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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 5/17/21

Guests: Jonathan Karl, Anna Palmer, Neal Katyal, David Plouffe, Michael Steele


White House is on managing recovery as COVID threat recedes. President now says we`re nearly there. As the White House tries to enact its domestic agenda, it`s now under mounting pressure to do more to stop the worst fighting in Israel since 2014. The outbreak of violence has now entered its second week. Israel continues to hammer targets in Gaza as Hamas rains down rockets on the southern part of Israel. Over 200 Palestinians, about a dozen Israelis have been killed in all this. The Supreme Court has agreed to review a Mississippi law restricting abortions. The case could set the stage for a weakening of Roe vs. Wade. Rep. Liz Cheney said, "No question" another January 6 riot could happen. Sen. Josh Hawley said that January 6 commission should probe other attacks. Former Matt Gaetz "wingman", Joel Greenberg, pleads guilty and agrees to cooperate with feds. Democrats pressure Biden on worsening Mideast crisis. Arizona Republican officials are pushing back against false claims from former President Donald Trump and his allies about the 2020 election.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: -- society in our country vibrant. We have to build a solid foundation. And the only way to build a solid foundation is to educate the next generation.

Bill Russell, the educator, the mentor, the man gets tonight`s last word. Goodnight, Bill.

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

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 118 of the Biden administration, which is now edging even closer to its goal of a nation with the pandemic in the rearview mirror. That has been number one on the White House agenda. President now says we`re nearly there.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Cases, pandemic cases are down in all 50 states. First time.

We still have 10s of millions left to vaccinate. But we are making significant progress. In fact, when tomorrow`s vaccination numbers come out, they`ll show that 60 percent, 60 percent of Americans have received at least one shot.


WILLIAMS: President also noted deaths are down 81 percent and are at the lowest point since April of 2020. Though, we are still losing several 100 people a day in this country.

And we learned the U.S. will donate 20 million Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccine doses in June to nations struggling to get control of the virus around the world.

Even with signs that are closer to normal future is within our reach, there is a lot of confusion about the new and changing CDC guidelines on mask wearing and there`s new pressure on the White House to weigh in here. Some of the nation`s biggest retailers quickly changed their policies to follow the CDC and have made masks optional for fully vaccinated customers. District of Columbia, New York state are also relaxing mask requirements this week. But California is going to keep its mandate for another month. And in New Jersey, it`s still masks on while indoors.


GOV. PHIL MURPHY, (D) NEW JERSEY: We`re just not ready yet. We`ve been clobbered not once but twice. We`ve lost over 26,000 people. We know the virus is more lethal indoors.

And you`re asking somebody who`s at the hardware store working there or in a retail or grocery store to make the judgment on who`s vaccinated, who`s not. We`re not there yet. We`re close.


WILLIAMS: And let`s not forget, this was also taxed a delayed by a month because of the pandemic. This afternoon, the President noted that as part of the huge relief barely signed in March. Parents who qualify would receive a $300 tax credit for each child under six, $250 apiece for each child over six. Those will show up as cash payments starting in July.


BIDEN: We need to give ordinary families a break, a tax break, to help them with the cost of raising their kids. We put that tax cut into the American Rescue Plan. Experts have told us this will cut child poverty in America in half.


WILLIAMS: White House also released tax returns for the President and Vice President as presidents and vice presidents usually do. The Biden`s reported over $607,000 in income, paid out about $157,000 in taxes. Vice President Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, reported earnings of 1.6 million paid nearly $622,000 in taxes.

As the White House tries to enact its domestic agenda, it`s now under mounting pressure to do more to stop the worst fighting in Israel since 2014. The outbreak of violence has now entered its second week.

Israel continues to hammer targets in Gaza as Hamas rains down rockets on the southern part of Israel. Over 200 Palestinians, about a dozen Israelis have been killed in all this.

Today, Biden spoke with Netanyahu of Israel. The White House says Biden expressed support for ceasefire, stopping short of a full on demand.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President`s view and the view of senior leaders in the White House is that our role as the White House, as the federal government, as the President of the United States is to play a constructive role in diplomacy to use our role, our relationships around the world to have intensive, quiet discussions with leaders in the region.


WILLIAMS: We have a live report from Tel Aviv later on in the hour.

Also tonight, the Supreme Court has agreed to review a Mississippi law restricting abortions. The case could set the stage for a weakening of Roe vs. Wade.

On another legal front, Florida Republican official Joel Greenberg, a one- time associate, so called wing man of Congressman Matt Gaetz has pleaded guilty to six federal charges, including sex trafficking involving a minor, instead of the 33 counts he was facing. This plea agreement was part of a deal that forces Greenberg to cooperate fully now with all DOJ investigations, like the case involving whether Matt Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws.

Congressman denied all possible wrongdoing. However, this ominous development did not go unnoticed today. A banner reading "Tick tock Matt Gaetz" was flown over the Orlando federal courthouse during Joel Greenberg`s federal court proceeding.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Monday night. Anna Palmer, Veteran Journalist, founder CEO of Punchbowl News D.C. based service covering Congress that she created with her fellow Politico playbook veteran Jake Sherman. Jonathan Karl, back with us, Chief Washington Correspondent for ABC News, longtime White House Correspondent. His book called "Front Row at the Trump Show," now out in paperback. And Neal Katyal, back with us as well, Department of Justice veteran, former acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration, who has argued dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Jon, because of your beat, I`d like to begin with you. It is hard to argue with the progress that`s been made on the virus. And then along comes a foreign policy test from Israel a way of saying to the Obama White House, welcome to the presidency.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No question. I mean, you can get, you can be relishing in the progress that has been made on what was the number one priority coming in for Joe Biden getting control of the pandemic, it looks like that we are well on the way to that. But of course presidents deal with incoming.

And this is a really difficult time for Biden to be facing this crisis in the Middle East. He has essentially been the face, or one of the most prominent faces of Democratic foreign policy for decades. During most of that time, absolute support, unquestioned support for Israel and Israel`s actions was basically the watchword and that was Biden`s position.

But he is facing a very different Democratic Party right now. A Democratic Party, where the center of gravity has turned -- has shifted quite significantly.

And you had -- you saw -- you mentioned in your open, he put out a statement, the White House put out a statement about his call with Benjamin Netanyahu that included the line that he expressed support for a ceasefire. This came after more than half of the Democrats in the Senate have come out demanding a ceasefire, demanding a ceasefire that Israel is not ready to accept.

WILLIAMS: Anna Palmer, Biden, to the consternation and frustration of a good many Democrats continues to talk up possible areas of cooperation with Republicans. When Republicans talk to a journalist like you, what do they say these days about the President?

ANNA PALMER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS CO-FOUNDER & CEO: Well, listen, I think Republicans, Joe Biden has disappointed them. They wanted to try to find a way forward in terms of COVID relief, and instead, Joe Biden, the Democrats decided to do it alone.

There has been continuing to negotiations certainly when it comes to the infrastructure package, which the President and his team have been negotiating in good faith with Republicans. But your point is very real. Democrats are not going to wait for Republicans. And a lot of congressional Democrats, privately and publicly, voiced their frustration with Republicans don`t feel like they`re acting in good faith, that they are actually want to come to the table and make a deal here.

And so, this is going to be that tension that we`re going to be watching very closely here in the coming weeks. We`re certainly already seeing it on the big story tonight, Israel. Republicans clearly backing Israel. And you`re seeing this real time debate among the Democratic Party about where their support of Israel is versus where maybe they should be pulling back.

WILLIAMS: Neal Katyal, take us into matters, Supreme Court related, there is energy on the right and dread on the left, that this may be the test case that could do it as the anti-abortion forces see it combined with the changes there have been on the court, Trump`s nominees specifically. Also combined with the migration of science on fetal viability and the like. Tell us the view from the inside of this test case. And to our viewers, this is a decision just to set your clocks and calendars we likely won`t know for another year.

NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: So Brian, the most important thing to know is that the Supreme Court never has to hear anything. They never have to hear a case, they get 10,000 requests. They hear to hear cases. They hear about 65 of them.

But they agreed to hear this case. And this case involves a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks, which is far earlier than viability, which is 23 or 24 weeks. And the lower courts found this easily unconstitutional. Very, very conservative judges found it that way.

But this case has always been about going to the Supreme Court. So much so that the state of Mississippi didn`t even bother trying to have an oral argument in the court of appeals, because they knew they do lose. This Mississippi abortion law hasn`t had a chance, Brian, in any lower court since the year 1973.

And if you pass a bunch of laws after a shift in the composition of the Supreme Court, it`s not because the laws change, it`s because the politics have. And if you`re someone invest in the reputation of the court as an institutional actor, that`s a very dangerous calculus to legitimate.

And look, if Mississippi were so interested in human dignity and protecting it as they say, you have to wonder why it is easier, why it`s like harder to vote than it is to buy an assault rifle in this state and the like. Now, you`re leading call this a potential reversal of Roe, weakening of Roe versus Wade. But I think that makes it sound like there`s only one case row in question. But in reality, we`ve had 48 years of precedent after precedent about roe, some of it decided just two years ago. This case is therefore not just about one outlier decision, it`s about nearly 50 years of Supreme Court history.

And two years ago, Chief Justice Roberts cast the deciding vote to strike down a Louisiana law that restricted abortion. So he crossed over to vote with the so called liberals on the court. But that was when Justice Ginsburg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was on the court. She`s not in the court now. She`s been replaced by Amy Barrett. And the question is, is there some other Republican juror -- Republican nominated jurist who would crossover with the chief to try and save both Roe versus Wade and the other 48 years of precedent?

And if not, this is going to land in Congress`s lap. Because right now, Brian, they can pass a law to guarantee abortion rights to everyone in Mississippi and the other 49 states.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me go there, Neil. How real is that possibility? How likely is that, especially politics being what they are, in electoral politics, especially, this could be a narrow window of having the party advantage?

KATYAL: Exactly. So you know, Congress, it can pass this just by mere majority vote in both the House and Senate. There may be questions about filibuster in the Senate and the like. But I think this legislation which would use the preemption power of Congress, which is the time honored part of Congress`s sweep of authority is under our Constitution.

But simply just say, look, we`re leaving the law where it`s been since 1973. We`re not trying to change it in any way. We`re just trying to make sure that the rights that the Supreme Court guaranteed the women across the land will stay guaranteed to them.

WILLIAMS: Okay, Jon Karl, as shocked as I am, especially in light of Bush v. Gore, to learn there are politics at work at the nation`s highest court, take us back firmly to politics. I know you will not protest if I play a bit of your interview that aired this weekend with Liz Cheney. We`ll discuss on the other side.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: I think it`s dangerous. I think that we have to recognize how quickly things can unravel. We have to recognize what it means for the nation to have a former president who has not conceded and who continues to suggest that our electoral system cannot function cannot do the will of the people.

KARL: When you say dangerous, dangerous how? Are you suggesting that January 6 could happen again or maybe something worse?

CHENEY: I think there`s no question.


WILLIAMS: So Jon, let`s go there, on the question of what could go wrong, especially when Donald Trump starts reemerging, as he will in days, if not weeks to go on the state party speaking circuit?

KARL: Well, one thing about the Liz Cheney interview, sitting down with her, I was struck Brian, it was one of those rare moments when you talk to a political figure that you get the sense that she means to the core of her being everything she was saying. She truly believes that things can unravel and unravel quickly. She is willing to throw away her -- not just her position in the Republican leadership, quite possibly her seat in Congress. She is all in on this because she believes it`s a threat not just to her party, but a threat to the contrary.

Now you have Donald Trump coming out. He`s going to speak at the North Carolina Republican Convention on June 5. I hear he also has plans to do a series of other appearances. Perhaps in Ohio, there are a couple of races. He`s engaged there.

And you`re going to see Trump coming out. What kind of Donald Trump are you going to see? Well, look at the statements he put out over the weekend. He called the 2020 election the crime of the century.

He actually, you know, he had weighed in on a South Carolina Republican race for the party chairman down there. The chairman that -- the person who won ran against Lin Wood, who is saying that, I mean, some outrageously, unbelievable, conspiratorial things about the election and actually had called for the hanging or for putting Mike Pence before a firing squad. He called Lin Wood a very capable and strong leader, even though he had not endorsed him.

I mean, this -- I think you`re going to see a Donald Trump that comes out completely unchanged from the events of January 6 and after. And this we`ll put -- this will be a real test. Is that where the Republican Party is truly comfortable, going.

WILLIAMS: Yes, Lin Wood is indeed a full on QAnon believer.

Hey, Anna, let`s talk about the insurrection friendly, Missouri Republican, he of the raised fist. And that`s Josh Hawley. I`m going to play for you what he said about the 1/6 commission, specifically, its scope, what it should look into.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY, (R) MISSOURI: It certainly ought to include the second attack of the Capitol that resulted in the murder of a Capitol Police officer and I think it probably also should include the riots on other federal properties and other attacks on federal agents.


WILLIAMS: Anna, bunch of questions stem from that, one, is he still taken seriously in those hallways? Two, what is he referring to as the second attack on the Capitol? And three, does he want to rope BLM protests into the scope of the 1/6 commission?

PALMER: I think it kind of in three parts there. So, I`d say the first bird Josh Hawley is kind of a man on his own island when it comes to Congress. He doesn`t have a lot of friends. He certainly hasn`t made any since January six or even really quite frankly before that.

When it comes to Republicans, though, he is not alone on this issue. They have for a long time been trying to force this January 6 commission to not just focus on the January 6 insurrection, what happened in terms of people invading the Capitol.

What they want to do is they want it to be BLM. They want it to be about any other attacks that I believe what he`s talking about, is the core that tried to ram the Capitol and unsuccessfully, you know, was able to do that. But a police officer did die following that incident.

And so, what you`re seeing really, though, is Republicans coalesce around this talking point. It`s going to come to a head here this week, but House Republicans in terms of two bills that are going to be on the House floor, one about this commission and one about this extra money that`s going to go for kind of shoring up the security around the Capitol.

So far, House Republicans are not whipping against me and they aren`t formally asking people to vote against it. But the feeling from members of Congress and staff that I`ve been talking to is they are not supportive of this on either measure. And so, it`s really going to be interesting, something to watch.

Where do Republicans come down on this issue? And to Jon`s point, when you have former President Donald Trump really being the standard bearer of the party, and certainly the party for most House Republicans who want to retake the majority in 2022, that is going to be something to watch. How does Donald Trump react where members of Congress maybe do vote and support some of these issues, the commission and extra security spending?

WILLIAMS: The ultimate what aboutism comparing anything to an attempt to overthrow a Democratic election.

Neal Katyal, I`m short on time. And this is unfair to ask for the 32nd version of this. But if your Gaetz lawyer, or worse, if your Gaetz, how are you feeling tonight?

KATYAL: Incredibly bad. Remember last month, Gaetz said this is all fabricated, a Deep State FBI plot in the like. But given the sworn agreement today, it looks like the only fabrication in the investigation was from one Republican to take down another. I mean, I think you can like open a movie theater with all this projection, Brian.

And the plea agreement today is extremely lurid and detailed. And this guy Greenberg, Gaetz`s friend, is admitting to all sorts of stuff involving sex and drugs.

And the one thing at the end of it that I`ll say for Gaetz is that, you know, at least he wasn`t friends with Jeffrey Epstein, though maybe not by his own choice, I`d imagine. And my question after read him a plea agreement is, is Kevin McCarthy going to let Matt Gaetz serve on his congressional committees from inside a federal prison? Because if you`re Matt Gaetz right now, that`s what you got to be fearing is going on.

WILLIAMS: Well, we`ll leave that comment sitting right there. With great thanks to our big three. We could easily fill an hour just talking about these issues. Anna Palmer, Jonathan Karl, Neil Katyal, greatly appreciate you starting us off as our first guests of the new week.

Coming up for us, yes, there is a cycle of violence in the Middle East. But this outburst of violence seems different, including the escalation of the of the air war back and forth.

In a moment, we`re going to go to Tel Aviv and talk to a journalist who has just about covered them all.

And later, there is a sham recount underway in Arizona. Some Republicans believe it`s real. Other Republicans have the courage to rise up and say enough. We`ll cover all of it as The 11th Hour is just getting underway on this Monday night.


WILLIAMS: The Israelis are probably wondering right about now how many more rockets the Palestinians could possibly have. Just as the Palestinians are probably wondering right about now, how many more Israeli airstrikes they can endure before every building in Gaza is reduced to dust.

Netanyahu is saying Israeli forces will continue to strike what he calls terrorist targets. White House says during a call with him today the President have expressed support for a ceasefire. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, today warned, "It`s in no one`s interest to continue fighting. My assessment is that you risk broader destabilization and you risk a whole series of negative consequences if the fighting continues." He added, "De-escalation is a smart course of action at this point for all parties concerned.

To talk about this conflict, we welcome an old friend to our broadcast, Martin Fletcher has covered every major Mideast conflict of the modern era. He was our Middle East correspondent in NBC News for 26 years, our former bureau chief in Tel Aviv for 15 of those years. In other words, more years than he cares to admit.

Martin, we really appreciate you getting up early to join us. I think the last time I saw you there was in Jerusalem. We have a camera overlooking Gaza this morning, where we`ve seen more than one column of smoke. It looks like it was an active night before daybreak.

How does this conflict, this round this time seem different to you, if at all?

MARTIN FLETCHER, FMR. NBC NEWS TEL AVIV BUREAU CHIEF: Well, first of all, thank you, Brian, for welcoming me back on the program. It doesn`t feel different at all, I would say that the only real change is the intensity of the fighting.

You know, Hamas has launched more than 3,300 rockets at Israel in a day. That`s several times more than they send against Israel in the last round in 2014. And that conflict went on for almost six weeks. So there`s a huge difference in intensity.

And of course, Israel`s bombing in Gaza against various -- what they say, a very specific targets in particular this so-called underground city. A city beneath Gaza, a very sophisticated, complex network of tunnels that Israel`s been hammering. This is a whole new ballgame.

So, the intensity is quite different. But the result looks like it`s going to be the same. I mean, this is a cyclicals series of battles, I think five in the last 15 years that Hamas and Israel have been fighting. Nothing much has changed at the end of those battles. It`s basically peace for peace.

The ceasefire agreement in the last time in 2014, there was a whole list of elements that were part of the ceasefire agreement. In addition to stopping fighting, Israel was going to allow the Palestinians to open the borders with Israel for free trade, they were going to open -- extend the fishing rights, they were going to allow the Palestinian Authority base in Ramallah to go into Gaza to oversee reconstruction and to take over large part of control of Gaza.

Apart from the actual ceasefire and the free trade across the borders, none of the agreed items actually happen. And that`s probably what`s going to happen this time too.

Last night here in Gaza, now it`s about 6:30 in the morning here in Tel Aviv, it`s been a relatively quiet night. Probably the quietest since the fighting began eight days ago. So there`s a sense that a ceasefire could be in the offing.

And the great fear, of course is that the fighting could spread as you mentioned in your introduction. And overnight, there were actually six rockets fired from Lebanon into northern Israel. So that`s the first time there`s been such a salvo.

Those rockets all fell short. They didn`t reach Israel, they landed inside Lebanon. Israel retaliated with artillery fire against the source of those rockets. But that is the fear that you mentioned, that the fighting could spread if there isn`t a ceasefire soon, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Martin, I`ve been surprised at how many people in this country have said that Bibi needs a conflict right about now, talking about his domestic political situation. And it`s been really remarkable to watch a new generation come up. Some of them, Democrats and elected politicians, many of them simply on social media, but their opinions are right there next to the old hands in the Middle East.

They`re unencumbered by a lot of history. They do not have the reflexive Israel is our ally in the region upbringing. This conflict is new to many of them, especially in our country. And I`m wondering if the reaction to this feels different among Israeli, say, Israelis on the political left?

FLETCHER: Well, I think there`s a very important point you mentioned, Brian. Absolutely, there is a change in the groundswell of support, this solid block that Israel has had for so long.

Basically, you know, it`s a changing of the guard except that the changing -- except the guard isn`t changing in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu is hanging on to that seat, fighting hard to remain Prime Minister. And that`s -- and his policies causing a great deal of -- a great deal of hostility towards Israel.

And by the way, that hostility towards Israel is reflected inside Israel. There`s a very, very strong attempt to unseat Prime Minister Netanyahu, who`s been now -- has won of the last four elections. And that`s been one of the consequences of this fight. There was a very strong anti-Netanyahu coalition building up among power members to unseat him, to change the government.

And that depended on the support of some members of his own right wing, it depended on the support of some members of the Arab parties in Israel. But because of this fighting, the Naftali Bennett, who was the key right wing leader who joined the opposition to Netanyahu has now gone back to Netanyahu. And the Arab support for that anti-Netanyahu coalition seems to be dropping off.

So it looks like Netanyahu will remain in power. There`s still a question of who`s going to be the next prime minister. It could well be Netanyahu again, there may be fifth elections. So that opposition that`s growing among left wing new progressive elements in America is very much reflected in Israel. Maybe they`re a reflection of each other, actually.

But the bottom line is that Netanyahu is in power. This conflict definitely has helped him politically. And we don`t know what that does to Israel in the long term in terms of support in America remains to be seen. But the longer Netanyahu is in power, the more obvious it is that the hostility to Israel will grow.

WILLIAMS: 6:30 a.m. as a new day dawns and the beautiful city of Tel Aviv in Israel, Martin Fletcher, our veteran, the region has been our guest. It`s wonderful to have you. Thank you for doing this. One of us has gotten older and here`s a hint, it`s not you. Great to see you. Stay safe out there, Martin. Thanks again.

Coming up for us as we approached our next break the political fallout from this crisis we`ve been talking about the kind here in this country.



REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): Any of my colleagues that even have so sort of empathy towards Palestinians, they do it quietly with whispering because they continue to be intimidated and bullied by those that want to continue the status quo apartheid in Israel.


WILLIAMS: President Biden`s support for a ceasefire in the Middle East falls short of a request from 28 senators in his own party. That`s over half the Democrats in the caucus. They`re demanding an immediate truce. It`s a lot to talk about with our guests. David Plouffe is back with us. Former Obama campaign manager, senior adviser to the President also on the board of directors of the Obama Foundation, and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, former lieutenant governor of the great state of Maryland, host of the great podcast, the Michael Steele podcast.

Gentlemen, good evening, and welcome to you both. David, perhaps you heard my conversation with my friend of many years, Martin Fletcher, with whom I have covered so many stories over there. I am fascinated by the migration in our domestic politics on this story regarding this nation formed in the ashes and with the Diaspora from the Holocaust, with such determination and high hopes right there in a dangerous neighborhood in the middle of the desert.

This is sizeable, this many Democrats in the Senate, Schumer, though he is not part of the graphic. We have to depict that many Democrats in the Senate is with them on the topic of a ceasefire. And while of course, our nation is getting over the loss of Jared from the process. We do have leverage in this conversation as a country.

DAVID PLOUFFE, FMR. OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No question, Brian, so you capture theirs with those senators, at a politics of this has been changing the Democratic Party, but you probably remember 2012, Brian, so let`s think about the general election. Barack Obama was president running for reelection, was seeking a peace deal was a staunch ally of Israel, facilitated, you know, the Iron Dome missile Defense System going to Israel.

But, you know, the Prime Minister Netanyahu was actually actively supporting our opponent, Governor Romney, there was probably 1,000 stories written about how Barack Obama was going to lose the Jewish vote now it causes Florida, we`ve got 70 percent of Jewish vote won the state of Florida.

But what you see in the base of the Democratic Party, a lot of those democratic senators are of a certain vintage, but certainly younger democratic at this. And I think this is happening all around the world. You see the reactions all around the world, if you believe in the right of Israel to exist, which of course I do, and I think most Americans do. But you also want a two state solution.

Israel, I think, is losing, you know, moral authority and support here in this country with younger not just Democrats, but younger people all around the country. So I think the politics of this have changed a lot over the last couple of decades. But I also believe that belief about the politics, for my experience, was one of the things that was most often my time in national politics, the way it was covered, versus the reality of this issue is related to national politics.

WILLIAMS: You are absolutely right, that your former boss was painted a certain way on this issue that differed from reality in many ways. So Michael, you`ve done nothing to deserve this. But I`m going to play for you the comments from Mitch McConnell, we`ll discuss on the other side.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: We`re already seeing some push, push the false narrative that this conflict is a tragic dispute between two legitimate combatants, where both sides share blame. That is roughly equal. What nonsense.


WILLIAMS: Michael, however unfair it is to ask you, do you think there`s anything close to uniform Republican agreement on the point he just made?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: You know, in a -- I think in a big sense yes. I think if you`re looking at it, you know, Israel versus Hamas. McConnell, who exactly right, this is not equal combatants here. You know, one is a terrorist organization. And the other is not and I think so the idea that there`s a level of equality there.

I think a lot of Republicans would not buy that I did and reject as McConnell did it with the opening remark there about, you know, this notion that there`s somehow something, you know, on par with, you know, between Israel and Hamas that the U.S. government, and our allies should, you know, treat Hamas the way they would treat Israel or any other nation state. So I think that there is unanimity In that regard.

It`s also interesting how, you know, the Trump foreign policy relative to Israel has been a part of the narrative but has not been raised in the context of this conflict. You made the allusion to Mr. Jarrett, in his global trotting in this space. And as I find it interesting that Republic has not fallen back on that necessarily, you know, to push up against the Biden administration. And I think that`s because they recognize that that is a very tenuous position to be in, given where things are now, particularly relative to where they were.

So, you know, the reality from McConnell is sort of, you know, push back on Hamas, stand firm with Israel, and see what Biden does to navigate with Democrats to your earlier discussion to move the ball towards some level of ceasefire.

WILLIAMS: Both of these gentlemen are going to stay with us while I fit in a break. Coming up, we`ll switch to things domestic complaints about the continued lies about the election now coming from inside the party in Arizona, where that super secret scientific recount is continuing.



BILL GATES, SUPERVISOR MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: We certified the election back in November. But now it`s time to say enough is enough. It is time to push back on the big lie. We must do this. We must do this as a member of the Republican Party. We must do this as a member of the board of supervisors. We need to do this as a country. Otherwise we are not going to be able to move forward and have an election in 2022 that we can all believe the results, whatever they may be.


WILLIAMS: Republicans in Arizona pushing back against the lies as this so called audit of the 2020 election is underway. Trump over the weekend claimed the state`s election database had been deleted. Course it hadn`t. He also claimed ballots were missing. Of course, they`re not.

Still with us, however, David Plouffe, Michael Steele. Michael, I`ve got one more for you. This is Lindsey Graham, who answers the question in this comment. What does he have in common with the weather in Hawaii? If you don`t like what`s happening right now? Wait 10 minutes, and it`ll change entirely. Here now the comments of Lindsey Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I accept the results of the election. I don`t know what the audit is all about in Arizona. I don`t know the details, but I am ready to move on. 2020 is over for me. I`m ready to march on and hopefully take back the House and the Senate in 2022.


WILLIAMS: Michael Steele over to you. What do you make of it?

STEELE: This move past it. That`s -- it`s irrelevant what Lindsey thinks about that at this point. You know, it any of these folks who have come out and, you know, after this thing has been allowed to progress to this point it`s not important. It`s unfortunate that it`s taken Republican, local Republican officials as long to come out and say something they needed to shut this down.

You know, the supervisors, right, you know, this will make it harder to conduct elections in the future. And the fact that you`ve got at least one party right now that is propping up this lie, you know, you can move on Lindsey, but the rest of us are stuck in this crazy because this nonsense is unfolding. You can move on, but we`ve got you know, 47 states that are changing the very laws that will impact how people vote where they vote, when they vote.

So you know, I just I just don`t want -- I don`t have time for that. I don`t have time to dignify with responses to people who don`t give a damn in the first place. You can shut this down just as easy as it started. Called Trump the liar he is, tell him to go off to that great Sunset at Mar-a-Lago. Let`s rebuild the Republican Party make it make it worth something to be competitive. So I can go up against David Plouffe and have a real debate about health care and the environmental policy, as opposed to silly crap like this in Arizona, that everybody knows is just dumb.

WILLIAMS: Or a debate about abortion. Which brings me to my next question to you, David, and that is in your party, which is sometimes famous for blue on blue attacks and eating its own young might the prospect of a decision a year from tonight on a landmark abortion case, be a galvanizing issue for 2020 turnout in the midterms for Democrats?

PLOUFFE: Well, Brian, the bigger issue there. Of course, if the court were to render a verdict that would threaten Roe v. Wade, what that means for tens of millions of women around the country from health care is catastrophic. But yes, I mean, I think it turns what may seem like a notional threat into reality.

The fact that the case is even being heard, I think could galvanize people obviously, if there`s a negative decision, it may create a movement the last decades. So yes, I -- listen, I agree with Michael, one of the healthiest signs for this country is when Michael Steele and Stuart Stevens and Steve Schmidt, and all the people that I`ve squared off against, we can actually score off against each other again. Right now, we all have to be in this alliance of democracy versus autocracy.

And listen, what`s happening in Arizona, I agree with Michael, the truth is Lynne Cheney paid a price for it. Sorry, Liz Cheney. But if more people did what the folks in Arizona did, they will find that the sun comes out, you can move on from Trump. I don`t expect that because here`s what you`re going to see Brian, next year, in most competitive House races, in most competitive Senate races, not all of them, there`ll be some Republicans who say, I will respect the voter`s decision.

But I think a lot of them are going to feel they have to say what Trump did and (INAUDIBLE), which is If I don`t win, the election must not be legitimate, there must be fraud. And so just as we were dealing with the after effects of that, still today, much less than the hours and weeks after the presidential election, we could have that casting a huge shadow of the battle for the House and Senate.

And so that`s the test are we ever get to the point where those candidates say whoever wins, wins, and I will concede, if I`m not that person right now, that`s not going to be the case.

WILLIAMS: My thanks to these two gentlemen for this conversation, which we will have again and again, David Plouffe, Michael Steele, thank you both for coming on.

Coming up for us. What does the wing man know when will he share it with the feds? Tonight, look at what we were talking about earlier what it means for Matt Gaetz now that his friend has flipped.


WILLIAMS: So this friend of Matt Gaetz, his so called wing man has pleaded guilty to federal sex crimes charges. Joel Greenberg has agreed to cooperate with investigators possibly even about the congressman`s conduct. NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders has our report from Orlando.


KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an Orlando federal courtroom today, former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg pled guilty to six federal charges including sex trafficking of a child. The 37-year-old admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old on several occasions and said others did too.

Among Greenberg`s close friends Florida Representative Matt Gaetz. In March The New York Times reported federal investigators were looking into whether Gaetz paid for and had sex with a 17-year-old. The Florida Republican has repeatedly denied those allegations and has not been charged with the crime.

This weekend telling Republican supporters --

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I`ve been falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty papers.

SANDERS: Greenberg faces at least 12 years in prison and says he agrees to cooperate fully in the investigation and prosecution of others, his defense attorney today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the statement of facts here it says the Greenberg paid her to engage in commercial sex acts with him and others. Who could those others be?


SANDERS (on camera): As was made clear in court today the more Greenberg tells federal agents, the more favorable the judge could be in sentencing. The federal investigators now with an inside line, as Greenberg agrees in the plea agreement to name names and testify.


WILLIAMS: And our thanks to Kerry Sanders for that report out of Orlando.

Coming up for us imagine having a CDC so involved in American health, that Americans are complaining they`re too involved and have too many guidelines. Not to make you wistful. But when we come back we`ll take a look back one year ago.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight in case you`re sick of the competence, the virus mitigation efforts, all the guidelines and the rules, we have a reminder of what life was like back in the day when our country was riffing and improvising looking for any distraction while people are died, while people died, what you`re about to see happened a year ago tomorrow.


DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, a lot of good things have come out about the hydroxyl, a lot of good things have come out. And you`d be surprised at how many people are taken and especially the frontline workers before you catch it.

The frontline workers many, many are taking it. I happened to be taking it. I happened to be taken it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hydroxychloroquine.

TRUMP: I`m taking it, hydroxychloroquine.


TRUMP: Right now. Yes, a couple of weeks ago, I started taking it. Because I think it`s good. I`ve heard a lot of good stories. And if it`s not good, I`ll tell you right. I`m not going to get hurt by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House doctor recommend that you take that? Is that what --

TRUMP: Yes, White House doctor. It didn`t recommend. No, I asked him what do you think, he said, Well, if you`d like it and said, yes, I`d like it. I`d like to take it a lot of people that take it, a lot of frontline workers are taking hydroxychloroquine, a lot of front. I don`t take it because hey, people said oh, maybe he owns a company. No, I don`t know the company. You know what? I want the people of this nation to feel good.

I`ve received a lot of positive letters. And it seems to have an impact. And maybe it does, maybe it doesn`t but if it doesn`t, you`re not going to get sick or die. This is a pill that`s been used for a long time for 30, 40 years on the malaria and our lupus still and even on arthritis I guess from what I understand.

So it`s been heavily tested in terms of -- I was just waiting to see your eyes light up what I said but, you know, when I announces but you have taken it for about a week and a half now, and I`m still here.


WILLIAMS: Donald Trump, MD, that was a year ago tomorrow. He got sick and was hospitalized with the Coronavirus, 137 days later, he thankfully recovered fully and is now retired and living on a golf course in Florida.

That is our broadcast for this Monday night as we start a new week with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.