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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 3/29/21

Guests: Melissa Murray, Tim Miller, Stephen Sample


CDC Director Rochelle Walensky went off script to issue an emotional plea for Americans to continue to be vigilant and prevent a fourth wave of the virus. COVID cases are spiking nationwide. Many states are making vaccines available to all adults. White House shifts focus to infrastructure. It`s day one of Derek Chauvin trial testimony. Jury hears audio of 911 operator who watched camera feed of Floyd`s arrest. Dr. Deborah Birx recalls "very difficult" call with Trump, says hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths were preventable.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Michael J. Moore, thank you very much for joining us again tonight, always appreciate it.

MICHAEL MOORE (D), GEORGIA FORMER SENATOR: Great to be with you. Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 69 of the Biden administration. And on this day after over a year spent in the teeth of a pandemic, we heard a warning unlike any other we`ve received about the spread of the virus in this country, especially among those who are not being careful. It comes as the end of the pandemic is in sight. With more Americans getting vaccinated every day yet the Centers for Disease Control says new cases are rising at a pace that cannot be ignored now. Hospitalizations also up. Deaths have risen to about 1000 a day. Those conditions combined today to push the CDC director to amplify her previous warning about a potential fourth surge.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I`m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now, I`m scared.

What we`ve seen over the last week or so is a steady rise in cases. We`re now in the 60,000 to 70,000 range. And when we see that uptick in cases, what we have seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge and surge big.


WILLIAMS: We are not used to hearing Dr. Walensky speak that way. Politico indeed obtained an internal CDC memo that highlights the agency`s concern about this rising case count. Politico reports tonight that it says, "The number of new cases jumped by 11% over the past week. The number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions, and currently hospitalized patients both increased by 4%.

Tonight over 552,000 souls are gone. We have well over 30 million confirmed cases. In both categories, we remain number one in the world. Well over half the nation now reporting a rise and infections as many push toward a full reopening.

Recently, the U.S. has been nearing 3 million vaccinations a day. President told the nation today there would soon be even more places to get a shot and that the administration would more than double the number of pharmacies giving out vaccines.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: We make it easier for Americans to get vaccinated as the supply grows, and vaccination eligibility expands. I`m directing my COVID team to ensure there is a vaccine site within five miles of 90% of all Americans by April the 19th, three weeks from the day.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, states are busy rolling back restrictions. Arkansas allowing as mask mandate to expire on Wednesday of this week. New Jersey is increasing the number of people allowed at outdoor events from 50 to 200. President Biden today urged states to reconsider such moves.


BIDEN: As much as we`re doing, America, it`s time to do even more. All of us have to do our part, every one of us, I`m reiterating my call for every governor, mayor and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate. Please, this is not politics. The failure to take this virus seriously -- precisely what got us in this mess in the first place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you believe that some states should pause their reopening efforts?



WILLIAMS: You just heard Biden referenced the failure to take the virus seriously. Today the White House announced it will indeed investigate Trump era political interference in science across our government and create a task force to identify past tampering in scientific decisions.

Presidents also about to unveil a vast array of proposals as part of his build back better plan as he calls it, details of which he will reveal on Wednesday during a visit to Pittsburgh. The administration says it will focus on rebuilding infrastructure while also addressing other areas like education in our country. It`s expected to cost north of 3 trillion. Today the White House was asked how Biden plans to cover that cost.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He has a plan to pay for it, which he will propose. Our focus is also on having that engagement and discussion with members of Congress. If they share a goal of building our infrastructure for the future but don`t like the way he`s going to propose to pay for it. We`re happy to look at their proposals. If they don`t want to pay for it. I guess they can propose that too.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, this was day one of testimony in the trial that could become a defining moment as our nation reckons with the issues of race and policing.

Tonight protesters marched and gathered outside the Minneapolis courthouse where former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in the murder of George Floyd. This was the first day of witnessing -- of witness testimony, forgive me, in the proceeding. Jury also saw several minutes of bystander video showing Floyd pinned begging for his life. The day began with opening remarks from the prosecution and from Chauvin defense.


JERRY BLACKWELL, CHAUVIN TRIAL PROSECUTOR: The most important numbers you will hear in this trial are nine-two-nine. What happened in those nine minutes and 29 seconds when Mr. Derek Chauvin was applying this excessive force to the body of Mr. George Floyd.

ERIC NELSON, CHAUVIN TRIAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Derek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do.

BLACKWELL: He put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him until the very breath, no ladies and gentlemen, until the very life was squeezed out. Mr. Chauvin was anything other than innocent on May 25 of 2020.

NELSON: There was no evidence that Mr. Floyd`s airflow was restricted. What was Mr. Floyd`s actual cause of death? The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Monday nights, three returning veterans and friends of this broadcast, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post, Melissa Murray, she is an NYU law professor, clerked for Sonia Sotomayor during her time on the U.S. Court of Appeals, and our own Ali Velshi is in Minneapolis for us tonight, covering this trial. That`s indeed where I`d like to begin. Ali, how was day one received there? It is apparent, the prosecution sees its job as more or less convicting George Floyd in his own death?

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST, "VELSHI": Yeah, that`s a good way to put it. But the city is tense. We`ve had demonstrations over the last 36 hours and as you saw, the prosecution opened up with the idea that Derek Chauvin was on George Floyd`s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. We`re familiar with the eight minutes and 46 seconds that had become popular until it was measured against a tape that was released in August, it was nine minutes and 29 seconds in the end.

But the defense has been arguing that in fact, there were two things that were underlying conditions for George Floyd. One was a heart arrhythmia. And the second one was a large amount of fentanyl in his body. Their whole point was that what Derek Chauvin did, whether you like it or not, was not the chief cause of his death. Now, all they have to do is so enough doubt with the jury, that that might be the case in order to possibly derail the prosecution.

The problem, of course Brian, is that there are millions of people who have seen this video and they think that what their eyes have shown them might be the truth. The prosecution opened, but showing that entire video, it then took witness testimony from three different people. The first one was a dispatcher, a 911 dispatcher with the Minneapolis police, who having seen what was going on, escalated the issue to a sergeant to say something doesn`t look right here. The second person was an employee of the gas station across the road from where George Floyd was apprehended. And the third person was one of the bystanders who watched the death of George Floyd happens to be a jujitsu expert, and has an unusual amount of training in how you choke people or avoid being choked. So that was what the jury heard on day one of the testimony. But, Brian, we`re expecting this to be a few weeks of testimony. The idea is that the prosecution is saying this is about Derek Chauvin and his role, the defense is saying this is about George Floyd.

WILLIAMS: Professor, it`s very rare in life, to see a video like this where you see the life drain from a human being. All of us who want to unset don`t wish it, even viewing it upon anyone. It is the number one most powerful, to Ali`s point, most powerful piece of evidence. And they started with it today.

And let me make this other point. There`s a ton of young activists in the audience. They didn`t probably see themselves as activists before they saw George Floyd murdered on that street beneath the police officers neck. A lot of them probably haven`t watched a lot of televised trials. So as a kind of viewers guide, tell folks how rough it`s going to get, tell folks what to expect and set up the tough job ahead of the prosecution?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: Well, this is always a tough job for the government when you`re having a situation, where you`re trying a police officer for the death of someone who has been taken into custody. The prosecution has to show beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements of the crimes charged in order to get a conviction. As Ali says, all the defense has to do is to show that there is reasonable doubt. In here I think they are pressing on the question of causation, the idea that it was not Mr. Chauvin`s conduct that led to Mr. Floyd`s death, but rather a confluence of unfortunate circumstances including Mr. Floyd`s pre-existing conditions or the possibility of narcotics in his system. So that video was galvanizing for lots of young people around the country but it will be the centerpiece of this trial but it will not be the only thing that the jurors will see. In fact it may not even be the most determinative thing but it is certainly visceral and it was important for the prosecution to show it this morning.

WILLIAMS: Phil, I`m not involved in these decisions but I don`t know what the cable networks plans are for live coverage so to speak gavel to gavel. I do know today, I noted because we live in the real world. The president of the United States gave powerful remarks on the coronavirus today and he did so while the trial was in a break. So the question is, how much will this inform or affect the president`s schedule, the White House`s planning? And as a practical matter how close are they following this trial?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Brian, I assume that the president and his aides are following the trial just as, you know, millions of Americans are. It`s an important moment for this country, an important moment in the pursuit of accountability for what was seen as one of the greatest in justices that played out nationally last summer and obviously respond the protest movement all across this country. But look, the president`s focused on a whole range of issues including the infrastructure plan that he`s going to be rolling out, scheduled to be rolling out later this week in that visit to Pittsburgh and so I expect him to keep to that schedule although perhaps look for opportunities to weigh in and make his news when the trial is not live and ongoing as he did today with his coronavirus remarks.

WILLIAMS: Ali Velshi, let`s go one deeper with you, given your knowledge of the case and lawyers you have spoken to, how do you reckon the defense is going to further try to portray George Floyd?

VELSHI: Well first of all, the defense attorney speaking today reminded the juror that this isn`t a social justice case, this is actually a case of what Derek Chauvin did on that day.

The other thing that they`re trying to point out is that Derek Chauvin did things he was trained to do and use procedures that were approved by the Minneapolis police. Now under Minneapolis law, you are only allowed to use as much force as is necessary to detain or to control a person in custody. And one of the things that the law says is that once somebody is in your custody they`re also in your care. So what they`re up against is videos of bystanders saying to people, saying to the police, including Derek Chauvin that he`s not responsive, he`s not breathing anymore, take his pulse and they showed police not doing that. Derek Chauvin not getting up off of his neck. So what the defense is trying very hard to do is two things. Number one, say that Derek Chauvin was using procedures that he was trained to use that were approved by the police and that were appropriate in the time. And number two saying, as Melissa said that it was an unfortunate set of circumstances that George Floyd had things going on that this may have exacerbated.

Again, under the law if you are a contributor to the death of someone it`s not exonerating that there may have been other things involved but they are, all they have to do, they don`t have to prove anything, they just have to show a little confusion and have people debating whether it`s fentanyl or a heart condition or things that Derek Chauvin was trained to do and that`s what they are effectively doing right now.

WILLIAMS: Great point. Professor, notable that the first witness to take the stand today was a 9/11 dispatcher. They are the silent heroes of first response in our country. Police fire, EMS when done right that job is an art form. This young woman went way above and beyond the call of duty as she saw it, she was able to watch the takedown, the police response in real time on a surveillance camera. She relayed to the jurors a phone call she made to take this case up the chain because something didn`t look right. We`ll play you that audio and discuss on the other side.


JENA LEE SCURRY, DISPATCHER: I don`t know, you can call me a snitch if you want, but we have the cameras up for 320s call. (Inaudible).


SCURRY: I don`t know if they had to use force or not, but they got something out of the back of the squad, and all of them sat on this man, so I don`t know if they needed you or not, but they haven`t said anything to me yet.



WILLIAMS: So as you heard Professor, you can call me a snitch, if you want to, that was a young woman, again, way above and beyond the call of duty. What does this choice tell you about what the prosecution`s going to pursue and how?

MURRAY: So this was, I thought, very powerful testimony from Jena Scurry, who was the 911 dispatcher. She`s someone as the prosecution established, has seen many of these calls. She`s been overhearing these calls as they come in, and she was so moved by what she saw. I thought it was so unorthodox that she felt compelled to run it up the chain of command to call a sergeant to intervene. And that`s important, the prosecution is anticipating the defense`s affirmative defense that Mr. Chauvin was acting within the scope of his duties and what he did was reasonable. This is going to show that for this woman who has watched many of these encounters, this did not look reasonable at all, but in fact was so unorthodox as Mr. Blackwell, the prosecution attorney said she felt compelled to call the police on the police.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, final question goes to you and your beat. We saw the CDC director get uncharacteristically emotional today. The President was very forceful on the topic of the coronavirus, cases are up in 31 of our 50 states. People are painting this week as if it could be a game changer in the fight because they`re surging vaccines at the same time. And as simple question to you and your knowledge of the levers available to this President and the White House, quite literally what more can they do?

RUCKER: Well, Brian, that the President actually has very limited authority and power in his situation. Technically, the decisions about lockdowns, about restrictions, about mask mandates, about gathering numbers and what sorts of businesses can be open and under what conditions, those decisions are all made at the state level by governors. They`re made in localities and municipalities, by mayors and other local officials. And what we`re seeing right now, especially as the weather gets warmer, in a lot of parts of the country and spring is clearly here, is there`s a desire to speed up the reopening. We`re seeing a lot of governors trying to get businesses back operating at full tilt. You`re seeing families planning vacations and doing much more activities and interacting with one another. And that is so alarming, obviously, to the public health officials. It`s why we saw that emotional and powerful statement this morning from the CDC director.

But other than sounding alarms and making pleas to the public and to state and local officials, it`s not like the President can somehow wave a magic wand and suddenly declare that everybody must wear a mask and stay locked in their homes. He just doesn`t have that power unless he really use sort of an extreme emergency executive authority. Those decisions are made at the state level.

WILLIAMS: We are greatly indebted to our big three guests tonight, to Phil Rucker, to Professor Melissa Murray and Ali Velshi after a long day covering day one of the trial, our great thanks.

Coming up after our first break this evening, Derrick Chauvin may be the one on trial but it`s not just his fate at stake here. We`ll talk about the larger implications for the American system of justice.

And later, as the CDC Director warns of impending doom, we`ll ask an Indiana ER doctor how his hospital is bracing for yet another surge potentially. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway as we start a new week on this Monday night.



ALEXANDRIA REYES-SCHROEDER, ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: One of the biggest differences between this case and so many other cases of police brutality is this was not a shooting. This was nine minutes of a man with a smug look on his face and his hands in his pockets kneeling on another man`s neck. He wouldn`t have done that to a dog in the street. OK. So to do that to a black man at 38th in Chicago, where the whole world saw it right afterwards on the on the video, I just -- I can`t imagine there not being a conviction.


WILLIAMS: What a simple but powerful point she makes.

In his column tonight, our friend Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, writes, "remember that Chauvin is the man on trial, not Floyd. Remember that the only reason police approached Floyd in the first place was that they suspected him of a minor, nonviolent offense. Remember Floyd`s desperate pleas that he couldn`t breathe that they`re going to kill me that he was dying. Remember, as if anyone could forget that the U.S. criminal justice system is on trial as well. And remember that quite literally, the whole world is watching."

Back with us tonight, Jason Johnson, campaign veteran, journalist, contributor to the Grio, professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University and Tim Miller, contributor to the Bulwark and the former communications director for Jeb Bush.

Gentlemen, good evening to you both. Professor, I`d like to begin with you. Well, further proof tonight of why our friend Eugene has the Pulitzer Prize. I further want to play for you some comments by the civil rights lawyer Ben Crump on this network tonight. We`ll discuss on the other side.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF GEORGE FLOYD: We all know that we can never take for granted that a police officer will be held accountable for killing a black person unjustifiably. So even though we think the video is very compelling, that we understand that this is a referendum on can black people get equal justice in America.


WILLIAMS: Professor, I`m going to go ahead and assume that you agree with Mr. Crump central point as well as you central point that the criminal justice system itself is on trial here.

JASON JOHNSON, PROFESSOR MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: I agree and disagree, Brian, because the criminal justice system is always on trial. And even if Derek Chauvin ends up being convicted, it doesn`t mean it`s a good criminal justice system. It doesn`t mean black people are treated fairly. You know, we`ve seen so many different people, you know, the killing of Tamir Rice, the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, you know, Timothy Loam (ph) and getting away with what he did. There have been so many instances of police officers and random white individuals, shooting and killing black people and not facing any consequences that in this particular instance, where the entire planet watch an execution, if that happens to put this man in jail, that doesn`t mean the system is fine. It reminds me to be honest of holds claw (ph) the case that was an Oklahoma City, a couple years ago, where a man was accused, a police officer was accused of seriously raping black women in the city. He was convicted because the crime was so egregious that the law couldn`t allow him to get away with it, because it would have no justification for anything else they did. That`s what this is. This may be a bridge too far. But it doesn`t mean that all the bridges that have been burned by this criminal justice system have been fixed with black America.

WILLIAMS: Tim Miller, you had a unique and perhaps searing experience within the past year of speaking to and with a focus group of specifically older white voters. And I am told there`s no video or audio of this because it was a condition of them being able to speak freely, and not be recorded doing so. But having experienced it. What is that audience likely to take away from this trial?

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, look, Brian, it was one of the more shocking focus groups that we get a lot of them last year when I was working for Republican voters against Trump. And so by nature, obviously, we were talking to Republican voters. So it wasn`t just older white voters as older white Republican voters and I was bracing for the worst. And this is not to say that there are people that think the worst and failed worse than say the worst out there. But in these swing states, repeatedly and across multiple focus groups, we heard from older white voters that were saying that their consciences were shocked by that George Floyd video didn`t make them think twice about policing in this country and maybe change some of their prior views.

I remember one woman in particular talking about her children and how passionately they felt about it and how they were out in the streets and protesting and how she wanted to understand where they were coming from. And so I think that this trial, you know, in addition to the criminal justice system, being on trial, as Eugene said, in addition to what Jason said, is another opportunity to galvanize maybe people who wouldn`t be on the side of criminal justice reform naturally, to come to that side to encourage real reforms to the system. And I think that the political actors should see that potential opportunity here now that this is back in the news, and maybe that`s a minor green shoot in this just horrible, unconscionable event.

WILLIAMS: And, Jason, I asked, because I must, is the nation prepared for a not guilty verdict if that is indeed the judgment of this jury?

JOHNSON: Brian, black America is used to it, unfortunately, I think, look, when I talk to my colleagues, my other professional colleagues, none of us would be shocked if their job and got off scot free. When people are convicted in this country by this criminal justice system for killing black folks killing Atatiana Jefferson and her home playing video games, killing Sandra Bland in some mysterious circumstance, Botham Jean in his house, when someone is actually held accountable in this country, someone White is held accountable in this country for killing somebody black. We`re always shot. We`re used to nothing happening.

So if Chauvin gets off, got free, there will definitely be protests, there will definitely be anger. But in a twisted sort of way, the white supremacy that is endemic and America`s criminal justice system has almost ingenuous (ph), so it`s almost desensitized, a lot of black of America, a lot of black America, to how bad things can be in this country. Even when someone is arrested for a crime that millions of people across the planet all watch with their own eyes.

WILLIAMS: Hell of a point to pause on, but we must take a quick break here. Thankfully, both gentlemen have agreed to stay with us.

Coming up, last night, she said the hundreds of 1000s of deaths in our country were preventable, interesting when you consider that she was there and watched it unfold, but then again, there`s a lot of that going on these days.



DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FMR. CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Look at it this way. The first time we have an excuse, there were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge, all of the rest of them, in my mind could have been mitigated or decreased substantially. If we took the lessons we had learned from that moment. That`s what bothers me every day.


WILLIAMS: Can we talk about what she just said there? To be clear, we are talking about nearly 450,000 American lives that might not have been lost if the former president had put science over politics, and consider this just as a thought experiment. What if Dr. Birx had spoken up then, instead of now to Sanjay Gupta on CNN.

Still with us, Jason Johnson and Tim Miller. Tim, your publication the Bulwark tough piece on Deborah Birx. All we need to know we can learn from the title. Shame on Deborah Birx. That goes on to say she wasn`t doing her best in a bad situation. She was aiding and abetting the federal government`s COVID disaster. And of course for her loyalty. She got rewarded tonight when Trump called her a liar. And a statement that in the old days would have been a tweet and is now a fax and think about it.

She was so obedient, so frightened, so silent in the face of all that death. How does she get rewarded for all loyalty by getting stomped on tonight for Trump and what could she possibly have to say to the loved ones of over half a million Americans? I tried my best. It`s patently clear she didn`t.

MILLER: He has some pretty crazy facts is coming out of South Florida these days, Brian. Look, here`s the thing with Deborah Birx that if I want to put a finer point on it, the nail on the head that you had, is she had an opportunity to speak out before the election.

I mean, thank God, the Joe Biden won this election, but it was a lot close -- was way too close for comfort. And if you are a human being, and you`re sitting there in the White House, and you`re trying to let`s give her the benefit of the doubt, let`s say that she thought she was doing the best that she could to help the country. And yet her efforts failed. And because the president is so crazy, almost a half million additional Americans have died. And yet you still sit on your hands and you still sit silently during this election when our country`s fate, when all these people who have lived in died fate hang in the balance.

I mean, it is it is shameful, it`s unconscionable. And just look by comparison to what you know, Olivia Troye, who worked on that COVID Task Force did. You know she tried her best she said she was serving her country. She wanted people to live. And then finally, when she saw the President was just too crazy, she spoke out and she cut it out and said, we can`t do this anymore. We need the other guy.

That`s what you do. If you`re actually bothered, if you are actually concerned about the real life harm you cause what Deborah Birx is doing right now is just face it.

WILLIAMS: Professor, I`m glad Tim just mentioned Olivia Troye. I`m going to play for you some of what she said and Nicolle Wallace on her show this afternoon.


OLIVIA TROYE, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COVID TASK FORCE SENIOR AIDE: I think there should be an investigation because people should not be able to get away with the number of deaths and suffering that happened in this country under the previous administration. There are a lot of people who enable this moment that are complicit.


WILLIAMS: Jason, why is the courage to speak up courage in general, in such short supply, and remember, people like Mike Pence want to be president. And to do that Mike Pence is going to try to that`s going to require getting us to forget that he as head of that task force presided over what 400,000 of these deaths.

JOHNSON: 400,000 of the deaths didn`t contradict -- didn`t you know, sort of contrast the president when we told people to not wear masks was involved in all sorts of like there`s so many different people that in a Justin Vernon world would be held accountable for their mistakes in this last administration.

But Dr. Birx in particular, I think this is important not just to contrast her with Dr. Anthony Fauci. But because as you pointed out, when she talked about this, this is all sort of the mark short going to UV, my alma mater to clean up his act, Sean Spicer going on Dancing with the Stars, it`s all part of this sort of disgusting cleanup act, that many people complicit in this administration`s failures, past administrations failures are trying to do and it`s up to us to continue to hold them accountable.

She can tell whatever story she wants to tell, but I don`t want Stanford, I don`t want Harvard, I don`t want UV, I don`t want any Michigan, I don`t want any institutions, giving her a teaching position. I don`t want any think tanks giving her an opportunity to rehabilitate herself by writing white papers in a book.

These people are responsible for the largest swath of death this country has ever faced. That`s just in our lifetime. This country has faced in almost a century and they should not be allowed to spend their way out of it by saying they were bothered. I love Susan Collins they had concerns when in fact they knew what they were doing and what they were participating in was not only wrong, but deadly.

WILLIAMS: Professor holds some of that passion for when former Secretary Azar comes out with his version of the truth which Politico warns us is on its way. Jason Johnson, Tim Miller, gentlemen, we could do this for the entire hour. Thank you both for being friends of the broadcast and joining us this Monday night.

Coming up. One of our ER doctors on the frontlines has some strong reactions to today`s pandemic news. We`ll hear from him when we come right back.



DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I know what it`s like as a physician to stand in that patient room, downed, loved, massed shielded, and to be the last person to touch someone else`s loved one because their loved one couldn`t be there.

Speaking today, not necessarily as your CDC director not only as your CDC director, but as a wife, as a mother as a daughter, to ask you to just please hold on for a little while longer.


WILLIAMS: A rare moment from earlier today, as we mentioned cases on the rise and 31 of our 50 states. At the same time, states are racing to increase access to vaccines. Tonight, at least six states have opened vaccine eligibility to all adults Minnesota joins that list tomorrow, South Carolina and Indiana on Wednesday.

Back with us again, Dr. Stephen Sample. He`s an ER doctor at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper, Indiana. He`s also a volunteer clinical faculty member at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Doctor, let`s talk for a moment about Dr. Walensky, the CDC director. She`s no Scott Atlas and by that I mean she is qualified for her position. We don`t often hear her speak with that much passion and emotion and I know it got your attention today.

DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Good evening, Brian. Yes, it really got my attention. You know, she looked like she was about to break down into tears. And I was watching her speak and, and it felt almost over the top to me, you know, when I stressed the word felt. And because I`ve been thinking about it ever since I saw her speak today. Because where I am right now, in this moment. It feels like the pandemic is mostly over. Our cases have been weighed down, hospitalizations are weighed down. And just like everybody else I`m tired of I`m tired of this.

So I dug into the numbers a little bit. And in Indiana, our cases over the last two weeks are up about 16 percent. Our present positives are starting to creep that went from 3 percent to 3.6, 3.7 percent. And our reproductive rate is as crossed the line of one which means increasing spread over the last couple of weeks.

And exponential growth is a bear. You know it`s not there. It`s not there and then you`re neck deep in it. So it really took me back. It made me pause and kind of rethink the way I feel about things.

WILLIAMS: Do you think it`s a combination of the variants and states that insist on spiking the ball before we as a nation get to the end zone?

SAMPLE: Yes, I think it`s a little bit of both of those things. I know everybody`s ready to spike the ball, I`m ready to spike the ball. Some people have been spiking the ball since the very beginning, it seems like the variants do leave such a uncertain picture, you know, kind of hanging out in the background, and we`re just all sort of sitting back and waiting to see what happens.

I think we need to be real careful. I think we need to continue to race towards that vaccine because we`re racing these variants right now, for sure.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, in my view of the numbers and the science, there are no bad vaccines at work here. Today, the Pfizer and Moderna numbers, the new wave of those numbers came out, showing huge effectiveness. If anything, I think as a public relations matter, we let these effectiveness percentages get out into the public bloodstream. And we didn`t stress the most important fact about all of these vaccines, no matter of brand. They will keep you out of the ICU. They will keep you from dying in almost every case. 100 percent, do you concur that maybe that should be the plotline here?

SAMPLE: I do. Indeed. I think that as public -- I think public health officials in general and physicians, I think we`ve been hesitant to, to really come out and say with gusto, how good this is, I am stoked about these vaccines. The research that came out that day was amazing.

Basically, nobody who gets these shots gets sick enough to go to the hospital. And certainly almost nobody dies. We don`t have vaccines like that, in general, for a whole lot of things out there. I think we need to come out and really celebrate this vaccine in our public health agencies. And we need to tell everybody these things kick ass. We`ll get one today.

WILLIAMS: And remind us, final question. On average, the seasonal flu vaccine. We go down to the pharmacy and get when the first cold snap of winter arrives. What`s the percentage effectiveness of that in the average year if they get the mix close to right?

SAMPLE: Yes, the flus are really tough. The flu is a really tough one because we have this antigenic drift from year to year. So there is a lot of educated guessing going on. But if we can get a 60 or 70 percent vaccine with the flu season, it`s an amazing game changer. So many fewer people die. But we`ve seen nothing like 90 percent with the flu shot this is this is the closest thing to a miracle in medicine that I`ve seen in my entire career, and maybe in most of our lifetimes really.

WILLIAMS: I know a quota and when I hear one thank you for the work you do. Thank you for always taking our questions Dr. Stephen sample, the pride of Jasper, Indiana. Thanks much.

Coming up for us where did the coronavirus start? It`s been a genuine medical mystery as you know if you`ve been following it coarsened by politics like everything else in life these days. Well, tonight there`s a new attempt from the WHO add a definitive answer. We`ll tell you how that ended up today.


WILLIAMS: We are now over a year into this we still don`t have certainty on where the coronavirus started. NBC News has obtained a copy of a report by the World Health Organization and China. That leaves many questions on answered. NBC News foreign correspondent Keir Simmons has our report tonight.


KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, NBC News has obtained a leaked copy of a highly anticipated 123-page report addressing the question, where did COVID come from? The World Health Organization`s joint study with China concluding the exact route of exposure to people is unknown.

It continues circumstantial evidence supports a range of potential spillover pathways most likely bats to humans, perhaps involving another animal and it says a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered extremely unlikely.

But critics say that WHO team only made brief visits to the Wuhan Institute of neurology and never received all the information they requested from Chinese officials.

Just last week, a former CDC director saying --

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, FMR. CDC DIRECTOR: I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen and Wuhan was from a laboratory, you know, escape.

SIMMONS: Adding to the mystery tonight, NBC News confirming through patterns that the Wuhan Institute of virology have been taking live bands from the wild since at least 2009. And in some cases, keeping them for years.

In the 2018 patent, The WIV demonstrated it had designed cages for breeding bats. Today the WHO saying nothing should be ruled out.

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM, WHO DIRECTOR GENERAL: All hypotheses are on the table and weren`t complete and further studies.

SIMMONS (on camera): But tonight, other scientists have called for an independent investigation, noting that every conclusion in this report had to be signed off by China. Brian.


WILLIAMS: Keir Simmons, thank you for that reporting tonight from London. Another break and coming up what we were talking about a year ago tonight.



DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: The borders are the worst anybody`s ever seen. And what you see now multiplied times 10 here, what`s happening to the kids are living in squalor. They said that 66 million votes are on the elections over, I like 75 million. A lot of things happening right now. I just want to say it`s an honor to be here.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, Trump does weddings now and right after TMZ first posted that clip shot by a wedding guest at Mar-a- Lago this weekend, social media lit up with people wondering how the bride and groom and honored guests must have felt celebrating their big day with an anti-Biden rant from the guy who lives upstairs.

But as one commenter put it if you get married at Disney World, you can`t act surprised if Mickey shows up.

And other former president news Trump`s post presidential website is up and running. There`s a photo of him with his friend and ballistic missile enthusiast Kim Jong-Un of North Korea. The mission statement of the former president`s website says it`s committed to preserving the magnificent legacy of the Trump administration. Let`s stop there and talk about that just for a moment.

Tonight, the death toll stands at over 550,000 Americans that`s an awful legacy. Those families will never forget, nor will we because we have the entire record. We watched it and conveniently recorded it in real time. And for all time, like this gem from a year ago today. Beautiful spring day in the Rose Garden. The Old Rose garden before the former first lady decimated it. Here was Trump riffing on a possible death toll.


TRUMP: If we can hold that down, as we`re saying to 100,000, it`s a horrible number, maybe even less but to 100,000. So we have between 100, 200,000 we all together have done a very good job.


WILLIAMS: Not sure how he would have defined the death toll north of 550,000 but others have suggested words like malpractice, mismanagement and criminal negligence. That was from one year ago today as the virus had just started its rampage across our country, which continues tonight.

And so that is our broadcast for this Monday evening as we begin a new week together with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of the good men and women at the networks of NBC News, good night.