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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 3/26/21

Guests: Julie Pace, Eugene Daniels, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Robert Gibbs, Matt K. Lewis, Jon Meacham


Republicans are working to enact sweeping new restrictions on the state level all across the country to make it difficult for certain people to vote. In Georgia, the new bill signed into law last night changes quite a lot including requiring a state issued ID to vote by mail, limiting access to absentee voting and ballot boxes, and making it illegal to bring food and water to people waiting in line to vote. Dominion voting systems files $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. Axios said that President Biden met privately with presidential historians. Six killed as tornadoes batter southeast.


KATY TUR, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening once again. I`m Katy Tur, in for Brian tonight.

This was day 66 of the Biden administration. And we begin tonight with the intensifying effort to try and keep this administration to one term. Republicans are working to enact sweeping new restrictions on the state level all across the country to make it difficult for certain people to vote.

In Georgia, the new bill signed into law last night changes quite a lot including requiring a state issued ID to vote by mail, limiting access to absentee voting and ballot boxes, and making it illegal to bring food and water to people waiting in line to vote. Just before leaving the White House for Delaware this afternoon, the President was asked about Georgia`s new restrictions.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s atrocity. The idea if you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency. They passed the law saying you can`t provide water for people standing in line while they`re waiting to vote.

You don`t need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. They can`t provide water for people about to vote. Give me a break.


TUR: Shortly before talking to reporters, Biden released a statement calling on Congress to take action where he warned, "This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act." He adds, "I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans to access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote."

The Vice President also urged Congress to pass voting rights legislation. And she added this,


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to also provide for what is necessary clearly when we see the kind of abusive practices that we`ve seen from Georgia legislature, which is to intentionally, I believe, attempt to prevent whole populations of people from exercising their constitutional right to vote in their elections.


TUR: Georgia State Government is already facing a legal challenge, a lawsuit filed by three voting advocacy groups. Axios reports the suit argues Georgia`s new law in places unjustifiable burdens that disproportionately affect people of color.

Tonight, though, we are also passing a sad milestone in the battle against the coronavirus. More than 550,000 people have now died from the virus, over 76,000 new cases and over 1,400 new deaths were reported just today. As the country continues trying to contain this pandemic more than a full year in.

The White House COVID Coordinator Jeffrey Zients today said that in order to meet Biden`s goal of 200 million shots in arms in 100 days, the U.S. will have to keep up with the current pace of roughly two and a half million shots a day. So far, about 13.5 percent of the U.S. population has now been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the origin of this deadly pandemic continues to be a big talking point in some corners. The former director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield offered, Redfield, offered this theory today.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: If I was to guess this virus started transmitting somewhere in September, October.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: September, October?

REDFIELD: That`s my own view. It`s only opinion. I`m allowed to have opinions now.

You know, I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wu Han was from a laboratory, you know, escaped out. Other people don`t believe that, that`s fine. Science will eventually figure it out. It`s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect a laboratory worker.


TUR: We should point out the origin has not yet been determined. The White House says a report on that as expected soon. But here is what Dr. Anthony Fauci said this morning, when he was asked about Redfield`s comments.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRES. BIDEN: The alternative explanation which most public health individuals go by, is that this virus was actually circulating in China, likely in Wuhan, for a month or more before they were clinically recognized at the end of December of 2019. So, Dr. Redfield was mentioning that he was giving an opinion as to a possibility. But again, there are other alternatives and others that most people hold by.


TUR: We are also following developments tonight on the recent surge at the southern border. Our own Julia Ainsley reports the U.S. border patrol is on pace to break recent records for monthly encounters with border crossers.

She writes, "In May 2019, more than 144,000 undocumented immigrants were encountered by the Border Patrol, marking a 12-year high. March is likely to surpass that reaching 150,000 crossings per month, meaning apprehensions plus crossings at legal ports of entry without paperwork."

As the Biden administration tries to address what it says is a seasonal surge made worse by prior Trump policies, Texas Senator Ted Cruz led a group of more than a dozen Republican senators to tour the border in the Rio Grande Valley. They took a boat tour of the Rio Grande in Mission, Texas before holding a press conference this afternoon. Last night, Cruz posted this video from the border.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: So, it`s past midnight. I`m standing on the shore of the Rio Grande, the water is right behind me. I`m down the Texas border along with 18 senators. We made the trip to see the crisis that is playing out. They`ve already gone to detention facilities that are overrun.


TUR: Former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke responded with this today regarding Cruz`s visit, writing, "You`re in a Border Patrol boat armed with machine guns, the only threat you face is unarmed children and families who are seeking asylum as well as the occasional heckler.

If you`re looking for a crisis to cosplay, Senator, I`m happy to point you in the right direction."

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night. Julie Pace, Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press. Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent for Politico and coauthor of each day`s edition of "Politico Playbook." And Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Professor and Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin. Everybody, welcome.

So, Julie, let`s start off with voting rights. How big, how ugly is this fight likely to get?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I think it`s important for viewers to recognize that this is really heading toward probably the biggest fight over voting rights that we have seen in this country in years and in potentially decades. And so, this is going to be tense. This is going to be -- there`s going to be a lot of conflict between both parties. And we`re seeing this play out both in the halls of Congress. And we`re seeing this certainly play out in state legislators.

Georgia, leading the way here with the action that Republicans took there. But states like Iowa, Arizona, safe that we talk about a lot in presidential elections are also trying to enact similar measures. And so, you`re going to see a lot of money, you`re going to see a lot of political capital laid on the line. And nobody has probably more at stake here than President Joe Biden who is pushing Congress to take action, but also faces really tough and real obstacles in Congress with that very narrow majority that he has to try to get some of these voting -- pieces of voting legislation through in the coming weeks and months.

TUR: Is a very narrow majority, and in order to get it through is going to need 60 votes, which means Republicans. So, Eugene, what`s the plan for the White House? What`s the plan for Democrats to get this done?

EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: At this point, the plan seems to be just hoping that the time runs out and this filibuster goes away. I mean, I think that`s really what I`m hearing from people who work with lawmakers, as they`re talking about this issue, because the key here, just like you said, is that 60 vote threshold. In his press conference, President Biden talked about the talking filibuster. But one of the reporters asked the question, which is do you think legislation should have to pass with 51 votes or 60 votes? And it kind of waffled there.

But what we`ve seen over time is President Biden go from a no on getting rid of the filibuster, right, to a kind of more it could happen if it -- if they continue to abuse this. So, I think, as he said, it is a relic of the Jim Crow era. How do you say that and not push to get rid of it?

So, when I talk to voting activists, when I talk to civil rights activists, the thing I hear is they`re hoping that Democrats continue to push each other, people like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to get on board with passing the -- getting rid of the filibuster, because that`s the only way that Democrats and a lot of people, and honestly we in the media see that they`re going to get anything else done other than things they can get through reconciliation. And they`re definitely not going to get voting rights, or any kind of voting rights legislation, H.R.1 or H.R.4 done in the Senate if they don`t have -- if they have to get to 60 votes.

TUR: Our friend of this network, Claire McCaskill yesterday said that it`s not just Joe Manchin, it`s not just Kyrsten Sinema, there are a number of other moderate Democrats who are not in favor of getting rid of the filibuster. If Joe Biden does back, getting rid of it or changing it, Al Franken has some ideas out there for it. Is he going to have enough influence among enough Democratic senators as an all Democratic senators to change that rule?

DANIELS: It seems like you would, right? This is someone who he knows, these people. He gave Joe Manchin a call, when Joe Manchin was kind of waffling on the COVID relief bill. And that`s kind of when we saw that move to -- continue to move through the Senate and eventually passed. You know, this is a -- there`s nothing stronger than the bully pulpit of the White House.

And when you see a president continue to tell senators in public and in private that this needs to go, I`m not sure how Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema or those other Democrats that are moderates who are holding out on this can continue to not do it. I did a story this week, I talked with your friend, Reverend Al Sharpton, and what he told me is they`re ready, civil rights leaders are ready to go to states like West Virginia, ready to go to states like Arizona and say this, the filibuster is racist, and the people supporting it and upholding it are in fact supporting racism. I don`t know how long Democrats who support the filibuster can withhold that sort of pressure.

TUR: Victoria, play historian for us. As somebody who`s steeped in the legacy of LBJ, when you hear about these voting restrictions, when you read about them, see what happened to Georgia last night, what is your reaction?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, LBJ SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Right. So, as someone who is at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the president who oversaw the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and also someone who`s a scholar of race and politics, what I have seen over the last couple of days in Georgia, has really been transformational. It is the crumbles of what the pillar of the Voting Rights Act was. I thought, then when we saw Shelby v Holder in 2013 go down, that that was the low point. I believe that right now, we are at the lowest of low points. We are at the nadir when it comes to voting rights.

And it`s the structural piece, right? So, it`s the not being able to eat or drink water in line. Having to have a photo ID when you send in your ballot.

But really what is most disastrous here is the structural infrastructure put in place by the Republican Party saying we can deem that you at the county level are not doing a good job, Democrats. And we will come in and take over your voting shop. And so, that structural piece is really the most deadly one.

And then Katy, let`s add that piece, along with the fact that there`s going to be redistricting going on this year all across the nation, and in Georgia, which is one of the states that does not have independent redistricting. And then let`s just add on to that that we have a Supreme Court that leans very conservative. So, if this were to make it all the way up to the Supreme Court.

So, I just think every way you look at it, it is a terrible situation, because of the structural advantages put in place by Republicans. And we don`t have that defense that we had with the Voting Rights Act that was struck down. Well, parts of it, E part was shut down in 2013.

TUR: Julie, when I talk to my congressional sources, they say if there`s anything that`s going to break the filibuster, it`s going to be voting rights and these laws that are being passed all around the country. But it`s not just voting rights, not just H.R.1 or S.R.1, there`s a whole lineup of President Biden`s agenda that might not pass if the filibuster does not get removed. And one of those things is immigration reform once they do get around to that.

We`re seeing a big surge at the border and in large numbers. How much of a fight is this going to be? Is this something that`s even going to get to the floor in this Congress?

PACE: Well, when you heard or when you heard President Biden being asked that in this press conference, he certainly was talking about immigration as later down the line in terms of his legislative agenda. And that`s, you know, in part for the reason you talk about, that is also going to be very difficult for him to pass if we`re still living in a world where the filibuster exists. Sixty votes is what he would need, and there are not 60 votes for the type of immigration legislation that he is talking about pursuing right now.

But this is really the choice before Joe Biden. He`s got this big, ambitious agenda, a lot of things that Democrats have been trying to pursue for years, a lot of things that progressives are really pushing him on. And the rules in the Senate right now do not allow him to get that agenda done.

I do think on your point about voting rights, it is a really difficult political argument for Joe Biden and other Democrats to make, that they`re going to stand by a Senate procedure. That`s pretty wonky and hard for a lot of Americans to understand and hold on to that as opposed to trying to pursue this piece of legislation. There`s a lot of compromise that could be in the offing in terms of removing parts of the filibuster for that piece of legislation, but keeping in place more broadly. And I think that`s something that we have to be watching as they start digging into the details of this. But the choice for Biden is changing those rules, or potentially not getting much more done for the rest of this Congress.

TUR: Let`s stick on the topic of the border and immigration. Let me play for you, Victoria, just a moment from Ted Cruz and the GOP delegation from the border earlier.


CRUZ: All of us today witnessed the Biden cages.

SEN. RON JOHNSON, (R) WISCONSIN: President Biden ignored the advice of professionals blew up all these reforms. And now we`ve got this crisis.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R) LOUISIANA: What President Biden is doing is bone deep down to the marrow, stupid.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Vice President Harris, this is your job to fix. I promise you, I will work with you, but you cannot possibly understand your job unless you come here.


TUR: So, notably, we didn`t see many of these senators down to the border when Donald Trump was in office. My question to those larger, Victoria, about this argument that we`re having, about immigration and whether there`s a crisis or a surge at the border, I guess, more fundamentally, what is the argument against letting people in, against letting more people in who are claiming asylum?

SOTO: Katy, let me take a step back and approach the issue of, is there a crisis. There`s not a crisis in terms of numbers, there`s a crisis in terms of a lack of a policy framework that matches up with our current push and pull needs. Migratory push pull factors change throughout history, the thirds that we`re seeing right now is different than what we saw in the early 2000s, or what we saw in the 1990s.

And so, the crisis is that we haven`t had the policy to address what`s going on. And namely, this time around, it`s unaccompanied minors, and families who are coming over. If we really wanted to address this issue, it`s not about sending money down to the border to beef up the wall, because these folks are turning themselves into Border Patrol. The issue is, how do we deal with the push factors out of Central America? And then also, how do we deal with the labor demands here in the United States.

These folks are asylees. Some of them may be economic migrants. But still, we know we have a lot of economic migrants coming to the United States, and that`s because we have that labor demand. We don`t have enough population in the United States to meet that demand. Our birth rate, we don`t replace ourselves. So, that is why we need immigrants.

So what we need is a Marshall Plan to address those push factors. And also a way to delegate the flow of migrants who want to come over and work, whether that`s more work visas, guest worker programs. But the crisis is, we don`t have the right channels. And so this is what we see at the border right now.

TUR: We talk about us not replacing ourselves. Think about people who are my age and younger when they get to retirement age, the tax base won`t be there to support things like social security, could potentially not be there.

Eugene, let`s talk about the policy of this, we see Republicans down there decrying what they`re saying, Democrats have decried what they saw in the past. Why can Congress not get together to address it in a policy form to deal with what they`re seeing? It`s a crisis of this country`s own making?

DANIELS: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, kind of like what you said at the beginning, it is hard to watch some of these senators go -- these Republican senators go down there and think of this as anything other than political sniping. They weren`t down there calling it a crisis when it was President Trump`s, then President Trump`s problem, and they were defending the policies of the Trump administration not caring about these same things. So, that`s part number one.

But on the policy, I don`t see how Democrats and Republicans can figure anything out here because they are so far apart. On the Republican end, they have spent the last four or five years repeating the rhetoric of Donald Trump, liking the harsh policies of his administration. And how does that -- how can -- how does that gel with what Democrats, what President Biden, what Vice President Kamala Harris has said and what members of Congress on the Democratic side have. There`s almost no gel in there, right? And just like you said that`s best with the filibuster comes in again. And I don`t know how else you see any kind of change on the immigration front. It`s a fraught issue.

They are different aspects of it. It`s very complicated. You know, talking about the vote, you know, that the worker -- work visas, there is, you know, Dreamers in this country, the House passed that bill to give them a pathway to citizenship. It is multifaceted. And because of how far these parties are, it`s hard to see how they actually get any kind of immigration reform.

TUR: You know, when I say crisis, I mean a humanitarian crisis. And I just want to remind people when you, when you consider yourself what would it take for you to pick up your belongings and leave your home and to make that journey across the border? What would it take for you to send your kid across the border alone? We learned today that a nine-year-old boy died trying to cross the Rio Grande.

Julie Pace, Eugene Daniels, and Victoria DeFrancesco, thank you guys very much for joining us.

And coming up Georgia is just one state where Republicans are looking to grab control of elections. A closer look at all that is at stake from both sides of the aisle.

And later the political and possibly legal consequences promoting the big lie to lie. A lie by the way, that continues to this day. The 11th Hour is just getting underway on a Friday night.



SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK, (D) GEORGIA: If you think that this is something happening down in Georgia, you are misapprehending the moment that we`re living in. If you think that this is something happening to black voters, you still don`t quite clearly understand. This is a defining moment for the American democracy. And I`m going to use every fiber, every effort everything within me to stand up for democracy.


TUR: Any hope of stopping more voter suppression laws like the one in Georgia may hinge on federal voting rights legislation. But right now the odds of passage in the Senate are extraordinarily slim. You just heard us talking about it.

Here with us now is Robert Gibbs, former Obama Campaign Senior Advisor, and White House Press Secretary under President Obama. And Matt K. Lewis, Conservative Commentator and Senior Columnist for "The Daily Beast."

Gentlemen, welcome.

Robert, I want to start with you. I had the former Senator Al Franken on my show earlier today. And he said that these laws are just so cool, so out there, that it`s going to end up backfiring on the GOP, what`s your take?

ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. OBAMA WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I would say, look, as a political professional, you get to a certain point in that campaign, where the campaign asks itself and asks as volunteers and gets its field staff basically the same question, do we know where voters are? Are they motivated? Are they excited to get out?

And I don`t think it is going to be hard in a place like Georgia to get people motivated and excited, based on the pictures that they`re seeing over the last few days and the discussion, the legislature that we`ve had in the last few weeks down there. Because fundamentally, they`re trying to take something away, something that took a long time for black voters to get in Georgia. And I think it will be a motivating factor in getting, quite frankly, more people out, maybe record numbers of people out to vote because they will know what`s at stake. Campaigns will know what`s at stake. They`ll get voters to understand what`s at stake.

And so absolutely, I think this has a real potential to backfire on Republicans. And I think Democrats will use this as a message rallying cry from now until the polls close next November.

TUR: Matt, I wonder what you think on this, because a lot of Democrats are calling this Jim Crow 2.0. A lot of election activists are calling it Jim Crow 2.0. What do you think of these new laws?

MATT K. LEWIS, THE DAILY BEAST SENIOR COLUMNIST: Well, look, to be honest with you, I mean, I think that`s really overwrought and irresponsible rhetoric. This is not Jim Crow. This could be good. This could be bad. Some people think it is voter suppression, some people think it`s valid integrity, but it`s not Jim Crow. So, I think that`s a ridiculous comparison that some very powerful people are making.

Look, I think that I do question the motives for Republicans right now. Why now? Why is, why is this something that they`ve tackled now, in terms of the urgency of it? Having said that, I think there`s some good things in this. And I think if you look at some Georgia Republicans that, I think, were pretty respectable, who stood up to Donald Trump, in Georgia, including Gabriel Sterling, the head of the elections, the Secretary of State, and the governor, Donald Trump is not fans of them. I think they support this.

And I think, you know, I wouldn`t have introduced this. I suspect if I were, you know, in the Georgia State Legislature, I probably would vote for it. But I do agree with Robert. You know, regardless of the merits of this, I don`t think it`s going to have any discernible impact on turnout. And I definitely think that if anything there could -- if anything happens, there could be backlash.

TUR: You do say though, I wonder why now. And I -- my question to you is, why now considering that 2020 according to Donald Trump`s top elections official was the most secure ever. There were numerous lawsuits brought in numerous states by the Trump team trying to say that there was fraud. They didn`t come up with any evidence of fraud. I mean, the election itself was successful, it was secure. Why do you need these new rules?

LEWIS: That`s a good question. Look, you know, some people think that voter fraud never happens. And I`ve heard Lyndon Johnson`s name invoked a few times. Lyndon Johnson had an election stolen from him. In Congress, he probably stole another election for Senate.

But what didn`t happen is, the election was not stolen in 2020. Joe Biden won fair and square. And it wasn`t even, you know, it`s indisputable, I think. So, I do question the motives.

I mean, honestly, I think that some Republicans have concluded that more people voting is bad for them. That if more people vote, they can`t win. I actually think that that`s not necessarily the case, actually. But it is an indictment, I think, on them that they believe it.

I think that`s a different question from the merits of some of these things. Like, for example, voter ID, I don`t think that`s voter suppression or disenfranchising people. I think it`s probably a good idea. But again, the motives, why are Republicans pushing this now? I think it`s simply they just don`t think they can win if a lot of people vote.

TUR: We`re going to continue this conversation. It also bleeds into our next topic, which is about the big lie both of you gentlemen are staying with us.

So coming up, it turns out promoting a big lie can get you into deep legal trouble when the 11th Hour continues.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was zero threat. Right from the start, it was zero threat. Look, they went in, they shouldn`t have done it. Some of them went in and they`re hugging and kissing the police and the guards. I`ll tell you what. They`re doing things though they`re persecuting a lot of those people.


TUR: Just hours after the former president made those outrageous claims on "Fox News" the network was hit with another lawsuit for its role in spreading the big lie. Dominion voting systems has now filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit. The company claims quote, Fox engaged in this knowing and reckless propagation of these enormous falsehoods in order to profit off these lies. Dominion goes on to say, Fox wanted to continue to protect its broadcast ratings, catering to an audience deeply loyal to President Trump.

Still with us is Robert Gibbs and Matt K. Lewis. So Robert, these conversations blend together because much of the argument about needing these new voter laws from Republicans, they point to this big lie, they point to the election being stolen, they point to voter integrity, but it`s a circular argument, because they were the ones out there saying that the election was fraudulent. And now they`re saying, well, people really want the election to be secure, but they planted that seed. So I just want to continue the conversation we were having a moment ago, and get you to respond to what Matt was saying about the necessity for these laws.

GIBBS: Let me give you five very quick reasons for what happened in Georgia, right. Joe Biden`s presidential election, the two Senate run offs in in January of this year, the fact that the Republican governor is up for reelection. And fifth, the Republican Party has lost the popular vote in five of the last six national elections. That`s really all you need to know. If you had a confident Republican Party that thought they could win on the battlefield of ideas, I can assure you, they would want to extend voting and want to have everybody`s opinion hurt. But they can`t do that. They`re not doing that. The evidence is enormously clear in that.

And I think, let me -- in addressing what Donald Trump said, in the pantheon of shameful things that Donald Trump has said in his political career, and it`s a large pantheon. This has a special place. The idea that Secret Service hustled his vice president out of the Senate chamber for fear of his security, were they doing that to practice, was this some sort of secret service training exercise?

You see the video of it right there. This wasn`t a training exercise. They feared for his security. That`s why Capitol Police barricaded the House and pulled their weapons to protect people in there. The idea that this wasn`t a threat is deeply, deeply delusional. And that`s really saying something.

TUR: It is really taking it a step beyond the normal, I guess disfiguring of reality. Matt, let`s talk about this big lie. And what Robert was saying about how -- if Republicans had a confident party then they were out to get more votes, and they thought they could get more votes, they wouldn`t be doing any of this. What do you think of that?

LEWIS: I think -- I mean, I think Robert is absolutely right, strategically. I don`t think that speaks to the merits of, you know, the legitimate debate over should we check voter I.D.? Should there be an Election Day? Or should there be an election mob? I think those are legitimate questions we could have. But I think Robert is absolutely right. If Republicans thought that having everybody vote would help them, they`d be, you know, encouraging, handing out water, you know, at the polls, and having an election mob.

So that`s -- I don`t think that`s in dispute. I would say, I think what Donald Trump is doing right now is just again, in the pantheon of Donald Trumpisms, just the latest despicable thing, but I think there is a method to the madness. And not just as it pertains to Georgia. But I think that there`s an effort here, a conscious effort to do some historical revisionism to try to make people, to gaslight people into believing that these insurrectionists were just, you know, harmless little fuzz balls who were hugging cops, and now they`re being persecuted.

And it`s not just Donald Trump, right? This builds off of what Ron Johnson said. And so I`m a little concerned that this is going to be a narrative. And I don`t think we`re going to buy it. But "Fox News" viewers over, you know, over time, I think very well may come to, if they haven`t gotten there already, to -- that will be essentially how they remember January 6th.

TUR: He tell a lie enough times, people start to believe it. Matt K. Lewis, thanks for being with us. Robert Gibbs, thank you for being with us, as well. Enjoy your weekend, gentlemen.

And coming up, the Biden doctrine and his legacy from one historian with particularly good insight, Jon Meacham joins us next when the 11th Hour continues.



BIDEN: We`re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution of enormous consequence. This is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies. We got approved democracy works.


TUR: After just two months in office, President Biden appears to be looking ahead with an eye on the legacy. He`ll eventually leave. Axios reports Biden held an undisclosed private session with historians earlier this month to focus on some of his most admired predecessors. Organized by presidential historian Jon Meacham, Mike Allen writes, quote, the chatty, two-hour plus meeting is a for-the-history books marker of the think-big, go-big mentality that pervades his West Wing.

Back with us again tonight, the aforementioned Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning author, presidential historian and the Rogers Chair in the American presidency at Vanderbilt University. He occasionally advises President Biden on historical matters and major speeches and attended that session on March 2nd. Jon, it`s always good to see you. And I don`t want to put you on the spot here. And I`m not to reveal private conversations. But what can you tell us about the way Joe Biden wants to be remembered in terms of his presidency?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, presidents are remembered for what they do. This isn`t particularly complicated. And so I don`t think people should be surprised that he`s thinking about what have great presidents and great generations of Americans because in a democracy, in a constitutional republic, a leader and the lead are in a covenant together, right?

Presidents can`t just Zeus like change the country, there has to be a willingness on the part of the country itself as a sufficient number of us to want to move in what Dr. King used to call and in a paraphrase of Theodore Parker, an abolitionist in the 19th century, bending the arc of a moral universe toward justice.

And so to some extent, what any president should do it seems to me is, think about what will people say of me, because that not because you`re egotistical, or you`re looking in the mirror, or you`re preening for your portrait, but this is an insight that Lyndon Johnson had when he put George Wallace on a deep cushioned couch in the Oval Office and loomed over him about the Voting Rights Act about what you`ve been talking in 1965. And Johnson said, in his inimitable way, George, what do you want your grave to say? George Wallace he hated, or George Wallace he built. And so I think what President Biden is thinking about is how to build.

TUR: So when he is thinking about how to build, I mean, he`s already passed a $3 trillion COVID relief package that stands to potentially be transformational, especially when you look at what it`s going to do for child poverty in this country cut it in half by the estimation. Does he see that as enough for him going forward? He`s going to have a hard time with a lot of the other signature pieces of his agenda unless he gets rid of the filibuster.

MEACHAM: Yes. You know, I, my experience with the President is, I think most presidents are like, most presidencies are like icebergs. You see a little bit of it, but most of its underwater. I don`t think there`s a lot of mystery here. I think Biden reverses that to some extent. Watch that press conference, watch the town halls, listen to him because I think what you see is what you get. I mean, maybe there`s some deep, dark secret about Joe Biden, but I certainly haven`t discovered it. And I don`t think anybody else says either.

I think this is a pretty straightforward guy. He wants to deal with these crises that are self-evident and are super partisan unless you are a willful denier of reality, like much of the Republican Party is today. He wants to deal with COVID. He wants to deal with the economic implications of that. He wants to give people opportunity and build a middle class because by the way, the American experiment works best when, as Lincoln said, we all have an open field in a fair chance.

And so prosperity and widespread prosperity is essential to democracy. And that`s not a partisan point. It`s not a pundit point. It is a point about the way civilizations work. He knows that the climates important. He understands that almost all these issues, right?

And I thought what was interesting in the press conference was, you know, he`s been doing this for almost 50 years. And I think, for what it`s worth, I think a lot of folks are kind of discovering that Joe Biden has a public policy agenda. And we didn`t talk about it all that much last year, partly because of the 45th President`s grip on the mind share, and because of COVID. But this is a man, this is our 46th president has been in the United States Senate since Richard Nixon was president and pretty popular, right? And then he was vice president, he`s been thinking about this for a long time. Yes.

TUR: Let me ask you about that is we`re running up against a wall. I know, he wants to be seen as a healer. He wants to be seen as somebody who can bridge the gap between the left and the right. He does have support among Republican voters right now for a lot of his policies. What he doesn`t have are Republican lawmakers on his side. And a lot of the people that he spent a ton of time with in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, are insulting him, saying it was hard to watch the press conference the other day. Does he expect he`s going to be able in these deeply partisan times, reach across the aisle and actually work with Republicans to get these things done?

MEACHAM: I think if anybody can do it, it`s Biden. And I think if any Democratic, if you think back to the primary stage, if you look at that Democratic field, this is the guy who has the best chance. And I don`t know if he can do it. I don`t think he knows if he can do it. I don`t know. But he does. He has had this, I think really good insight about unity, not necessarily being a Washington phenomena. But it is a national one.

And so to some extent, and again, I saw this in the press conference, I don`t know if you agree. I think he has a capacity, the possibility of sort of like what Ronald Reagan had, which was Reagan had a conversation with the country beyond the press corps. And people got it, and they might not have agreed with him, but they knew what he was saying. I think Biden -- I think that there`s a possibility that there`s a vernacular between Biden and voters that the intermediate institutions may not quite get.

TUR: Well, I do think you hit the head, the nail on the head for what happened during the election because I think as somebody who went to the primaries and saw the crowds that he was attracting, you know, I covered Trump and that was my reference. And I didn`t quite understand his ability to get voters out. Considering what I saw in person at those rallies. And he was able to do it. He was able to bring the country, well, bring voters together enough to beat Donald Trump, and we`ll see if he`s able to do that again. Jon Meacham, thank you so much for joining us. It`s always wonderful to see you.

And coming up, an update on the aftermath of yesterday`s deadly tornadoes in the south, we`ll be right back.


TUR: Parts of Alabama and Georgia are still reeling tonight after those powerful and long lasting tornadoes that stormed across the two states yesterday. Tonight, the National Weather Service says one tornado in Georgia was likely an EF-4 with winds of up to 170 miles an hour. And even more severe weather could be coming there this weekend. NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders spent today talking with a few of the survivors in Alabama.


KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Calhoun County, Alabama, to Coweta County, Georgia, the damage widespread. For the survivors today was about cleaning up and sharing the heartache of lives loss.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It happened so fast. It really didn`t give you enough time to feel anything.

SANDERS (voice-over): At least six people died when at least 23 tornadoes some with winds up to 140 miles per hour rip through the region, three of the fatalities in one home. Family now devastated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It happened so fast to I`m kind of not ready right now. I`m being able to hold it together for them.

SANDERS (voice-over): In Georgia twisters tearing paths to destruction under cover of darkness. In Alabama, 74-year-old James Donoway (ph) who yesterday pointed to the second floor where he was in bed when the tornado hit. Today, destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got some kind of plans for me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things happen for a reason just believe.

SANDERS (voice-over): His wife Joyce in the kitchen where there is no longer a roof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve been here 50 years, well, I`ll die here.

SANDERS (on camera): Unfortunately it wasn`t yesterday.


SANDERS (on camera): James Donoway (ph) says that this is the third tornado that he has survived at this address. He will not he says, rebuild.

(voice-over): Tonight, the store where he southeast traumatized after yet another deadly tornado outbreak.


TUR: Our thanks to Kerry Sanders reporting from Alabama tonight.

And coming up, we lost a great American author today but her words will still be there waiting for the next generation of young readers, 11th Hour on a Friday night is back after this short break.


TUR: The last thing before we go tonight is a goodbye to a great American author. We learned today that Beverly Cleary the award winning children`s book author died yesterday at the age of 104. Her story is about a cat named Socks, a dog named Ribsy, a mouse on a motorcycle, a girl named Ramona, and a boy named Henry. Over 40 books in all had been read by kids around the world for more than 70 years. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts for her work in 2003 from then President George W. Bush. That`s her there in red next to the president.

Cleary was a school librarian before she was an author. It was a conversation with a young student that gave her the inspiration to write something she shared on the today`s show. Just before her 100th birthday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I read that a little boy came up to you and said where are the books about kids like us?

BEVERLY CLEARY, AMERICAN WRITER OF CHILDREN`S AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION: He didn`t say it so nicely. He said, where are the books about kids like us?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could say anything to Beverly Cleary who wrote these books, does anybody have anything they`d want to say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say thank you. They kind of inspired me to go out and read more. And I`m thank her so much for that.


TUR: That is the best Beverly Cleary gone at the age of 104. That`s our broadcast for this Friday night. Brian will be back on Monday. Thank you for being with us, on behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.