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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 5/12/21

Guests: Michael Steele


The House GOP ousted one of its top leaders, Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, for refusing to stay silent about Donald Trump`s election lies. Cheney vows to stop Trump from retaking presidency. GOP lawmakers depend Capitol rioters and Trump. Fuel shortages occur as pipeline comes back online. Senator Mitch McConnell changed tone after saying that he is focused on stopping President Biden`s agenda in its tracks. Violence between Israelis and Palestinians approached all-out war as rocket attacks on Israeli cities and airstrikes in the Gaza Strip killed dozens, injured hundreds and left thousands of people on both sides cowering under day-long bombardments.



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Dr. Corbett, you heard Matthew earlier in the hour, Dr. Fauci who`s been working his whole life on this. Taking the vaccine, your vaccine in public, gave him a certain amount of confidence, but didn`t get him over the line to eliminate his hesitancy. Do you have anything to say that might help Matthew get all the way to the vaccine?

CORBETT: Where`s Matthew?

O`DONNELL: Where`s Matt? There he is.

CORBETT: Hi, Matthew. You know, I get it. I completely understand from where I sit, I think I`ve realized that through this moment, I sit in a place of privilege, where I have information on a day to day basis about these vaccines that the general person does not. But the one thing that reassures me constantly is seeing over time, more and more people getting these vaccines, the data are so clear and crisp, and that they are safe. And they add that they are effective. And also, I would beg of you to not just take my word for it or Dr. Fauci`s word for it, but ask people around you how they felt after getting the vaccine, and moreover how they feel in their confidence around just entering the world again, after being vaccinated. And hopefully that helps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Corbett, you have talked about the importance of not just saying the things to people, but also listening and meet them where they are. Why is that so important?

CORBETT: Because, you know, a lot of what is termed vaccine hesitancy, which I like to call vaccine inquisitiveness comes from populations of people who just haven`t been listened to before. And so I think that it was just time for us as scientists and people in the medical profession to just say, we hear you, we understand. And this is what we can give back, which is the information so that you can make an informed choice for yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very important. We have another question right there from the audience.

JESSICA JIMENEZ (ph): Hi, I`m Jessica, Jessica Jimenez (ph). Thank you so very much for your work for mankind. My husband myself, we are vaccinated. I vaccinated -- I was hesitant to vaccinate my 16 year old. But now I`m afraid to vaccinate my minor. What assurance can you give me about the side effects in the long term? I`m really afraid about the side effects and whatever comes in the long term?

CORBETT: I completely understand that. And one of the reasons why this overarching view that there is fear about side effects for the long term is that what you`re seeing is a year or year and a half of vaccine development. But remembering as was said before these vaccines have been -- or the technologies have been in people long before even COVID-19 became a thing.

Secondly, as Dr. Fauci said, generally speaking about 95% of the time, any adverse events from a vaccine would happen within that first two months, noting that we are over a year from the time that the first person was vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine. And so any safety indications would be showing up over this time. And that with that you can trust the system, and so as more and more data come out, just look at that data and say, OK, now it`s the time that I can trust what I`m seeing.

JIMENEZ: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jessica, I know your family is here on the audience.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign language). Do you feel better with that response?

JIMENEZ: It will take time, I think to get over.


JIMENEZ: The fear about vaccines to minors. But yes, thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, I think this is so illustrative of the dimensions of hesitancy. Here`s someone who is vaccined. She is not afraid of the vaccine for herself. She decided this is good for me. She has a concern about a child, a 16 year old, it`s a -- she feels it`s a different medical question, and a different risk tolerance, which we all understand, I think we have zero risk tolerance for our children in any way. And so the hesitancy to vaccine is we`re just seeing has so many more dimensions than we might think?

CORBETT: You know, and I like to flip it, well, first of all, what that is, is a mother`s love.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, yeah.

CORBETT: OK. Mother cares about their child far more than they could ever dream of caring about themselves. And so I can appreciate that. But what I like to say is that the same way that you think about your risk assessment for yourself, I want to protect myself at all costs, so I could live for my kids so that I could escape under this pandemic for my kids. Think about that same thing for your children.

These vaccines, as was determined by the FDA just the other day are proven to be safe and effective in children and long term side effects that you might see in children that people might be concerned about have actually not ever happened from vaccines before like people are thinking about fertility or autism and all of these things that just are over and over debunked. And so think about it in that way, you are in your mother`s love and that capacity protecting your children by giving them this vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that you work with many marginalized communities, what is the main challenge with these communities? And how did you overcome it?

CORBETT: Just being myself. I am from a marginalized community. And so understanding that and from where I come, and from where I`ve conquered, essentially, and empathizing with those communities back was very important in those moments, I think. And so for me, it`s just about being real and open and transparent.

And also making sure that people see the passion that I have for the science that we`ve done, even before the COVID-19 but particularly in this moment, and having that transcend to people so that they can feel a part of it, a part of the movement, even.

O`DONNELL: When you`re growing up in Hillsborough, North Carolina. What would -- what do you imagine if you were still there, your perception of this vaccine would be if you were just still a kid going to school in Hillsborough, North Carolina?

CORBETT: Well, I would imagine like my niece, who got a presentation about the vaccine, and I was in it and she said, are you famous?

O`DONNELL: Yes. Yes, she is as of tonight, she is famous.

CORBETT: You know, I, my heart will always reside in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where I was raised and I am very happy to represent for Hillsborough in this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you contribution is immense. So thank you so much, Dr. Kizzy, we really appreciate it.

O`DONNELL: And Dr. Kizzy Corbett, we cannot thank you enough for joining us tonight. Let`s hear it. This is a real hero.


O`DONNELL: Thank you, very, very, very much. I would like to thank all of our guests tonight. Dr. Corbett, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Murthy, Secretary Becerra and we would like to thank our audience for their questions. Our hosts here at Northern Virginia Community College, and their viewers watching at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And thank you for our viewers (inaudible) digital platform.

O`DONNELL: And from all of us here at MSNBC, thank you for watching. Thank you, Dr. Corbett.

CORBETT: Thank you.


CORBETT: Thank you.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening. Once again, our slightly truncated edition of the broadcast tonight comes at the end of day 113 of the Biden administration. The Republican Party now fully in the grip of Donald Trump, today intensified its campaign to change our history.

The effort gained momentum this morning with the expected purge of Wyoming Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney from the House Republican leadership for daring to say that Donald Trump did not somehow win the election.

Inside the meeting today it was over with the flash of a voice vote and afterwards Cheney made it clear she`s not going to stop speaking out about the former president.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.


WILLIAMS: And in an interview with our friend Savannah Guthrie, Cheney spoke about her role in whatever her party is now.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Are you the leader of the opposition in exile right now in the Republican Party?

CHENEY: I intend to be the leader, one of the leaders in in a fight to help to restore our party.

GUTHRIE: The Trump political team is actively looking to coalesce around a primary challenger to you what is your message to them?

CHENEY: You know, bring it on.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the House Republican leader who orchestrated Cheney`s removal because of her insistence that Biden won the election, engaged in a remarkable public act of gaslighting today, Kevin McCarthy made the following remarkable comment today while standing in front of the White House.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA MINORITY LEADER: I don`t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with. We`re sitting here with the president today. So from that point of view, I don`t think that`s a problem.


WILLIAMS: Today, I also saw some rank and file House Republicans going out of their way to try to say that January 6 riot and insurrection wasn`t really that bad. To add a hearing into the response to the deadly angry mob that literally forced members of Congress into hiding, several Republicans seem to suggest the real victims that January afternoon where Trump and his dedicated followers.


REP. PAUL GOSAR, (R) ARIZONA: The truth is being censored and covered up, as a result, the DOJ is harassing, harassing peaceful patriots across the country.

REP. JODY HICE, (R) GEORGIA: Many Democrats have put forth a narrative that has been circulating around since January 6, and there`s never been corrected. For example, the narrative that President Trump incited riots on January 6.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We`re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we`re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we`re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. And if you don`t fight like hell, you`re not going to have a country anymore.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE, (R) GEORGIA: There was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold faced line. You didn`t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the man who the Republicans tried to keep from taking office today met with their congressional leaders and their democratic counterparts to talk about his $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill. Tomorrow, the President meets with some Senate Republicans who are pushing a counter proposal in the range of $600 billion.

Meanwhile, we have a desperate gasoline shortage going on in several states, mostly in the southeast. Gas lines grew today and estimated 70% of all the gas stations in the Atlanta metro area are out of gas, all because of the ransomware hacking and closure of the over 5000 mile long Colonial Pipeline. It is very much a part of the nation`s infrastructure and we now know how vulnerable it is.

Tonight Colonial says it has been able to restart that 5500 mile pipeline stretching from Texas to New York shut down after the cyber hack. Several reports indicate the company has not indeed paid any ransom. Colonial warns that I`ll likely take several days for field delivery to return to normal.

Meanwhile, the biggest jump in consumer prices in over a decade is fueling fears of inflation, pushing markets down for the third session in a row, the Dow was down 681 today.

President has tied his vaccination drive to the nation`s economic recovery. Today, the CDC signed off on those Pfizer vaccines for young people 12 to 15, making another 17 million Americans eligible for the shots.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: This is one more giant step on our fight against the pandemic. We know that kids at this at this age 12 and above are at risk from COVID-19. As of tomorrow, more than 15,000 pharmacies across this country will be ready to vaccinate this age group.


WILLIAMS: Tonight we`re also following the situation in Israel of course where violence has reached a level not seen in almost a decade there and as new rocket attacks from Hamas continued to be met with Israeli airstrikes overnight. There are new waves now of mob violence in the streets. Before we get our discussion underway tonight. Let`s just sample here some of the reporting from there. This was Sky News Foreign Correspondent Mark Stone from Jerusalem reporting for us earlier today.


MARK STONE, SKY NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: In Arab Israeli towns across Israel, we are seeing serious clashes between Arab Israelis, Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jewish Israelis. It`s happening right now, it happened last night. They`re clashing with each other. The Arab Israelis are clashing with the police as well. It`s a very, very difficult situation.


WILLIAMS: The situation in Jerusalem and elsewhere earlier tonight and with all that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Wednesday night. Peter Baker, the Veteran Journalist and author. He is Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times and Julie Pace is back with us as well, Washington Bureau Chief and Assistant Managing Editor for The Associated Press.

Good evening, and welcome to you both. Julie, let`s start with you. And let`s start with what happened today on the Hill. Cheney`s critics said she was undermining party unity, will her ouster and again, this is only from the Republican management ranks. Will her ouster galvanize the majority left among Republicans in the House, who many of them feel Donald Trump actually won the election? Will the minority birth some sort of counter insurgency counter party within or separate of the Republicans?

JULIE PACE, AP ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, certainly Liz Cheney is hoping to galvanize that part of the party. I think it`s important to note that particularly when it comes to Republicans in the House that is very much a minority part of the Republican Party. There are some different dynamics at play. When you look at some of the Senate races that are coming up in 2022, as some of the governor, Republican governors have been pretty strong and speaking out against Trump and speaking out in favor of the integrity of the election. But I think ultimately, where we are with Republicans is, this is a party that has a long way to go and figuring out what it wants to be.

And right now, particularly on the House side, it is very clear that they are aligning with Donald Trump. They think that is good politics for them. They`re willing to look past an awful lot. They think that this puts them squarely on the path to taking back the House majority in November of next year.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, the President was asked tonight about Mr. McCarthy of California, the man who so badly wants to be speaker of the House, he was asked by Lawrence O`Donnell, we`ll listen to that answer and talk about it on the other side.


O`DONNELL: How can you accept whatever someone like Kevin McCarthy says today as something that you`re actually going to legislate a few weeks from now or months from now?

BIDEN: If a man looks me in the eye, gives me his word, it`s not what`s going to happen. I take it unless he breaks it. The Liz Cheney, McCarthy thing is above my pay grade. I mean, I have enough trouble figuring out my own party all the time, let alone the Republicans.


WILLIAMS: So Peter, to the President`s point, how closely is the White House watching the agony some of the Republicans are going through and putting each other through, as opposed to say, this crisis that came out of nowhere 70% of the gas stations in the Atlanta metro area have nothing to sell?

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think for the Biden administration, that`s the bigger higher priority, both in terms of, you know, just taking care of their business and making sure the country is an operating shape, as well as the politics of it, they know that they`re going to be judged on their performance, not on what the Republicans do. But that doesn`t mean that they`re not watching the Republican crack up with a certain degree of, you know, Shadow Freud (ph) or what have you. But I think that they also recognize that the, you know, Trump success in taming this rebellion to in demonstrating his control over the party has both, you know, advantages and disadvantages for that one. On the one hand, obviously, Biden got into office in part by running against Trump. So the longer he is seen as a foil for Biden, that`s probably a useful thing politically from the Democrat`s point of view.

But on the other hand, that means that, you know, this is a party that`s not going to be as amenable to working together on many issues, because they`re going to be afraid of incurring the wrath of Trump if they`re seen as giving in to Biden by compromising on important legislation that complicates his ability to come to deals with Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell on issues like infrastructure.

WILLIAMS: Julie Pace back to the vexing question of the day, what is McCarthy trying to say when he says no one is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election, as a friend of mine asked me today, does he think we`re stupid, questions over the legitimacy of the election are why Lynne Cheney is enjoying her first night out of management tonight. It`s why Republicans in state houses across the country are working to suppress the vote seemingly in Trump`s name.

PACE: It was a pretty bizarre statement. And it really left out one major person who continues to question the integrity of the election. And that`s, of course, Donald Trump. And he`s the reason, he is the key, he is the center of this debate that is happening within the Republican Party. And he is actually only starting to escalate further some of these questions about the election, which are to be clear, false, the election was free and fair and valid, and Joe Biden was legitimately elected. But Trump is continuing to push us and that is why the Republicans are in this situation right now. And so it was again, I can only really say bizarre to hear McCarthy come out just a short time after having this vote to remove Liz Cheney from leadership over this very issue and make that statement.

WILLIAMS: Peter, let`s talk about Liz Cheney`s remaining Republican colleagues in the House, the true believers among them. It`s the equivalent of airbrushing old Russian leaders out of that group photo during the May Day parade and the event you covered in the old Soviet Union, that for some of them, it`s not enough to ignore 1/6. They`re full on denying what we saw with our own eyes on 1/6?

BAKER: Yeah, it is rather striking and it does in fact evoke, you know, experiences we`ve seen in other countries with sort of less Democratic systems where somebody is ousted from the party leadership because they disagree on a point of truth and lies on a point of, like, you know, actual facts and reality what actually happened in the past.

And you`re right, they don`t want to talk about January 6, they want to move on to the extent that they do want to talk about it, they want to inject some sort of, you know, doubt into the narrative that has, that they see as taken hold, obviously, among most Americans and among the media, and among even if you were to believe in Kevin McCarthy, but in fact, you know, January 6 isn`t going away. It is a big issue. You know, we were talking with some Republicans in the last few days, and this is still a big, big issue for many of them who actually did support Trump, did support many of his policies, did vote for him, and yet we`re, you know, felt quite betrayed by him in the aftermath, the election when he was propagating these false claims of an election, which led to these people showing up at the Capitol in order to try to stop the Congress from finalizing the result. That`s still a big deal, even if they don`t want to talk about it.

WILLIAMS: Julie, I have one for you. This is McConnell on Fox News being asked about the future potentially of the voting rights bill, we`ll talk on the other side.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MINORITY LEADER: It`s not going to pass the Senate whether -- there`s not a single Republican for it. Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema, have made it clear they`re not going to get rid of the legislative filibuster, but take 60 votes to pass this bill. It will not pass.


WILLIAMS: So Julie, must we believe him? Is it over, do you think?

PACE: Well, as of right now, he`s right on the political dynamics here, not only do you have Republicans who are in complete opposition to the voting rights bill, but you also have some of those as centrist Democrats who so far are not coming on board either. And this is where the politics gets very complicated for the White House, for Biden on voting and on other issues, on immigration, on gun policy, Biden wants to be able to bring Republicans on board, they`re not coming on board. But even if they were he still has a problem with some members of his own party right now. And so he has this option to try to push forward on the filibuster, see if he can move Manchin, see if he can move Sinema on that, allowed Democrats to tackle some of these long standing party priorities on their own. But that is a big challenge for him and even taking that step. And I think that the White House as we get deeper into this year and look into next year, is going to really have to grapple with whether they want to go into the midterms, having made little legislative progress on again, big party priorities that Biden has said he will tackle.

WILLIAMS: Peter, final question for you on foreign policy, the Biden foreign policy is admittedly still under construction, while this terrible fighting, mostly the air war goes on between Gaza and Israel. I even saw on Israeli media tonight, more and more people are saying the window is narrowing time wise for Bibi Netanyahu, if the IDF is still going to be taking down buildings in Gaza to retaliate for this rain of missiles coming in over Tel Aviv and point south. So is there a finite amount of time, in your view, the way you read it, before world pressure kind of comes in and rains down upon both of these players?

BAKER: Well, it`s a good question, right? And the big question that most people in the region and here have at this moment is, do Hamas and the Israelis want to make a point, after which they will begin to pull back because they don`t want to go to an all-out war situation? Or are we heading back toward the kind of fallout conflagration that we`ve seen in the past?

Right now, Biden, as you say, doesn`t have much of a foreign policy when it comes to the Middle East. Right now, you know, his stanback view of the Israeli Palestinian issue, leaves him sort of not a big player. He has talked with Netanyahu himself, Secretary of State, Blinken I believe has as well. They`re sending an envoy to the region, a relatively low ranking envoy, a deputy assistant secretary, not somebody of cabinet level or near cabinet level. They don`t have an ambassador yet pick for Israel. And so, you know, it`s a big test for President Biden. What is his, you know, involvement going to be in a situation he would rather not waste a lot of political capital on generally because in fact, he has seen president after president tried to solve these issues there without much success.

WILLIAMS: And think about this, if their envoy can land on Ben Gurion Airport which has been closed on and off for the past 48 hours. To our leadoff guests tonight, nothing but thanks Peter Baker, Julie Pace, I appreciate you staying up with us and starting us off tonight as always.

Coming up, why do so many Republicans in Washington think this is somehow OK or worse yet that it wasn`t an act of insurrection? We`ll take that on as our special edition of the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Wednesday night.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel betrayed by today`s vote?

CHENEY: I do not. I think that it is an indication of where the Republican Party is. And I think that the party is in a place that we`ve got to bring it back from and we`ve got to get back to a position where we are a party that can fight for conservative principles that can fight for substance. We cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president.


WILLIAMS: Woman from Wyoming who does not suffer fools, Liz Cheney, made very clear she`ll keep speaking out against Donald Trump and his dangerous lie, the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him.

Punchbowl News, which covers Capitol Hill reports today, "The truth is there are Republicans who agree with Cheney that the party has lost its moral compass and is dangerously adrift, but they`re too scared to say it publicly. Confronting these obvious problems head on doesn`t serve their short term political interest, avoiding a Trump backed primary or long term political interest winning back the House."

It`s a lot, we have two great men to tackle it. Back with us again tonight, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize Winner Columnist for The Washington Post and Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Former Lieutenant Governor of the Great State of Maryland, also the host of the Michael Steele podcast.

Hey, Michael, given your political leanings and past, after today`s giant public genuflection to Donald Trump, and let`s not pretend it was anything else, was this a low point for your party? Was this a turning point for your party? What was today?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Oh, I think we did low point a while back. Turning point was even longer. No, this was more of a foundational shift. Where the party had made the conscious decision to purge itself of individuals with whom they disagreed not on ideology or the consistency of their views related to party principles and ideals, but because they would not genuflect at the altar of Donald Trump. They would not sacrifice their integrity, their self-respect, their dignity as elected officials for Donald Trump.

Liz Cheney took the arrow, walked down the center aisle of the room, looking her members in the eye to that bank of microphones, and declared her independence. She, like many of us, are still Republicans because we were here before stupid took over. And so now, it`s time to engage in trying to clean this house as best we can. And to the extent that we can`t, then we`ll move from there.

But I thought today was more of a declaration of independence for individuals like Liz, myself and others. And certainly for the party, a further laying of a cornerstone that in my view must be broken, that cemented.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Gene, I am guessing that like me, you follow Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, a terrific analyst of congressional races always across the country. He writes this, if you think Liz Cheney`s GOP leadership post is an issue voters are going to care about in the midterm elections, prepared to be sorely disappointed. You agree with that, Gene?

EUGENE ROBINSON, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I agree, but I think it`s kind of a straw man. I mean, no, of course, voters aren`t going to care about, you know, who was the Conference Chair of the House Republican Caucus, because nobody knows who it is, right? Normally, you don`t. And then, voters don`t know about these sort of internal workings in Washington. And, of course, they don`t care about it.

But I do disagree to this extent, voters will know, a lot of voters will know who was Liz Cheney is because it`s clear. She`s not going to shut up. She`s going to be -- I think Liz Cheney unplugged now, unchained. And to the extent that she has been hamstrung at all by having that leadership position, I think she will feel liberated. And I think she will speak out. And I think a lot of people will give her venues and megaphones with Liz to speak out.

And the second thing is, well, voters may not even know who she is, they certainly will know who Donald Trump is. And to the extent that the party in the next election aligns itself, you know, to Trump himself, to this sort of Trump restoration. I think that runs the risk for the party of having the same effect that Trump had in those second and third ring suburbs in 2020, which is to turn them blue, send them over to the Democrats, because they don`t like Donald Trump. And number of people in the country would like to forget him. And so, that`s the risk the Republicans run electorally.

WILLIAMS: Michael, Eugene raised an interesting question as part of his answer there, in talking about Liz Cheney. People heard her say she is going to do whatever she can to keep Donald Trump away from the Oval Office. Some people jumped immediately to the assumption that she`d be in the 2024 game. She may have to do that without her base in Congress. She will likely be primaried from the right back home in Wyoming. What does her leadership future look like to you?

STEELE: I think it`s wide open, Brian. I think it`s whatever Liz wants it to be and I think that she will find that she has a lot of friends who are willing to stand with her, promote her, promote her, lift her, to Gene`s point, give her that megaphone, because she is, you know, that clarion call to all common sense constitutionalists-oriented Republicans who respect and understand the rule of law, and who want to focus on the idea of building and growing an effective two party system, just as President Biden has noted and others.

And so, I think she`s in a position to compare and contrast for the country, what leadership looks like, what policy prescriptions sound like and could ultimately be like. And that`s going to be an interesting challenge to Gene`s point how voters digest going into 2022. Absolutely, they don`t give a rat`s patootie about whose conference chair, but they do care about what the Republican Party has done to a woman in leadership and why they did it. And that`s not lost on a lot of folks.

WILLIAMS: Great point. Great point to end this segment. And luckily for us, both gentlemen are staying with us through a break. Coming up, a week after saying he`s 100% focused on stopping the Biden agenda, Mitch McConnell goes to the White House, must be something in the water, comes out says something different, and it`s only Wednesday. And a reminder, he is Mitch McConnell.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: And I want to make it clear, I want to get a bipartisan deal on it as much as we can get a bipartisan deal on it. So I want to know what can we agree on, and let`s see we get in an agreement, kick start this. And then fight over what`s left, and see if I can get it done without Republicans if need be.


WILLIAMS: So, Mitch McConnell seemed to echo that sentiment today, just a week after vowing that his number one commitment was blocking the entire Biden agenda.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Almost all of the discussion was about infrastructure. And I think I`m safe and saying there is certainly a bipartisan desire to get an outcome.


WILLIAMS: We heard him there used to B word as for the actual negotiations. CNBC tells it this way, "A White House readout of the meeting said the attendees had agreed there was a need for investment in infrastructure, but did not cite any other progress." Still with us, Eugene Robinson and Michael Steele.

Eugene, I want to play for you a little bit more of McConnell. This is an exchange, got a little testy with Bret Baier on Fox News.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Councilman Cheney said on the floor last night, we face a threat America has never seen before, a foreign president who provoked a violent attack on the Capitol. She went on to say in an effort to steal the election. He`s resumed his aggressive efforts to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence. Is there anything that she said that you disagree with there?

MCCONNELL: I don`t know how many times I have to tell you. I`m focusing on dealing with the conditions we find ourselves. And with regard to the election, voted to certify the election.


WILLIAMS: So, Senator McConnell, nice of you to come by. Eugene, there`s a reason you are the most quoted guest on this broadcast, whether you`re here with us or not. We read your last column on where we are and what we face right now. And sum that up for our viewers, including where that man fits in all of this.

ROBINSON: Well, look, the Republican Party is not an organized political party right now. It is whatever it is. It doesn`t actually believe in anything. It has no sort of foundation, no coherent principles the way it used to. It just wants to -- it agrees that it wants power. It wants to regain and retain power. And it is unclear really to what end because it has no sort of coherent program before. And I think this is a real danger to our political system, and thus to the contrary, the fact that the Republican Party is in this horrible state.

And so, where does Mitch McConnell fit in? Well, you know, he wants to regain power in the Senate. At the very least, he doesn`t want to lose any anymore in 2022. And so, he`s trying to keep his caucus together. And it was interesting, his reaction to the infrastructure negotiations. He`s got a bunch of senators who want to talk to Joe Biden and make this an old- fashioned negotiation just about arithmetic and get something done.

And he has to deal with that reality, that it`s not the sort of tribal negotiation, sort of, you know, we can`t support you because we`re Republicans, you`re Democrats. Some of the senators don`t feel that way about infrastructure and want to make a deal, and he`s going to have to negotiate that. And at the same time, as he said earlier, try to stop the Biden administration from racking up successes that will serve it well in 2022.

WILLIAMS: Michael, senators love bridges and dams, and public works projects, some of them even love a good culvert from time to time.

STEELE: Absolutely.

WILLIAMS: Which Mitch McConnell here do you believe?

STEELE: I think Mitch McConnell wants where the ever opportunity will get his power back, right? He`s defiantly needs to be the, you know, beat his breast and show bravado as he did a few days ago, declaring that our goal is to just take down this administration. But then, probably in the caucus meeting, which I`ve had the pleasure of sitting in a few times, the lunch, at least the senatorial lunch, the members probably said, dude, we need to get something done here, because we`re on the ballot in states, in more states than then the Democrats are. And a few of those states are going to be tight, if not fecklessly so.

And So, McConnell, to Gene`s point, is caught between doing nothing and doing something that could enhance the opportunity for the Democrats to declare a win next year. And that`s why infrastructure is such a pain for Republicans right now. Because they want it, they need it, they desire it. But the moment they agree to it, already in the latest polls at 60% approval, they like the country lights where Joe Biden is going. They don`t -- they`ve factored in the border, they factored in, you know, the pipeline crises and other things. And they appreciate his direct honesty has sort of sitting at the kitchen table, and Republicans don`t have anything to inoculate themselves against that.

And that`s why what Liz Cheney is doing, what others of us will be doing in the days and weeks and months ahead, makes this so much more of a challenge for the GOP that has hitched his horse to a dead horse that has been forgotten and left on the roadside. And it`s just amazingly crazy politics. And the infrastructure narrative exposes it the most.

WILLIAMS: And that`s why you`re the second most quoted person on this broadcast. Eugene, I can give you about 45 seconds, our Manchin and Sinema lost causes and, you know, how would this kind of thing have gone over in the past, even in Bob Byrd Senate?

ROBINSON: Well, look, I don`t think I don`t think Manchin and Sinema last causes at all. Our Manchin and Sinema who represents states that have a lot of Republicans in them, and they need a lot of independent, right leaning independents to vote for them if they want to -- in order to come back. So they don`t want to be out there and what they would consider left field taking all these hard, you know, very difficult votes that will hurt them next time around.

However, I think if the Democrats are able to craft bills, and there`ll be some amending to do, but perhaps bill that Manchin and Sinema do support, and then bring them to the floor, and essentially dare Republicans to vote against them. And this make this process may have to be iterated a few times. I think then, they`ll start looking at a lot less like lost causes because both of them are inherently Democratic, and they`re Democrats to the bone. And I don`t think they`re going to -- so I don`t think there was (inaudible).

WILLIAMS: To most quotable men in television have been our guests again tonight, Eugene Robinson, Michael Steele is not by accident. Thank you both. We`ll do this again. I greatly appreciate it.

Coming up for us, we`ll go overseas for our next report tonight. And the question, is the world witnessing the start of some new kind of full scale war?


WILLIAMS: We`re going to show you some pictures from moments ago of the smoldering buildings in the Gaza Strip. The death toll is growing tonight. Civilians, children adults, in what is so far an air war between Gaza and Israel. And the UN is warning, this one is approaching a full scale war.

As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, mob violence is breaking out between Jews and Arabs in several, mostly Israeli cities. The US State Department is engaged as our other nations yet the explosions continued all during the night. NBC News Correspondent Molly Hunter has the latest for us.


MOLLY HUNTER, CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, a direct hit, this 14-story building in Gaza crashing to the ground after an Israeli airstrike. First, Israel fired warning shots. The building had been evacuated inside, media offices including a TV station run by the militant group Hamas. Israeli military says it was a terrorist target. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeting, "Well done, IDF."

Israeli airstrikes pounding the Gaza Strip since dawn, 2 million residents fenced in with nowhere to hide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were really heading towards a catastrophe.

HUNTER: More than 60 Palestinians have been killed including 16 children. This is a crime, this man says, they were civilians. It`s the worst violence in seven years. The Israeli military says they`re retaliating after Hamas launched more than a thousand rockets in the last 48 hours. Tonight, aiming at Tel Aviv for the second night in a row, seven Israelis have been killed including a five-year-old. President Biden is speaking on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu.


BIDEN: Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying in your territory.


WILLIAMS: And late tonight, the violence spilling into the Israeli street, a Jewish mob attacking an Arab driver.

And, Brian, just brutal scenes we`re seeing playing out tonight across Israel. We are seeing those violent mobs on both sides in multiple cities. And that`s what makes this round of violence different and even more alarming. Brian.


WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Molly Hunter for that report tonight. Another grim night in the region as the violence intensifies.

Coming up for us, in this country, how QAnon, through its network of conspiracy enthusiasts, how they explain why Biden is in the White House even though they swear Trump is still the president?



LIN WOOD, PRO TRUMP ATTORNEY AND CONSPIRACY THEORIST: Donald J. Trump because he never conceded to any. He won the election (inaudible) Donald J. Trump is still the guy the military will call for the code if they need it (inaudible). Joe Biden is not the president of United States


WILLIAMS: That`s right out of QAnon. Last thing before we go tonight that was Linwood, the Georgia personal injury lawyer, conspiracy theorists and QAnon believer lying to those nice people in South Carolina. Because we presume the lies make the defeat easier, the lies helped to solve the fear and the grievance.

Lyndon Johnson during a phone call with Dr. King back in 1965 famously said, "I don`t want to follow Hitler, but he had an idea that if you just take a simple thing and repeat it often enough, even if it wasn`t true, people would accept it." Trump, the twice impeached former president now retired living on a golf course in Florida, certainly gets credit for trying. Unencumbered by truth or any of the standards of office, he was willing to repeat his talking points to a comic degree because it whipped MAGA nation into a froth. So they believed him naturally as the Republican accountability project points out for us in great detail.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Stolen. Stolen. Stolen. Stolen. Stolen. Stolen. Democrat run cities. Democrat run cities illegal ballot. Illegal ballot. Illegal ballot. Illegal ballot. Dead people. Dead people. Dead people. Dead people. People voting illegally. Illegal votes. Illegal votes. Illegal votes. Illegal votes. Dominium income. Dominion. Dominion. Dominion. Fixed. Fixed. Fixed. Bad things. Bad things. Bad things happening. Fraud. Fraud. Fraud. Fraud. Fraud. Fraud. Cheating. Cheating. Cheating. Cheating. Cheating. Hoax. And if you don`t fight like hell, you`re not going to have a country anymore.


WILLIAMS: Remember, all of that, the Republican accountability project to take us off the air tonight. That is our effort for this Wednesday evening with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.