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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 4/5/21

Guests: Julie Pace, Irwin Redlener, Michael Schmidt, Nekima Levy Armstrong, Jami Hodge, Kimberly Atkins, AB Stoddard


: Senate parliamentarian allows Democrats to avoid GOP filibuster on two more bills. COVID cases are again rising in U.S., even as more states roll back restrictions. The United States has been averaging around 64,000 new cases a day of the virus over the past week. The CDC says it`s a seven percent increase from the week before. There have now been more than 560,000 COVID deaths in the United States. Today, more than 38,000 fans crowded into a stadium in Arlington to watch the Texas Rangers home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. "The New York Times" points out it is the largest crowd at a U.S. sporting event in more than a year. "The New York Times" reported the DOJ investigators are examining whether Congressman Matt Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. In a defined op-ed in the conservative "Washington Examiner" today, the Florida representative denies any wrongdoing. There was more critical testimony today in the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott turned down an invitation to throw the first pitch at the Texas Rangers` home opener.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Tim O`Brien gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thank you, Tim. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams.

Day 76 of the Biden administration. And tonight we`re following several important developments on the pandemic and the President`s infrastructure plan.

But first, there was more critical testimony today in the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Jurors heard from the emergency doctor who tried to save George Floyd`s life and from Chauvin`s former boss, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo the prosecution asked Arradando at what point should the restraint against Floyd have ended.


CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that that should have stopped. There`s an initial reasonable that`s trying to just get him under control over the -- in the first few seconds. But once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive, and even motionless to continue to apply that level of force to a person preowned out, handcuffed behind their back, that that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy, it`s not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.


VELSHI: We`re going to have much more on the significance of today`s testimony coming up. But on the pandemic front, COVID cases are again rising in this country, even as more states roll back restrictions.

Today, more than 38,000 fans crowded into a stadium in Arlington to watch the Texas Rangers home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. "The New York Times" points out it is the largest crowd at a U.S. sporting event in more than a year. The United States has been averaging around 64,000 new cases a day of the virus over the past week. The CDC says it`s a 7 percent increase from the week before.

Just today, over 65,000 new cases were reported and more than 400 deaths. There have now been more than 560,000 COVID deaths in the United States.

This morning, the CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warned of new virus outbreaks that are tied to children.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We`re learning that many outbreaks in young people are related to youth sports and extracurricular activities. According to CDC guidance, these activities should be limited. But if they are not, the risks of clusters can be pervading -- can be prevented with cadence testing strategies as are being rolled out in so many different places.


VELSHI: There is good news on the vaccine distribution front. On Saturday, more than 4 million people received the vaccine. That`s the highest one day total since the rollout began. And about 17 percent of the U.S. population has now been fully vaccinated.

Then there`s a continued follow up for Congressman Matt Gaetz, after "The New York Times" reported the DOJ investigators are examining whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. In a defined op-ed in the conservative "Washington Examiner" today, the Florida representative denies any wrongdoing adding, "Folks won`t be surprised that bizarre claims are being made about me shortly after I decided to take on the most powerful institutions in the Beltway, the establishment, the FBI, the Biden Justice Department, the Cheney political dynasty, even the Justice Department under Trump." Gaetz also said he`s absolutely not resigning.

Meanwhile, President Biden is upping the pressure for his nearly $2 trillion infrastructure package, while some in his own party are now pushing back. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said today that he would not support a key part of the plan that raises the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent. Now, Manchin did say the rate should be 25 percent.

"The Washington Post" reports Biden`s infrastructure package is being hit from all sides writing, "The proposal has been panned by Republicans for significantly raising corporate tax rates and denounced by some liberals as insufficient for the scale of the problem posed by climate change."

Earlier today, Biden was asked about his infrastructure plan.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to push as hard as I can to change the circumstance that we can compete with the rest of the world, compete with the rest of the world. Everybody around the world was investing billions and billions of dollars in infrastructure, and we`re going to do it here.


VELSHI: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Monday night, Michael Schmidt, Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Correspondent for "The New York Times" who was one of the first to report the controversy surrounding Congressman Gaetz. Julie Pace, the Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press. And Dr. Irwin Redlener, the Founding Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness who advises us on public health. Good evening to all of you.

Julie, let`s start with you and the infrastructure plan as it stands right now. There has been a development, and that is that it was dependent upon the Senate parliamentarian to determine whether or not a plan like this could pass with 50 votes or whether it actually needed 60 votes. The Senate parliamentarian has come down in a faction that supports President Biden`s plan.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: And that`s really significant because Biden needs basically to keep his whole party together, Democrats and that very narrow majority that they have. And that could end up being enough for him. But I do think that it`s really important as we think about infrastructure. This is going to be a much longer process than what we saw with that COVID relief bill earlier this year, which really sped along quickly.

And this is going to take a lot of negotiation. Yes, Biden will try to do some negotiations with Republicans, but you referenced Senator Manchin. There`s a lot of negotiations that have to happen within the Democratic Party even with the parliamentarian ruling in this way.

VELSHI: Dr. Redlener, I want to play for you what Dr. Michael Osterholm told us just recently about what is going to happen with the pandemic. Let`s listen to it and talk on the other side.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CTR FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIV. OF MINNESOTA: We will see in the next two weeks the highest number of cases reported globally since the end of the pandemic, in terms of the United States, we`re just at the beginning of this surge, we haven`t even really begun to see it yet.


VELSHI: Irwin, you know, I lost track of exactly when he said that. It was on Sunday on meet the press these days all blend together for me. You and I spoke this weekend as well. But he`s warning about the highest number of cases reported globally since the beginning of the pandemic. And we`re seeing -- we were seeing an increase almost all across the country.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Yes, so I`m not surprised at what Michael was saying. All of us are very worried. There`s a whole bunch of reasons for this. One of these sort of crazy juvenile behaviors of, I don`t know, frat parties, which has a couple of weeks ago caused 180 students at Duke to get tested positive and that data shut down the campus. We have wild goings on the Florida beaches for spring break.

But even more disturbing in a way are these official, inappropriate relaxations of public health guidelines. I mean, today`s game by the Texas Rangers and a completely packed full stadium was really the governmental equivalent of crazy antics during spring break. Very inappropriate, very reckless, and I`m afraid Michaels entirely right, we`re about to see a monster of a surge. That`s not even counting what we might see from variants, new variants of the virus that will be a terrible challenge to the vaccines and our public health control methods. So, we got a lot to worry about and it`s coming right up.

VELSHI: Michael Schmidt, I was intrigued to read Matt Gaetz`s op-ed in the "Washington Examiner" today. To some it seemed almost Trumpian, his defense. He not only said that his accusers were not telling the truth, but he went and sort of named all sorts of forces rallied around -- you rallied against him in Washington.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Gaetz really so far taking a Trumpian playbook to the scandal that has unfolded in the past week, in that piece attacking the media saying that it was because he has stood up to the swamp, as you`re pointing out and quoting earlier in the program.

And you know, in many ways, it`s not surprising a lot of the people closest to the president, when they`ve gotten in trouble have tried to behave like the president, and have tried to use the tactics that he successfully used. One of the biggest differences that when Donald Trump was president, because he was president, he had so many more powers to essentially obstruct investigations and protect himself. Matt Gaetz obviously does not have that as a member of Congress. He`s tried very hard to create distractions from this story.

And interestingly, sometimes, you know, listening for what you don`t hear is -- there has not been a groundswell of support from his colleagues, his Republican colleagues in the House or on television. And you know, that remains to be seen whether Matt Gaetz will have to suffer a political consequence before that, how long these Republicans will stay with him. They say that if he were to be indicted, he would come off of his committee assignments. But we`re still pretty early on in this federal investigation, so it`s not really clear.

VELSHI: Julie, let`s talk about the situation at the border. There`s polling that indicates that Biden`s having trouble sort of across the country in terms of approval rating on how he`s handling things at the border. Twenty-four percent approve of his job of handling the border, 40 percent disapprove, and 35 percent neither approved nor disapprove. What do you make of that?

PACE: This poll is really interesting. This is from the AP and our partners NORC. And what`s interesting to me about this immigration polling is that it`s in such contrast to the polling that we see around Biden`s handling of the pandemic. And actually, his overall job performance is at about a 60 percent overall job performance approval rating, 73 percent approval rating on the pandemic, half of Republicans support his handling of the pandemic. But when you look at his handling of immigration, those numbers get much more partisan, you see that Republicans overwhelmingly disapproving, Democrats more in favor than Republicans, but also with some skepticism about the situation at the border.

And I think this is why you are seeing Republicans trying to push this issue over all else. They feel like this is going to be a weakness. They feel like this is where they can take advantage of the politics of immigration. Biden, of course, would much rather focus on the pandemic, given that the vaccine is rolling out much more smoothly right now. And again, a pretty decent chunk of Republicans actually support his handling of the pandemic at this point.

VELSHI: It`s an interesting poll, and that nearly as many people don`t have an opinion on it as disapprove. A third of the people polled don`t have an opinion on the matter. What do you -- to what do you attribute that?

PACE: I think some of that is people are still waiting to form their opinions of the Biden administration. We saw this in this poll on a range of issues. There`s almost a sense that people are just waiting a little bit. Maybe some of that is giving Biden a chance to figure out what his policy is. He`s only been at office 70 something days as you mentioned.

And I think the -- what the Biden administration and certainly Republicans are going to try to do is shaped those numbers. Those people who don`t have an opinion yet, they`re the target, shaped their opinion in the coming days and weeks.

VELSHI: Irwin, Julie talks about the fact that Biden`s doing better, obviously, in terms of approval with his pandemic response. You have -- you`re an expert on kids, we have the CDC director come out and talk about the possibility that this virus is being spread by kids. We`ve also had good results on the vaccine trials, as they relate to people under 16 or 18, depending on the vaccine that we`re talking about.

REDLENER: Yes, right. I think we have -- we do have things to worry about that are not able to query from the evidence, including how much children aren`t transmitting, and how important it`ll be that there are variants out there that might in fact be more dangerous to children. We just sort of have to wait and see a lot of information that we don`t know yet about the variants. But I think there`s a lot going on here.

But it`s interesting that you`re pointing out, Ali, that the President continues to very well on polling with respect to the pandemic than he is on the immigration issue. By the way, that immigration issue as far as unaccompanied minors and children are concerned, it`s really kind of a third rail for anybody because the problems are so vexing and so difficult to solve. There`s something even more straightforward, though, and I think that`s good about dealing with the pandemic, lots of challenges, but an entirely different kind of issue at all.

VELSHI: It`s interesting that you say that, that the pandemics possibly easier to deal with than the concept of unaccompanied minors. It`s how you and I met talking about asylum seekers and refugees in another part of the world, and your area of expertise was in fact these children. It wasn`t about children at the U.S. border, it was in Europe and in the Middle East. What`s your take on what should be happening?

REDLENER: On the border? Yes, so, Ali, I think we have to really amp up our ability to place children, unaccompanied minors, all over the country. I was actually proposing that every state be asked to take between 500,000 unaccompanied minors that would really relieve the pressure on the border. And then we have to work on the root causes of why are children -- unaccompanied children coming here? Why are families coming here?

And there`s a lot that we have to know about the push and pull of people coming in across the U.S. Southwestern border. A very, very difficult problem with lots of ins and outs and lots of root causes which we can`t seem to get a handle on. But for the immediate term, Ali, I think we ought to be imposing fun every state in America to take a certain number of kids and keep them safely until they could be permanently placed. And that may be one way of defusing the tension in those detention centers that right on the border being run by Border Patrol and ICE.

VELSHI: Michael, so with these issues that Republicans in Washington have to deal with, the pandemic, the immigration issue, the issue of the infrastructure bill, how do they avoid becoming consumed either on one side by the Matt Gaetz issue, or on the other side with what we`re seeing Governor Abbott in Texas and Governor Kemp in Georgia, carrying on about with respect to the Florida, the activities that corporate America has been taking against the Florida, the voting actions in Georgia.

SCHMIDT: Well, I think if you look at the rhetoric that they`ve tried to use in the, you know, during the Biden administration, they`ve sort of struggled to find a way of attacking the President as a way of sort of undermining him, as you know, the economic moves that he has taken, the pandemic moves that he has taken, have been very popular with the American people. It doesn`t seem like the Republicans really want to come and work with this president. So, that is sort of left them issue list and rudderless in many ways. They`ve fallen back on arguments about canceled culture. You know, someone like Matt Gaetz has painted himself, you know, as a victim of the media and of these larger forces at work in Washington.

So, you know, I still don`t think they know what they want to do and who they want to be in the sort of post Trump presidency era. Obviously, the president -- the former President Trump still looms largely over them. They`re incredibly loyal to him. They look like they`re still trying to follow his playbook. But I think it`s going to take many, many more months to see really where they can gain traction, and how they can really try and reassert themselves because without controlling the White House or Congress, they, you know, they -- it`s been a real sort of, I think.

VELSHI: Thank you to the three of you for kicking us off tonight, Michael Schmidt, Julie Pace and Dr. Irwin Redlener, we appreciate your time.

Coming up, more on what may have been the most significant day yet in the trial of former cop Derek Chauvin as his own police chief testifies against him. And later, Matt Gaetz says, "The battle for America`s future demands gladiators." And he`s not backing down. I`ll ask two political experts if he`ll stay in the arena let alone win.

"The 11th Hour" just getting underway on a Monday night.



ARRADONDO: It is my firm belief that the one singular incident we will be judged forever on will be our use of force. And so, while it is absolutely imperative that our officers go home at the end of their shift, we want to make sure and ensure that our community members go home too. And so, sanctity of life is absolutely vital that that is the pillar for our use of force.


VELSHI: That`s the Minneapolis police chief who testified today that Derek Chauvin absolutely violated department use of force policies. Chief Medaria Arradondo told jurors nothing jumped out at him when he first viewed the incident from a city camera across the street, an image very much like the one that is on your screen. He didn`t see the video that everybody else saw this image.

So, thanks to one of my next guests. So, he later did see the bystander video the violent incident up close.


ARRADONDO: A community member had contacted me and said, Chief, almost verbatim, but said, chief, have you seen the video of your officer choking and killing that man at 13th in Chicago? And so once I heard that statement, I just knew it wasn`t the same milestone camera video that I had saw.


VELSHI: For more, we welcome to the broadcast former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jami Hodge, a veteran of the DOJ Office of Legal policy. She also advised the Office of then Vice President Joe Biden on criminal justice and drug policy during the Obama administration. And Civil Rights Attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, she is a former president of the Minneapolis Chapter of the NAACP and a scholar on racial justice. We believe she was also the community member who alerted the police chief of the bystander video to which the chief just responded.

Nekima, you spoke to the chief, you communicated this to him. He hadn`t actually seen that imagery that the rest of the world at that point was starting to see. Tell me a bit about that exchange.

NEKIMA LEVY ARMSTRONG, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Yes. So, on the evening of Memorial Day, I got a call or I`m sorry I got a Facebook tag from a woman who had lost her husband to police violence, letting me know that police had killed someone. So, I reached out to the chief. And I asked him if Minneapolis police had killed someone that evening. And he said to his knowledge someone had died as a result of a matter when they were being taken into custody. That was the extent of what we knew.

And so, I took back -- I went back to social media, I commented part of the Chiefs comments. And then I said we need to see some video of what happened. And the next thing you know, that same woman tagged me and the bystander video that has now been seen around the world. And so, I then call the chief and told him that he needed to see that video immediately.

VELSHI: Jami, what do you make of the police chief`s testimony? He -- it`s just unusual in a case like this. The police chief has come out and basically said that everything that the prosecutor said in their opening statement week ago is not really true. He was not trained nor authorized to do what he did to George Floyd.

JAMI HODGE, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Now, this is an -- it`s a very big deal to have officers testifying against their own and here a supervisor testifying against one of his own. And I think what it speaks to is the horror of what people witnessed in this bystander video. It broke down that blue while of silence, that conscience requires taking a stand and speaking out and telling the truth. And so it`s a big deal that there are so many officers who are taking the stand. And just being very clear, no, this is not consistent with our training. This is not what we are charged to do and what the community expects of us.

VELSHI: And Nekima, you have seen a number of police officers, including training officers and the senior most member, the longest standing member of the Minneapolis police force, and this police chief who was thought to be a good police chief to start with. One of the problems with the Minneapolis police has been its union leadership and how they have prevented that sort of change and progress from going on, that problem still continues after this. So, regardless of what happens to Derek Chauvin, do things really change in Minneapolis, a place that has been fraught with bad policing for a while?

ARMSTRONG: Well, one of the things that changed recently as a result of community pressure was the former president of the Police Federation, Bob Kroll, who was a Trump supporter who helped foment a lot of hate and negativity, who called Black Lives Matter a terrorist group, and who defended killer cops. He actually was forced to retire in January. And that was after, again, intense community pressure. We even went to his home and protested outside of his home in a suburb about 20 minutes from Minneapolis. And so, that`s a huge shift.

Beyond that, I think that the chief is setting the tone for the rest of the department as well as chiefs across the nation to use their voices to speak up, to challenge the status quo, and to say what will and will not be tolerated within the Minneapolis police department. This is unprecedented, and it needs to happen time and time again with police chiefs across the country.

VELSHI: Jami, I want to underscore that this is still the prosecution`s case, this is not gone to the defense yet. The defense did lay out elements of its case, and a lot of it does depend on the idea that Derek Chauvin was trained to do and was authorized to do -- use the force that he used. Today we heard from Inspector Katie Blackwell, who`s a police training commander, has known Derek Chauvin for 20 years. Let`s listen to what she said.


KATIE BLACKWELL, MINNEAPOLOS POLICE TRAINING COMMANDER: Use of force according to policy has to be, you know, consistent with MPD training for policy. A neck restraint is compressing one or both sides of the neck using an arm or leg, but what we train is using one arm or two arm to do a neck restraint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how does this differ?

BLACKWELL: I don`t know what kind of improvised position that is. So, it`s not what we train.


VELSHI: It`s remarkable what she said, I don`t know what kind of improvised position that is. So it`s not what we train. That is directly contrary to what the prosecution said the jury is going to hear and understand. What do they do about that? They`ve now got the chief and the training inspector contradicting their case.

HODGE: Ali, I can do it here. But referencing the defense opening statement, right, that it was the defense saying that this is what Derek Chauvin --

VELSHI: I`m sorry, you`re right. Yes, thank you.

HODGE: Yes, that Derek Chauvin was trained to do this. So, this, you know, puts a huge hole in the defense case. We have to remember, though, you know, and the standard isn`t that the defense has a burden, the burden really does just live with the prosecution. So, technically defense, they don`t have to put forward a case. It`s the burden completely live on the prosecution.

But when you choose to put forward a case as they did, this testimony is very devastating. It`s clear, again, coming from your own, that this is not consistent with the training. And I think bottom line, what this shows us is that training is not going to solve these issues, that in order to truly get justice, and to make sure that we don`t continue to have the killing of unarmed black people by law enforcement, we`re not going to train our way out of this problem that required the epidemic (ph) change.

ARMSTRONG: Absolutely.

VELSHI: Yes. And that`s not something that a trial itself is going to -- is going to solve. Thanks to both of you for being with us tonight. Jami Hodge and Nekima Levy Armstrong, thank you.

Matt Gaetz says he is not a monk, but he`s not a criminal either. Question is, can he still be a congressman? Two veteran political observers weigh in when The 11th Hour continues?


VELSHI: As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz remains defiant tonight. He`s quote absolutely not stepping down, end quote, and this is interesting. In his op-ed in the Washington Examiner, he makes this assertion, although I`m sure some partisan crooks in Merrick Garland`s Justice Department want to pervert the truth and the law to go after me, I will not be intimidated or extorted. The battle for America`s future demands gladiators and I am going to keep getting back up and fighting every single day, end quote.

The thing is this. The investigation into possible sex crimes actually started while Bill Barr was the Attorney General under Trump. Back with us night Kimberly Atkins. Previously both WBUR and the Boston Herald, now a member of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. She`s one of the co-hosts of the podcast, Sisters in Law with Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks and Barbara McQuade, and AB Stoddard, veteran Washington journalist and associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics. Good evening to both of you.

AB, let me just start with you. Because Matt Gaetz came out swinging in this op-ed swinging literally everybody, the establishment, the FBI, Merrick Garland`s Justice Department, the Cheney political dynasty. He targeted everybody except Trump. And Trump hasn`t chimed in on this yet. What do you make of that?

AB STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: Well, I think this learning the hard way that everything he`s heard for four years about Trump`s loyalty going one way is really true. Trump has said nicer things about Roy Moore than his silence about Matt Gaetz is translating.

But I think that it`s true in the discussion that you were having before that, this op-ed is literally the handbook of Donald Trump that Matt Gaetz like Donald Trump is a rich kid who`s took care of his problems. And you can tell in both his interviews with Tucker Carlson and this op-ed that he really believes, you know, he can just talk his way out of this problem that he has the right to.

But the line in the op-ed, that is, is so telling about this era, and how much Trump has changed the party is that is that line where he says they`re not coming for me, they`re coming for you.

VELSHI: Right. Right.

STODDARD: And that is exactly what Trump tells his voters, he says, tomorrow, they`re going to buster your door and accuse you of sex trafficking. And believe me, they have the power to ruin your life. And that is the theme of Matt Gaetz, his response to fight, double down, deny, dismiss, and tell the voters I`m fighting for you, I`m actually going to be fine. But they`re going to destroy this country, and they`re going to destroy you.

And, you know, he -- you can see, by the way that after how badly the Fox interview went, and he would even write this op-ed is indicative of the fact that he wants to keep talking and I don`t think this is the last time we`re going to hear from him.

VELSHI: And Kimberly`s very strange, I remind people, you are trained as a lawyer, this is just weird. Whether it`s defiance, or it`s the death of shame, either there`s an investigation and there`s something there or there isn`t. I don`t know, who would have told Matt Gaetz that this is the right approach. But for him, it`s working for the moment.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, THE BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Well, he believes so anyway, I mean, if I were a defense attorney, and he were my client, I would advise him to say nothing. Because anything that he says can and will be used against him. What we hear in those TV legal shows is absolutely true. And I think AB is right, we`re on the same wavelength, maybe because we share a birthday.

But this -- what you see here is a through line, which I think begins in the locker room talk how that infamous statement by Donald Trump was dismissed as locker room talk. And then the first thing I thought of too was Roy Moore, the fact that Donald Trump created the playbook that you stand by, you deny, and as long as you`re denying it, you can just push your way through and try to withstand the political fallout. And that`s exactly what you`re seeing Matt Gaetz doing, even though Donald Trump himself is not defending him here.

It really -- there was a time not very long ago that this would have ended political career charges. This serious would have ended a political career. But that is no longer the case. And it`s -- this turnaround game. You`re putting it back on Democrats canceled culture and all this other stuff. That`s nonsense. It`s just this attack mode. But that is what -- that is what Republicans have right now.

VELSHI: AB, what is happening, what is the party preparing for in terms of its response, either as a party or in terms of congressional leadership? What are they thinking about right now?

STODDARD: Well, I think you can see from Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader that he wants to wait until the facts come out. They`re all waiting to see what Donald Trump will say about Matt Gaetz, to be sure. But then they`re not going to take any action on his committee assignments until and unless there`s some kind of indictment or some kind of, you know, the facts come down in ways that they can no longer dismiss.

But, you know, you only have two people defending him. You have everyone else staying silent. He doesn`t have a lot of friends in Congress. He`s made that clear himself over the last couple of years. And he`s sort of this outlier, and he loves it.

But I don`t I just don`t see anyone standing up the way that Kimberly describes, like, in the old days, they would say, when asked by local press or back home by their voters, they would say this is, of course extremely distressing. And, you know, I hope this isn`t true. Everyone is mute, and not saying anything, because there`s just no longer a threshold or level of intolerance after Donald Trump that Republicans adhere to. Everything goes. And so I think that`s why you hear the silence. I don`t -- I think he`ll be here a long time until there`s an actual legal outcome.

VELSHI: Both of our guests have kindly agreed to stay with us a bit longer. Thank you for getting us started on this. Coming up. Despite the growing costly fallout, Georgia`s governor refuses to back down on the voting restrictions he signed into law when The 11th Hour continues.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: There`s a big law (ph) underway that somehow voter restrictions that were enacted by the Georgia legislature the other day, that didn`t happen. It didn`t happen. And I found it completely discouraging to find a bunch of corporate CEOs. Getting in the middle of politics. My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics.


VELSHI: Top Republicans pushing back against corporate outrage surrounding GOP voter suppression efforts. More than 200 corporations issued a joint statement denouncing republican efforts to restrict voting rights that has GOP leaders very upset. So much so that Texas Governor Greg Abbott reviews refuse to throw out the first pitch at the Rangers home opener tonight. He`s protesting the MLB decision to move the All Star game out of Atlanta after the governor there signed into law despite what Mitch McConnell says some of the strictest rules in the country.

Back with us Kimberly Atkins and AB Stoddard. Kimberly, this got serious pretty fast. I kind of want to remind people that most of corporate America did not move on this until they were threatened by organizers of voting right efforts in Georgia to get on the right side of it. In fact, a number of corporations came out with the wrong statements initially, then after it was signed into law. They all piled on.

It is kind of interesting. I want to show you this NBC headline culture war strain once unshakable bond between Republicans and corporate America hearing the now minority leaders say my advice to corporate CEOs is to stay out of it. They have typically not wanted corporate CEOs to stay out of it.

ATKINS: No, they haven`t. They`ve been very protective of corporate CEOs until in this case, corporate CEOs are acting out of the interest of their bottom lines, out of the interest of the values that they want to express when that goes against Republicans.

Again, this is an exercise in the free market, the free marketplace of ideas and the free market of companies acting in a way that they think is responsible. But Republicans love that idea until it`s against them.

And I was really struck by Mitch McConnell, following the outcry over these very restrictive voting laws, let`s be clear, these are voted, these are restrictive voting laws. This is codified voter suppression. And he`s calling the fact that we are calling it that the big lie, when the big lie is what Donald Trump told all of his millions of followers, that there was some sort of fraud. It`s the very Republican election officials in places like Georgia that had to call Donald Trump out in that and said, no, that election was carried out without fraud.

But because people are so upset about it, now, we have to go and impose these laws, when courts have already found that a lot of these laws like restrictive voter ID laws are, quote unquote, surgically strategically surgical precision, in order to try to suppress the votes, particularly black and brown, folks.

So we see this for what it is, but we`re seeing Republicans trying to twist themselves in knots and turn it upside down to make it into something different.

VELSHI: AB we`ve seen corporate pressure on states when they`ve come up with laws that these CEOs have decided through their risk management is not good for their business. We saw it in Indiana with Mike Pence. We saw it in North Carolina with the transgender bathrooms. But let`s just listen to Governor Kemp here for the moment he`s not backing down. Let`s listen to what he had to say.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: In the middle of a pandemic, Major League Baseball put the wishes of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden ahead of the economic well-being of hardworking Georgians who were counting on All Star game for a paycheck. Georgians and all Americans should know what this decision means. It means cancel culture and partisan activists are coming for your business.


VELSHI: AB it`s what you were talking about earlier. Don`t worry about me. They`re coming for you next. Is Kemp and are a lot of other Republicans like Abbott, are they misjudging the mood right now?

STODDARD: I actually think both sides are because Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden were not on the same page on a boycott, which is a consequential and dramatic act with ripple down unintended consequences in this case that are going to affect small and minority owned businesses in the very workers that the Democrats in Georgia want to protect. So that in terms of messaging was a mistake.

Again, the corporations, why didn`t they get involved before the bills were passed? Why after? And then you look at Republicans. And I think Brian Kemp is sensing an opening there. And so he`s the, you know, really feeling that this is a good position to be in as someone who`s trying to run for governor next year, with a target on his back from Donald Trump.

So he`s appealing to Republicans in his state and maybe some independent voters who think that this is the wrong thing to do just to boycott -- it boycotts effect in the in the end, like I said, workers and that is -- that`s a bad it`s a false choice, and if the bad move. So take advantage of the division within the Democratic Party.

On the other hand, on the Republican side, I don`t, I mean, I think they`re trying to roar very loudly, including Governor Abbott, because this is the culture war of the moment, and it resonates so much with their voters. But I don`t see that Republicans are going to actually carry through on their threats to retaliate through government power in the corporate, in the private sector to try to take away anti-trust protections. Are they at the same time actually protecting corporations and opposing Biden`s infrastructure proposals? Of course they are. Where are their contributions that come from in the future? Do they really believe that they`re going to be able to generate most of their political donations from small dollar donors like Trump does --


STODDARD: -- once he`s out of the picture? I don`t think so. And so I think both parties are grappling with unintended consequences from the positions that they`re taking in the moment.

VELSHI: Yes. Thank you for your analysis, both of you. I appreciate and Kimberly Atkins and AB Stoddard.

Coming up, why the importance of good infrastructure just got real for some folks in Florida. We`ll have more on that when The 11th Hour continues.


VELSHI: Parts of Florida remain under a state of emergency tonight a reservoir in the Tampa Bay area is on the brink of collapse. Manatee County, Florida officials say the wastewater pond has the potential to unleash a 20 foot wall of toxic water over hundreds of nearby homes. NBC News correspondent Sam Brock is on the ground in Florida and has the latest. Sam.


SAM BROCK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over0: Tonight disaster hanging over hundreds of Florida homeowners.

FORREST WILLIAMS, FLORIDA HOMEOWNER: It`s catastrophic that we`re dealing with this situation that should have never, ever happened.

BROCK: Crews rushing to pump wastewater from a leaky reservoir into the Gulf concern it could burst at any moments unleashing 300 million gallons of contaminated water into homes and businesses.

WILLIAMS: The reservoir lets go and it puts enough force that it demolishes a home and removes it from its foundation scares the daylights out of me.

BROCK: Today concerns of a second breach ultimately proved to be a false alarm in a reservoir already gushing saltwater mixed with nitrogen and ammonia. Officials say it is not radioactive.

(on camera): More than 300 homes are in the evacuation center 140 in this area alone. As you can tell from all the cars residents tell me half the people in them aren`t leaving, including Jay Caldwell.

JAY CALDWELL, FLORIDA HOMEOWNER: My garage is pretty fall. But all the like important stuff has been moved upstairs.

BROCK (voice-over): County officials deploying extra drones to monitor developments in real time and helping to triple the water getting pumped out.

SCOTT HOPES, MANATEE COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR: 35 million gallons a day to 100 million gallons a day or more pulling it out.

BROCK: Complicating matters, the environmental impact of dumping all that water into the already polluted Gulf.

GLENN COMPTON, MANASOTA-88 MAINASOT A-89 CHAIRMAN: So the elevated levels of nitrogen, the elevated levels of phosphorus that have already been released, are most likely going to have algae blooms in Tampa Bay.

BROCK: In area`s still unsure of what lurks in the hours ahead.


BROCK: Manatee County officials say if they are able to hit that 100 million gallon per day level of control discharge it`s possible that within 48 hours, Ali, will be avoiding the worst case scenario of seeing a breach or rupture. And then that wave of water coming into communities. Here in Palmetto, San Brock, NBC News. Back to you.

VELSHI: We`ll stay on top of that with you Sam Brock, thank you. Coming up, why soda drink has suddenly become a political question. We`ll explain when the 11th hour continues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is that get you --

DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Or get you a Pepsi? One or the other? I`d have to be. Any other cola companies I should mention, right? But it gets you something.


VELSHI: All right. The last thing before we go tonight brings us back to the intersection of business and politics. On the business side we have a tangible cultural touchstone. In the early 20th century looking for a way to distinguish its brand from imitators, the Coca Cola Company challenged glass makers across the country to create a bottle quote, so distinct that you would recognize it by fill in the dark.

The result of that search is a bottle with a look and feel that is now synonymous with the brand itself, a shape so famous it`s been immortalized in art by the likes of Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. And the shape that we know is well known by the nation`s only twice impeached former President.

Trump`s love in particular of diet coke in the iconic glass bottle was given special attention earlier this year by the Washingtonian in a piece detailing the strict instructions that came with serving the former commander in chief at the BLT prime restaurant in his Washington DC hotel, quote, the server was to hold a long neck bottle opener by the lower third of the handle in one hand, and the Diet Coke also by the lower third in the other. Once poured, the drink had to be placed at the President`s right hand side, repeat until POTUS departs, end quote.

So you can imagine the sadness felt at Mar-a-Lago when Coca Cola called out Georgia Republicans for their attack on voting rights, thus forcing 45 to boycott the Coca Cola Company and call for his backers to do the same. But did he do both of those things. We know he told the Magna faithful to call it quits with Coca Cola but did he call it quits with Coca Cola.

Today, the architect of the former administration`s Muslim ban and family separation policy, visited an office that is not oval shaped. And he shared this photo, leaving a lot of people asking, what is that hiding behind the telephone on the desk? Well, what do you think it is?

That`s our broadcast for this Monday night with our thanks for being with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.