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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 5/14/21

Guests: Eugene Daniels, Janine Zacharia, Matt K. Lewis, Kavita Patel


Today, House Democrats announced a deal on creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 riot and insurrection. Five Republicans, five Democrats will serve on the 10 person panel with subpoena power moments after the announcement. However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters he had not approved the commission and said it`s very concerning that the commission would be limited in scope to the Capitol riot. As expected, House Republicans today gave upstate New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik the number three leadership position after they pushed out Liz Cheney.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tomorrow I`m going to have a chance to ask some key Republicans or part of a breakaway group that`s threatening to split the GOP just how far they are willing to go. I`m going to talk to Bush era Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former Republican Governors Bill Weld, and Christine Todd Whitman. You don`t want to miss that tomorrow, 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

"The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening, once again. Day 115 of the Biden administration.

And even as Americans are still getting used to this still new idea of going without masks, our Department of Homeland Security is warning the newly eased virus restrictions could bring about a new danger. And this is a first for us.

The department has issued a new terrorism bulletin today on domestic extremists specifically expanding on a warning issued shortly after President Biden took office. And this memo says in part, "Violent extremists may seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions across the United States to conduct attacks against a broader range of targets after previous public capacity limits reduced opportunities for lethal attacks."

Think about what`s been missing these past 14 months, soft targets large crowds.

Earlier today former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi was asked about this potential threat.


FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: We`ve yet to break the connection that radicalize them, that connection is to Trump, is to lawmakers who continue to say it was peaceful on January 6. These were cop loving protesters. But the election was stolen. We`re still doing an audit in Arizona. We`ll get to the truth someday.

Until that connection breaks, we will see people continue down the radicalization trail.



Today, House Democrats announced a deal on creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 riot and insurrection. Five Republicans, five Democrats will serve on the 10-person panel with subpoena power moments after the announcement. However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters he had not approved the commission and said it`s very concerning that the commission would be limited in scope to the Capitol riot, whatever that means.

As expected, House Republicans today gave upstate New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik the number three leadership position after they pushed out Liz Cheney. Stefanik won in a 134 to 46 secret ballot vote. She won out over Texas Congressman Chip Roy.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): My focus is on unity because that`s what the American people and that`s what our voters deserve.

I also want to thank this leadership team. I look forward to working with them in partnership shoulder to shoulder to make sure that we are fighting on behalf of hardworking Americans.

I also want to thank President Trump for his support. He is a critical part of our Republican team.


WILLIAMS: Should name check Donald Trump there.

The former Conference Chair continued her attacks on Donald Trump again, calling his false claim that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him, dangerous. She also had this to say about today`s election to replace her.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I would have voted for Chip. I think it`s important for us to have people in leadership who are conservative. And I think it`s also really important for us to have people in leadership who are committed to the truth and committed to the Constitution.


WILLIAMS: There were more big developments today concerning former Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg. We learned today Greenberg has agreed to plead guilty to six felony charges including sex trafficking of a minor.

Our friend Michael Schmidt of "The New York Times" reports it this way, "The plea deal by Joel Greenberg provided prosecutors a potential key witness as they decide whether to charge Mr. Gaetz, the Florida Republican who was a close ally of former President Trump. Mr. Gaetz, is said to be under investigation over whether he violated sex trafficking laws by having sex with the same 17-year-old."

Important to note, Matt Gaetz, was not named in the court papers. And we should also note Gaetz has not been charged with any crime. He has repeatedly in fact denied wrongdoing.

Tonight`s other big story continues to be this ongoing conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, as the Israeli military continues hitting targets in the Gaza Strip. Dozens of people on both sides of this have been killed. Israel says over 2,000 rockets in all have been fired from Gaza into Israel over the past five days.

The Israeli military is now set to be targeting a network of tunnels-built underneath Gaza that Hamas is suspected of using to move fighters and rockets.

Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the conflict is not over. Saying Israel will do everything possible to restore security to its cities.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests as we say goodbye to another weekend. Say hello to our big three, Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent for Politico and co-author of each day`s edition of the Politico playbook.

Janine Zacharia, former Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Middle East Correspondent for "The Washington Post." Before that she was Chief Diplomatic Correspondent for Bloomberg News, now teaches journalism to some lucky students at Stanford University.

And Chuck Rosenberg, Justice Department veteran, former U.S. attorney and a former senior FBI official. Notably, he is also the host of the MSNBC podcast, "The Oath."

Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Eugene, I`d like to begin with you and your beat. We`re going to do a lot of scattering around again tonight. Another big week in D.C., you could argue we turned a corner on COVID, you could argue the era of Liz Cheney, in management in her party in the House is over. What have we learned from these twin dynamics playing out at exactly the same time?

EUGENE DANIELS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": Yes. Well, what we`ve learned is that the -- what we`ve continued to see is that Democrats have seemingly been focused on policy and making changes that way. And the Republican Party has still been having all of this infighting that you kind of laid out in your intro there.

And on the Republican side of things, you know, Stefanik was saying this is about unity, and now everyone can be unified. The problem is the unification is happening around a lie.

And so, you know, we talked to experts, even people within the party that are in Congress behind the scenes, they also have the concerns about how -- what that looks like. Electorally, they`ve made the decision that being with Donald Trump is the only way to win in `22, and possibly 2024 for the presidency. And yet, how do you build a foundation of a party, you have these factions, smaller factions, right, as we`ve called it a civil war for a very long time.

But civil war, you typically have two sides that have or equally resourced. And that`s not what we`re seeing here, right? You see, someone like Liz Cheney and people like Adam Kinzinger on a much smaller level, but they do not seem that they`re going to give up.

And Liz Cheney obviously hitting off the big interviews, and she`s going to continue to do that because, as she said, she`s not done trying to fight and make sure that in her words, Donald Trump isn`t leader and a big part of the Republican Party.

And on the masks, you know, it is it is a good thing that all of, you know, that part of the world is changing. We are -- the CDC has taken out indoor masks, masks on the outside.

And this idea that we are turning the corner is really starting to be felt, right? It`s not just something that doctors are telling us. You`re really starting to feel that.

I was in person doing a studio hit today and for the first time in a very long time. So you`re starting -- people are starting to feel that life is normal. And the White House is hoping that that will make people who aren`t vaccinated see that the world is opening, that there are incentives that they will get vaccinated.

Health experts are a little iffy when I talked to them about whether or not that is enough incentive for people who already weren`t wearing masks, for people who didn`t want to get vaccinated. And so, the White House has a lot more work to get done when it comes to vaccine hesitancy. But this is like you said, a corner that we are turning

WILLIAMS: Good stuff in there, Eugene.

Chuck, over to you. Let`s talk about this proposed, and we emphasize proposed plea deal the guy advertised as Congressman Gaetz wing man, we imagine he has some stories to tell.

CHUCK ROSENBERG, HOST, "THE OATH": He probably does, Brian. Look, there`s a -- there are documents filed today in open court in federal court in Orlando, including a 60 some odd page statement of facts. It sort of underscores a remarkable investigation of this guy Greenberg and all sorts of crimes from commercial sex trafficking, to identity fraud, to stalking, to plain old financial fraud.

Now, importantly, and you mentioned this, Brian, nobody else has mentioned in the Greenberg documents, only Greenberg. And that`s the policy of the Department of Justice.

But let me explain why it`s the policy. It would be patently unfair to name somebody else in Greenberg`s documents, unless we were actually charging that other person with a crime. And so, Mr. Gaetz or the other adult men that are mentioned elliptically in the Greenberg document should feel relieved. They should draw no sustenance from that.

Their day may be coming. We`ll see what Greenberg has to offer. He still has to plead guilty, that`s scheduled for Monday. And after that prosecutors and investigators will continue to do with him what they`ve already been doing, debriefing him, trying to corroborate his story, and trying to see if they can bring public charges against anybody else.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for that, Chuck.

Janine, take us to our third topic. And with that, it means to take us overseas.

What is different in your eyes? And I`m curious to hear your answer having watched Israeli media all day, what is different about this conflict this time?

JANINE ZACHARIA, FMR. MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": Oh, I`ve been thinking a lot about, you know, previous conflicts which we -- all the conflicts since we`ve had that, since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, when you had a 2008 war with Hamas, in 2012 war with Hamas, and especially the 2014 war where they all looked very similar.

And at the end of that 2014 war, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel had said that they have destroyed all of Hamas`s tunnels. And yet here we are, again, with the same kind of conflict.

What`s different I`d say are a couple of things. One, is politically in Israel and in the Palestinian territories.

In Israel, you`re about to head to your fifth election. So there`s a lot of political instability there. And in the absence of a functioning government, there has been no chance of any kind of peace negotiations.

And the same in the Palestinian authority, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is probably the most weakened by all this right now. No elections now. They were postponed before this. And now you just going to see Hamas win.

More kudos from the Palestinian population, potentially from this. And then politically in the U.S., you have a difference.

It was on this very day, Brian, three years ago that the U.S. under President Trump moved the Israeli -- embassy U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. President Trump said he took Jerusalem off the table, he might have taken it off his table. But it`s still very much on the tables over there. The most incendiary issue of the final status issues to be resolved.

And what`s really terrifying, especially among the -- beyond the fact that we`re still seeing the same horrific movie over and over, this conflict cannot be solved militarily by Israel bombing despite 1,800 rockets now being fired by Hamas. This is not the way to do it. They think they can, "mow the grass" every few years. That terrible phrase.

What`s really terrifying right now is they have no other policy. And also what`s happening among Israeli citizens, Arab Israelis against Jewish Israelis, this is what is shocking people in Israel, it`s not -- it`s mob violence. You have synagogues being burned, you have Arab Israelis being lynched.

Twenty percent of the Israeli population is Arab. And they have lived pretty much peacefully since 1948 together. It hasn`t been perfect. But this is what people are really, really scared about this time. That`s what`s different.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, that`s what I`m seeing from media over there. Which brings us over to Eugene. So, you`ve got President Biden, who`s juggling of a pandemic. He is juggling this knife fight needing the votes for infrastructure, his jobs bill, and then some.

Eugene, where does the Middle East now take his place on his list of priorities?

DANIELS: Yes, I mean, this has been a White House that has been squarely focused on the things that they want to be focused on, right? The prioritization is at the top list, it`s at the top of their list when it comes to skill sets. They`re very good at it.

And the things that they want to be focused on are their pandemic, and getting the economy roaring and bouncing back. And that has been the focus.

But what they`ve continued to find, and they knew this was going to happen, that things happen in the world, and they have the focus on. They wanted to focus when it comes to foreign policy. They wanted to focus on China. They wanted to focus on Russia and that relationship.

And so, this is something that they -- you know, it`s hard to deal with. Obviously, no president has really been able to figure out the best way to do so. But what`s really different with this White House and this president, is that you have a party, this is the first time that the President`s party has been a lot more sympathetic to Palestine. Right?

You look at what people on the left, some of the people with the biggest voices in the Democratic Party, you know, they are dealing a lot more in the gray area when it comes to this issue. And they`re not scared to call out Israel in what they think are, you know, escalations that are unnecessary. And so, that is another friction point for this president who wants to focus really on the domestic issues that are happening in this country about something that.

You know, when I`ve talked to people behind the scenes, they talk so much about how the foreign policy and the domestic policy are so interlinked. And they`re starting to see that even more and more into how they deal with this issue in the Middle East. Where`s that on that part of this, it`s moving up but by no, you know, determination of their own.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, a question to you about 1/6, how confident are you, as a law man for most of your life, that all of those guilty will be brought to justice for what they did that day?

ROSENBERG: Well, all those guilty against whom the Department of Justice can make a case will be brought to justice, right? We need this thing called evidence. I know you know that. And so, there are people who did things but may not be on camera. There are people who did things, but others may not have seen it and reported it.

We need a quantum of evidence. We need to be able to prove our case. Should it go to trial by proof beyond a reasonable doubt?

And so, inevitably, Brian, some people who did bad things go free. But most of them have been spotted, most have been caught, most have been identified. And I imagine that there will be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of convictions.

And by the way, as with the Gaetz case, keep in mind that as people get convicted, one way out of their jam is to cooperate against others. It`s a very important tool for law enforcement, cooperation, and those who are convicted, and particularly those convicted of serious crimes, may give us that additional proof that quantum of evidence, we need to file other charges.

And so, I am confident that where we can bring cases we will. We`ll do it for the right reasons in the right way.

WILLIAMS: Janine, back to your first answer. Did you leave Rome for the possibility that our Mideast envoy, Jared, may have gotten some things wrong during his time there? And are you leaving open the possibility for this theory that Netanyahu, and you hear this on Israeli media, from some of their commentators, "needed a crisis?"

ZACHARIA: Well, there`s no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu benefits in some way politically from this and that he is mostly concerned with his political survival. But I don`t believe that this is necessarily a war that he desired at this moment. It helps him in the sense that we`re probably going to have to head to another election now, rather than his rival being able to form a coalition government, we don`t need to get into the weeds on that.

In terms of Jared Kushner, it was a lot easier to deal with the Gulf and form what were known as the Abraham Accords than it was to negotiate a serious peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

And what`s very unfortunate is that since the last Gaza War of 2014, there`s been spaces (ph), nothing`s happened, right? And so, in the absence now, Hamas has rebuilt those tunnels that is resupply itself with rockets that are much -- were penetrating deeper into Israel. And the Israelis, you know, have not figured out a new plan for dealing with this.

Now, what the previous speaker, my fellow panelists said about the U.S. and President Biden is correct. He doesn`t want to engage with this. And he has this problem now of the Democratic Party being split ideologically over Israel.

But he`s going to get dragged into this one way or the other. This drags on as long as the 2014 conflict did, which was seven weeks, 2,200 Palestinians dead and 65 Israelis killed.

So, (INAUDIBLE) is a good diplomat in the region. But the U.S., I imagine is going to be taking a greater role soon.

WILLIAMS: Yes. And I think it`s safe to say Israel has been shocked at the inventory of rockets that the Palestinians -- the Hamas has been stocking up this whole time that they`ve seen over their skies.

Eugene Daniels, Janine Zacharia, and Chuck Rosenberg, can`t thank you enough for supplying our first conversation of tonight for the last night of this week. Greatly appreciate it.

Just before we head to our first break here. Word arrived late tonight of the loss of a longtime member of our on air family. Veteran NBC News Space Correspondent Jay Barbree has died.

Jay had the distinction of having covered every man NASA mission Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Shuttle. He witnessed all 166 launches.

He knew a good many of the astronauts well, chief among them Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Neil Armstrong. Jay was the first to report the cause of the Challenger explosion. He covered, think about it, one subject, space, for the same company NBC for 59 years until his retirement in 2017.

Our condolences to his family and his NASA family. Jay Barbree was 87 years old.

Coming up on our broadcast continues here tonight, Republicans are eager to present a united front as they tried mightily to today, just don`t look behind the curtain.

And later, one day after the great unmasking, there happens to be great confusion. It`s why we have a doctor on standby. All of it as The 11th Hour just getting underway on this Friday night.



STEFANIK: I also want to thank President Trump for his support. He is a critical part of our Republican team.

My district voted for President Obama by double digits and voted for President Trump and myself by double digits.

President Trump is the leader that they look to. I support President Trump. Voters support President Trump.

Republican voters are unified in their support and their desire to work with President Trump.

We are unified in working with President Trump. My job representing our Republican members, the vast majority. We look forward to working with President Trump.


WILLIAMS: Think she named checked him enough there if there was any question about the whole Trump has on this party. To that point, Congresswoman Liz Cheney had this to say about her fellow Republicans.


CHENEY: We have more members who believe in substance and policy and ideals than are willing to say so. And in some cases, I mean, if you look at the vote to impeach, for example, you know, there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security, afraid, you know, in some instances for their lives. And that tells you something about where we are as a country.


WILLIAMS: So, let`s talk about all of it. With us again tonight, Juanita Tolliver, veteran political strategist to progressive candidates and causes. And Matt K. Lewis, conservative commentator, senior columnist for "The Daily Beast."

So, Juanita, think about it, Stefanik is playing to a retired guy, probably watching a flat screen T.V. in the clubhouse after 18 holes in Florida. She could not have mentioned his name more in those few paragraphs. Is that all the evidence you need of the delicate underbody of this party, they have no other game?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, PROGRESSIVE POLITICAL STRATEGIST: They have no other game. This is their big bet. And they`re betting on Trump and his big lie, right?

Like when I hear Stefanik speak, it just shows that she`s willing this into reality that the party is unified behind Trump, which we know is not true when we have divine acts by folks like Cheney. But to hear her say his name so much, consider it a prelude, a prelude for how she`s going to approach her new leadership role within the caucus, and what she`s going to be continuously parroting across networks or across other media outlets.

But the reality is, Cheney`s not going anywhere. And so, Stefanik should develop her language in response to Cheney continuously calling out the lies that the Republican caucus is going to be reporting, continuing to call it the cult of personality and the culture wars that they`re trying to fix it on versus legislating and responding to the multiple crises facing this country.

And so, when I see Cheney out there, I think she`s going to continue to beat that drama. She builds her platform, and as we`ve heard rumors throughout the week, potentially lay out a plan for running in 2024 as an alternative. Even though she doesn`t have support within her caucus, there could be a growing appetite across the country among disaffected Republicans who are looking for an alternative here.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Matt, I got one for you. Your good friend, just kidding, Louie Gohmert of Texas speaking today, the gist of these remarks. He just doesn`t remember 1/6 being all that violent. We`ll hear him out and discuss on the other side.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, (R) TEXAS: There a lot of people that have forgotten apparently about 9/11, 3,000 people killed, the Pentagon was hit. The two World Trade Centers were hit, 1000s died. That was more of an attack on democracy.

You know, I just want the President to understand there have been things worse than people without any firearms coming into a building.


WILLIAMS: So Matt, that goes into the what aboutism Hall of Fame? What is motivating this movement to tell sentiment people who can fog up a mirror who were alive and watching television on 1/6 try to tell them what their eyes weren`t seeing?

MATT K. LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, look this is not new. This has been going on for, you know, almost as long as 1/6. I mean, remember, was it Senator Ron Johnson who said it was like a picnic. You know, there was a camaraderie there people giving each other hugs. This is not an accident. This is not somebody miss speaking.

I mean, this is an intentional attempt to retcon, to, you know, basically have people forget what happened. Now, you`re showing this B roll, if you watch what happened and, you know, most of us watched it live on T.V., you know, people beating police officers with American flags, it seems pretty violent. Pretty crazy. It was a horrific day

But I think in the minds of a lot of people, they are whitewashing it. And this is revisionist history. And it is not an accident.

WILLIAMS: OK. On that quote, I know when to take a break. Both of our guests, thankfully, have agreed to stay with us while we fit this in.

And coming up when our conversation continues. We find out how a lawmaker fills up her free time after she`s been stripped of all those pesky committee assignments.



REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This is a woman that`s deeply unwell. And clearly needs some help. I, you know, I, and her kind of fixation has lasted for several years now. You know, it`s at this point I think the depth of that unwellness has raised concerns for other members as well. And so, you know, I think that this is an assessment that needs to be made by the proper professionals.


WILLIAMS: Really hard to hear she was basically saying that Marjorie Taylor Greene is unwell. Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is considering launching an ethics investigation into Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for what`s been deemed a verbal assault on Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez on the Hill this week. Here is how Greene defended herself today.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): There`s nothing wrong with me pushing things out there asking question pushing for debate. That`s exactly what I should be doing to represent my district.


WILLIAMS: Remaining with us are Juanita Tolliver and Matt K. Lewis and we`re happy about that. So Matt, let`s talk about MTG. This former social media CrossFit enthusiast and current Jewish space laser curious member of Congress. She crazy sells, apparently, because thus far calendar 2021 she`s up over $3 million in donations.

MATT K. LEWIS, THE DAILY BEAST SENIOR COLUMNIST: You know, that`s the sad part, Brian, is that the incentives are all perverse. It`s that if you, I mean, she got kicked off of her committees that used to be a big way to raise money from lobbyists. And but she`s not even on committees so she has time to go harass other members of Congress apparently. And rather than being punished, you know, it is interesting, right, Liz Cheney is being drummed out of the Republican Party or out of leadership. Marjorie Taylor Greene, she`s perfectly fine. She`s great, no problem, nothing to see here. That tells you how a lot about the state of politics and specifically the Republican Party.

WILLIAMS: Juanita, I`ve got one for you. Speaking of Congresswoman yelling at other Congresswoman through the mail slot in their office, this was video that was unearthed of her, just prior to her getting sworn in, the CNN investigative unit found this since deleted, we`ll play it discuss on the other side.


GREENE: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I`m an American citizen. I pay your salary for the taxes that you collect for me through the IRS, because I`m a taxpaying citizen of the United States. I`m a woman. I`m a female business owner. And I`m proud to be an American woman. And I do not support your socialist policies. And I do not support your murderous abortion policies. If you want to be a big girl, you need to get rid of your diaper and come out and be able to talk to the American citizens instead of us having to use a flap.


WILLIAMS: So speaking through the mail slot as members of Congress do, Juanita, I know the argument from the Democrats, and that is you people are giving her oxygen, but it still needs to be talked about that this is a sitting member of Congress. And in your view, what is a Democrat to do about this?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you take it as seriously as Representative Ocasio-Cortez has called on us to take it as seriously because I appreciate her mentioning the fixation being years long, because here we have Representative Greene harassing her in her off -- like at her office door, filming it on Facebook Live, saying a lot of the same phrases and rhetoric that the insurrectionists were shouting, this is my building. I deserve to be here because I pay your salary type framework that fully aligned with what we`ve heard from the insurrectionists.

And it`s alarming. It fully aligns with what we heard from her earlier this week when she accosted Representative Ocasio-Cortez again. And so it`s this drumbeat because this is not exclusively focused on Ocasio-Cortez, it also was focused on other women of color like Representative Cori Bush, who Marjorie Taylor Greene shouted down and followed through a tunnel, and to the point where Cori Bush needed to move offices for safety concerns.

I think Greene`s behavior is truly a problem. It can`t be dismissed. It`s not something frivolous, as though she`s bored. She is doing this in a targeted and harmful way and is creating a safety threat to other members. And so while Pelosi mentioned an ethics probe, it cannot stop there. This behavior is unacceptable and it needs to go farther because she is an active threat to other members and we don`t know where she`ll escalate to next.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, Juanita, as you know, the Speaker of the House at the end of the day is responsible for how the House is run, and that includes discipline. So this may yet get even more interesting before we`re done. To our guests tonight, thank you for staying up with us. Juanita Tolliver, Matt Lewis, greatly appreciate it. We`ll do this again.

Coming up for us, the new CDC guidance on masks brings relief and yet confusion. Again, it is why we have a doctor standing by to help us sort it all out when we come back.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: If you go into a restaurant or a store, or any other place in the public indoors, you`re not going to know who`s vaccinated or not. But we felt that all things considered, given the high degree of effectiveness of the vaccines that you`re OK to do that because your risk is very, very low.


WILLIAMS: Despite Dr. Fauci`s reassurances, states and businesses have the final say on indoor mask rules while some governors immediately tossed out their mask mandates. Others are still trying to figure out what comes next.

Back with us tonight, Dr. Kavita Patel, clinical physician and former senior policy aide during the Obama administration, she is for good reason among our public health experts, also a nonresident fellow at Brookings. Doctor, I`ve been looking forward to hearing from you on this. I need the reaction. First round reaction from your friends, families, fellow doctors, and is this mask thing going to do what our politics have done to the pandemic and that is basically fall along red and blue lines, do you think?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, FMR. OBAMA WHITE HOUSE AIDE TO VALERIE JARRETT: Yes, Brian, it`s a -- whenever you`re asking the question, will it fall along politics? The answer is probably in some degree, yes. But I will say, my first reaction was just kind of stun and an awe. And I say that in deference to the CDC, because, you know, we`ve talked before about how they had been overly cautious, not surprisingly. And then here you go, literally 48 hours after Director Walensky was testifying to Congress and defending kind of these, you know, really, some considered extreme measures of protection, all masked off. We saw the President without a mask, the Vice President, the First Lady.

And then having let it settle in, I think, number one, its proof that vaccinations work. That`s their overarching message. The secondary message was around the math. But the first message is that we have the luxury of having incredibly effective vaccines. Then to your question about families and friends and doctors, the majority of the doctors I know, including myself have decided that for reasons that relate to what we do in the day jobs as professionals, as well as having young kids around, and the fact, Brian, that many of us are in places where vaccination rates are still if you`re in Adams County, Ohio, it`s 19 percent.

And that there are still parts of the country where case rates are just higher than we would consider to be kind of low levels of community transmission. For all those reasons, you`re going to see me wearing a mask indoors when I don`t know whether people are vaccinated or not. But the CDC has made it clear --

WILLIAMS: I got it.

PATEL: -- vaccines are our way out of this.

WILLIAMS: I totally understand that. You mentioned that this is a migration of policy in short order from the CDC and it`s become sport to dunk on the CDC, of course. This is a setup to playing for you, a fellow physician loosely put he`s an eye doctor turn senator, here is Rand Paul tonight on "Fox News."


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): There`s not a shred of truth to any of the self- mitigation, distancing, all the things they`ve told us, none of them is there any evidence that any of it has worked to mitigate. The only thing that has slowed down the virus has been the vaccine and natural immunity.


WILLIAMS: So Doctor, it turns out staying home, staying away from people, wearing a mask, if we had just listened to him we could have done without that the whole time.

PATEL: Yes. Well I`m glad I didn`t listen to him. I`m glad I had a number of people around me in my community that didn`t listen to him and many Americans didn`t. Fact, the only reason we did not see the cases that we could have seen were because of measures like putting in mask mandates, encouraging people to stay at home. And frankly, Brian, we talked at the beginning of this pandemic during the Trump administration, in how much they fought those mitigation measures, and did not put any of that into place or give guidance to schools, businesses, et cetera.

So I think simply put it, obviously, the vaccines are incredibly effective, more effective than distance or some of the other things that we`ve done. It doesn`t mean that those things did not have measurable effect. We`ve seen that in studies with facial masks. We`ve seen it in studies with air quality, by the way. So I want to emphasize. The CDC acknowledging that this is an airborne virus was not overnight, it was an accumulating body of evidence.

And that`s why telling people to go outdoors and having that safety of being outdoors where you don`t need mask is incredibly important, even for vaccinated people and unvaccinated people, no matter necessary. So I think those are the kinds of things science in an evolving pandemic is something that we`re all learning how to communicate better about, that communication from Senator Paul is totally misleading and, frankly, irresponsible. But vaccines are our way out of this, Brian, and so, you know, that`s the bottom line.

WILLIAMS: And with big stores, big chains, Walgreen, CVS, Walmart, Trader Joe`s, as of tonight saying no more mask mandates. So it seems to me, Doctor, this is going to be our new national honor system. Worst case, you`re vaccinated, your mask last year in a checkout line, and someone near you has not been vaccinated, but they`ve tossed their mask and say they`re COVID positive. What is the risk of that worst case encounter?

PATEL: Yes. This is where -- it`s good news, it`s incredibly low. It`s not zero, Brian. And I know that our neighborhood Yankees are getting a lot of attention for their breakthrough infections after being vaccinated. But it`s another reminder that most of those Yankees who were positive were not symptomatic. So the vaccine actually prevented them from getting sick. And that`s what it`s supposed to do.

Your risk is incredibly low. I think the consideration that you have to take into account, Brian, is that there is no mechanism to prove who`s vaccinated and who`s not. And those chance encounters, do you as an individual want to take some risk? Or are you willing to say, I`m OK with it, because I want to get back to as much normal behavior as possible. I would like to see vaccination rates come up and cases go down.

And I actually think that`ll be in the next several weeks. And then I might even feel more comfortable taking my mask off indoors. But for the meantime, I don`t think I`m hurting anybody by having a mask on. We`re doing away with distance, plexiglass, some of these other measures. And we have to remind ourselves that everybody under the age of 12 can`t get a vaccine right now, we`ve seen a rise in the proportion of pediatric cases of COVID not as severe, but they`re there and that`s what`s weighing heavily on every parent minds right now.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Well, I`m going to feel like Margaret Mead, I`m very curious to see what situation I find it my favorite New Jersey shop right this weekend. I`ll report back. Dr. Patel, thank you for always being so great about taking our questions. Kavita Patel has been our guest tonight.

Coming up for us an update on this especially lethal and depressing week in the Middle East, our Richard Engel is on the ground there. We will hear from him after this.


WILLIAMS: We continue to follow this violent fighting between Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas today, violent protests erupted in the West Bank and calls for a ceasefire are being largely ignored. Again tonight, there are reports of civilians including children being caught in the crossfire. Our NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engle reports from Tel Aviv for us tonight.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With new airstrikes tonight and tank and artillery fire, Israel says it`s targeting Hamas and destroying a network of tunnels in Gaza, the Islamic militant group is using to hide and launched 2,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities over the last several days.

But it`s not only tunnels being obliterated. This was a bank. This one says was used by Hamas. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed so far, including at least 30 children. Four of them buried together today. Venturing outside in Gaza, 22-year-old law student Karama Hayal (ph) says the devastation is worse than she imagined.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We feel like whatever we do, whatever we build will get destroyed once again. If we had hope for the future, they just kill it.

ENGEL (voice-over): It could get much worse. Israel has deployed thousands of troops to the Gaza border primed for ground assault. But Israel for now has held off an invasion, instead relying on its Iron Dome missile defense system to intercept Hamas rockets. But some are getting through falling indiscriminately and killing at least eight Israelis. Millions in Israel have been rushing to bomb shelters.

The children are traumatized. We have been in the shelter for a week, he says. And now the fighting is enraging Palestinians outside of Gaza. Deadly clashes broke out in the West Bank. And for the first time in years, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are joining the fight with mob vigilante attacks from both sides.


ENGEL: We`ve also seen rockets launched unsuccessfully from Lebanon and Syria. So this could escalate quickly. The only hope for both Israelis and Palestinians is that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Hamas pull back before this becomes some kind of regional war, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And that`s the big concern, of course. Richard, thank you for reporting. Our own Richard Engel in Tel Aviv for us tonight.

Coming up for us, one theory as to the cause of the kind of devotion not seen often outside of North Korea.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight our friends, the historians, will get the sorry job of figuring out what it is about Donald Trump that would make an entire political party sell out to him completely bowed down to him grown men and women who must think were stupid when they tried to pretend January 6th was just a day on the hill. And when they now insist Trump is blameless. Our friends over at "The Daily Show" have zeroed in on a new medication that may help explain it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a Republican who regrets blaming Trump for the January 6th insurrection? Then you need Insurrectigone, the powerful new drug that provides instant relief for whatever guilt you feel that your leader incited and attempted coup. With Insurrectigone, you`ll go from this.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Trump and I, we`ve had a hell of a journey. All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.


GRAHAM: It`s impossible for this party to move forward without President Trump being its leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Insurrectigone acts quickly to suppress whatever Democratic principles or aversion to violence you might be feeling. Just one dose can stop those doubts, as well as any potential primary challengers reckoning with your role in one of America`s darkest days is a tough pill to swallow, which is why Insurrectigone now comes in gummy form, yum. History never forgets. But you can, just listen to the satisfied customers.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The President bears responsibility for Wednesday`s attack on Congress by mob rioters.

We were so successful under President Trump. The last thing we want to do is be fighting among ourselves.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The President`s language and rhetoric crossed a line and it was reckless.

Let me tell you this right now, Donald J. Trump ain`t going anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you think it was an impeachable offense?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you grade Trump as president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, listen, overall, I give the President an A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The results of Insurrectigone are undeniable. Insurrectigone is for treatment of moderate to severe regret that you supported a coup attempt. Ask your doctor if your democracy is strong enough to ignore an insurrection. Insurrectigone overthrow your memory.


WILLIAMS: A lot of people talking about this new medication as "The Daily Show" plays us off the air and that is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week. With our thanks for being here with us as we always say, have a good weekend unless you have other plan on behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.