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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 4/7/21

Guests: Nahid Bhadelia, Melissa Murray, Joyce Vance, Mike Murphy


Federal authorities are looking into GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz`s travel to the Bahamas, whether women were paid to travel for sex. President Joe Biden is set to unveil six executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence. Biden hits Republicans knocking his infrastructure plan. U.K. COVID variant is now dominant strain in the U.S. Confirmed U.S. COVID cases tops 31 million. It`s day eight of testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial. Defense focuses on Floyd`s possible drug use. Georgia faces more backlash over election law. Joe Manchin said that he will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. Former President Donald Trump endorses Mo Brooks for Alabama Senate seat. Brazil reports that they have recorded over 4,000 COVID deaths in just 24 hours.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Mayor Kim Janey, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want you to come back during the campaign to talk about more of the issues facing the city. We really, really appreciate you joining us tonight.

JANEY: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: It is really an honor for me to say that Mayor Kim Janey gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams. Day 78 of the Biden administration. Tonight, brand new revelations about the federal investigation into Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, who remains under scrutiny for possible sex trafficking and an alleged relationship with a 17 year old girl.

A law enforcement official and another person familiar with the matter tell NBC News, the feds are looking into the Congressman`s visit to the Bahamas with women and specifically whether those women were paid to travel for sex, which would violate federal laws. The sources say investigators are also looking into whether Gaetz and one of his associates use the internet to search for women they could pay for sex.

Gaetz has denied ever paying for sex or ever having any sort of relationship with a 17 year old while and adult and Gaetz spokesman told CBS News which first broke tonight`s development that the story has turned into, "a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults."

The Congressman has been a rabid supporter of Donald Trump during his presidency and afterwards, never failing to back him in public.


REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: Donald Trump like all builders is a visionary. That which is built in the mind is even more powerful than the brick and mortar that holds it together. First comes the mind, then the making. First comes the vision, then the work.

My fellow patriots, don`t be shy and don`t be sorry, join me as we proudly represent the pro-Trump America first wing of the conservative movement.


VELSHI: Well, just last night, The New York Times reported Gaetz had approached the Trump White House about a blanket pardon in the waning days of the presidency while the federal investigation was already underway. It`s not clear if Gaetz was aware of the investigation at the time, however. Today the former President issued this statement. "Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him."

Note, the Times did not report that Gaetz had asked Trump directly for a pardon. The investigation into Gaetz stems from his connection to a Florida tax collector named Joel Greenberg, who`s currently jailed and is facing a host of federal charges, including sex trafficking. He`s already pled not guilty to an earlier set of charges.

Politico reports Gaetz described Greenberg as a wing man to some acquaintances and even promoted him as a potential congressional candidate. Now there are suspicions Greenberg might be cooperating with prosecutors to build a case against Gaetz. Greenberg has a court hearing in Orlando tomorrow. Stay tuned for that.

To the White House now where tomorrow Joe Biden will take his first major steps toward curbing gun violence. He`s expected to announce a series of executive actions on gun control following two recent deadly mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado. Among the measures rules to stop the proliferation of homemade ghost guns, which are weapons, largely made at home without traceable serial numbers. It`s also expected to nominate gun control advocate David Shipman (ph) to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The White House says Biden still intends to continue to work with Congress on the issue.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He`s also simultaneously going to continue to work with leaders in Congress on moving forward the two background bill, background check bills that are moving their way that have moved their way through the House to push for an assault weapons ban.


VELSHI: Today, the President was defending his more than $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan and he fired back at Republicans who are saying that this bill is too big and they`re objecting to the size of it.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: My Republican friends say that it`s -- many of them say it`s too big. They say, "Why not focus on traditional infrastructure, fix what we`ve already got -- the roads and the highways that exist and the bridges?" We are America. We don`t just fix for today, we build for tomorrow. In this recovery, the so-called -- before I became President -- this "K-shaped" recovery, where billionaires made $300 billion more dollars during this period. Where`s the outrage there?

I`m not trying to punish anybody. But damn it, maybe it`s because I come from a middle-class neighborhood, I`m sick and tired of ordinary people being fleeced.


VELSHI: Biden insisted that Republican opposition will not stop him making at least some of his plan a reality.


BIDEN: Debate is welcome. Compromise is inevitable. Changes are certain. We`ll be open to good ideas and good-faith negotiations.

But here`s what we won`t be open to: We will not be open to doing nothing. Inaction simply is not an option.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS: Will you have failed on your promise of bipartisanship if you don`t get Republicans on board with this plan? Your first plan passed along party lines.

BIDEN: I would have been -- I would`ve been prepared to compromise, but they didn`t. They didn`t move an inch. Not an inch.


VELSHI: The White House is also still grappling with the ongoing spread of the pandemic even as the rate of vaccinations grows. Cases are continuing to rise across the nation. The number of confirmed cases today top 31 million and there have now been more than 562,000 deaths. Five states Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey represent about 44% of all new infections. And today, the CDC Director warned that the U.K. variant is now the dominant strain of the virus inside the United States.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The B117 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States. We`re hearing reports of clusters of cases associated with daycare centers and youth sports. Hospitals are seeing more and more younger adults, those in their 30s and 40s.


VELSHI: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Wednesday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post, Errin Haines, a veteran of the Associated Press, who`s now the Editor at Large for the 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom focused on gender politics and policy, and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and the Medical Director of the Special Pathogens Unit at Boston University School of Medicine.

Good evening to all of you. Phil, let`s start with you and what`s going on with Matt Gaetz. Each day, every few hours, there seems to be some further development. But we still do not have any concrete action from the Department of Justice, nor any concrete response from Matt Gaetz`s colleagues in Congress?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: That`s exactly right Ali. We`ve heard very little from Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, the only real statement of quasi support would have been from President Trump down at Mar-a-Lago. But he wasn`t actually supporting Gaetz. He only said keep in mind that he has denied these allegations. But the story is getting messier for the Florida Congressman, that the reporting just tonight about the allegation that he had taken, perhaps paid escorts overseas across state lines, that is a very troubling development, obviously, if true, would be a violation of federal law. And I have to tell you, I imagine there`s a lot more in this case, and that investigators are currently trying to sort through and figure out than we`re aware of at this time, so I assume in the days to come, we`re going to learn more about the situation.

VELSHI: Errin Haines, we`re talking a lot about this infrastructure bill. But there`s something going on behind the scenes in Washington tomorrow, we are going to see executive action on gun control, something that Biden and others who are running for the Democratic nomination had said they would do if they can`t get congressional support. What do you make of this, this way of going forward on gun control?

ERRIN HAINES, THE 19TH EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, alley, I think it`s part of a pattern that we`ve seen emerging as we round this kind of first 100 days mark, you have the Biden-Harris administration, saying that they want to work in a bipartisan fashion, meeting with bipartisan lawmakers, both in Washington and around the country, mayors, governors and others, to try to get bipartisan support for this legislation. And, you know, barring that support, Democrat saying that they are going to move forward anyway, because they have the power to do that with control the White House and control of the House and a majority in the Senate. And so, you know, we`ve already seen with the passage of the pandemic relief plan. The Biden administration attempting to redefine bipartisanship, I think that you`re going to see a continuation of that here with this infrastructure plan. And by the way, they are also attempting to redefine infrastructure. You know, polling is showing that this is also a plan that seems to be popular with a lot of Americans, regardless of party, and that is whether you take the bill in total or whether you take parts of it like, you know, caregiving for instance, something that Republicans and Democrats support that we`ve written about at The 19th. And so, you know, I think you`re hearing, you know, the same thing that he was saying on the Pandemic Relief Plan, we can`t do nothing, and action is not an option. And so while he is leaving the door open and saying, you know, come and work with us, if you want. I think this is playing out, at least up to this point, the same way that the pandemic relief plan process played out on infrastructure.

VELSHI: When I heard President Biden talking about how Republicans are complaining, why don`t we just do traditional infrastructure, I almost felt like he had taken a page out of your writing, because you and I talked about this last week, where you said, in 2021, we need to think about infrastructure more broadly, than just the things we already know, we need to do like bridges and dams, and highways, but to think about the sort of the -- some of the softer parts of infrastructure that still have the same result in making America better and safer place to work?

HAINES: Yeah, I mean, he talked about infrastructure or something that has evolved, you know, over the history of this country. Infrastructure, you know, before we had the American highway system, nobody really envision that as being a part of our infrastructure, you know, the internet did not exist, you know, when our parents were growing up. And so what we need to think about in terms of, you know, what infrastructure will mean, especially some of the lessons that we`ve learned in the past year with this pandemic, the things that kind of must be in place in order for us to function as a society or, you know, some of the things that you were seeing in this bill, particularly the broadband issue for rural folks and things like caregiving, because again, if you have to think about or try to figure out how to care for a loved one, whether that be a child, who has to be at home for whatever reason, or an elderly loved one who has to -- who needs care, for whatever reason, until you figure that out, that is going to hamper your ability to either return to or remain in the workforce.

VELSHI: As much as a bad road or a highway that doesn`t work is going to.

Dr. Bhadelia, let`s talk about this U.K. variant which we are now believing to be the most prevalent strain in all states right now. This year, the person I come to when I don`t understand what I`m supposed to glean from this, tell me what this is supposed to mean to me?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN: Ali, this is something that we had predicted. If you remember back at the beginning of February, when we were seeing cases increase in the U.K., one of the concerns was that the presence that is very implied that when this spreads here in the U.S., which is only a matter of time and it takes a foothold, every time a person transmits this -- transmits or gets this disease, they`re more likely to pass it on to other people and people who get this new variant we now understand is not only more transmissible, but it`s potentially more lethal and may cause more severe disease. And so what you`re seeing here, which is exactly as predicted, is that because of the loosening of the indoor capacity and dropping up the mask, the pandemic fatigue, as well as in some states, the bad luck of having this variant, the B117 be introduced in many ways, and now becoming the variant that now, you know, just has an advantage, selective advantage over the other vial types, you`re seeing increase in cases and in cases in states like Michigan, increase in hospitalization.

The silver lining here, of course, is that we did not -- when we`re looking at this in February, we did not predict how incredibly revved up our vaccination rates are going to be, we still have a while to go. But, you know, that may have tempered some of that. But going forward, we truly have to balance the vaccinations and the decrease in community transmission.

VELSHI: But at some point, I mean, Joe Biden said, we`re going to have -- everybody will at least be qualified to get a vaccine by the middle of April, doesn`t mean everybody will get one. But ultimately, once everybody`s vaccinated with one of the major vaccines that we`ve got out there right now, do the variants that we know of right now matter, or will these vaccines halt those?

BHADELIA: So that is one part of the good news, B117, which is the dominant strain right now actually, the vaccines are not affected by it, the less dominant strains, the one that was initially discovered in Brazil, the B1 and the one that was initially discovered in South Africa, the B1351, those to affect stomach vaccine efficacy, but say, you are protected against all severe disease and hospitalizations, even with those various support.

Now, this looks good. The thing with increasing eligibility I think that`s a good idea because the Kaiser Health News survey as of a week ago says that lot more people have moved out of the column of wait and see, to want to get the vaccine for as soon as possible. The only thing we have to ensure is that eligibility is not the same thing as accessibility. So as we expand the eligibility, we want to make sure that our vulnerable populations are elderly. Those who do not have the same handle on the digital access and getting an appointment are not left behind. That`s the path ahead.

VELSHI: You need a bit of a Ph.D. to figure out getting a vaccine and some parts of this country.

Phil Rucker, let`s talk about this infrastructure bill a little more. It`s certainly not a slam dunk. You saw Kristen Welker asking the President whether he would go ahead with it, you know, even without Republican support, but there aren`t many votes to lose in the House or the Senate when it comes to going along with this very, very big bill?

RUCKER: That`s right, Ali. And when you look at the Senate, I mean, he can`t afford to lose a single democratic vote unless he`s going to be picking up Republican votes to support this infrastructure bill. And so far, what we`re hearing on Capitol Hill is a great deal of criticism from Republicans and some Democrats to have taken issue with some elements of this bill. The big question becomes how do you pay for all of this infrastructure spending? The White House is making an argument and the President made it himself today for why all of this infrastructure is so important, why it`s important to have rural broadband, why it`s important to have caregiving and these other sort of 21st century infrastructure programs.

But the question about taxes, President Biden wants to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, which is higher than certainly most Republican senators are comfortable with and higher than even some democratic senators have said they`re comfortable with. Joe Manchin from West Virginia, for example, a key swing vote in the Senate has said recently that he`s willing to raise that corporate tax rate to about 25%, but not higher. And so I think in the weeks to come, we`re going to see a lot of back and forth from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, members of Congress telling the White House what numbers they`re comfortable with, the White House coming back. And that`s the kind of sausage making process, the compromise that Biden was talking about today. And then the question really becomes whether he can marshal those votes to get this massive package over the finish line. If he does, it will be a landmark achievement for his presidency.

VELSHI: And when we will talk about for a very long time.

Errin, we are in the second week now of the trial, the Derek Chauvin trial, there was a question that was put to the President`s Press Secretary about the reaction the President might have, or what he will say at the end of this trial. Let`s listen together. I`d like to get your thoughts on it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President plan to address the country upon its conclusion?

PSAKI: The President has spoken about the death of George Floyd, the impact on him personally, quite a bit over the course of the last year. It certainly impacted his own -- redoubled his commitment to addressing racial injustice in the country and throughout the government. I certainly would expect we`d have a statement.


VELSHI: Errin, this is one of those things that it matters who the President is and what the President has to say about this, regardless of what the outcome of this trial is?

HAINES: Yeah, Ali, and you saw President Biden wade into the George Floyd killing as a candidate, right? Visiting Minneapolis, visiting with Gianna Floyd, George Floyd`s daughter and saying, you know, vowing to her that something was going to be done so that her father`s life was not in vain. And so, you know, that is certainly a moment that stuck with him, because he`s referenced it multiple times since last summer. He`s, I believe he`s reference it since he`s been in office, but you know, has talked about the need for policing reform. But the idea that he is paying attention to this trial and is invested in the outcome, especially as he has talked about, you know, his campaign. I think he believes that we probably are still in many ways in a battle for the soul of a nation in January 6, with any indication, you know, the racial healing that needs to happen. A lot of Americans see, you know, whatever happens with this trial as a big part of that.

VELSHI: Yeah, that that is a good point. He launched his campaign for president talking about the battle for the soul of the nation. Thank you to the three of you for kicking us off tonight, Philip Rucker, Errin Haines, and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, we appreciate your time.

Coming up, should the shouts from an angry crowd justify excessive force in the death of George Floyd? Two top legal experts break down today`s testimony. And later, as one of our guests puts it, Jim Crow era voting laws never explicitly said, this is to keep black people from voting, but they did. Are those laws making a comeback? THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on a Monday night.



STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Do you have an opinion to a degree of reasonable and professional certainty to how much force was reasonable for the defendant to use on Mr. Floyd after Mr. Floyd was handcuffed, placed in a prone position, and not resisting?


SCHLEICHER: And what is that opinion?

STIGER: My opinion was that no force should have been used once he was in that position. He was not attempting to resist and the pressure that he was -- that was being caused by the body weight would cause positional asphyxia, which could cause death.


VELSHI: Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert at the LAPD testified today that Derek Chauvin`s use of force against George Floyd was excessive.

On the eighth day of questioning in Chauvin`s murder trial, the defense zeroed in on the possibility that drugs may have contributed to Floyd`s death. During questioning from Chauvin`s attorney, the state`s lead investigator in the case was shown a clip of Floyd that was from a police body camera on the ground.





NELSON: Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said "I ate too many drugs?"

REYERSON: Yes, it did.


VELSHI: Prosecutors then called Special Agent James Reyerson back to the stand to watch a longer version of the same clip. And that`s when his answer changed.


MATTHEW FRANK, MINNEAPOLIS ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Having heard it in context, you`re able to tell what Mr. Floyd is saying there?

REYERSON: Yes, I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, "I ain`t do no drugs."


VELSHI: With us now for more is Melissa Murray, she`s an NYU Law Professor and clerked for Sonia Sotomayor during her time on the United States Court of Appeals and former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor. She`s also one of the co-hosts of the podcast, Sisters in Law with Kimberly Atkins, Jill Wine-Banks, and Barbara McQuade. Thank you to both of you for joining us.

Melissa, tell me about the significance of today`s testimony because the defense had said from the beginning that what they are going to demonstrate in part is that George Floyd had drugs in his system, and that was enough to kill him. The idea that he had drugs isn`t in dispute, what`s the value of what we heard today?

MELISSA MURRAY, NYU LAW PROFESSOR: Well, again, this goes to show and this is the defense`s point here that there may have been a number of different contributing factors to what ultimately happened to Mr. Floyd, many of them may be related to drug use, and he could have been intoxicated at the time of the arrest. And that would have led him to be perhaps more combative with the officers requiring greater use of force and that would justify the use of force by Officer Chauvin and more directly, it would go to show that drug use might be a substantial cause of Mr. Floyd`s death, as opposed to hypoxia, or asphyxiation, which is what the prosecution is claiming. So there was a lot of work being done by the defense today to counter some of the claims that the prosecution was making about how all of this has unfolded.

VELSHI: And Joyce, our viewers may not have been able to distinguish. This is I guess, the hard part about court cases, court cases and being a jury, the two versions of the tape that were played, one, the defense says that what you can hear George Floyd saying is, I ate too many drugs. The prosecution said, it sounded more like I ain`t do no drugs. Those two things mean completely opposite things. What do you make of that tape and playing it twice?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You know, it`s hard to assess, Ali, because we`re not able to see the juries` reaction. But I think it`s safe to say that the defense heard its credibility, a little bit today with this stunt and they were able, I think that they were a little bit surprised by a Special Agent Reyerson`s answer when they box them a little bit into giving this really negative interpretation to George Floyd`s words. The prosecutor did not look very happy when he got back up for the redirect examination, played the slightly longer version of the tape which caused the special agent to correct his earlier testimony.

You know, long run, does this change the outcome of the trial? Probably not, the prosecution cleaned it up. The real question is whether the jury will hold this against the defense and whether it will diminish their credibility because ultimately the defense will ask the jury to credit its account of the fact and what occurred that day and to have some faith in what they will say Officer Chauvin did, they need for their credibility with the jury to be high, they heard it today.

VELSHI: Melissa, there`s an interesting, separate line of defense that is evolving over the last few days. And it is the menace that the defense said was posed by the gathering crowd of bystanders, some of whom called police themselves, some of whom were involved in an exchange with the police officers to get Derek Chauvin to get up, there should be very little reaction from Derek Chauvin and his other police, his fellow police officers to that crowd. But the defense has tried to make the argument that crowd was distracting, and could have been seen as threatening and that may have contributed to the lack of care that Derrick Chauvin showed for George Floyd who was in his care and custody?

MURRAY: Yeah, this is something that I think we saw the seeds planted in that earlier cross examination of Donald Williams II, who was the mixed martial arts specialist who testified and was a bystander, the defense lawyers tried to paint him as incredibly angry, as goading the officers as they tried to restrain Mr. Floyd. And Mr. Williams refused to take the bait. But again, you see the seeds of all of this coalescing, this idea that the crowd was so vociferous, so loud, so distracting, that Officer Chauvin was within his rights, because he really couldn`t concentrate on what he was doing. He was distracted, and ultimately, the crowd is playing a role here.

This is a really dangerous line of argument for future police violence cases, given the degree to which many of these cases now are places where crowds will gather, and then they will actually take bystander video. So the fact that this is being used here means that it will likely have legs in future cases.

VELSHI: And Joyce, you`ll remember on day one of the case, the prosecution brought out Donald Williams, and it depends on how you were looking at this thing, that defense really painted him as aggressive in that video, but some people looked at that video and said this was a guy who was trying to get the police to stop doing what they -- he thought that was dangerous. They were trying to get him to get off of George Floyd`s neck.

VANCE: The jury ultimately gets to decide what the truth is here. They`ll get to decide whether this was a menacing crowd or whether this was a group of concerned bystanders trying to get the police to do the right thing.

So ultimately, when you look at this objectively, and we heard some of this from the use of force expert today, from Jody Steiger from the Los Angeles Police Department, he said, they weren`t throwing bottles, they weren`t throwing rocks. They were videotaping. And of course, we heard earlier testimony that under Minnesota law, that crowd had a right to videotape the incident.

The other key factor is that there`s an officer who`s handling the crowd, show them doesn`t have to handle the crowd. There`s somebody else doing it, at least on the videotape, he doesn`t appear to be having any trouble. So this notion that this, you know, group of five police officers with guns and badges somehow can`t handle people saying please take his pulse. I don`t think that that`s going to land very well with the jury in terms of the way the defense wants it to land.

VELSHI: Thank you to both of you for your analysis and interpretation. Melissa Murray and Joyce Vance, we appreciate your time tonight.

Coming up, first it was the relocated All-Star game now protests are expected tomorrow at the Masters over Georgia divisive new election laws. Two veteran political observers are here to talk about it all when THE 11TH HOUR continues.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever partisan divisions there are around other issues that don`t have to be around this one. The division of the moment shouldn`t stop us from doing the right thing for the future.


VELSHI: As the President pushes for unity on his infrastructure plan, Democrats and Republicans remain deeply divided on many issues. For example, tonight, Georgia is still facing plenty of pressure over new voting restrictions. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the battle over boycotts is just heating up as the Masters gets underway, quote, The Masters begins Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club and opponents of the law plan to stage protests outside the course`s storied gates. The club has sidestepped the election law, the same strategy its leaders employed when dealing with past controversies. But many of Augusta National`s influential and exclusive members who include MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred are under pressure to oppose the changes.

Back with us again, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist over at The Washington Post and Mike Murphy, veteran Republican strategist and co-director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California. He`s also co-host of the "Hacks on Tap" podcast. Good evening to both of you. Mike, Mitch McConnell said something interesting. He said something interesting every day this week. And he seems to have realized that he may have overstepped in what he said he thinks CEOs of companies should or shouldn`t do. Let`s listen the latest from him that he commented on.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I didn`t say that very artful there yesterday. They`re certainly entitled to be involved politics. They are. My principal complaint is they didn`t read the darn bill.


VELSHI: So yesterday he said corporate boycotts are stupid, he said CEOs should mind their own business, didn`t mind that they have gave contributions, which is kind of, to most Americans the way companies talk. What do you make of where Mitch McConnell is and how he`s managing this situation?

MIKE MURPHY, VETERAN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think he was trying to clean up a kind of clumsy remark before. So, you know, I`ll take him in his word. I think he does believe companies ought to have opinions are allowed to, as do I. And, you know, it`s a free country, people get to protest, people get to react to legislation they don`t like whether it be outside the Masters or, you know, at the CEO level of a company.

So, you know, the issue is I think in some -- and this thing is a good example of this, Georgia law. I`ve criticized it from the beginning. I think it was done in bad faith. But it`s a little more complicated than the bumper sticker kind of hysteria we`re having where one side is saying, you know, we`re right, you`re evil. I don`t like the law, because I don`t like cracking down on absentee ballot voting. I think we ought to have no excuse to ease the absentee ballot voting everywhere.

I like the idea of more early voting. I don`t like the idea of putting the boxes and go. And so there`s plenty of stuff to criticize in it. But it`s something where the temperature could go down a little bit, and maybe we could have a constructive federal law that is not the kind of overreach in my view, we have in the house, quote, remedy to this. So I think McConnell tried to pull down the rhetoric a little bit and I`d say he should.

VELSHI: Gene, I guess part of the issue is that people need to see these things in black and white and Governor -- Georgia Governor Brian Kemp says there`s nothing Jim Crow about this law. Of course, the President himself said these feel like Jim Crow laws. What`s your take on whether it is or isn`t?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I say it is. I mean, I did grow up under Jim Crow laws. And Jim Crow laws, remember, never said, you know, black people can`t vote, you know, because that would have been clearly unconstitutional and illegal and out of bounce. What they were, were laws that on their face apply to everyone, but were designed and enforced to deny voting rights to African Americans.

And, you know, if this is not a complete, a total verbatim repeat of that, it is certainly a very close rhyme. It is because that is the purpose in essence of these new restrictions. And let`s not forget that this new voter approval was based on the lie. The whole thing stems from the big lie about voter fraud in the 2020 election, but never ever happened.

VELSHI: Mike, let me ask you about Joe Manchin. He wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" today about that we were now switching to talking about the filibuster. He said I`ve said it before, and I`ll say it again to remove any shred of doubt. There`s no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The time has come to end these political games, and who usher in a new era of bipartisanship. What happens here with the filibuster that`s getting more discussion now that it hasn`t been quite a while?

MURPHY: Well, you know, there`s going to be a lot of frustration. I mean, Manchin has always been a traditionalist on the filibuster. He opposed it on the judge and stuff with Harry Reid later with McConnell. So he`s always been in the same position. I think you`ve brought a little clarity to it. The problem with the filibuster is it is seen by partisans on both sides as kind of a magic key to get what we want, you know, depending on which side you`re on, right now, it would be the progressive saying, hey, we got 50 votes in the V.P., we are able to ram through all our stuff, enough talking, let`s add some doing, let us get rid of the filibuster.

But the problem is that`s kind of like leaving a laser sword around, because after you have a lot of fun with it, the other side gets it, they can have equal fun. So I think Manchin, who`s clearly the most second most powerful person in the country now, in politics after Joe Biden, he`s the key vote, he has made a pretty clear he`s not the only Democratic senator with doubts. So the filibuster removal, I think, is more of a fighting topic for people that like to debate politics, than a real possible outcome, at least in the short term in the Senate.

Now, maybe there`ll be some misbehavior, a total blocking of everything, which I doubt and maybe there`ll be a rethink, but I -- he drew quite a line in the sand. Now I think people ought to believe him and take him at his word.

VELSHI: But this is an interesting point you make, Mike. And then Eugene this what I put to you, because the last sentence in that sentence that I just read you from Joe Manchin said, it is time to end these political games and usher in a new era of bipartisanship, he doesn`t seem to be talking about the moment in which we`re living right now.

MURPHY: Well, that`s true. I think he like to see a throwback, you know, and he thinks the filibuster might force it, we`ll see.

VELSHI: What do you think, Gene?

ROBINSON: Yes. No, I mean, I don`t see that bipartisanship. I don`t see any willingness on the part of any Republicans to seriously engage with this administration on its agenda, and try to kind of, you know, meet in the middle. We haven`t seen that. But the fact is this is a 5050 Senate with the Vice President breaking the tie. And Joe Manchin is one of the 50 Democratic votes.

And so, you know, if Joe Manchin hypothetically, you know, decided to cross the aisle, literally, and join the other party, Mitch McConnell will be back in charge of the Senate. And that`s just a reality that Democrats have to live with. So, you know, he`s the only Democratic that get elected to the Senate in -- from West Virginia. And so they got to deal with Joe Manchin. And Joe Manchin right now --


ROBINSON: -- is a definitive no on killing the filibuster. So the filibuster stays.

VELSHI: Guys stick around for round two.

Coming up, the new political aspirations emerging from Donald Trump shadow when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


VELSHI: Earlier today former President Trump officially endorsed Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks for next year`s Senate race there. Trump said in part quote, Mo Brooks is pro-life, loves our Military and our Vets, will protect our Second Amendment, combat the Biden open borders agenda, is fighting for voter integrity like few others. Brooks is of course one of Trump`s strongest supporters in Congress. Here`s what he heard -- we heard from the Congressman on January 6th, just before the rioters stormed the Capitol.


REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): We are not going to let them continue to corrupt our elections and steal from us our God given right to control our nation`s destiny. Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.


VELSHI: Alabama politics keeps us busy some days. Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy are with us. Mike your evaluation of Mo Brooks run and Donald Trump`s, the strength of Donald Trump`s endorsement of him.

MURPHY: Well, Brooks is a complete embarrassment to the Republican Party and to the great state of Alabama. You know, his thuggish demeanor and his involvement in January it`s evident as your clip showed. It`s no surprise Trump loves them. You know, Alabama is a Republican state so he can win the Republican primary to what ought to be the shame of Alabama, he has a good chance to be the next senator from there and his clown show will be elevated unfortunately.

VELSHI: Eugene, we were just putting up this thing on the screen. I want to show my viewers again, Max Boot, writing in "The Washington Post" today. He said Biden is governing from the new center while Republicans are increasingly catering to the far right with shrill, divisive rhetoric, and anti-Democratic actions, such as bills to restrict voting. Under those circumstances, those of us on the center right can`t afford a third party flirtation. We need to become Biden, Republicans. Evaluate Max`s take on that please.

ROBINSON: Well, you know, I mean, he became a Biden, Republican in the general election in 2020. And I think he`s proselytizing for that point of view. And I think it makes sense. I mean, I think there`s a good chance that, you know, a really kind of ultra Trumpy slate of candidates, especially Senate candidates in 2022, is going to be really bad for the Republican Party. Biden`s policies are popular. They are their centrist policy, generally. At least the country thinks they are.

And so Trump may be leading the Republican Party off a cliff. But we`ll have to see, you know, it`s a resilient -- institution. And there are states that are that have the habit of voting Republican, and this isn`t going to be an easy thing for Democrats. But Trump is helping them I think.

VELSHI: Mike, what do you think do -- what a Republican senator, right Republicans do?

MURPHY: Well, you know, I`m a Republican who had a character building experience of voting for Biden, because I couldn`t abide Trump. And I think my friend Max is onto something about, you know, the idea of a center right party that`s just a sliver. It`s a big debate in the circle as I am in. I will say that I think President Biden is running a risk of scaring away his Biden Republicans with some of this fiscal policy.

This infrastructure bill is there`s a lot of good infrastructure in it. And there`s a lot of stuff renamed infrastructure. It`s been done without hearings or examination. And, you know, we Biden Republicans are fiscal conservatives. So I think the Biden world should not take that for granted. Issues do count. But it`s up in the air, big debate in anti-Trump Republican circles, third party or not.

VELSHI: What`s one that`s -- one that`s going to go on for a while. Thanks, guys. I appreciate it. Eugene Robinson and Mike Murphy, we appreciate your time tonight.

Coming up, some foreign nations have COVID contained. But one is being called a biological Fukushima. That story when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


VELSHI: Brazil is in a coronavirus crisis right now, yet that country`s President Jair Bolsonaro is ignoring calls for national lockdown despite thousands of coronavirus deaths in a single day. Hospitals are overwhelmed and one doctor there is calling the situation of biological Fukushima. NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has this update on the dire situation in Brazil.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brazil tonight is going from bad to much worse, hitting a record over 4,000 deaths in a single day on Tuesday, up from 3,000 just last week, so many they`re exhuming bodies from old graveyards in San Paolo to make room.

Brazil is deeply divided. Many governors and mayors want to do more. Mayors nationwide begging for help but they don`t have many vaccines to give and blame President Jair Bolsonaro for not ordering enough and continuing to downplay the COVID crisis. Bolsonaro, an ally of former President Trump says lockdowns kill more than COVID.

This week he refused to commit to taking a vaccine since he`s already had the virus, though experts still recommend one.

DR. MIGUEL NICOLELIS, NEUROSCIENCE PROFESSOR DUKE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Brazil needs to go to the international community and buy enough doses to help curtail the crisis right now.


ENGEL: Public health experts warn the virus is so unchecked. Brazil has become a breeding ground for new viral strains, a coronavirus petri dish bordering 10 countries in Latin America. Ali?

VELSHI: Richard Engel, thank you, Richard Engel in London for us.

Coming up, you`re going to want to hear what the former speaker said about the former president. That`s when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


VELSHI: The last thing before we go tonight is about a former house speaker and a former president. John Boehner`s forthcoming memoir keeps generating headlines over Boehner`s choice words for some fellow Republicans. Ted Cruz gets some extra unfiltered criticism in the audio version.




VELSHI: John Boehner was first sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives over 30 years ago, a lover of wine and cigarettes who made his fair share of political deals in smoke filled rooms. The former speaker seems to be rather disgusted that the GOP is now the party of Trump. Reporting on another excerpt from the book, "The New York Times" states Boehner was exceedingly candid when sharing what he really thinks of Donald Trump.

He blames 45 for losing the Senate and for inciting the deadly capital on January 6th. Boehner seem to take the ladder quite personally writing quote, I`ll admit I wasn`t prepared for what came after the election. Trump refusing to accept the results and stoking the flames of conspiracy that turned into violence in the seat of our democracy, the building over which I once presided, end quote.

Boehner writes that, Trump incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the BS he`d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November. He claimed voter fraud without any evidence, and repeated those claims, taking advantage of the trust placed in him by his supporters and ultimately betraying that trust.

While responding to that story, 45 e-mailed "The Times" asking, was he drinking when he made that statement? Calling Boehner just another RINO who couldn`t do the job. It is worth noting, John Boehner served five years in the Ohio House of Representatives, followed by 13 terms in the U.S. House. He never lost an election. Donald Trump lost the only reelection campaign he`s ever been in.

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