them in a corner and find out what happened. And I want them to tell us. The problem is that once they assert their Fifth Amendment right, and if it`s a good faith assertion, which I think it is, because I do think they should be prosecuted for this conspiracy. There`s not a lot the committee can do. They can try to get the documents. They can get the underlying data. The Fifth Amendment won`t protect all of that.

But an assertion of the Fifth Amendment is an important write that every American has. And fortunately, there are a lot of other people who seem to know things. There are underlings, there are, you know, the people who worked for them, there`s a lot of documentation, their cell phone records, there`s a lot of other ways that we`re going to be able to go forward.

My only big concern is that the Committee doesn`t start handing out immunity, because once they do that, they really end up screwing up the criminal, any future criminal case. And that`s the way Oliver North got off. And I don`t want to see anybody get off in this case.

WILLIAMS: All right, interesting. I hadn`t heard that take.

Hey, Susan, back to politics. The GOP has taught us a lot over the past five or six years. We`ve learned you can invite Russians to your convention in Cleveland, we`ve learned you don`t need to have a party platform at all. And he mentioned of it at your party convention. Mitch McConnell just said, there will be no GOP legislative agenda announced in the Senate but road blocking, they have gone deep on. They tried to block the government funding yesterday, by going after vaccine mandates. Is that a brand? Can it be a policy? Can it be a governing ideal?

PAGE: Well, it may not be a governing ideal, but it can be an election ideal, running against the incumbents, criticizing the Democratic platform without laying out specifics about what you would do instead, that is, in fact, a strategy that some success in the past elections tend to be -- these elections that we will see in the midterms, I think next year will -- are often really referenda on the people who are in power at the moment, that`s Democrat.

And that is the strategy that Republicans have decided to pursue. If they win control of Congress, as they hope to do, it doesn`t put them in a very strong position to get anything done on their own because they want to explain to voters what it is they would do if they got power, but it may put them in a pretty good position to win that power in the first place.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, it appears Biden has been more aggressive on messaging, not necessarily sending surrogates out, as so many in the bass believe he should have been doing for many, many weeks. But trying to get more aggressive, pointing out the victories in the economy. The problems with that, it seems to me number one, if people aren`t feeling it, it doesn`t feel like a great time economically. And number two, he`s competing with a megaphone. And who`s ever dog is barking in the background.

LEMIRE: No, pup here, sadly. Yeah, the President has rightly is, indeed. And we note this. My colleagues and I wrote about this for Politico this week, being far more aggressive. This is deliberate from aids on Twitter to the President himself. They`re going after Republicans really trying to draw sharp contrasts, trying to paint the GOP as the party of obstructionists when it comes to the economic recovery, but also battling the pandemic for opposing these vaccine mandates, for almost shutting down the government over vaccines.

We had Florida Senator Scott, the other day tell the Wall Street Journal, that inflation was a good thing for the Republicans politically, because it will be damaging to the incumbent party. And as the White House puts it out, those are not people who are rooting for America. So, we have seen a far tougher tone from the president in recent days, as you said, some Democrats feel like this should have happened weeks and months ago, but that`s not really the President`s gut instinct. He`s much more of trying to reach across the aisle in a bipartisan deal making but he`s been on the attack.

Now, look, he and his team, they can read poll numbers, and they right now know that he`s not doing great. The economic news today very mixed with that jobs report or certainly belief that revisions will cause today`s report to look better than it was at first glance and but more than anything they know his political fortunes and therefore the Democrats sure it`s about his legislation and getting the rest of the Build Back Better Act of the Senate. But more than anything, it`s tied to the pandemic.


And if COVID cases continue to rise, his numbers will continue to fall. Even if it`s not his fault. And he has said that. He recognizes. He`s the president. The buck stops with him.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, back to your legal experience, and specifically this tragic, awful, disgusting shooting, the school shooting in Oxford, Michigan. Maybe we should have taken a hint when the parents appeared at their son`s first court appearance on zoom from the front seat of their car. They are on the -- they`re on the loose tonight. There is a be on the lookout out for them. The feds have just posted a $10,000 reward. What do you make of this case? It is obviously unique. It is obviously tragic, including but not limited to the behavior and comments of the prosecutor?

ALKSNE: Well, I think that the parents will be arrested very soon, and they will be held in jail pending trial because now they`ve established that they`re a flight risk. That`s number one. The FBI will find them. The marshals will find them, that`s what they do. And they`re very good at it.

The evidence is pretty compelling that they were recklessly indifferent to the fact that their child was in crisis. It appears that my dog might know they`re outside. I`m sorry, I can`t get out.


ALKSNE: They were recklessly indifferent to the fact that their son was in crisis. And they gave him a gun for Christmas early and after Black Friday sale. And they were cavalier about the fact that he was looking for ammunition and writing these notes. And four children are dead. And it`s outrageous. I will say it could be a difficult case at trial, because you`ve got to have a jury who`s going to make the decision on whether or not that was reckless on their part. It`s not the prosecutors call ultimately. It will be a jury`s call. I -- if I were I on the jury, I would vote for it. But that doesn`t necessarily mean every juror will feel the same way.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, Susan Page, Cynthia Alksne, and Cynthia`s dog are front for tonight, great thanks for starting off our conversation tonight. She`s about to get her mom back.

Coming up for us, what if we had a way to stop COVID but didn`t try it. One of our frontline doctors, as we said says that`s exactly what`s happening as ICU`s in his state are filling back up. He`ll bring us a report from the front lines.

And later, is our foundational fundamental democracy, really on the ropes? We`ll ask presidential historian and author, Doris Kearns Goodwin to put it all in perspective for us. All of it as the 11th Hour just getting underway on this Friday night, Christmas time approaching at the White House.




DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Once it gets in there, it will likely under the radar scheme be spreading no matter what you do to keep people out or not. That`s the way viruses work. We saw that happen with Delta. I do hope that Omicron doesn`t have that kind of advantage, particularly if it turns out to be serious.


WILLIAMS: Dr. Fauci today on where we all may be headed. The first case was confirmed in the U.S. just two days ago. And in two days, we`re up to 11 states and tomorrow there will be more, and it`s spreading as hospitals are dealing with -- let`s not forget, cases of the last current variant of concern, Delta.

So back with us again tonight in the closing minutes of his birthday night no less is Dr. Stephen Sample. He`s an E.R. physician at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, Indiana, also a volunteer clinical faculty member at Indiana University School of Medicine.

So, Doctor, you tweeted this, I guess, yesterday. And it reads in part, "Ah, the crowdsourcing for ICU beds on Facebook time of the year has started back up. Yay."

It is incredible that we are seeing this. What are you seeing now where you work? And importantly, how does right now compare with the battle days the absolute height of the pandemic?

DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Good evening, Brian. Thanks. It`s good to talk to you again. We`re kind of back where we were August, August coming into September. We are ramping up very rapidly. Cases in Indiana are up by 50% over the last couple of weeks, hospitalizations are up. Everything is going back up and up.

And yeah, I tweeted that. You know, I`m on Facebook, like most old parts of my generation. And physicians have groups, you know, we congregate by specialty. We congregate by interests and things like that. And one of the recurring themes throughout this pandemic has been the physician who comes online and says, hey, I`m in, you know, XYZ, Minnesota. I`ve got a patient who`s been intubated in my E.R. for three days. I`ve called 40 hospitals, nobody`s helping me. Can somebody help.

And so, as a Facebook community, we are actually crowdsourcing these beds. Some of your viewers will probably remember, Daniel Wilkinson, he was the Army veteran with two Purple Hearts who died of a gallstone back in August. We crowdsource the bed for him. Well, we were just too late. And he survived two wars but died of a gallstone. So, we`re back to that point again.

WILLIAMS: I have a graphic here of where our country stands right now, as of tonight. So, 70.6% of all Americans have received at least one dose, just under 60% see themselves as fully vaccinated, and just over 20% have received the booster dose. I know I`ve asked you this question in various forms before, but is the death toll and the shortage of ICU beds in your state, likely to change the minds of any Hoosiers who have not gotten vaccinated and didn`t have any plans to?

SAMPLE: You know, Brian, I think at this point, the battle lines have been drawn. I was talking to Eric, your producer earlier about this. And I just don`t know how we cross that bridge and change these minds. And so, what is happening? What I`m seeing personally, is people are having their minds change one of the time, you know, people come to me in their 40s, their 50s, and their 60s and they are sucking wind, they are short of breath and as a physician watching someone struggle for air is one of the scariest things because it makes you feel really powerless.


And these people have asked me several times, hey, you know, can I get the vaccine now? And I`m like, you know, no, brother, it`s too late now. And a lot of these people are realizing one of the time as they get sick, or their mom gets sick, that they have gambled their health on a lie, and it takes them personally getting touched by it before they change their behavior. So right now, I think that, you know, most of us are being held hostage by about 35% of us who will just not get with the program.

WILLIAMS: And I want to emphasize, again to our viewers this whole conversation is about the Delta variant. This is about the existing illness in our country. This next bit I`m going to read is about the Omicron. What`s coming, what`s next?

This is from The Daily Beast. The surge in South Africa, hitting children under five, "when asked about the extraordinary numbers of children being admitted to hospital, a South African government adviser said she suspected there might be a, `immunity gap,` and that the lack of vaccination of children might account for the numbers." I am assuming, in your line of work, you find such a thing possible, plausible, understandable?

SAMPLE: For sure, you know, and we`re looking at Africa, which unfortunately, their rates of vaccination are, I think, on the order of 10%, as opposed to our 60 or so percent in the state. So clearly, that`s a wide difference. But we do worry about the kids. But, you know, we know how to do this. So, it may be that we find that Omicron affects kids more often and they get sick at a higher rate. We still have to do this the same way. We have to build a protective bubble around our kids. We have to be vaccinated around them. Their big brothers and big sisters that get qualified -- that are qualified to get vaccinated need to be vaccinated. The fewer times our children are exposed to the virus, the less likely they are to get sick, nothing is changed.

These just the, you know, the -- we`re talking about the fine points of transmissibility and violence. But in the end, we know how to do this. We do. We just have to hold the line.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Stephen Sample, wishing you a Happy Birthday as we wish you strength on the job and continue to salute the work you do. Thank you very much for coming on and taking our questions again tonight.

Coming up for us, we`ve done it so many times these past few years, we`ll assess another consequential week in the history of our country with an actual historian.




JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: The Senate sponsor said, "we`re doing it because we have new justices on the Supreme Court." Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don`t see how it is possible.


WILLIAMS: To that dramatic point this week from Justice Sotomayor, there are renewed rumblings that Democrats might consider making changes to the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post reporting it this way. This week`s Supreme Court argument on abortion has accelerated an urgency among Senate Democrats to fundamentally alter how the court operates, fueled in part by lingering anger over Republican confirmation maneuvers that have led to three new conservative justices in the past four years.

Two of our friends are back with us tonight, Don Calloway, Democratic Strategist, Founder of the National Voter Protection Action Fund. And Susan Del Percio, MSNBC Political Analyst, and a Veteran Political Strategist. Good evening to you both.

Susan, this is a layup shot for you. Let me put it this way. Who thinks that a party that was clowned into putting Kavanaugh and Barrett on the court that still acts as if McConnell is in charge of the filibuster is going to gather the votes, the guts and the ability to somehow pack or alter in any way the Supreme Court?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, now that I hear this an urgency from Senate Democrats to do it, I know they will write a strongly worded op-ed for several major newspapers and make their anger known and then do absolutely nothing because there`s nothing they can do. That sentence at the beginning of that Washington Post piece could have gone to anything, whether it be voting rights, police reform, gun safety reform.

You have to -- it`s critical that the Democrats now take on the fights they can win. They have to stop saying we want to break the filibuster. We want to change it this way, because they`re not doing it. And they`re just reminding the public right now, how dysfunctional things are. I actually want the Democrats to stay in control because they are governing, and they believe in democracy. But they have to stop wanting to face defeat and look for victories.

WILLIAMS: Don Calloway, if the court overturns Roe, the case in chief, the law of the land for close to half a century, in your view, what happens in America?

DON CALLOWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that middle class people and people of means, and rich folks will still have access to abortion and prenatal care and any number of reproductive services that come along with that. I think that poor people, people from marginalized communities will be undergoing existential threats to their reproductive safety to their pre-maternal health, all types of stuff.

Now, folks who want to get abortions will still be able to get abortions. Folks who don`t have access to resources to be able to receive any number of services that are provided at places which provide abortion services as a small fraction of what they do, they will be cut off from a broad variety of maternal health services, sexual health and wellness and reproduction services. And the gap between people with access to resources and access and without access will continue to broaden in this country.

WILLIAMS: Susan, I got something for you. Listen to this exchange with Republican Leader McCarthy from today.



LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS: Are Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar and Lauren Boebert distractions to winning back the majority next year?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA MINORITY LEADER: It`s things we would not want to deal with. It is things that the American people want to focus on stopping inflation, gas prices and others and anything that deviates from that causes problems. Yeah.


WILLIAMS: Wow, Susan, that`s his closest he`s come to party discipline in a long time, could he have seen some fresh polling?

DEL PERCIO: While he probably has, but let`s not forget, he`s still not willing to condemn those members for their behavior, because he`s astutely aware of what happened back in 2015, when he was up for speaker, and then said the truth, Brian, that the Benghazi hearings were meant to hurt Hillary Clinton, that might cause him a loss. And I think at this point, he`s willing to say whatever he can to please whoever he has to at the time.

WILLIAMS: Don Calloway, I got something for you. Here is Congresswoman Boebert on Newsmax.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT, (R) COLORADO: I do want to make it a priority to take a moment, and thank the millions of Americans, especially my constituents, who have shown their love and support for me over the last few days. I`ve received positive calls, emails and letters, and they`ve meant the world to me, even I`ve received a couple of calls from President Trump. And I really want to say thank you to everyone. It is just meant so much to me.


WILLIAMS: Don, how nice is it that a former president takes the time to call a freshman member of Congress to say in effect, I`ve got your back and I have your back on Islamophobia.

CALLOWAY: And this is what they do. You know, there was a time when I was much older many years ago, when I aspired to be a member of Congress. I can`t imagine that being a good use of my time, or anyone who`s thought time right now, particularly knowing that you are in league with a confederacy of such people and that this is what the partisan house has come through. It`s actually quite a shame because she`s representative of a growing section of a whole lot of folks in our two-party system.

WILLIAMS: To any of our viewers who fear that Don`s sweatshirt has a misspelling on it. It tells me you haven`t been to southeast Kansas, where I had my first reporting job at KOAM television, Pittsburg, Kansas, home of the competing chicken restaurants, Chicken Annie`s, and Chicken Mary`s I lived happily in Joplin, Missouri just over the border.

Don is kind enough and smart enough to have done his research and purchased yet another sweatshirt for which I`m probably on the hook. But it`s hard to find friends like these. It`s hard to find folks to hang out with you on a Friday night and pass along such kindness at the same time. Friends thank you both, Don Calloway, Susan Del Percio. Don, I am on to you.

Coming up for us, John Adams once wrote, "Democracy never last long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself." Yet presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says there`s still a chance for survival. She`s with us next.




MARC ELIAS, VOTING RIGHTS ATTORNEY: We have to be a lot more aggressive in realizing that democracy is not a given state of affairs. It is not a natural state of affairs and we could as easily lose our democracy as we could keep it.


WILLIAMS: That warning today from the very capable voting rights attorney, busy man as well, Marc Elias. Next week, the President will lead a summit for democracy with world leaders. There`s a thought but as the New Yorker points out, "Biden`s global democracy summit raises an awkward question: Can ours endure?"

Back with us tonight, Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and author who has written bestsellers about both Roosevelt`s, Kennedy`s, LBJ, Lincoln, her latest work is appropriately enough, Leadership in Turbulent Times.

And Doris, as you know, we call this broadcast the 11th Hour. So, here`s the question. If life is a clock face, and democracy runs out at midnight, where do you reckon the clock is right about now?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think what history can tell us is that the clock is not as close to running out as it was in 1861, when 11 states had seceded from the Union, and the Civil War was about to begin that would kill 600,000 people, maybe not as close as it was in 1940, when Hitler conquered almost all of Western Europe in the space of a week and fascism and dictatorship seemed on the rise compared to democracy. But it is as close to midnight as anything that I`ve seen in my lifetime.

And I think the only answer to it, is that democracy is a system that depends on people choosing their own governors, the fight for the right to vote has to be the central fight that people are fighting in this country. Without that, and with the state legislatures being able to overturn the counting of the elections, which undoes the peaceful transition of democracy, which has been the hallmark since old George Washington, then I think we really are in trouble. But it`s a fight that can be fought and has to be fought.

WILLIAMS: You`ve always said about your work that when you`re writing the biography of presidents, it`s akin to living with them, they surround you, you immerse yourself in their lives and thoughts. So that being the case of the presidents you have written about, what kind of advice would they give Joe Biden right about now?

KEARNS GOODWIN: I think the first thing that old Abraham Lincoln would say is that public sentiment is the most important thing that he who shapes public sentiment has more power, really than he who enacts in statutes. So that means that you have to educate the public about why voting rights is not a partisan battle. LBJ would contribute to that by saying as he did in Selma, at what`s a joint session of Congress speech, that the right to vote is not a northern right, not a southern right, not a state`s right, not a national, right. It`s not a moral right, it is absolutely wrong to deny your fellow Americans the right to vote. You`ve got to create that public sentiment that will then argue in the state legislatures.

Some state legislatures have already expanded the vote. That`s an important thing to recognize, even as we recognize those that have suppressed it. And it is the fight of our lifetime in my judgement. And you`ve just got to create public sentiment. Maybe all Lyndon Johnson would bring all those Democrats into the White House and not let them come out without sleeping until they somehow figured out what to do about that filibuster, the wavering Democrat so that the right to vote and the People`s Act, For The People Act and get before the people. If it gets before the people in the Congress, it will pass.

WILLIAMS: Let me take your point on educating the Republican ask you how we get younger voters to venerate democracy as us older folks do to care at the thought, the mere mention that it might go south?


KEARNS GOODWIN: Yeah. There was just a recent poll by the IOP at Harvard, where younger voters are recognizing that democracy is in trouble. But there`s a percentage of them who don`t worry that that`s a mark of America. I mean, somehow, I think people who`ve lived, as we have, through much more troubling times, may recognize where we are right now. And younger people have not experienced that. So, it`s a matter of teaching them in school. It`s a matter of that old civics thing that we older people keep talking about. It`s a matter of all of us on social media really talking about something that seems abstract democracy, but it`s part of our everyday life.

And I faith that younger people came out in that last election in greater numbers than ever before. They`re committed to environmental causes. They`re activist in their local communities. And we got too dependent on. These older folks, we got to depend on them. And I guess I really do in the end.

WILLIAMS: Our guest tonight, Doris Kearns Goodwin has kindly agreed to stay with us over a break. When we come back and continue our discussion more on our democracy, if we can keep it when we come back.


WILLIAMS: We`re back with our guests. The celebrated historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Doris, we looked back, you were with us on day 101 of the Biden administration. On that night`s broadcast, you made the point that you compare the aspirations of the new President and his administration to those of LBJ when he took over after JFK was assassinated, and you talked about how narrow a window presidents have, especially in our modern era to get things done. How`s it looking for President Biden on this day, 318?

KEARNS GOODWIN: I think it`s really important for him to recognize that these weeks and months ahead are absolutely critical. I mean going back to Lyndon Johnson, he won by 15 million votes and then he told his White House staff in the days that followed, you better get your asses off the ground and get my bills through because there`s probably only a certain amount of time. I`ll start losing votes week after week, month after month.


And what happened in those nine months, he got everything in the great society through including voting rights. And then the Democrats in the next midterm election, lost lots of seats, the escalation of the war, and the backlash to civil rights and voting rights meant that that was the high tide of liberalism. Ronald Reagan wins the governorship in California. So, this is the time that that President Biden has to get his legislation through. Even if you don`t know what`s going to happen in the midterms, that window of opportunity is going to close.

It closed for FDR. I mean, he knew too, that when he put that first emergency session of Congress into play to deal with the banking crisis, and then he sort of momentum is here, I better keep it going. It keeps it going for 100 days, that`s the famous New Deal. So, time is of the essence. And that has to happen now.

But may I just say to you, that to be able to talk to you about history as all of us who love it and have found a home here in the 11th Hour, we will sorely miss putting daily events into this historic context as you allow us to do.

WILLIAMS: I could take you to the place in my house where you can see nothing but your books in a certain coveted and separated section of the shelf goes without saying longtime fan, what a treat. It`s meant to be able to have regular conversations with you on the air for the better part of 40 years. We`ll remain friends. I`ll see you down the road, and I`ll read whatever you write.

Our guest tonight has been the great Doris Kearns Goodwin, thank you so much.

KEARNS GOODWIN: Oh, my God, thank you for everything.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, Doris and I are, as they say, old enough to remember being taught in school that Canadians are our friendly neighbors to the north. Well, tonight, I want to offer you proof of that when we come right back.




BRIAN WILLIAMS, TSN SPORTSCASTER: Hi, I`m Brian Williams born in the pack and proud of it, the great city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, now living in Toronto.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, that man is the reason why whenever I`m visiting Canada and make a dinner reservation, they always look disappointed. When I show up if you live in Canada, if you grew up Canadian or just watching Canadian TV, there is only one Brian Williams as it should be. And that would be the beloved veteran sportscaster, Brian Williams. He has worked for CBC, CTV and most recently TSN.

Brian has covered it all. He is synonymous with Olympic coverage in Canada, but to call him the Bob Costas of our neighbors to the north isn`t enough. He has covered all sports from horse racing to Major League Baseball and has the awards and accolades to show for it. For starters, he`s a recipient of the Order of Canada.

And because this is apparently the season for all those named Brian Williams to make major life decisions. Canada`s Brian Williams, my friend Brian Williams has announced he`s retiring after 50 years in television.

As I never miss a chance to remind him, he`s been doing this way longer than I have. In fact, here is an early gem of young Brian wearing headphones and what appears to be the carcass of a live bear.


(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: From CNA Stadium in Toronto. Hello, everyone. I`m Brian Williams, and welcome to the 1975 Canadian College Football Championship.


WILLIAMS: The two of us were aware of each other and had corresponded but had never met until I arrived on his turf, the magnificent Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver 11 years ago now and when we met, we were short a milk it for the cameras.



WILLIAMS: Brian? Brian Williams.

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: Brian Williams. How are you?

WILLIAMS: Good to see you.

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: Good to see you. Welcome to our country.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: Now, would you come up to our studio?

WILLIAMS: I`d love to see how you live.

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: Well. I`d like you to introduce our primetime show.

WILLIAMS: Oh, that would be great.

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: All right. Went into our studio.

WILLIAMS: I have seen your shots from here.

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: Yeah, I`m usually here alone when there`s two- way. Why don`t you sit down here?


(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: Yeah, I`d be honored here.

WILLIAMS: And welcome back to continuing coverage CTV Primetime with Brian Williams. I`m Brian Williams sitting in for Brian Williams tonight. First off is --

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: No, there`s one thing you got to do. You got to give the time.

WILLIAMS: Listen, folks, I can`t give the time because we`re taping this in broad daylight.

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: And as we wrap up for all of us in Vancouver, I`m Brian Williams.

WILLIAMS: And I`m Brian Williams.

(THE OTHER) BRIAN WILLIAMS: And for both of us, good night from Vancouver.

WILLIAMS: Great job. Thanks.



WILLIAMS: To all my fellow Americans, if you know one thing about Canadian Brian Williams, please know what an incredibly nice and humble man he is. And how lucky his grandkids now are. Congratulations to our friendly neighbor to the north, on a life well lived and for 50 years on the job.

That is our humble broadcast for this Friday night and for this week and it comes with our thanks for being here with us. Have a good weekend, unless you have other plans. Be safe out there. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.