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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 4/22/21

Guests: Philip Rucker, Barry McCaffrey, Kristen Gibbons Feden, Michael Steele, Sam Stein, Mazie Hirono


Today we saw increasing demands for an overhaul of policing in our country. The emotional issue brought into clearer focus on this day during a funeral for a young man killed by police less than two days after the palpable relief felt over the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial. The Minneapolis area in mourning again as the family of Daunte Wright held his memorial service. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offers concessions on bipartisan January 6 Capitol attack commission.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That is tonight`s last word. "The 11th hour with Brian Williams" starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 93 of the Biden administration. Today we saw increasing demands for an overhaul of policing in our country. The emotional issue brought into clearer focus on this day during a funeral for a young man killed by police less than two days after the palpable relief felt over the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial. The Minneapolis area in mourning again as the family of Daunte Wright held his memorial service.

The 20-year-old father of a two-year-old shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop 11 days ago now. The officer who killed him claim she meant to use her Taser instead of her Glock sidearm. She`s now facing charges of second-degree manslaughter.

This afternoon, Wright was eulogized at a church in Minneapolis.


KATIE WRIGHT, DAUNTE WRIGHT`S MOTHER: I never imagined that I`d be standing here. The rule should completely be reversed. My son should have buried me.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: They said they saw some air fresheners in the back of his car. We come today as the air fresheners for Minnesota. We trying to get the stench of police brutality out of the atmosphere. We`re trying to get the stench of racism out of the atmosphere.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): True justice is not done as long as having expired tags means losing your life during a traffic stop. True justice is not done as long as a chokehold, a knee on the neck or a no-knock warrant is considered legitimate policing. True justice is not done as long as black Americans are killed by law enforcement at more than twice the rate of white Americans.


WILLIAMS: Many of the speakers today called on Congress to pass the Police Reform Act named after George Floyd. As we mentioned, all this came less than 48 hours after the dramatic end of the Chauvin case.

Earlier on this network, "New Yorker" writer Jelani Cobb described the mood there.


JELANI COBB, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": It was kind of a whiplash, you know, because there was a great deal of relief and joy, jubilation really, at the guilty verdict that came down in the Derek Chauvin trial. And then just that quickly, people were kind of whipsawed back into this grieving mode.


WILLIAMS: Jelani Cobb speaking with Nicole Wallace this afternoon as for the guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd.

And alternate juror who sat through every minute of the Chauvin trial is now speaking out. She ultimately had no role in the verdict. The trials two alternates were excused before deliberation started, as is customary, but she says she did agree with the jury`s ultimate decision.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt he was guilty. The prosecution made a really good, strong argument. Dr. Tobin was the one that really did it for me. He explained everything I understood it down to where he said, this is the moment that he lost his life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Had you ever seen the nine and a half minutes of video before?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I`ve seen - I`ve seen the video two or three times, but I didn`t see it in its entirety.

It was emotional. I think my eyes teared up a couple of times. So, especially seeing it from different angles and things.


WILLIAMS: While the White House has been focused on bringing change to policing, today the attention was also on fighting the effects of climate change.

On this Earth Day 2021, the President hosted a virtual climate summit with America`s allies as well as our adversaries and committed the United States to slashing carbon emissions by half within the next nine years. Biden also pointed out the extremely ambitious goal part of the infrastructure bill he is presently trying to get through Congress.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When people talk about climate, I think jobs. That`s why I`ve proposed a huge investment in American infrastructure and American innovation. By maintaining those investments and putting these people to work, the United States sets out on the road to cut greenhouse gases in half, in half by the end of this decade.

We really have no choice. We have to get this done.


WILLIAMS: It bears noting Of course, all of this is a radical shift from the Trump era. As you may recall, Biden`s predecessor took our nation out of the Paris Climate Accord not long after taking office. The current president will have to convene -- convince republicans rather to work with him on reaching his climate goals which won`t be easy, given the already existing resistance to Biden`s $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan.

Today, Republicans rolled out their own plan, which is a lot smaller, spends a lot less money, 568 billion, a fraction of the Biden proposal. This may all get a lot more contentious next week when Biden introduces his American family`s plan during his first speech before a joint session of Congress. We`ll get into possible proposals to help pay for all of it in our conversation just ahead.

But with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning senior Washington Correspondent for "The Washington Post," General Barry McCaffrey, a Decorated Combat Veteran of Vietnam, former Battlefield Commander in the Persian Gulf, former Cabinet member, former member of the National Security Council, who retired as a four-star general in the U.S. Army. And we welcome to the broadcast Kristen Gibbons Feden, a veteran attorney of cases involving sexual abuse, and importantly, civil rights. Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Phil, in the, in the midst of all these national conversations. Here, comes policing and race into the Biden administration, takes its rightful place right now it seems on top their agenda. What pressure is the White House under to do something more than has already been proposed or discussed perhaps?

PHILIP RUCKER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, Brian, let`s keep in mind that policing measures have been proposed, have actually passed the House last month and have not become law yet. And that`s because there`s not agreement between the two parties and in the Senate. Those discussions are underway quietly. There`s a Republican Senator Tim Scott, black man from South Carolina, who is having some quiet negotiations with Democrats. Democrats like Cory Booker of New Jersey, about finding some common ground here.

What we`ve seen from the White House is that President Biden has said, policing reform is at the top of his agenda. But he`s not been quite as forceful as the pitch man for that effort, as he has been on infrastructure and on climate change. He`s trying to let this quiet diplomacy between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill proceed for the next couple of days to see if they can find some common ground.

But the reporting suggests and my colleague, Seung Min Kim, has a great story on this tonight in "The Washington Post," that the President is going to make policing reform a key part of his speech when he addresses that joint session of Congress next week, and add some more of his own muscle behind it. But clearly, there`s public momentum behind doing something here, especially after this trial came to such an emotional conclusion a couple days ago.

WILLIAMS: General McCaffrey, I mostly want to talk to you about foreign affairs tonight. But let`s start on things domestic. And that is the intersection and similarities between your life`s work and policing here in the United States.

In your line of work, they call it rules of engagement. In urban combat, they call it, you know, trigger discipline. These are harsh terms for a harsh business. A lot of veterans come back and get jobs in domestic police departments here. And I know you well enough to know that you`ve had thoughts about this this week. And I`m wondering what those are?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, you`re right Brian. I`ve had a lot of experience as a drug policy director dealing with law enforcement on the drug issue and other issues. And clearly, we have a crying need for a fresh look at criminal justice reform. And it certainly includes law enforcement, officer selection, officer training, officer in accountability, and we just got to do better.

A substantial portion of the black community fears our law enforcement agencies, but we got to -- we got to change it. Having said that, you know, I tell people, it`s easier for us to create an Army Ranger or a Marine. A 19-year-old, young person, good physical condition, 90 days later, we got them.

And part of the reason is we use almost unrestrained violence when required over common enemy force, law enforcement. And I tell people, it takes five years of experience to create a good cop. And most of them when you talk to them have never fired their weapon in their entire 20 or more years of service. So, it`s much more difficult to be a law enforcement, professional out there, five, seven days a week, 2:00 in the morning trying to deal with life and death situations. We got to do better, though.

WILLIAMS: Counselor, we come to you by way of welcoming you as well to the broadcast tonight. Let`s talk about the Ma`Khia Bryant case in Columbus, Ohio.

As you know, the news of that came almost concurrently with the Chauvin verdict. And yet it`s vastly different than any of these other cases we`ve seen. How difficult is it in your line of work, given what you know about investigations, prosecutions to decide what shootings are to use the word, term of art right now, "justified," close quote.

KRISTEN GIBBONS FEDEN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: And, Brian, thank you so much for your warm welcome.

You know, any way that you look at the McCain Ryan case, it is tragic. It is horrific. Why? Well, because we lost a teenager, a young life is lost here.

You know, and you make a good point, Brian, when you`re talking about justification, what you`re really talking about is the authorization of force. When police officers are allowed to use force? And to this case, lethal force. And they are permitted in most jurisdictions and in this jurisdiction to use lethal force in the protection of others.

But I think it will be lost here if we don`t mention the fact that there are some other circumstances that that could come into play here. You know, can Ma`Khia Bryant still seek justice? And I do think that, you know, obviously, we don`t have all the facts in front of us.

But in this case, it`s been reported that she was in foster care. So, who was supervising it? Was the state involved here to make sure who had the heightened duty and obligation to this young girl to make sure that the circumstances that ultimately arose were avoided. And so, can we seek justice for Ma`Khia Bryant, maybe it may not result in a criminal prosecution of an officer, but it could result in civil liability against the foster care agency, the state if they were the social workers, or any other entity that owed her a duty of care.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, back to you your beat and the city you cover, violence, of course, have visited our US Capitol on 1-6. Nancy Pelosi appears to be making concessions on a commission to look into 1-6. Everything we learn about 1-6 subsequently is aggravating and not mitigating it seems as time goes on. What is the chance Republicans are going to come on board at the end of the day?

RUCKER: Well, Brian, they`ve not come on board yet with this idea of the 9- 11 style commission that Pelosi put forward in that pretty quick aftermath of January 6. But there are discussions underway about trying to find, you know, some structure whereby Republicans would agree to participate in and endorse this commission.

And look, Speaker Pelosi believes it`s critical to have this thorough investigation. The impeachment investigation was not a full investigation of what happened on January 6, that wasn`t a political investigation led by Democrats in the House into the president -- former President Trump`s conduct relating to January 6. But a full accounting of what happened at the Capitol where the security shortfalls were what intelligence may have been missed in the run up to the attack, the siege rather at the Capitol. That has not taken place.

And Pelosi and other leaders on Capitol Hill believe it`s incumbent on this government to see to it that, you know, all of that is thoroughly investigated to try to fortify the Capitol and prevent something like this from happening to our democracy in the future.

WILLIAMS: And Counselor, back over to you, I won`t soon forget the words General McCaffrey chosen his answer right before you to talk about policing in this country, given his experience around the world, including but not limited to battlefields. So, I`m guessing what General McCaffrey said about selection of candidates, training of officers resonated with you, even if we get action out of Congress, talk for a moment about the job that remains.

FEDEN: Absolutely. You know, Brian, the training in the screening, early detection, you know, I think is important, but not just early detection of screening these officers, but also continuing because this is a stressful job. So, if Chauvin, for example, passed any of the screening either initially or later on, and they`re obviously ineffective. But in addition to that, there can be some community policing.

Police officers should have some investment in the community that they`re protecting, and they`re serving, even if they`re not residents. There are other measures that community policing can look into. There`s also on the civil justice side qualified immunity. On the criminal justice side, there`s authorization of force, looking at that, making sure they`re tight, making sure that, you know, using lethal force against someone who is merely escaping but not committing any harm would not be permissible use of force.

But I think one of the issues that I think is really crucial into the screening and training is that the DOJ will look into where the Department of Justice can look into screening and can actually get into their look at the data and make sure that there is not disproportionate policing or abusive conduct that is disproportionately affecting one race, one gender or anything like that.

WILLIAMS: And General, finally to you for the last word, and to prove we can walk and chew gum, a drastic change in subject. Let`s talk about Ukraine. Let`s talk about Mr. Putin, who let`s not forget, could not believe his good luck to find an American president who was willing to criticize NATO weaken the Atlantic Alliance, the Russians meddled to make Brexit happen. Trump was willing to agree to a U.S. military draw down from Germany, troops that have been there for a good number of decades for a reason.

And now, with Navalny reported to be near death in his country, with protesters outside his window in Moscow, massing troops in and around Ukraine. Video was posted today of the exercises they`ve been doing. Yes, the last report was they have pulled back from the brink. Talk about the dangers of Ukraine and a fight there. Talk about what Putin is up to and up against?

MCCAFFREY: Well, the Russians have been confrontation in the Ukraine since 2014. Putin playing a very dangerous game. He moved the 41st Army up under frontier, somewhere between 80 and 150,000 troops, airborne forces, armor, artillery, he put 20 ships out in the Black Sea in a confrontational mode. He`s already seized Crimea. He`s already conducting grey zone operations in the Eastern Ukraine. And it was clearly a threat.

Now, the threat could be, so we can remain relevant. So, we can divert attention from those domestic problems. But I, you know, were I an advisor to Mr. Putin, I`d say, do not cross the frontier and conduct a surprise attack on the Ukraine. It`s impossible for me to visualize that the European Union and NATO and the United States wouldn`t respond.

So, he may be testing Biden, he may be testing the European Union sense of solidarity, but there`s no way that the Europeans who have their history in World War II can allow the seizure of another sovereign nation. They`re already threatening the Baltic States, Poland. So, very serious.

Now, as they start to withdraw tomorrow, the Russian Defense Minister announced he was going to leave armor and artillery in place. So, this threat is not get over, but Putin playing a very dangerous game. He`s a second world nation with an economy less than that of California or Italy. His armed forces are not capable of conducting a seizure of a sovereign state.

He`s got his legislators threatening nuclear language. He`s on the edge here. I think he needs to be more cautious.

WILLIAMS: General, your words resonate as always. And with that, we are grateful to our big three tonight for starting us off, Phil Rucker, General Barry McCaffrey, Kristen Gibbons Feden, again, welcome. Thank you all so much.

Coming up for us as we approach our first break, the one thing the entire U.S. Senate voted for today. Well, except for Josh Hawley, of course, we`ll look at the measure that brought most everybody together.

And later, turns out getting half of all Americans vaccinated was not the hard part. It`s turning out to be the other half. The 11th Hour just getting underway on this Thursday night.


WILLIAMS: As pressure builds in Washington for police reform, NBC news reporting a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on that George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that has already passed in the House quote, "Negotiations have been ongoing between Senator Tim Scott, Senator Cory Booker, Congresswoman Karen Bass, who sponsored the House Bill, but the group has not reached a compromise or made significant progress."

Senator Scott told reporters he sees a path forward quote, "I think we are on the verge of wrapping this up in the next week or two."

"Washington Post" is on the board with reporting that Democrats are pushing to pass the George Floyd legislation by May 25. That of course would be the first anniversary of George Floyd`s death.

Back with us tonight to talk about all of it, Sam Stein, veteran journalist who is these days, White House Editor at Politico. 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.

And Michael, I`d like to begin with you indeed. Exactly the point we discussed at this very hour last night with Brittany Packnet Cunningham, people heard the Chauvin verdict, people have been on the fence about police reform, saying, well, that`s done. We need not worry about it anymore.

I read you a quote from Axios, "Senior Democratic and Republican aides who would never let their bosses say so on the record, privately told Axios the Chauvin convictions have," wait for it, "lessened pressure for change. They noted the aftermath of mass shootings, time and again, Congress has failed to pass gun control legislation. And the conversation ultimately moves on until another terrible event occurs."

Michael, at this rate, they`re occurring every other day. What`s the chance we see anything substantial on this?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, you better see something. You know, the substantial nature will depend on just how serious the leaders in the House and the Senate are and certainly how much pressure comes from the streets of this country. But you know, those staffers are speaking truth.

And those members, their bosses who believe that this conviction has lessened the urgency, they realize, of course, on the day that the, that the conviction was, you know, put on the street when we heard that this man had been found guilty that another black teenager was killed. So, what makes you think people are just going to go, well, that`s done and ignore what happened on the 20 minutes before the verdict was read.

So, this this sort of Washington sort of fog about events and this sort of wishing it away and is seemingly believing that because, you know, this act, which is everybody was seriously, you know, concerned about has now been taken care of that that takes care of police shootings. That solves the issues about policing and black communities and this idea of how you can reform this process. No, it doesn`t. It makes it more urgent. And these members have better not think they can sleep on this, because come next November, if they haven`t done something, some of them, hopefully, a lot of them will be looking for a job.

WILLIAMS: Sam Stein, Walter Mondale, who we are fondly remembering this week, famously said to the Democratic National Convention, Ronald Reagan`s going to raise your taxes, he won`t tell you, I just did. And a lot of people tied his lack of success at the polls after that. In part to that comment, it is part of the Democratic playbook if we can typifies such behavior, to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Enter Joe Biden, today, the notion of raising taxes on wealthy investors, the money would be earmarked for child care and education with the caveat, Sam, that Joe Biden needs the wealthy. The wealthy tend to like their money, he needs the business community, business makes Wall Street go and bear markets, you know, a problem.

SAM STEIN, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE EDITOR: Yes, there`s -- so there`s a lot of play here. One is that Biden did run on these platforms, they weren`t hidden that he was going to raise the taxes on the wealthy, he`s going to raise taxes on corporations, rollback Trump era tax cuts, and he was elected for it.

And if you look at the public opinion polling, when you pull those specific revisions, it`s interesting on the infrastructure plan, for instance, the plan gets more popular when you tell people that it`s paid for by a hike in the corporate tax rate. So, it`s possible that the politics of this are dramatically different than they were in 1984 for instance.

That being said, if you talk to any Republican around town, they look at this as a potential opportunity. They want to hammer away at Biden, they want to accuse him and reclaim the mantle, that he`s going to scuffle the economic growth of the Trump era if he raises taxes at this point in time, whether on corporations or an individual earners.

I`m not totally sure how successful it`s going to be partially because they`re distracted by a bunch of other cultural war stuff. But also because you have groups like the Chamber of Commerce right now, which is undergoing its own metamorphosis, and coming out in favor of love Democratic priorities opening up to capitol trade legislation. So, it`s possible that the tectonic plates of politics have shifted dramatically, and that we`re in a different position now.

Biden certainly hopes his brain for it. Republicans are not going to sit by and not take advantage of it or try to. But this is, you know, one of those issues that could define as Michael said, policing, it could define 2020. This certainly will define 2020.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, lightning round, I`m going to give you 45 seconds each. Don`t make me come out there Michael Steele, now that you`re in the podcast business, you know exactly how long 45 seconds is.


WILLIAMS: Here`s the question, will we see any kind of infrastructure legislation signed by the President in calendar year 2021?

STEELE: I think right now, you will. And I think that the fact that you`ve got Tim Scott, you`ve got other Republicans out there that are leaning in that direction, is a good sign for something to get done. It`s not going to be what Republicans have put on the table, the 586 billion, it`s not going to be what the Vice -- the President put on the table, his 2 trillion, but it`ll be something, and I think America will applaud it.

WILLIAMS: Look at you all podcast and aware of how long 45 seconds is. OK, Sam, same thing.

STEIN: I got 45 seconds, right?


STEIN: Question is, will there be a proposal? The answer is yes. It will be signed (ph).

WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes, will Biden sign it?

STEIN: I don`t need -- I don`t need the remaining 30 seconds. I yield them.

STEELE: He yield back his time. I`ll take it.

WILLIAMS: He yields back his time, and I`m not going to share it with the gentleman from the great state of Maryland. I can`t thank you both enough. Two great friends of this broadcast for good reason. As you just saw Sam Stein, Michael Steele will do this again.

Coming up for us after this break. Something unusual happened in the Senate today and the person responsible for making it happen, above all others. Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii standing by to talk with us after this.



SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act sends a clear and unmistakable message of solidarity to the AAPI community. And this moment would not be possible without the collective efforts of so many people including, of course, my Republican colleagues.


WILLIAMS: In an all too rare event these days, the United States Senate overwhelmingly passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to forcefully address the disturbing rise in anti-Asian attacks. The bill was introduced by the senator we just heard from Senator Mazie Hirono, first Asian American woman to ever serve in our United States Senate

The vote we should tell you was 94 to one with Republican senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, the lone no vote. We`re happy to have with us again tonight Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. She is author of also importantly, the author of the new book, "Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter`s Story" and we`ll get to that in one moment.

Senator, mahalo, thank you very much for standing up with us after the day you had. I had to look up the shooting in Atlanta. There have been so many since. One day, six Asian women gunned down for going to work. We all know the rhetoric surrounding COVID-19 that we have lived through, what`s your degree of certainty that Joe Biden will put pen to paper and sign the legislation as you intended it?

HIRONO: I have a pretty high degree of certainty because Speaker Pelosi put out a statement today that when they return in May that they intend to vote on the Senate bill. So it`s going to move pretty quickly. And of course next month is Asian Pacific History Month. So very appropriate.

WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about the one no vote though he is not the important topic today. We should get to it. Josh Hawley, the insurrectionist, curious Republican senator from Missouri, he of the raised fist on 1/6, why did he vote against this?

HIRONO: I know he had some sort of a reason. But I think that Josh Hawley is not the one that I want to particularly spend our time on. He didn`t might not want to stand with the AAPI community in condemning these kinds of totally unprovoked attacks on them. So that`s his choice. I hope that there will be some repercussion, negative repercussions for him. But we move along, you know, the rest of us.

WILLIAMS: Yes, he has Asian American constituents back home in Missouri that he himself will have to deal with. Let`s talk about this memoir, this tribute to your mother, I know the emotion surrounding this book coming out is compounded and our condolences by the fact that your mother is not here to read this story, per se. But she lived long enough to call her daughter, a United States Senator, tell our viewers the brief version of her life story, how she came to this country, and just enough to make them want to buy the book and read the story.

HIRONO: My mother was a very courageous risk taker who changed my life when she escaped from a horrible marriage to my father, who I never got to know, to put a lot of distance between us so that we could have a chance at a better life. And that is her heart of fire.

WILLIAMS: What do you want people to take away from the story of this woman who was powered to get out of a bad situation, part of the new world she found and chose produced in the midst of her family, a United States senator that`s fairly significant in our country.

HIRONO: It`s a very unlikely tale, I would say but, you know, as an immigrant, and she brought us to this country, she just worked really hard. And we had no social safety net. We didn`t even know what that was. But I grew up watching my mother worked hard, in a very, very determined way to make a better life for us. And it`s truly the story of so many immigrants that have come to this country.

So I hope that what a lot of people get from this is her determination, her perseverance, then her can do positive attitude about what you want to do with her life and take control of her life. So, I think she lived a really good life to herself. I hope that the customer that fires to me, I`m so used to did, but it`s the unlikely feel for me, oh who would have thunk it.

WILLIAMS: Who would have thunk it, but here you are, along with Senator Schatz representing the great state of Hawaii and the U.S. Senate where this was a big day and important vote I know for you, and we`ll see the legislation as it goes through the House under the guidance of Speaker Pelosi.

Once again, the new book from the senator is, "Heart Of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter`s Story." Senator Mazie Hirono from the great state of Hawaii, thank you. And Aloha. Thank you for coming on.

HIRONO: Aloha.

WILLIAMS: Always good to see you. Coming up for us, what one of our favorite doctors is hearing from younger people about why they`re not getting the shot after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Empty seats can`t cheer. They don`t tailgate. And they don`t know fight songs. Empty seats don`t sing during seventh inning stretches and they don`t know stats or superstitions. There`s a soundtrack for places like this, and it isn`t made in a studio. It`s made by you. So when it`s your turn to get the vaccine, the effects take the shot.


WILLIAMS: Thank you, Brad. Got to say it`s late in the game. But maybe this is when they plan the media rollout growing number of celebrities using their names to urge people to get vaccinated. The Biden administration is trying to tap into that energy with a new initiative using celebrities and athletes in a campaign to combat COVID vaccine hesitancy.

Back with us tonight is Dr. Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist out in Seattle who specializes in these types of illnesses. He`s also on the faculty at the University of Washington`s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Doc, it`s great to see you. What is your message to young people? What`s your message to the vaccine hesitant and let me add one thing, life is about carrots and sticks. I guess these days syringes, carrots and sticks. And can`t the CDC say to young people to the vaccine has event get this shot? Feel free to remove your mask in public?

DR. VIN GUPTA, UNIV. OF WASHINGTON HEALTH METRICS SCIENCES DEPT.: Well, Brian, let me lead by saying, you know, I though some public health experts think is part of this group`s unreachable. I disagree. Everybody is reachable. I`ve had the pleasure of making a major league baseball clubs and workforces across the country, younger people. And all they need is to be listened to and heard and maybe in some cases, you know, they`ll come and say, Hey, Doc, does this vaccine cause issues with pregnancy? If for example, in the case of a major league baseball player that their wife`s pregnant, they`ll ask me that question. They`ll ask me at three times. And I`ll say each time No, it looks like emerging data suggests it`s safe. Does it cause autoimmune disease? The answer is no. These are the common questions Brian I get. Recent infection with COVID. When should I get the vaccine? Should I get it? Answer is absolutely you should get it even if you`ve had the infection with the virus. Just wait till your symptoms resolved. Does it cause COVID? No, these are the questions that younger people are asking.

Instead of leading when, you know, when I was speaking to 65 and older individuals, I would say you know this vaccines and keep out the hospital. That message is vital, Brian, for this younger cohort, but I don`t lead with it necessarily. I say what are your concerns? What are your questions? Let`s address those upfront. And then I talked about the unpredictability of the virus. I just cared for 30 something year old individual down in Arizona, who had a rare complication from this virus, we can predict it.

I`ve cared for 18 year olds out here in Seattle with stroke from COVID. It`s unpredictable, but I don`t lead with that. I lead with what are your concerns. And so I do think these individuals are reachable.

WILLIAMS: Understood, and that`s a great intersection of communications and personal medicine. I want to read you something out of Politico. This is tough. It`s about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I`m not going to try and get me into trouble. But I am going to ask you to comment on this.

The Chaos surrounding the J&J vaccine has disappointed the Biden team, which once argued, appropriately, that the company`s one dose vaccine would be central to turning the tide of the pandemic. Instead, this is the tough part, the administration has concluded the company can`t be counted on for any significant production, until it gets the green light from regulators to resume vaccination.

Indeed doctor, we were all talking about this one and done vaccine, a hardier mix required less specific handling, it was going to help in rural areas, it was going to help in urban areas. What`s your opinion these days of the J&J shot?

GUPTA: I`ll tell you what I`m hearing, Brian. This is from countless individuals across sectors younger people, for the younger, they`re concerned about it. And so even if the FDA and CDC tomorrow say it`s safe and effective, we know it to be safe and effective for the vast majority of individuals. I mean, literally for everybody, but the exceptional few. I don`t know if that`s how younger people view it necessarily. And that`s what I`m directly getting feedback on.

So I do think we need to feel like you just can`t turn a switch on say, All right, you`re in life. The J&J vaccine is going to be a gradual rebuilding of confidence, it`s going to set us back in some cases, with utilizing that vaccine, but not towards progress towards normalcy. We still expect that we`re on track here. But we need to build back that confidence, Brian.

But yes, I mean, I think we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room here that it`s going to take time. I get questions all the time from individuals about clotting side effects, How real is it? Can they expect it? And so you`re going to want to we`re going to want to be gentle with it and gradual.

WILLIAMS: Yes, both Astra and J&J have really taken it in the chops leaving us to wonder if they have PR teams on the payroll because certainly they could be heard from at some point, even while under consideration by the CDC as so many questions. So little time. Dr. Vin Gupta, suffice to say, thank you so much for always taking our questions. Great to see you. Thank you for your advice.

Coming up for us. We`ll continue our look at ongoing efforts to get more shots in arms. In this case, the tiny arms of children


WILLIAMS: The Coronavirus surge in the state of Michigan has put a record number of children in the hospital that has set off alarms in the public health world. We know the vaccine is key to curbing the spread reducing severe illness. The problem is, vaccines aren`t yet officially available for those under 16 years of age. NBC News correspondent Tom Costello has our update tonight on efforts to change that.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Duke Med Center this week, follow-up blood work from Marisol and Alejandra Gerardo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to go first, do you want me to go first?

COSTELLO: The nine year old twins were the first in the country to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Part of a nationwide trial testing vaccine safety and efficacy on children between six months and 12 years. 12 to 16 year olds are in a separate trial.

While severe COVID related illness and death are low in children, kids still account for 13.6 percent of all cases, 3.6 million so far. 88,000 cases last week alone. Vaccinating kids to say experts is critical to building herd immunity. Marisol and Alejandra`s parents, both doctors at Duke felt a responsibility to volunteer their own daughters for the trial.

Dr. SUSANNA NAGGIE, GIRLS` MOTHER: For us and specifically for this vaccine where you know, tens of thousands of adults had already been dosed and we felt quite confident in the safety profile.

COSTELLO: In Kansas City Michael and Joanna Kelley enrolled a two year old Nora.

MICHAEL KELLEY, NORA`S FATHER: Because we trust the science. We had the opportunity to sign up for this and we talked it over and we believe that this was an opportunity to keep our child safe.

COSTELLO: Like similar trials involving the Moderna vaccine, doctor start low, then slowly increase the children`s vaccine dose.

DR. BARBARA PAHUD, PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, CHILDREN`S MERCY KANSAS CITY: It`s basically the Goldilocks effect, finding the right dose that produces a robust immune response with the least amount of side effects.

CONTELLO: For the Gerardo girls, it`s all about getting back to normal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to have sleepovers and playdates again.

COSTELLO: Fortunately doctors say children generally tolerate the vaccine well with few side effects. The ultimate goal is to vaccinate every elementary school child in this country by this time next year. Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.


WILLIAMS: Coming up for us perhaps you remember it took some getting used to hearing American citizens getting trashed by an American president. Our look back is coming up.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. Just as a thought experiment, wouldn`t it have been fascinating to have been in the room when they told Trump that Puerto Ricans are American citizens? It would be great to know who told him and when for example, was it before or after the traditional presidential throwing of the paper towels to relief victims who had just lost everything.

Just to review. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a category four back in 2017. Irma had just blown through two weeks earlier, Maria was the knockout blow. It destroyed the power grid, freshwater systems were crippled housing was crushed, neighborhoods destroyed. The best estimate of all storm related deaths was somewhere around 3,000.

Trump famously visited and his crisis windbreaker famously threw paper towels into the crowd famously boasted about what a great job he did for Puerto Rico, while he publicly trashed Puerto Rico.


DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you thrown our budget a little out of whack.

Puerto Rico is very tough because of the fact it`s an island. But it`s also tough. Because as you know, it was in very poor shape before the Hurricanes ever hit.

It was in bankruptcy, had no money, it was largely, you know, was largely closed.

I`ve taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man ever, then by any living human being. They don`t know how to spend the money, and they`re not spending it wisely.

Puerto Rico got $91 billion. And I understand that, like me is the most money we`ve ever given to any, anybody. That`s Puerto Rico. And they don`t like me. They complain they want more money. You got 91 billion.

You really do you have incompetent, totally grossly incompetent leadership at the top of Puerto Rico.

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico is a horror show corrupt, and incompetent. Thank you very much.


WILLIAMS: Of course, then there`s the truth. Puerto Rico had its troubles no doubt but we later learned the president told Mulvaney, his budget director and Kelly, his chief of staff, that he didn`t want a penny going to Puerto Rico. Instead, he wanted the storm relief money for Florida and Texas.

And now just today, now that the Trump crowd has gone, the inevitable reporting from the Washington Post, they report the Trump crowd threw up obstacles, affecting $20 billion in aid and more obstacles when the Inspector General went to investigate what happened to the money. In fact, the Biden ministration just this week unlocked the final 8 billion in aid that had been held up.

In the meantime, Puerto Rico its population of 3 million people. American citizens all may never be the same after the storm named Maria or the president named Trump.

That is our broadcast for 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.