COVID aid bill survives nine-hour standoff in Senate. Senator Joe
Manchin holds up deal for jobless benefits. Senator Bernie Sanders tries to
add minimum wage hike to COVID bill. Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema a
"thumbs down" on increasing the minimum wage. Senator Sanders vows to
continue minimum wage fight. Representative Eric Swalwell sues Trump and
allies over Capitol riot.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, as we bring
another week to a close day 45 of the Biden administration. The President`s
first big piece of legislation survives after nearly being derailed in an
evenly divided Senate by a fellow Democrat.
Tonight, this coronavirus relief bill is moving forward but debate was
stalled for about nine hours because the $1.9 trillion plan didn`t have
enough support, again from Democrats. The existential threat to it came
from one Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. He`s up for
reelection in 2024 and a bright red state that voted for Donald Trump this
past November by 40 points.
Manchin has been wooed by Republicans in an effort to get him to back their
plan for unemployment benefits $300 a week through July, after what appears
to be a lot of arm twisting, Manchin finally agreed to the Democrats
proposal $300 a week through September, plus tax relief on benefits.
With an evenly divided senate as we said, the Democrats don`t have a vote
to spare so the challenge of keeping party members in line all the way to
the finish line hasn`t gone away. Today`s job numbers added a new dynamic
to the situation. The latest report showed a gain of 379,000 jobs in
February, unemployment holding at 6.2 percent. That went over pretty well
with Wall Street, the Dow surged to a gain of 570. Still, as we`ve been
told, as we`ve reminded our audience so many times, the market is not the
economy, the market is not Mainstreet. Today, the President insisted that
good numbers don`t tell the real story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today`s jobs report shows that
the American rescue plan is urgently needed in our view. Our economy still
has 9.5 million fewer jobs than it had this time last year. And that raid
would take two years to get us back on track. Without a rescue plan, these
gangs are going to flow in less than two weeks, enhanced unemployment
benefits will begin to expire from 11 million people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Now another of Biden`s policy goals did not survive an effort to
add it back into the relief bill. Senator Bernie Sanders, forgive me, tried
to insert an amendment to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour
even after a ruling that it couldn`t be inserted into the bill. Eight
democratic senators promptly voted against that including Biden`s close
ally from back home, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Kyrsten Sinema of
Arizona. She indicated her no vote with a somewhat theatrical thumbs down
to the Senate clerk and the well of the Senate, calling to mind Arizona
Senator John McCain`s famous thumbs down vote late at night repealing the
Affordable Care Act of 2017.
Sinema`s thoughts on the wage increase appear to have evolved, let`s say
over the years, seven years ago, she posted this on social media. A full-
time minimum wage earner makes less than $16,000 a year. This one`s a no
brainer, tell Congress to raise the wage. That`s proof that the view is
different from the cheap seats. Now she`s in the U.S. Senate where she`s
one of 100. Bernie Sanders on bowed by his defeat in the senate insistent
today the fight was not over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Let me be very clear, we are not given up on
this. We are going to come back with vote after vote and one way or the
other. We are going to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage. That is what the
American people want. And that is what the American people need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, over in the House a second lawsuit has been filed
against one Donald Trump over the January 6 siege and looting of the U.S.
Capitol. Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell of California, who served as
one of the House impeachment managers filed a civil lawsuit today. It
accuses not only the former president but Donnie Jr., Rudy Giuliani,
Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of inciting insurrection and violating
federal civil rights laws. The suit says the mob attack was, "a direct and
foreseeable consequence of the defendants` false and incendiary allegations
of fraud and theft and in direct response to the defendants` express calls
With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night, Susan
Page, Veteran Journalist, Best Selling Author, USA Today Washington Bureau
Chief, Garrett Haake, our man on the Hill, NBC News Correspondent covering
Congress, and we welcome to the broadcast, Eugene Daniels, White House
Correspondent for Politico and co-author of each day`s edition of Political
Good evening and welcome to you all, Garrett because it`s your beat, you
get to go first. Is Joe Manchin, the most powerful day -- merit, most
powerful man on this day in Washington, or the most reviled on the left
side of the party or perhaps both?
GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Brian, why not both? Look, it`s
Joe Manchin in Washington and the rest of us are just living in it. This is
the reality of a 50/50 United States Senate. Joe Manchin today, but it
could be any democratic senator on any day on any democratic priority over
the next two years that has this power here when everything depends on
democratic unity as this bill does, because it`s being passed through the
budget reconciliation process. Anyone senator can hold out and try to get
as much as they want. What Manchin will ultimately secure here is a lower
number for those expanded unemployment benefits just an extra $300 a week,
one week into September when the democratic plan absent Joe Manchin had
those benefits being paid all the way through September.
So he certainly made himself no friends on the left, but again, this is one
senators` prerogative. And this is the reality that Democrats are going to
have to deal with, with any other bill that they bring forward, keeping
everyone in line on major priorities is the cost, particularly when you
choose to do something through reconciliation, and don`t make much of an
effort to try to build a bipartisan process, which Mitch McConnell just do
the Democrats for as the Senate came back into action saying, Democrats
chose to do this the hard way. And that`s why we had 12-hour record
breaking vote kept open today until Manchin was satisfied.
WILLIAMS: Mitch McConnell conveniently ignoring all the Republican Party
line votes in the Senate.
Hey, Susan, let`s talk about this new dynamic and what this may give us.
Our friends at the Washington Post put it this way tonight. The outcome of
these COVID bill negotiations threatens to carry lasting political
significance, raising questions as to whether moderates are content to
tinker at the edges or if the debate over coronavirus aid might embolden
them to act more aggressively." This dovetail with part of the point
Garrett was just making. How does this affect? Let`s face it the laundry
list of stuff Biden wants out of the Senate, out of the Congress.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Well, I think it
illustrates how hard it is going to be to get other big pieces of
legislation through this Congress, not to the House, even though there`s a
narrow house majority for Democrats. We`ve seen that they are able to pass
big legislation, but to get it through the Senate, this depends on
reconciliation, budget reconciliation, you can only use that once each
fiscal year. It`s not a device you can turn to over and over again. And
there is a debate in the Democratic Party about who deserves credit for
winning the White House and who deserves blame for the setbacks the
Democrats had in the House and some Senate races they had been hopeful
about, was the energy with the progressive, or is this a sign that you
really need moderates on board.
But just one other thing, let`s not lose sight of Democrats have held
together after 12 hours of figuring out how to do that. They are going to
pass a $1.9 trillion bill that is a huge piece of legislation. That
includes a lot of things that Democrats support, including expanded
childcare, tax credits and food aid and low-income housing assistance. This
is a major achievement. It`s just been pretty messy getting there.
WILLIAMS: Eugene, welcome. It`s great to have you. It is possible that two
things are simultaneously true. It`s possible that after decades in the
Senate, Biden sweats these dramas less than other mortals. It`s also
possible that he knows how to work them better. What`s your reporting on
how hard he worked this one by phone?
EUGENE DANIELS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": Yeah, I think he`s
experienced. He has friendships with a lot of these members, Republicans
and Democrats. We know that he called Joe Manchin, right? It took him took
a call from Joe -- from Joe Biden to Joe Manchin to kind of get him over
there meeting with Chuck Schumer. So he knows what he`s doing here. Joe
Biden is not scared to make a call to have someone make that call for him.
I think one of the things that just like Susan was saying Democrats have
stuck together and what`s going to happen next, when it goes to the House
and it does this is likely going to pass the House and then it`s going to
be signed by President Biden. How do they message that they stuck together?
How do they message that they overcame Republican obstructionism, they were
able to get what the American people have been asking for whether it was as
big as people wanted before President Biden got into office or not, they
did get a lot done and so have a message that is going to say a lot about
how Democrats are able to stick together and have these conversations as
they fight over, you know, this really ambitious agenda that Joe Biden has.
It`s probably the most ambitious agenda for president in a very long time.
WILLIAMS: Garrett Haake indeed, Chuck Schumer could spend his weekends
herding cats just to practice for his day job to expand on your first
answer. What kind of dynamic is this going to be until the next round, the
next election that could possibly change the balance in the Senate?
HAAKE: Unfortunate reality for Democrats is this is probably the easiest
thing they`re going to try to do in the next few years. They`ve got a
reconciliation bill where they only need the 50 votes that they have.
They`ve got to build the polls, anywhere between 60 and 70 percent
popularity. They`ve got a president who polls extremely well pushing for
it. And they`re giving out money. I mean, they`re sending checks to the
American people. Everything else the Democrats tried to do will be more
complicated than this. With perhaps one exception, the next thing they
tried to do is apparently going to be infrastructure. The Biden
administration has been holding meetings on that. This was something that
was talked about then joked about during the Trump administration, the
prospect of infrastructure, we that might gain some bipartisan support. But
when you try to do immigration, or police reform, or H.R. one, democracy
reform bill that just passed in the House, all of those things will be
extraordinarily powers of 10 more difficult than what the Senate is trying
to pass right now. And Democrats are need to -- going to -- are going to
need to be prepared for that fight, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Susan, how do I put this gently? You and I have been around a
while and I have some polling numbers to share for you, and our viewers on
the screen. The latest Biden approval 60 percent straight up approval of
his job performance, 55 percent approval handling in the economy, and 70
percent approval of the COVID response. I don`t need to tell you there are
precedents in the modern era, who would kill for those kinds of numbers.
And I also don`t need to remind you that they are often temporary. You`d
think it would make it tougher for the Republicans, but they have seen just
to be slavishly pushing their agenda, which this week has been mostly
centered around Dr. Seuss?
PAGE: Yeah, and who knew that attacking Dr. Seuss -- defending Dr. Seuss
could be a big political issue, but there you have it. You know, not only
does Joe Biden have a 70 percent approval rating on COVID, handling COVID.
That is the issue of which his presidency is going to be judged. And I
totally agree with Garrett that this legislation, everything else is going
to be harder after this one. But this is the most important single piece of
legislation, Joe Biden is likely to propose during his presidency, because
he will be judged on whether he got his arms around the COVID pandemic and
got it under control, and then dealt with the economic consequences of the
pandemic. And that is what this bill is designed to do. You know, you know,
who would have loved to have those approval ratings? Donald Trump.
WILLIAMS: Indeed, absolutely right. Eugene, just as you take your new job
and your new post, it`s in time for everything in the world to get blown
up. Everything is different this time around. And to that end, we`re
hearing Biden`s first appearance before a joint session of Congress may now
get pushed clear into April. That would be interesting. Any reporting you
have on the underpinnings of that decision and how firm it might be?
DANIELS: I think one of the things that we`re finding about this Biden
administration is that they are almost singularly focused on the task at
hand, right? They stay on message. And the thing that they want to talk
about right now is COVID relief, they want to talk about the vaccine, they
want to talk about the fact that they got Merck, to help out Johnson &
Johnson to make more of their vaccines. And I think that they don`t even --
every time because I`ve asked them this question about Jen Psaki, this
question at press briefings, and she you know, she kind of waves us off and
says, you know, we have a job to do. The President is focused on doing what
he`s doing at this moment. He -- the state of the union or this joint
address to Congress is going to come but they haven`t talked about when
it`s going to come.
I think there was also a conversation behind the scenes about how safe it`s
going to be, right? You have these extremists saying online, that they`re
going to do something at this joint address of Congress. I think they`re
thinking about how to get their hands around the safety of that. They want
to make sure that it`s safe for COVID. So they`re dealing with a lot when I
talked to them about how they`re going to plan the state of the union --
this joint address to Congress, excuse me, and I don`t think any other
president has had to deal with it. But they want to also focus on their
agenda. They said like you showed, he has these high approval ratings. They
know they don`t have a lot of time, but the things that he wants to get
done, and so they`re trying to get as much done as they possibly can
without having to concentrate on the pomp and circumstance of a joint
address to Congress.
WILLIAMS: Susan, the George Floyd trial is going to be getting underway.
Still a terrible societal, gaping wound, for all of us, something we all
witnessed, and the after effects, of course, are going to be with us, as
they should be for a good many years, and I assume this White House and
others will be watching very closely.
PAGE: Yeah, I think so. You know, we had a new poll out about in
preparation for the trial that were jury selection begins on Monday. I
thought the most striking thing we found, was that more than a third of
Americans say that in the past year, they have rethought their views about
racism, the police, law enforcement and social justice. And that is, I
think, a pretty incredible number as more than a third of American adults
said, they have had an occasion in the past year to try to think through
and reconsider what they believed about these things. That shows the kind
of continuing impact. I think we are likely to see as a society, from all
the activism we saw with those huge marches after George Floyd`s death last
WILLIAMS: And think of it this way, all the conversations we`re having the
poll numbers that it moved, none of it would have happened, but for the
presence of our camera to record it and make it that real, that urgent that
devastating to watch for all of us. I can`t thank our big three enough
tonight, Susan Page, Garrett Haake, again welcome to Eugene Daniels. Have a
good weekend if it`s at all possible.
Coming up, ever since the night, the lights went out in Texas after that
winter storm, it`s been an embarrassing time for the governor there who got
back on brand this week, telling his state no masks, no problem. Of course,
it`s a big problem for people like the mayor of Austin who`s standing by to
talk with us.
And later, the great divide within the party formerly known as Republican
as the former president pipes up again, the 11th Hour is just getting
underway on this Friday evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I know the idea of relaxing mask
wearing and getting back to everyday activities is appealing. But we`re not
there yet. We have seen this movie before when prevention measures like
mask mandates are rolled back, cases go up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In Texas and Mississippi, two of the state`s rolling back these
mask mandates essential workers say they`re increasingly worried, of
course, about getting sick because, of course they have no control over the
people they come in contact with during their work day. It`s why our
society calls them essential workers. We just don`t treat them that way.
Mayors in some of the biggest cities in Texas say they plan to keep some of
the masked mandates in place despite their own Governor`s order.
For more we want to welcome back to the broadcast, Steve Adler, he is the
democratic mayor of the great city of Austin, Texas.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for taking our questions tonight. Two part question to
start, how is your great city recovering from the night the lights went out
and the water quit and the power grid collapsed? And do you really think
the governor is doing it a brand adjustment to be as Texas as he can to say
no masks, no problem?
MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D-TX), AUSTIN: You know, we`re doing well, for a lot of
people in our city, they`re still in the middle of this crisis because they
don`t have water yet. While the system has been put back together, they
have broken pipes that we`re dealing with that but by and large people have
power and water in the city. But it is a city that has pulled together to
help one another. It`s up to us right now on masking to now that the
governor has removed that mandate, you know, he promised us that he would
follow the science and the data, he broke that promise. There`s virtually
no science to support ending the mask mandate. It has created confusion. It
is ambiguous message to send about. What is something that is the best
thing that we can be doing short of getting vaccinated, we`ve seen the
power of masking. There`s no question. I think that this is not motivated
by science and data. It is all politics.
WILLIAMS: I was reminded today it was a year ago you were forced to cancel
south by and it seems like such an innocent time such a simpler time. It
was looking back on it a necessary decision. Painful, yes, but absolutely
necessary, when do you think the next time will be when your great city can
welcome all those music fans from around the world?
ADLER: You know, we`re hoping that happens sooner than later. We still have
the ACL festival in the fall, October, and I`m and I`m hoping and trusting
that that`s going to happen. I like the administration getting out
significantly greater supply, the thought of having everyone who wants to
be vaccinated, vaccinated by the end of May. I`m all over support for that.
There`s a light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, it is still
with us, which is why I`m asking our community to continue wearing masks so
appreciative of the businesses that are continuing to keep that. You know,
it`s only what, 7 percent of the population here that that has actually
been vaccinated. We still have a long way to go.
WILLIAMS: Tell me we have all these discussions about the politics of this
coronavirus relief bill as massive as it is. But take us to ground level,
what is a city like Austin, waiting to get from it. What will you get that
will fund which programs?
ADLER: Well, I tell you, Brian, you know there`s so many people out of
work, with jobs lost, with businesses failing, the economy hit, we`ve lost
resources, but we face increasing and overwhelming needs. We still have
people without jobs that are having trouble paying rent and getting living
expenses. We use those dollars to keep childcare facilities open, to pay
for virus testing and forgetting out vaccines. Cities have still the
continuing expenses for public safety and police and fire. So, we`re real
excited that the prospect that this bill will pass, especially the direct
aid to cities, all cities across the country, so we can get relief to the
WILLIAMS: As we`ve been covering a lot of the Republicans are into shiny
objects and distractions these days. And the latest charge is that, let`s
see if I can get this right. The Biden administration is spreading COVID
because the border is been loosening up and people are coming across the
southern border into your state with the virus, do you care to have a
ADLER: Oh, my goodness. You know, there`s obviously no evidence that
immigrants are having a material or substantial impact on the spread of
virus in Texas or our city. You know, the positivity rate among immigrants
is equal to or lower than it is in the general population in Texas. But it
doesn`t surprise me that the Republican leadership has gone to blaming
immigrants for yet another challenge that we face. We`ve seen it before. It
is a transparent attempt to scare people, to demonize immigrants and to
rally the base. I mean, it is just -- it`s untethered to reality and the
WILLIAMS: I saw a photo today on social media of the Queen of England
arriving in Austin, Texas, being greeted by the governor of Texas, Lady
Bird Johnson, Harry Middleton, the longtime director of the LBJ
Presidential Library, it`s just a reminder, from food to music to academia,
University of Texas, LBJ Library, there is so much to offer in your city,
but all of it has been on hold. What percentage of it would you recon, even
in food and beverage business has crawled back from the abyss of the full
lockdown early on?
ADLER: You know, in large respects in Austin, we`re lucky here. We`re a
city that traditionally or historically, here recently is one of the last
to go into recessions, one of the first to come out. And I think we`re
seeing that again. But we don`t take that for granted. We`re working really
hard. But we`ll come out of this. So the country will come out of this if
people will just hang on a little bit longer and do the things that are
necessary for us not to take unnecessary risks. We can keep our schools
open for more and more kids in person, keep businesses open, but we just
have to do what it takes. And right now, the community is rallying our
local businesses are rallying. We recognize that our recovery at this point
is up to us. We saw that the last two weeks with the power and the water
going out. And we`re going to keep it up now.
WILLIAMS: I`ve always been a one-man Chamber of Congress, commerce for your
terrific City, Mayor Steve Adler, Austin, Texas, here`s good thoughts for
the future. Thank you very much for being our guest again tonight on the
Coming up for us, the President came into office with hopes of unity and
bipartisanship. We`ll look at how that`s going so far. We`ll talk about it
with two of our favorite political veterans when we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): To President Biden, is this the new way of
doing business? There`s nothing new about this. He`s been on the phone
trying to talk Democrats out of working Republicans. If President Biden`s
going to use his time to destroy bipartisanship, it`s going to be a long
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Sometimes the gas light burns so bright you need a welding
helmet. It`s enough to wonder how Mitch McConnell has slavishly delivered
every Republican vote for everything his President wanted over four years.
Back with us tonight, two gentlemen who know this business, Robert Gibbs,
former Obama campaign senior advisor, White House press secretary under
President Obama and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican
National Committee, former lieutenant governor of the great state of
Maryland, also happens to be the host of the Michael Steele Podcast.
Gentlemen, welcome to you both.
And, Robert, I want to begin with a quote out of "The Washington Post."
Democrats increasingly worried that popular pieces of Biden`s agenda will
hit a wall in the Senate, including his plans for climate change,
immigration, gun control, voting rights, LGBT protections. Failing to enact
them, they fear, could be a political disaster for Democrats as well as a
substantive one. Robert, in your answer, tell us what is President to do
and explain the argument, please, over the filibuster that people are
hearing so much about?
ROBERT GIBBS, FMR. OBAMA WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, well, that`s a
great question, Brian, because I think that filibuster is the basis for my
answer to your question. You know, I think the basis of what you talked
about, and I think what that article states is the challenge that any
Democratic leader is going to have in a 50-50 Senate.
Today, Joe Manchin was the Senate majority leader. It may be somebody else
tomorrow. Wherever they stand is how you get 50 votes. And I think it is
going to be extraordinarily difficult to get some of those things done
without filibuster reform. And in the Senate, you`ve got to get 60 votes on
everything in order to get it passed the threat of a filibuster.
Right now that means almost anything is going to have an extraordinarily
enormously difficult time, excuse me, getting through the Senate on any
given day. It`s almost impossible to get that stuff done. Fifty is a hard
thing. And I think filibuster reform is something that is going to have to
be taken very seriously by Democrats. The challenge is Joe Manchin,
mentioned just this week that he had no desire to see the filibuster
So I think there is going to be a really difficult time period. It`s why
you see the Biden ministration flexing its muscle on executive orders. It`s
why you see that the bulk of the legislative activity that they`re going to
get done is going to be through this process of budget reconciliation. They
don`t want to require 50 votes. Obviously, there`s a limit to what you can
do in budget reconciliation. We see that with the minimum wage, and we see
that with other bills.
But I think budget reconciliation is going to be the way you`re going to
have to go on a lot of these things, because regardless of what Lindsey
Graham says, Lindsey Graham, to be clear for everybody is Lucy with the
football over again. And Joe Biden has decided he`s not going to be Charlie
Brown, over and over again, watching Lindsey Graham somehow set a bar for
bipartisanship, that he has absolutely no desire to take part.
WILLIAMS: For our viewers watching the right-hand side of the screen, the
Senate has been voting on McConnell`s motion to adjourn for the night come
back at 10:00 a.m. the Augusta, Ohio Republican Senator Portman now
addressing the Senate. They have said no, we`re not going to adjourn until
10:00 a.m. tomorrow. More will be TBA.
Michael Steele, I want to play for you one of the highlights or as some of
the Democrats would put it, one of the lowlights from today`s Senate
session. It was quick but here now the Senator from Arizona.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Sinema? Ms. Sinema? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Almost a curtsy there as she approached the clerk in the Senate.
So Michael, what`s the lesson when you lose eight Dems on a vote to
increase the minimum wage talk about the headwinds ahead of the Democratic
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, what`s ironic about let`s just
deal with the curtsy for a second. What`s ironic about that, and it`s
actually rather insulting, because we know probably John McCain would have
voted to increase the minimum wage. So that`s just outright insulting to --
this, it`s just on so many levels.
OK. So now the childishness is done. Let`s talk seriously about what the
Democrats have in front of them. And I think the reality of it is, they`ve
got opportunities as we were just talking, for sure. But they`ve got
challenges as well. And those challenges rest and in what packages they put
in front of this body.
I think the President has found that he`s got a lot of runway with the
COVID bill, 70 plus percent approval among the country, the folks out there
across the country, 56, 57 percent approval among, if -- I saw a poll as
high as 59 percent approval among Republicans across the country. So he has
some wins in his sale that will allow him to move on certain measures.
Clearly, the minimum wage was probably a little bit too far at this point.
But it doesn`t mean it`s too far later on. Because as the recovery takes
hold, make the case for those things that matter to the American people,
not to your party, and certainly not trying to cobble together Republicans
because Republicans are going to do what they`re going to do. You have that
one, that 51st vote that can get you at least some good mileage on some
good policy that will keep you in good stead leading into 2022 for the
WILLIAMS: Michael, I got about 45 seconds before a break. Let me ask you
this. Why is that that Republicans don`t seem fearful of a president with a
60 percent approval rating and a president who`d like to take that out for
a spin but threaten them with a mean statement from a guy in Florida, they
will hide behind their desks in the Senate chamber, what`s that about?
STEELE: Because those voters that are part of that 60 percent don`t vote in
Republican primaries. So they`ve got that always in front of their eyes
that at the end of the day, Donald Trump says boo, they go boo-hoo. And so
they cower, they run. The President sitting there was 60 percent approval
plus on any number of issues as we`ve seen, and they want to balk. We`ll
see how that plays out for them in general elections next year.
WILLIAMS: Thank you for your honesty. Both of these gentlemen are staying
with us. When we come back, we`ve heard from him again and nasty and rather
childish communique from the only twice impeached private citizen in
WILLIAMS: Donald Trump may be off Twitter but reports of his cancellation
were premature. This week in a two-page rather unhinged rant he called
former Bush strategist Karl Rove quote a pompous fool with bad advice and a
rhino of the highest order. Along the way cutting down Republicans he could
remember, he called out The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board for having
the audacity to call out the big lie that he won the election saying quote,
they have lost great credibility.
Remaining with us, Robert Gibbs and Michael Steele. Michael, "The Journal"
rather cheekily fired back. What seems to rankle the most famous resident
of Mar-a-Lago, ouch, isn`t his caricature of our policy differences. It`s
that we recognize the reality that Mr. Trump is the main reason
Republicans, wait for it, lost two Georgia Senate races in January and thus
the Senate Majority. Mr. Trump refuses to take responsibility for those
defeats, contrary to all evidence. Michael, all I have to say is, meow. Let
the games begin.
STEELE: Yes, baby, its meow, all night long. I love it. I love it. It`s,
you know, it`s good. Push back on crazy. I mean, the only thing Donald
Trump has done for Republicans is lost elections. I mean, look, this is not
a complicated formula here, Robert and I can tell you this is a game of
inches. It`s about addition, not subtraction. It is about building the kind
of relationship and basis around the country that gets you and gets you to
keep the majority.
We had the majority. I got it in 2010. We ain`t got it anymore. And so,
let`s look at that arc. And so "The Wall Street Journal" is absolutely
right to pull it out the way they did. The going after Karl Rove is
hysterical because everyone in the party knows what Karl Rove has done.
He`s certainly not a rhino just like Liz Cheney isn`t rhino, just like I`m
not a rhino. The only rhino is Donald Trump. That`s the crazy part. But you
know what this is about with Rove. This is about money, baby. This is what
this is about.
This is about the cash, because Karl Rove helped build that financial
network that has sustained the RNC for all these years. He still has his
taps into donors around the country and noticed that the complaint came
from his pack from Trump`s pack. So it`s about galvanizing cash and moving
it in his direction as opposed to wear a robe and others who are in the --
on the money side of this business want to take it going in prep -- getting
in preparation for 2024. So it`s always about the bottom line with Trump.
WILLIAMS: Again, we thank you for your honesty. Hey, Mr. Gibbs, a name that
I did not come up with, but I`m all too happy to repeat. Senator Ron
Johnson from Wisconsin is making noises that he`s a victim. He says people
are coming after him. And he is hinting that he may not run for reelection,
preferring instead to spend more time with his conspiracy theories. What
would this do for the Democrats?
GIBBS: You know, it`s an interesting question, Brian, because I think you
might have a better shot at winning Wisconsin, which will be as we know a
closely contested race for the U.S. Senate. In fact, that we have six, the
six closest presidential states in the 2020 election all have Senate races
in 2022. So, if you thought 2020 was crazy, the sequel is coming right at
you. It`ll be interesting to see whether Johnson staying makes it easier
for Democrats to win that seat, because as you said, there`s tons of crazy
conspiracy almost every day from Ron Johnson, we saw the tactics at the
beginning of this COVID debate.
He wanted every word read aloud by the Senate clerks, which they did until
2:00 or 2:30 in the morning. Again, I don`t think people think of him as a
constructive legislator by any stretch of the imagination. He`s a deep
conspiracy theorist. I certainly hope he stays and runs for reelection,
because I think he`s going to have a difficult time getting reelected in a
swing state like Wisconsin.
WILLIAMS: And, Robert, one more point on the filibuster, because as you
pointed out, there are smart people who can`t quite get their arms around.
This isn`t the bottom line. One of two aphorisms live by the sword die by
the sword and or be careful what you wish for.
GIBBS: Yes, look, I think there`s no doubt about it. I mean, the filibuster
reform is not without its downsides, right, 50-50 Senate, Democrats are in
control of and now can get things done with 50 votes plus one, can swing
back at you if you were to lose control in two years or four years.
And so I think Democrats certainly have to be careful in all of this and in
strategizing through it. But I do know this. I think it is going to be
extraordinarily difficult to pass things in a Senate this deeply divided in
places where, you know, Joe Manchin represents, as you mentioned, the very
beginning of the show a state that voted for Biden less than 30 percent.
And so there`s not a real poll in the National Democratic agenda of the
National Democratic Party for a Joe Manchin. So it`s going to be difficult
to get the things they want to get done, done. I will say this, regardless
of what we`ve seen in the Senate today, Joe Biden is all the closer to
getting a very, very big, very, very needed COVID relief bill.
The unemployment numbers showed it today. That was good news. We`re still
more than 9 million jobs lighter in our economy than we were a year ago. We
need big relief. And regardless of, again, of the bumps and the turbulence,
as the pilot might have said, Joe Biden is closer tonight to getting the
bill he wants to sign. And he`ll do that probably in the next week to 10
WILLIAMS: And the Senate looks closer to something they hate. And that`s
working on the weekend. Our thanks to these two friends of the broadcast,
Robert Gibbs, Michael Steele, gentlemen, thank you, thank you for always
bringing us your A game.
Coming up for us, Pope Francis says he has long wanted to meet those people
who have suffered so much and update on his history making and risky
pilgrimage to Iraq.
WILLIAMS: Here`s something I`ve never said in over 30 years of journalism,
the Pope is in Iraq. Even the notion of such a trip is historic. And just
hours from now, Pope Francis will make history again by meeting face to
face with the Grand Ayatollah in Iraq`s holiest city. For the first time
ever papal visit to that country, Francis is sending a powerful message of
religious unity in a region that of course has been plagued by division.
Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has more from Baghdad.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the
first papal visit to Iraq to the cradle of civilization, Pope Francis was
given a warm welcome, folkloric dancing at the airport and honor guard at
the presidential palace. But above all, it was his message of religious
tolerance that is being so well received in a nation where hundreds of
thousands have died because of religious rivalries and fanaticism.
Iraq today is called to show everyone especially in the Middle East that
diversity instead of giving rise to conflict should lead to harmony, the
pontiff said. I asked the president of Iraq if this country is ready. Do
you think this can be the start of a healing process?
BARHAM SALIH, PRESIDENT OF IRAQ: Iraq has been through tough times. And for
the Pope to come up this time despite many calls for him to postpone the
visit, as some people will put in for a better day, he has come to help us
go to a better change.
ENGEL (voice-over): The visit is profoundly encouraging for Iraq`s
dwindling Christian community, persecuted by groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The Pope visited a Baghdad church were a decade ago suicide bombers
massacre dozens of worshipers. Spreading hate, he said is incompatible with
ENGEL: Tomorrow Pope Francis makes a pilgrimage to the ancient Sumerian
City of Ur believed to be the birthplace of the patriarch Abraham, revered
by Jews, Christians, and Muslims showing common ground among the faiths
that here in the Middle East too often are torn apart by war. Brian?
WILLIAMS: Richard Engel, on a return visit to Baghdad a city he knows well,
our thanks to Richard for that report.
One more break for us, when we come back, the issues that burned up the
airwaves this week, at least some of the airwaves.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. Let`s call it distraction watch.
It was a big week for distractions, distortion, shiny objects, culture war
stuff, the stuff that Republican primaries are made of. The folks over at
the recount monitored conservative media this week so we wouldn`t have too.
Much of the airtime this week has been devoted to issues that let`s just
say at a minimum won`t help anyone during a pandemic. The airwaves over
there this week have resembled a festival of gaslights and cartoon
characters. Here`s the short version.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He calls millions of Americans, Neanderthals.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is Neanderthal thinking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Neanderthals are hunter, gatherers. They`re protectors
of their family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Proud to be a Neanderthal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Neanderthal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When President Biden said that we were all Neanderthals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve never met a Neanderthal that I didn`t like.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First it was Kermit the Frog and the Muppets, Mr. Potato
Head then now, you know, Dr. Seuss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Seuss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Seuss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE/FEMALE: Dr. Seuss.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Potato Head.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mr. Potato Head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Our friends at the recount to take us off the air ever so gently
on a Friday night as we blessedly bring another week to a close. That is
our broadcast for this evening. It comes with our thanks for being here
with us. Have a good weekend unless you have other plans on behalf of all
my colleagues here.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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