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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 4/30/21

Guests: Jeremy Bash, Kavita Patel, Doris Kearns Goodwin


Manhattan federal prosecutors are seeking to examine Rudy Giuliani`s communications with an array of former Ukrainian officials, as investigators home in on whether the former Trump lawyer`s push to remove a U.S. diplomat in Kyiv violated foreign lobbying rules. Joel Greenberg, a central figure in the ongoing investigation into Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Beast that he and Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women, including a minor who was 17 at the time. The Biden administration has confirmed that the U.S. will restrict travel from India starting on Tuesday in response to the surge of coronavirus cases and variants being observed in the country.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Congressman, if you get that White House Conference on Hunger, I will make sure that we cover it extensively on MSNBC. This is a crucial matter, and it doesn`t need to exist. Congressman Jim McGovern, thank you. Jean, thanks for putting a real face on this for us so that we understand those who, tonight, are not sure where tomorrow`s food comes from. Jean McMurray is the CEO of the Worcester County Food Bank in Massachusetts. That`s Tonight`s Last Word. You can catch me tomorrow on my show Velshi at 8 a.m. We`re going to learn more about the raid on Trump Lawyer, Rudy Giuliani`s apartment. I`m going to talk to former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, who`s lived this moment for himself on Sunday. I`ll be joined by the former -- by the current White House Economic Adviser, Heather Boushey. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams begins now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again, day 101 of the Biden administration. While the President is pushing ahead with his agenda, close allies of the last president are now coming under increasing scrutiny. There`s new reporting about the FBI raid this week on Trump`s former Personal Lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, his Manhattan home and office.

Tonight, the Wall Street Journal has joined the reporting which NBC News indeed confirms that investigators are focusing in on Rudolph Giuliani`s role in getting former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired from her post that was spring of 2019. It was the New York Times that first brought this to light. The journal also matches other outlets reporting that the Feds want to know more about Rudy Giuliani`s efforts to get Ukraine officials to open investigations into the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election.

Also, NBC News confirming the Washington Post reporting that FBI agents paid Giuliani a visit back in 2019, gave him a defensive briefing as it`s known in the trade warning him that, "he was being targeted by a Russian intelligence influence operation as he sought to gather opposition research on the Biden family. The U.S. government later made the warnings even more explicit releasing a public statement last year saying that one of the people Giuliani have been dealing with Ukrainian parliamentarian Andrii Derkach, is a Russian intelligence asset."

Giuliani his lawyer tells NBC News his client says the FBI briefing never happened.

Earlier on this network, the other Trump personal lawyer who was rated by the Feds predict that things could get difficult for Giuliani.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: One of the things that you`re talking about is, of course, Marie Yovanovitch in Ukraine. That is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what they`re looking for when it comes to Rudy Giuliani. The fact that the FBI now has his cell phones, they have his computer and other information, you could rest assured that that`s not specifically what or that`s not the only thing that they`re looking for. They have him and so if he`s looking to protect himself so that he doesn`t end up spending the rest of his life in prison, right, he may want to actually start to cooperate.


WILLIAMS: There`s also new reporting tonight about Congressman Matt Gaetz. The Daily Beast says it has obtained a confession letter reportedly written by the congressman`s one time associate, Joel Greenberg, in the waning months of the Trump presidency which, "claims that he and close associate Representative Matt Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women as well as a girl who was 17 at the time. The letter was written after Greenberg, who was under federal indictment asked Roger Stone to help him secure a pardon from then President Donald Trump."

NBC News has not seen or verified this letter. There have been multiple reports that Congressman Gaetz is under investigation for possible sex- trafficking. Federal prosecutors have not charged Gaetz or confirmed their inquiry. That investigation came out of another one and to Greenberg in Florida who`s been indicted on a number of charges, including but not limited to, sex-trafficking. His lawyer has signaled he is willing to cooperate with prosecutors.

Today a P.R. firm for Congressman Gaetz, who has previously denied all these allegations, responded to the Daily Beast reporting with a statement that read, "Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17 year old as an adult."

Roger Stone issued his own statement which read in part, "I made no effort whatsoever to secure a pardon for Mr. Greenberg and I took not a dime from him or anyone else seeking a pardon. I have seen no substantiation or actual proof of any of the wild accusations he has made against Congressman Gaetz."

Meanwhile, back in the world of real life that has nothing to do with Trump or his associates, Joe Biden is starting his second 100 days in office with a full court press for funding his over 2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan. Today he did one of his favorite things, he rhapsodized about trains. He was trackside in Philadelphia to help Amtrak commemorate its 50th anniversary, as a Senator Biden famously commuted by Amtrak train every day between D.C. and his home in Delaware.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve been riding Amtrak for almost as long as it has been an Amtrak. Transit is part of the infrastructure, and like the rest of our infrastructure, we`re way behind the rest of the world right now. We need to remember, we`re in competition with the rest of the world.


WILLIAMS: White House today reached a milestone in its vaccination drive over 100 million people in the U.S. have now been fully vaccinated almost 40% of the nation`s adults and nearly double what the nation had registered even at the end of March. With that accomplished now the effort is about vaccinating the hesitant. The coronavirus crisis continues to deepen in India with treatment almost impossible to find vaccines equally scarce. Starting Tuesday travel from India to the U.S. will be restricted, a move the White House says it made on the advice of the CDC, these restrictions will not apply to U.S. citizens.

The administration is also about to launch a significant foreign policy move. U.S. troops have started their withdrawal from Afghanistan ending a 20 year mission, our longest war. It comes 10 years after the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

It`s a lot and with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on a Friday night as we bring this week to a close, Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at CIA and the Pentagon, former Chief Counsel to the House Intel Committee, Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent for Politico, co-author of each day`s edition of the Politico Playbook, and Dr. Kavita Patel back with us as well, Clinical Physician, former Senior Policy Aide during the Obama administration. She`s for good reason among our public health experts. Additionally, she is a non resident Fellow at Brookings.

Well, good evening, and welcome to you all. Jeremy, I`d like to begin with you with the former personal lawyer for the former president. What does it seem to you that the Feds and this is coming off Michael Cohen`s comments, the only other personal lawyer have been raided by the Feds? What does it seem to you they`re looking for from Rudy?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER, CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, federal agents, Brian, it appears are looking at two things. One is the national security threat posed by foreign governments who would interfere in U.S. elections by spreading disinformation and Rudy Giuliani was clearly a conduit of disinformation largely emanating from Russia, through agents in the Ukraine. But the second thing that they`re looking at is whether or not criminal laws were potentially violated, when Rudy Giuliani lobby the Trump administration effectively on behalf of Ukrainian officials who wanted Trump to fire the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv because she was being very rough on corruption in Ukraine.

And I think, you know, the theory of federal agents, according to these media reports, is that if Rudy Giuliani was being paid, either in cash or in dirt, you know, on Biden or others, then effectively, Rudy Giuliani was illegally lobbying the United States government on behalf of a foreign government without registering. And that`s something that`s gotten people in hot water, and it`s even landed them in prison. So Rudy Giuliani, it appears, is you have the target or subject of full blown criminal investigation at this hour, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And Jeremy, a quick follow up, if Rudy did get that FBI warning, and still pal around with these guys, the Russian and Ukrainian types, I`m assuming that would be very bad?

BASH: It would be because effectively the defensive warning says hey, you may not realize this Mayor Giuliani, but you`re being used. And if he goes ahead and continues his activities, well, then he`s not just unwitting. He`s in on it. And I think that`s a huge red flag.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, how closely is the Biden crowd watching any or all of this?

EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, they`re just like us. They`re paying a lot of attention. But something that this administration is really good at, is kind of keeping their blinders on, right? You heard President Biden tell our colleague at NBC News, Craig Melvin, that he did not know ahead of time that this raid was happening. And I think that`s exactly what you`re going to continue to hear from this White House as the DOJ investigates anyone, right? They want to keep out of the political fray. They don`t - President Biden promised to depoliticize the DOJ in the investigations in this country. And the thing that I keep hearing over and over from sources that I`m talking to, is that a lawyer being raided like this and we all know this is not typical right there questions of client lawyer confidentiality. And then when the lawyer is working for a president or a former president or a former president even, they would typically be even more careful, right? So the - there are so many layers to getting a warrant like this. And so this White House, they`re watching, but they are not engaging in a lot of these things. And that is the kind of arm`s length that they want to keep the DOJ at, especially when it`s something as politically fraught and as politically sensitive as someone like Rudy Giuliani.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, and as you noted, the idea of an independent Justice Department is going to take some getting used to coming on the heels of the Barr era. Dr. Patel, to you, I think any American with any humanity feels absolutely helpless watching what is unfolding in India at the same time we had a very proud milestone today 100 million Americans fully vaccinated, not just half but a full dose.

Let`s talk about the illness that is striking India, is there any chance that India of 2021 could be the China of 2020? In that these virulent variants, it`s hard to say, could find their way around those already vaccinated?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT IN THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Yeah, Brian, you`re hitting exactly on the point that many of us are concerned as we`re seeing not one, not two, but multiple concerning variants just in India that have been identified. And of course, that means that there`s still a huge landscape that has not been identified. And I think it highlights while we`re making such progress in the United States in the Biden team, is certainly not declaring any sort of victory yet, although they should be proud of the milestone. They see what looms large, not just in India, Brian, we`re seeing concerning trends in parts of Latin America, we`re seeing rises in places that had been incredibly vigilant like Japan.

And I would just add that, you know, India is a very large country, but there are neighboring countries, Pakistan, Nepal, and they have very little infrastructure even worse, and less so than India. And so this is exactly the issue that is going to dominate 2021, not just with India, kind of being a canary in the coal mine, but it`s going to pose challenges about what the U.S. is kind of stances on helping accelerate the global vaccination pace.

And on top of that, what are we going to do is we kind of log jam at about 50 to 60% of our population and see spikes like we are, we`re seeing some rising cases, although we`re doing great in terms of cases, Brian, 17% decline in the last week, which is great progress, we`re seeing increases in some spots, Oregon, Arizona, and that a lot of that has to do, again with the remainder of the population that not only needs to get vaccinated, but these are younger people that are turning positive and are still getting sick and unfortunately, an 800 deaths in the last 24 hours, we still have people dying from COVID-19 in the United States.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, a question to you and your beat on India, a lot of folks did not understand when they heard the travel ban today, these travel bans for a lot of families can just seem so draconian and can force families with, you know, urgent air travel needs in the crisis. People were asking today if you`re going to do it, why wait until Tuesday? I think it was to give people time. And obviously there`s a carve out for U.S. citizens, was there any pushback at the administration on that front that you were aware of today?

DANIELS: I haven`t found that in any amount, reporting what we have found is like that, you know, when these happened, there`s a lot of conversation about the impact, especially on American citizens that are in that country, like you`re saying, making sure that there`s a some time for people to be able to get back or get, you know, to get here, if they were already planning and then with their travel plans. And I think this is an administration that they`re a little bit more, I guess, careful in their planning than when they`re doing things like this, then the last administration, because they know that the blowback and the impact of those policies and changes that you said they feel draconian, people have a hard time understanding. But what we`re seeing in India and the doctor was just saying, like, everyone is concerned about it right in this White House, because this race against the various says they`ve been putting it, they excited about the fact that we have been getting closer and closer to that bright light at the end of the tunnel has been put to me multiple times by members of the administration. And that is something that they`re constantly focused on. How can we make sure that`s happening? But then not just about America? There`s this kind of global vaccination effort that we as the as a country are going to have to engage in and possibly lead on. And that is also what we`ve seen.

You didn`t really see a lot of people talking about India until they got really bad. And then the administration promised to send vaccines, we`ve N95 masks and oxygen and things like that over there. And those are the kinds of things that people in that country and other countries are going to need as the various start popping up, because frankly, a lot of people around the country, around the planet in this country have let the guard down. You know, we have been dealing with this for more than a year, instant longer and other places around the world. And I think that part of it is concerning for health experts that I`ve been talking to and the administration outside out of it.

WILLIAMS: I hope we`re loading C17 with all the vaccines and oxygen. We, as a nation can spare. And Dr. Patel, if all that wasn`t scary enough, this is from Politico, Eugene`s employer, they write about Biden`s next pandemic challenge getting Americans to accept the virus, containment not eradication is the most realistic goal. Public health experts say the coronavirus is here for the long haul. The challenge for Biden, his response team and state health officials will be managing the rolling series of outbreaks, possibly driven by more dangerous virus variants and, Doctor, indeed this comes off your last comments.

PATEL: Yeah, Brian, what we hope is that we go from a pandemic, what`s called an endemic, and we have this kind of containment so that we see the virus, you know, remember, this virus will do what it has to do to survive. And so while we have people who are unvaccinated, and as the virus mutates, that will be our challenge, it will mean that just like with the flu, just like with measles, Brian, we still have cases, we don`t get front page headline news every day about them. And I think the American public is going to have kind of a psychological reaction. What is the appropriate number of COVID cases and deaths and hospitalizations that we`re willing to tolerate? When will we feel comfortable even with CDC guidance, Brian, to have kind of, "normal activities," it`s going to be a very difficult transition it already is, as you`re seeing from the outside mask kind of debate that happened this less than a week.

So I do think this is Biden`s challenge. I think it`s why he`s had to have an has shown incredible discipline, I think where things are going to potentially be out of his control, or exactly what happens beyond our borders, he can`t control it. But now we`re going to have to be a leader in helping other countries, Africa has all of the places that have very little infrastructure, their success will be large -- our success in containing this virus will be largely contingent on their ability to contain the virus. So it will be a challenge. Why I think Americans want to get used to whether it`s a booster vaccine, or some sort of regular COVID vaccine of programs some type. That is what our near future looks like.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, I`ve saved the last word for you, you and your longtime boss, longtime friend and colleague, Leon Panetta, have written a piece in defense one together, it is about a big upcoming anniversary for our country. Share with our viewers the lessons from what you`ve written?

BASH: Well, 10 years ago, on this very weekend, Brian, special operations teams were preparing to raid the compound where bin Laden was hiding. And it was enormous victory for the United States 10 years ago. And really, I think it showcased the value of teamwork, teamwork between the military and intelligence professionals who had to fuse their cultures and authorities to get along and work on this operation under a very tight timeline. But it was also teamwork between the executive branch and Congress between Democrats and Republicans. And when we entrusted the professionals to do the competent, technological and technocratic work of government, they got the job done. And I think it was an enormous victory for the United States.

And it also paved the way for the disintegration of al Qaeda so that we could pivot and focus on other threats like China and cyber attacks and global pandemics, things that are worrying us and challenging us at this hour. And so the last 10 years, Brian, you know, we`ve been able to observe every year an anniversary of the bin Laden operation, but now 10 years later, I think we can finally move on, we can bring our troops home from Afghanistan, and focus on the global threat landscape that we all have to face.

WILLIAMS: We`re much obliged to our big three guests on a Friday night after a long week, Jeremy Bash, Eugene Daniels, Dr. Kavita Patel, thank you all so much for starting us off.

Coming up for us, Republicans go deep on the culture wars as Democrats push ahead on policy. Two political veterans here is a weigh in on which strategy might went out?

And later, just this week he has rhapsodized about trains, vaccines, American manufacturing and government`s ability to lift people up. Just what are we seeing unfold in this still new Biden presidency, the celebrated presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin shares her thoughts with us tonight. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Friday evening.


WILLIAMS: In his new interview with President Biden this week, our colleague Craig Melvin asked the President about what we heard from Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, during his response time on Wednesday night.


CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: I watched the rebuttal from the junior senator of South Carolina last night, Tim Scott, he said among other things, America isn`t racist. Is it?

BIDEN: No, I don`t think the American people are racist. But I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they`re so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health, in terms of opportunity. I don`t think America`s racist but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that slavery have had a cost and we have to deal with it.


WILLIAMS: Back with us again tonight, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a veteran activist on matters of race, social justice, former member notably of President Obama`s 21st Century Policing Task Force. She is these days, the host of the podcast, undistracted and Matt K. Lewis, conservative commentator, writer, Senior Columnist for The Daily Beast.

Good evening and welcome to you both. Brittany, I got one for you. This is Kathleen Parker op-ed tonight in the Washington Post. It`s a Senator Scott and the Republican response and it reads thusly, "Scott leveled strong and smart criticisms at Biden`s agenda for the next four years. But you wouldn`t know it to read his critics on the left, the only black Republican in the Senate, Scott was quickly trending as Uncle Tim on Twitter, as a tool of white supremacists and as a blind servant of the far right. Liberals just cannot handle a black conservative. This, my friends, is also what racism looks like, in America today." Brittany, the floor is yours.

BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So Brian, I think that like so often two things are actually true, it was quite disturbing to see white people of all political stripes, think that they had the permission to call Tim Scott a racial slur, including and especially white people who consider themselves to be allies, accomplices and co-conspirators of the black community. Trust me, we got this. And frankly, white people on all sides of the aisle have plenty of work to do on their own to examine how they perpetuate systemic racism, and check all of the folks in their lives. So focus on that and make sure that you are comporting yourself in a way that actually proves that you`re an ally. So that is true. But what is also true is that when Tim Scott said last night, and what he has continued to do, has been deeply damaging.

Frankly, Brian, I wasn`t actually all that surprised by what I heard from that rebuttal. Because when we look at not just what Tim Scott has said, but what he`s done, this has always been who he`s been. He`s the lead negotiator for the GOP in the Senate, on the George Floyd justice in policing bill. And he has been working to protect qualified immunity for police officers. And he`s been working to stop the full banding of chokeholds. So the black senator who wants to allow the police to choke us to death, and then get away with it didn`t surprise me at all, because frankly, he stayed on script. So both of these things are true, it is as complicated as you think it is. And it is as offensive as you think it is.

WILLIAMS: So Matt, with Brittany, having established the senator`s bonafides, what is the chance that from the U.S. Senate, whatever group is doing the talking a piece of legislation on actual substantive police reform in a nation calling for it will emerge and get to Joe Biden`s desk?

MATT K. LEWIS, THE DAILY BEAST SENIOR COLUMNIST: Well, I`m going to be a little bit optimistic. I think that there is a chance that we get something obviously, you know, even Donald Trump was able to do something on criminal justice reform, obviously, we need to do police reform. And I would actually love to end qualified immunity. I think that if you ended qualified immunity, and if you were to end police unions, you could go a long way toward fixing the problem that we have. So I`m going to hold out some hope. I think there`s more chance that we could do that in bipartisan fashion then some of the other things on the Democrats agenda, this term.

WILLIAMS: And Matt, while I have you, your party is getting so much attention, rightfully and taking so much heat for all these initiatives in so many states that are restricting voter rights. DeSantis in Florida is days away from signing the next one. And let me ask you this way. Are you comfortable with the party doing anything that doesn`t make voting as easy as possible? This follows an election where there was no provable fraud, because the rap on it is the Republicans will lose on an even playing field?

LEWIS: I`m so torn on this, because you`re right the motive of doing that, there really is not a big motive, right. I mean, the election, the 2020 election was not stolen. And so on that count, I don`t understand the -- what is the impetus for doing this? I mean, I guess there is a little bit of a cause for doing it right. And in some cases, because you had things like drop boxes that were short term, instituted because of COVID. And now there has to be like a maybe a long-term solution of what to do going forward.

But my guess is that this Florida bill, as far as I can tell, kind of reminds me of the Georgia Bill. I think people are probably going to be outraged about it. Probably call it Jim Crow 2.0 at least the case with the Georgia Bill. I think that that was overwrought. I understand why people though, having gone through what we just went through with Donald Trump would be skeptical of Republicans trying to make any changes.

The last point I would make, though, is I think Donald Trump won this vote in Florida at least, right? And so, if in fact, Republicans are trying to limit the ability of minorities to vote and disenfranchise people, that would be a pretty stupid thing to do, and it very well could end up backfiring on them, right? Because, you know, again, Donald Trump did pretty well with Hispanics in Florida.

WILLIAMS: I can`t see Brittany. I assume she has been nodding all along. That certainly is Matt, what a number of people have been saying looking on at all these initiatives state by state across the country. I`m going to ask the indulgence of both of our guests, sneak in a quick break.

When we come back, perhaps you`re old enough to remember when Republicans railed about big government spending, of course that was before Dr. Seuss.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back. So Rich Lowry of POLITICO is out with a new piece in POLITICO magazine that says Republicans have lost interest in fighting big spending and have instead become more focused on culture wars. He writes this in part quote, the culture-war issues hit close to the bone in a way that fiscal issues don`t. Conservatives worry about their free-speech rights getting trampled about schools distorting the minds of their children and about the country`s history getting redefined. And it`s hard to get them to care more about a balance sheet that may have deleterious consequences at some future date than those other more definitional questions.

Remaining with us are our guests Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Matt Lewis. And Matt, this goes to you and I owe, Brittany, response time coming out of it. This is bordering on obsession, is it though the politics of distraction?

LEWIS: I think this -- I`m going to put this on Donald Trump. Because, you know, 10 years ago, we were in a similar media environment that Republicans were obsessed with tea parties and budgets and all that.

Look, I think that culture war issues are important. Cancel culture, that`s an issue that concerns me. But I think that what`s happened is that Republicans have focused on it at the exclusion of everything else. And while we were worried about Dr. Seuss, Joe Biden came in and started rewriting the social contract in terms of the expectations of how citizens relate to the government.

That`s a big, big deal, right? It`s not just about good spending and debt and deficits and inflation, possibly, it`s about the idea about things like limited government. It speaks to this, you know, the Horatio Alger pull yourself up by the bootstraps, Ethos that once animated the American dream.

Republicans and Conservatives have essentially abandoned the entire idea of limited government and are chasing these like more sexy exciting "Fox News" stories. And I think this is actually just one of many areas where in the wake of Donald Trump Republicans have kind of just surrendered. What used to really be one-third of the conservative movement was fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, national security conservatives, one- third of it we don`t care about anymore, amazing.

WILLIAMS: Brittany, I didn`t mean to mistakenly imply your response, without hearing you out on Matt`s earlier point that and I`ll paraphrase it, that even in terms of marketing their brand, if you`re going to be the Republican Party that brags on how much your percentages were better in various minority communities, it makes little sense to decrease anyone`s ability to vote. So, you have the floor once again.

CUNNINGHAM: Well, I mean, this conversation on voting rights and this conversation on the culture war are deeply connected, because this attack on voting rights has little to do with the big lie, it has much more to do with those culture wars and with trying to maintain a level of GOP supremacy and power across this country.

I think the greatest example today of this culture war is the fact that all day across news channels and social media and podcast, people have been asking one question, is America racist? Which means that Tim Scott and the GOP have us right where they want us. They have us arguing with each other and fighting their culture war, instead of talking about how we`re going to solve our biggest problems. Look, is America racist? That question implies the indisputable facts about the existence and persistence of white supremacy and systemic racism in America is up for debate. And those facts are not up for debate.

My family certainly didn`t get those 40 acres and that mule. Plenty of cities like Flint still do not have their clean water. And black families are on track to have an average of zero wealth by 2053. You can look no further than the law that was just passed in Florida about voting rights to know that the racism and the systemic racism endemic in America is painstakingly true.

So, the question is not whether or not America is racist. The question is how much is America willing to invest in ending systemic racism? Tim Scott in the GOP would love for us not to focus on that question, because they think it`s too expensive. But if you ask the families of Asian folks in Atlanta, and black and brown folks who`ve been killed by police and the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, I promise you, all of them will tell you that the cost of systemic racism is indeed what`s too high. And that`s the conversation we need to be having.

WILLIAMS: Brittany Packnett Cunningham with the last word. Our thanks to her and to Matt Lewis for staying up with us and joining us this Friday night, appreciate it folks, thank you very much.

Coming up for us, what number 46 has in common with 36. We will ask none other than Doris Kearns Goodwin when we come back.



LYNDON JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This nation has experienced a profound shock. And in this critical moment, it is our duty yours and mine as the government of the United States to do away with uncertainty and doubt and delay and to show that we are capable of decisive action.


WILLIAMS: That`s indeed how it was done. LBJ just five days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he was later able to turn a national crisis into sweeping reforms. Our next guest points out President Biden has that same opportunity.

So back with us tonight is Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and author, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for History. She`s written bestsellers about both Roosevelt`s, the Kennedy`s, LBJ, and Lincoln. For starters, her latest work is the very pertinent, "Leadership in Turbulent Times." Doris, it`s terrific to have you.

The argument, well, it`s been a debate after the speech that wasn`t a State of the Union isn`t whether it is the most liberal and far reaching and ambitious legislative agenda in 50 years. The argument has been, is it Johnsonian or Rooseveltian? So, we figured you`ve written about both men, one of them, you worked for a new well, Lyndon Johnson, what was it to you?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No. It seems to me that there really is a comparison between the scope of the ambitions that LBJ had with the Great Society and the ambitions and aspirations that Biden recommended in his first joint session of Congress speech.

In both men, it seems to me came into a crisis. We forget the profound crisis that faced us after the assassination of JFK. The country had no idea where it was coming from. It could be Russia or Cuba. There was a sense of paralysis. And he made the decision to make the civil rights bill passage, his number one priority. And he goes to the Congress to talk about that.

And as advisers say you can`t do this. It`s much too bold. You`ll never get it passed the Senate filibuster. You`ll be a failed president. The currency of the presidency should not be spent on this. And he famously said, then what the hell is the presidency for?

And so, they`re both men of Congress. In fact, Biden said, I`m so glad to be back here. And LBJ said, on this Hill, that was my home. I am stirred by old friendships. They both waited their whole life for this. And they both exhibited in the first 100 days, unexpected boldness about the role of government. So, I think there`s a real comparison in the aspirations of these two men.

WILLIAMS: Johnson, of course, had something like a 36-seat majority, some incredible number to deal with. And it was obviously in the vacuum of LBJ - - of JFK`s death, it was a different matter for him to get passage of what he wanted. You have a theory on Senates of the past, Senators of the past, and why we see little or no crossing over in the modern era to go vote with the other side, if you agree that it`s good for the country.

GOODWIN: Yes. You look back at the makeup of the Senate in those days when LBJ was trying to get bipartisanship. And a great majority of the senators had been in the war, either in World War II or the Korean War. So, they were veterans. They were used to having that common purpose that allows you to cross lines.

I mean, he never could have gotten the filibuster broken were not for the Republicans, because the Democratic Party is split in two. So we needed the Minority Leader Everett Dirksen. And he goes to him, you know, he says, Everett you bring some Republicans on this bill with me. And you`re going to remember 200 years from now like Abraham Lincoln. It`ll be Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen. But 22, Republicans crossed the line to join those 44 Democrats and break the filibuster.

So there was a sense of wanting to do something for your country. I mean it`s not just nostalgia that was solved back then. And that made it much easier to get it done. And then once he runs for office, as you point out, and he wins on the role of government, that`s really what his mandate was looking for in 1964. And he had done well with the civil rights bill. He`d also gotten a tax bill through incredibly, in that day, it was a tax cut. That`s what Liberals before, Conservatives were against it.

So we`d been successful in that first period of time. He wins the landslide election. And then as you say, of course, he`s got a big majority. But even then he knows the window of opportunity is small. So he better operate right away. And he says to all his White House dep., get off your asses. I may lose this quickly, when there`s a narrow window here. So we got to get everything through. And by God he did, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, housing reform, immigration reform, voting rights, NPR, PBS, permanent landmarks honor, but then he lost seats in the midterm election in `66. The war was escalated, and that narrow opportunity was gone.

So I think Biden has that same sense of urgency right now. Do what we can while we have it.

WILLIAMS: Final question. Is it up to you historians to remember the appeasers? And by that, I mean, what we`ve just witnessed from virus deniers to those who were with the insurrectionists, to those Republicans who have used their public office to push in public out loud, Russian talking points inside our institutions.

GOODWIN: I mean, absolutely. There`s no question when historians look back at this period, what happened on January 6th, what`s happening with the virus not having become a shared purpose, but people denying that the virus is even the virus? I mean, those are facts that are going to be looked at with great disfavor by historians many, many years from now.

I wish I were one of them, looking back on it and seeing that, finally, we came together. We were able to beat this virus and help other countries, just the way as he said the arsenal of democracy could become the arsenal of vaccines. That`s my dream, as we did in World War II. And maybe we can do again with other countries, helping our technological breakthroughs to be shared by them.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think there`s a news media role in keeping the collaborators front and center as much as they want to try to change the past and the narrative.

Our thanks to the historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin, always a pleasure. Great to see you. Someday, again, it`ll be in person.

Coming up for us after a break, honoring a friend of our broadcast who is being recognized for his good works around the world.



JOSE ANDRES, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN FOUNDER: We need to recognize that on top of the health crisis and economic crisis, the reality is that right now we have a hunger food crisis in America.


WILLIAMS: That was at the height of the pandemic back in December. We spoke with Chef Jose Andres about his work feeding those struggling during the pandemic. He recently sat down with our colleague Jose Diaz-Balart as part of a special series of reports across the networks of NBC News about those who are inspiring America.

In the segment, the chef and humanitarian talks about the drive behind his world Central Kitchen effort, particularly following natural disasters.


JOSE DIAZ-BALART, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: In Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, you fed more than 3.5 million people. How do you succeed without a plan, but with just heart, passion, and compassion?

ANDRES: Well, it`s not complaining about what`s wrong. Gather some friends, gather some food, and start cooking and feed anybody who`s in need of a better food. Just helping one person is a very big dream itself. Do that and I do believe America will always do better, empathy will always win the day and where we the people will always accomplish so much more than either person.


WILLIAMS: By the way after natural disasters, the chef and his people often arrive before FEMA gets there, so Chef Jose Andres speaking with our friend Jose Diaz-Balart. You can see the full NBC News special, Inspiring America tomorrow night 8:00 p.m. Eastern on your local NBC station. Luckily it will re-air Sunday night 10:00 p.m. Eastern on this very network.

Still ahead for us tonight the question that needed to be asked of this White House.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, assuming no one objects to a light ending after a heavy week, there is still a major outstanding and unsettled question for the Biden White House. And it`s about Major is he as we`ve been told a very good boy who did a bad thing. Is he about to get a non-dog sister? Craig Melvin went there after his interview truthfully on more pressing matters with the President earlier this week, once they had both been joined by the First Lady.


CRAIG MELVIN, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Is he back in the White House? Is it --

JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s back, yes. He is such a sweet lovable dog. He really is.

MELVIN: Isn`t it, because I`ve heard that he`s --

JILL BIDEN: He is. I`ll take you to meet him. He`s probably outside now.

MELVIN: And then there were these rumors that the first family was considering adopting a cat.

JILL BIDEN: Oh, yes. And that is true.

MELVIN: Is that true?


MELVIN: Can you confirm that?

JILL BIDEN: Yes. He`s waiting in the wings. She, she is waiting in the wings.

MELVIN: Was this really Mr. President?


MELVIN: So let me get this straight. That means your Biden who`s clearly had some trouble adjusting the life for the White House. Now he`s going to be forced to contend with a cat as well --

JILL BIDEN: Well, that was part of his training. They took him into a shelter with cats.

JOE BIDEN: The Secret Service --

JILL BIDEN: Yes. And so and he did fine.


WILLIAMS: Little something for everyone who has known the love of a dog or a cat to take us off the air tonight.

That is our broadcast for this Friday evening 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.