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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 4/23/21

Guests: Kavita Patel, Jonathan Lemire, Susan Page, Melissa Ryan, Melissa Murray, Keith Mays, Stephen Sample


CDC and FDA had ended the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is tasked with getting Biden agenda through the House. CDC weighs on revising the guidance on wearing masks. President Joe Biden with address joint session of Congress next week. DOJ is expected to charge over 500 in Capitol riot on January 6.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Velshi air Saturday and Sunday mornings at 8:00 a.m. Eastern only on MSNBC.

"The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 94 of the Biden administration.

And the one shot one and done Johnson & Johnson vaccine which was paused after reports of rare blood clots in women is once again among the arsenal of weapons in the fight against this virus. Tonight, the FDA and CDC both lifted their nearly two weeks pause on this vaccine. After an extensive safety review that found the benefits outweigh the risk.

It was stopped after six reported cases of blood clotting. Three of them were fate a lot of the millions of Americans who received it. Doses will now carry a warning, again, about the rare risk for blood clots.

Health officials say anyone who wants a J&J shot may be able to get one as soon as tomorrow. In addition, and an interview for Sunday`s "American Voices" special report with my colleague, Alicia Menendez, Dr. Fauci was asked about the controversial decision to pause this vaccine.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITEHOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: Well, the J&J vaccine is clearly a highly efficacious vaccine. And I think the pause which some people may have taken as a real concern. The poor should underscore how seriously we take safety because the risk of this is extremely low.


WILLIAMS: There was another important announcement today from the CDC director concerning vaccines and expectant mothers.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: CDC recommends that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I encourage people to talk to their doctors or primary care providers to determine what is best for them and for their baby.


WILLIAMS: A lot of people have been waiting for that very announcement.

Meanwhile, calls for transparency are growing days after Wednesday`s deadly police involved shooting. This one in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Andrew Brown was killed when deputies tried to serve a warrant.

Witnesses tell the AP that one deputy shot him several times, indeed. EMS dispatcher audio indicates he was shot in the back. Brown`s family and city officials want body cam videos of this incident released. And now, the county sheriff says that requires a court order.

Well in fact, tonight, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper posted this, "The body camera footage should be made public as quickly as possible."

Marches and rallies have been held every day since the shooting demanding answers. And tonight, the city manager said he`s concerned about any delay in releasing that body cam video.


MONTRE FREEMAN, CITY MANAGER, ELIZABETH CITY, N.C.: What I`m hoping is that the slow speed of the process will equal accuracy. I said when I first spoke about this matter was that I was not concerned with the speed but I`m extremely concerned and watching the accuracy.


WILLIAMS: Not sure what this tells us but seven sheriff`s deputies have been placed on administrative leave after this one incident. Three others have resigned and left the force.

Also, tonight we`ve learned that Derek Chauvin, the ex-cop convicted of murdering George Floyd, he will be sentenced June 16. If sentenced to the maximum available he`s looking at 40 years.

President Biden expected to address police reform in some form or fashion during his first speech to a joint session of Congress. That`s next Wednesday night. The event will look different on television due to a limited number of people in the House chamber about 200, of course, because of virus restrictions.

This coming Thursday, the President will mark his 100th day in office with a trip to Georgia, notably, where he`s holding a rally. And he added his first overseas trip to his calendar. The White House says he`ll be heading over to the U.K. in June.

This weekend, the President may do something no modern U.S. leader has he is expected to declare that the United States regards the killing of a million and a half Armenians by the Turks to be a genocide. Tomorrow is the 106th anniversary of the start of the Armenian massacre.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night. Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press. Susan Page veteran journalist, best-selling author, and USA Today Washington Bureau Chief. Importantly, her newest book just out is "Madam Speaker, Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power." And Dr. Kavita Patel back with us, Clinical physician former senior policy aide during the Obama administration. She is for good reason among our public health experts, additionally, a nonresident Fellow at Brookings.

And Doctor, indeed, I`d like to begin with you in light of this decision to open back up, J&J. inoculations. Your opinion of the decision, your opinion of the pause? And what advice would you give patients who may have hesitancy?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FMR. OBAMA WHITE HOUSE AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT: Yes, Brian, it`s three great questions. First one, I think this was the exact right outcome. Offering, again, to allow for anyone over the age of 18 to have this access to a one dose highly effective vaccine.

Number two, on the comment about the pause, I think Dr. Fauci, as usual is correct to underscore that the pause should give people kind of confidence that the system is working, there`s a rigorous process. I`m just seeing what`s happening in the real world, Brian, and the pause is made people think, well, if it paused for six cases, and they`re saying it`s extremely rare, aren`t they hiding more? Isn`t there more behind this story. So it does set us back a little bit.

And then on the third point, we`re really in a fortunate situation where we`re going to have choices. So, when I talk to patients, it really is around those circumstances. If you have a choice, given what we know, and we haven`t seen the exact wordings of these clinical warnings, Brian, it`s going to be very hard to give young women the kind of choice to first have J&J if they do have access to the other two vaccines for which we do not have these associated risks under the age of 50, women, possibly men as well. So, that`s where I think the concern I have is.

But I do feel very strongly that this is a highly effective vaccine. And the CDC data today showed that modeling to reinforce, as you pointed out, the benefit, far outweighs the risk. And so, that`s the real kind of counseling that we need to do. But we don`t have a lot of time, we`ve got to get vaccines.

And the group that is rising in the greatest proportion of the incidence of new cases in the last eight weeks, are women aged 18 to 29. So that`s exactly the demographic that has been at the center of this issue with the pause. They`re the ones that we need to reach. And they`re the ones that we need to convince that there is a safe and effective vaccine that they should have access to tomorrow.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, and thank you for that.

Jonathan Lemire, over to your beat and how it intersects with this conversation. Has there been a migration? Are we in the midst of it in the thinking of the Biden administration? Has anyone talked about rewarding the public, and here I`m talking about mask mandates, and especially outdoor mask mandates. Rewarding citizens for good behavior, ie, following the rules getting vaccinated? Should there be for them a light at the end of the tunnel, which could also help with hesitancy?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Brian, that moment is coming, but not just yet. Since taking office, the Biden administration has absolutely erred on the side of caution when it comes to the virus. Of course, touting distribution of the vaccine is now available to any adults in America who wants to take it. But also preaching caution restraints saying that we can`t go too fast just yet. We`ve certainly seen cases rise and just the last couple of weeks in places like Michigan where things were, have become pretty dire again. So, there will be an inflection point.

Let`s remember the President some weeks ago suggested that July 4, could be that date, that patriotic holiday, where from Las Vegas to Tallahassee Americans could start gathering in small groups again and start celebrating with their friends and family. We`re not quite there yet.

There is certainly open and rigorous debate right now about wearing masks outdoors, there`s the need for that now, especially as more Americans get vaccinated. But right now they still want -- the administration still wants to tap the brakes. They know they have to pivot at some point to start counseling Americans and really showing guidelines as to how to reopen the slow return to normalcy. But they don`t want to do that just yet.

And that Johnson & Johnson vaccine being available again, they believe will be very helpful. They know that it`s raising doubts, they know there`s some hesitancy, but because it`s a one shot vaccine and because it can be stored basically and just refrigerated temperature and not a deep freeze, they believe they can use it to get to hard to reach places, rural communities even go door to door with it if needed to get more Americans vaccinated.

WILLIAMS: And Susan Page, it falls upon you to nicely combine all that we are discussing with the book in my hand which arrived at my home courtesy of the author. Let`s agree that the presidency we are witnessing, at least early on here is the most ambitious since the time of Lyndon Baines Johnson. You have become the biographer of the Speaker of the House. Talk about Her role in helping Joe Biden with an agenda that is beyond ambitious.

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes. Nancy Pelosi, I actually interviewed her last week and we talked about her relationship with Joe Biden. You know, she`s worked with a series -- worked with and against a series of presidents. But I think she is closer to Joe Biden into any of his predecessors. She says that his long experience on the Hill means that they can speak in shorthand.

And she described him as a transformational president. I think that`s what we`re going to -- I think that`s what we`ve seen so far in his first 94 days. I think that`s what we`re likely to hear on the speech he`s going to give, his first speech to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday.

You know, you look at what he`s proposed, what he`s proposed in the past two days on climate change, an incredibly ambitious and breathtaking ambition in terms of cutting emissions in the United States. And, obviously, bending like we haven`t seen, in an effort to really change some of the fundamentals about the U.S. economy.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Patel, you probably guessed this question was coming back to you. Jonathan noted the Biden administration debating whether July 4 would be a good time to publicly go ahead, reward good behavior, lift the restrictions. I don`t need to tell you that mask wearing in public is something a whole lot of people are suddenly looking at as optional, human nature being what it is and the change of seasons. What is your opinion, if you`ve been vaccinated, should you wear a mask outside provided you`re not in tight crowded quarters?

PATEL: Yes, Brian. Look, the data supports not wearing a mask outdoors if you are distance from people. And I think that the American public can be smart enough to understand that if you`re outside that, you need to actually put a mask back on, if you`re pressed up against strangers you don`t know very well or in a situation, concert, et cetera, that you feel like you might be at risk. I`d rather actually see a lot of the mandate. Or I`ll even say requirements, I don`t want to call anything a mandate anymore, it seems to connote negativity, I`d rather see that shifted to indoor settings.

And then just a note, Israel did not lift their outdoor mask mandates until they were at about 85 percent of the country being vaccinated. So, while there had been incredible data, that there was very little outdoor transmission, they really were waiting for that kind of herd immunity so that they could have that confidence.

We know that things are going to move ahead on July 4, we`ve already heard half the states don`t have a mandate, and the other half are about to withdraw them in the next several months. But I hope that does not give people the false sense of security that they can do away with masks entirely, Brian, and that`s what I worry about. So, wear a mask when you`re around people you don`t know, period, indoor or outdoor, but have some comfort that that vaccine is protecting you. And that hopefully even before July 4 we can get there, especially as vaccine numbers increase.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for that clarity.

Hey, Jonathan, back to your beat. Look into the future, Friday night, this night next week, what does the White House hope we`ll be talking about?

LEMIRE: Brian, the White House will hope that we`re talking about the President`s list of accomplishments over his first 100 days. There`s some discrepancy on the math in which day that is, the White House says it`s next Thursday, most news organizations say it`s Wednesday because we`re counting January 20 as his first day, it matters not. He`s going to market with a speech Wednesday night, joint address to Congress, as you said at the top.

And we`re going to hear a lot about what he`s done so far, that $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, the need for the infrastructure program. He`s going to announce a lot of part two of that bill, that jobs infrastructure bill Wednesday night. This is going to be more about the health care and childcare, the more human portion of the bill rather than highways and bridges. That`s going to be written out next Wednesday. And as we hit the road, Georgia Thursday another stop to be determined on Friday.

And I think that the White House is leaning into for this urgency. Recognize this is a moment here, the nation still in the pandemic, but with hope on the horizon, you`ll -- the return to normalcy not perhaps too far off, the economy showing signs of life, but still seeing as a crisis in a moment to go big. And what we`re seeing here is a pair now of massive pieces of legislation.

The Biden administration believes can really transform the American economy, the American society as we know with a slew of antipoverty measures really trying to lift up the less fortunate and including tank pay, asking corporations to pay a little bit more in taxes. And they`re not shying away from the comparisons, Brian, FDR. LBJ, that`s where they want to be. They believe that`s what the moment calls for.

WILLIAMS: Susan, back to your work and the current Speaker of the House, you know, Mr. Boehner (ph) out with his own book, painting the job as often miserable. He is not wrong. It involves controlling of flock which charitably means herding cats. Though, Speaker Pelosi has been described as having the most control, command and control over her caucus as any speaker in modern memory, how does she do that?

PAGE: And in fact, John Boehner said, the most powerful speaker in his lifetime, maybe in history. She does that by what our friend John Bresnahan once done, an iron fist in a Gucci glove. And certainly, Nancy Pelosi can display a Gucci glove, can be persuasive, can figure out how to get someone in a gentle way to where she wants them to be. But when she needs it, she is willing and able to wield the hammer.

And believe me, members of Congress, including those in her own party have faced that when she -- when the chips are down, and something like the Affordable Care Act, she`s pushing to get it through. She is just as tough and ruthless as any of the men who preceded her in that office.

WILLIAMS: One last question, you`re not getting out of here until you answer this one. How does she deal with the Squad? It`s been theorized that every time a congresswoman to leave comes out against policing period and incarceration period, a Republican candidate gets their wings. Then there`s AOC, who is famous for punching above her congressional weight in terms of public attention. How does the Speaker deal with elements in her caucus like the Squad?

PAGE: Yes, well, she -- number one, she told me she sees herself in the Squad, in the AOC in particular and her -- in some earlier days. But she faults them for not being realistic or being naive about what it takes to actually achieve some of the goals that you want now that there`s often a need to make a compromise if you`re going to actually reach a deal. John Boehner has compared the Squad as a much of a annoyance or a challenge to Nancy Pelosi from her left as the people he described as right wing knucklehead that he faced from the Freedom Caucus when he was speaker of House. But she has certainly had more success in holding this narrow Democratic majority together than John Boehner and most other speakers have had.

WILLIAMS: We are so fortunate for our big three on a Friday night at the end of this week, Jonathan Lemire, Dr. Kavita Patel, and Susan Page. Again the book is here in my hand. The new book is called "Madam Speaker, Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power." It is just out. Thank you, the three of you for starting us off tonight.

And coming up for us if you have any doubt that today`s GOP is the party of Trump, our next guest is here to tell us the extent to which it has already taken hold at the local level, cities, towns across the country and she is calling it the enemy within.

And later, what if certain Americans were willing to fight the virus as hard as they fight mask wearing and vaccine taking. Our doctor standing by with some thoughts on that. The 11th Hour just getting underway on a Friday night at the end of yet another consequential week.



FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: The people I`m speaking to who are in a position to know about where these investigations are headed are using phrases with me like you haven`t seen anything yet, there`s more coming. And what they`re referring to when I asked them is two things, the number of people that are about to be charged but they`re also referring to the caliber and magnitude of the cases. You`re going to see more conspiracy. You`re going to see people called out as leaders.


WILLIAMS: That is the FBI former assistant director for counterintelligence our friend and colleague Frank Figliuzzi with an intriguing prediction about the investigation into the looting and rioting on January 6.

According to newly filed court documents, the Justice Department now expects to charge over 500 people when this is all over.

In the magazine "The Progressive,` our next guest Melissa Ryan reports on extremists and their growing influence in local politics across our country. She writes, "State Republican parties across the nation are feeling the increased influence of Trumpian far right extremists. At least 57 republican state and local officials from 27 states were at the Capitol on January 6. Nearly all are facing calls to resign but mostly from their political opposition, not other republicans. As of mid-February, only to have stepped down."

For more, we welcome to the broadcast Melissa Ryan. She is the author of a newsletter called "Control All-Right Delete." It covers, as you might imagine, far right extremism white nationalism, disinformation, online toxicity. Needless to say, she`s a busy woman. She`s also worked on digital campaigns for nonprofits, political races, including Emily`s list and Barack Obama`s 2012 effort.

Full disclosure, Melissa, I got off the air one night this week, read your entire Twitter thread, read the article and asked our folks to invite you on at your earliest convenience. So, thank you for coming. Another full disclosure is, I am old enough to remember my parents worried about anti- fluoride in the water forces, getting seats on the local Board of Ed and city council. They were worried about book burners getting seats on the local Board of Ed and city council. Tell us please, what is going on at the local level across this country?

MELISSA RYAN, CTRL. ALT-RIGHT DELETE NEWSLETTER: Sure. Well, that`s such an apt example what`s old is new again. When we think about white supremacists and conspiracy theorists, I think Americans have a picture of the Capitol riots or marching in Charlottesville or maybe spreading hate online. But I wrote this article, and I`ve been covering this for several years, because it`s important to understand how these same folks have been building political power. They`ve been running for office, and they`ve been becoming involved in their state Republican Party over the last several years.

And the article looks at two states, specifically Michigan and Arizona. But really, they`re an illustration of what we`re seeing happening across the country. Republican parties and red states like Texas are now endorsing secessionist movements. And even in diehard blue states like Hawaii, the Republican Party got in trouble for posting procurement on messages on social media.

And so, you also have Republican elected officials that have direct ties to extremist movements, or in some cases are members of organizations like the Oath Keepers themselves.

WILLIAMS: And our friend Susan Glasser over at "The New Yorker" writes that Republicans in Washington are acting as if 1-6 never happened. And this is a key part of your work is identifying everyone came from somewhere, but just how many local officials and now we know some select firefighters, police officers, folks who showed up on 1-6 that would surprise most people.

RYAN: Yes, there were actually 19 state legislators who at least attended Trump`s rally on January 6, at least one legislator in West Virginia has already resigned his office because he was caught on video storming the Capitol. We don`t know about the 18 others whether they made it to the Capitol.

But the other interesting thing is they`re not being called upon to resign or face pressure from their own party. They`re being called on by the opposition, but their own party has a tolerance to an embracing of this.

WILLIAMS: In Marjorie Taylor Greene, we are learning what happens when a QAnon enthusiast is elected to Congress largely unopposed in her district. And while she`s been stripped of her power, ie committee assignments, there she is taking up media oxygen and time. I`m assuming that at the local level, people aren`t going to run for town council school board on a QAnon platform, but they may reveal themselves through their beliefs once elected and seated. Is -- are you finding any at least anecdotal evidence on that front?

RYAN: Yes. So, "Media Matters`" researcher Alex Kaplan actually tracked this last cycle and found just a ton of congressional candidates and also state legislator candidates who are open QAnon supporters. Some Congress didn`t have a caucus large enough to be a voting bloc, but the concern is in some of these state legislators they will, legislators they will, these folks are legislating.

They don`t believe in democracy. It`s an anti-democratic movement generally. And they`re going to use their elected positions to pass bills that undermine American democracy.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers, the article is and the progressive. To our guests, thank you so much for your work, and thank you for being willing to spend part of your Friday night with us. Melissa Ryan, our guests this evening. Thank you very much.

Another break in our coverage. Coming up, where the effort to reform policing in this country stands right about now, especially after the week we have all just witnessed.



REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK FOUNDER: -- the fact, though, that in this moment, where we have George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, on Ahmaud Arbery, all of these cases that have happened all while in a pandemic. If there is no new policy, and legislative policy coming out of that, we are in effect saying to the people of this country, we do not care that all of this has happened.


WILLIAMS: Days after announcing a DOJ investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, our Attorney General Merrick Garland met with the nation`s top law enforcement officials today, promising it`s the first of many meetings on the topic of civil rights and law enforcement.

Back with us tonight, Professor Melissa Murray, NYU Law School. She was a clerk for Justice Sotomayor on the federal bench prior to her nomination to the Supreme Court, and Keith Mays, author, Professor of African American Studies up at the University of Minnesota. Good evening, and welcome to you both.

Professor Mays, it`s been too long since we last spoke, I`d like to begin with you. Look at the life we`re living in America, look at the week we have just witnessed, we start with the Chauvin verdict. And now tonight, of course, we`re discussing the two latest police shootings. If I were to chart a graphic of your emotions, your hopes and dreams over the course of just this week, what would it show me?

KEITH MAYS, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES: Brian, it will show you that someone who was filled with joy and hope after the Chauvin conviction, but I have to tell you what the Anthony Brown situation along with the Daunte Wright situation, I`m exasperated, I`m angry, and I`m less hopeful that things will change. And I think that what this reveals, Brian, is that these practices have been going on for many years. We just have amateur documentarians and cinematographers capturing this on their cell phone videos, and in many ways, it`s a situation where the light has been shown on what black people have been facing for many years, many decades and many centuries.

So the question becomes, Brian, what are we prepared to do about it? Al Sharpton is absolutely right. If we don`t do anything about it, it suggests that we don`t care about black people.

WILLIAMS: And Professor Murray, you know, when the North Carolina Governor calls for body camera video to come out, local officials are saying let`s go slow, get this right. Besides, we need a court order. Does it help at least that the senior elected official, the executive in that stage, he is wanting to speed the plow here?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: I think it certainly suggests that this is something that`s being taken very seriously at the state and local level when you have the Governor weighing in in that particular way. So it is an encouraging sign I think gathering as much evidence as possible. And this investigatory stage is critically important to ensure that you have the information that you need to appropriately charge if that`s what you`re going to do going forward with the prosecution. So it`s an encouraging sign that these -- the Governor is taking it so seriously and is already involved with it.

WILLIAMS: And Professor, while it`s outside of the law and your life`s work to Professor Mays` point is Darnella Frazier as much a hero of what we have just witnessed this week, a name that doesn`t come instantly to most Americans. But her work and her courage has now been felled around the world.

MURRAY: I think that`s certainly the case. When we saw those three convictions come down on Tuesday, I think everyone recognized that it likely would not have been possible without that eyewitness testimony, without her video footage, without her having the calm and the presence of mind to continue filming, even though she herself seemed to have been traumatized by what she witnessed. We also knew that the police report that was initially filed had some inconsistencies and to put it mildly. And that certainly did not congeal with the -- what we saw on the videotape. So her eyewitness testimony in the video that she took was absolutely crucial to getting a clear narrative as to what happened on May 25th, 2020.

WILLIAMS: And Professor Mays, just to go one more beat on the point you made, is video evidence critical to getting justice now because the old phrase, if a tree falls in the woods, what if we had been absent that nine minutes 29 seconds, it boggles the mind, what would have happened? More importantly, what wouldn`t have happened in the Twin Cities?

MAYS: Well, we know what would have happened, Brian, because the Minneapolis Police Department told us what happened, right? They gave us their version of the events, and they were false. And so the question becomes, that video captured by Darnella Frazier was crucial to convincing the world that an injustice had occurred, that the police have murdered George Floyd, that it was a modern day lynching. But we`ve had video in the past, Brian, we had the Rodney King video. And so it didn`t -- you know, and amounted to an acquittal in the case. This is 1992, it`s a different time, different historical era.

So I think that video is important but -- and I think the police know that video is important as well. That`s why they won`t release the dashcam video in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. We need to see what our own two eyes what takes place in all these cases.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, those EMS dispatcher recordings mentioned a man shot multiple times in the back. Professor Murray, a quick closing question to you. Jurisprudentially, in your line of work, does the guilty verdict -- I know it`s not officially a precedent -- does it help other prosecutions? Does it have a chilling effect as it`s designed to on police behavior?

MURRAY: Well, I think it will certainly make police officers on the ground think twice as they go forward. I think the real impact of these convictions are what we`re going to see going forward in the prosecutions of the three bystander officers in the Chauvin case. They are scheduled to be tried in August. I think it is likely that given these convictions that they may be thinking very seriously about a plea. That could be really consequential because I think this case with the three bystander officers is really about the question of the culture of policing.

What do you do when your superior officers doing something that they shouldn`t be doing that isn`t right? What`s your obligation as a bystander, as a fellow officer to do? And we may not get to that question if these officers plea bargain and ultimately settle their cases with the stage going forward. So I think that`s really where this may be going.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers, we could easily fill the hour with these two academicians. To both professors, our thanks. Melissa Murray, Keith Mays, greatly appreciate you spending part of your Friday night with us and with our viewers.

Coming up, as the White House races to vaccinate as many people as possible across our country, a prominent Republican merchant of disinformation asks with a straight face. Why the big push to vaccinate a frontline doctor standing by to talk to us and share his answer when we come back.



DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY, UMN: The problem is many people are not getting the vaccine. And part of it`s the perception that, in fact, the pandemic is kind of over. We have at least 22 states that have lower immunization levels than Michigan where we`ve already seen a crisis. Today we have 70 children seriously ill hospitalized in Michigan with this virus. So we`ve got to keep emphasizing is it`s not over.


WILLIAMS: Some states are already seeing signs of vaccine demand waning as you may have heard the Associated Press reporting reduced interest is forcing some areas to turn down receiving new shipments. Back with us again during this important time, Dr. Stephen Sample, E.R. Doctor at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, Jasper, Indiana, also a volunteer clinical faculty member at Indiana University School of Medicine. So Doc, tell us, we always ask you what the situation is locally in Jasper regarding masks, case rate, vaccine hesitancy, all of it.

DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Right. Good evening, Brian. I have good news to report so far from, not only Jasper, but the state of Indiana at large. We are starting to see the vaccine effect in real time and it`s really cool to watch. We watched -- you know, over the last month or so, people have really started to kind of get a little lackadaisical with their quarantining measures and things like that. So we knew our cases were going to rise, but we are vaccinating at a rate so far that is keeping this under control.

Since March 15th, cases have gone up about 80 percent in people under the age of 60. But over the age of 60, they`ve only gone up about 30 percent, which is really cool because about 60 percent or so of our people over the age of 60 have already had the vaccine. So we`re getting to see this in real time how these vaccines are affecting the disease process.

WILLIAMS: I want to play for you something, this is from Republican senator from Wisconsin, spoken in public and with a straight face affectionately called Ron and on (ph) Johnson, again of Wisconsin, we`ll discuss on the other side.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I see no reason to be pushing vaccines on people. What is the point? If the, the science tells us that vaccines are 95 percent effective, so if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not? I mean, what does a few -- you`ve got a vaccine and, you know, science is telling you it`s very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine.


WILLIAMS: So Doc, just as a predicate, journalists have found and established that this guy has put forth Russian talking points in the U.S. Senate as his own in the past. Again, he`s saying this kind of thing publicly. Why is he wrong? What`s the danger of people hearing that?

SAMPLE: Well, look, as far as I can tell, I`m not from Wisconsin, but everything I see about Ron Johnson is that basically, he is what you would get if a, you know, a very misinformed and vaguely racist Facebook meme was incarnated into a human form. You know, everything he says is wrong when it comes to this. It is a fundamental, either misunderstanding, more likely a willful misunderstanding of why we vaccinate, why we do what we do.

But he clearly won his race. So we know that people listen to him. And his people like him, you know, these people that preach values and morals and this and that, and now they`re saying, hey, I`ve got mine so the rest of you guys can go pound sand. That is not the way the American ideal that I was raised on works at all other. But people listen to this. You know, and people are going to skip it because of things like this.

WILLIAMS: Final question about the J&J vaccine. I would take it without hesitation, I think most people would. But as P.R. goes, this has been more than a speed bumps for this company and for this product, which the White House was really hoping would help them stamp out this virus. How can the J&J not feel to people getting it, like some sort of consolation prize now?

SAMPLE: Yes, this has been terrible to watch. You know, watching science unfold real time, I`ve said it before, and I`ll say it again, it is -- it can be a little frustrating, it can be confusing, and downright terrifying for people who don`t really get to live this on a day-to-day basis. You know, I`m glad Johnson & Johnson is back. It is such a hugely important weapon in our fight against this both at home and around the world. But it`s certainly the press over this has certainly likely lost a few fence sitters when it comes to vaccinations.

But I would get it without reservation. I would let my kids get it without reservation. When people ask me which one do I get? I say which one`s available? Go get it now. Get your shot.

WILLIAMS: That`s exactly the comment I`d like to end on from Dr. Stephen Sample, our guest again tonight. Thanks always for having us and appreciate it. Have a good weekend.

Another break for us. Coming up, the history that was made while most of America slept when we come back.


WILLIAMS: With over five hours from now, four astronauts aboard a spacecraft called Dragon Endeavour are scheduled to meet up with the International Space Station. They were launched into orbit inside a reused SpaceX capsule on top of a recycled rocket, all of it intentionally. The third man mission for Elon Musk`s space company, which was not without its dicey moments as you`ll see. NBC News Correspondent Tom Costello has our report from the Cape in Florida tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one, mission and liftoff. Godspeed. Endeavour exclusive (ph).

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was 5:49 a.m. when SpaceX once again lit up the Florida sky, a perfect flight tracked all the way up the East Coast. But at 1:24 p.m. Mission Control warned the crew of Dragon that their ship would come uncomfortably close to a piece of space junk. One of tens of thousands of pieces NASA constantly tracks. The crew ordered back into their spacesuits because of the unlikely chance of a collision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do need you to immediately proceed with suit donning and securing yourselves in seats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we`re getting in the suit and we copy off.

COSTELLO (voice-over): A few minutes later, the space junk possibly a piece of an old satellite, passed by 28 miles away. Today`s SpaceX mission, the first to reuse both a rocket and the spaceship. Pilot Megan McArthur is sitting in the same seat. Her husband astronaut Bob Behnken sat in a year ago,

MEGAN MCARTHUR, PILOT: Yes, I`m like a baby bird here. We`re learning how to move around in microgravity.

COSTELLO (voice-over): And NASA has now selected SpaceX to build the ship that will carry astronauts back to the surface of the moon, including the first woman.

ELON MUSK, SPACEX, FOUNDER AND CEO: It`s been now almost half a century since humans are last on the Moon. That`s too long. We need to get back there.

COSTELLO (on-camera): So this Dragon mission arrives at the space station early Saturday morning. One complication, they don`t have enough beds for all 11 people who will be on the station. So at least two astronauts will have to get into a sleeping bag and tie themselves to a wall until four astronauts that arrived in November come back to Earth sometime next week.


WILLIAMS: So it`s going to get tied up. They`re orbiting at 17,000 miles an hour. Our thanks to Tom Costello for that report from the Cape.

Coming up for us, a jaw-dropping moment from a year ago today. Luckily, this is one that history will remember.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And they say maybe you can, maybe you can`t. I`m not adaptive. And I`m like a person that has a good, you know what.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, while reasonable people may disagree, what happened a year ago today was one of the low points of the Trump presidency. And while that`s saying a lot, it was certainly among the low points of the failure to protect the American people from a raging pandemic. Here is what happened in the White House briefing room that day, a year ago today. As you watch, please remember, the president later said he was being sarcastic. You can be the judge of that as we watch what was a jaw-dropping moment for a nation looking for leadership and not malpractice.


TRUMP: So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of if you`re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it`s ultraviolet or just very powerful light. And I think you said that hasn`t been checked, but you`re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you`re going to test that too. Sounds interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get the right full (ph) to put.

TRUMP: Right. And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or, or almost a cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it`d be interesting to check that so that you`re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds interesting to me. So we`ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That`s pretty powerful.


WILLIAMS: Almost a cleaning. The death toll on that day was just under 50,000. We`ve since lost over half a million again since that day. And after that day, from the CDC to Clorox to Lysol, companies, organizations were forced to issue statements, warning folks not to ingest such chemicals. Nonetheless, there was later a rise in calls to poison control hotlines, poisoned patients showing up in emergency rooms.

And lest we forget, Dr. Birx sat there. In fact, it`s rather remarkable looking back on it that pulling a Birx or Birxing (ph) haven`t since entered our lexicon as terms meaning to remain quiet in the face of malpractice and mass death. It truly took a village to watch and listen to the rank stupidity and incompetence that took so many lives. But as we just saw, it`s important to remember it started at the top.

That`s our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week. With our thanks for being here with us, have a good weekend unless you have other plans. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.