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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 3/19/21

Guests: Michelle Au, Neal Katyal, Jason Johnson, Tim Miller, James Stavridis


President Biden and Vice President Harris condemn anti-Asian violence. They meet with Atlanta`s Asian-American leaders. Biden works to boost support for COVID aid. Biden and Harris tour CDC as U.S. hits 100M vaccinations. Dr. Fauci warns of rapid spread of COVID variants. Mar-a-Lago partially closed due to COVID outbreak. Michael Cohen says he`s helping Manhattan D.A. decipher Trump tax documents. Biden said that the battle for the right to vote is never over. State Republicans are pushing to restrict voting. Tensions arise at U.S.-China diplomatic meeting. Victim`s son remembers mother`s sacrifices for family.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And as we come to the end of another week, good evening once again day 59 of the Biden administration, the president today use the power of his office to issue a forceful call for an end to these attacks on Asian Americans and comfort a fearful grieving community, suffering through the aftermath of a mass shooting, a mass murder.

President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta just three days after the spa shootings, which killed a total of eight people, six of whom were Asian women. This afternoon, Biden and Harris met with Asian American leaders in Atlanta afterward, they spoke out about the attacks acknowledging that while motive has not yet been established, linked to race. It has not been labeled as a hate crime. For example, Asians in this country have indeed been increasingly targeted.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated, and harassed. They`ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.

It`s been a year of living in fear for their lives. We`ve always known: Words have consequences. It`s the coronavirus. Full stop.

The conversation we had today with the AAPI leaders, and that we`re hearing all across the country, is that hate and violence often hide in plain sight. And it`s often met with silence. That`s been true throughout our history, but that has to change -- because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out.

KAMALA HARRIS, (D) U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Six out of the eight people killed on Tuesday night are of Asian descent, seven, were women. The shootings took place in businesses owned by Asian Americans. The shootings took place as violent, hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans has risen dramatically.


WILLIAMS: Indeed tonight in the Atlanta metro area, all eight of the victims at three locations have now been identified. They range in age from age 33 to 74. We`ll have much more ahead later in this hour on their lives.

President Biden had originally planned to be in Atlanta today to promote the Coronavirus Relief Act. He canceled events related to that. But he did manage to get the nearly $2 trillion plan as well as his mass vaccination campaign into his remarks today.


BIDEN: The American rescue funds, more vaccines, more vaccination centers, and more increase in testing. It`s going to help us accelerate our nationwide effort to reopen schools safely. Maybe Republicans in Washington didn`t vote for it. But the American rescue plan sure has brought the country together. And for me, that measure of unity, that`s what matters.


WILLIAMS: Biden`s mission to marry the politics of compassion to his political agenda also took him and the Vice President to the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. The trip came as the U.S. reached 100 million COVID vaccinations well before Biden`s original target date of his 100th day in office.

Today he went so far as to suggest to reporters, the nation could reach 200 million inoculations by then. Biden`s visit coincided with those new CDC guidance for social distancing in K-12 schools. They now recommend most students maintain at least three feet of distance as long as masks are being worn. The guidance of course for the rest of us remains at six.

Meanwhile, health officials are keeping a very close eye on over a dozen states that are now seeing an uptick in new cases.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The B117 variant which right now as we know, is causing a significant degree of concern. This variant, as you know, is every day getting more and more dominant in our own country. There are about 50% increase in transmission with this particular variant that has been documented in the U.K. and is likely an increase in severity of disease if infected with this variant.


WILLIAMS: The New York Times reports officials in at least 20 states are now moving to open vaccine appointments to all adults in March or April to comply with Biden`s goal of universal eligibility as it`s called by May one that means no more brackets or age groups. Tonight, a COVID discovery has led to the partial shutdown of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. Some of Trumps employees have been told to quarantine.

Also, tonight there is a new allegation of sexual harassment against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. This now makes eight women who have come forward to describe inappropriate conduct of some kind. Though this one is different, the New York Times reports, it`s a current employee of the governor`s office Alyssa McGrath, "described a series of unsettling interactions with the governor, telling the times that Mr. Cuomo would ogle her body, remark on her looks and make suggestive comments to her and another executive aide.

Times report she is the first indeed current aide to speak out. Tonight, a lawyer for the governor told the Times he has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone.

It`s a lot and with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night, again, as we bring another week to a close Susan Page, Veteran Journalist, best-selling author and USA Today, Washington Bureau Chief her upcoming book, Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power is out one month from tomorrow. Josh Wingrove, White House Reporter for Bloomberg News. And Dr. Michelle Au, she`s a Democratic State Senator representing a district just northeast of Metro Atlanta, she happens to be the first Asian American woman to join the Georgia Senate, also happens to be anesthesiologist, Columbia Med School Grad now working with the Emory University Healthcare System. Notably, she met with the president and vice president earlier today.

And that Doctor, as we welcome you back to the broadcast is where I`d like to begin. How was today`s meeting? What was it like?

DR. MICHELLE AU, (D) GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: Thank you, Brian, for having me back. Today`s meeting was incredibly meaningful. And when I say it`s very meaningful, we have to picture this, both the President and the Vice President took a significant amount of time out of their very busy travel schedule, and a very short trip to Atlanta to sit with AAPI leaders in the wake of this incredibly tragic incident that happened on Tuesday.

Now, the reason this is significant is because a lot of people in the AAPI community traditionally have felt very overlooked, very ignored, not seen, not heard when these types of incidents have happened in the past. So this was an incredibly important signal for us as leaders and for our communities to show that this administration is taking this problem seriously.

WILLIAMS: How personal did he get in his remarks, tell us about tone and tenor being there in the room?

AU: President Biden is an incredibly empathic leader. And we know that he has his own history of loss and tragedy in his life. And he conveys that extremely well. He understands how to speak with people who are going through grief. So he really spent a lot of time listening to stories of the victims stories of people in our communities who are suffering, who are living in fear, and really trying to turn that energy not just into reflecting on the tragedy, but into forward movement and thinking of strategies to move ahead to make these things better.

WILLIAMS: So, Susan, the President had to accomplish several things in Atlanta today, had to hit several marks, which kind of sums up the job of President and I`m curious about your assessment thus far?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": You know, it seemed to me it was a very, five NESC day that we saw very much like the tone and tenor that he has set in the past two months since the inauguration. He was he expressed compassion. He had a very consistent message at the CDC and also in his remarks after meeting with the AAPI leaders.

He was also talking about competence. He is offering, you know, something that is a little lower key than the last administration, and in quite different in tone. He talked about -- you played the clip where he said words have consequences. And there was an illusion that both he made and Vice President Harris made without mentioning Donald Trump by name to the different tone that the previous president had taken on these issues and the importance of striking a very, very different one, because I think that we have seen in academic studies and just by common sense standards, that the harsh rhetoric, the rhetoric that Donald Trump used, including using the phrase Chinese virus or China virus, had some real repercussions and fueling anti-Asian sentiment.

WILLIAMS: Josh, he is the anti-Trump in a bunch of ways but also in that he engages very little with his critics and with the incoming criticism thus far, and he hasn`t been on the job for that long and things have been urgent. He`s been all about full speed ahead, talk about the aspect of his job. That involves communicating with the American people on the help that is on the way for them and about the vaccines.

JOSH WINGROVE, BLOOMBERG NEWS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, I mean, you mentioned he had to blend the messages, he sort of had no choice. Of course, he`s touting an aid plan that would not have happened, at least anywhere close to its current form. Without Georgia wouldn`t in particular, have had those checks. And arguably, they wouldn`t have had those seats in Georgia, those two Senate seats that they didn`t promise those checks. So that`s why he sort of walked a bit of a fine line actually think risked a bit of blowback for blending the sort of political messaging around his rescue plan, with the empathy. The moment that`s required the as he sort of changed plans for this trip.

You know, I think Biden right now is sort of picking his spots and travel, we`ve seen him sort of identify states that are going to be crucial in 2022, to holding that Senate Majority or at least 50 seats in the in the Senate, Georgia, of course, is one of those. I think that you know, you`ve heard him in that remark, say, look, Republicans might not have voted for this. But there`s unity in the U.S. on this. This is a bit of a change of tone since the early days of his presidency, and just the, you know, a few weeks that we`ve had so far, he`s sort of not really talking as much more of a wing Republican support unless he`s focusing more on bills that are popular, or that, you know, could he thinks could at least maybe draw voters or keep voters in the democratic fold. So it definitely changed a message a balancing act absolutely for him right now. And as I say, I think he rolled the dice a little bit because he needed both things today, he needed to address the horrendous horrific shootings there. But he couldn`t also go to Georgia without thanking voters there for delivering him to senators, which delivered the safety bill, which is the core of his message right now.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, the reason this is your second appearance in a week`s time on this broadcast, the reason Georgians not in your district, suddenly all seem to know who you are is your words in the chamber, your warning of violence day before the attack. So where Georgians are concerned, they are now let`s hope, dialed into this issue where the rest of us are concerned. Talk about what you see as the potential federal role for the rest of the country.

AU: What I would like to see the federal being in addressing AAPI violence moving forward is a couple of things. One is I think we need to increase our investment in our community partners in getting A, more data about the types of incidents that are happening, and B, getting more resources to the community so that we can help the victims of these violence.

I think that AAPI acts of racism, discrimination, violence are vastly underreported. And I think it`s very difficult to just as a physician to say, to treat a problem when we can`t measure what the problem is. So I personally would like to see the Biden administration help invest in in language outreach, and facilities, infrastructure for people to be able to report these incidents of violence so we can understand the scope of the problem, because it`s much bigger than what we see. And I think that, you know, my remarks from the well and the Senate on Monday, a lot of people came up to me afterwards and say, you know, I didn`t know this was happening. It`s been happening. It`s not just been happening over the past month. It`s not just been over the past year, it`s been happening for decades, if not centuries in this country. So we need to report more so we can understand what we`re working with.

WILLIAMS: And for all the wrong reasons to people who didn`t know about it before certainly know about it now.

And, Susan, I think with the pace of news, it gets lost a bit. What a big deal it is, in so many ways that Kamala Harris is Vice President of the United States. This was a big deal today, because it was their first joint trip as president and vice president, talk about the importance of her presence there?

PAGE: You know, I think it was notable, she`s gotten a lot of attention as the first black person to be vice president. And that`s certainly notable, but she`s, of course, also the first Asian American to serve in the national office. And that was important today. One thing that she talked about was the long history of anti-Asian bias in this country back to the days when Chinese workers came here to help build the railroads, or more famously, the internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War Two. And I think that does kind of raise the sense, the understanding of Americans about this sort of discrimination that is less well known than discrimination against African Americans and something that clearly we need to pay some attention to. You`d have just see evidence of the rising violence we`ve seen over the past year and especially this week in Atlanta as proof of that.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, Josh, I have for you and for members of our audience, something of a comparison, this is -- this will show the last two presidential visits to CDC headquarters. We`ll discuss on the other side.


BIDEN: It makes a difference to tell the truth, to follow the science, and just wherever it takes you and just be honest about it.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. We -- they`re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.

BIDEN: We can build all the walls and we can get the most powerful armies in the world -- we cannot stop, we cannot stop these viruses.

TRUMP: I don`t need to have the numbers double because of one ship.

BIDEN: With 535,217 dead as of yesterday, last night, it got to stop.

BIDEN: Fox News, many love it. But that`s what I happen to be watching. I don`t watch CNN because CNN is fake news.

BIDEN: This is the United States of America, for God`s sake. There is nothing, nothing, nothing we cannot do when we do it together.

TRUMP: That governor is a snake, OK, Inslee.

BIDEN: Science is back.

TRUMP: Goodbye, good luck to CNN.


WILLIAMS: So Josh, part of the job is just not being Donald Trump for Joe Biden. Another part of it, though, is more active and it`s resetting the national language. And it`s resetting national empathy.

WINGROVE: Absolutely, and trying to repair damage that has been done in the reputation of scientists and scientific bases like the CDC, I think that we`re seeing this now with the concerns over vaccine hesitancy a lot of folks, in large part because of the previous president sort of undercutting the advice of scientists don`t really buy what they`re hearing. The visit was also paired with a pretty big announcement today, particularly if you have kids at home that the CDC now says it`s safe for students to be three feet away, as long as they`re wearing masks, in most situations in schools, instead of six feet away. That`s the big change. We`ll have a lot of schools, particularly schools and cities that didn`t have as much space to spread out students to make it safer.

So Biden is trying to sort of painstakingly brick by brick kind of piece together this faith in science. He also of course, you mentioned that 100 million shot target alluding to being able to double it by the end of April, they actually are on pace for that right now, two and a half million shots a day. We`re -- this whole pandemic, I think you`ve had trouble seeing around corners, we`re definitely reaching that point. Still, where not too long from now, the problem will not be a shortage of shots, the problem will be a shortage of arms to put them in. That`s why you`ve seen Biden put so much faith and effort into building confidence in the scientific advice, because he`s worried that a lot of Americans simply aren`t going to want this shot when it becomes their turn to get one.

WILLIAMS: More much obliged for our big three guests on a Friday night, and special thanks are reserved for Dr. Michelle Au who had a longer and more emotional day than the rest of us did given present circumstances there in Georgia. So to Doctor Au, to Susan Page, to Josh Wingrove our thanks very much for coming on our broadcast and helping us out tonight.

Coming up for us, the man who once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump spent the day meeting with the Manhattan DA. And it would appear he`s the one with the bullets now. We`ll show you what he had to say tonight about what he`s saying to the feds.

And later the Biden administration off to a rocky start where China is concerned. We`ll ask a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. What normal looks like? All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Friday night.


MICHAEL COHON, TRUMP`S FORMER ATTORNEY: After eight times you can rest assured they`re not asking me once again to come in for a ninth time simply because they find me funny, or because they just have nothing to do each and every time they`re drilling down more and more and more. And ultimately, you know, you`re going to start to see very soon, yeah, you`re going to see very soon, in my opinion, indictments start flying.


WILLIAMS: The inimitable style of Donald Trump`s former fixer and lawyer of all trades, he has now completed his eighth interview with the Manhattan District Attorney, having met with them again just today in Manhattan. It is a possible sign that momentum is growing in the investigation into the former president`s financial dealings. The DA has also been talking to people close to the CFO of the Trump Organization, his name would be Allen Weisselberg. Here`s what his former daughter in law had to say to NBC News producer Tom Winter.


JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, FORMER DAUTHER IN LAW OF TRUMP ORG.`S CFO: I think when he was handed the company along with Don Jr. and Eric, it was not comfortable for him to be shoved into the limelight. I never understood if he was uncomfortable with that, or if he didn`t want to have to be so vulnerable when I think it`s clear that they don`t follow the law or the or rules that apply to most of us.


WILLIAMS: It`s a lot there to talk about and back with us to do that is 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. Counselor, the first time Cohen went in, I thought it was interesting. Second time, focus the mind. Third time really got my attention. What does it mean that he has visited eight times?

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, first, Brian, I just want to talk about the limits of the law for a second because I was just watching your last segment. And you know, many of us have been in tears all week, as an Asian man growing up, you know, all sorts of painful things I witness, things that are said and done to me and my family members of my community. And it pains me to no end to think that in the 1970s I thought this was all going to end that the arc of progress was going to bend towards something good. And then you`ve had this constitutional monster Donald Trump come along, who preys on all this, who exploited it, China virus, Wuhan flu, all this nonsense. None of that is criminal, but it is morally reprehensible. And now we get as you were saying, you know, Mr. Cohen, going before eight times before the Manhattan DA`s office. You know, there are serious criminal investigations here. And I think the fact that he`s gone eight times is really, really significant. I mean, no one wants to voluntarily talk about Donald Trump eight times to anyone. And at this point, there are really only three types of people left in Donald Trump`s life, the ones who are stuck with him because of bad investment decisions, the ones who are stuck with him because of bad political decisions, and the ones who are stuck with him because he might have committed federal crimes. And that`s Cohen and Weisselberg.

WILLIAMS: So for viewers who may have forgotten the story, Trump`s dad lends him a ton of money as a young man and says, with the money comes my money Guy, Weisselberg and Weisselberg has stayed right next to Donald Trump as the keeper of the secrets, all these many years. Here again, is his former daughter in law. We`ll discuss on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the business dynamic, like based on your experience and seeing it inside Trump Tower itself?

WEISSELBERG: Allen would not take an hour or day off if Donald was in the office, because I think he felt like he had to be there all the time. But also they are a team. He discusses everything. His office is right next door. He discusses everything with him, his opinion, and Donald trusts him to continue the legacy the way his father set things up. It doesn`t change.


WILLIAMS: So Neal, think of a pile of bad news, all the knowledge that this woman represents. There`s a million new documents. There`s everything Cohen knows and is talking about. There`s the very real prospect that Weisselberg will indeed flip and he is the keeper of the secrets. So where are you in thinking there might be legal jeopardy coming up for Donald Trump in New York?

KATYAL: Very, very high that there`s legal jeopardy for Donald Trump. So, you know, Allen Weisselberg was the CFO, the Chief Financial Officer. He`s been incredibly loyal as you were just saying to Donald Trump for many decades, but loyalty has a price, you know, particularly when family and children are being squeezed as they are here. It looks like the daughter got a free apartment from Donald Trump. The daughter-in-law has even said that she thinks that she got that apartment to buy her loyalty to him in the way that the mafia operates and things like that. It looks like the prosecutors are also squeezing Weisselberg`s son who works at Ladder Capital. And this Brian is exactly how criminal investigations are built. It is like TV law and order or something like that. It is flipping people, taking people, squeezing the daughter, squeezing this daughter-in-law, squeezing former daughter-in-law, squeezing the sun, taking all those folks and then getting Weisselberg ultimately to say, you know, the price your loyalty to Donald Trump, is your children possibly going to jail.

Now, look, I don`t think that the prosecutors will probably actually need Weisselberg testimony to make criminal cases against Donald Trump. They now have his tax returns. Trump tried to block that but the Supreme Court ruled against him. So they got the tax returns. They don`t strictly speaking need Weisselberg. Weisselberg is gravy, but the tastiest of gravy.

WILLIAMS: Neal, my friend, thank you for coming on tonight. Also, thank you for your initial comments. It`s really important to hear your voice vis-a- vis this horrendous story we`ve been covering all week, our guest tonight, Neal Katyal, Counselor, thank you.

Coming up for us, how the GOP is focused on voter suppression, is keeping their donors happy and interested. Oh, and it will also make it harder to vote across our country.



BIDEN: But as this state, home to Martin Luther King and John Lewis knows better than most, the battle for the right to vote is never ever over. And it`s not over here in this state of Georgia. So we`re in a fight again. It`s a fight, we need to win.


WILLIAMS: The President in Georgia today where he met with among others, Stacey Abrams, our friend Jeremy Peters of the New York Times reports, Republicans see restricting voting as their new center of gravity as he puts it, quote, passing new restrictions on voting in particular, tougher limits on early voting and vote by mail is now at the heart of the right strategy to keep donors and voters engaged as Mr. Trump fades from public view.

Back with us tonight, Jason Johnson, campaign veteran and journalist, contributor of the Grieux, Professor of Politics and Journalism at Morgan State University and Tim Miller, contributor to the Bulwark, former comms director for Jeb Bush. Professor, I`d like to begin with you and I want to play for you something Senator Warnock said to Joy Reid tonight we`ll discuss on the other side.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Those of us who have the honor of representing the people in both houses of Congress, the only reason where there and able to argue about anything, is because somebody voted for us to be there. And so this, this whole cell systemic effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans is a threat to the democracy itself.


WILLIAMS: Democracy itself, Dr. Johnson, overstatement or fact?

JASON JOHNSON, PROFESSOR MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: It`s a fact, Brian. And here`s what`s interesting. We know that this is about campaign strategy on the part of Republicans and not a fundamental belief in democracy, because many of the Republican legislators who were trying to push through these brand new restrictive bills have already backed off once they found out that Coca Cola and the Chamber of Commerce for the state are against these kinds of bills.

This is what is so terrible about all this. If somebody wanted to be concerned about election integrity issues in Georgia, they would look at the voting machine problems that happened in 2018. If somebody was actually concerned about election integrity in Georgia, they would notice different polling locations being opened and closed at strange times. But that`s not what Republicans are concerned about. They`re angry that their state is now represented by a millennial and an African-American.

They`re terrified that in 2022, with the nation`s eyes on Georgia that Stacey Abrams will become the first African-American woman to be a governor of the state. So rather than going out and campaigning, rather than coming up with better ideas, rather than doing something about COVID, Republicans in Georgia and other places are focused on trying to keep black, brown, tan, and young people from voting.

WILLIAMS: Tim, is there anyone out there in the Republican Party that truly sees this as a winner? Can you picture some old donor somewhere and a lazy boy saying, you know, one-six was a turn off for me, but if you`re really promising me voter suppression, I`m getting my checkbook. I`m all in.

TIM MILLER, FMR. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR TO JEB BUSH: I don`t know about the different culture, Brian. But I do think from a strategy standpoint, they see this as a winner, partially for what Jason said and partially for what we`ve talked about on the show before, which is, you know, look, the Republicans only won one popular vote contest at the presidential level, yes, since I was in middle school.

But it`s been quite a bad run all the way through this century. And so they see the path forward and not have what we proposed back in 2012, which was appealing to a broader part of the electorate, but instead, trying to limit voting, obviously in African-American communities and limit voting among early voting and other things that Democratic voters like to do.

And so they see it as a strategic path forward, not any sort of deep seated principle, and not anything that`s going to get any, you know, lazy boy donors excited, but just an imperative for women.

WILLIAMS: Tim, a trigger warning, I`m going to mention MTG. "The Times" has an interesting take tonight on the new class in Congress, not just Marjorie Taylor Greene, not just the QAnon caucus, but a lot of those in their rookie year that have an R after their names. Being more interested in performance art, way more interested in building their brand than legislating of course, in her case, she`s probably finding really helps to be on committees for that kind of thing.

MILLER: Yes, look, I think this is a critical point, Brian. You`re seeing this turnover in the Republican Party, where you had a lot of these folks who kind of quietly went along with Trumpism because they didn`t know what else to do, your Rob Portman`s and your Richard Burr`s, they`re retiring.

You know, these are your old Republican men. They`re all retiring. This new class that came in, MPG and Madison Cawthorn and Lauren Boebert, but others obviously in the last class decades, they are going to be met in this next Congress by entirely a class of people that only care about the performance that came up in politics in Trumpism. If you look at the Ohio Senate race, for example, you`ve got Joshua Vandell, you know, as the prime example, this is the front runner right now, all he`s doing is just obnoxious tweets, baiting Twitter to try to ban him so that he can pretend do performative grievance art.

This is what you`re going to see maybe Lara Trump in North Carolina. This is I think what you`re going to see in this next class is, you know, the kind of quiet enablers moving out, and then the people coming in being more all in on the Trump style of politics.

WILLIAMS: Professor, you get the last word tonight. And it`s an important question. We`ve just witnessed all of us together another emotional week in our country, what is the chance that we have just seen a turning point?

JOHNSON: Little or nothing of, Brian. And I can take this right back to Georgia. Look, I`m familiar with that area. I used to live in Georgia for a long, long time. We will not see the changes we want. We didn`t see it after Sandy Hook. We haven`t seen that after every single shooting. And it works perfectly what we`re talking about here.

I can go to Georgia today and buy a gun and walk out of the store with it. But you can`t do same day voter registration in that state. And as long as that`s where the values are of many of our politicians, we`ll continue to see tragedies like this occur every five, six, seven weeks in this country until someone finally recognized we need to value human life over political play.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers, I wish we had better news to report but at least we have two terrifically smart guys to talk about what we`ve just witnessed this week. Jason Johnson, Tim Miller, two friends of this broadcast, gentlemen, thank you both, have a good weekend if that`s possible.

Coming up, with tensions suddenly so high with both China and Russia as the U.S. resets how both nations should be treated to be fair, who better for us to talk to tonight than a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.



JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We expected to have tough and direct talks on a wide range of issues. And that`s exactly what we had. We had the opportunity to lay out our priorities and intentions and to hear from the Chinese side their priorities and intentions.


WILLIAMS: National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan this afternoon following his first meetings with his counterparts from China, the senior diplomats there, the talks which also included our new Secretary of State Tony Blinken quickly turned contentious. "Washington Post" puts it this way, for a high level diplomatic meeting, it was remarkably undiplomatic, shattering any illusions of a reset in U.S.-China relations.

So back with us tonight, Admiral James Stavridis. He`s a 30-year veteran of our U.S. Navy who retired with four stars on his shoulders, former head of the U.S. Southern Command, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. But most importantly, he happens to be coauthor of the new novel 2034, A Novel of the Next World War, more on the book in just a moment. Admiral, where does China rank among foreign policy challenges to this nation?

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS, U.S. NAVY (RET.): Number one, by a factor of 300 percent, there`s nothing else that is the looming tower of China`s rise. That doesn`t mean we have to end up in a war with them. But what you saw in Alaska where the Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser, face their counterparts and had a 20-minute gripe session in front of public cameras, was a pretty clear indication of the deep, deep animosity between these two nations. I hate to say it, but we are in a cold war with China. Let`s hope it doesn`t turn hot.

WILLIAMS: Why am I seeing so many people in the cheap seats and that by the way is the definition of Twitter, the cheap seats talking up some kind of a confrontation war with China? Why as I mentioned last night, have we seen just in the last two weeks mentions especially on the right and the media of people only calling it Communist China like when you and I were growing up?

STAVRIDIS: Because of the spectrum of contentious issues between the two nations, and you heard Tony Blinken, who you and I both know well, he is balanced, sensible, hardly on the right. Yet, on public cameras, he talks about treatment of wiggers as a genocide, that China`s preposterous claims to own the entire South China Sea, a body of water, Brian, that`s half the size of the continental United States. It`s enormous. The crackdown on human rights in Hong Kong, theft of intellectual property, the recent cyber hacks, I could go on and on. This is real. And can we still avoid a conflict? Absolutely. But if we don`t, measure the distance between us, we can never close it.

WILLIAMS: So here you are. As a first time novelist, though, not a first time author, I was reflecting tonight that our mutual hero, Admiral Nimitz, who loved a good novel while at sea would probably marvel at your ability to turn a battleship around in a bathtub and become a novelist. My question is, how did you -- how did you formulate what a war with China would look like decades out ahead of us?

STAVRIDIS: Simply by imagining my way to the future. And if you think about it, Brian, unfortunately and national security, we tend to get surprised, you mentioned Admiral Nimitz who saved the Pacific Fleet from the ruins of Pearl Harbor, he imagined his way into the future. Who could have imagined 9/11, who could have imagined a 20 year war in Afghanistan, who could have imagined a pandemic that has locked us down for a year. I can imagine a war with China by imagining it my ideas that we can reverse engineer it, come up with a plan and avoid it.

WILLIAMS: When you hear people at good hearted gatherings, usually sponsored by somebody like Brookings who insists the years of conventional warfare are just over, we`re buying the wrong equipment. We`re offering the wrong training. It`s just not going to happen the way we imagined it. What do you make of that argument?

STAVRIDIS: There are two sides to it. We could go back to Pearl Harbor back to Nimitz. What was destroyed at Pearl Harbor? Battleships. They were the coin of the realm before the Second World War, aircraft carriers took over. I think that we are in fact shifting now from aircraft carriers into a world of unmanned vehicles, into a world of elite Special Forces, into a world of cyber, into a world of weapons from space. We`re not there yet.

So it`s not an on and off switch. It`s not like on Tuesday night carriers become obsolete, but it`s a rheostat. You dial it in and that dial is relentlessly turning toward those new weapons of war.

WILLIAMS: Retired Admiral and now novelist James Stavridis, our thanks for being our guest tonight. The book that you`ve seen over the Admiral shoulder is 2034, 2034, A Novel of the Next World War, always a pleasure having you. Good luck with it. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, tonight we are learning more about the lives tragically lost in Tuesday`s metro Atlanta shootings and the lives of those they left behind.


WILLIAMS: As people across the country gathered to honor the eight people killed in Tuesday`s shootings in Atlanta, the victim`s families are grappling with their own losses. Our report tonight from NBC News correspondent Kathy Park.


KATHY PARK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I`m Kathy Park in Duluth, Georgia where the families of the shooting victims are remembering their loved ones. Like Randy Park lost his mother, 51-year-old Hyun Jung Grant. He says she was a single mom who worked tirelessly to provide for two sons. Grant worked at Gold Spa even sleeping there instead of driving 30 miles back home at night.

(on camera): You told me she worked weeks without breaks?

RANDY PARK, SON OF ATLANTA SHOOTING VICTIM: I mean, you`re working five, four or five months straight, no break, not coming home.

K. PARK (voice-over): Park is now responsible for taking care of his younger brother because the rest of their family is in South Korea. He started a GoFundMe page and is moved by the outpouring of support, donations are over a million dollars and climbing, her death happening with a growing spotlight on the rise of hate crimes against Asians across the country.

(on camera): What`s your reaction to the way that they have handled the investigation into the shooting?

R. PARK: You can`t say that this isn`t racially motivated. You don`t kill eight people on a bad day. Let alone one.

K. PARK: How often would she tell you that she loved you?

R. PARK: Every night, every night before she goes to bed, she calls me and my brother.

K. PARK (voice-over): Tonight, a young man sharing to the world the importance of holding your loved ones close.

Kathy Park, NBC News.


WILLIAMS: What a devastating week it`s been for that community.

Coming up for us, Vladimir Putin still has a lot of friends in the U.S. some of them run cable news networks.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, the darndest thing is happening over at "Fox News" where these days more than ever, they seem to love them some Vladi Putin. It is true that Putin and Russia generally are coming off a four year sugar high where they were all but honorary members of the Trump administration and the Trump media industrial complex.

Trump not only bent over backwards for Putin, he fell hard for the guy, let`s face it, and craved his approval. And he brought his whole party along with him. Remember when we learned there were Russians at the GOP convention in Cleveland in 2016 as if that`s a thing. And always remember, these Republicans spent the 4th of July 2018 in Moscow as one does.

So imagine you`re an elected official in the United States. And instead of the annual hometown parades and picnics and fireworks with constituents and friends and family, no, you choose to spend your Independence Day in Russia, or as Ron Johnson calls it, the perfect July 4th.

Also remember the T-shirts we saw at Trump rallies, I`d rather be Russian than a Democrat. And that actually explains some of this Putin supporting by "Fox" types. You see the enemy of their enemy is their friend. Putin is at odds with Biden. They hate Biden. "Airgo" go Putin. But that doesn`t explain four years of making exceptions for Putin. And now they`re going deep.

All the while remember helping Putin to diminish the United States. They love the shirtless Putin over at "Fox" any chance to stress his virility and vigor including what they say on the air where it`s sometimes difficult to figure out which side they`re rooting for.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Russia`s president challenging President Biden to a live televised debate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it`s healthy to see this happening on the world stage so early in Biden`s presidency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden is the President. He doesn`t need to keep this narrative that Russia is worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they should hash it out. You know, why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They view Biden as something of a clown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biden can answer questions from reporters. He certainly can`t do a one on one with Vladimir Putin on live television.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who`s likely to show up like that picture on a horse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden is in fact weak and frail and he`s struggling cognitively. The whole world can see what we see.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Putin and Biden it would not end like Rocky 4. I don`t think the American would prevail.


WILLIAMS: Jonathan Chait writes this in "New York Magazine." Biden`s clear break with Trump`s line is offensive to Moscow and Mar-a-Lago in equal measure.

Tom Nichols, a frequent guest of ours here writes, this GOP/Fox turn toward Russia is just anti-liberal spite and it`s traitorous.