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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 5/19/21

Guests: Mike Murphy, Baratunde Thurston


New York City reopens after pandemic shutdown. Thirty-five House GOP joins Democrats in favor of January 6 commission. FBI releases new video of officers assaulted on January 6. Top House Homeland Security Committee Republican implored colleagues to support riot probe. Mitch McConnell declares opposition to January 6 commission. The New York attorney general`s office announced on May 18 that it has opened a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization. President Biden ramps up pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to end Israel`s bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Katie Porter gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening, once again, day 120 of the Biden administration. We have a live picture for you tonight of Time Square in a newly reopened New York City. This is what life looks like now. 423 days after it was all shut down because of the pandemic. The city that became the epicenter of the virus now is the latest symbol of the nation`s journey toward hopeful and cautious recovery. Even as we get closer to normal the political battles over the deadly January 6 attack on our capital have intensified.

Tonight the House of Representatives passed a bill to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the riot and insurrection despite an effort from House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and his aides to kill it. The vote was 252 to 175, which means 35 Republicans broke ranks with their own leadership crossed over to join Democrats to vote yes.

Just hours before the vote fresh reminders of the brutality of that day, it came in the form of new videos released by the FBI which has also announced the arrest of six more suspects. Before today`s House vote, House members debated the bill. And Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio had clearly had enough. He invoked the sacrifice of the police officers who defended the Capitol in calling out the Republicans.


REP. TIM RYAN, (D) OHIO: To the other 90% of our friends on the other side of the aisle: Holy cow! Incoherence! No idea what you`re talking about. Benghazi. You guys chased the former secretary of state all over the country, spent millions of dollars. We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head and we can`t get bipartisanship! What else has to happen in this country? Cops! This is a slap in the face to every rank-and-file cop in the United States. If we`re going to take on China, if we`re going to rebuild the country, if we`re going to reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality, and you ain`t one of them!


WILLIAMS: Congressman John Katko, the Republican who worked with the Democrats to craft the bill, the commission bill in the first place, pleaded with his colleagues to back the investigation.


REP. JOHN KATKO, (R-NY) HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: How can we ensure that the Capitol, members of Congress and our staffs are secure from attacks? And how do we ensure that this is a safer place for members of the Capitol Police Force who risked their lives every day to protect us? These are only a few of the many questions that need to be answered. The American people in the Capitol Police deserve those answers.


WILLIAMS: So having passed the House, this bill now goes over to the Senate where 10 Republicans are needed to cross the aisle to make it a law. Today their Leader Mitch McConnell made his opposition official. NBC News reporting he broke the news to colleagues during a meeting where House Minority Leader McCarthy, the other Trump echo just happened to be a guest. Later McConnell went to the Senate floor and made the case against a 1/6 commission.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MINORITY LEADER: After careful consideration, I`ve made the decision to oppose the House Democrats slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the six. It`s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress. The facts have come out and they`ll continue to come out.


WILLIAMS: It was just a few months back perhaps you were watching us live when we televise the moment McConnell gave an impassioned speech from that very same place after Trump`s second impeachment acquittal. He sounded then as if he would be on board with a special investigative panel.


MCCONNELL: January 6 was a disgrace. American citizens attacked their own government. There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day, no question about it.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, Senator John Thune, number three Republican the Senate noted that his colleagues reluctance to support this bill, may have something to do with the 2022 midterm election.


SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: There are some of our members who I think obviously have an interest in seeing a commission go forward, others who I think believe it will be counterproductive because of the work that`s already been done, and that it could be weaponized politically, and drug into next year. Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 election I think is they lost on being able to draw contrast between us and the Democrats` very radical left wing agenda.


WILLIAMS: We`ll have more on that very point later in the broadcast. We`re also keeping an eye tonight on the latest in the New York State Attorney General`s decision to open a criminal investigation into Donald Trump`s company, in addition to a civil inquiry. The attorney general`s office, working now alongside the Manhattan DA and an ongoing criminal fraud investigation.

Tonight, the New York Times is reporting that the attorney general has indeed been conducting a criminal investigation for months in the Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg. "Investigators have examined whether taxes were paid on fringe benefits that Mr. Trump gave him including cars and tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of Mr. Weisselberg`s grandchildren."

Today Trump put out a statement responding to the new investigation that read in part, "There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime. That is what these investigations are all about, a continuation of the greatest, wait for it, political witch hunt in the history of the United States."

The current president for his part now facing an increasingly difficult foreign policy challenge in the Middle East as the pressure on him as mounting to stop the fighting somehow between Israel and Hamas, a new round of rocket attacks and airstrikes erupted there just this evening. Earlier this morning, Biden told Netanyahu by phone that he expected a significant de escalation today on the path to a ceasefire in the future. Well, this afternoon, one Israeli military spokesman told our colleague Andrea Mitchell, that prospect was unlikely.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Is there any sign -- have you been given any sign that the fighting may be drawing to a close?

LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: Unfortunately, not, there is still a lot of work to do to send a clear, resounding message to Hamas that their aggression. The fact that they attacked us is something that we will not tolerate.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this busy Wednesday night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, Lisa Lerer, National Political Correspondent with the New York Times and Katie Benner back with us as well, Justice Department Reporter, also with the New York Times.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. Ashley, I`d like to begin with you and your beats. Here is what Congressman McCarthy, Republican Leader in the House said about the reason for his opposition to a 1/6 commission.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you say to people who say that you oppose this because you fear about being subpoenaed?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA MINORITY LEADER: Why would I be involved in any of that in any aspect? It doesn`t involve? I have no concern about that. But that`s somebody playing politics with not wanting to get to the core of what happened.


WILLIAMS: So Ashley, in truth, McCarthy knows the answer. And that`s the liability of his conversations both on that day and since with one Donald Trump, isn`t it also true that he knows some of his membership has their own issues with exposure to the same type thing?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: That`s absolutely right. I mean, as we and others have reported Leader McCarthy was one of the people on that day in those roughly six hours from when the Capitol was first reached to when police and other forces helped risk take it, who was calling Donald Trump and begging like many people were doing publicly and privately for him to do something. There were Republicans, not just Leader McCarthy, but other of these members who were trying to get rid of the president, who were calling and begging top White House advisors, the President`s children, Jared and Ivanka saying they were fearing for their lives which is very different from what we`re hearing now that this was just the typical tourism excursion from some of these rioters in this insurrection that left five people dead and another person who played an interesting role, of course, is Greg Pence, the Vice President`s brother who if there were commissioner, if there were witnesses called, spent most of the day with his brother, the Vice President whose life was at risk who was sheltering and hiding in the Capitol, getting spirited away by Secret Service and in many ways is not just another Republican making a vote against the commission, but would be an eyewitness in the way that Leader McCarthy would and other members and wait, frankly, they don`t want to be.

WILLIAMS: Lisa Lerer, what is the chance according to the best of your reporting that there are 10 Republicans willing to cross the aisle figuratively and vote for this commission in the Senate?

LISA LERER, THE NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don`t think it`s particularly good chance, especially given what McConnell came out and said, you know, today that he was against it. I mean, I was really struck by another comment that Senator Thune made you, of course, quoted him in the intro to this but he also said that any day that is spent talking about re litigating the 2020 election is a day that Republicans are losing to press sort of a more policy focused message against the Biden administration and what he called the radical left wing agenda of the Democrats. And while there are certainly some members, particularly in the Senate, particularly those up for reelection this next year, like Senator Thune, who believe that there`s a whole bunch of other Republicans out in the country, the county party chairs the activists who want to do exactly that. They want to relitigate the 2020 election. That`s why you see this recount in Arizona they just want to do it in a way that has very little relationship with the facts. They continue to believe that Joe Biden was not a legitimately elected president. Of course, there`s -- that`s, you know, just simply not right. And that is what they see as the major issue and is one of the major issues motivating the Republican Party paid base.

So that dynamic leaves, Senators, like John Thune, like other elected representatives, in Congress forcing this really tough spot between what they know to be true because they were witnesses to this attack. They weren`t as Ashley pointed out, huddling in the House chamber, they were being evacuated out of the Senate, and being forced to rewrite history in a way that will satisfy the sort of conspiratorial thinking of their party`s base. It`s a politically -- it feels like a politically untenable position.

WILLIAMS: And Katie Benner over to your beat, Republicans who vote no on this commission, are voting no during a time when DOJ via the FBI, as this enormous dragnet out continuing today to get members of the public to turn these accused criminals from 1/6 into them. And adjacent agency Homeland Security has warned us all that this urgent threat of domestic terrorism still hangs over our heads each day?

KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Yes, and one of the reasons why the threat of domestic terrorism continues to hang over our heads is because it`s fueled, according to the intelligence agencies by misinformation, particularly misinformation about the election and whether or not Joe Biden legitimately won the election. So the idea of the commission actually speaks directly to the growing threat, the mounting threat, the ongoing threat of domestic extremism.

We saw in testimony last week, former attorney -- sorry, former Deputy Attorney General and Acting Attorney General under the Trump administration, Jeff Rosen testify before Congress that there was no fraud that would have overturned the results of the election, that there was not enough fraud that would have overturned the results election. He reaffirmed at once again, we saw Attorney General Merrick Garland, we saw Ali Mayorkas, the head of DHS also testify that this was a growing threat in large part because of disinformation, misinformation around the election.

So you see these things coming together, and they`re really closely tied. So the inability for Congress to act and try to come up with a cogent narrative for the public is going to continue to fuel domestic extremism.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, viewers of the Apprentice, especially the sharp eyed ones will remember Allen Weisselberg, playing himself on the show introduced in his real life role in the Trump organization which was right hand man to the CEO and namesake, explained to our viewers the Weisselberg factor in this Trump now criminal investigation?

PARKER: Well, they are now looking into, the New York Attorney General`s specifically into Allen Weisselberg, and if he received any fringe benefits from President Trump, not when he was president, but that they did not pay appropriate taxes on, so not limited to but including tuition for one of his granddaughters private schools. And this is just another example of how sort of the noose is getting hold tighter and tighter in a pattern we`ve seen previously around the people in the president`s orbit if you even just look at the presidency, anyone who is close to Trump or just about anyone has gotten caught up in some sort of investigation, scandal, controversy, there`s a loyalty that is always expected to flow one way and not the other way. And again, there`s a lot we don`t know yet about this new development. But one thing is it is getting incredibly close to the people who are closest to former President Trump and his family in a way that the President is very agitated about.

The last thing I`ll say is when we talk to people who are talking to the former president, he`s mainly agitated about the election and spreading that misinformation we were discussing earlier in the show about Arizona and that he didn`t actually lose the election. But he is now also talking about this. This is occupying a lot of his mental energy, his time. And if you look at even the statement he put out today about the new news about the investigation, turning criminal as someone pointed out, it`s almost longer than many of the stories on the actual facts, which just gives you a sense of his agitation down there, I guess not at Mar-a-Lago anymore, but in his orbit.

WILLIAMS: He`s still managing to telegraph how he actually feels. Lisa Lerer, take us overseas. I`m looking at the headline of a piece you co- authored this week that kind of tells the whole story, Tensions among Democrats Grow over Israel as the left Defends Palestinians. I don`t need to remind you this is a new dynamic, with a new generation coming into power in American politics, and especially the Democratic Party. Tell us what is boxing Biden in? Or is it also true that Biden is doing the only thing and American president in his position can given Israel status as our close ally in the region?

LERER: Well, I think President Biden, we`ve seen this start to shift a little bit today was operating by the traditional rules of sort of diplomacy and interaction with one of the strongest U.S. allies in the region, Israel, which is the traditional playbook has always been that U.S. presidents do not criticize Israel. And that is a playbook that was really followed by many in his party, that there is just this sense that Democrats express solidarity with Israel and keep criticisms kind of private or to internal close meetings, we`re really seeing a major shift in that with this conflict. I mean, these are divides that have been brewing in the party for quite some time. But this is really the first escalation, major escalation of the conflict in Israel in the past seven years or so. So this is the moment where we`re really seeing them burst out into the open. And what we`re seeing is a rising, ascended Democratic left, that really connects what`s happening in Israel with the Palestinians to efforts to promote racial justice here in the U.S. Of course, it`s not a perfect analogy. Obviously, the U.S. and Israel have very different histories, very different backgrounds, very different traditions. But that is the connection that many in the left and the Democratic Party base are making. And that is really pressuring Biden to take a different tact when it comes to Israel.

He`s also slightly boxed in, of course, by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who faces his own domestic pressures. And after four years of very close relationship, really a bromance with President Trump, and this really -- where he really built very close ties with the Republican Party. He does not want to be seen as backing down for an American president, particularly not a democratic American president like Biden. But overall, I mean, look, this is an example of Israel, which once was an issue where there was bipartisan unity around becoming another highly polarized sort of culture, war ish kind of issue. And that`s the nature of our politics right now.

WILLIAMS: Katie Benner quick, final word a question to you on the Trump matter. Our friend, Frank Figliuzzi was on this network today warning the Trump children to lawyer up if they haven`t already, and not depend on a single corporate representative. In this case, it is true that when we talk about the Trump organization, there are those children on the masthead, on the website in the role of basically corporate officers.

BENNER: Absolutely. So I mean what Frank is referring to is when you see this investigation bearing down in Allen Weisselberg in these types of investigations, they`re really trying to get people to flip. In an ideal world a prosecutor gets somebody to flip that leaves them higher and higher and higher up in an organization. So what they`re looking at is Allen Weisselberg. Is this a man, 73 years old who wants to spend time in prison? If the answer`s no, and they really do have strong evidence against him, which we don`t know yet. We do not know if they could ever prove their case, but should they be able to, would he cooperate? If he does cooperate, the natural next people would be the Trump family members. So that is why Frank said that. Keep in mind we`ve seen prosecutors try to get people to flip on Donald Trump and his family in the past, particularly in the Mueller investigation, and it didn`t work. So we can never assume anything, but we can`t assume that that is the strategy they want. We can`t assume the outcome.

WILLIAMS: Three terrific friends of this broadcast to handle all these topics we just did, Ashley Parker, Lisa Lerer, Katie Benner, our great thanks for starting us off tonight and always.

Coming up for us, why Republicans seem more concerned with Election Day than insurrection day, the political fallout after today`s rather remarkable vote in the attempt to pretend what we watched on live television didn`t really happen.

And later what Trump`s former fixer predicts will happen now that Trump`s business is under that criminal investigation. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on this Wednesday night. As the cicadas discover a lot has changed in Washington in the 17 years they`ve been away.



REP. PETER MEIJER, (R) MICHIGAN: There has been an active effort to whitewash and rewrite the shameful events of that day to avoid accountability and turn away from difficult truths. If we avoid confronting what happened here just a few short months ago, we can be sure that intimidation, coercion and violence will become a defining feature of our politics.


WILLIAMS: Remember, they were all there. It`s just that some of them now think that what they experienced didn`t happen somehow. That was Michigan Congressman Peter Meijer. He turned out to be one of these 35 Republicans in the House who voted in support of a 1/6 commission, a politically risky move on a measure nearly identical to what Bill House Republicans proposed in January.

For more we are joined tonight by two more friends of this broadcast, Baratunde Thurston, Author, Activists, Comedian, former Producer for The Daily Show, these days host of the podcast How to Citizen, and Mike Murphy, veteran, Republican Strategist, Co-director for the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California. He is co-host of the hacks on Tap podcast.

So, Mike, NBC News is reporting that when James Carville gave that interview to VOX that got so much press attention a few weeks back, it did not go unnoticed with McConnell, who had the following quote, circulated among his membership. This is James Carville to VOX. Democrats have to make the Republicans own that insurrection every day. They have to pound it. They have to call bookers on cable news shows. They have to get people to write op-eds. There will be all kinds of investigations and stories dripping out for God knows how long and the Democrats should spend every day tying all of it to the Republican Party. So Mike, correct me if I`m wrong, McConnell`s reaction is to vote now. We don`t need a commission. Now, what`s the chance 10 of his members are going to break ranks and walk across the aisle?

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN VOTERS AGAINST TRUMP: Well, I think in the Senate is going to be tough with McConnell and the leadership against it. I can tell you what the Republicans in the House and to some extent the senator thinking, which is there only a handful of seats away from the majority. And so they think they have a very good shot at winning. And with the tailwind of redistricting, they`re more confident they`re going to win the House. And I think most Democrat strategists are very worried they are. They are about a primary in their district back home where Trump and others can whip up primary voters. So they think this is not a political loss for them. It`s very cynical, and it`s heartbreaking because it`s such an obviously important vote for the good of the country, but they think they`re doing just fine.

They want to change the subject to Biden tax plans, Biden spending and go on offence, and the progressive wing of Democratic Party allegedly running wild. I don`t think they make the issue go away by, you know, the grading this is kind of bloody shirt of not voting for it. I think it was a tactical mistake. It`s not going away. But they may be making a smart bet that the kitchen table issues next year are going to be more important than this will among swing voters or voters in districts they think they can win.

WILLIAMS: Can`t wait till they start designing and talk about actual kitchen table issues. Hey, Baratunde last we spoke it was Liz Cheney, getting all the attention and oxygen today. As somebody put it, there were 34 more Liz Cheney`s who wanted to be renegades does that give you any hope?

BARATUNDE THURSTON, AUTHOR, ACTIVIST AND COMEDIAN: It gives me a bit and I think I`m in the mood for truth telling today, Brian, today is the birthday of Malcolm X is today we learned that a great American voice and comedian Paul Mooney has passed away. And these two gentlemen spoke the truth. And that`s what we need when America is attack, we form a commission. We investigate, we try to find out what happened and we don`t simply turn the page quickly and move on. We want to know what`s going on. We`ve tried to get to the bottom of it, unless we`re afraid we`re at the bottom of it. And that`s some of what`s happening with this Republican Party. They`re a bit implicated in the events of January 6, 2021 before, during, and after, and we need others. We thankfully have more than zero to be courageous and step forward. So I applaud Representative Meijer for his comments on the floor today, it seems and I want more people to do the same.

I`m disappointed, but not surprised by Mitch McConnell. And I think if there is truly no concern about what we would find, then you want the investigation. They`re always telling black folk, why are you so worried about the police pulling you over? If you haven`t done anything wrong. I flipped that around the same way bring on the investigation. Let`s see what we find.

WILLIAMS: Well put. Don`t move gentlemen. Coming up after this break, the only twice impeached retiree and all of Florida calls it an investigation and desperate search of a crime. But if there was a crime, that Florida man could be in big trouble.



REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?


OCASIO-CORTEZ: Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?

COHEN: Yes, and you`d find it at the Trump org.


WILLIAMS: So since then, we know Trump`s former fixer has spoken with the Manhattan DA`s office at least eight times. And the New York Attorney General`s now privy to whatever he told them as for how Trump is likely to deal with these new criminal legal troubles Michael Cohen had this prediction today.


COHEN: I think Donald Trump is going to flip on all of them. What do you think about that including his children, so he`s going to turn on his account and point the finger. He`s going to say Don Jr. handled that, Ivanka handle that, Melania, don`t take me. Take Melania.


WILLIAMS: It is positively Scorsese and back with us. Baratunde Thurston and Mike Murphy. Hey, Baratunde, will the notion of criminal charges or perhaps an indictment against their guy, reduce the genuflecting or shatter some of that, bro magic, this hold that Trump has over these grown men and women in the Republican Party.

THURSTON: I would love to believe so. And I like the smell of accountability in the morning, Brian, but I don`t see that coming. We had such an obvious opportunity to do that when a pro-Trump crowd chanted hang Mike Pence repeatedly on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. And that wasn`t enough. So I don`t think the idea of the New York Attorney General or other prosecutors coming for the former president for crimes he most likely committed is going to change that.

But I`m relieved to see that this long overdue attempt at accountability is finally coming to somebody who has skirted the law as his business model for most of his life.

WILLIAMS: I saw what you did there you saw my Scorsese and you raised a Coppola, very well done arkfall.

Hey, Mike, are there Republicans secretly hoping that this guy does get I don`t know, indicted, nicked on a financial crime because then and only then they get to see if those little wings they`ve been growing can actually let them fly?

MURPHY: Oh, hell yes, privately. They would love for him to go away. I think they`re hoping when the Pentagon UFO report comes out, it`ll provoke the aliens to abduct him. They, you know, there is a hardcore particularly in the House that are 100 percent Trump. There are some smarter folks both in the House, I would say more mean a greater number. And in the Senate who wish Trump would go away, they ought to take out the Republican elephant is the party logo and do somebody held hostage. They would love for that to happen. We`ll see if it does.

And also don`t forget, Trump is like this specter hanging over the 2024 presidential race. Even people who publicly say they love them, want to run and Trump is in their way. So on a lot of levels, yes, I have no doubt at all. They`d love to see him trying to match his hair dye to prison orange, to get a mano look here.

And I`ll tell you just quickly, it is no small thing for the New York Attorney General. And the Manhattan DA who are traditional enemies to team up they have something and they have something criminal and this is going to get bigger. Politics this year are very much driven by the politics Republican Party a year ago. Next year could be a totally different world, politics is always changing.

WILLIAMS: To men who know better than to inflate their assets, our thanks to Baratunde Thurston and Mike Murphy. Gentlemen, thank you. We`ll do this again very soon.

Coming up for us. It is a rare chance to hear what the presidency sounds like the unguarded moments in real time as a certain former president used to say with the bark off. The story after this.


WILLIAMS: Tomorrow, the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, along with the Miller center of Public Affairs will launch a new website featuring over 100 phone conversations from the Johnson presidency. The new site LBJ, marks the 50th anniversary of the LBJ Presidential Library.

Many of the conversations are still so relevant to the issues we face today. In one recording from January `65, now this is hard to hear but we`ve highlighted the words, President Johnson spoke to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about voting rights.


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., AMERICAN MINISTER: And it`s very interesting, Mr. President, to notice that they only states that you didn`t carry is the South -- the five southern states, have less than 40 percent of the Negros registered to vote.

Very interesting to notice. And I think a professor at the University of Texas, in a recent article, brought this out very clearly, so it demonstrate that it`s so important to get Negros registered to vote in large numbers in the South. And it would this coalition of the Negro vote and the moderate White vote that will really make the New South.

LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FMR. U.S PRESIDENT: That`s exactly right. I think it`s very important that we not say that we`re doing this and we`re not doing this just because it`s Negros or Whites, but we take the position that every person born in this country, when they reach a certain age, that he have a right to vote.


WILLIAMS: Back with us tonight, the celebrated author presidential historian Michael Beschloss, his latest work is Presidents of War. But even more relevant to our discussion tonight, two more of his seminal books taking charge the Johnson White House Tapes 1963 to `64. And reaching for glory, Lyndon Johnson`s Secret White House Tapes `64 to `65. And we`ve always recommended people buy these books, the audio version, so you can hear Michael`s curated narration and hear the actual Johnson tapes that go with them.

If you`ll forgive a further personal note, Michael and I both learned as adults that we had each written letters to President Johnson, as very precocious young kids did in the early 60s. And because that interest never waned, we have both of us listen to the hundreds of hours of all of his existing recorded phone conversations.

And Michael, let`s start there, the courageous decision to make these public as you say, in your book, it was done by the Harry Middleton, who was head of the library, probably would have embarrassed Johnson a little bit given the content of some of them. But as you point out, the biggest problem would have been that he was forgotten by history.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: That`s absolutely right. And, you know, you and I have talked about this so many times the fact that Johnson would be horrified, for instance, to hear of the tape where he`s calling up the head of the head of August, slacks company, in telling him you know, giving an extremely precise instructions on how to make some custom made slacks so the Johnson will feel more comfortable. Johnson would have thought that wasn`t presidential.

But you listen to these tapes, you find out what the guy was like, for instance, as you have said, you hear gunsmoke in the background, you hear Johnson belching, you hear all sorts of other things, and it takes you into the room and in a way that nothing else could.

And that tape, you just play it played of LBJ and Martin Luther King. If you and I were talking as we might have, you know, before these tapes were opened in the 1990s. At the recommendation of Lady Bird Johnson, we might have said, gee, wouldn`t it be amazing to listen to LBJ in private plotting with Martin Luther King, how to get a civil rights bill and a voting rights bill. You know, how it really happened, rather than how it appeared in public. Thanks to these tapes, we`ve got that kind of stuff. And after Richard Nixon, no president ever kept these kinds of tapes again.

WILLIAMS: And fast forward to today to the democratic coalition in the south that flips control of the Senate before our very eyes. The tapes also contain to coin a phrase, scenes from a marriage. I`m going to play one where Johnson is on the phone with his wife, First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson following a television appearance by the President.


LADY BIRD JOHNSON, FMR. U.S. FIRST LADY: I thought that you looked strong, firm, and like a reliable guy. Your looks were splendid. The close-ups were much better than the distance ones.

L. JOHNSON: Well, you can`t get them to do it.

L.B. JOHNSON: Well, I would say this, there were more close-ups than there were distance ones. During the statement you were a little breathless, and there was too much looking down, and I think it was a little too fast.


WILLIAMS: Sometimes you get a lot of detail in these, Michael and sometimes as we say it is a glimpse inside this marriage.

BESCHLOSS: Yes, and, you know, how often do you get to understand the President`s marriage years later or his religious views, two of the toughest things to find out about any human being from the outside. And the other thing is that you listen to these tapes. I`m not trained in psychiatry, but Johnson had huge emotional complexities. I don`t have the standing to say that he was bipolar. But you hear him on these tapes, he gets too excited. When things go badly, it gets too depressed when things make him sad.

And the one person who could pull them out of these depressions which are really climbing into the bed and pulling the blanket over his head and refusing to get out and calming him down when he got too angry or excited was Lady Bird Johnson. I think one day, we should build a statute or her and say, Lyndon Johnson would not have been able to function without Lady Bird Johnson there is his wife.

WILLIAMS: The phrase she used to describe the depression was the great despond, which always struck me. Michael, final question. How is it that we get to hear this? I know Nixon inherited to his great loss, ultimately, the taping system from Johnson, but has it lived on to the best of your knowledge? Have modern era presidents done this same thing that we`re going to find out about 50 years from now?

BESCHLOSS: No, I don`t think so. Because when Nixon`s tapes were revealed in the summer of 1973, the public reaction was so negative. How could Nixon have taped people without their knowledge that later presidents are almost honor bound to make it clear that they don`t make secret tapes of people who call them or come to visit them?

When these Johnson tapes came out in the mid 90s, I was sitting with Bill Clinton, who was president of the time and I said, I assume you don`t keep tapes like that yourself. And he looked at me and he said, are you kidding me? The any president who did that nowadays would be criticized. But this is an absolute treasure trove and to listen to the tapes, not only of LBJ, but JFK and Richard Nixon, that period one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. It`s like living through it at these three presidents elbows and experience that we could have gotten in no other way.

WILLIAMS: Our joint mutual love for all things LBJ has given us some great memories including but not limited to when we were much younger men dinner with Mrs. Johnson out in Austin, Texas and a great day out at the ranch as well. That would be television star and producer Can Olan on the right, just kidding, that`s my friend, and my partner in all things Johnson related. The historian Michael Beschloss has been our guest tonight. Thank you, friend very much. We`ll do this again.

BESCHLOSS: Thank you, my friend. Wonderful. We`ll see each other again.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us. Yes, as it was for me. Coming up for us is a ceasefire in sight. We`ll get a report on the situation on the ground when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Violence continues for a 10th night now in the Middle East. A senior Hamas official told The New York Times an agreement could possibly be reached within a day or two. But Netanyahu of Israel said he`s determined to carry on the offensive despite global calls now for some sort of a ceasefire.

Our NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has our report from Tel Aviv.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For now it`s still the bombs doing the talking as Israel continues its assault on the Gaza Strip to stop Hamas rocket fire. But are these the last licks.

The White House says President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and told him he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire. But instead, after the call, Netanyahu said military operations would keep going to restore security to Israelis and saying of Hamas.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: We`re engaged in forceful deterrence.

ENGEL: But Hamas hasn`t stopped firing rockets. So in southern Israel, they`ve had to move all the patients at this hospital underground.

(on camera): The entire emergency work here is built like a bunker to enter it, you have to pass through this giant metal door which can seal off entire area.

(voice-over): They`ve treated those wounded from rockets here plus the normal workload deep under reinforced concrete.

DR. NOMY LEVIN, BARZILAI MEDICAL CENTER: it`s very crowded. As you can see it`s very loud. But this is the best way that we can treat our patients.

ENGEL: But in Gaza clinics are damaged, many residents have no power and running water. Still, many Palestinians see what`s happening as a costly but necessary way to raise their voices against Israeli restrictions on where they can live and work and pray.

SAMAR KAWASPI, PALESTINIAN RESIDENT: I`m pumping Filipina peace in our land.

ENGEL (on camera): Both sides can already claim victory which is the way these conflicts usually end. Israel saying it`s setback Hamas hears, Hamas saying it raised the Palestinian issue to the world`s attention. The cost has been hundreds of dead and injured. Brian.


WILLIAMS: Richard Engel, thank you for that report from Tel Aviv tonight.

Coming up for us the American city that decided to bury part of its history, make it go away. And that worked for a couple of decades. But it`s out now.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is a tough one, a genuine race massacre that took place in our country on the last day of May in 1921. But it was so thoroughly wiped from the history books, even the newspapers, that public awareness of it only really came about in these last 25 years.

It happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it was a part of town called Greenwood made up of descendants of slaves, diaspora from the Deep South. The community those black citizens formed was so successful. It was called Black Wall Street. And it was all more than the local whites in the Tulsa KKK chapter could stand. Fueled by rage and simple jealousy and a false rumor that a black man had attacked a white woman, the whites started shooting and burning, machine guns were used.

The Oklahoma National Guard took part in it. In the end, 300 black citizens were dead 35 square blocks reduced to rubble, and thousand homes were burned. Survivors were rounded up and sent to camps in our country, the dead buried in mass graves, only one of which has ever been found and unearth. And then for years afterward came the cover up, it was not spoken of for decades, until recently.

Well today on Capitol Hill, a dramatic moment survivors who were little children on that horrible night who today are ages 100, 106 and 107-year- old Viola Fletcher spoke of life back then and the memories today.


VIOLA FLETCHER, TULSA RACE MASSACRE SURVIVOR: In May 31 in `21, I went to bed at my family`s home in Greenwood. Neighbors of Tulsa, the neighborhood. I fell asleep in that night was rich, not just in terms of well, but in culture, the permanency heritage and my family had a beautiful home. We had great neighbors and I had friends to play with. I felt safe. I had everything a child could need. I had a bright future ahead of me.

Within a few hours, all of that was gone. But neither of the massacre I was awakened by my family. My parents and five siblings were there. I was so we had to leave and that was it. I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see black men seeing being shot. Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see farmer. I still see black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the mask every day.

Our country may forget this history but I cannot. I will not and other survivors to do than not, and our descendants do not.


WILLIAMS: She was given a standing ovation today 107 years of age, Viola Fletcher worked cleaning houses until the age of 85. This was her first ever trip to Washington. She and the others want to see reparations from the same city and state that for decades, denied it ever happened with the 100th anniversary now, just 11 days away.

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