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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 3/25/21

Guests: Andy Slavitt, Peter Baker, Jeremy Bash, James Carville, Mike Murphy

Summary

In President Biden`s first solo news conference, he began by announcing that he is setting a dramatic new benchmark for COVID vaccinations. Biden`s announcement on the vaccine goal was the only mention of the pandemic at his news conference. For over an hour, the President took reporter`s questions about the latest challenges as he tries to roll out an ambitious agenda, not all of it in his control.

Transcript

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR: And I tell you, Lawrence, it was beautiful and refreshing to know that the most powerful man in the world has intellectual curiosity and a desire to want to know for its own sake. My God, what a return to greatness in that Oval Office. If not quite Jeffersonian, at least Lincolnian at a certain level.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Michael Eric Dyson gets tonight`s last word. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again day 65 the Biden administration and yet for much of today, and indeed into tonight our attention has been focused on a historic night of dangerous weather in the south. Massive tornadoes that seem to go on forever. Some of them were on the ground for 100 miles. We`ve watched the death toll grow as the storms have continued into the dark of night.

We`ve got it covered. Our Meteorologist Bill Karins joins us later in the hour with the latest.

As for our other coverage tonight, we have some dangerous politics underway in the south. Voter suppression out in the open. It`s now law in Georgia.

And we begin with the President`s first solo news conference, which he began by announcing that he is setting a dramatic new benchmark for COVID vaccinations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On December 8, I indicated that I hope to get 100 million shots in people`s arms in my first 100 days. We met that goal last week by day 58, 42 days had a schedule. Now today, I`m setting the second goal. And that is we will by my 100 day in office have administered 200 million shots in people`s arms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The U.S. is on track to surpass that. We`re now averaging nearly 2.5 million doses every day. Biden`s latest goal comes as the new virus cases are on the rise and about half of our country.

Just ahead, the White House senior advisor on the COVID response will join us to talk about all of this.

Biden`s announcement on the vaccine goal was the only mention of the pandemic at his news conference, a dynamic we`ll discuss in a bit. For over an hour, the President took reporter`s questions about the latest challenges as he tries to roll out an ambitious agenda, not all of it in his control. And that would include the sudden influx of immigrants to the border who might be encouraged by his policies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I guess I should be flattered. People are coming because I`m a nice guy.

The truth of the matter is nothing has changed. As many people came, 28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration. 31 percent in the last year -- in 2019, before the pandemic in the Trump administration. It happens every single solitary year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you move too quickly to roll back some of the executive orders of your predecessor?

BIDEN: First of all, all the policies are underway, we`re not helping it all.

Rolling back to policies of separating children from their mothers, make no apology for that.

We should go back to a position of the filibuster that existed just when I came to the United States Senate.

Was being abused in the gigantic way. And for example, it used to be you had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed.

I strongly support moving in that direction.

If there`s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we`ll have to go beyond what I`m talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried that if you don`t manage to pass voting rights legislation, that your party is going to lose seats and possibly lose control of the House and the Senate in 2022?

BIDEN: What I`m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It`s sick. It`s sick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you decided whether you are going to run for reelection in 2024? You haven`t set up a reelection campaign yet as your predecessor had by this time.

BIDEN: My predecessor need do -- needed to. My predecessor. Oh, God, I miss him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you --

BIDEN: No, my answers, yes. My plan is to run for reelection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe you`ll be running against former President Trump?

BIDEN: Oh, come on. I don`t even think about it. I don`t have -- I have no idea. I have no idea if it will be Republican Party. Do you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So among other comments there we just heard Biden mince no words about Republican efforts to limit voting rights in this country. Well, just tonight, Georgia`s governor signed into law a vast rewrite of the state`s election rules. Put another way, it just now got harder to vote in Georgia. The legislation imposes voter ID requirements, it limits drop boxes that allows state takeovers of local elections.

This move follows the multiple challenges and recounts after last year`s presidential election. None of which by the way, turned up any irregularities or change the outcome of the election. Those recounts took place as the former president spread the big lie that the 2020 result Biden`s win was somehow fraudulent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Significant reforms to our state elections were needed. There`s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled. And those problems understandably led to the crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Crisis of confidence, they counted the ballots three times and no irregularities were found.

Then this happened today. Georgia State Troopers arrested a Georgia Democratic State Representative named Park Cannon on Thursday as she knocked on Governor Kim`s door as he live streamed his announcement about the law. Again, she is an elected official in the state of Georgia. This is her State Capitol. The officers forcibly removed her, dragging her through the building.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE REP. PARK CANNON (D-GA): I am not doing anything. I`m literally not doing anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Park was arrested when she and other protesters attempted to get the governor to allow the public to witness the announcement of the bill signing. She has been released. She`s been charged, however, with obstruction of law enforcement, and disrupting General Assembly sessions. More on that just ahead.

Meanwhile, the White House has started putting the finishing touches on a $3 trillion package to boost the economy that includes a giant infrastructure overhaul, that as the latest data showing that new claims for unemployment benefits fell to their lowest weekly level since the start of the pandemic.

To the politics of all of this in a moment, but we are want to begin our coverage with the pandemic. To do that, we welcome back to the broadcast Andy Slavitt, who these days is senior advisor on the COVID-19 response for the Biden White House.

Andy, good evening. Thank you for coming on and taking our questions. A big issue in the news media today. On this day when your boss announced 2 million -- 200 million shots in 100 days was why no journalist asked him about the pandemic. I`ve heard it tonight labeled bad news bias that we only ask about problems, I`m not sure you were focused on it in the White House. Is that a good sign, in other words that people think you guys have got this?

ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SR. ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: Well, thanks for having me tonight, Brian. And you know, first, I wanted to set my -- all my thoughts to people caught in the weather events in Alabama in south.

Look, I think what we`re -- what we witness today in his speech is what we`re getting used to it and watching President Biden as the president, which is his calm, clear leadership has stated goals. And it`s the kind of leadership where he basically says, this is the goal we`re going to set, we`re going to need to hit it, we`re going to put together a plan, and he`s calm. And to some that might be boring, to some that might be different from what we`re used to. But, you know, it`s deadly serious in the case of the pandemic, making our goals.

And if that`s not news, that we hit our goals and continue to expand our goals, it continue to push as aggressively as possible. You know, that`s just fine. There`s plenty of other stuff to do. But he did come into this office, and we all did, with a top priority of making sure that we can let Americans get back to normal life again, and get the economy back, and get the country back, and get people feeling safe and healthy again.

We`re not there yet, Brian. But you know, we are on our way if we were just a little more patient.

WILLIAMS: Andy, I know to your great consternation and personal frustration. You are in Washington watching these states, lifting restrictions and part of it is as no one needs to remind you, you are battling human nature. The weather is changing. People have been stuck inside for a year.

I want to read you what friend of this broadcast. Dr. Vin Gupta out in Seattle said today on social media, "Florida has the third most cases, and fourth most deaths due to COVID nationwide. If Florida were a country, it would be in the top 15 worldwide. Most were avoidable. Now, it`s an incubator for dangerous variants because of its foolish governor. Protect yourself, ignore him," Dr. Gupta writes.

And the question for you, Andy, what should Americans who are watching tonight be doing that they`re not doing? And how do you advise Americans, for example, those who`ve lucky enough to have been vaccinated who want to get out and why to travel.

SLAVITT: So, I think we`re making progress because the country is pulling together, by and large. You know, I don`t think we`re naive enough to think that everybody is going to agree with the President when he says, hey, let`s just wear masks for 100 days, even though I think most of us know that it`s good public sense.

But if everybody waits their turn, gets vaccinated when it`s their turn, as people increasingly are, continues to just keep avoiding crowds, continue to respect the fact that there are still hundreds of millions of people that aren`t yet vaccinated. And I think if you`re vaccinated, that`s one important thing to keep in mind. Yes, there`s a lot more you can do, you can hug your family again, you can begin to take steps back to normal life as the CDC has outlined. But just remember, there`s also hundreds of millions of people that are waiting to get vaccinated, that are still not vaccinated yet, maybe not hundreds of millions of people, but at least 100 million people.

And that -- and until everybody has had their chance to get vaccinated, let`s do everybody that respect of continuing to act as if we`re not there yet, just because we haven`t gotten vaccinated or may have gotten vaccinated. It`s a step, but we`ve got to get all of us there.

WILLIAMS: And if your team finds out what to do about tree pollen, perhaps I can get my voice back in the interim. Thank you for the work you`re doing to get as many shots as possible into American arms. Thank you for joining us again tonight and for taking our questions. Andy Slavitt from Washington.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night. Kristen Welker, she is the NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, cohost of "Weekend Today." In her spare time she was in on today`s questioning there in the East Room, as you saw. Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times." And Jeremy Bash is back with us, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and Pentagon, former Chief Counsel to the House Intel Committee.

Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Kristen, old friend, I`d like to begin with you. The President seemed a little bit defensive on immigration. Did it lead you and or others to believe that they were truly caught off guard by this wave that he insists is really no bigger than other off years?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brian, it`s great to be with you. Great to see you. I think to some extent the administration is caught off guard by just how big this wave is. As you heard President Biden say this is a seasonal issue. These numbers surge when we approach the spring and warmer months. And yet what his own DHS Secretary has said is that this surge is going to be, they believe, the largest in 20 years.

And so, of course, his administration has been fielding questions about whether there`s been mixed messaging, whether his policies are unintentionally sending the message that migrants are welcome. And so they`ve been on the defensive about that. And so, I think that`s part of what you witnessed today.

And in terms of the lines of questioning mine in particular, I asked President Biden, if he would commit to transparency on the issue, if he would allow reporters to go and to see the detention facilities where some of those migrants are being held, those children in particular. He said, yes, he would, but didn`t give a timeline. So there`s a real area there. I think, Brian, for us to follow up on and stay on top of what has become a critical issue.

As you point out, the President has laid out this robust agenda. And this is one of those early crises that he`s dealing with at the same time, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, indeed, coming off one of the points Kristen just made, a dramatic reading for you from Politico and it goes like this, "The President and his team have set expectations low and routinely cleared them all the while trying to create a deliberate contrast with the chaos that defined the four years of Donald Trump`s presidency."

And Peter, here`s the question in light of what we saw for over an hour today, what did we learn today about how he sees the office? And having had such an up close and personal experience serving a president for eight years, his view of the presidency now that it`s his?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he does want to send a stark contrast from his predecessor. Obviously, you know, President Trump`s press conferences often veered off in many different tangents, often included hostile exchanges with reporters, often included attacks on political adversaries that were pretty caustic and, you know, unusually vitriolic even for Washington. President Biden was trying to show a different side.

But he`s also not the same as his predecessor`s predecessor. He`s not the same as President Obama. He`s not even the same sort of cool discursive style that that president had. He is his own person. His own person, I think, is what they want to communicate to Americans because it`s sort of been the reassuring, you know, approach that won him a lot of favor in last year`s election and has continued to win him favor in these polls, 59 percent I think are.

So, giving him approval rating, which is higher than President Trump ever had, and higher than President Obama had for many of his eight years in office. So, I think you`re going to continue to show him -- they`re going to continue to show him in this kind of light, not necessarily dominating the conversation the way President Trump did, but trying to show that he`s on in command on top of a number of issues even as he does seem, as you say correctly, defensive on things that are out of his control.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Jeremy Bash, thanks in large part to our mutual friend Kristen, the President talked about foreign affairs today. I want to play for you one such exchange. We`ll discuss on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you commit to the American people that by May 2, the U.S. will no longer have forces in Afghanistan?

BIDEN: The answer is that it`s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline is in terms of tactical reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe though it`s possible we could have troops there next year?

BIDEN: I can`t picture that being the case.

WELKER: What is your red line on North Korea?

BIDEN: If they choose to escalate, we will respond accordingly. But I`m also prepared for some form of diplomacy. But it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So Jeremy, a big question that speaks to your life`s work. How has the U.S. role in the world changed just like that in the space of 65 days?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, Brian, you have now a commander in chief who`s a pragmatist. He says, look, I know we have an obligation to leave Afghanistan. And by the way, Biden has long been a proponent of having a smaller troop footprint in Afghanistan.

But he said, there`s no realistic, tactical, logistical way for us to do it in the next 30 days. However, Biden made clear that this time next year, we`re likely not going to have troops in Afghanistan. And that`s pretty significant news that he made today at the press conference.

And with respect to Kristen`s question of him with respect to North Korea. Again, I thought it was interesting, he embraced multilateralism. He said, we`re going to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions. We`re going to consult with our allies.

But he also telegraphed we`re not going to do empty cemetery. We`re not going to do photo off diplomacy or a bromance with Kim Jong-un. We`re going to insist if we go the diplomatic route on denuclearization. We`re going to denuclearize the peninsula and ensure that Kim Jong-un does not have nuclear weapons to threaten his neighbors.

And without that, there`s really no path for diplomacy. And so Biden said, I think, a very hard position on North Korea today an appropriate one.

WILLIAMS: Kristen, final question for you. How do you read the signals he was putting out today on the filibuster?

WELKER: I thought it was very notable, Brian. You have President Biden who in the wake of these two mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado has called for the Senate to pass the gun legislation that passed through the house. He has that robust agenda, which includes immigration reform, climate change and voting rights, what you were just talking about. And there is no indication that he has anything close to 60 votes in the Senate to get that passed.

And for the first time, you really heard President Biden leave the door open to supporting, getting rid of the filibuster. Now, the reality is he doesn`t have a vote, right? This is something that has to happen in the Senate. But his opinion matters a lot, what he is saying to leader Schumer matters a lot, the signals that he`s sending matter a lot. And this is in some ways a warning to Republicans.

Prior to today, he said, look, I would support changes to the filibuster. Let`s go back to the way it used to be, actually making people talk, making senators talk if they want to hold up a piece of legislation. But today, he went a little bit further. And the reality is a lot of Democrats believe that his agenda rests on potentially looking at significant changes, if not getting rid of it altogether. Brian.

WILLIAMS: As we wind up our first segment on a Thursday night, let me thank our guests. Kristen Welker, you`ve had a long day. I have it on good authority, another one awaits just hours from now. So, we especially appreciate you staying up late to take our questions.

WELKER: Thanks.

WILLIAMS: Peter and Jeremy, no such luck. They are sticking around over the break.

And coming up for us, more coverage of the new president`s first press conference, including the question he thinks is at stake not just here, but around the world.

And later, more on Georgia`s frightening move by Republicans to keep minorities from voting. James Carville, Mike Murphy will weigh in on what some are calling, "Jim Crow 2.0." All of it as The 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Thursday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy because that is what is at stake. Not just with China, look around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Interesting point you don`t often hear from the lectern in the East Room at the White House from our President.

Remaining with us for this conversation, Peter Baker and Jeremy Bash.

Peter, starting with where we left off my last question to Jeremy, considering the Trump doctrine was mostly about love letters and the sand with leaders we need to be tough on, do you see the makings of a Biden doctrine? And just how different is it?

BAKER: Well, I think it may be a little early to define it as a doctrine. I do think obviously he`s taking a different approach than President Trump. President Trump, of course, as you say, had his love affair as he called it. He himself called that with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, didn`t actually ended up leading to denuclearization as he hoped it would. He obviously admired autocrats like Erdogan in Turkey, el-Sisi in Egypt and most famously, of course, Vladimir Putin in Russia.

That`s the opposite approach that President Biden has taken since then he`s referred to President Putin or at least agreed with the assessment of President Putin as a killer. His Secretary State, Anthony Blinken, just had a tough meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Alaska. I think Biden wants to show that contrast.

Now, you know, he`s got, he`s going to take a tougher line, but that doesn`t mean that he won`t find ways to negotiate if he sees opportunities. I think that in his heart, Biden is a negotiator. He always likes to see if he can find a deal, even if it doesn`t seem like a deal is out there for the making.

That`s his nature. That`s his experience in the Senate as a senator, and a legislator and as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee even before becoming Vice President. But I think you`re right. I think he`s going to take a different approach to these autocrats than President Trump did and he`s not going to shy away from that.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, was it striking to you watching, I know, this was again big inside the journalism beltway, that there was virtually no discussion of pandemic we used to think was an existential threat to our population. But a lot of discussion in kind of a back to the future banner, the old stuff, Afghanistan, North Korea, China, right in your wheelhouse in the field of Foreign Affairs.

BASH: Yeah, look, I think with respect to the domestic scene in COVID, there`s a sense that Biden has his arms around it, that he`s got a plan, and that he`s executing on that plan. And I think the journalists concluded that they asked him a question about it, he`s going to tell him what he`s going to do. And since he`s been delivering, there`s very little room to challenge him on it.

But you`re right, Brian, there are big global issues that face this presidency. And I think the question you posed at the outset here of this block, is democracy versus autocracy. And it`s the way Biden teed it up. And I think he`s not just thinking about it with respect to China. He`s also thinking about it with respect to the home front.

Will we deliver on the promise of our democratic values? Will we treat everybody equally? Will we extend voting rights and democratic opportunity to all American citizens? That`s very much on the agenda. And he got questions about that today.

So, I think he`s going to work that domestically so that he can turn to the people like the Xi Jinping of the world and say, we`ve got our house in order, democracies to deliver, now, how about you guys? How`s autocracy working out for your people?

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, take 30 seconds. It`s just us after all, did folks make too much of the question issue today, the fact that once the President was clear of his rather Earth shaking announcement of 200 million shots in arms in 100 days, there was no further discussion of the pandemic.

BAKER: But look, there are obviously questions he could have been asked about the COVID situation. There are important questions. I mean, he could have been challenged, for instance, on saying that his goal -- original goal of 100 million shots in 100 days was so unrealistic, because in fact, it was actually being met the day he took office. So, in fact, it is an example of where he low balled the promise in order to meet it, and then exceed it and look like he`s doing much better. And they are doing much better. So he did have something to brag about.

But I think that there were also -- it`s a sign of how many other issues have been pushed to the side over the last year because the pandemic has been all consuming, because it has, you know, taken up so much of our national, you know, attention, rightly so because of its a dire threat to us. But that doesn`t mean that North Korea has gone away as an issue, doesn`t mean that immigration has gone away as an issue. Doesn`t mean that Russia and China and Afghanistan aren`t things that also should be, you know, asked about our president.

So, I think in some ways, you`re right. I mean, you know, have we had a chance to, I think that maybe we should have had another question there are too. But I think it`s also tells us something about how these other issues have been ignored to some extent or at least not gotten the attention. They also deserve even amid such an overwhelming issue like that.

WILLIAMS: We`re much obliged to two longtime friends of this broadcast. Peter Baker, Jeremy bash, gentlemen, thank you both.

Coming up for us. Among other things, the measure signed into law in Georgia tonight would make it a crime to offer water to voters wedding in line to vote. We will talk straight out voter suppression with James Carville and Mike Murphy when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Again, one of the big headlines tonight, Georgia just made it harder to vote. Republican governor Brian Kemp signed sweeping legislation late today that restricts voting, as so many people have pointed out the picture of the seven white men at the bill signing probably tells us everything we need to know about what Republicans in Georgia have just done and why.

The new law adds an ID requirement for absentee voting. The New York Times goes on to say it introduces a raft of new restrictions for voting and elections in the state, including limiting drop boxes stripping the secretary of state have some of his authority, imposing new oversight of county election boards, restricting who can vote with provisional ballots and making it a crime to offer food or water to voters waiting in lines.

It`s a lot back with us tonight. James Carville, veteran Democratic strategist who rose to national fame with the Clinton presidential effort, co-host of the politics War Room podcast. And Mike Murphy, veteran republican strategist and co-director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California, co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both. James, George`s your home state. Georgia just sent two democratic senators to the U.S. Senate. It was seen as perhaps a new vanguard of the Democratic Party. What`s going on there? What`s the remedy for it?

JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right, it was my birthday. But this was this this past 100-page bill was passed by the House in the Senate and signed by the governor in a single day. It is going to make it illegal to give somebody this standing in line to vote. I have never heard of water being an illegal substance in the United States.

But Brian, I don`t know I`ll get a lot of information on this bill. But when you tell people that they can`t do something, what you`re going to do is make them want to do it more. And I`ve said on our show before, to black people voting is something sacred, is something inherent. We take voting for granted. I`ve been you know whenever worried about voting rights in our lives.

And what they have done is they`re going to set off a literally an explosion down there. I don`t think we through with this and I don`t think that they do it to Georgia legislature. I`m looking for these corporations to scream about the injustice is that are contained in this legislation and I think there`s a lot more to go here. I don`t think this ends it at all.

WILLIAMS: Hey Mike, Mitch McConnell lied, straight up lied just yesterday that there was no voter suppression underway across the country of course 24 hours after his comments. Georgia for starters made a liar out of him. Two questions, number one, does he think we`re stupid? And number two, why is the GOP making itself about this?

MIKE MURPHY, VETERAN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, no, I don`t think he thinks we`re stupid. He`s a canny politician who is, unfortunately a bit trapped and Republican base politics here in the, you know, age of Trump.

Well, this is, look, the Georgia thing is a huge political blunder. In my view, it is rare to see process issues, breakthrough in the everyday voter world, but this thing is so egregious. I mean, I don`t care about shortening the runoff, there are a couple of parts of it that are terrible. But the idea of cracking down on absentee ballots and drop off ballots, and making giving somebody a drink of water, some sort of high crime, it doesn`t pass the lab test. And it`s clear the Republicans down they`re having this PTSD haven`t gotten their clocks cleaned. And they`re doing this juvenile bill is going to blow up in the public debate, is going to be fantastic for democratic fundraising, is going to be fantastic for democratic, moral high ground because they`ve got it on this. So it`s a big, stupid blunder for the Republican Party, and it`s going to hurt their chances I think in the midterm elections and beyond.

So, you know, it is even led rock ribbed conservative federalists like me to say, OK, we`re going to have to look at federalizing some stuff, because every state in America ought to have no excuse absentee ballot, that`s a good thing. You ought to be able to give somebody some water. And you know, the idea, you shut it all down right after work. I mean, there -- there`s so many stupid things in this that, I think a slimmed down version of H.R. 1, which in my view is full of overreach they passed in the House.

I think there`d be tremendous pressure in a few weeks on Republicans in the Senate of Schumer will move a narrow deal on those issues, to support it, or it`ll be a huge club to murder them within the midterm elections. Americans like fairness, and this is not fair what they`re doing.

WILLIAMS: And James, that ball bounces right back to you is this say the role of a federal judge? Can a targeted piece of legislation, get through Pelosi`s House, Schumer`s Senate and to Biden`s desk? Is there a federal remedy for whatever else is going to happen in the Georgia State House?

CARVILLE: Let`s understand the Constitution gives a lot of authority to Congress about how elections become (ph) federal elections are conducted. And Mike is exactly right. Whatever the chances of House Bill 1 more this morning, they are twice as good right now. I don`t know. But the prospects of this legislation is significantly improved.

And Mike, and I`ve been in this business for a long time. We`ve been up against each other any number of times, I never thought -- he had never thought that we had a limited number of people vote. We tried to convince people who were going to vote to vote for a candidate. But, you know, but we never like tried to pass something to stop someone from voting.

I mean, this is a radical change in American politics. And this has just accelerated over the last few years, it is culminated with what I think is that -- this is going to be a political disaster for the Republican Party. 64 percent of people for it in 2018 voted to give felons the right to vote is a basic sense of the fairness in this country that they don`t understand and but they`re going to find out. They`re going to find out

WILLIAMS: A quick break for us. Both of these good gentlemen have agreed to stick around. Coming up what Joe Biden`s predecessor had to say moments ago. We`re guessing it was classy. We`ll have those remarks when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: It`s very sad to watch actually, they`re feeding him questions. They`re easy questions that could be no difficult questions. And they`re ready to rip the microphone away if somebody did get a little bit testy. And, you know, he just looked the whole thing is ridiculous. You know it and so do I.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As we say, traditionally, former presidents refrain from criticizing their successors. But we know this hasn`t held true in Trump world. Still with us, James Carville and Mike Murphy. Mike, we`ll deal with that guy in just a second. But I quoted you on this broadcast.

Last night, something you said about guns. And I`ll paraphrase you can say at best, they were your words, the Democrats, if they overreach even in light of these twin tragedies, they could be responsible for rejuvenating the NRA. So let me ask you, what do you think, is achievable?

MURPHY: Background checks, every poll shows a strong majority of Republican voters support tougher background checks and closing the gun show loophole. That`s a winner with every kind of voter there is, even gun owners and very pro Second Amendment people, even a majority of NRA members.

So, you know, I think if Schumer plays that wedge, it`s going to be awful hard for Republicans to vote against, it`ll be a political real world wound to them. And he might be able to get there. If they play big, because of the 60 votes situation in the Senate, everybody`s going to dig in. And ironically, the NRA, which has been on the ropes with internal fighting, because you know, it`s essentially a business. So they`re having kind of their internal Sopranos fight over of the different factions there, will be reinvigorated, because they`re going to have a new reason to live.

So if the Dems are smart, I would go for the narrow thing. If they`re playing politics for long term, you know, maybe they want a big thing that they can`t get past because they want the politics of it. They want the issue more than the legislation we`re seeing. It`ll still be tough, but a narrow background check bill, I think has the best chance to peel Republican votes. And again, if they gun that down, metaphorically, excuse me for the imprecise term. That`s a big, big thing. They can use the election to hurt Republican candidates.

WILLIAMS: James, we heard the voice of your buddy, Donald Trump there, who`s spending his time banging around Mar-a-Lago. The portions of the building not shut down due to coronavirus, and there`s a report in Politico he`s vetting potential GOP primary candidates in Ohio. But do you think overall he is influenced certainly the volume has been waning in the 65 days.

CARVILLE: Yes, but it`s still really heavy with you know, 70 percent of the party. I point out I watched that interview tonight. He actually said that the insurrection is on the sixth of January pose zero threat that actually came out of his mouth, because before came on his show, I went back and got a clip and double check that I heard that and Laura Ingraham just sat down like I don`t know what but that man could go on television.

But all the people that committed suicide and died and all three Jean Goodman actually say that those interactions those criminals pose zero threat. He might have talked himself on that one, Brian, I got to tell you, he said a lot of really dumb things. This might be at the very pinnacle of dumb things he`s ever said.

WILLIAMS: I was sorry to miss that. But thank you for providing that service. Gentlemen, thank you for bearing with me of all things I`ve been felled by tree pollen here in the New York tri-state area. James Carville, Mike Murphy, two other veteran friends of this broadcast greatly. Appreciate you guys hanging out with us on a Thursday night.

Another break for us and coming up a scary night in the American South where they are waiting in so many communities for the all clear to be sounded.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve got an very intense tornado at highway 139, County Road 139 and East Ashby Road. That`s exactly where the tornado is right now. And I`ll zoom in even closer if we put some more city streets on here. Ebenezer Road, County Road 109, County Road 73, these are all roads that the tornado will go over. Ebenezer Road in particular. Here`s Ebenezer Road right here. We`re going to get hit hard tonight. You got to get to shelter. If you have an underground shelter basement, best place for you to go right now.

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WILLIAMS: The coverage went on and on like that for hours, it could not have been more urgent this afternoon into this evening on the weather channel. This has been a violent and horrible and deadly night across the American South. We`re talking about monster tornadoes. Some of them traveling at forward speeds overland of 80 miles an hour, some of them so called long track tornadoes scraping across 100 miles of open Earth, and it`s ravaged several states.

The entire region was warned, but sadly not everyone could get out of the way. Death toll tonight stands at five in Alabama. The storms are still firing up after nightfall. For more we are joined by our meteorologist Bill Karins. Bill following your coverage today, I couldn`t believe some of the stats. Some of the numbers and these lines what you guys called training because it resembles train cars following one another over the same lines, multiple tornadoes in a row.

BILL KARINS, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: Yes, poor Central Alabama, especially the Birmingham area, Brian, but let me paint the picture of what`s still breaking right now. Newnan, Georgia population 41,000, a small city, right now about five minutes ago, everyone`s phones just got alerted. tornado warning, everyone is waking their kids up bringing them to their shelters right now, because there`s a tornado on the ground about 15 minutes away from the city. And it could be a direct hit like we`ve been tracking all afternoon.

You can see that cell behind me right here. That right here is what we call the hook echo on the storm. And there`s Newnan. As you can see, it`s heading directly for the city. And then after that crossing 85 and heading towards another population center there towards Peachtree City.

So we are not done with the breaking news. The death toll could easily go up throughout the overnight hours from new additional storms. And we`re still doing search and rescue from the previous storms. But for all of our friends there in areas of Western Georgia heading into North Central Georgia, we`re going to watch those storms carefully. So that`s that little micro view.

Let me show you the larger view of what happened earlier today. We showed you some of those damaging pictures. We had to what we call supercell thunderstorms. So these are thunderstorms that are kind of existing on their own, and they can produce tornadoes for long periods of time. I mean, we had one that we think today was on the ground for 100 miles straight like the tornado wasn`t bouncing up and down. It was just on the ground hitting whatever was in its way for 100 miles from one side of the Alabama to the other side. I mean just wild crazy stuff that rarely happens.

And we think that one of these some of the damage pictures I`ve seen could be will be called violent tornadoes. We`ve a scale for tornadoes, almost like we do for hurricanes, you know, category five hurricanes, the worst. Well enhanced G scale, EF five is the worst for tornadoes. We haven`t had one of those in this country in eight years. I`m not sure we got that type of damage today but it`s close. I think we at least saw we call EF fours.

So who else is at risk Brian the rest of this evening? We have tornado watches all the way up the central Kentucky heading through the Appalachians and then the areas of North Georgia including what we just showed you there the Peachtree City area and even in our friends in Atlanta. We have to watch you closely.

So here`s the latest from the Storm Prediction Center. We`ve gotten rid of the high risk area but we still have 21 million people tonight, Brian that are in this slight risk or enhanced risk of severe storms from our friends in Alabama, North Georgia all the way through Kentucky and middle portions of Tennessee.

But going back to that storm heading through Newman, Georgia, Brian that has all sides indications of a powerful nighttime tornado. Nighttime tornadoes are the most deadly. We have the least amount of lead time we don`t have storm chasers to kind of confirm what`s going on. Scary times for those people right now.

WILLIAMS: You`re right, it`s nighttime, it`s dark power goes out first, kids are already in bed. We will spare a thought for the people there and as these storms continue to track East. Meteorologist Bill Karins, our thanks for your coverage all day and tonight.

Another break, coming up. Let`s just say we saw a different style on display in the East Room today.

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WILLIAMS: One last thing before we go tonight, every president is different. Every president comes to office with their own style and personality. But there`s something about having survived the last four years that makes the contrast a bit more vivid. It was striking watching the President`s news conference today, his first of what we in the media enjoy calling a formal news conference. It was striking enough to give our producers the idea to contrast, Biden`s first news conference with his predecessors first news conference.

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BIDEN: I can say to the American people. Help is here. And hope is on the way.

TRUMP: Just want to let you know, I inherited a mess.

BIDEN: 200 million shots in 100 days. I know it`s ambitious.

TRUMP: We`ve begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers.

BIDEN: I guess I should be flattered. People are coming because I`m the nice guy.

TRUMP: And the wall is going to be a great wall.

BIDEN: No other thing we`re doing I might add, I might give me too long an answer because if you don`t want to detail --

TRUMP: I don`t want to be one of these guys that say yes. Here`s what we`re going to do. I don`t have to do that.

BIDEN: I will commit to transparency.

TRUMP: The Press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.

BIDEN: I`ve been hired to solve problems, to solve problems, not create division.

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.

BIDEN: I`m a fairly practical guy. I want to get things done.

TRUMP: Zero chaos. We are running -- this is a fine-tuned machine.

BIDEN: My predecessor, oh god I miss him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Let`s just agree to call it a contrast in style, baring and content to take us off the air tonight. And with that, that is our broadcast for this Thursday evening. With thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.