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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 4/1/21

Guests: Paul Butler, Stuart Stevens


President Joe Biden wants his infrastructure overhaul plan to win bipartisan support, but lawmakers behind the scenes are starting to draw battle lines around what should be in the legislation, and how to pay for it. The New York Times reports that DOJ is looking at payments from GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz and an associate to women and the possibility they recruited women online and paid them for sex. COVID cases spike as more Americans are vaccinated. George Floyd`s girlfriend testifies in Chauvin trail. On scene paramedic testifies in Chauvin trial. Growing number of corporations are speaking out against new voting laws. GOP is pushing voter restrictions bill nationwide. Migrant children dropped from border fence now in U.S. custody.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 72 of the Biden administration. And there is new bombshell reporting about Florida Republican Congressman and Trump acolyte Matt Gaetz.

This week the New York Times broke the story that the Justice Department was investigating Gaetz for sex trafficking involving a 17 year old girl. Well, tonight, the Times is back on the board with a new report that, "A Justice Department investigation into Representative Gaetz and indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and receive cash payments. Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes initially met the women through websites. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them. Mr. Gaetz denied ever paying a woman for sex."

One of the reporters on this story, Katie Benner, standing by to join us in just a moment.

Meantime, to the White House we go where they are bracing for a big fight with Republicans and potentially even some of their own Democrats over the plan to rebuild the nation`s infrastructure and ultimately, perhaps the nation`s economy. The President now has his full cabinet today was all hands-on deck for the group`s first meeting, the East Room proved big enough all of them at a safe distance high on the agenda selling Joe Biden`s $2.2 trillion infrastructure package.

The President tapped five of his new cabinet members. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge, Jennifer Granholm at Energy, Secretary Gina Raimondo at Commerce and Marty Walsh at Labor to spread the word about the plan.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These cabinet members will represent me in dealing with Congress, engaged the public in selling the plan and help work out the details as we refine it and move forward.


WILLIAMS: Job creation a big part of all of this as the economy emerges from a crater over 700,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits this week and increase over the past two weeks. Tonight, the Washington Post notes the Biden effort to raise corporate taxes to finance this proposal may mean another bill with no Republican support. "The early disagreements also raised the possibility that Democrats may have little choice but to use special legislative maneuvering to advance their economic policy priorities."

Today with his usual gusto, the Senate Republican leader basically killed the possibility of any bipartisan cooperation.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): That package that they`re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure is not going to get support from our side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know President Biden had a lot of ambitious goals coming in, especially for his first 100 days.

MCCONNELL: We`ve been friends for a long time. He`s a first-rate person. Nevertheless, this is a bold, left wing administration. And I`m going to fight them every step of the way.


WILLIAMS: It went on like that, the administration says it`s willing to entertain some changes, but it is determined to make the plan a reality.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We`re happy to have a conversation with people, less about the price tag, more about what are the elements that should be in the plan, as the President has said. People have to decide if they`re going to deliver or divide, and we intend to deliver.


WILLIAMS: As all that plays out, the White House facing a growing challenge threatening its massive effort to end this pandemic. We`re now in a dangerous race, as we`ve been saying here night after night between vaccinating as many Americans as possible and potentially losing ground amid an ominous wave of new cases fueled partly by the emergence of these new variants.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready for the surge. You know, Alisyn, I take no comfort at all. But I`m telling you right now, as you just said, we are just beginning to surge and are denying it is not going to help us we are walking into the mouth of this virus monster as if somehow we don`t know it`s here. And it is here.


WILLIAMS: That is just one of the many warnings we have heard over the past few days alone. Tonight, the New York Times has new reporting, that a decline in testing may be masking the true number of new cases across our country which would of course make sense.

Times also reports that the situation is particularly dangerous in Michigan, which, "is in the throes of a CORONAVIRUS outbreak. That is one of the largest and most alarming in the country. Infection levels have exploded in recent weeks and big cities and rural stretches alike. Just today by the way, Michigan reported over 7000 new cases.

Earlier tonight Dr. Fauci gave his assessment of where all this might be headed.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: It`s going to end with the vaccine winning that race. Indeed, were concerned that we plateaued at a high level and unacceptably high level. Last count was 60,000 new infections in a single day, yesterday, at the same time, we`re vaccinating over 3 million people per day. We can`t claim victory prematurely.


WILLIAMS: Indeed, on the good news side of the ledger today, the U.S. hit a major vaccine milestone. 100 million of our fellow citizens have now gotten their first dose, at least of the vaccine. Pfizer also announced that its vaccine provides 91% effective protection for at least six months after the second dose. It was 100% effective for cases coming in from South Africa, the home of one of the new virulent variants.

Also, McClatchy News Service reporting tonight the CDC may announce as soon as Friday new air travel guidelines for people who have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, in a sign of normal life returning, let`s not forget this was opening day that is unless you`re a Mets or Nationals` fan. The first game of the season for both teams was postponed after at least three of the Washington players tested positive.

A lot to talk about tonight, with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night. Katie Benner, Justice Department Reporter for The New York Times who along with Michael Schmidt broke the news on Congressman Gaetz tonight, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief over at the Washington Post, and Paul Butler, former Federal Corruption Prosecutor that the Department of Justice, these days a professor of law at Georgetown.

Well, good evening, and welcome to you all. Katie Benner, you have no less a task of explaining this story, especially this update to our viewers tonight. Do I read it correctly that the allegation is and someone has indeed seen the receipts that young women were paid via Cash App and Apple Pay?

KATIE BENNER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That`s correct. We`ve seen receipts of payments to two different women by Congressman Gaetz and his friend Joel Greenberg. So, what I believe what the men would say is that the payments would be something for other than sex. The women would say that in fact, the payments were for sex, that they have sexual relations with both men.

WILLIAMS: Now, how does this all come together? This story started out, the initial headline that people might have seen was an investigation into the Congressman, for allegations of sex trafficking, the Congressman countered with an elaborate story about his father wearing a wire and extortion attempt. Now, you and Mr. Schmidt come in tonight with this further detail about what may be the congressman`s private life and where it might intertwine with ethics considerations, if not the law?

BENNER: So, I think that we need to separate the extortion allegations from this investigation. I think there`s a possibility that two things can be true, you can be both the victim of the crime and you can both be the subject of an investigation into a possible crime. So, putting aside the extortion for a moment, which is it is something that began only last month. This is a month-long investigation that began under Attorney General Barr and under the Trump administration. People were looking at Joel Greenberg for a variety of infractions. And one of the things that investigators found is it was very likely that he`d had sex with a 17-year- old girl.

Now, when they executed the search warrant first possessions, they also found evidence that showed the Congressman Gaetz was if not involved, certainly aware, and they continued to dig. It led them to Congressman Gaetz that led them to information about these arrangements that have been initiated by Mr. Greenberg on websites where he would reach out to women and meet them, and then he would introduce them to the Congressman, as a part of those arrangements, the two men would have sex with these women, the women would get paid. The women say that the payments are processed. They have spoken with the FBI about this, about these encounters. And one of the big issues we look at legal liability is whether or not a Congressman also slept with a woman, excuse me, with a girl who was 17 at the time.

WILLIAMS: Professor, over to you, a couple of points. Everyone`s innocent until proven guilty. At the same time, none of this looks good. The Congressman is one of the most bombastic members of the House of Representatives. The Congressman is engaged to be married, but to you, the question becomes, what is the legal jeopardy on how many fronts that he is facing?

PAUL BUTLER, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR: Soliciting sex workers is typically a state, not a federal crime. So if it`s just a gauge his, on own his own, solicited people for sex in exchange for money. That`s not a crime that federal prosecutors would be interested in. It`s a case for the Florida district attorney. But as Katie has reported, Gaetz has reportedly being investigated for violating federal sexual trafficking laws in a case involving a 17-year-old. That is a serious federal crime.

And there may be a separate investigation of someone who was allegedly trying to extort Gaetz and his family to make the Justice Department investigation go away. Even if that`s true, Brian, it doesn`t show Gaetz from criminal liability, Gaetz can be the perpetrator of one crime and the victim of another. Gaetz really has to be worried about this third investigation of Joel Greenberg. That`s the Florida official and good friend of Gaetz, who`s already been indicted for child sex trafficking. And the reason Greenberg is a problem for Gaetz is because he`s violated his bail. So he`s locked up in jail in Florida pending his trial, he`s got a lot of incentive to cooperate in an investigation of Gaetz, that fans have already probably come calling to Mr. Greenberg, in his Florida jail sale to see what he knows about Gaetz and if he wants to make a deal.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, thanks for your patience. Over to you, while your beat is the White House and not the House, you have been known to cover all of Washington with ease. So, here`s the question, what will this mean for Gaetz standing in the House at least short term? What does it mean for House leadership, Kevin McCarthy and the party overall?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So Gaetz is someone who did not have a ton of allies in Congress to begin with, even among Republicans, he was, as you pointed out, a bombastic and a very vocal Trump ally. So he did have allies in support and that sort of mega world. But what you`re seeing now, is there`s not that many people rushing to his defense, there`s very few people, in fact, proactively defended him. You know, this is someone when you mentioned leadership who flew to Wyoming to participate in a rally against Liz Cheney, because she had voted to impeach President Trump.

And you saw McCarthy in an awkward situation where he basically said he was not going to strip Gaetz of his committee assignments yet. He`s waiting to see what happens. But he basically said the allegations were very troubling. And if any of it proves to be true, he absolutely -- Gaetz absolutely would be stripped. So it`s not the sort of circling of the wagons and vociferous defense you want from members of your own party. And this is the beginning. It looks like at least according to Katie and Mike`s fantastic reporting that it is going to get worse for Gaetz, not better.

WILLIAMS: And Katie, over to you, other than people, refreshing your byline on the New York Times website, what is supposed to happen next, in this case, according to your understanding of the investigation?

BENNER: I think the investigators are going to continue to try to reach out to as many of the women involved as possible. Of course, they`re also going to look at other allegations, including the fact that witnesses have told them that they used drugs when they would have these sexual encounters with them, because that could also complicate legal questions for the Congressman. I do feel like it`s fair though, as part of this segment to read Matt Gaetz, his entire denial and he says his office says Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex. Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been in any such websites whatsoever. And that Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life. So I do want to say, put in full denial because he very, very much adamantly pushes against these allegations. We just know that these are things that the FBI has learned from witnesses.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, indeed, for doing that. Thank you for adding the context as your New York Times reporting does as well.

Professor, if you were acting as the Congressman`s attorney, what`s the advice that you learned in law school? What do you tell him to do or not do say or not say?

BUTLER: Don`t go on Tucker Carlson and say dumb stuff. He went on Tucker Carlson and one of the things he said, Brian, was that his family members were being asked about some kind of scheme about pay to play, that doesn`t sound like sex or prostitution. That sounds like some other form of public corruption and often wants the feds start looking at you, they don`t stop because they start finding other stuff. So I would tell Mr. Gaetz, he`s making the right decision to lawyer up, he needs to stop talking, and to, again, let his lawyers handle these extremely serious charges.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, last, let`s talk about your actual beat. Let`s talk about the Biden White House, the first official cabinet meeting 72 days into his presidency, of course, he had been denied the full transition period. It took longer than usual. First meeting was today it had us borderline wistful for some of the cabinet meetings we`ve witnessed over just the past few years. And Dell just a review, we`ll discuss on the other side.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I will say that never has there been a precedent with few exceptions, in case of FDR, he had a major depression and it was passed more legislation who`s done more things than what we`ve done.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as Vice President, to a President whose keeping his word to the American people.

ALEX ACOSTA: I want to thank you for your commitment to the American workers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t thank you enough for the privileges you`ve given me and the leadership that you`ve shown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you`ve given us to serve your agenda.


WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, talk about the great normalization that is underway and the contrasting style of the new president.

PARKER: Well, well, you just showed. It often felt like for former President Trump`s cabinet meetings, the cost of admission was pledging public fealty to the president and declarations of funding supplication. And you`ll notice in that era that was pre-COVID, the people are just sitting shockingly close together by today`s standards. And with President Biden it`s the exact opposite. It was very traditional. President Biden did that really overtly praise himself. None of the other cabinet members for the part that the press was allowed to see, which was really only about two, two and a half minutes were forced to praise him and because of coronavirus, this cabinet meeting took place in the East Room where they had as you can see are showing their right now, the space to be socially distanced, which is a protocol, COVID mitigation protocols that this administration takes quite seriously. So yeah, it was I don`t know if it`s a return to the future or a return to normalcy, but it was unlike anything we had seen over the past four years, but very similar to what we might have seen in a previous administration.

WILLIAMS: I can`t thank our big three enough for rolling with the punches and the breaking news and our coverage tonight, Katie Benner, Ashley Parker, we`ve asked Paul Butler to stick around for our legal segment. Thank you all so much for starting us off.

Coming up, what we learned from yet another day of powerful testimony in the Chauvin trial. And later, one week ago, this Georgia state lawmaker was arrested for knocking on the governor`s door. Tonight, she has told her side of the story. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Thursday evening.



COURTENEY ROSS, GEORGE FLOYD`S GIRLFRIEND: Floyd`s what I would call a mama`s boy, I could tell from the minute I met him. And when he came back from Houston, he seemed kind of like a shell of himself.


WILLIAMS: Testimony today from George Floyd`s girlfriend Courteney Ross describing Floyd`s grief after losing his mother. Ross also described how they both struggled with opioid addiction.


ROSS: We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck and his was in his back. We got addicted and try really hard to break that addiction many times.


WILLIAMS: Derek Smith, one of the first paramedics responded to the scene testified that when he arrived, three officers were on top of George Floyd. He was also asked about George Floyd`s condition.


DEREK SMITH, PARAMEDIC: I did not palpate a pulse.


SMITH: Did not detect a pulse.

ELDRIDGE: And what did his condition appear to be to you, overall?

SMITH: In lay terms, I thought he was dead.


WILLIAMS: As I mentioned, the esteemed lawyer Paul Butler has agreed to stay with us to take some questions in this segment.

Paul, how strong a witness was George Floyd`s girlfriend? And let me go ahead and mention this. Opioid addiction may have been a showstopper in a trial 30 years ago. In 2021 I don`t think it`s possible to find an American family, if not with a direct connection, then a tangential connection to this scourge every American has dealt with at some point.

BUTLER: Absolutely right, Brian. So, Chauvin`s defense is literally that he did not kill George Floyd. The claim is that Floyd died of a drug overdose and his pre-existing medical conditions. So, the testimony of Ms. Ross allowed the jury first to hear from the prosecution about Floyd`s struggle with addiction. So, when the defense makes a big deal about this, it won`t seem like a bad fact that the prosecution was hiding. And as you know, Ms. Ross really put a human face on the opiate addiction struggle that she and Mr. Floyd share with many Americans. And she`d also established that Floyd had a high tolerance for drugs, which prosecutors will use to rebut the defense theory that he overdosed.

WILLIAMS: I want to play for you a supervising sergeant which is somewhat redundant, testified today about the use of force. Let me play that exchange, Paul, will talk about it on the other side.


STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Sir, based on your review of the body worn camera footage, do you have an opinion as to when the restraints of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?


SCHLEICHER: What is it?

PLEOGER: When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could enter the restraint.

SCHLEICHER: And that was after he was handcuffed and, on the ground, and the longer resistance?

PLEOGER: Correct.


WILLIAMS: Paul, how important was that moment, that exchange from today?

BUTLER: It was vital for the prosecution. Chauvin`s use of force after Mr. Floyd was in handcuffed violated department policy. Brian, for two minutes after Chauvin knew that Floyd did not have a pulse, he kept his knee on Mr. Floyd`s neck, it will be hard for the defense to make the case, that`s reasonable force. The supervisor also testified that Chauvin didn`t originally tell him that he had put his knee on Floyd`s neck. And when he did admit it, he didn`t say how long so lawyers call that consciousness of guilt.

And finally, he testified that officers are trained that it`s dangerous to leave a suspect on his back or stomach for a long time. It can cause what the sergeant called positional asphyxia that compromises breathing, so prosecutors are going to use that testimony to advance their claim that Chauvin`s acts were the cause of Floyd`s death, and also to demonstrate the recklessness that`s required to convict Chauvin of third degree murder.

WILLIAMS: Paul, talks about the video of the death of George Floyd as the most powerful witness in this case, I was shocked to learn that some of the jurors seated in this case, had never seen the video, I guess I`ve been walking around with the assumption that all adult Americans had seen it. I made the point here last night that it gets no less painful or powerful. The 10th viewing, God forbid, than it was that first shocking time we saw life draining from a man under the knee of a police officer in the street. They will always have the cudgel of that powerful video in this courtroom at their use, correct?

BUTLER: Right. Yes, so extremely dramatic and powerful. Eyewitness accounts from people who literally watched and heard Mr. Floyd narrating his own death. Now we are going to hear expert testimony from police officers about use of force protocols, and medical and toxicology experts about the cause of death. But Brian, nothing will have the impact of these videos that show officers approaching Mr. Floyd like he`s public enemy number one, training their gun on him for what, a $20 bill that Mr. Floyd probably didn`t know, was counterfeit, and then literally squeezing the life out of him. And the opening statement, the prosecutor told the jurors, you can believe your own eyes, and they will have that video, those videos in the room where they deliberate, I think it`s really going to be hard to persuade those jurors as a defensible trial that they should not believe their own lies.

WILLIAMS: Paul Butler, Georgetown Law School, great to see you my friend. I hate the -- I hate the reason why. Thank you for coming on and taking our questions as always.

Coming up for us, activists are planning a boycott for next week, their goal to force corporations to keep Georgia on their minds. We`ll talk about it when we come back.



REP. PARK CANNON (D-GA): Unfortunately, today, the only thing etched in my mind are two things. Why were they arresting me? Why were they doing that? And the photo of six all white men under a photo of a plantation taking away black and brown voters rights as well as all voters rights. This is America and we have to keep on knocking.


WILLIAMS: She is Georgia State Representative Park Cannon. She spoke out today for the first time since her dramatic arrest last week. This wasn`t quite a one six situation. She didn`t have bear spray she didn`t beat on police officers with a baseball bat or hockey stick or a flag ball or a fire extinguisher.

She was nonetheless dragged from the state capitol after knocking on Governor Brian Kemp`s door as he was signing into law some of the strictest voter suppression law in our country. Her arms now in a sling. She`s facing up to eight years in prison if convicted. Just today by the way the Texas State Senate passed its own law, making it harder to vote in Texas.

With us for more, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a veteran activist on matters of race and social justice, former member of President Obama`s 21st Century Policing Task Force. These days among other things, she hosts the podcast called Undistracted. Stuart Stevens back with us as well, veteran of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush`s presidential campaigns. He is now with the Lincoln project.

Good evening and welcome to you both. Brittany, I`d like to begin with you and let`s begin by listening to Bishop Reginald Jackson of the Georgia AME on what`s going on in Georgia.


BISHOP REGINALD JACKSON, Georgia AME: We take note of the fact that yesterday Delta Airlines and Coca Cola made public comments in opposition to SB202. And while I am pleased with that public comments, let me also say that it is a little too late.


WILLIAMS: So, Brittany, it is true. Delta first time out, fumbled the ball. They later corrected and came out with an answer that was more right along with Coca Cola

The bishop is calling for a boycott. Stacey Abrams is saying hold off on that, not just yet. The question for you is, does it matter to you who gets mad? People, corporations, preferably both? And does it matter to you when they act?

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Ultimately, what matters to me is that democracy is protected, and that black and brown voters are able to access these inalienable rights that we have so often been promised.

Look, I think what`s really important to recognize here is that there have been over 250 of these voter suppression laws proposed in state legislatures across at least 47 states. So, what is happening in Georgia is happening across America. And whether it is an accountability pledge, like the work that Black Lives -- of black voters` matter is doing, or whether it is a boycott, that is for the folks on the ground in those states to decide.

Well, what is always true, no matter where you are, is that words are nice, but action is always better. It is frankly amazing to me after the protests of last summer, and the demands placed on corporations and companies to stand up, say something and do something that companies could actually fumble the ball all these months later.

So, what are we demanding that folks do? Well, you can take it from the new Georgia project, they`ve been very clear that corporations need to use the power and influence that they have to push Congress to pass the for the people act, to pass the John Lewis Act, and to fight to make sure that these kinds of laws are not continuously plat passed in states like Missouri and Arizona and Florida, as you said, Texas, is already unfortunately on the road. So, they need to use the power that they have to get this done.

WILLIAMS: Stuart, our friends in the HR departments remind us all the time corporations are people that established whoever the people is who wrote that first Delta press release, I imagine they`re going to get to spend more time with their family. It basically came out in support of the law in Georgia before the CEO thought better of it. As I said, they`ve been joined by Coke.

Tonight, American Airlines out in Texas, that`s their headquarters, of course, was out with a very forceful criticism of the law there. And here is the question just as predictable, as you`re guessing. Does it take corporations to get the attention of the Republicans who days ago seemed totally cool with being branded as the voter suppression party?

STUART STEVENS, THE LINCOLN PROJECT SENIOR ADVISER: Well, look, corporations are about money and politics in America is a lot about money. There`s a tremendous opportunity here for corporations to be on the right side of history.

You know, this whole moment is happening because of a lie that the 2020 election was not illegal and fair election. And everything that flows from that is flawed, that Georgia law, it should be repealed because its -- premise is that one party laws so they`re trying to change the laws to every issue can`t be seen as anything but an attempt to make it more difficult for the other guy to win. And it`s just -- it can`t be anything like that is not being done in good faith.

Corporations have a tremendous moral opportunity here to exert their power. And what`s going on now is not normal. This isn`t -- we have one party now that believes that the 2020 election was not legal, which means we don`t live in a democracy. And this is never happened that since 1860.

WILLIAMS: Yes, underscore what you just said about it not being normal. That`s about all I do know these days of. Thankfully, both of our guests have agreed to stay with us while we just fit in a quick break.

Coming up. The President calls it a once in a generation investment in our country. Mitch McConnell says not one Republican will support it. So it`s fair to ask who cares about rebuilding our country.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McConnell was talking and said that the package quote is not going to get support from our side. Have you responded?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think there`s some more questions to be asked. Does he disagree that our nation`s infrastructure is outdated and needs repair? What we`re really talking about here is how to pay for it. And so what we`re looking for is proposals of alternatives.


WILLIAMS: The White House hoping to pass Joe Biden`s sweeping infrastructure package by the summer. But McConnell`s public rebuke means the president can`t afford to lose any Democratic support in the Senate. Remember their margin and the House is three.

Still with us Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Stuart Stevens. Stuart, explain Mitch McConnell to me and by extension to our audience. The polling is with Biden. The polling was with Biden on coronavirus and the stimulus package fallings with Biden on raising taxes to pay for this. How many times can McConnell push the button and be on the wrong side of issues that the Biden White House defines as bipartisan, as long as public polling supports it?

STEVENS: Well, look, Mitch McConnell, on January 6, had probably the worst day of a majority leader and went to bed on January 5 majority leader and he woke up on January 6 minority leader in running for his life in his own office.

They`re on the wrong side here. If you do polling on these tax increases, and people make $400,000 and more, it`s overwhelmingly popular. I mean, I`ve made 1000 (inaudible) Republicans about tax cuts. And the dirty little secret is, it`s been a long time since I was really moved numbers. I mean, we kept doing it almost out of nostalgia. But it`s this is this is something that is very popular, I bet it`s going to pass. And I think it`s something that is going to hurt Republicans at the ballot box and help Democrats.

WILLIAMS: Brittany, you spend time on the Hill, you know, those how the Democratic whips in the House and Senate are going to be laying on the pressure. Here`s the question, though, do you think it`s too early to assume that all the people in Congress with a D after their names are just going to be lockstep with the White House on this?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, I think it`s always important to be careful and make sure that you`ve dotted every I and cross every T especially when it comes to bills like this, that can massively make a material impact in people`s lives.

Look, I believe that there should actually be more money in here for some things. But there are just some things that we cannot overlook. And we cannot delay. There`s money in here for gun violence prevention, in particular, in black and brown communities. There`s money for retrofitting affordable housing, there`s money for expanding broadband access, which if the pandemic taught us nothing else, that we need to make sure that houses especially the young folks in those houses have access to the internet that can move fast enough for them to keep up with this world.

Unfortunately, the Republicans have continued to prove that they are the party of no, before the break, both of you shared that this isn`t normal. But for people like me, black folks, marginalized folks, women, we can tell you that far too often this is normal. That Republicans continue to obstruct our votes, as we see with these suppression laws. And they continue to obstruct our well-being.

This is unfortunately par for the course. And I think it`s going to be critically important for the Democrats to get bold and stand courageously because that is what the American public elected them to do. So whether it`s reexamining moving that filibuster aside, or doing more to whip those votes, we need them to get it done, because people are suffering right now.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Stuart, let`s get personal for one second and talk about what government can do when it really puts its mind to it. I couldn`t help but notice a photo. You posted on social media today, it looks like my friend Stuart stopped at a gun show and got his vaccine during the visit. Good for you. You got your shot. Talk about the miracle of science and government, that vaccine in your arm represented.

STEVENS: Yes, you know, I hadn`t done in Vermont, it was extraordinarily efficient. I have to say there was something almost moving about this collective experience of people being helped by government, a lot of volunteers from National Guard.

You know, for too long, we have assumed any involvement of government, this sort of become a Republican trope in medicine is bad, but it`s never been true. And that the falseness of that it`s just really being highlighted today and with the pandemic, where government is helping people save lives across the country. And I think it just shows that the position again, Republicans being a party of no, is a bad place to be at a certain point you got to be for something that people want.

WILLIAMS: Wow. I`m glad you posted the photo. I`m glad we asked you about it. I`m happy to hear your answer. Very happy we invited the two of you to join us on this Thursday night Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Stuart Stevens, our great thanks for taking our questions, two friends at this broadcast.

Coming up for us an update on two little girls, sisters, who have suddenly become the faces of our ongoing border controversy and misery because of what happened to them.


WILLIAMS: As the surge of migrants at our southern border continues over 18,000 unaccompanied kids, minors are currently in our nation`s custody. Nearly 5,000 of them are still being held by Border Patrol. Tonight, a troubling news story vividly shows the danger children face when they try to enter the United States. Our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell has the story.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The images are disturbing and heartbreaking. All captured on nighttime surveillance video. A smuggler dangling a young girl over the border fence, dropping her 14 feet to the ground, then tossing over another child before abandoning them in the desert and running away.

(on camera): How did these two little girls survive that drop?


MITCHELL (voice-over): The girls are sisters from Ecuador, toddlers just three and five years old rescued by Border Patrol. El Paso Border Patrol chief Gloria Chavez made sure they are uninjured.

CHAVEZ: They`re just happy little girls. The five-year-old acts like the responsible one obviously and is caring for the three-year-old.

MITCHELL (voice-over): They`re part of that record migrant surge at the border after President Biden allowed unaccompanied children to stay in the U.S.

Earlier this week, the administration allowing one news crew into this overcrowded Border Patrol facility in Texas, the children packed shoulder to shoulder in the middle of a pandemic. None of them get COVID tests unless they show symptoms, most brought over by smugglers like in that video.

CHAVEZ: It breaks my heart to see these three-year-old, five-year-old children just being treated like a commodity by these criminal organizations on the border.

MITCHELL (on camera): The girls had a phone number with them in a backpack. Border Patrol has reached their mother in New York and hopes they will be reunited.


WILLIAMS: five-year-old caring for a three-year-old, incredible story. Our thanks to Andrea Mitchell for that report. Another break for us and coming up a cure for COVID that didn`t quite pan out.



KENNETH COPELAND, KENNETH COPELAND MINISTRIES: The media said hard. The media said Joe Biden`s president --


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, that is Kenneth Copeland, die hard Trumper, mega church preacher from Texas whose line of work has made him a very wealthy man. He got a lot of attention a while back for buying Tyler Perry`s Gulfstream jet, which he said he needs to get around to his global ministries. Then a year ago he took on the coronavirus, and it didn`t go well.


COPELAND: And the name of Jesus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, thank you, Jesus.

COPELAND: Standing in the office of the prophet of God, I execute judgment on you COVID-19. I execute judgment on you Satan. You destroy you killer. You get out. You boy break your power, you get off this nation. I demand judgment on you. I demand. I demand a vaccination to come immediately.


COPELAND: I call you done. I call you long gone. You come down from your place of authority destroyer. You come down and you crawl on your belly like God commanded you when he put his foot on your head in the Garden of Eden. You will destroy through COVID-19, no more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No more. No more. No more.

COPELAND: It finished.


COPELAND: It is over. And the United States of America is he you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Jesus.

COPELAND: And well --


COPELAND: -- again.


WILLIAMS: So, reality check that was roughly a year ago. You know the rest over half a million dead. But please note, shouldn`t everyone have an Ed McMahon style hype man at their side. Since he mentioned God however, and this being holy season, we hope you don`t mind if we say thank God for the vaccines, which actually do save lives each and every day.

On that note that is our broadcast on this Thursday night with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.