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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 3/23/21

Guests: Sam Zeif, Al Franken, Irwin Redlener

Summary

Democrats again push for gun control after two mass shootings in six days. Ten were killed in Colorado supermarket shooting. President Joe Biden urges Congress to act on gun safety. Senate holds contentious gun safety hearing. Sen. Manchin may derail Schumer`s gun control plans. Senator Cruz`s pushback on gun restrictions epitomizes high hurdles. U.S. health officials question AstraZeneca vaccine trial results.

Transcript

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 63 of the Biden administration. In less than a week a mass shooting has left yet another community in this country grieving and struggling to confront the reality of a staggering loss. Ten people killed in Boulder Colorado yesterday when a gunman, who police say, was armed with a military style semi automatic long gun and a handgun, walked into a grocery store yesterday and open fire.

The suspect identified as 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa is charged with 10 counts of first degree murder in connection with the shooting. His profile is familiar by now according to investigators, a young man with mental illness and access to lethal weapons.

"The Washington Post" reports he was "one of 11 siblings in a family that emigrated from Raqqa, Syria two decades ago."

"New York Times" reporting that in high school, "fellow student students recall him as having a fierce temper that would flare in response to setbacks or slights."

The Boulder shooting came just six days after eight people were killed in a series of shootings in metro Atlanta. This morning we learned the names of the victims in Boulder. They ranged in age from 20 to 65. They included store employees, a retiree, a police officer, who was the first to respond to the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF MARIS HEROLD, BOULDER POLICE DEPARTMENT: Denny Stong, 20. Neven Stanisic, 23. Rikki Olds, 25. Tralona Bartkowiak, 49. Suzanne Fountain, 59. Teri Leiker, 51. Officer Eric Talley, 51. Kevin Mahoney, 61. Lynn Murray, 62. Jody Waters, 65. Our hearts go out to all the victims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Staggering loss as we said Eric Talley, the officer killed in the line of duty and 11 year veteran of that force, the father of seven children, his youngest is just seven years old.

For more on this tragic story out of Colorado, we are joined tonight by the state`s democratic governor, Jared Polis.

Governor, I know you know this community well. I know you`ve lived in this community, our condolences along with everyone else watching to the best of your knowledge, how are they doing tonight?

GOV. JARED POLIS, (D) COLORADO: You know, it`s one of those things we say could be anywhere. And in this time, it was in my hometown, a grocery store that I`ve been to many times and I know people who are friends and who lost wonderful members of our community, and this is just a horrific tragedy. And it`s going to be a tough healing process to get through this.

WILLIAMS: What do you do about the fact? How do you begin to process the fact that in your big, beautiful State of Colorado, you now have three places, Columbine, Aurora, and now Boulder that will sadly for everything else, they`re known for be synonymous with gun violence? And do you feel on the powerless and hamstrung side absent action by the feds?

POLIS: You know, there`s no way to make sense of this kind of evil action. It`s really just the very much that the face of evil. Colorado has common sense gun safety laws, like universal background checks, but you know, what, we`re only, you know, an hour to drive from Wyoming and other states that don`t. So I really think it is important to put in these kinds of common sense measures nationally. And I also think it`s important to focus on making sure that people have the mental health and behavioral health resources that they need, particularly in a time when they might be in need.

WILLIAMS: Do you regret the fact that Colorado has an open carry state for example?

POLIS: Why? You know, I don`t know if I have to find the particulars of this but I mean, whether he was -- whether it was, you know, holstered in hidden or whether it was open, I don`t think was the issue. Obviously he took out the gun and killed 10 of our fellow Coloradans. It`s going to be a difficult time and I really appreciate the outpouring of love and support that has come in to Boulder and to Colorado from across the country and across the world. And as Governor, I just want to make sure your viewers know across the country, how wonderful that is that we feel the love and we are grateful for being held closely in your hearts.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely the case people feel helpless and just pure raw sadness over this, Governor Jared Polis of the great State of Colorado. Again, our condolences. Thank you for taking a few minutes to take our questions tonight.

At the White House in Washington, flags once again being flown at half staff to honor the victims of this shooting. They had already been lowered for the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings.

President Biden who has a long history of promoting gun control legislation today urged the U.S. Senate to take action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: The United States Senate, I hope summer listing should immediately pass the two House passed bill to close loopholes in the background check system. These are bills that received votes of both Republicans and Democrats in the House. This is not, it should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. We should also ban assault weapons in the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Later, while in Ohio to promote the Relief Act, Biden was sounding somewhat less certain about getting lawmakers to move forward with any kind of gun legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mt. President, do you believe you have the political capital to make changes on gun measures right now?

BIDEN: I hope so. I don`t know. I haven`t done any counting yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The Senate majority leader who recently shepherded passage of the Relief Act was sounding more confident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK MAJORITY LEADER: I`ve already committed to bringing universal background checks legislation to the floor of the Senate, this Senate will be different. The Senate is going to debate and address the epidemic of gun violence in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: There`s one problem that would be West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. He says he will not support the House passed bills on expanding background checks underscoring the divide among Democrats. The mood in today`s Senate Judiciary hearing on preventing gun violence demonstrated just how tough passing anything is going to be. The hearing was scheduled well in advance of today`s news. But the week`s two mass shootings made for heightened tensions and sharper words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thoughts and prayers cannot say the eight victims in Atlanta or the 10 last night including a brave police officer. Thoughts and prayers can`t save the 24,000 people killed every year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kind of horror is thoroughly predictable as long as Congress fails to act.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS JUDIARY COMMITTEE: I agree it`s a time for actions. And by the way, I don`t apologize for thoughts or prayers. I will lift up in prayer, people who are hurting and I believe in the power of prayer and the contempt of Democrats for prayers is an odd sociological thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The shootings have happened at a time when so many are trying to emerge from a year spent out of circulation due to an uncontrolled pandemic. We of course share that with the rest of the world. But as NBC News Correspondent Tom Costello reminds us tonight these mass murders, they are uniquely American.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yet again tonight familiar heartbreak and a gut wrenching irony that the victims in Boulder managed to survive a global pandemic only to die in America`s decades long epidemic of gun violence. Only a week ago it was Atlanta. Before that, there was Milwaukee and El Paso, Dayton, Virginia Beach, 1000 Oaks, Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown, Aurora, Charleston, Virginia Tech. The list of places and names goes on and on. Since the Columbine massacre at 1999, there have been at least 114 mass shootings, 1300 victims.

Today former President Obama wrote, we should be able to live our lives without wondering if the next trip outside our home could be our last. We should but in America we can`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Tom Costello with that reporting from earlier today. And with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night, Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post, Courtney Subramanian, White House Correspondent for USA Today, and Carmen, Best, former Police Chief for the great city of Seattle. She is among our law enforcement analysts. Good evening to you all.

And Chief, I`d like to begin with you. What do you make of what is known thus far about this gunman?

CARMEN BEST, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it`s not a surprising story here. What we`re hearing as information comes forward about the mental health of the lone gunman. Clearly there`s a pattern here with people who have issues, mental health issues who are able to obtain guns and then use them in this vicious and horrible way and take the lives of people so saddling unnecessarily. I think at this time we`re going to hear a lot of discussion as we have heard in previous incidents like this, about gun control, about how we need to take action. And we do need to come together and take action as certainly law enforcement can get behind that, because gun safety is officer safety. And with the proliferation of gun violence that we`ve seen across this nation, it really is time to come together to have discussions about how we`re going to move forward without having to come outside of our homes and worry about, you know, getting killed at the grocery store, or at the school or the theater. It`s time to have these really deep discussions.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Courtney, Joe Biden`s been working on gun control legislation for years, a whole lot of people with this after their names have where the White House is concern. Where`s the confidence level that something anything will emerge from the U.S. Senate and make it to Joe Biden for a signature?

COURTNEY SUBRAMANIAN, USA TODAY WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it comes down to just how much political capital the Biden White House wants to put behind this issue, especially at a time when they`re, you know, getting ready to pitch the second phase of their build back better agenda and a $3 trillion infrastructure package. You know, are they going to use the same sort of laser focus that they used for COVID relief on this, on the infrastructure package? Or are they going to get, you know, tangled up in another battle? You know, when asked about this earlier today, whether he had the political capital, Biden was unabashedly optimistic, he said, I hope so and crossed his fingers. But this is an issue that Biden knows well. He knew he, you know, dealt with as a senator, as a vice president, and now as a president. And he does really understand that, you know, there`s no clear path forward, especially in a divided Congress. And I do think this sort of underscores the question once again, of whether this will be the issue to have to force the President`s hand or the Democrats for that matter, to finally decide whether they`re willing to eliminate the filibuster to get an issue like gun reform passed.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, the four of us all know the name Fred Guttenberg. And by one way of looking at it, we shouldn`t. He was just a guy, a dad living his life in Florida until his 14 year old daughter, Jamie was killed at Parkland, it kind of plunged him into a life of advocacy. He`s well known in the media for speaking out something, he did it again, today. We`ll discuss on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED GUTTENBERG, DAUGHTER JAIME WAS KILLED IN PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTING: This is not about the Second Amendment. Stop the B.S. Nobody is trying to take your weapons if you`re a legal lawful gun owner. This is a public health epidemic, we ought to be working together on how we reduce the gun violence, death rate on how we stop these instances of gun violence, and on how we decrease the severity of these injuries when they happen. And they don`t want to join in that effort then we move forward without them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Phil, I hate to ask this in a negative cast, but is it going to be true again, that personal stories, staggering stories of personal loss are still not going to move the ball on this issue?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: You know, Brian, only time can tell. But we`ve been having this discussion now for the better part of a decade. The stories from Newtown, Connecticut were as heartbreaking as they can possibly get. And yet that didn`t move the needle in Congress. And even with a number of Democratic senators who oppose gun legislation during the Obama administration, the failure to act on gun control is probably one of the most enduring pieces of unfinished business from the Obama years. And Biden knows it well, because it`s Vice President, this was part of his portfolio promoting gun control. We`ll see if he puts the muscle behind it politically in the weeks to come. But I just don`t know what the math is going to be for those senators and what it`s going to convince them otherwise.

I remember back in 2014, I spent a week on the road with Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, who of course is now a senator from Arizona as they were going to one rural state after another trying to build public support in states where Democrats were in the Senate and they couldn`t get it over the finish line. Those democratic senators oppose background checks and other gun control legislation back in the Obama years. I`m not sure it`s going to be any different this time around.

WILLIAMS: Chief, during our coverage last night, I made the point for a largely civilian audience that police officers are a tight bunch. I think if anything, the attention and negative focus that some cases of very bad policing have brought to the business of policing has made those still in it even tighter the parlance of the trade is the job. They`re always talking about time on the job. It is the only job they know. So tell me what happens when a department suffers a loss. And what`s the leadership challenge now, for this chief in Boulder?

BEST: Well, there`s nothing more sad or tragic, nothing that a chief or an agency wants to hear less than the loss of an officer in the line of duty, these line of duty deaths are incredibly stressful, heartbreaking in many ways. It also brings to the fact, to the face and to the front, for officers that they`re all very vulnerable. I mean, many people have probably talked to, chatted with and hung out with this officer on many occasions, and now he`s gone, and they recognize that, but for fate that could easily have been then. So that recognition is always very difficult, it`s always very sad when an officer paid the ultimate sacrifice, in the name of public safety.

And there will be a lot of weeks and months to come, lots of services and memorials and things will occur. But that won`t change the fact that we won`t have this officer back. And that`s always very tragic. And it will be up to the chief and others to really support the officers as they grapple with the needless death of this officer and the other people who die needlessly as well. And really have those deep discussions about how they move forward as an organization, and how we might make a difference in the future so that less officers are succumb to this type of senseless and needless violence.

WILLIAMS: Courtney, I don`t quite know how to ask this except to say that so many people watching tonight, not just this broadcast, but the day long coverage of this tragedy, want to have some reason for hope in the future. If you headed down to the Hill tomorrow morning, to target certain members, certain offices to write a story about any hints for compromise. Where would you go, which doors would you knock on?

SUBRAMANIAN: Well, that`s a very good question. I do think Senator Toomey is a good place to start. He`s someone who has expressed interest in passing gun reform, considering he was one of the sponsors of the bills, of the bill in 2013 that the Obama administration failed to pass. He has expressed interest in passing a version of his bill that he sponsored with Joe Manchin, but he`s definitely someone I think you could target.

You know, the issue here is this Republican obstructionism that, you know, Democrats are arguing is getting in the way and I do think, you know, it is going to be an issue on gun reform. That`s been a long running debate. This isn`t a new issue. This is something that, you know, both parties have bickered over for, you know, many administrations and it`s just going to be an uphill battle for the Biden White House and Democrats, despite their optimism about, you know, what the landscape looks like now, it is quite divided. So I do think that`s going to be a bit tricky moving forward.

WILLIAMS: And Phil, to your beat, we have a pandemic, we have an economic collapse and the basis of a recovery. We have a fight over voting rights going on across our country and into the hopper are thrown two issues, a crisis, no matter what they call it at the southern border. And, of course, two mass shootings in a week`s time. President`s been in office all of 63 days. It`s a lot to manage for the chief of staff and for this West Wing, is it not?

RUCKER: You know, Brian, it certainly is a lot to manage. And look, Joe Biden ran for president as the kind of candidate who could come in with the decades of experience in public service, to navigate through these crises. At the time, we thought the crises were only going to be the pandemic in the economy and the racial unrest in the country.

Now, you`re right. We have an immigration crisis. We have a gun safety crisis. And there could be more to come. But President Biden is showing, you know, out on the road the last few days, doing a bunch of different events here in Washington as well, trying to show that he can juggle all of these crises at once.

The real question I think is going to be what is he pushed forward legislatively? With the Congress in the next few weeks, there had been a lot of momentum or an infrastructure package, a huge spending bill to develop the nation`s infrastructure. Will that end up going on hold in order to address them control in these coming days? We`ll have to see. But there`s reason for Ron Klain, the Chief of Staff and the others in this administration to be up late at night, trying to figure out how to manage all of this.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, there is just as we are indebted for our three returning guests tonight for taking our questions. Phil Rucker, Courtney Subramanian and Carmen Best, much obliged. Thank you all very much.

Coming up for us, a survivor of Parkland, a young man we got to know back then is standing by to talk to us about what it must feel like in Boulder tonight because sadly, he knows all too well. All survivors know, and yet the mass shootings keep on coming.

And later, former Senator Al Franken joins us to take on the painful question. Will anything ever be done about this? Or is this just the American way? All of that as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Tuesday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: It`s been over three years since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 17 people died that day. It has joined the list of mass shootings that hasn`t stopped. And now of course Boulder has been added to that increasing list, right after Atlanta a few days before.

Our next guest tonight, Sam Zeif survived the Parkland shooting and days later had this to say to the former president at the White House.

SAM ZEIF, PARKLAND SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I was reading today that a person, 20 years old, walked into a store and bought an AR-15 in five minutes with an expired ID. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How do we stop this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, I`m sitting with a mother that lost its son. It`s still happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: With us again tonight is Sam Zeif. He`s a college student now. When we first met Sam, he was in his final year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, his close friend Joaquin, one of the 17 that was killed in that shooting.

Hey, buddy, it`s great to see you. It`s been too long. I think about you often. And to be totally candid, one of our producers said in the break way, too, you see, Sam, he`s all grown up. And indeed, you are. And I`m glad to see it. That day you met with Donald Trump. He famously had a card in his hand that with a handwritten note from one of his aides, I hear you. Of course, there was no evidence that he heard what you were saying. You`ve never received satisfaction or a satisfactory answer, have you? For that question you just asked?

ZEIF: No, definitely not, definitely not. No, that was a complete publicity stunt for him. He just wanted to hear something from victims before that night in Tallahassee where my classmates smoked -- or spoke. He just wanted to -- he just wanted to be there first and hear from victims if there was really no, he had no intention of moving anywhere with gun control after that, or before that.

WILLIAMS: You know, what this day was like in Boulder. This is the day the flower start arriving, this is the night the casseroles start arriving at the front door, what could you possibly tell the folks there maybe even help the folks there about the road that is ahead of them?

ZEIF: Honestly, there`s nothing really that can make it better. It`s the worst feeling in the world. And it`s something that you have to live with, for your beloved victims that fell in your in your city, in your town. And it never really gets, it never really gets easier to kind of live with, you kind of -- you just get stronger, and you learn how to carry it, and sending you all my strength.

WILLIAMS: You`ve clearly learned how to carry it, you`re in college now. Tell us about your recovery, the ongoing process of recovery from that day and how your life`s going now?

ZEIF: Life as well, for the most part, you know, I`m lucky, I`m happy and my family is healthy. Like I said, you know, it`s just something I`ve kind of, had to live with. And, you know, just live the best life I can for the people that can`t anymore from my friends and from my teachers and classmates. And yeah, you notice, the three years, like you said, you know, sorry, three years ago, still happening. It`s terrible.

WILLIAMS: Let me end with asking you for a prediction. Do you think any major change will come to this business of guns and their availability and their locality in your adult lifetime?

ZEIF: I mean, it`s really all in the hands of the policymakers. I understand, you know, President Trump had no, former President Trump had no intentions of ridding our country of this violence, you know, it`s -- he had his pockets being filled, you know, hopefully, Biden will be different. You know, he says, he`s working towards it. But, you know, it`s just getting worse and worse, you know, we thought 2018 was such a bad year, 2019. We had -- there`s 300 ish shootings in 2018. And 2020 have to cut more than the entire country is on lockdown. And there were 600 mass shootings. It`s -- and it`s -- I understand, you know, you just came into office and have a lot on your plate. There`s a global pandemic and whatnot. But this is not a global issue. This is an American issue. It`s money driven. And, like, when exactly -- will it be in my lifetime? I hope so. But currently, I`m planning on raising my kids somewhere else. And it`s terrible. It`s a terrible feeling to feel it because I do love my country. I love everything about it. It`s great that we have freedom. People think we`re trying to take away their guns we`re not. We`re just trying to make sure that only the right people have access to that kind of power. And way too many people have that access right now. It`s, I don`t even know, it`s our own pandemic. It`s an American pandemic that kills people every year. And you know, it`s, I forgot who was on your show just now just got off. I don`t remember his name. He seemed to have worked in the White House. And he said that this is an emerging crisis. No, it`s not. This is not an emerging crisis.

I sat next to a mother who lost her son years ago, six year olds. I mean, they didn`t care when six year olds die. Why would they care when my 18- year-old friend died? You know, 17 years old, but I don`t know. I don`t know what it`s going to take. I don`t know what it`s going to take. It`s going to take it`s going to take our president to step up and get behind this and really, really devote his energy to it like it deserves because our country is dying in a lot of ways.

WILLIAMS: Sam, it is it is good to see you. I hate the circumstances. But I am going to think about the words you just use for a good long time as I hope our viewers will. You continue to take care of yourself. And thank you very much for agreeing to talk to us tonight and for coming back on. Our friend Sam Zaif, survivor of the Parkland shooting.

Coming up for us to bloodshed in Boulder doesn`t seem to have changed many minds in Congress as Sam and I were just discussing, Republicans wasted no time going to their go to insisting Democrats are coming for your guns. We`ll talk about all of it including what we just heard from Sam with former senator Al Franken right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Every time there`s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders. What happens in this committee after every mass shooting is Democrats proposed taking away guns from law abiding citizens, because that`s their political objective. But what they propose not only does it not reduce crime, it makes it worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President`s calls for new gun control measures are hitting expected and entirely predictable resistance from people like Ted Cruz from the GOP. It`s an all too familiar cycle by now and what our next guest is well acquainted with. Back with us tonight, former Minnesota democratic senator Al Franken, who these days has the good fortune to host a podcast already bearing his name.

Senator, I`m duty bound to repeat the phrase a democratic senator told me there are two types of people in the US Senate people who hate Ted Cruz, and Ted Cruz. With that in mind, your reaction to Ted Cruz, especially in light of what we just heard from our friend, Sam in Florida.

AL FRANKEN (D-MN), FMR. U.S. SENATOR: You know, he said that every time there`s a mass shooting or shooting, that we have one of these hearings. First of all, this hearing was called well before this Atlanta, and I was in the Senate in 2017. And I don`t recall having 346 of these hearings, because that`s how many mass shootings we had in that year in the United States.

He didn`t say that we call this hearing after when this happened, you know, after Cancun, when his first instinct was to say that, oh, I had just brought my kids there, I was going to fly right back that day. I mean, after that, he should really think about maybe not lying quite so much because you don`t want to get reputation. Maybe that`s why your categories of who like sacred was so accurate.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask about a democratic member. And that`s Joe Manchin. And I don`t know any other way to put this. Is it fair, that in effect, Joe Manchin of West Virginia gets veto power over gun legislation in that chamber absent any change to the filibuster?

FRANKEN: Well, even if there isn`t a change on the filibuster, Joe will have a lot to say is just now the makeup of the Senate. And Joe is in an interesting position, because he`s the most conservative member of the body. He`s a good -- I like Joe, he`s a friend of mine. You know, handed to me in 2013 had a bill that was a background check bill. So I think there`s hopefully help for that. That`s a Republican.

I was shocked when that didn`t happen. That was after Sandy Hook. And that`s why this day like this is so devastating, because even whether they like this in a day, like last in Atlanta, you can`t be optimistic about getting some kind of meaningful gun legislation. And the things you`re hearing out of, like Leader McConnell was talking about, well, this is about mental health. If he cared about mental health, he shouldn`t have tried to kill the ACA, which was about giving people covered from mental health.

And the hypocrisy and the disinformation aware, you know, Democrats are trying to take your guns away. Democrats aren`t trying to take your guns away. They`re trying to make people a little safer. And yes, some of us wanted to take the get assault weapons off the streets. And some of us wanted to get high capacity magazines off the streets. And some of us want to have background checks for when guns are sold everywhere and in every setting. That`s not taking your guns away. That`s not taking your guns away.

WILLIAMS: No but it makes for a better sound bite, it makes it instills more fear in the base. Former Senator Al Franken on this terrible occasion. Thanks for having us and thank you for joining us.

FRANKEN: Thank you for having me, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Appreciate it.

FRANKEN: Appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, what`s all the fuss about this AstraZeneca vaccine at a time by the way when most of the news on the vaccine front is uniformly good to great. One of our leading doctors is standing by to explain it all to us right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: As of tonight the U.S. has recorded over 30 million confirmed coronavirus cases. How`s that for a benchmark, while our country racist to get more shots in arms. AstraZeneca is vaccine is facing another setback. The company is now updating its efficacy data after an independent panel in the U.S. accused of using outdated and potentially misleading information from its trial.

So let`s talk about it with us again tonight, Dr. Irwin Redlener, founding director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness who advises us on Public Health.

Doctor, what should we know about this vaccine? It`s been in auspicious early history of this. I will quickly add in this conversation while we get a microphone on you, that every downfall AstraZeneca and their PR department suffers is getting amplified by the Russians. It`s in the Russian interest to diminish the effectiveness of this vaccine and diminish its reputation. So, what`s going on and won`t the final product bottom line keep people out of the hospital keep people from dying?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: It sure would, Brian. This is really kind of a sad and extraordinary story and with reference to the communication team from AstraZeneca, they might want to kind of start over with, you know, getting some people in who know what they`re doing about communicating complicated data. And the fact that the Russians are exacerbating every single misstep with everything to do with COVID control and vaccines, it`s just making the situation worse.

The fact of the matter is this. There have been a number of missteps since AstraZeneca, first announced that it had a two dose vaccine starting with this extraordinary announcement that they were getting less effective results from the second dose -- from the second dose and just the first dose alone, which seemed preposterous and it kind of was preposterous. It was some miscommunications about early data, that efficacy of the vaccine. And then we had a report recently that the vaccine might have been associated with blood clots, which turns out to be probably not true.

And now this jumping to report some new data, suggesting that it is more effective than it`s probably going to be. And this has been really major conservative Dr. Fauci and the other independent investigators who are monitoring all this.

The problem here is not just AstraZeneca, because AstraZeneca is probably a good company. That`s got lousy communications. But this is a problem in terms of undermining generally people`s confidence in getting vaccinated from any vaccine. And that`s the last thing we need this particular time frame. We need everybody feeling confident, and certain about what the vaccines are able to do, which is save lives. And any misstep and miscommunication can undermine that ability to be confident that vaccines are the way to go, which they are, Brian.

WILLIAMS: I needed to get your analysis of something we read in Axios and I`ll read it to you, 52 percent of unvaccinated Americans reported seeing friends and relatives outside the home, i.e., socially in the past week compared with just 41 percent of those who`d been vaccinated. And Doctor other than the fact that any percentage of unvaccinated Americans I know horrifies you, is the takeaway here that the unvaccinated population is more emboldened and the vaccinated population by nature and definition is more cautious.

REDLENER: It`s so strange, Brian, I mean, you know, this is, you know, quote, but you want I call it recklessness and recklessness at the end of the day is the enemy of pandemic control. Whether that recklessness is by unvaccinated people by governors of states like Texas, that are relaxing public health, mask mandates, so on and so on, or whether it`s college students partying it up like this, you know, 1999 in Florida for spring break, all of these things threaten the possible good news of a leveling out and a dropping in the incidence and prevalence of the disease, the deaths, the hospitalizations, we`ve got to hang in there. And this recklessness in whatever form and by whomever is committing it are potential real delays, if not serious setbacks in where we all want to go and getting back to normal. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Irwin Redlener, our thanks once again tonight for taking our questions and prints wherever you are. Please know you live on this broadcast. Coming up for us. We will show you what it looks like every day on our southern border now via our eye in the sky.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Migrant families, unaccompanied minors as you know continue surging across our southern border despite warnings from the U.S. not to come, don`t attempt the trip. Tonight we`re getting an inside look at patrols along the southern border as the government releases new images of crowded border facilities. NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez has our report tonight from Mission, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The newly released images shot last week by the government at border facilities and Donna in El Paso, Texas to pick crowded but orderly conditions. migrant children in mass having your temperatures taken. Others exercising outside, small children on laps waiting to be processed. Others sleeping on mats with mylar blankets, a striking contrast makeshift play pens in a place so far from home.

The images were released a day after democratic Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar leaked photos inside the Donna facility. Some rank and file Border Patrol agents who`ve been inside this facility say it`s not their fault.

CHRIS CABRERA, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL VICE PRESIDENT: When Border Patrol agents we`re not we`re not daycare. So that`s not what we`re designed for.

GUTIERREZ: Late today we wrote along with the Texas Department of Public Safety who helps federal agents patrol the border by air.

(on camera): This is the epicenter of the migrant surge here in the Rio Grande Valley. The Texas DPS has encountered nearly 9,000 migrants in just the last few weeks.

(voice-over): It took just a few minutes for us to start seeing migrants after migrant crossing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here`s another one. There`s 31 right here.

GUTIERREZ: 31 in that group alone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this group right here.

GUTIERREZ: Some of them young children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s three children and the rest are adults.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): And you guys are seeing this all day for all day long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the coyotes returning to the Mexican side right now.

GUTIERREZ: Just a few minutes that we`ve been up here we`ve seen more than 60 migrants cross the border?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s correct. Eight, nine minutes time.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): These troopers are also on the lookout for smugglers by boat. Tonight the battle at the border being fought on multiple fronts.

Here along the Rio Grande, local and state authorities say they`re having to fill the gaps as the Border Patrol diverts resources to handle the migrant surge, Brian.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WILLIAMS: Gabe, thanks. Gabe Gutierrez, our correspondent reporting from the Texas border tonight.

Coming up more evidence that words have consequences as a big mouthpiece for the big lie now admits it was a big lie.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, Sidney Powell, Attorney at Law at least for now. She`s being sued for defamation by the folks who run Dominion voting. In her defense, she`s always been seen as a right wing lawyer. She`s Mike Flynn`s lawyer after all. Her reputation was that she had never met a conspiracy theory she didn`t like. She sure proved that this election cycle. She pushed the big lie, and millions believed her. There was nothing too outlandish for her. Nothing she would not say no theory to wild, no name, too big to drop.

Perhaps her most remarkable and unhinged performance was the day of the brown drip. The day remembered forever. As the day Rudy`s hair dye formed those facial rivulets as his colleagues looked on in horror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNEY POWELL, RIGHT-WING LAWYER: What we are really dealing with here and uncovering more by the day, is the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba, and likely China. In the interference with our elections, the Dominion Voting Systems were created in Venezuela, at the direction of Hugo Chavez. There are ties of the Dominion leadership to the Clinton Foundation, Mr. Soros number two person in the UK, a kid with a cell phone can hack one of these voting machines. That`s when they came in the back door with all the mail-in ballots, many of which they had actually fabricated. President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Yes, no, he didn`t. And remember something here. She was on the President`s legal team. She was welcomed into the Oval Office. She is now saying that she kind of realized the big lie was a big lie, and she kind of expected everyone to know she was just kidding.

In court papers filed to defend herself against Dominion, her lawyers say this quote, reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact, but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts.

So of course, it was a big lie. Problem is millions of people believed her. The true believers sacked our capital tried to overturn our election and five people died. Because if you toss around names like Soros and Clinton and a dead President of Venezuela often enough, you`ll find as we always say around here that words have consequences as Sidney Powell is about to find out. That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night. With our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.