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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 5/24/21

Guests: Peter Baker, Yamiche Alcindor, David Ignatius, Bill Kristol, Baratunde Thurston, Paul Butler


President Joe Biden`s domestic agenda stalls in Congress. Tomorrow marks the one year since the killing of George Floyd. The President had said he hoped to sign the bill named after George Floyd by tomorrow, but this afternoon, the three lawmakers who are trying to hammer out this deal, that would be Senators Cory Booker, Tim Scott, and Congresswoman Karen Bass issued a joint statement that read in part, "We are still working through our differences on key issues." There`s an outrage over the arrest of Belarusian dissent after jet was diverted and forced to land. Politico reports that Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden will meet next month in Geneva. President Joe Biden sends Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the Middle East after cease-fire. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been slammed for comparing COVID restrictions at Capitol to the Holocaust. GOP Liz Cheney refuses to link Trump`s election fraud to anti-voter laws.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Neal Katyal, thank you very much for joining us on this breaking news tonight. Neal Katyal gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again as we start a new week. Day 125 of the Biden administration. Tomorrow, we`ll mark one year since the murder of George Floyd.

Killed on a city street in broad daylight under the knee of a police officer as the whole world eventually got to watch in horror on video. That video of his death unleashed a wave of protests around the globe, calling attention to the use of force and the role of race during encounters with police. The demonstration sparked the drive for federal laws on policing leading to a measure named after George Floyd that is still being negotiated tonight in Washington.

The President had said he hoped to sign the bill by tomorrow, but this afternoon, the three lawmakers who are trying to hammer out this deal, that would be Senators Cory Booker, Tim Scott, Congresswoman Karen Bass issued a joint statement that read in part, "We are still working through our differences on key issues." You can bet that`s true.

The Police Reform bill, just one of several big items on the President`s list that the Democrats are trying to get through Congress. There`s that nearly $4 trillion infrastructure and jobs measure and a voting rights measure both up against formidable Republican opposition. Well, today the White House was asked about these goals.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will assess internally as we go into Memorial Day weekend where things stand, what the next steps are, and where we go from here.

As it relates to the George Floyd Act, he is encouraged that there`s ongoing progress and that there is a sense from the negotiators that there`s a path forward. And he believes he can continue to press on that.


WILLIAMS: Now this bill to create a bipartisan commission to investigate 1- 6, the riot and the insurrection is also now in the Senate where a vote could take place by the end of the week. So far, Republican support remains rare and sparse, yet the Majority Leader is moving ahead with it.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D-NY) MAJORITY LEADER: I will bring the bill forward for a vote very soon. The prevailing view among Republicans seems to be that we should sweep the big lie in all of January 6 under the rug.

I`m sorry that some Republicans believe that a bipartisan investigation of the attack on our democracy is inconvenient for their midterm campaigns.

We`re going to vote on the January 6 Commission in the Senate and the American people will see where every member stands on the side of truth or on the side of Donald Trump`s big lie.


WILLIAMS: Our National Guard has been stationed at our U.S. Capitol since their arrival on insurrection day. This week, the guard`s mission comes to an end. They`re expected to be gone by Wednesday despite the fact that our government tells us we remain under a growing domestic terrorism threat.

Meanwhile, the White House now engaged in trying to keep the peace after securing the ceasefire that ended nearly two weeks of back and forth fighting between Israel and Hamas. Secretary of State Blinken expected to land in Tel Aviv in a few hours` time. He`s going to spend the next couple of days in the region, talking to all sides in this in an effort to solidify that truce.

Back here in the U.S., President Biden speaking out against an alarming spike in anti-Semitic violence this morning, posting on social media, "The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable and they must stop. I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad. It`s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor."

In addition to all that, the Biden ministration trying to get ahead of the upcoming hurricane and wildfire season. White House says $1 billion is being set aside now to help communities prepare for disasters twice as much as FEMA currently spends on those programs


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will insist on nothing less than readiness for all these challenges. We`re going to have to be there to protect and also help people recover. Not about red states and blue states, you all know that, it`s about having people`s backs in the toughest moments that they face.


WILLIAMS: Finally today, there were still more signs the nation appears to be turning a corner on this pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins, the U.S. has averaged 546 deaths per day over the past week. While it is still 546 to many per day, it`s still our lowest pace since July of 2020. And the CDC says nearly 50 percent of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose.

The picture was very different exactly one year ago. On this day in 2020, our death toll was nearing 100,000. We were in the grips of the massive pandemic wave.

With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests for this week in this Monday night, Peter Baker, the veteran journalist and author, he is Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times." Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS News Hour, moderator of Washington Week on PBS. And we welcome to the broadcast, David Ignatius, author, journalist, foreign policy columnist for "The Washington Post." Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Peter, I`d like to start with you and the beat that you and Yamiche share, and that is this question, is there some heightened urgency at the Biden White House to get him at least parts of his agenda, his legislation that he`s asked for to sign?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, obviously President Biden start off with a pretty quick start. He got the COVID relief bill passed $1.9 trillion. He got some other executive orders going. But there`s a feeling of this point of slipping momentum, right, because obviously, he has not made any kind of deal yet on that infrastructure bill.

The social welfare bill hasn`t gone anywhere yet. Issues like voting rights legislation still stall. That capital security bill doesn`t seem to be going anywhere. The January 6 Commission seems in danger and no work. No bill yet on George Floyd at the mentioned gun control, immigration and other priorities he`s mentioned.

So, there`s a lot on his plate and not a lot of movement at the moment. Now, the White House has says is, look don`t get too carried away here. You know, it doesn`t have to all happen at once. You know, everybody seems to think things need to happen so quickly, because we`ve become a newer to that after four years of Trump`s nonstop news generating kind of White House. This may take some time. That`s what the White House would say.

But they also know that the longer things go, the harder it becomes. We have a 50-50 Senate, the Democrats have a narrow margin in the House, that all could change at any given moment. To be able to get some of these big, big things through, they realize takes, you know, a certain degree of energy, and they don`t want to lose it this summer when the August recess has come. So, there is a sort of time clock ticking even if the White House would prefer that we not pay attention to it.

WILLIAMS: Yamiche, a topic you and I have discussed before and that`s the Floyd family. The last thing they could have predicted, the last thing in the world they wanted was to be thrust in the national spotlight. And yet I think everyone agrees they have carried themselves so admirable -- admirably in that role.

They`ve also developed an interesting relationship with the President. They arrive at the White House to mark this grim anniversary tomorrow. Talk about how that has come along over the past few months.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden has really been in touch with his family multiple times. And they feel as though now they`re really familiar with the President, familiar with the idea that he wants to see justice, not just for George foot, but for African Americans all over this country who are terrified of the police and who are terrified of some of the statistics, including, of course, that African Americans are some two and a half to three times more likely to be killed by the police than white Americans.

But tomorrow we`re going to see as a number of Floyd family members, they`re going to be, at least three of his brothers, a sister is also going to have -- his daughter there, Gianna Floyd, who famously told the President, who infamously in some ways told the President, my daddy is going to change the world. And of course, her father`s name, George Ford is so synonymous with so much change in this country over the last year, the racial reckoning that we all went through, the guilty verdict for his -- for his murder.

But there also is so much that hasn`t changed. The African American families are still so terrified in many parts of this country of the police. And that is, in some ways, the stalled agenda that Peter was talking about, this idea that President Biden wanted to see something signed on May 25, that`s not going to happen. He is in contact with congressional leaders. But there`s still some really big issues to work out, including qualified immunity, whether or not you can essentially sue an individual officer if your loved one is killed.

There are also, of course, all of those other things that are tied not only to infrastructure and to other things, but also, President Biden over and over again, has put equity and racial justice at the center of this. When you look at his stalled agenda in some ways, it`s also his stalled agenda on racial justice.

WILLIAMS: David, it`s a great pleasure to have you especially given the news we`re having to discuss tonight. I`m going to start with this quote from Anne Applebaum, which you no doubt saw today. She wrote in The Atlantic in part, "The Belarus hijacking belongs alongside Russian assassinations, Saudi Arabia`s brutal murder of Khashoggi, Iranian and Chinese kidnappings and killings of their citizens abroad. transnational repression is now a part of what modern autocracies do."

David, I`ll admit it is tough to get our attention given the last few years we`ve been through. We are a tough lot to impress. But anytime there is a state sanctioned hijacking of an Irish flag carrier in international airspace, it gets your attention. Tell our audience what they need to know about the last of the Soviet style dictators in Belarus, and will they pay consequences especially from the U.S.?

DAVID IGNATIUS, THE WASHINGTON POST FOREIGN POLICY COLUMNIST: Brian, first, as you said, the seizure of this journalist, blogger from the plane bound for Lithuania by the Belarus authorities was a shock. It was a stunner. It was as close as you come to kidnapping. It reminded me and many journalists of the murder of our colleague at "The Washington Post," Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudis, it was completely lawless behavior.

President Lukashenko in Belarus is the last of the old style Soviet era dictators. Even more than Vladimir Putin, he is just a ruthless person who governs by secret police. He`s been facing very powerful domestic dissent.

The elections last summer, essentially he lost and was seen to be unpopular in the country. He imprisoned 30,000 or more of his of his citizens after that. And has gone after journalists ruthlessly, this kidnapping of the blogger from the airplane is only the latest example. He`s, in many ways, an increasingly desperate person.

The good news to me is that Europe responded so forcefully today by imposing quite tough sanctions against Belarus, preventing air travel. This comes through fully to Western Europe. The U.S. is also taking some more steps.

And it`s a statement by the world this kind of action simply can`t be allowed. People can`t be grabbed off airplanes by dictators. So, hopefully we`ll see the pressure mount on Belarus.

Even Vladimir Putin is said to find President Lukashenko difficult to deal with. So, we`ll see where this goes. But it`s good to see the world react so forcefully.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker that saying a lot where Vladimir Putin is concerned. This certainly changes the calculus for the reported summit next month, reportedly in Geneva. Might just kind of renormalize how we have looked to have relations with Putin before the time when he got his hooks on an American president.

BAKER: Yes. Look, you know, Vladimir has obviously stood by Lukashenko, even though he does find them a troublesome partner. And that`s what he`s done today. He`s saying that in effect, this is a Belarusian matter, they have every right to do what they did. So that will be one more issue on the plate, you presume, if in fact President Biden and President would meet in Geneva next month, as it looks like they will.

Now, you know, for the Americans for this new administration, obviously, they have the baggage of the Trump era when President Trump was obviously so eager to court favor with Putin, to the point where people wonder why he would be so, you know, friendly toward him. And yet, President Biden, at the same time wants to kind of tamp down the conflict that we`ve been having with Russia over things like solar wind, the cyberattack, the election interference, and Ukraine, which continue to be a huge problem between the west and the east.

So, he`s having this meeting, mainly, I think, to sort of try to at least tamp down the problems and keep them from getting worse. I don`t think that they have any illusions that suddenly the United States and Russia are going to become good friends, that food is going to become, you know, a rational actor for the western point of view, but they want to keep it from blowing up even worse than it has been. And that will be a very tricky, you know, balance for a president who doesn`t want to show that he`s like the last one in currying favor with Putin, but on the other hand, tries to keep things at a certain simmer rather than boiling over.

WILLIAMS: Yamiche, back to policy, back to the White House, your beat, while viewers of this broadcast and Washington Week followed the story that got lost a bet that Joe Biden came back to members of Congress with kind of a sale price on his largest infrastructure and jobs initiative. Where does that stand tonight?

ALCINDOR: Where it stands tonight is that things do not look like there`s going to be a deal reached. When I talked to White House officials, they say that they still want to have a sort of bipartisan deal.

We listened to Republican senators, including, of course, Senator Shelley Moore Capito. She says that the White House`s proposals, they`re not really in the frame that Republicans would want to embrace. And it was already going to be an uphill battle, because there was this definition of infrastructure that the Biden administration wanted to expand to include home health care workers, to include infrastructure and in the form of fixing lead pipes and focusing on workers and jobs while Republicans saw it as roads and bridges. And there were still going to be this feeling that maybe they could do something on hard infrastructure.

But there`s already reports that Senator Schumer, the Majority Leader, as well as Senator Bernie Sanders, have already been in talks with the parliamentarian to do something on reconciliation, which means that wonky word again, which means that Democrats would go it alone and try to pass something on infrastructure.

That seems like the more likely route as of now. The President has put a deadline, he said that Memorial Day was around the time when Democrats were going to make the decision of whether or not these negotiations going to go forward. A lot of senators that I talked to also echoed that deadline, it does not look like there`s going to be this bipartisan deal by Memorial Day. But of course, interesting -- more interesting things have happened. But just based on my reporting, it looks like Democrats are likely going to end up putting together another infrastructure package, and another package rather, that is going to be mainly, if not all voted on by Democrats.

WILLIAMS: Yes, that indeed will be the next move to look forward.

David, you get the last word. Prior to the state sanctioned hijacking, the topic we`ve wanted to talk to you about over these past two weeks, and that is the bloodshed in the Middle East. Chiefly your reaction to the reaction to it here, the new generation coming up in American politics, less apt to have a reflexive pro-Israel background. Many on the left, especially in the Democratic Party, much more apt to back the Palestinians. It`s been from where I sit, kind of a sea change in public attitude.

IGNATIUS: I don`t know that I`d call it a sea change yet. But there certainly is a difference. The racial justice movement in the United States is powerful. It`s really swept up young people. It`s reflected in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but it`s now really beginning to play in foreign policy.

For the Palestinians who`ve had so much difficulty over the years, getting attention to their situation, it is a fundamental change.

I think the challenge for the Biden ministration is to figure out a way to reenter this role of mediator. Attempting against some settlement of the Israeli Palestinian issue with the political belts is slightly different. But avoid the mistakes of the past. We`ve been down this road so many times. I`ve been covering the Middle East since 1980 for more than 40 years.

And as this has been an exercise in frustration. And I hope the Biden administration will continue to learn from the mistakes of the past. And it`s good to see us back in this role of trying to -- trying to broker settlements in Israel`s interest, certainly in the Palestinians interest.

WILLIAMS: It certainly as I think all peace loving people can agree to that.

We are much obliged to our big three, first three guests of the week for us, Peter Baker, Yamiche Alcindor, David Ignatius, thank you all so much for being here tonight and starting us off.

Coming up for us, the identity crisis within the GOP right now. How much lunacy is the perfect amount as the party of Trump navigates its way through the future?

And later, one year after we watched a grown man die in the street in broad daylight under the knee of a police officer. We will talk more about the George Floyd legacy on policing on our society. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR he is just getting underway on this Monday night.



REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R) GEORGIA: I stand by all of my statements. I said nothing wrong. And I think any rational Jewish person didn`t like what happened in Nazi Germany. And I think a rational Jewish person doesn`t like what`s happening with overbearing mass mandates and overbearing vaccine policies.


WILLIAMS: The QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is doubling down on her rather remarkable comments of a few days back, likening mask mandates to the slaughter of 6 million Jews and the Holocaust. And so far her remarks have drawn zero condemnation from the Republican leadership.

It`s a lot to talk about. We are joined tonight fortunately by two valued members of our on air family, Baratunde Thurston, author, activist, comedian and former producer at "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah." He is the host of the podcast "How to Citizen." He will also notably be hosting the upcoming PBS series, "America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston," even though we have only seen him inside his apartment.

And Bill Kristol, author, writer, thinker in Politico. He is a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations and Editor-at-Large of the Bulwark.

Bill, I said that only because we need something to laugh about. Let`s talk about this woman from Georgia. What would you like to hear from Leader McCarthy? I saw what you said on Twitter today about one of his members likening a masked mandate to Nazi railcars and extermination.

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, and then, of course, she refuses to apologize or retract the comment. Well, I think what the leader of the party should do is say you`re not welcome in this party anymore. You won`t be part of our conference. You`re an elected member of Congress, we`re not going to -- we can`t remove you probably, but we will also support an opponent to you and the Republican primary in 2022. And you`re sort of -- you`re not part of our conference.

But the way things stand when the House reconvenes, Marjorie Taylor Greene will be right there with all the other Republican members meeting and debating and being treated as if which -- and no one, as I was going to say be able to treat it. And what she said will have been forgotten but there hasn`t even been a review. That`s the other thing, right?

McCarthy, Elise Stefanik who seem to weigh in on an awful lot of issues a couple of weeks ago when she was running to replace Liz Cheney. She had all kinds of opinions about vote fraud in Arizona and Georgia and so forth. She doesn`t can`t say a word to distance herself to chastise Marjorie Taylor Greene for this really repulsive comparison.

WILLIAMS: Baratunde, it is difficult for her fellow Republicans to criticize the QAnon Congresswoman. They tend to fall back to a favorite topic during times like this. Let`s together watch Lindsey Graham tonight on Fox News. We`ll deal with the aftermath on the other side.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: If the primary were held tomorrow, President Trump would win if he chose to run going away. Would you support President Trump if he`s our nominee? Every Republican needs to be asked that question.


WILLIAMS: So, Baratunde, obviously playing to one viewer in Florida, why is it do you think they can`t denounce even a QAnon conspiracist in their ranks?

BARATUNDE THURSTON, AUTHOR, ACTIVIST, & COMEDIAN: Because Representative Taylor Greene is playing the part that Donald Trump used to play. She`s doubling down on absurd statements. She is refusing to apologize.

She is bullying. She is spreading lies and misinformation. And that`s right out of the Trump playbook.

It has been a partial relief to remove Donald Trump from the office of president, but it has not relieved the Republican Party of its addiction to Trumpism. And this path to power found through cruelty, it`s paying off. So of course, McCarthy is not going to rebuke or censor her just like he wouldn`t do that with Donald Trump.

I think it`s especially ugly, because what she`s doing by comparing something not at all, like genocide and extermination to that, is minimizing the Holocaust. It`s akin to denying the Holocaust. And that was a line we were also not supposed to be crossing as a nation, certainly, as a Republican Party, which likes to wrap itself in the idea that they`re the defenders of Jewish people.

So, they`re willing to accept this too, there`s no one that they will stop for in their pursuit of power through this poisonous path of lies. And it`s disgusting, basically.

KRISTOL: Can I just add --

WILLIAMS: I want to play for -- sure, sure. Go ahead, Bill.

KRISTOL: Yes, I mean, just two years ago, Steve King said some pretty horrifying things about white supremacy, and so forth. And there was a lot of pressure. And Kevin McCarthy did actually rebuke him. And I think he stripped him of committee assignments, something they voted against in the case of Marjorie Taylor Greene, and then they sponsored a primary challenger to him and he lost the primary in 2020. And he`s no longer a member of Congress.

It shows how bad things are. This is really the barrier to at this point. They`re worse than they were two years ago when Donald Trump was president.

Two years ago, they were willing to do a little bit, a little bit of policing at the margins at that party. Now, none.

WILLIAMS: I was just going to play the woman of Democrats fever dreams, Liz Cheney sat down with Jonathan Swan at Axios. And prove that while she`s anti the big lie, she remains a Trump era Republican when the subject turned to all these voter restriction laws going into effect in states across the country. Here`s the exchange, we`ll do a lightning round afterward.


JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You don`t see any linkage between Donald Trump saying election stolen, and then Republicans in all these state legislatures rushing to put in place these restrictive voter laws?

REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) WYOMING: Well, I think you have to look at the specifics of each one of those efforts. I think if you look at the Georgia laws, for example, there`s been a lot that`s been said nationally about the Georgia voter laws that turns out not to be true.

SWAN: What was the big problem in Georgia that needed to be solved by a new law? What was the big problem in Texas? What was the big problem in Florida? What was that -- these laws are coming all around the states and like, what are they solving for?

CHENY: I think you`ve got to look at each individual state law. But I think what we can all agree on --

SWAN: But you can`t divorce them from the context. Come on.

CHENEY: Well, yes.


WILLIAMS: Thirty seconds each, please, gentlemen, because I`m up against a break. But Bill Kristol, what did you make of that?

KRISTOL: I think she doesn`t want -- she wants to stay a Republican and work to save the Republican Party. And I guess she feels that`s just a bridge she can`t cross, but it`s unfortunate I think honestly.

WILLIAMS: Baratunde, same question.

THURSTON: Kudos to Axios. That was excellent interviewing, excellent reporting and setting the question up.

I have applauded Representative Cheney for her courage, but at the same time you can`t stand against the big lie and refuse to speak the truth. And the truth is that these voter suppression laws which spontaneous miraculously, synchronously, popped up at the same time, are designed to do the same thing that the attack on our capital and our democracy on January 6 were designed to do, to make it hard for people to vote to discard people`s votes and voices and if she can`t acknowledge that as well, and she`s not really telling the truth.

WILLIAMS: Well put. Gentlemen, please stay right where you are. The aforementioned break has arrived and just ahead, as one political scientists put it the videotape merger of -- murder of George Floyd a year ago, put the racial divisions of our country right there on the front burner. Yet what if anything has changed?


WILLIAMS: Almost one year after the death of George Floyd the nation remains at odds over how policing should be conducted. Our friend, the professor Eddie Glaude, Jr. writes this in the Washington Post. I pray this anniversary disrupts the national urge to pat ourselves on the back. All too often, the rush to self-congratulate involves forgetting. We leave behind the dead and go about business as usual content with ourselves as we are now. And the dead continue to pile up.

Our guests Baratunde Thurston, Bill Kristol remain with us. Baratunde, just, let me ask you your thoughts on the arrival of this grim date a year later, and how if at all we have changed?

THURSTON: Thank you, Brian, it`s good to be back. Good to see you. Again, Bill after a few minutes apart. It`s hard to believe a full year has passed. I remember that moment of seeing the video of Derek Chauvin slowly murdering George Floyd, which is always how I choose to put the words together, because that`s how the action happened.

And just feeling a heavy weight of realization that this pandemic hit this nation unevenly, because of the way we designed this nation that the economic impact hit us unevenly. And then in the midst of this alleged shared sacrifice that some of us were being sacrificed more than others at the hands of those authorized to win sworn to protect and serve.

So which change in the immediate aftermath I got a lot of text messages from white people like kind of new checking in, are you OK, I realized there`s still racism, I`m so sorry, I didn`t know. And we saw a lot of people trying to figure out how to be an anti-racist, and we saw companies doing superficial damage control, and a lot of chance and a lot of energy and a lot of pain.

We haven`t had the full sweeping legislative changes that we still need on the books. We haven`t gotten rid of qualified immunity, or deeply changed the way we police. But we are asking more questions. More people are asking how our budgets are being spent. More people are asking what`s the real history of this nation. More people are asking what should policing actually look like. And what should public safety feel like. And that`s bigger than a slogan or a catchphrase or a moment, that`s deep work of citizenship and democracy.

And I am most optimistic in my realism and sometimes pessimism at seeing more people engaging in these questions. That gives me a little motivation to keep moving forward.

WILLIAMS: Bill, to Baratunde`s inference, it indeed is going to take more than posting a black square on Instagram, Our mutual friend Eugene Robinson has proved again why he has a Pulitzer Prize on his shelf by writing this, from one side of his residence, the President looks out on massive tributes in stone to great men who owned black men and women as slaves. From the other, the president now cannot avoid being reminded of the truth that Washington and Jefferson willfully ignored. Black Lives do, in fact, have just as much value and meaning as white ones.

Bill, your thoughts on what baritone de said, what Eugene has written and what this coming grim anniversary means to you.

KRISTOL: One thing one has to say is that a jury of his peers convicted Officer Chauvin, that hasn`t always happened in American history say at least. And so there was not during on vacation, I think that`s, you know, seems to have been the right verdict. And is a good thing that it was delivered in a serious way in a trial, despite the pandemic and, you know, certain kinds of, you know, zoom character of a drawl. It was a serious trial and a serious verdict.

I mean, I think there`s been some progress at the state and local level. I think a police reform is very important, I think, for the country if we can pass something in Congress. I think Tim Scott is negotiating for the Republicans, the one black Republican senator, but really, this is something leadership needs to take up and I , in a better world, I would say, the leadership will take it up and make it a priority to do it. Even if you had doubts about some of the particular provisions so important for the country, I think to show a common front that we want to deal with this problem. We can`t fix it all overnight.

Everett Dirksen in 1964 negotiated with Lyndon Johnson and they passed the civil rights bill against very serious opposition from the south in a bipartisan way, and I think individual senators, well, I thought, well, maybe this party isn`t quite right, or that part isn`t quite right. But they thought, you know, it`s so important for the country to do this. I wish there were more of that attitude.

And again, that`s a problem particularly of the Republican Party. They`re some of them are going along grudgingly. But where`s the sense that it would really be a good thing for this country to show some progress on this issue?

WILLIAMS: How great it would have -- would be to have the directions the Bakers, the Wykers (ph), the Mathiases (ph) back in the U.S. Senate under the Republican banner. To our friends Baratunde Thurston, Bill Kristol, can`t thank you enough for coming by and sharing your thoughts with us, especially on this night.

Coming up for us, one year after the murder of George Floyd. We`ll talk to a former federal prosecutor about the future of policing in our country, what it might look like when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Lawmakers working on police reform as we said will not pass the legislation as had been hoped by the one year anniversary of George Floyd`s death. But Politico reports this quote, virtually all parties involved are OK with missing the deadline. And in conversations with the White House, activists and lawmakers have stressed that they want a substantial bill not a quick one.

It comes as new polling from Axios shows 72 percent of black Americans think police shootings of black and brown youth have worsened just in the space of this past year.

Back with us tonight, Paul Butler, former federal corruption prosecutor at the Department of Justice, currently a professor at Georgetown Law. He has written and spoken extensively on this topic. Among his books is Choke Hold: Policing, Black Men.

Professor, thank you very much for joining us and I`d like to share with our audience what you wrote in the Washington Post today, every day the police confront people who do not feel like being arrested. Suspects should cooperate and fight the case in court. But if they make the bad decision to flee, they do not automatically deserve to die. No one disputes the police officers like anybody else should have the right to self-defense when lives are at risk. But the license to kill carries the responsibility to promote the sanctity of every life.

Paul, have you seen from your perch any progress on policing in these past 12 months?

PAUL BUTLER, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR: The best measure of progress is that Derek Chauvin is a convicted murderer. We other cops face trial for aiding and abetting. Even though the evidence of Chauvin`s guilt was overwhelming, it could never be taken for granted that he will be prosecuted much less convicted. Most officers who kill black people are exonerated.

And Brian, another sign of progress is that all four officers face federal prosecutions for violating Mr. Floyd`s civil rights. And 150 days the Biden administration has brought more civil rights investigations of police departments from the Trump administration did in four years.

WILLIAMS: Do you think that kind of thing as a former fed yourself, does have what we used to call a chilling effect only in this case, a chilling effect, causing police officers in the moment to think twice that may stop bad behavior on their part before it happens?

BUTLER: I hope it has a chilling effect, Brian, but every year U.S. police kill about 1,000 people. That number did not change last year, despite all the protests. So far this year, the police have killed 353 people. So the George Floyd Act is just common sense, requiring national standards for the people who are licensed to kill. But as you`ve discussed, it`s far from a done deal. There`s still been no accountability in high profile cases, like Breonna Taylor, the unarmed black woman who was gunned down by Louisville police.

WILLIAMS: Would I be wrong to argue that part of the solution should be for some percentage of the young people who flooded the streets of this country during that long, hot summer following the death of George Floyd to consider joining the Academy, learning the job on the inside. And more importantly, once you get there, try to make that one man one woman effort to change the institution on the inside.

BUTLER: I`m an academic and I would love to have these amazing activists join me. They launched but the New York Times described as the most successful civil justice movement in our history. There`s a lot of appropriate concern about the insurrection on January 6.

Brian, I prefer to remember June 6, on that day, The New York Times reports there were protests against police violence, and 550 different cities. So far from wanting to teach these activists, I`m learning from them. There`s never been a social justice movement that`s had the reach of the Black Lives Matter activists.

WILLIAMS: From your perch and given your resume that saying a lot. Paul Butler, it`s always a pleasure when you come on the broadcast, and take our questions. Thank you very much for staying up with us tonight.

Coming up for us, it was once regarded as a conspiracy theory. It was part of Trump`s blame China for everything strategy, but now the speculation is real. Did the virus start in the lab in Wuhan, China?



PSAKI: We have repeatedly called for the WHO to support an expert driven evaluation of the pandemic`s origins that is free from interference or politicization.


WILLIAMS: new details from a U.S. intelligence report have set off more questions over the origins of the virus. Wall Street Journal reporting three staff members at the Wuhan Institute for Virology the lab in question, were hospitalized before the initial outbreak in the city. NBC News foreign correspondent Keir Simmons has the latest for us.


KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight NBC News confirms that U.S. intelligence report says three researchers at a Wuhan lab fell ill and even went to the hospital right before the coronavirus pandemic began.

There`s been growing speculation the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But an earlier joint study by the WHO in China, controversially dismissed claims the virus may have leaked from that lab. But back in March, a member of that team told us some lab researchers were ill.

(on camera): Did some researchers get sick with flu like symptoms in the fall of 2019?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Occasional illness because that`s normal. There was nothing that stood out.

SIMMONS: Do you remember how many researchers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe one or two. It`s certainly not a big, big thing.

SIMMONS (voice-over): In February, a Western intelligence official told NBC News the U.S. has substantial intelligence that has not been made public about the actions the Chinese government took related to the Wuhan lab.

And recently Dr. Fauci became the latest high profile scientist to question China`s theory that the virus came from an animal.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I`m not convinced about that. I think that we should continue to investigate what went on in China.

SIMMONS: But some WHO scientists insist China can be trusted.

(on camera): Can you trust the Chinese data?

PETER DASZAK, WHO INTERNATIONAL TEAM MEMBER: Sciences second lead here, and the data don`t lie.

SIMMONS (on camera): But just this month, another group of international scientists wrote this letter saying we still need a transparent, objective, data driven investigation into how COVID began. Brian.


WILLIAMS: Keir Simmons, our thanks for that report. Coming up for us. There`s one YouTube video that`s been viewed 860 million times. If you`re guessing that it deals with a significant moment in history, you`d be right. We will air it for you after the break.


WILLIAMS: First thing before we go tonight, it`s a video that has been seen over 800 million times. That`s more than two views per person for every man, woman and child in our country. It`s not from a sporting event or a moon landing or an assassination. It does not feature a dog or a cat. It features two little kids. We`ll play it for you. But the minute I tell you one of them is named Charlie, you`re going to know the rest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charlie, Charlie bit me. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch, Charlie. Charlie bit me!


WILLIAMS: The video Charlie Bit My Finger, which again has been viewed over 800 million times has been around for 14 years. It`s coming off of YouTube for all time. Because now the video and the classic meme originating works of art like it are being auctioned and sold as NFT`s, that`s an acronym for the sexy longer name of non-fungible token, meaning, in the case of the Charlie video, which just sold for over three quarters of a million U.S. dollars.

The family, the Charlie family gets that money. And here they are, by the way, 14 years later. That`s Charlie on the right his dad who shot it there in the middle and brother Harry, the bite victim all grown up there on the left. The new owner gets the license fee when it`s used as a video and owns the video in perpetuity.

Now, if we`re being honest, the lesson here is people will always find ways to make a buck. And yes don`t tell anybody but recording it off YouTube and onto your phone in these waning hours while it`s still public, will give you a permanent copy but there can be only one permanent owner.

There are other notable NFT`s out there images that launched 1,000 memes but it would cost way too much to show them to you now.

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