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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 4/6/21

Guests: Katie Benner, Ashley Parker, Yodit Tewolde, Paul Butler, David Plouffe, Tim Miller, Rob Davidson

Summary

Rep. Matt Gaetz is now under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking. Tonight, "The New York Times" reveals Gaetz was looking to get a blanket pardon from former President Trump. Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old or paying for sex. Amazon`s Jeff Bezos comes out in support of tax increases to fund the Biden infrastructure plan. White House is now racing to get as many COVID shots in arms as soon as possible. We`re now into the fourth straight week of rising infections as states continue to roll back restrictions on gatherings and events and as more of us resumed traveling. Late today, President Biden announced he`s bumping up his deadline by two weeks for states to make all adults in the United States eligible for vaccines. President Joe Biden praises companies for condemning attacks on voting rights. Senator Mitch McConnell tells CEOs to stay out of politics. Minneapolis lieutenant who trains officers in use-of- force testifies in the Derek Chauvin case.

Transcript

-- to bringing pressure to bear on standard, or shall we say, kind of traditional conceptions of what this country is or what it`s supposed to be. This political violence laws isn`t going anywhere. That`s the warning that we see.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Professor Eddie Glaude and Professor Christina Greer get tonight`s last word. Thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

"The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

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

Day 77 of the Biden administration and there is breaking news about Trump acolyte Matt Gaetz, the Florida Congressman now under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking.

Tonight, "The New York Times" reveals Gaetz was looking to get a blanket pardon from former President Trump, "In the final weeks of Mr. Trump`s term, he privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed. Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws. Mr. Gaetz did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations when he made the request. Aides told Mr. Trump of the request, though it is unclear whether Mr. Gaetz discussed the matter directly with the president," end quote.

"The Times" adds that Trump White House officials quickly rejected Gaetz`s request. Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old or paying for sex. And a spokesman told "The Times" Gaetz did not privately request a pardon in connection with the continuing Justice Department inquiry. Yet in the final weeks of the Trump presidency, the Florida congressman did make this curious suggestion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: President Trump should pardon Michael Flynn, he should pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. He should pardon everyone from himself to his administration officials to Joe exotic if he has to, because you see from the radical left a bloodlust that will only be quenched if they come after the people who worked so hard to animate the Trump administration with the policies and the vigor and the effectiveness that delivered for the American people. So, I think that the president ought to wield that pardon power effectively and robustly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Ironically, tonight`s new reporting comes as Politico says Trump and his allies are trying to put some distance between themselves and Matt Gaetz, and that neither Trump nor anyone in his circle is rushing to Gaetz`s defense. However, a pro-Trump women`s group is promoting Gaetz appearance this Friday at an event at the former president`s Doral resort.

And Gaetz appears to be fundraising off the controversy. In an email to supporters he accused the media of, "publishing lies to drag me down and trying to drag my dating life into their political attacks."

On the pandemic front, the White House is now racing to get as many COVID shots in arms as soon as possible. We`re now into the fourth straight week of rising infections as states continue to roll back restrictions on gatherings and events and as more of us resumed traveling. Late today, President Biden announced he`s bumping up his deadline by two weeks for states to make all adults in the United States eligible for vaccines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re still in a life and death race against this virus. On March the 11th I announced that I was opening up all vaccination sites to all adults by May 1. We`re moving that data from May 1 to April 19 nationwide.

In every part of this country, every adult over the age of 18 or older will be eligible to be vaccinated. No more confusing rules. No more confusing restrictions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Right now, about half the states allow anyone 16 and up to get a shot. As of tonight just over 17 percent of Americans or adults have been fully vaccinated. The U.S. is now averaging over 3 million vaccinations a day.

Just before Biden`s announcement this afternoon, the governor of California, the state that has reported the most cases in the U.S., said it would fully reopen its economy June 15, about 10 weeks from now if the state`s COVID numbers remain stable.

Meanwhile, there`s a growing debate over a potential vaccine passport. Today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott banned them in his state and a similar mandate came from Florida`s Governor.

There`s also big news concerning the fallout from Georgia`s new laws restricting voter access. Major League Baseball announced July`s All Star game will be played in Denver following its removal from Atlanta in protest of the Georgia law.

Today, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, traditionally a big supporter of corporate free speech slammed companies like Coca Cola and Delta for speaking out against the law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: Republicans drink Coca Cola too, and we fly. And we like baseball. This is a pretty competitive political environment in America, as I just pointed out a 50-50 Senate. If I were running a major corporation, I`d stay out of politics. I think this is quite stupid to jump in the middle of a highly controversial issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: This afternoon, the President was asked if the PGA Masters Tournament should also leave Georgia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I think that`s up to the Masters. It is reassuring to see that for profit operations and businesses are speaking up about how these new Jim Crow laws are just antithetical to who we are. There`s another side to it too, the other side to it too is when they in fact move out of Georgia. The people who need the help the most, people are making hourly wages sometimes get hurt the most.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Tuesday night. Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Katie Benner, Justice Department Reporter for "The New York Times," she has been reporting extensively on the Gaetz controversy since "The New York Times" first broke the story. And my good friend and partner Stephanie Ruhle with us, the host of the 9:00 a.m. Eastern hour of MSNBC. Stephanie Ruhle reports in MSNB -- in NBC News, Senior Business Correspondent.

Welcome to all three of you. Thank you for being with us.

Katie, let`s start with you in this news that Matt Gaetz may have been sniffing around for a pardon, a blanket pardon. Give some sense of what the timeline was. Was he aware that the Justice Department was looking into his affairs at that point when he asked for that pardon? Do you know if they`re connected at all?

KATIE BENNER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER: What`s interesting about the timeline here is that we saw Bill Barr in February, last February say any investigations that involve sensitive political matters that could swing the election, we will take a pause on those as per usual and not revisit them that take any obvious investigative steps until after the election. Remember, the election was not officially called for Biden until mid-November.

So, you do not see the FBI start taking big investigative steps like interviewing witnesses on any of these major political investigations, including the Gaetz investigation until after that time. And that is right around the time that Matt Gaetz starts talking about pardons, these blanket pardons.

We don`t know how much he knew. We don`t know how much he was informed. We don`t know what the White House was informed. But we just know that he really felt like this would be a good idea and that people in the White House ultimately pushed back saying a preemptive pardon would be going too far.

VELSHI: Who else knew about this? We know that the attorney general knew about it. We know that Donald Trump was certainly consulted about this pardon. But do we know how sort of well-known this issue around Matt Gaetz was?

BENNER: We don`t know how long the issue around Matt Gaetz was. But we do know by December that the FBI had started to interview witnesses. And so, no matter how well known it was, certainly you can assume that as more and more witnesses were interviewed, sort of around the holidays, and later and through January, that that would have gotten back somehow to people close to Matt Gaetz if he was paying attention to his own friends and colleagues.

VELSHI: Ashley, let`s talk about Matt Gaetz and his influence, he seems to be highly influential in the Trump circle. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2016. He does not seem to have been a sort of a stalwart within party ranks. Prior to that, he doesn`t seem to be that well-known for that sort of thing. But he was really well-known on T.V., he was out there being pretty Trumpian for the last few years.

ASHLEY PARKER, "THE WASHINGTON POST" WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: That`s exactly right. Your summation is pretty dead on. Matt Gaetz was someone who, once the Trump era started, you sort of looked up on cable news, and you saw him there. And you know, who else saw him there was President Trump. And that`s really how their relationship started. The president calling Matt Gaetz after some of his T.V. hits, where he was a very vocal defender, even on some of the controversial issues where the President didn`t have that many defenders and that`s where the bond really formed.

And then Matt Gaetz, you know, he writes in his book that he took calls from Donald Trump and Donald Trump is someone who is known to pick up his phone much to the chagrin of his aides when he was president and call members at all times, in nightclubs, on his car, while sleeping, and the relationship just kind of went from there and beats with someone who`s sort of road mega world for all it was worth.

VELSHI: Stephanie, for those people in Washington not thinking about Matt Gaetz and thinking about this infrastructure bill, the President is working to sort of win over lawmakers on this.

There is also some response from corporate America. I want to just read you this quote from Jeff Bezos at Amazon. He says, "We support the Biden administration`s focus on making bold investments in American infrastructure. Both Democrats and Republicans have supported infrastructure in the past, and it`s the right time to work together to make this happen. We recognize this investment will require concessions from both sides, both on the specifics of what`s included as well as how it gets paid for, we`re supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate."

What do you make of that warm hug from Amazon around this infrastructure deal?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Listen, I mean, I think there`s some level of a rock on with your bad self, Jeff Bezos. Now how about getting Amazon to pay more in taxes? One of the ways the Biden administration is looking to pay for this infrastructure plan is to your point raising corporate taxes. We`re already hearing pushback from all sorts of multinational companies from the Business Roundtable that has pushed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to push this idea of a global minimum corporate tax rate, where she`s saying let`s stop this race to the bottom where companies are looking for headquarters in lower tax countries, in this race to the bottom for cheaper labor.

However, Janet Yellen has a whole lot of respect and influence around the world. But her ability to get other countries, I`m talking China, Russia, or tax havens around the world to raise up their corporate tax rate it`s not going to happen. So, yes, it`s a positive to hear someone like Jeff Bezos say this, but we`re going to have to have a lot more leaders realize that this could be a long term, very good move for the American people and for the American economy.

Can I also just say one other thing?

VELSHI: You brought Janet Yellen, she wants everybody -- yes, go ahead, friend.

RUHLE: Because Ashley was mentioning Matt Gaetz saying he spoke to President Trump and in many, many places. In Matt Gaetz his book, he actually said, the President has called me when I was in my car, asleep in the middle of the night, on my Longworth office caught on the throne, on airplanes, in nightclubs, and even in the throes of passion parentheses. Yes, I answered. That`s a quote from Matt Gaetz`s book.

I just want to put into context. That`s who we`re talking about that. That is what his mindset is, in terms of what he thinks is appropriate. I just want to leave that one there.

VELSHI: Yes. Let me just ask you about Janet Yellen. You mentioned her. She is sort of said she wants say that the world should embrace a sort of a minimum corporate rate to -- a corporate tax rate to avoid a race to the bottom. That`s what you were sort of talking about that China and others are not likely to go ahead with that.

RUHLE: Of course not, Ali. Think about countries that advertise. That`s what -- they want to get business saying we are a tax haven. So, I understand why Janet Yellen wants to do this. But her ability to do it is going to be slim to none.

VELSHI: Ashley Parker, the president trying to -- it was the thing he did from the day he was sworn in. He wants to get this pandemic under control. We`re averaging 3 million jabs in arms a day. We had 4 million the other day. But he`s up against a lot of governors and local municipalities and springtime and a bunch of vaccinated people and people who are tired of being shut in at home who want to get out there. He is -- this is the race of the vaccine against the virus right now.

PARKER: It`s a very delicate two step that he is doing. We thought today yet again when he made those remarks, but he is trying to celebrate what he has to celebrate hitting his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days far surpassing it. People said it was a low goal, but he`s on track to potentially do 200 million vaccines by then, that`s something to celebrate.

He was announcing today that he was moving up by about two weeks. The eligibility for all American adults to not get their shot, but to get in line and be eligible to get a shot. He wants to celebrate that. He wants to take credit and he wants to sort of imbue a little hope into the ether to give voters in the public something to hope for.

Yet at the same time he is also warning quite accurately that now is not the time to relent there. There are new variants, there is vaccine hesitancy, there are people who still want shots and can`t get shots. There are tremendous discrepancies in the communities of people who can and can`t get shots. And so, you see him kind of trying to do both here and saying we can -- we can celebrate soon, maybe the Fourth of July, maybe in small groups, but not quite yet and we still need to do our part.

VELSHI: Katie, I`ve had a bit of a palate cleanser since Stephanie talked about Matt Gaetz on his throne and in the throes of passion, but part of your reporting is that you this investigation --

RUHLE: talking to Trump.

VELSHI: -- came out of an investigation into your cut off Stephanie Ruhle came out of a probe into a Florida tax collector, the Seminole County tax collector, Joel Greenberg, who is in jail awaiting trial.

There`s some speculation that the feds are putting pressure on him. He`s got, I think, 30 plus charges against him right now to provide evidence against Matt Gaetz. What do we know about his situation and what he`s up to?

BENNER: Yes. The situation is very serious for Joel Greenberg. You know, the Justice Department first indicted him last summer. They subsequently indicted him at least two more times, the most recently this year adding additional charges around accusations that he defrauded one of the COVID relief lending programs and that he did that while he was out on bail.

If you look at the charges against him, he is facing, I believe, 12 years mandatory minimum in prison, at least 10 for the child sex trafficking charge. That is a tremendous amount of pressure being put on Joel Greenberg. Now, all eyes are on a hearing. A status hearing, it`s coming up this Thursday in Orlando in his case.

People are wondering what his lawyer is going to say, if his lawyer is going to acknowledge the additional pressure, if the lawyer is going to continue to say my client is innocent, and we`re going to trial. No matter what he says Thursday, it`s going to be so widely watched that the judge in the case has already waived restrictions on reporters bringing in electronics, because he got so many requests. So, this is going to be a very well watched status hearing to see what Greenberg will do.

VELSHI: Hey, Stephanie, I saw a tweet of yours the other day where you said, you know, with American corporations as it relates to Georgia and voting rights, not so much political opinion as it is risk management. They understand the risk of boycotts and people saying, hey, you need to speak up and do something about this. They`ve done this before in North Carolina with the transgender bathroom ban, they did it in Indiana with gay marriages. It`s not -- it`s not a weird first that Mitch McConnell is making this seem like.

RUHLE: Not at all. And Mitch McConnell is saying that these companies are being political. You know, they used to side with Republicans, now they`re siding with Democrats.

I like to make something clear, CEOs aren`t siding with any political party, they side with business. They want to make sure their customers are continuing to do business with them that their employees aren`t quitting. And if those two things are happening, then their shareholders will be happy. They don`t give a hoot about politics. And where America is, is not happy with what`s happening with voting laws in Georgia.

But one thing to think about is how boycotts actually work and who they impacted. It`s something Georgians are thinking about. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, we`re talking about her earlier tonight with our colleague Ari Melber with Major League Baseball, taking the All-Star game out of Atlanta, a city that has 30 percent of its small businesses owned by African Americans, a city that`s 50 percent African American as opposed to Denver, that`s 9 percent. It`s going to be a huge short term blow to the Georgia economy to move the All-Star game out of the state come July. And so, yes, these companies are trying to do positive things for long term positive social movements, social action changes, and that`s a positive but in the short term, it`s going to be economically painful for Georgia.

VELSHI: Thank you to the three of you for kicking us off tonight. Ashley Parker, Katie Benner and my partner Stephanie Ruhle, great to see you again.

Coming up, the defense has its best day yet at the Derek Chauvin trial. But is it enough to leave a reasonable doubt with the jury? A former federal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney join us next.

And later, why is one state head and shoulders above everyone else in new COVID cases, we`ll ask a doctor on the frontlines there tonight.

The 11th Hour just getting underway on a Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTOR: Would it be appropriate and within training to hold a subject in that prone restrained position with a knee on the neck and a knee on the back for an extended period of time after the subject has stopped offering any resistance?

LT. JOHNNY MERCIL, MINNEAPOLIS DEPARTMENT USE-OF-FORCE INSTRUCTOR: No sir.

SCHLEICHER: Or has lost their pulse?

MERCIL: No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Testimony got very technical today in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. That man who you heard, Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Johnny Mercil is in charge of the use of force training at the department. During cross examination, the defense yet again referred to the crowd that watched the fatal encounter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC NELSON, DEFFENSE ATTORNEY: Now in terms of the continuation of use of force, and we`re talking about involvement of onlookers, right? The words they use matter, correct?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: If they`re cheering on and saying good job officer, that`s one consideration, right?

MERCIL: Right.

NELSON: But if they`re saying, I`d slept -- or your -- or you`re a chump, would that reasonably tend to rise alarm in a police officer?

MERCIL: Yes, sir.

NELSON: I have no further questions.

SCHLEICHER: If they`re saying, get off him, you`re killing him, should the officer also take that into account and consider whether their actions need to be reassessed?

NELSON: Potentially, sir, yes.

SCHLEICHER: Nothing further.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: For more, we welcome to the broadcast Yodit Tewolde. She is a former prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney and host of "Making the Case" on the "Black News Channel." And back with us again, Paul Butler, a former federal corruption prosecutor at the Department of Justice, currently a professor at Georgetown Law. Welcome to both of you.

Yodit, let me start with you. The defense has on a daily basis, either made some case of the fact that there were bystanders, on lookers, who you can hear in some of these videotapes, you can see in the video, and the fact that they were very frustrated with the police as part of their case that that affected the judgment of Derek Chauvin and the other police officers. What do you make of that that argument?

YODIT TEWOLDE, FMR. PROSECUTOR: I think that that argument is falling flat. It`s ridiculous. And I think that it`s going to hurt them with the jurors because what they should be focusing on is the stronger defense of causation. What cause George Floyd to die? That is at least a stronger defense, an argument that they can make that makes sense.

What these jurors are going to do is look at that videotape. Again, I`ve got to bring up that juror number seven who had a mental crisis, a mental health crisis, and she was so exhausted from the evidence and videos and from, you know, the different angles that she was watching and just the trauma of it all. The bystanders in what they were testifying to. She needed a break.

So, just imagine what those bystanders were feeling in that moment in this ridiculousness, it`s about this mob, they are crazy angry threatening group of people, who we just literally saw what that looked like on January 6 on our Capitol is absolutely ridiculous. They were words, fine, but at some point did they try to hurt the officers? No. They actually had one officer holding them back. So, this was a crazy angry mob.

Did you think that you`d have way more officers holding them back? The arguments ridiculous. And it`s going to, one, lose credibility for the defense attorney. And when a jury doesn`t like the defense attorney, that tends to spill over into actual defending. So, we should just focus on what the stronger argument is. I mean that`s passage (ph).

VELSHI: Paul, you know, it is interesting, because we can watch this video and see the crowd. And you can see that at no point did the police sort of suggest that the crowds getting out of control. But the defense attorney in your opinion, was able to introduce the idea of what was going through Derek Chauvin`s head without having Derek Chauvin testify.

The idea that he might have been distracted by the crowd. The idea that at some point his knee was on George Floyd`s shoulder blade, not his neck. And the idea that it was somewhat chaotic. Tell me how you think that worked in terms of the defense ability to sort of give you a bit of letting entree (ph) into Derek Chauvin had without having Derek Chauvin say it.

PAUL BUTLER, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR: Yes, Ali, that`s exactly right. The defense had its best day since the trial started. So, they`re using these police witnesses to get Chauvin`s story in front of the jury. Even if Chauvin himself never takes the stand.

Look, a defense attorney is not going to score a knockout punch against an officer who has experience handling cross examination. So, Nelson just wants to get some missions that he can spin for the jury in his closing statement. So, Lieutenant Mercil testified that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd shoulder, not neck, when the paramedics arrived. The defense made a big deal about the crowd size. But today, Officer Nicole Mackenzie testified it`s harder for officers to focus, when there`s a lot going on around them.

It`s possible that these statements could steer the jury towards thinking about manslaughter rather than murder for conviction. But make no mistake, the prosecution is presenting an exceptionally strong case.

VELSHI: Yodit, you and Paul are used to these cases, which you know on T.V. you only see the interesting parts of them, but they go on all day, every day. They`ve got a lot of detail. There`s a lot of setup. They establish people`s qualifications and credentials. According to the poor (ph) reporter today, one juror appear to be sleeping at some point during the trial today, I don`t know if we`ve been able to confirm that. Is there a fear of these trials becoming too technical for the jury? Or at least just too tedious?

TEWOLDE: Yes. I mean, so yes, we`ve heard officer after officer pretty much saying the same thing in terms of whether Chauvin use that`s abusive. And sometimes that can be redundant. And yes, when you start getting into the expertise now, the battle of the expertise especially when it comes to medical evidence, that is going to probably bore a lot of the jurors. And that`s why they tend to cancel them out, because they don`t understand what it is that they`re saying and they fall back into what they seen and what they heard. And that`s that video.

I got to go back to the video, though. When we talk about these bystanders and they could have been threatening, can we not remember how many officers, Derek Chauvin`s own colleagues from department saying what they would have done, this isn`t from a reasonable person`s perspective, it`s from a reasonable officer`s perspective in what they would do under the same circumstances. We heard several officers say, I still would have been able to do my job. You`ve heard an EMT saying I still would have been able to do my job.

And there was nine minutes and 29 seconds of this video and not one thing was thrown in that -- in the direction of the officers. No one tried to lunge at them. No one tried to get close other than trying to help George Floyd. So, the idea that one juror could even buy into this, even though that`s what the defense wants, one person to have some doubt. I think it`s absolutely ludicrous. And I think that they`re losing credibility.

But we can`t forget that this argument is just, they`re grabbing for straws. They have no --

VELSHI: Paul, last word to you.

BUTLER: There have been 8 police officer witnesses, that`s a lot. Yesterday, the judge warned that the testimony is getting cumulative.

You know, Ali, prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. But that does not mean the more witnesses the better. It`s risky to go on and on. If the jury does not understand now that Chauvin did not follow police regulations at this point, another witness is not going to help them.

So, if I were prosecuting this case, I would edit my witness list. The next phase will be a bunch of medical experts providing forensic evidence about cause of death. The jurors will like the prosecutors more if they don`t present eight witnesses saying the same thing.

VELSHI: Thanks to both of you is a complicated trial you`re helping us understand it. Yodit Tewolde and Paul Butler, we appreciate your time tonight.

Coming up we`re going to dig deep into the GOP`s curious battle with corporate America all over letting more Americans simply vote, when The 11th Hour continuous.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I think it`s a very tough decision for a corporation to make or group to make. But I respect them when they make that judgment. And I support whatever judgment they make, but it`s the best way to deal with this is for Georgia and other states to smarten up. Stop it. Stop it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: More from the president today after Major League Baseball`s decision to move the All Star game from Atlanta to Denver over Georgia`s new restrictive voting law.

Today, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order to try to combat SB202. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, quote, the order will enact efforts to develop a plan within the city`s authority to expand opportunity and access to the ballot box.

Earlier on this network the mayor explained what that means.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA MAYOR: The rules of the game have been changed and it`s so important that people understand the parameters that we are now forced to operate in it in the state of Georgia. So we send water bills out, for example, to thousands of customers, residential and business customers not just in Atlanta, but in surrounding areas.

So we are going to educate people on how you can get the ID that you need to register to vote, what are the new rules or the absentee ballot -- on absentee ballots, and just provide as much information that we can to help counter of what`s been done at the state level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Back with us tonight, David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager and senior advisor to President Obama. He`s also on the board of directors of the Obama Foundation. And Tim Miller, a contributor to The Bulwark and former communications director for Jeb Bush. Good evening to both of you.

David Plouffe, on one hand, Atlanta is just one piece of Georgia. On the other hand, Democrats winning the nine counties around Atlanta have been the sort of the biggest pickup in terms of democratic votes in Georgia. So talk to me about the thing that Mayor Keisha Lance bottoms is trying to do, is this meaningful? Is it the beginning of a movement that other cities will pick up in Georgia? Or is it a band aid?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, it`s meaningful, because I think everything you can do to reach your voter and educate them about the changes, make sure they`re prepared is going to be helpful.

But Ali, my bigger concern, and there`s so much that`s offensive in this language. It`s all built on Trump`s big lie. He`s out there saying he wish this had been in place before the election so that he could have, you know, been able to accomplish his aims of stealing election.

My biggest concern, though, as odious it is to make it harder to registered to vote, is this opens the door to the Georgia legislature if they don`t like the outcome of an election to overrule state election officials. And make no mistake, had this law been in place prior to last November. I think there`s a real question whether Joe Biden would have carried the state that he legitimately won, and whether there would have even been a Perdue-Ossoff run off.

And this isn`t just about Georgia. And that`s why corporate voices and local municipal leaders getting involved is so important. This is now going to be the standard that Republican elected officials think they have to meet in other states.

And so this is an existential moment for our country to democracy. I have some sympathy for companies during the Trump presidency every day hate wasted time having to figure out should we respond to this or that, but there are some things that have pretty bright lines. And I think our democracy is at stake this isn`t just Republicans or Democrats disagreeing about how we registered and how we vote. The entire enterprise now I think is it under direct threat.

VELSHI: Tim, the bright line about what corporations can do, Mitch McConnell tried to draw that line today sort of said contributions to candidates or PACs that you like are fine. Talking about it is not. Let`s listen to what he had to say. I`d love to get your comments on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: I`m not talking about political contributions. Most of them contribute to both sides. They have political action committee, that`s fine. It`s legal, it`s appropriate. I support that. I`m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don`t like a particular law that passed. I just think it`s stupid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Tim, what do you make of that?

TIM MILLER: THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it was marginally better than what he said yesterday, which was that the government should got punished corporation to speak out, so I guess it`s an improvement.

Look, Ali, this is thing that is so crazy about all this. None of this is new like corporations engaging and making decisions based on what`s happening in politics is not something that just started yesterday. It`s just the Republicans are now on the losing side of this, you know, for the first time in a while.

You know, and look, corporations move states because they like the lower taxes. They moved from California to Texas, Texas Republicans brag about that. They think that`s a good thing. You know, corporate CEOs speak out on things that matter to them, school choice, they speak out on things that affect their bottom line, you know, Coca Cola in the past spoke out against, you know, bottle bills and recycling regulations those going to cost them money. Republicans agreed with that one that. Democrats didn`t.

So I -- this is not new. It just the Republicans and Mitch McConnell are now hurt their feelings or heard about it because corporations are saying no, you guys have crossed the red line the David laid out, and now they want corporations to shut up when it`s not convenient.

VELSHI: Let`s see if he says something different when we can catch up on it tomorrow, guys. Thanks very much for being with us. David Plouffe and Tim Miller, thank you both.

Coming up, as Michigan battles a surgeon COVID cases getting shots in arms is critical and political. As one ER doctor will explain when The 11th Hour continues.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: We know what it takes to stay safe. I -- it`s not a policy problem that we have. It is a compliance. It is a problem that we have. It is a mobility issue that we`re confronting. It is fatigue that we`re confronting and its variants frankly.

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VELSHI: A combination of factors is being blamed for the alarming surge in COVID cases as hospitalizations now increase in Michigan. The state is second for highest confirmed total of the U.K. variant just behind Florida. As of yesterday, any Michigander over the age of 16 can now receive the COVID vaccine. And tonight nearly a quarter of all state residents are now fully vaccinated. That`s higher than the national average.

Back with us tonight, Dr. Rob Davidson. He`s an ER doctor in Western Michigan and the executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare. Rob, good to see you again. What is in your opinion causing the increase in cases in Michigan to be so much higher than the average of increases we`re seeing across the country?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: The I think what Governor Whitmer said there is absolutely spot on. I think variants are part of it, I think pandemic fatigue but I also think it`s, you know, been a year now and the continued politicization of this virus. I think in the state of Michigan in particular we`ve seen throughout this time we saw a plot against the governor to kidnap her and murder her. We see protests at the Capitol with you know, armed insurgents essentially conspiring it would same with our state -- Senate majority leader. We`ve got our state Senate and state House have sued our governor to take away powers.

We now have people suing her because she wants to have student athletes tested on a regular basis for Coronavirus because those seem to be the source of many of the current outbreaks. So it`s just been a challenge. I know in my area, we have some informal polling saying up to two-thirds of people don`t even want to get the vaccine. So, there`s a lot of things at play here.

VELSHI: Dr. Davidson, I want to ask you about a Michigan State Health Department report that 246 fully vaccinated people in your state contracted the Coronavirus between January and March. A spokesman says these are people who tested positive 14 or more days after the last dose of the vaccine series. What do you make of that?

DAVIDSON: Yes, they`re still investigating exactly why those people contracted the virus and why I think three of them have died, and all of those people who died were over 65. Was there something about their immune response about them in particular, they`re trying to find that out, but it`s definitely concerning. It`s a reason despite what Senator Rand Paul would say that we should continue to wear masks until our entire population is adequately vaccinated against Coronavirus. You know, until we`re all protected. I don`t think any one of us can take solace in the fact that we got our shot.

VELSHI: In Los Angeles, the LA Times has a headline that there`s been a double mutant Coronavirus variant caused or found in California. I didn`t know a thing like that can even exist. Is that common in viruses? And how worried are you about that?

DAVIDSON: Listen, I think they sound terrible, right, double muting any kind of mutation. The reality is, the more of the virus transmits in our community the more it`s out there, the more we have a risk of these mutations happening. And perhaps one of them or a few of them really taking off then becoming a dominant strain becoming more virulent, becoming more deadly.

And so that`s why we have to get more people vaccinated. That`s why we have to wear masks. We have to keep the social distancing going so we can stop that threat. We never get to that point. And we can actually get through that tunnel. We`ll keep talking about seeing the light at the end of.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about young people. You mentioned that earlier. What role are young people being out and around things playing in the spread of the virus right now?

DAVIDSON: We`re seeing throughout our hospital system, I know our hospitalizations in the past week and a half have more than tripled, but they`re much younger people in general. They`re people in their 50s. We`re seeing many of the outbreaks happening in the state amongst student athletes in their teens, middle schoolers and high schoolers why our governor has instituted a testing policy for these folks. I have a son who`s a student athlete who`s going to be tested every week at least.

And so, yes, they`re driving some of these current numbers. Fortunately, they`re less susceptible to getting, you know, severely ill or to dying from the virus. But we need to stop that spread against -- again, because of the mutations and again, because we don`t want to get more vulnerable people infected and those folks are the ones who get really sick and die.

VELSHI: Dr. Rob Davidson, good to see you again. Thank you. My friend, Dr. Rob Davidson, is an ER doctor --

DAVIDSON: Thanks Ali.

VELSHI: -- in Western Michigan. Coming up, as the number of migrants at the border grows the story of one little boy underscores how dire the situation there can be that`s when The 11th Hour continues.

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VELSHI: The number of migrants taken into Border Patrol custody last month has topped 170,000 and tens of thousands of those were unaccompanied minors. Their stories are similar to that of one 10-year-old boy from Nicaragua discovered frightened and all alone in rural Texas. Chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell has his story.

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ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It`s heartbreaking to watch a young boy approaching a US border patrol agent last Thursday in the middle of the desert alone and sobbing.

Can you help me he says. I was coming with a group and they abandoned me and I don`t know where they are. They left you alone the agent asks, they abandoned me he says adding his parents were not with him and he was afraid of being kidnapped. It is just the latest shocking video of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border.

Last week surveillance cameras capturing a smuggler tossing three and five year old toddler girls from Ecuador over a 14 foot border fence, then running away. Incredibly, the two sisters were uninjured.

Part of the record migrant surge after President Biden changed border policy allowing unaccompanied children to stay in the US.

GLORIA CHAVEZ, EL PASO SECTOR CHIEF PATROL AGENT, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PATROL: We are encountering so many children about 100 a day here in the El Paso region, that are just turning themselves in.

MITCHELL: There are currently more than 19,000 unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody, more than 4,000 held by the border patrol in severely overcrowded detention facilities like this one in Donna, Texas, where they`re packed shoulder to shoulder in a pandemic.

(on camera): Tonight, the Border Patrol is telling Telemundo that the boy is safe and one of their facilities. The next step would be trying to reach his parents as the record breaking number of unaccompanied children continue to cross the border.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VELSHI: Thanks Andrew Mitchell for that report. Coming up. One of the things that`s been different around the West Wing these days we`ll explain when The 11th Hour continues.

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VELSHI: The last thing before we go tonight is about the changes that happen in Washington when a new administration comes to power. There are dogs at the White House again, no one is suggesting that COVID could be fought by ingesting disinfectant or ultraviolet light in White House briefings, and the relationship between reporters and the White House press secretary no longer resembles a WWE steel cage match.

Another thing that`s changed for the press covering the White House, the number of leaks coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. As the Washington Post reports, quote, reporters drank lustily from the firehose of leaks that emanated from the West Wing during the past four years.

President Donald Trump`s inexperience and chaotic management style but got West Side Story level infighting amongst subordinates, which translated into the drip-drip-drip of insider accounts. Since then, the pipeline has gone dry. One White House reporter called Biden`s White House, effectively a leak proof operation.

But some of the previous administration`s most embarrassing headlines came from leaks and it`s clear that the people who were leaking and the reporters writing about it lived rent free and the former presidents head

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DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: The leaks are absolutely real, that the news is fake. I want the Attorney General to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like, rarely have they ever leaked before.

We got to stop the leaks. The leaks are very dangerous for our country.

I think a lot of leaks aren`t leaks. They`re made up by the writers. They don`t exist the leak.

This city is like the leaking capital of the world.

There`s no country in the world that leaks what like we do, and Washington is a leaking machine.

I`ve watched Adam Schiff leak. He`s a leaker like nobody`s ever seen. We have leakers all over this place.

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VELSHI: We have leakers all over the place. That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night with our thanks for being with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.