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

Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 2/8/2021

Guest: Neal Katyal, Al Franken�


The nine House impeachment managers came back today with a five-page memo of their own writing that Trump`s incitement of insurrection against the United States government is the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president. The House will establish at trial that President Trump merits conviction and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office. White Press Secretary Jen Psaki says that President Joe Biden will not spend watching the impeachment proceedings of Donald Trump, but he will focus on his agenda. This is also a critical week for President Biden as he tries to keep his $1.9 trillion relief bill and the rest of his agenda on Track. Senator Lindsey Graham says Democrats declared war on the presidency itself. Senator Ron Johnson says he`s suspicious that impeachment is an attempt to divert attention from something else.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Congressman Jason Crow, thank you very much for joining us for this special hour. Really appreciate it.

CROW: Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Jason Crow gets tonight`s LAST WORD in our special hour Trump on Trial. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 20 of the Biden administration and we are about 14 hours away from the start of the second impeachment trial for the now former president.

Tonight the Senate chamber has been ready with long tables in place to let the impeachment managers and defense teams do their work at a social distance. Today Trump`s lawyers revealed a much more detailed defense following the attack on the Capitol a month and two days ago.

In the nearly 80 page briefs submitted to the Senate, a document which manages to misspell the name of our country. His lawyers insist the trial is unconstitutional and argue Trump`s speech on January 6 was, "not an act encouraging and organized movement to overthrow the," misspelled, "United States government." They argue that Trump "did not direct anyone to commit lawless actions." They blame "a small group of criminals who had come to the Capitol of their own accord armed and ready for a fight." They call the trial "political theater."

The nine House impeachment managers came back today with a five page memo of their own writing that Trump`s, "incitement of insurrection against the United States government which disrupted the peaceful transfer of power is the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president."

They further write, "The House will establish at trial that President Trump merits conviction and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office."

Tomorrow, both sides will begin with a debate over the constitutional issues followed by a Senate vote. Beginning Wednesday, each side will have up to 16 hours per side to present arguments.

Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of the 10 Republican members of Congress voted to impeach Trump is now urging that senators in his party convict Trump.

In an op-ed published tonight in "The Washington Post," the congressman writes and we quote, "this isn`t a waste of time. It`s a matter of accountability. If the GOP doesn`t take a stand, the chaos of the past few months and the past four years, could quickly return."

Seventeen Republicans, many of them sitting at desks that were ransacked by the rioters would have to come to grips with what happened in that chamber enough to join the Senate Democrats in order to convict the former president.

Meanwhile, "The New York Times," reporting NBC News has confirmed that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has opened an investigation into Trump`s attempts to overturn that state`s election results. The investigation includes, of course, that now infamous phone call where Trump is heard begging officials to find about 11,000 votes just enough to overturn the choice of the Georgia electorate.

This is also a critical week for President Biden as he tries to keep his $1.9 trillion relief bill and the rest of his agenda on Track. Today, his press secretary was asked whether he`ll be watching the Senate impeachment trial.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He will not spend too much time watching the proceedings of any time. Over the course of this week he will remain in closely in touch with Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, a range of officials on the hill.

He will leave the pace and the process and the mechanics of the impeachment proceedings up to members of Congress.


WILLIAMS: There are a few other headlines from Capitol Hill today, Republican Alabama Senator Richard Shelby revealed he won`t be running for re-election next year. The race to replace him in a ruby red state will offer yet another test for the direction of his party in the post Trump era.

And the House of Representatives is remembering Texas Republican Congressman Ron Wright. He became the first sitting member of Congress to die of the coronavirus.

With that let`s bring in our leadoff guests as we start this new week, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize Winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Shannon Pettypiece, our Senior White House Reporter for NBC News digital, and Neal Katyal, Department of Justice Veteran, former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration, who has argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Indeed counselor, because we`re on the eve of the second trial, I`d like to begin with you and I`d like to begin this way to play for you some of the video case against Trump and all that led up to six January.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way they can take this election away from us is, if this is a rigged election.

The swing states that we`re all fighting over now, I won them all by a lot. I won them all by a lot.

And I have to say, if I lost, I`d be a very gracious loser.

So look, all I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have. Because we won the state and flipping the state is a great testament to our country.

We`re going to have to fight much harder. And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn`t, that will be a sad day for our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invade the Capitol building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invade the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invade the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Invade the Capitol right now.

TRUMP: If you don`t fight like hell, you`re not going to have a country anymore.

You`ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.


WILLIAMS: Neal Katyal, that is nothing compared to what the House Democrats will play for the chamber. How does the immediacy and vividness of their case work to take those weapons away from the President`s defense, the former president`s defense lawyers?

NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: I think it`s powerful. It`s, you know, it`s kinetic in a way. I mean, if you think about it, January 6 was just a month ago, Brian, and Trump has already been in that time impeached and about to start his trial. And in that way, it`s very different than our last impeachment, Ukraine, which is about a fusty transcript and all sorts of stuff that was hard for people to understand. This as your videos just demonstrated in the House will tomorrow will be prosecution, you know, for the age of social media.

This is something that is going to -- everyone`s going to be able to get and understand right away. This isn`t complicated.

And the evidence is going to come from Trump`s own supporters, people who said he invited us here, he told us to be here and the like. And not just on video, these are folks in court proceedings who are saying exactly that as their defense. Their defenses is essentially, Trump made me do it don`t indict me.

And, you know, I suspect that the House tomorrow will start, the prosecutors will start by playing the tester.

But what Gabe Sterling said, you know, on December 1, he said, Mr. President, stop this rhetoric, someone`s going to get shot, someone`s going to get killed. What is Trump do after that? Nothing, except talk more and more about how the election was stolen as the clips that you said, you know, demonstrate. So, I think this is different than the last one.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, Neal leads us nicely up to you, as you know better than most we`re coming off a highly politicized for years and a former president who commented on everything and folks need to get used to the comparative silence that`s going to come out of the Biden White House while all this is going on. Can you explain to viewers who may not understand Biden`s caution in not wanting to go near this?

ASHLEY PARKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST" WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Absolutely. This is a very deliberate public stance we`re seeing from this White House, the questions of the president and how closely he is following the impeachment and what he wants to see happen in the trial in the Senate come up in the briefing room, as you said, nearly every single day.

And White House press secretary Jen Psaki every single day makes clear that this is not foremost, President Biden`s mind. That he is busy dealing with the coronavirus and his coronavirus relief package. And she often says he`s not a senator anymore. He wants to let the Senate do its business.

In the few times he has weighed in and the president doesn`t really like to weigh in, the first time he said something like, look, this has to happen, this has to go forward. But in talking to aides, he wasn`t sort of saying that Trump absolutely had to be convicted or putting his finger on the scale one way or another. It was more a sort of existential, the train has left the station. The House has impeached the president. Now this is how the next step works, it has to happen and he is very careful not to weigh in.

And frankly, he wants to move past this. He talked about unity as one of his campaign pledges. And he does not want to, you know, further divide the nation. So this public stance is a very deliberate strategy we`re seeing and very different from the former president.

WILLIAMS: And Shannon Pettypiece, take us into the debate over witnesses. Would calling witnesses be after and audience in the chamber looking to get 17 Republicans to walk over the -- to the other side or the public at large with the kind of jury of public opinion or both?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS SR. WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right. Well, I mean, that`s a really great point as to who Democrats are making their case to. Are they making their case to the public? Are they making their case to those Republicans they`re trying to win over? I think Democrats are a bit divided on that.

And the issue of witnesses also gets into what is the end goal here, because witnesses could drag this out. And there`s a large group of Democrats, including some within the White House who just want to get this over with as quickly as possible so the White House can move on to COVID relief and all the other items on their agenda, their infrastructure plan, their immigration legislation.

So they want to move quickly on this and witnesses would slow that down. But of course, witnesses could help bolster the case to actually getting a conviction here. And I think they`re -- this goes to the divide within the Democratic Party right now of what do they want out of this trial? Is this about winning public support? Is this about doing something they have to do and then getting it off their plate? Or is this about really convicting former President Trump and barring him from future office?

And it can certainly be about a little bit of each of those things to people. But which one wins out in the end of the day I think we`ll be determined, and we`re going to see how it play out in real time this week.

WILLIAMS: Neal, I got something else for you. I guess you`re the winner of the video Daily Double tonight. This is from Lindsey Graham. We`ll discuss on the other side.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: What Democrats have done is basically declared war on the presidency itself. The impeachment in the House took place without a hearing, without one witness being called, and without a lawyer.

When you combine a snap impeachment, with an impeachment of a president who`s out of office, you`re going to destroy the presidency itself. They never envisioned going after president once he`s out of office, because the purpose of impeachment is to remove the person not bar them from running in the future. George Washington under this theory could be impeached for owning slaves.


WILLIAMS: So counselor, now that we`ve heard from the noted constitutional scholar, what say you to that argument?

KATYAL: I mean, call this nonsense is mean to the word nonsense. You know, the idea it`ll destroy the presidency, Senator Graham, we`ve had presidents for 200 years, with they`ve never faced for what two impeachments over anything like this. The idea that you can`t impeach a former official when we did so in 1876, when the very first impeachment was of a former official.

And when the text of the Constitution actually has a punishment in it for a lifetime ban on future office holding is just really nonsense. And so, I don`t think that`s going anywhere.

I think he`s also implicitly trying to pick up the argument that the Trump`s two lawyers did today, that Trump somehow has a First Amendment defense here, and that he`s a very passionate public speaker, and he should be able to say what he wants.

And there`s a really important piece, Brian today, written by Peter Keisler, who`s kind of a legendary conservative lawyer. This is a guy who founded the Federalist Society, the conservative legal organization. And he writes in the Atlantic that the defense here on the First Amendment is really a joke.

He says, obviously, you have first amendment defenses if you`re in a criminal proceeding or a civil proceeding. So for example, you can burn a flag, or you can have a swastika, he says. You know, those are things which you can`t be prosecuted for.

But absolutely, he says, the First Amendment doesn`t protect the impeachment of a public official like the president who`s wearing a swastika. It makes no sense. The two things are very different.

And so when Senator Graham says, oh, this is going to destroy the presidency, I think we should take that with a very serious grain of salt. Because frankly, I think this is not a hard standard for any president to live by except the guy named Donald Trump.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, with this mandatory trigger warning, what do we know about the only twice impeach private citizen in the state of Florida? What`s he up to? What`s he planned for this week?

PARKER: Well, he`s, you know, in talking to aides one thing or people close to him that they are relieved by is that Twitter they believed in him a huge favor, even though they would never admit it publicly by banning him from the platform.

And I was asking the president is -- he`s a former president, he does have venues and avenues to make his views known. You know, he -- Twitter is not his only way to communicate with the public.

But what they said is, now it is a much higher bar, right? He either has to put out a statement with his -- from his office or he has to, you know, he would even have to -- doesn`t seem like that high of a bar but call into Sean Hannity, for instance. And that is different from the utter lack of discipline and courage that we all know by holding a device in your hand as the former president was so frequently did, seeing something you don`t like it on cable news at 6:00 a.m. and just firing off the tweet.

So in a way, a level of discipline has been imposed on him, which they are grateful for. But in many ways, he`s still the same Donald Trump we covered as president.

He is furious with Liz Cheney. He blames her for her impeachment vote. He considers her obviously Dick Cheney`s daughter, part of the Bush`s. And he said privately that she`s out to get him because he so badly defeated Jeb Bush in the primaries.

He`s still frustrated with Kevin McCarthy for not sufficiently defending him in his view. He believes he made Leader McCarthy and he hasn`t liked some of McCarthy`s critical public comments.

So it sort of Trump as we generally know him but slightly lighter, in part, because he can`t broadcast every thought and criticism in missive to the world right now.

WILLIAMS: And Shannon, finally, to you this is the test of the Democrats being able to preside over impeachment and chewing gum. The President got his seventh cabinet pick today. Does all that stop? Will there be, in your view, any other Senate business while we`re covering this?

PETTYPIECE: Well, I believe the Senate is going to still conduct some business. But this obviously sucks enormous amount of air out of the room. And that`s a big frustration among aides within the white House right now and the President himself we`re told because they are on a bit of a deadline here.

March 14, is when the unemployment extension for millions of Americans runs out. They want to get this COVID relief bill passed before then so there`s not this big gap in benefits from people.

Also their vaccination program, their testing, aspirations, genomic sequencing, all of that is being held up until they can get an influx of funds from Congress and achieve all these things they want to do on COVID response.

So they don`t feel like there`s time to waste. And even if the Senate behind the scenes and committees is able to carry on with work, it is certainly a distraction. And it is also a distraction as they try to build a pressure campaign on Republicans and some Democrats as well to get on board and get this push.

The news coverage is going to be dominated by impeachment for the most part, and they are going to have to work overtime and extra hard to try and continue the momentum they have in selling this $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

WILLIAMS: Only our friend Shannon can casually drop genomic sequencing into an answer and mean every word of it.

To Ashley Parker, to Shannon Pettypiece, to Neal Katyal, our great thanks to our big three for starting us off this new week. Thank you very much.

Coming up for us, a jury of 100 of his peers, a couple of whom helped do incite the insurrection, let`s be honest. What can we expect from the U.S. Senate in the days to come?

Former Democratic senator and a former chair of the Republican Party standing by to talk to us.

And later, we all know defense wins championships but what about defending yourself from coronavirus? Not a lot of that in Tampa last night, we`ll ask one of the nation`s top infectious disease experts where we are right about now in the fight against it. All of it as we`re just getting underway on this Monday night.



REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: Somebody who has provoked an attack on the United States Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral votes, which resulted in five people dying, who refused to stand up immediately when he was asked and stop the violence. That is a person who does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward.

We should not be embracing the former president.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R) GEORGIA: Record number of Republicans voted for President Trump, Republican voters, support him still. The party is his. It doesn`t belong to anybody else.


WILLIAMS: There`s your contrast inside the Republican Party with Trump`s second impeachment trial just hours away. Politico reports both Democrats and Republicans simply want that guy to go away.

Andrew Desiderio, frequent guest on this broadcast writes the following, "Democrats see the best way to achieve that goal as voting to convict Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection and barring him from ever holding office again. And Republicans, particularly those nervous about Trump`s continued stranglehold on the GOP, just don`t want to poke the bear."

Which somehow brings us to our next guest. With us tonight, former Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken, who`s these days has the good fortune to host a podcast bearing his name. And Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, who these days also has the distinction of hosting a podcast bearing his name.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Senator, I`d like to begin with you. How certain do you feel you are about an outcome of acquittal? Do you hold out any room? Do you hold out any hope that this evidence is going to be so vivid, such a punch to the gut to relive what was the taking of our Capitol? That maybe, just maybe, the court of public opinion will sway 17 votes on the other side?

AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA FMR. U.S. SENATOR: I don`t think so. I think that they`re afraid of the base. I like what you saw there, the two Republicans spoke there do represent both sides of the party. And I think we know which side is stronger. They`re afraid.

And Lindsey couldn`t have been more wrong. You -- not only can you impeach someone out of their office, but it`s so important. Otherwise, you would have the founders worst nightmare, which is a first term president breaks the law, does everything he can to steal an election and the worst that happens is he doesn`t. This is basically what Donald Trump did.

And then there`s no recourse. This is the founders worst nightmare that someone would use the power of the White House to try to steal the election and then basically just get away with it. He -- this impeachment is proper. It`s proper to have this trial. They should indict (ph), but I these Republicans are too afraid.

WILLIAMS: Michael Steele, I want to play something for you, this is the pride of Wisconsin, Republican Senator Ron Johnson, from just yesterday.


SEN. RON JOHNSON, (R) WISCONSIN: Always believed the Russian hoax was a diversion operation from the corruption that was occurring within sort of the FBI, and potentially some of our intelligence agencies. You know, you have to kind of ask the question, what is this impeachment all about? We now know that 45 Republican senators believe it`s unconstitutional.

Is this another diversion operations? This meant to deflect away from potentially what the Speaker knew? And when she knew it? I don`t know. But I`m suspicious.


WILLIAMS: Ron Johnson`s remarks translated a chorus from the original Russian.

Michael, does he know we can hear him? And does he know we can hear on tape? The rioters saying, hang Nancy Pelosi, where is Nancy Pelosi?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. CHAIR. OF REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Yes. And not only that, but asking, you know, where the vice president was. That, I mean, he was just as much in their sights as Nancy Pelosi was.

And the reality of it is that Ron Johnson probably should have stopped with, I don`t know. Because he doesn`t know, he`s just talking out of parts of the body that don`t have lips and tongue.

So, the fact of the matter, the fact of the matter still remains.

Going back to your first point, which I think it`s important not to skip over. While the Democrats hope that, you know, this trial will just lead to Trump just going away and never running again and the Republicans hope that, OK, we just don`t poke the bear. Both of those are wrong. The trial will not lead to that happening. And the bear, it doesn`t matter whether you poke them not, still a bear, it`s still there and it`s going to do what it`s going to do.

And I think both of these parties have to understand and appreciate what this moment is about. This moment is not about traditional politics and the back and forth that we saw play out in the first impeachment. This is about our country, this is about the sanctity and the sacredness, if you will, of the constitutional foundings that support it.

Now, those Republican senators like those Democratic senators, you either are down with that, or you`re not. This is not rocket science. It`s not complicated.

We know what the president did. And all that evidence is going to be presented, Brian. It`s very clear, a lot of us have seen it, saw it live, and have we lived it sense. So for us, as it is for them, the truth is in the telling and the experience.

Now, the act requires that you uphold that truth and convict. But I think to the Senator`s point, that`s not going to be our reality when this is over. And the accounting will come later, hopefully with the voters.

WILLIAMS: Al Franken, how often do you marvel at the Republicans ability to rally around and protect their own, especially to your first point, if they are part of the base, especially if they`re part of that -- the Trump caucus?

Marjorie Taylor Greene has not had the reception from the party, a lot of normal folks expected. And it might be in the party DNA.

FRANKEN: Maybe. I think it`s a really bad time now. I think that part of that is all the disinformation, the two universes of information that people get.

The Newsmax, the OANN, Fox, I think I`m glad they`re being sued.

It`s a really bad time. And I do see, I agree with everything Michael said. And I do believe that when the Republican senators look at this, look at the evidence, they know what it is, and they won`t step up. They just won`t.

WILLIAMS: I know a quote to end this block on if I`ve ever heard one both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us.

Coming up with all eyes on this upcoming impeachment trial, let`s focus on the current president as he tries to focus elsewhere himself.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does President Biden think it`s constitutional to impeach and convict a former president who is no longer in office?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`m just not going to have any more for you on weighing in on impeachment. I appreciate the -- it`s a big story, but our focus is on the American rescue plan and delivering for the American people.


WILLIAMS: Recent Quinnipiac Poll shows 68% of our fellow citizens support the President`s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Our guests remain with us Al Franken and Michael Steele.

Michael, I read this today from Keith Boykin. Trump is gone and going on trial tomorrow. Netanyahu is on trial today. Mitch McConnell`s no longer Senate Majority Leader Marjorie. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been banned from House committees. Fox News cancelled Lou Dobbs and people are getting vaccinated, not bad 2021. That`s the view of Keith Boykin. Michael, here`s the question. Who is more eager to get beyond this trial phase, Republicans or Democrats?

STEELE: Probably both. At this point, you know, for obviously different reasons, but I would say both are. And I think probably, you know, in one sense for the same reason. I think there is, at least from some of the folks I`ve talked to, certainly on the Democratic side, there really is this sort of coursing through the veins right now to get back into the swing of policy and debating around whether or not we spend a $1 trillion or $2 trillion. And not for the pure partisan nature of those countries, in those debates, but seriously to figure out what is the right mix of funds to spend and do we do infrastructure now, and how do we continue to address COVID-19.

So I think there is some of that, that`s beginning to emerge, after what has been really four and a half years of kind of on again, off, again, sort of policymaking. The Biden team has really kind of struck that nerve, I think, with a lot of folks on Capitol Hill.

So that`s going to be something I think to watch as this proceeds, which is why the administration has said very clearly, look, y`all go ahead and do impeachment. We got an agenda here, first is COVID, and then we`ll deal with the economy, and et cetera, et cetera, education, et cetera. So it`ll be an interesting dynamic that they`re creating right now for a lot of lawmakers who actually want to get back to doing lawmaking.

WILLIAMS: Senator, I read tonight, Josh Hawley is the only US Senator to have voted against all seven of Joe Biden`s cabinet nominees that have been approved thus far. Apparently, he, of the fascistic fist, isn`t into functioning government, and he`s going to stay on brand, and try to sell it. My question for you, as a former member of that aghast body, will we see 60 votes in favor of this massive aid package that Joe Biden wants and needs?

FRANKEN: I think we`re going to see much of a pass through reconciliation. And I don`t think we`re going to see it -- we may see 60 for some compromise aspects of it, but there`s a huge difference between the $1.9 trillion package, that is the Biden package, which does a lot of great things to help people. And the moderate, supposedly moderate Republican package, which is a little over a $600 billion. And there`s things aside from, you know, what were you cut off, people add 75,050 or 75,000.

Remember, you`re going on 2019 taxes and those tax forms, so you don`t know what someone made in 2020. People need help. Let`s get them help. But there`s also things in this for K through 12 education, for tax credits, for people who have lost their healthcare when they lost their jobs. There`s -- Democratic Party is going to help people whether the Republican Party likes it or not.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I was going to say to paraphrase, a popular New Jersey singer songwriter, we take care of our own, at least that was the idea. Just one --

FRANKEN: Well, we take care of everyone.

WILLIAMS: Closing question and that is -- one brief closing question and that is, put a finer point on reconciliation. When you say most of it will be passed on through reconciliation, explain if it can be done what that is.

FRANKEN: Well, you can do reconciliation with 51 votes or with the majority, and that`s exactly what we have. And that`s usually budget stuff and most of the stuff. That`s how we ended up doing the Affordable Care Act. That`s how the 2017 tax cut, which coincidentally costs $1.9 trillion dollars, the same amount. And, of course, you know, Republicans really care about deficits when a Democrat is in the Oval Office.

This is something that you can do. Reconciliation is something that you can do when it has to do with money and taxes, and those kinds of things. And you can do a lot with reconciliation. And when you can`t get the 60 votes, you can get the 51.

STEELE: Hey, Brian --

WILLIAMS: I am reminded, the senator wrote a piece in Rolling Stone saying, look at that deficits are back. Michael Steele, I point a personal privilege, 15 seconds to you and then I got to go.

STEELE: Just real quick, that Quinnipiac poll of 68-24 in favor of the $1.9 trillion of Biden`s, lot of Republicans and Independents in that 68% of Americans who support that.

FRANKEN: And, Brian, what I did say was --

WILLIAMS: Thank you for that.

FRANKEN: -- as suddenly Republicans care about deficits, and they only care about deficits.

WILLIAMS: Yes, that`s right. That`s what I meant.

FRANKEN: I wanted to correct you.

WILLIAMS: Deficits have been around and skyrocketing over the past four years, but the concern is back. Al Franken, Michael Steele, thank you both, gentlemen. We`ll do this again. Greatly appreciate it.

Coming up for us, from Super Bowl to super spreader event in Florida, why health care experts are fearing The worst after this weekend`s festivities, and because of what`s making its way here from overseas



DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I`m asking everyone to please keep your guard up. The continued proliferation of variants remains of great concern and is a threat that could reverse the recent positive trends we are seeing.


WILLIAMS: A critical warning,. the pandemic is still far from over. One new study says, the more contagious UK variant is now doubling every 10 days in terms of case count here in the US. To date, most of those cases are in, wait for it. Florida, the same state that just hosted the Super Bowl, including last night`s potential mass casualty incident, the unmasked victory, Bacchanalia, in the streets of Tampa where they were admittedly psyched about the trouncing victory.

Here to talk about where we are in all of this, Michael Osterholm, second straight guests from Minnesota, Professor and the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He was also a member of the President`s COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Michael, coming into tonight, I saw so many indicators that we`re good. We`re up to having vaccinated, at least first shot, 10% of our population. That`s a start. Case counts on a daily basis are down. The death toll on a daily basis is down. But then comes an event like Tampa, and then come these variants that show no sign of letting up. Tell us where you see things right now as of tonight.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, MEMBERS OF BIDEN`S COVID-19 TASK FORCE: Well, you described it quite well, thank you. This is a tale of two cities. We are watching case numbers come down which is wonderful, number of deaths dropping. Remember, we`re still over 50,000 cases, higher reported per day than we were when the country was on fire back in July. And we`ve kind of come to accept this number as something that`s very good.

As far as the transmission of the virus, so going forward, we are now really under the influence of what is probably the worst of all the viruses we`ve seen to date. And that`s this particular variant you mentioned from the United Kingdom. That particular virus is much more infectious. It is much more likely to cause serious illness and death. And it is now playing out here in the United States with its early spread throughout the country, much like it`s done throughout the European countries, which each of them had to go into extensive lockdowns for days.

Their rates of disease were extraordinarily high. And just to give you a comparison. In our worst day in the United States, and this recent surge, we had 130,000 hospitalized patients, if we had the same rate that they saw in London recently, we`d be at 195,000 hospitalizations a day.

This is what we`re up against and coming with. And, of course, right now, the Super Bowl parties all over the country, as well as what happened in Florida, are surely going to be a way to reverse that trend of cases going down.

WILLIAMS: Wow. That`s saying a lot. I want to play for you the President. This was in his CBS News interview on the topic of reopening our schools.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Our CDC Commissioner was going to be coming out with science-based judgment within, I think, as early as Wednesday as to what the minimum requirements are. I made a commitment that we try to get K through eight back to school by the end of this 100 days.

I`ve met with the teachers unions. They want to go back to school. They (END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Michael, what`s your view? Can we meet this target? Can this be done? And must it include vaccinations for teachers in your view?

OSTERHOLM: Well, in terms of what we know about the safety of our schools, younger children and teachers, in fact, it is true that COVID 19 has been a much less serious problem than we`ve seen in older kids, and surely in adults. I think the challenge we have right now is if, again, look to are those countries in Europe that have served as a model for us to understand what this new variant virus does. Every one of these countries has had to close their schools in order to bring the virus under control.

So what we`re trying to do is reopen right now, which I think is a really very positive thing. However, we`re doing it basically at the same time that this variant has come, in some ways it kind of reminds me of trying to plant your petunias in a category five hurricane. I think we`re going to have a real challenge getting our schools back open and staying open, once this variant takes off in our communities, which it is going to do in the next six to 12 weeks. It is going to do it.

WILLIAMS: We are so appreciative anytime we have a chance to ask you a couple questions, even though we may not like the answers at all times. Michael Osterholm, thank you very much for joining us tonight from the Twin Cities.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, an impeachment eve update on some of the others accused in the insurrection, the taking of the Capitol on 6th of January.


WILLIAMS: On the eve of Trump`s second impeachment trial, dozens of his supporters are facing criminal charges for their alleged role in the violent siege on the Capitol. NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams has a closer look at who many of them are, what their motivations may have been.


PETE WILLIAMS, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Federal prosecutors have now charged 211 people in the assault on the Capitol, accusing some of planning a violent attack well in advance to stop the vote count. That came from 43 states, men outnumbered women seven to one, at least 20 were military veterans.

SEAMUS HUGHES, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY PROGRAM ON EXTREMISM: There was absolutely a spectrum of support. I mean, in many ways, January 6th was a bug like. It brought extremists from all areas, and they all came with different skill sets.

P. WILLIAMS: The FBI says nearly two dozen had ties to right wing extremist groups. Court documents say the Proud Boys had a plan for the raid, helping to lead the crowd and pushing past the outer police barricades. Then using a police shield to break a window, the spot where rioters first entered the Capitol.

Investigators say members of the Oath Keepers militia group had similar plans and used cell phones as walkie-talkies to coordinate their actions. Prosecutors say some in the crowd were prepared for battle with helmets, tactical gear and baseball bats. Twenty-two are accused of assaulting some of the 139 police officers injured during the siege.

Most of those arrested are accused of trespass, some seemingly swept up in the fervor. The FBI says James Uptmore of San Antonio brought his son chance to the Capitol so he could have a memorable birthday. Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.


WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, gone too soon remembering one of the most unintentionally entertaining voices in all of show business.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight has a lot to do with the now deposed dear leader. If it`s not too painful, think back to all those who throw away any self-respect they may have had and became the most selfless genuflectors to Trump. And right here we`re thinking Graham, Azar, Birx, Pence, oh they were good at it. There was nothing they weren`t willing to do or say in service to Donald Trump.

But if we`re being honest, none of them can hold a candle to the recently deposed Lou Dobbs. He`s being sued by Smartmatic voting machines because he made stuff up. He wasn`t always like this, though.

Lou went to Harvard and was once a normal guy. He was a local news anchor before Ted Turner hired him at CNN, where toward the end, he became a birther. Before going all in on Trump, he left CNN, went to Fox. The rest is history. Now he`s history at Fox.

We have our friends at "The Daily Show" with Trevor Noah to thank for the following what they call their farewell to Lou Dobbs, the most North Korean broadcaster America has ever seen.


LOU DOBBS, AMERICAN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We have a president, who is a true leader, in my opinion, when I happen to believe will be regarded as one of this country`s greatest presidents indeed, our greatest. This is a man who multitasks. He is smart. He is filled with energy. Nobody is a close second.

He comes from a pretty good gene pool. Have you ever seen a man as strong? I`m going to say tough, but strong. He`s already set a standard for presidents that most mortals won`t be able to meet. You`re also one of the most loved and respected, I would say that also, in history.

TRUMP: The great Lou Dobbs. He said, Trump is the greatest president since Ronald Reagan.

DOBBS: And then, I said he`s the greatest president ever.

TRUMP: Lou Dobbs, he said, he`s the greatest of them all. I said, does that include Washington and Lincoln? And he said, yes. I don`t know if he was for real

DOBBS: Thank you, Mr. President. And yes, I was for real. I think he is doing God`s work. God sent this president, and I`ll tell you the evidence is accumulating mightily.

How would you grade President Trump`s leadership? Superb, great, or very good. You are finally saying everything is advertised as you ran for president. This White House has energized there`s sunshine beaming throughout the place, and on almost every face, it will be century after century of veneration for this president.

SEAN HANNITY, AMERICAN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not perfect, nobody`s perfect, but he`s done a really good job.

DOBBS: Well, he`s pretty close to perfect, shall we? And almost every evening, it seems saying, thank you, President Trump. Have a great weekend. The President makes such a thing possible for us all.


WILLIAMS: A tribute to the former president, he who provides great weekends, our friends at "The Daily Show" playing us off the air this evening. And by the way, to Patrick Mahomes, we`ll get them next time.

That is our broadcast for this Monday night as we all start a new week, and with our thanks as well. On behalf of all the colleagues I have at the networks of NBC News, good night.