IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 2/15/2021

Guest: Neal Katyal, David Plouffe, Stephen Sample�


Nancy Pelosi is pushing for 9/11 style panel to probe capitol riot. Mitch McConnell is facing backlash for criticizing Trump after voting to acquit him. Donald Trump is facing multiple potential legal bottles. President Joe Biden moves ahead in aftermath of Trump trial. Biden looks to put impeachment in the rearview. Biden`s agenda faces early hurdles in a divided Congress. CDC recommends middle and high schools be virtual only unless mitigation strategies can be met.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Elizabeth Drew, thank you very -- that final point of illumination about those Republicans going down in the White House for Nixon is so important. I did not know that. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Elizabeth Drew gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 27 of the Biden administration. And with the impeachment drama now over, the President has truly entered the post Trump era. The White House and Democrats in Congress beginning a full court press now to make Biden`s agenda a reality, first order of business being his almost $2 trillion COVID relief plan, which he`ll be pitching in earnest and in person to the American public this week.

Biden hits the road tomorrow heads to Wisconsin, a state he flipped by about 20,000 heavily litigated votes. He`ll be in Michigan on Thursday. Today he released his message on social media.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Today we`re living through another long dark winter in our nation`s history, combating a deadly virus, joblessness, hunger, racial injustice, violent extremism, hopelessness and despair. But I know we`ll get through this. I know better days are ahead. I know it because I know the story of the history of the journey this nation.


WILLIAMS: Biden`s relief plan may end up being a Democrat`s only bill, of course, they control both chambers, they could pass it with a simple majority if necessary.

NBC News reports Biden`s also getting an immigration reform bill ready, looking for congressional Democrats to help push that through as well.

Key elements will include a pathway to citizenship for those undocumented, expanding refugee resettlement, more technology to patrol the southern border in lieu of a wall.

Wall Street Journal reports that even though Biden and the Democrats are in full court press mode, Republicans now have the freedom to ramp up their opposition quote by the Sunday morning after the impeachment trial, it was clear that one cause will be to rally in opposition to Mr. Biden`s agenda.

While Trump second impeachment may be history, the fallout aftershocks from the trial and the riot that set it in motion, all intensifying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moving forward now with a plan for a 9/11 style independent commission to investigate report on the insurrection. She also wants more funding to protect the Capitol and the lawmakers inside it.

Meanwhile, one of the 43 Republican senators who acquitted Trump gave this extraordinary interpretation of the events of 1/6 during a radio interview just this morning.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI) ON CAPITOL RIOT: The fact the matter is, this didn`t seem like an armed insurrection to me. If that wasn`t a plan arms direction, man, you`re really a bunch of idiots. I`m sitting back my office watching video of the armed insurrectionists staying within the lines inside the Capitol. I`m seeing a bunch of people milling about. You know, it wasn`t until I really saw that video in the trial that you really saw, you know, what was happening and how officers got injured.


WILLIAMS: Unbelievable explanation from Ron Johnson, which we`ve had translated from the original Russian of course. If you were watching on Saturday, you saw Mitch McConnell convict Trump in his speech moments after acquitting him. The guy who held off the trial until Trump left the presidency said they just couldn`t convict Trump because he had left the presidency.

Tonight McConnell has a new Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal, apparently written by Gaslight, responding to complaints that his scheduling decisions somehow affected the Senate`s ability to actually remove Trump from office before he left on January 20.

"Consider the claims that I could have steered around the jurisdictional issue by recalling the Senate between January 14 and 20 while Mr. Trump was still in office. The salient date is not the trial start but the end when the penalty of removal from office must be possible. No remotely fair or regular Senate process could have started and finished in less than one week," said McConnell after the week long trial.

The Senate fell 10 votes short of the 67 needed to convict Trump of inciting insurrection. And ABC News Ipsos poll showing 58% of our fellow voters say Trump should have been convicted. Trump has made no on camera comments since the acquittal in his statement he issued Saturday night he signaled he`s not done with politics. He was back on the golf course in West Palm Beach today. Local Trumpers throw him a mini ego boost parade. He was visible waving from inside his armored Chevy Suburban just across the intercostal waterway from Mar-a-Lago resort.

With that and it`s a lot, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Monday night and for this week, Phil Rucker, Pulitzer-Prize winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post, A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor, Columnist for Real Clear Politics, and Neal Katyal, Department of Justice Veteran, former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama years. He`s argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court.

A.B., I think you knew this was coming. You`re going first. Senator Lindsey Graham called for the future party to be something akin to his words, Trump plus. Now considering Trump plus or Trump minus lost the White House, House Senate. How do you reckon they`re going to try to win elections with Trump plus a kind of super unleaded?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: Right. I don`t think right now they`re worried about the people that we see in polling that appealed off from the insurrection in the trial. I think they`re just thinking that they are so afraid of those voters who are enacting all these purity tests at the local parties and state party level centering members who voted for impeachment, and they just want to make sure that they tell those devotees, they`re in their corner, and they`re not going to abandon President Trump, even though Lindsey Graham told us that he was going to on January 6. So I think that sort of panic scramble to cement the base is top of mind. And you see that from deranged comments like Senator Ron Johnson, the white washing of the insurrection. And it really tells you about where they think they have to clean. I mean, they see the polls, do they know that there`s been this erosion since January 6. In some cases since November 3, and that Trump lost the Republicans, the Georgia runoffs, but they`re going to claim to the 70% that remain because they think that without that they have nothing.

WILLIAMS: So Neal Katyal, McConnell got up and gave a speech that was kind of locked him up. Not that McConnell wanted to do that he was suggesting it for others. We have a graphic showing other legal matters already in the pipeline, to use a legal term, are any of these worth a damn if that is your goal?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Very much. So I think Donald Trump`s gone from a one -- fighting a one front war with impeachment to fighting a three front one. So you`ve got criminal activity now and investigations. And that`s both at the federal and state and local level, you have the possibility of a 14th amendment solution to try and bar Trump from future office holding. And now today you have the Speaker of the House announcing this January 6 commission, and that commission very well may have the power to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department. And in the past, you know, those went nowhere because Bill Barr was the Attorney General, but Bill Barr is not the Attorney General anymore. And this kind of metastasizing, Brian, is what happens when you don`t get a clean victory and Trump got anything but the clean victory on Saturday. I think he got the reverse. I mean, just a week ago before the trial began, the Trump folks were all predicting major victory point into the two-thirds vote that would be necessary under the Constitution.

They never quite predicted what would happen, first, the spellbinding presentation by the House managers. Second, pretty much the opposite by the Trump lawyers. Third, seven Republican lawyers -- seven Republican senators, excuse me, seeking to -- voting to convict Donald Trump, and then 43 acquittals, but on a technicality that they didn`t have jurisdiction. And indeed, many of them said Trump didn`t like McConnell. And that`s really the exclamation point. So at this point, even the Wall Street Journal, Op-Ed editorial page agrees that Trump is toxic, and pretty soon the only sympathetic outlets Trump`s going to have left is the one he started with Russia today.

WILLIAMS: So Phil Rucker, is there a new GOP strategy or is it way too early? Do they all need to see where the pieces fall and in plain English, because they are who they are, how much trouble these seven senators get in?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: You know, Brian, it`s way too early to see if the party itself has a new strategy. But for right now, the strategy seems to be Trump plus, as Lindsey Graham laid it out. I mean, you do not see much movement in this Republican Party. And of those seven senators, I believe only one, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is facing judgment from the voters in the next two years cycle. She`ll be up for reelection in 2022. And she of course has survived enter Republican battles before she got reelected last time as a write-in candidate because she had lost to a Tea Party candidate, the Republican nomination.

So look, Republicans who are facing the ballot are still sticking with Trump as of now. Things could change, of course. And a lot of that depends on, you know, these court cases and what sort of a presence former President Trump is going to be having in politics on the national stage in the next several months. But clearly, there`s a desire by Republican leaders to move on from Trump. Mitch McConnell certainly feels that desire, but they`re unwilling to really break from him and to articulate it out loud because as he was saying, they`re so fearful of these Trump devotees, the millions of them out in their states and in their congressional districts.

WILLIAMS: And A. B. indeed, let`s go one step deeper, that Burr and Cassidy were immediately censored by their home state parties tells you everything you need to know may tell us a lot about home state parties where the rubber meets the road. The big lie lives on in so many people and so many places. And this piggybacks on our first exchange, how is a party going to win on that?

STODDARD: Well, Brian, I`m going to be brief because meandering filibuster of mine last week precluded final comments from Phil Rucker. So I just want to quickly say, I am really alarmed, stepping back from impeachment, where we focused on the insurrection to see that there are only fewer than a dozen, I mean, two handfuls maybe in the Senate and the House. And I`ll include McConnell who voted to convict because he has called the Trump lie. He`s called out that they lie. We`re willing to tell the voters, you have been lied to. And we are in the middle of a mass delusion. The Attorney General of Indiana has now just been flagged on Twitter for a tweet about the stolen election that that Twitter says could spur violence. We really are just in the beginning of what this big lie has done.

WILLIAMS: Councilor, Neal, I want to show you two members of Congress who we got to know as managers we`re proud around here, both of them are veteran guests on this broadcast. Here are Plaskett and Neguse with Rachel Maddow tonight on the subject of why no witnesses.


DEL STACEY PLASKETT, (D) U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS IMPEACHMENT MANGER: I know that so many people felt that, you know, maybe if we had more witnesses, it could have changed more senators. But I think as you`re seeing the statements come out of those 43 individuals, we know that there was no additional witness that was going to change their mind, we felt that we had made our case overwhelmingly, was able to get in the additional statement and rested our case.

REP. JOE NEGUSE, (D) COLORADO IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: It was fairly clear to us that any witnesses that you know, might have some probative evidence to share could very well end up tying at the impeachment in litigation for months, perhaps years.


WILLIAMS: Neal, I need two answers from you. Your honest personal opinion, were you bullied but then crushed when you woke up that morning and learn that by dint of Sheldon Whitehouse having spoken up overnight, it was gaining currency, it was gaining traction until it did not until they cut a deal, no witnesses. The second part of the answer I`d like is how much shenanigans to Congressman Neguse`s point, how much shenanigans could the minority have come up with? Can they truly have bollocks this up for weeks?

KATYAL: So I was boiled on Saturday morning, Brian, because I thought finally we might hear the truth and we might hear witnesses that would not just humanize the story, but I wanted to hear from Pence. I wanted to hear from Trump. I think the American people deserve that. Now I do think the House managers did an exquisite job and they`re right to say in the end, the problem wasn`t the facts. They overwhelmingly prove the facts. But I do think humanizing is a good thing.

Now, with respect to the second part of your question, I think the New York Times has reported that senators such as Joni Ernst and others threatened to shut down the business of the Senate. If they had witnesses to the point of saying no nominees, no COVID legislation and things like that, which is to me, unbelievable, they need to be held accountable for this. The idea that they were so -- the Republicans were so afraid of the truth that they were willing to prevent coronavirus legislation and, you know, people from getting confirmed and the like. But here`s the deal, at the end of the day, the fact that there are no witnesses, we can make lemonade out of these lemons because that just invites then further proceedings in which we do have witnesses, whether they`re criminal proceedings or 14th amendment proceedings, or something like that. The American people really should hear from Trump under oath as to what happened.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Rucker, you`ve been recognized for a period not to exceed two minutes, the gentlelady from Washington has yielded you the remainder of her time. And here`s the question. Now Biden comes to this, you could really restart the count we use at the top of the broadcast, as we said in, start his presidency today, not viewed through the Trump prism, has toxicity increased by dint of the impeachment we just witnessed on the hill, that is going to negatively affect what Biden asks for and once he says to get our country healthy again?

RUCKER: Brian, it very well may, in part because what the Congress went through last week was the most partisan and political of exercises even though it was a trial based on the facts of what happened on January 6, it was seen by both sides through a partisan lens, and that could very well correct any hope that Biden may have some sort of bipartisan unity here at the beginning of his presidency. And let`s keep in mind, this is a nation convulsed by crises. You know, you`ve got the economic crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis, I could go on and on. And Biden has a very ambitious agenda for that. He has not been able to get really any thing through legislatively in this first month, and they`re eager to get going. That`s why he`s hitting the road Tuesday again on Thursday.

And then he`s beginning some foreign policy outreach, he`s going to be addressing the Munich Security Conference, collection of America`s Western allies, European allies, who are all too eager to see new leadership here in the United States, and they`re going to hear from him for the first time on Friday.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for all that and thank you gang for starting off this week with us. Phil Rucker, A.B. Stoddard, Neal Katyal, greatly appreciate having the three of you on.

Coming up for us, will the future of the GOP belong to Trump or Mitch McConnell? And could you tell the difference? Two political veterans standing by to weigh in next, and later, cases are down but variants are up. Here we are, again, as a media reporting good news and bad. We`re going to check in with an emergency room doctor in the American heartland about what he`s seeing on the ground on the frontlines as a whole lot of states start lowering their guard, because that`s apparently what we Americans do all of it as THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on this Monday night.



LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR: He`s excited about 2022 and I`m ready to go down to talk with him next week, play a little golf in Florida. And I said Mr. President, this MAGA movement needs to continue. We need to unite the party, Trump plus is the way back in 2022. He`s mad at some folks but I understand that.


WILLIAMS: Don`t ask him to quit and because he can`t. Our friend Charlie Sykes of the Bulwark is out with a new piece today titled, "Trump`s Party But Worse" He writes it this way, "Over the last five years, Republicans have shown willingness to accept or at least ignore lies racism and xenophobia. But now it`s a party that is also willing to acquiesce to sedition, violence, extremism, and anti-democratic authoritarianism. Maybe that`s what Lindsey Graham meant when he talked about Trump plus."

Well, back with us tonight, two gentlemen, we`re very excited to have on this topic. David Plouffe, former Obama Campaign Manager and Senior Advisor to President Obama`s, also on the Board of Directors for the Obama Foundation, and we welcome to our broadcast someone we`ve been trying to get on here, Matt Lewis, conservative, commentator and Senior Columnist for The Daily Beast. Matt, it is a great pleasure, longtime viewer, first time caller. So let`s talk about Trump plus.


WILLIAMS: Is it -- is the plus --

LEWIS: You had me. Hello.

WILLIAMS: Is the plus insurrection -- is it like Disney plus only its insurrection videos? Are you prepared, are you psyched for the party of Trump plus?

LEWIS: I`m not psyched, but I am psyched about Charlie Sykes, that guy can write a good column and I think he nailed it actually. This is, you know, all the bad stuff, and even worse, right? You know, if you came for the racism and the xenophobia stick around for the insurrections. I don`t see where things are going to get any better anytime soon. The one thing that gives me hope is just that things sometimes do change, right? 10 years ago, Sarah Palin was the toast of the Republican Party. I`m not sure the last time I heard of Sarah Palin, so maybe Donald Trump will fade away eventually, but it`s not going to happen anytime soon.

WILLIAMS: David Plouffe, I`ll come at this a different way where you are concerned because of your role and influence within the party. What would your counsel and advice be to Democrats who want terribly to buy into this notion of a party destroyed embers of smoke column visible, needing to be broken down to the studs and rebuilt? How would you counsel your fellow Democrats?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, first, Brian, what I would hope for is actually the non Trump side of the party to begin to win primaries in `22 and `24, even if that would mean democrats winning fewer races, because at the end of the day, the country is going to remain in grave danger. If candidates who pledged allegiance to Trump and now we`re saying Trump plus accurately, when the what -- the picture I`d paint, Brian, is when you look at congressional and state primaries, next year in 2022, first half of next year, you`re going to have candidates on that stage saying COVID was a hoax. I never wear a mask. Trump won the election. It wasn`t insurrection. Nancy Pelosi is to blame, all of those things and those candidates right now, I think in most districts in most states, you`d give the advantage to and now as that said things can change, the question Trump will have an expiration date politically. The question is how quickly does that come? But that is the question for the country, not just for the Republican Party is when candidates can win Republican primaries everywhere in the country, saying I believe in the rule of law, I believe Joe Biden won the election. I believe COVID was real. I believe the insurrection was wrong. Until that happens, our country needs to remain on DEFCON 1 in terms of alert status.

WILLIAMS: Long as you don`t tell me they actually landed on the moon. I`m with you on all of that. So Matt, I want to play for you the event that with everything else going on Saturday morning, this was a jaw dropper. Here is Mitch McConnell minutes after voting to acquit in the well of the Senate.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MINORITY LEADER: There`s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations is run syllable for everything you did while he was an office. He didn`t get away with anything. Yeah.


WILLIAMS: We were on the air live with that. And it darn near left us without words to describe it in the immediate aftermath. In the aftermath, as of last night, when he followed the file this column, here`s what one sentence out of what George Will said. McConnell has his eyes on the prize: 2022, perhaps the most crucial non presidential election year in U.S. history.

Matt, first of all, let`s take a moment to note how deeply cynical that is. For the percentage of the audience who thought we were seeing some process within Mitch McConnell. Maybe this is Mitch McConnell, George Will whose first rodeo, this is not, his saying not, I now. This is about those swayable Republican voters and needing to win the House back in 2020. And needing to make Mitch McConnell Majority Leader again, you agree?

LEWIS: I think so. Mitch McConnell`s supposed to be about playing the long game, though, right? There`s always another election, that other election is always the most important election in history, you know, and I know he wants to be Majority Leader again, but he`s going to die someday, and we all are. And what will people remember about us? Mitch McConnell had a pretty good record. You know, as a Republican, I`m a conservative. So as Mitch McConnell, so he`s a conservative on a lot of issues. But he`s taken some other stances that at the time were really heroic. And in fact, he was a civil rights champion as a Republican at a time when that wasn`t so common, unfortunately. I think Mitch McConnell ought to be worried about his legacy not being Majority Leader again, in two years, maybe he had a chance to take a stand on the right side of history. And as he, I think, very eloquently, laid, you know, made the case that Donald Trump is in fact guilty, you know, of fomenting this riot, this insurrection, and yet he didn`t vote for that. And that`s what confused me and I was perplexed by that.

WILLIAMS: Yep, we were all hoping for some sort of viewers guide after we witness that event as I said, on live television. Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay here while I just fit in a quick break. We`ll resume our conversation on the other side.

Indeed, coming up Joe Biden keeping a low profile during impeachment as he had to, but how much of his administration still remains overshadowed by that man in shadow.



MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Until we really examine the soil upon which Donald Trump the weed of Donald Trump grew out of, we are not going to solve this problem. I think this is a question for Joe Biden is what is going on in the soil of America that has not been excavated, that allowed this to grow and allowed it to foster in such a way that a mob ended up at the Capitol. And the person that led the mob isn`t convicted.


WILLIAMS: While the Biden administration looks to put impeachment in the rearview mirror as they must and focus on his agenda, The Washington Post sums his challenges up this way tonight, quote, the coming months will tell how much of his predecessors legacy Biden can erase. And how much of Trump`s imprint, despite his chaotic style will endure.

We are happy and lucky to have with us both David Plouffe and Matt Lewis. David, I`ve been saying, since 1/6, that the insurrection video, the still photography, learning about it. It`s one of the few events in modern American life that increases in its importance and impact with each passing day since. I still can`t believe there was someone with a confederate flag inside my Capitol Building. I can`t believe there was a guy with a Camp Auschwitz, hoodie on brazenly openly and the list is long.

So the talk is to have a 9/11-style commission. It pains me to say this, but stop 100 Americans on the street, ask them to name one provision of the 9/11 Commission. And they probably couldn`t tell you because we`re Americans. We read the first graph summary on our phones and move on. So we`ll do a question to you. Would it serve a purpose? And would it hurt anything if we did that if we did a full organic bottom up investigation?

PLOUFFE: I think we need to Brian. To me, this is the test of the country which is we can move on until this poison is eradicated from our body politic. And as Matthew Dowd said the soil is still ripe. So there`s going to be a lot more great journalism done 9/11-style commission that Speaker Pelosi announced there may be you know other criminal investigations.

So this is going to stay front and center. So let`s just say six months from now, let`s be optimistic for a minute. You know, we`ve got enough people vaccinated, that the pandemic if not over is in our rearview mirror, the economy is really beginning to heat up, kids are all back in school.

Biden`s got a lot of other challenges, you know, climate change foreign policy, but what an amazing place he`d be. But the thing that still remains is, you know, close to half the country, at least 40 percent of the country didn`t believe the last election was a legitimate, you`re going to have people running for Congress this next time. Who is shores we`re talking here, Brian are already considering a strategy that says, I`m just going to, you know, say the election results don`t matter. You`ve got voter suppression legislation sprouting up all over the country.

So this is not just Joe Biden`s problem. It`s all of our problems. But we can`t turn away. So I think things like the 911 Commission report will keep it front and center. I also think the American people, Brian, are highly interested in this, in part because of all the visuals in the video, and you know, some of the new material that the House impeachment branders brought forward. So I don`t think the American people are tired of, but this is the test.

Because ultimately, there`s going to be more coup attempts, there`s going to be more interactions, there`s going to be more people who don`t believe in the constitution seeking office, including the highest office in the land, unless this gets routed out.

WILLIAMS: So Matt, was the big lie still out there and still out there big time. And if you don`t want to resort to what so many find this offensive and patronizing and classes line about deprogramming Trump followers. How would you counsel Biden and national Democrats to approach that constituency that David just made plain is out there and fully functional?

LEWIS: Well, right. I agree with what David said. And I mostly agree with what Matthew Dowd said. Except I don`t think the onus is on Joe Biden, right. I think that what we have is really an almost a generational challenge now. There`s a cultural problem in America, there`s a spiritual problem probably in America that needs to be addressed, you know, by pastors. And this is going to be like a grassroots effort to win hearts and minds as sort of an insurgency, which may sound offensive as well, to some people to say, but that`s kind of what it is. It`s about winning hearts and minds.

I think the thing that Joe Biden can do is be Joe Biden is be a healer, be a uniter and get things done, accomplish his agenda. There are other people out there, including the media that I think have a responsibility, including people in the community, just really all of us have to step up.

But I think when it comes to Democrats and Joe Biden, the worst thing that they could do is to come across like they`re heavy handed, like they`re looking down on conservatives and on people on the right. That`s not going to help anything, but only I think, make things worse.

Now look, should there be a commission? I think there should. This needs to be investigated. If law enforcement decides to pursue Donald Trump, whether it`s on the insurrection or on other, that`s fine. I don`t think Joe Biden should be focused on that. I think it`d be actually a big mistake if he if he is.

WILLIAMS: David Plouffe, Matt Lewis, gentlemen, this has been terrific conversation, and I`m in your debt for coming on. Thank you so much for joining us this Monday night.

Coming up, the pace of vaccine distribution, let`s not forget, continues to improve. But supply issues have not improved, commensurate we`ll ask one of our doctors on the frontlines about that when we come back.



ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: We will be able to report that every state has vaccines -- given one vaccine shot to at least one in 10 people in their state. For most people haven`t been vaccinated yet, hold on, be very, very careful. This is not the time you want to get COVID.


WILLIAMS: States are racing to boost their vaccination efforts expanding eligibility and inoculation sites. New York Times analysis showing the number of coronavirus vaccine doses administered has now surpassed 2 million per day and that`s a victory. But many officials say supply is not increasing quickly enough. And severe winter weather threats slow efforts down of course.

Back with us again tonight Dr. Stephen Sample, he`s an ER doc at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, Indiana. Also happens to be a volunteer clinical faculty member at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Doctor, thank you for coming on. I`ll begin the way we always do asking you for a status report on the level of illness at your community hospital and the level of vaccination in your community.

DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Good at Brian, thanks for having me back. Since the last time we talked, it`s been about the same. We`re still in that low that we saw. As we have fallen off numbers in Indiana are doing very well compared to just a few weeks ago.

This week, I`ve seen more injuries from falling on ice than I`ve seen COVID in my ER well. And while it sucks for the people who have broken ankles and hips, they can infect people and spread that broken ankle and hip down the line. So it`s been a pretty good week. We`re covered up in snow right now. But I`ll take it for now.

WILLIAMS: What`s worse, those who have a chance to get the vaccine and have for whatever reason passed it up or those who really legitimately can`t wait for it and perhaps can`t get the doses.

SAMPLE: Oh, man, that is such a -- that`s so frustrating. I see people with some frequency who have sort of passed on their opportunity to get the vaccine and it`s just -- it`s an exercise in frustration. I`m doing the best I can to teach as many people as I can all day every day on the importance of this not only the 65 pluses who were able to get it in Indiana right now, but also the 20, 30, 40-year olds who may not think that they need it because they`re probably not going to get terribly sick from this themselves. It`s just a constant battle of education, education, education.

WILLIAMS: Here`s a place where we in the news media tire quickly of doing and saying the things that we in the news media often do. And that is the good news and the bad news. I saw a map of the lower 48 today that was all green, meaning all reporting lower 48 states are showing a drop in case numbers. That`s fantastic news. I read today the death rate is down about 18 percent nationwide. We have fully vaccinated it`s a start 4.2 percent of our country.

On the other hand, these variants doctor just scare you to death, every one of them scarier than the other. And the worry is, of course, people heading back to their favorite pizzeria, people getting together, especially in a warm place for the weather we`re having is we`re in a vulnerable period of otherwise good news.

SAMPLE: You`re absolutely right, this is a super vulnerable period because we are we`re seeing this lull in cases. And my biggest concern about this is that we are getting kind of rocked to sleep on a boat of complacency right now, because we`re seeing our numbers come down, you know, I feel a weight lifted on meat off of me. So I`m certain that, you know, the people who don`t spend their lives thinking about coronavirus all day every day, and taking care of patients are starting to feel like wow, this is, you know, this is getting better. And they may not see these variants for what they at least potentially can be, you know, just like presidential politics. You know, I`m a political junkie, clearly you are happy Presidents Day, by the way.

But for the most part, people aren`t paying attention to this stuff as closely as you and I are. And so they not -- may not be aware of this and, you know, people change their behaviors when they`re forced to not when they`re told to, not when you know, some guy on TV says, hey, there`s this stuff in the Middle East that looks really terrible.

So I think we just have to keep educating -- education is everything on this. People don`t want to hear it. You know, my wife calls me a fun sucker. It is what it is.

WILLIAMS: I understand it. I get a little bit of that to Dr. Stephen Sample. It`s always a pleasure. Thank you for having us in your warm and wondrous home. We appreciate it very much.

Another break for us and coming of age is up next, in the middle of a pandemic. If you`re at home with young ones, then you know about the toll this is taking.


WILLIAMS: You may have heard about this over the weekend. One of the messages from Friday`s updated pandemic guidance can be summarized this way. Quote, the CDC recommends middle and high schools be virtual only unless mitigation strategies can be met.

Well, as you know, that`s a tall order for a whole lot of school districts across our country. And for students who`ve been attending school virtually for almost a full year now. Believe me it is taking a toll the combined networks of NBC News are taking a closer look at this desperate and urgent issue in a series of reports called kids under pressure. NBC News correspondent Rehema Ellis has tonight`s report.


REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONENT (voice-over): All across the country, students are facing unprecedented challenges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re all really struggling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically it sucks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m definitely less interested.

ELLIS: We`ve been following 16 students since the first day of school and they echo what was founded our massive national survey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve never felt so much stress on one school year.

ELLIS: The study surveyed 75,000 students from 2018 to 2020. And in the fall of 2020 alone found that over 56 percent of students said their stress related to school increased compared to the time before coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely feel very stressed probably get around like four to five hours of sleep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why am I having so many mental breakdowns?

ELLIS: In October we saw that in our student in Chicago. Allegra went from frustration with online glitches.

ALLEGRA COLEMAN, STUDENT: The whole thing was like kick me out.

ELLIS: To a near meltdown.

COLEMAN: I don`t understand and I can`t ask teachers for help.

ELLIS (on camera): And looking back now, what was your lowest moment of the school year so far?

COLEMAN: It would be that time I cried over my physics project. At that point, I was like this online is not going to work.

ELLIS (voice-over): The study also found 41 percent said their effort toward learning decreased.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My attention definitely decreased.

JOHN ROBERT, STUDENT: I`m still surprised that how much online is affecting it.

ELLIS: That was John in Pennsylvania last December. Now he says he`s constantly distracted.

ROBERT: I heard snow blowers, dogs barking, parents going in and out and it really can mess with me.

ELLIS: Another finding 50 percent of students said the strength of their relationships with teachers has decreased.

COLEMAN: I kind of sent a follow up e-mail to one of my teachers kind of just like telling him about everything that`s been going on. It took him almost like four days to respond.

JENNIFER KIRK, UPPER ST. CLAIR HIGH SCHOOL COUNSEL AND H.S. PSYCHOLOGIST: Do I believe kids will be OK and will they make it? Absolutely. Will they be able to do that alone? No.

ELLIS: Learning how to manage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m just trying to think positively.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m trying my best.

ELLIS: In a year filled with the unexpected. Rehema Ellis, NBC News.


WILLIAMS: And coming up for us this season of our discontent and we have some facts you may not believe from across the country.



MIKE SEIDEL, THE WEATHER CHANNEL: Welcome back to The Weather Channel. No, this is not the New York State Thruway in Buffalo. This is I 20 in Louisiana, look at this. It`s almost a white out. We`ve seen there`s one truck there. They`re heading westbound towards Freeport with a blinkers and doing about what, 15 miles an hour. There`s hardly anybody out which is good because these roads were snowpack snow covered. As you can imagine, at this latitude this far south they just don`t have that many plows.


WILLIAMS: That is my friend and national treasure Mike Seidel over at the Weather Channel and the weather we are having across our country would be simply notable and historic if it weren`t for so much suffering tonight.

First some numbers and enormous storm system now effects fully half of the lower 48, 25 of our 50 states wrapped up in this. 150 million of us are under winter weather warnings, watches and or advisories.

Here in the northeast where winter already has all the charm of Minsk. It`s an ice storm with a long legacy stretches across the country. The same ice storm that caused the horrifying wreck we all saw in Texas, the same cold that has frozen the Louisiana by you, think about that one for a minute.

I saw on power lines in Kenner, Louisiana just outside New Orleans caused some spectacular marking along those said powerlines. Parts of Texas are straight up a disaster. The governor is asking for help. Houston is the nation`s fourth largest city over a million of its people have no power tonight, close to 5 million in the dark statewide.

The Houston Chronicle announced tonight they`re unable to put out a paper version. Houston and El Paso both fell to 17 degrees. Lowest temperature in decades. And it was colder in Houston than it was in Anchorage tonight. And because it`s Texas, someone recorded video of a snownado and perhaps the most awesome number of them all is this one. It`s 94 degrees warmer in Miami than it is in South Dakota.

And a reminder from Tennessee that even those of us who drive large marauding four by fours like to think we got this No you don`t. In fact, the ice got you. Ice is the great equalizer. Cars can drive, planes can fly people can`t go out to get the mail because the ice owns us all. Just as the ice owns a good chunk of our country tonight. Be careful out there.

That is our broadcast for this Monday night. As w start what it just the seventh week of this still new year. Thank you for being here with us for all of it. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.